A Brief Look at Pre-Clearances Clothes for Women

Recently, I’ve started going along to SCA (Society of Creative Anachronism) events. You might say, “But Rachel, of course! You are both creative and an anachronism! Why haven’t you gone before?”

Well, to be honest, I always thought it was a little weird. And in Adelaide, most of the things they were at were things I was also at, but in another capacity (fiddler, Scottish radio presenter, member of a Clan, and so on). But then I found a SCA College listed on the uni website and thought, “Well, when I move away, I’ll join.”

It’s been good, so far, too. I mean, people in my res House have gone out a couple of nights and got drunk, which really isn’t my scene… Sitting on the lawn in period dress, sewing while a bunch of men in armour whack the living daylights out of each other with sticks is definitely more my scene. And there’s less alcohol, too.


I started researched pre-Clearances Highland clothing long before I ever considered joining the SCA. I suspect it might have been in relation to a Doctor Who fanfic (I’m a fan of Jamie McCrimmon), but that’s really how I do fanfics – copious research with little to no actual story produced. Anyway, since the Highland dress has now become my SCA garb, purely by virtue of it being the only suitable clothing I have, I thought I’d explain it a little.

Pre-Clearances includes the 18th century, so it’s a little later than the SCA period, but Highland life had changed relatively little in the preceding thousand years or so, so it stands to reason that women’s clothes hadn’t changed much, either.

In the initial research, I disregarded SCA sources as much as possible. And there was a reason for that. A lot of the SCA-based information on Highland dress came along with phrasebooks for Gaelic, and those were… not the most accurate, shall we say. I mean, not bad, but not accurate either, considering how much Gaelic there is available on line these days. And a lot of the same mistakes crept into a lot of the lists, so I suspected that the SCA lore on Highland dress, like their Gaelic phrasebooks, were based more on hear-say than on actual research.


There are two or three items of clothing which are essential to making the Highland woman’s outfit, as far as I’m concerned: the earrasaid, the headcovering, and possibly the shawl (but only if you want there to be no mistake about where you’re from).

 

The Earrasaid

The earrasaid is essentially the girly version of the fèileadh-mòr (known in English as the “great-kilt”). Both are giant rectangles, like bedsheets, of traditionally wool (but I live in Australia, so I’m not using wool), belted at the waist. There are a few differences: men’s are checked, and women’s are striped; men’s are in darker colours, women’s have a lot of white and yellow; men’s are pleated at the waist and fall to the knee, women’s are gathered and fall a few inches above the hem of the dress.

Point 2 on colour is actually very interesting. Modern “dress tartans” are variations on the standard tartan with a lot of white in it. The common assumption is that a “dress tartan” is more formal than the standard, ancient or hunting tartans, but actually “dress” means “dress”, rather than “formal” – it’s the girl’s tartan.

M. Martin, Gent., wrote in 1791 describing how women dress in the Western Isles:

“The antient Drefs wore by the Women, and which is yet wore by fome of the Vulgar, called Ariʃad, is a white Plad, having a few fmall Stripes of black, blue, and red; it reach’d from the Neck to the Heels, and was tied before on the Breaft with a Buckle of Silver, or Brafs, according to the Quality of the Perfon. I have feen fome of the former of a hundred Marks value; it was broad as any ordinary Pewter Plate, the whole curioufly engraven with various Animals, &c. There was a leffer Buckle, which was wore in the middle of the larger, and above two Ounces weight; it had in the Centre a large piece of Chryftal, or fome finer Stone, and this was fet all round with feveral finger Stones of a leffer fize.

“The Plad being pleated all round, was tied with a Belt below the Breaft; the Belt was of Leather, and feveral Pieces of Silver intermix’d with the Leather like a Chain. The lower end of the Belt has a Piece of Plate about eight Inches long, and three in breadth, curioufly engraven; the end of which was adorned with fine Stones, or Pieces of Red Coral. They wore Sleeves of Scarlet Cloth, clos’d at the end as Mens Vefts, with God Lace round ‘em, having Plate Buttons fet with fine Stones. The Head-drefs was a fine Kerchief of Linen ftrait about the Head, hanging down the Back taper-wife; a large Lock of Hair hangs down their Cheeks above their Breaft, the lower end tied with a Knot of Ribbands.”

I definitely need a better belt and a buckle. Actually, I really need a buckle or a broach for under my chin. But overall, the earrasaid is really comfortable and cozy. And practical. If you tuck it right, there is so much pocket storage space you don’t even notice the drink bottle and purse. If it didn’t look so weird, I would wear it a lot more. Possibly all the time. I’m a massave fan of the earrasaid.

R. R. McIan’s Tartans provides useful colour pictures of highland dress, including two of earrasaidean worn by the Urquhart and Matheson ladies:

urquhartmatheson

 

The Shawl

If there was any tartan involved at all in the Highland woman’s dress, this is where it is. The Letters from a Gentleman in the North of Scotland describes the tartan shawl:

“The plaid is the undress of the ladies; and to a genteel woman, who adjusts it with a good air, is a becoming veil. But as I am pretty sure you never saw one of them in England, I shall employ a few words to describe it to you. It is made of silk or fine worsted, chequered with various lively colours, two breadths wide, and three yards in length; it is brought over the head, and may high or discover the face according to the wearer’s fancy or occasion: it reaches to the waist behind; one corner falls as low as the ankle on one side; and the other part, in folds, hangs down from the opposite arm.”

The edition I read from also adds the clarification from Martyn’s Western Islands,

“The plaid is made of fine wool, the thread as fine as can be made of that kind: it consists of divers colours; and there is a great deal of ingenuity required in sorting the colours, so as to be agreeable to the nicest fancy. For this reason, the women are at great pains, first, to give an exact pattern of the plaid upon a piece of wood, having the number of every thread of the stripe on it. The length of it is commonly seven double ells; the one end hands by the middle over the left arm, the other going round the body hangs by the end over the left arm also. The right-hand above it is to be at liberty to do any thing upon occasion.”

On the topic of tartans, it does bear adding this: there’s a common belief that clan tartans were invented by Victorian English nobility and aren’t a true Scottish thing really. So I was interested to read M. Martin’s description of men’s plaids:

“Every Ifle differs from each other in their Fancy of making Plads, as to the Stripes in Breadth and Colours. This Humour is as different thro the main Land of the Highlands, in-fo-far that they who have feen thofe Places, are able, at the firft View of a Man’s Plad, to guefs the Place of his Refidence.”

Bearing in mind that location is basically synonymous with clan, we can definitely see that regional clan tartans were well-established in the Highlands and islands by the end of the 18th century, and were foreign enough as a concept to an Englishman to be worth commenting on

R. R. McIan’s Tartans shows shawls worn by the Sinclair and Lamond ladies:

 

The Headcovering

People who know me will know I take headcoverings seriously. It’s not just some “oh, look at that interesting historical headgear” for me. I look at an historical headcovering through the eyes of someone who wears one all day, every day. I want something that’s comfortable, practical, and secure.

That has nothing to do with anything, really, but I felt like saying it before describing the Highland headcovering. In Gaelic, the word “brèid” can refer to many different squares of cloth, from tablecloths to sails and of course headcoverings. The LearnGaelic dictionary has a whole list of sayings involving the term, and most of them have to do with head-kerchiefs.

Brèidean are strictly for married woman, and “brèideach” means “married woman”, and there’s a waulking song I encountered in the EBI library which uses “put on the brèid early” as a synonym for “had an affair before she got married”. Despite that, I am wearing a headcovering with my outfit because I don’t like the hairstyle for unmarried women. I’ll cover that in a minute.

So my final plot of the brèid I have based largely on an air or love-song I know which is found in the Carmina Gadelica, as well as on a selection of other descriptive terms for the brèid which I’ve encountered. The two verses of the air with which I am concerned are:

“A cul dualach, camlach, cuachach,
Her tresses curly/braided, coiled, bowled,
Ann an sguaib aig m’ eudail,
In the broom of my darling
‘S ge boidheach e ‘s an stiom a suas,
Although it’s beautiful in the headband down
Cha mheas an cuailean breid e.
Not worse the curls in headcovering.

“Gur a math thig breid ban
That becomes well headcovering white,
Air a charamh beannach dhut
On the position pointed/horned to you
Agus staoise dh’ an t-sioda mhin
And cords to the silk soft
‘G a theannadh ort.
Approaching it on you.

There are no pictures of the headcovering, it having been long replaced with frilled bonnet-caps or babushka-style veils by the time people started painting pictures of Highlands women, so all I have to go on is that it’s somehow mountain-like (beannach), and it’s attached to the head with silk cords. It’s white (brèid ban) and looks a bit like a crown or three (brèid cuimir nan [tri] crun), with three corners (currachd tri-chearnach), possibly held up with some sort of support (brèid an crannaig).

So it’s certainly not a simple kerchief tied around the head! It’s quite elaborate, actually. I recall hearing or reading somewhere that gold and silver pins were used, although I can’t recall where – but based on Martin’s description of belts and broaches, it seems quite likely. From the evidence, the headcovering is done in some way in which the three points look like crowns or horns. One of the descriptions, “brèid an crannaig”, uses the same word that’s used for a pulpit or the base of a statue, so that provides some clue – there might be a wooden support inserted under.

This is the style I’ve settled on, which I think does justice to the evidence. It’s quite comfortable and reasonable secure, although it tends to pull back a little bit if I bring the earrasaid up over my head. I’ll take step-by-step pictures to put on my headcoverings blog sometime when I’m home.

Breid.png

 

Girls’ Hairstyles

Young unmarried women continued to wear their hair in a single ribbon near the hairline, binding the plaits or curls up, well into the 18th and 19th centuries, so we have pictures of that.

From R. R. McIan’s Tartans:

matheson

Two details from David Allan’s 1780 A Highland Wedding and Blair Atholl:

A headband is called a stiom, and has been transliterated as “stem” and translated as “fillet” by early English commentators.

That air I mentioned earlier describes the hairstyle:

“A cul dualach, camlach, cuachach,
Her tresses curly/braided, coiled, bowled,
Ann an sguaib aig m’ eudail,
In the broom of my darling
‘S ge boidheach e ‘s an stiom a suas,
Although it’s beautiful in the headband down
Cha mheas an cuailean breid e.
Not worse the curls in headcovering.

So it looks like it might be several plaits or two-strand ‘rope-plaits’ tied back off the face with a wide ribbon.

 

 

The Road from Adelaide to Melbourne

I’ve been meaning to do a post on the Adelaide-Melbourne run for a while, since I find myself making the trip reasonably often.

adelaide-to-melbourne

It’s about 800km, all on the one road, so it’s a pretty easy trip. Except for the stretch of road between Horsham and the border. Actually, any part of the road in Victoria further away from Melbourne than Beaufort at a stretch. But never mind that.

There are a couple of good places to stop for a meal along the road:

tailem-bend

Jager’s BP, Tailem Bend

Where: on the left, just before the town (from Melbourne) or on the right, just after the town (from Adelaide)

Eat-in: fully air-conditioned, with complementary chilled water and couches; menu is very tasty, varied, healthy and reasonably-priced

Take-away: all the usual suspects, all the usual prices

Service: cannot be faulted; staff are friendly, welcoming, and prompt

Toilets: a little scrungey

Other Attractions: the balcony is literally over the river, so it’s a good view

 keith

BP Roadhouse, Keith

Where: on the right, very shortly after “commodore on a pole” (from Adelaide) or on the left, just before the down (from Melbourne)

Eat-in: air-conditioned, but fairly basic dining facilities; menu is reasonably good, with lamb rump steaks with chips and vegetables currently going for around $13 each

Take-away: all the usual suspects, all the usual prices

Service: practical and utilitarian; not rude, but they don’t go out of their way to be welcoming

Toilets: unpleasant, but mostly tolerable

Other Attractions: um… it’s near a commodore on a pole?

 nhill

Olivia Rose Café, Nhill

Where: on the left, just before the round-about (from Adelaide; or take a slip-road across the median strip to approach it from the same direction when coming from Melbourne)

Eat-in: air-conditioned, a varied and healthy menu at reasonable prices; gluten- and dairy-free options

Take-away: I don’t think they do take-away

Service: friendly; it’s a café, not a roadhouse

Toilets: just across the road, on the median strip; public toilets are basic but clean

Other Attractions: Nhill

dadswells-bridge

Koala Kitchen, Dadswells Bridge

Where: on the left (from Melbourne) or right (from Adelaide), just behind the giant koala

Eat-in: air-conditioned, a varied menu at reasonable prices, but mostly featuring lots of turkey; turkey sausages with chips and salad goes at $12.30

Take-away: all the usual suspects (pies, pasties, sausage roles) at the usual prices

Service: a mother and son, not overly friendly but polite and prompt

Toilets: very good

Other Attractions: there’s a three-storey-tall fibreglass koala, a native animals petting enclosure ($5 for adults, free for children with an adult; entry includes the price of feed), and a turkey farm across the road

koala

 

Here’s Something Infuriating…

Our lovely local member Rebekha Sharkie asked a question at Question Time yesterday. That’s not the infuriating thing. Enough nice things cannot be said about Rebekha, who lives just a few towns over from me and who attended every single one of the community meetings we had in January about the blackout in December. In fact, those community meetings are where she was “commissioned” to ask this very question.

Here’s her question:

And here’s the PM’s… well, I’m not going to call it an “answer”:

Okay, so

(a) the question wasn’t even about the blackout, let alone the renewable power problem about which the blackout had nothing to do. The one in September, perhaps, but the December one was entirely down to trees (and Stobie poles!) falling on the lines, and repair crews taking up to five days to respond. (Which also meant that the CFS couldn’t clear the trees, which they’re capable of, because they hadn’t been told if there was a current in the lines or not, but that’s another matter). Yes, the PM makes a reasonable point about there maybe being some hypocrisy in drawing increasing non-renewable power from Victoria while saying that we’re entirely “green”, but if he knew even Thing One about either of the blackouts, he would know that wasn’t even relevant.

(b) who cares about what Labour did several years ago? The question is what are you, the current national leader, going to do to make things better now? How are you going to safeguard our telecommunications during bushfire season? Don’t deflect the blame. We’re not looking to place blame. We’re looking to fix it, but apparently you’re not willing to help with that.

(c) the question wasn’t about mobile phone black-spots, although that’s closer than his first reply. The fact is, most of the Hills does have mobile phone access. A little dodgy at times in valleys, but it’s there. Just, you know, not when the power’s been out for several days and the relay towers only have battery back-up for between four and eight hours. Something Rebekha was cut off from saying was that, when the NBN rolls out (and supercedes the current coverage, becoming the only telecommunications network in the area), their back-up lasts for only three hours. What we need is LONGER battery back-up, perhaps even generators on the relay towers, not SHORTER.

(d) it’s not a matter of “the lights going out in Mayo”. As I’ve said, we don’t care if the lights go out. Not in summer, when we have sixteen or more hours of really quite decent light every day. What we do care about is not having any water or sewage. And what we really, really worry about is not having any contact with the outside world at a time of year when a bushfire could run through the area and burn everything to the ground – including us, if we don’t have any way of knowing that it’s there and we have to evacuate.

So, what can I say? Not much more, really, except “poor Rebekha”. I wish there was some way of posting over all the comforting hugs her constituents want to give her right now.

Also… I didn’t mind the PM, inasmuch as I didn’t really think he was either good or bad, just as ineffective as the last dozen we’ve had since I finished primary school. But now… now I really don’t like him.

Gaoidhealg

I’ve used the Middle Irish name for the language for a reason. Is it called “Gaeilge” or “Gaidhlig” or “Gaelg” or “Gaoileann”? Let’s settle for this instead.

Well, last weekend, I went to Canberra (and yes, it’s taken me a week to blog about it).

In fact, I should say, Aig deireadh an t-seachdain seo falbh, chaidh mi gu Chanberra.

Or, perhaps, Ag an deireadh seachtaine seo caite, chuaigh mé go dtí Canberra.

I went to Canberra for the Scoil Teanga, or Irish Language School. And I sang at a reception held by the Irish Ambassador to Australia. With no preparation whatsoever. But no-one believed that.

Seo ceist: Cén fáth a bhfuil tú ag an Scoil Teanga?

Deagh chèist. Uill… níl mi ag labhairt móran Gaeilge Albainn i Adelaide agus bha doigh liom nach bhfuill Gaeilge Éireann chomh difriúil.

Speaking Irish is… How to find an analogy?

Speaking Irish as a Gaelic-speaker is like visiting Christchurch as someone from Adelaide. It’s all very familiar, and you can mostly find your way around, but it’s just enough different to get you lost, even though when you look at a map you recognise everything.

And most of it’s missing.

Seriously, where are all the letters in Irish?

Here are some things I learnt:

ALBAINN ÉIREANN
“ao” = /ə:/ “ao” = /e:/
“aoi” = /aɪ/ “aoi” = /wi:/
“à” = /ɑ:/ “á” – /ɔ:/
emphasis = air a’ chiad syllable emphasis = far a bheil an fada
N às deidh T, M, C = /r/ N às deidh T, M, C = /n/
“sibh” do mòran daoine AGUS do gach duine nas sine “sibh” NI ACH do mòran daoine
“tha” “tá”
“chan eil” “níl”
riaghaltan “BUMP”, m.e.:

“dùthaich nam bò”

úrú, m.e.:

“duthaich na mbó”

“chd” = /xk/ “cht” = /xt/
“bha” agus “mha” = /v/ aig tòiseach ‘us dèireadh, /w/ ‘s a mheadhan “bha” agus “mha” = /w/ gach uair
“oidhche” = /ɤɪxɛ/ “oíche” = /i:hɛ/
“bruidhinn” “labhairt”
“ionnsachadh” “foghlam”
“tha mi a’ smaoineachadh” “is doigh liom”
“is toigh leam” “is maith liom”
“tha mi a’ fuireach ann…” “tá mi i mo chónaí i…”
“chì” “feicfidh”
“ithidh” “iscfidh”

Honestly, having completely understood the first three things on that list beforehand would have fixed about a day of confusion and not understanding anything. Never underestimate just how much three little sound shifts can impede meaning.

Here are some grammar things to prove they’re really the same language, though:

prepositional-pronouns

irregular-past

irregular-present

irregular-future

irregular-command

irregular-conditional

bi

dean

Irish is a confusing mixture of “sounds the same but looks different” and “sounds different but looks the same”. In spelling, a lot of words seem to be missing half or more of their letters, but in other places it seems to have retained letters that Gaelic hasn’t (for example, dhéanfainn for Irish “I would do”, but dhèanainn for Gaelic “I would do”, although they’re pronounced exactly the same; or chomh for “so” instead of cho in Gaelic).

Raghnaid’s hot tip for the Irish language: Find someone from Donegal. If people aren’t understanding you, tell it to someone from Donegal and get them to translate it. If you can’t understand other people, find someone from Donegal and get them to repeat it.

Overall, I think if you’re thinking about learning a Goidelic language and can’t decide which one, go with the Scottish version. It’s not just because I’m biased, too. Here are my reasons:

  1. Gaelic grammar is simpler. That is to say, there are fewer tenses than in Irish. Plus the verbs don’t conjugate, which they do in Irish.
  2. Irish orthography has lost a lot of connections. For example, take the preposition “in”. In Gaelic, it’s ann, and “in the” is anns an, often shortened to ‘s an. In Irish, it’s í, and “in the” is san. As a learner of Gaelic, you can see the connection. As a learner of Irish, it’s just a strangely irregular grammar feature you’ve got to memorise.
  3. Irish has three dialects. Yes, Gaelic has dialects, too, but there’s nowhere near as much variation as there is between the Irish dialects. It did my head in, even as someone who already knew the grammar and could understand the Donegal dialect, to try to keep track of three different ways of pronouncing and phrasing things. It’d be really difficult if it were my first venture into Celtic languages.

On the other hand, here are a few plusses for the Irish dialects:

  1. Irish is much more flexible when it comes to sounds. Goidelic languages have a lot of sounds which are really difficult for English-speakers. Gaelic-speakers will correct you if you don’t manage to make them, but Irish has a larger percentage of learners, I think, so they’re a lot more accepting of not being able to differentiate, for example, between the final sounds of poc, feic, and each.
  2. I’ll concede that Irish spelling, with all its missing letters, probably does make more sense to someone new to the language.
  3. I think there might be fewer prepositions, but I’m not 100% sure on that one.

That first point tripped me up a few times, too. I found it much easier to understand the native speakers than the fluent learners (even the one Gaelscoil-educated woman) and I came to the conclusion by the end that it was probably the sounds. I thought on the first day that Irish simply had fewer sounds than Gaelic, but then I listened to a native speaker from the Conamara speaking and realised that all the sounds are still there.

Overall, it’s both more and less different than I was expecting. It was different in ways I didn’t expect, and the same in some ways I thought were different. Culturally – or, rather, I should clarify that I mean musically – it’s a little different. I sang Is Gàidheal Mi at the concert, and someone said to me afterwards, “That sounded so exotic!” It’s a sort of key that’s fairly familiar to people who know Gaelic music (although a bit more unusual than, for example, Òran na Maighdinn Mhara or Taladh ar Shlanuighear) but apparently something that isn’t there in Irish musical tradition.

There are very few words which are completely different between Ireland and Scotland. Most of the time, if it seems like a different word, it’s probably there, but just less-used or with a different meaning. For example, in Gaelic, “learning” is ag ionnsachadh. In Irish, that means “attacking” (one person said it was awfully poetic that in Gaelic, you “attacked” knowledge), while the Irish word for “learning”, foghlam, is used primarily for “education” in Scotland. Another example is teanga, the Irish word for “language”. Gaelic prefers canan,  but teanga exists, for example in the verb ag eadartheangachadh, or “translating” (literally “between-language-ing”). In Gaelic, “walking” is a’ coiseachd, a word which isn’t used in Irish but is understood, as it is literally “foot-ing”. In Ireland, it’s siul, which exists in Scotland as siubhail, but means something more like “stroll”.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve experienced some level of racism from Irish people, so I was a bit worried about that, but aside from one incident on the first night (who decided a political/historical lecture by a local university professor was a good idea? NEVER talk about politics and/or English people around someone from Ireland) I got on quite well with everyone and they accepted me well enough. A number of people were very interested in Gaelic –

I’ve never met a Scottish Gaelic speaker before! I’ve always wondered about the language.” (A few people said words to that effect, but seriously? There are about 75 000 of us in the world, 1500 in Australia, and I’ve seen TG4 documentaries on YouTube so why haven’t you seen something in Gaelic?)

And then, “It’s like looking into the history of Irish!” (Yup, that’s what happens when you put all the letters back in. That was said to me by someone looking at a song book I had with me. But that said, we did read a poem in class in “Ye Olde Irishe”, and that was much easier for me as it had most of the letters I expected… although no Hs, since it was from back when they were a dot on top of the letter).

I really don’t think it’s justified to call Irish and Gaelic separate languages, particularly after having met a few Donegal Irish speakers. It’s an accent and a few figures of speech, that’s all. Oh, and a couple of spelling reforms. As far as I’m concerned, if I can be an Australian and understand someone from Ireland speaking English, Irish-speakers should be able to understand me speaking Gaelic. That’s the level of difference there is.

Oh, and if anyone can fill in any of the gaps on those tables, it would be much appreciated.

The Australian and British Education Systems

Three or four years ago, I had a teenage rant in response to something on some expat forums, and it became my most successful post. I’m constantly getting comments and questions from people who, for some reason, think I’m an expert on education system comparison and want advice.

Some of the information on that post is now outdated, and most of it was unclear to begin with. It wasn’t meant to be an informative post, just a rant! The main point of the post was that the Australian and English systems are really very similar. One is not really better than the other (although a couple of rankings would say that the Australian system is actually better.

If you want to find out about the education systems or how the curriculum compares, the best thing to do would be to look at the curriculums for yourself.

If you want to compare a couple of schools, contact those schools directly.

Here is a table comparing the three systems (Australia, England/Wales/NI, and Scotland) in terms of school years, curriculum phases, certificates, and so on:

school-system-comparison-table

Click to enlarge, of course. And here are links for the curriculums themselves:

Australian National Curriculum

British National Curriculum

Scottish Curriculum for Excellence

Here are the links for the overseeing institutions:

Education Scotland / Foghlam Alba

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)

Here are some school comparison and finder sites:

The Good Schools Guide (UK)

The Good Schools Guide (Australia)

The Australian Schools Directory

My School (Australia)

And finally, here are the online educational games, support materials, and websites:

BBC Bitesize

Learning Scotland

ABC Splash

So, if you have a problem or a question:

Compare the curriculums, visit the school comparison sites, ask the schools.

If you really, for whatever strange reason, decide you want to ask my opinion on something I really have no right to have an opinion on, here’s what I’m going to say:

Australia, New Zealand, and all the UK are all well within the top 20 education systems in the world, and more than that, all the systems are fairly closely aligned from either years of contact or a similar origin.

In primary school, there’s really not going to be much difference between the countries – in fact, you’ll probably find more difference between two schools in the same country than between two schools in different countries. Your main problem’s probably going to be dealing with the different school years between the northern and southern hemispheres.

In high school or secondary school, it’s better to change sooner rather than later, so that you or your child can be settled into a school before beginning the leaving certificates, which do actually vary quite a bit in terms of composition and requirements between the three countries, and even within Australia.

In university, there’s more difference between Scotland and England than between either with Australia, but all three countries recognise high school qualifications from each of the others, and it really doesn’t matter if you’re a year or two older when you start.

And again, do your own research. Don’t rely on the opinion of a random not-still-a-teenager expat kid. Check with the curriculum authorities. Take a look at the curriculums yourself. Visit or phone the schools in question to get accurate information about that school. And use your own common sense.


Also, if you want to read about the problems of a bunch of other people who have considered moving from one system to another, as well as my replies to them, check out the original post.

 

 

Clearing Misconceptions: Christmas (Carols) Edition

This is a new genre of post I’ve just decided I’m going to do which aims to dispel certain misconceptions. Not just any misconceptions, but the ones which are so particularly ignorant that a little thought immediately before saying them might have caused them to be a tad less offensive to the hearer (that would be me). On the other hand, they might not seem immediately ignorant, but were definitely offensive in the way they were conveyed. This one, for example, has been stewing for months, and is therefore about a month late to join that flurry of Christmas-themed posts which hit the blogosphere in early December. It’s possible that these posts won’t end up just being rants.


Picture, if you will, the scene almost three months ago, when myself and the chaplain with whom I work were sitting down to nut out the details of Term 4. Given that, after working around all the various activities the school was holding for the end of the year, we only had about six or seven weeks in total with the kids, the choice of theme was obvious: Christmas.

The chaplain had decided to take it upon herself to educate the children in Christmas carols. “Australians don’t know their Christmas carols,” she told me, “Not like we do in England.”

She’s English, by the way. I wonder if being from Yorkshire is a stereotype of brusqueness, or whether it’s just her? I haven’t met many people from Yorkshire.

“I know Christmas carols!” I protested. “I sang Christmas carols as a kid!”

“Yes, but your father’s English. It’s part of your heritage.”

I should probably make some comment about the majority of the school populace being white and it therefore being their heritage, too, but in this area, it’s just as likely that they’re of German extraction. Perhaps not at an Anglican school, though.

But that was where the conversation was left, because I couldn’t think quick enough to think up a comeback. But it was also the bit that particularly stung me.

Because, what made her think that two Christmasses (one that I can remember) with my tone-deaf father’s side of the family had more influence on my musical heritage than every day with my mother’s?

My mother’s Cornish-Australian side of the family, at that, and Cornish-Australians were the ones who invented Carols by Candlelight, a tradition which the ever-reliable Wikipedia assures me doesn’t occur outside Australia.

My mother’s side of the family, with whom I heard and sang “The North Wind” and “The Three Drovers” and “Six White Boomers” and “Christmas in the Scrub”, and who I watched sing “Orana” in four-part harmony. (Or do I just imagine I watched that because Mum talks so much about how it used to happen before my grandmother’s lungs packed up?)

Because Australians do sing Christmas carols. Or, at least, they have songs which they sing at Christmas, because “Six White Boomers” and “Santa Wear Your Shorts” mightn’t be about the Christmas story, but there are carols in the mix, too.

And yes, maybe it’s not “Little Donkey” and “We Saw Three Ships” (both of which, incidentally, I find insufferably annoying), and maybe pop artists over here don’t release a pop Christmas song every year like they do over there, but Christmas carols are sung.

It might be that they’re sung more by some segments of the population than others. I know, for example, that the chaplain in question spent most of her time in Australia before moving to this area two years ago in a part of the city that the rest of us think of as – how shall I put it? – a bit bogan. I also know that it’s the area where most of the Ten-Pound Poms ended up, so if the kids in schools up there didn’t know their Christmas carols, it’s their English immigrant parents who are at fault, not their Australian-born identity.

So, I have to agree. Singing Christmas carols is part of my heritage. But it’s almost laughable to imagine that it’s part of the heritage given to me by my father, whom I’ve only ever heard sing a carol occasionally at a carol services. No, it’s part of the heritage given to me by my mother, who sings at the drop of a hat (or the verbalisation of something that resembles a song lyrics), whose family have been in this country for six or seven generations, and whose ancestors were part of the culture which made Australia’s carol tradition what it is today.

It’s that part of my heritage that walked along the main street of the village singing “The north wind is tossing the leaves, the red dust is over the town” with my friends as we walked through the sweltering midsummer heat to a picnic.

It’s that part of my heritage that spent long summer evenings sitting on the local school oval, getting rashes from the grass and bites from the mosquitoes but watching small children dressed in tinsel singing “Deck the shed with bits of wattle! Stick some gum leaves in a bottle!”, joining in on the chorus of “Six white boomers, snow white boomers, racing Santa Clause through the blazing sun!”, and waving the glow sticks which at some point during my childhood replaced the tea-candle-in-a-jar arrangement I can remember.

It’s that part of my heritage which, several years ago, posted a post with YouTube clips of some of my favourite carols you won’t find in any other country in the world.

It’s that part of my heritage which, a hundred years ago, held up its Christmas carol tradition as a political battering ram and then, twenty years later, shared it with the nation.

And it’s that part of my heritage which was upset and offended at the suggestion that my knowledge of carols has nothing to do with this continent at all.

Fin.

Or, as said ancestors might have at one point said,

“Gorfen.”


I should stop it there, but there was a similar sort of ignorant and rude comment from the same person a few weeks later. Christmas Day, actually, as we discussed the meal awaiting for us after church. We both had hot meals (which is something I will blame on my British heritage), and she said, “Oh, yes, I’m doing the full English thing: turkey and lots of Brussels sprouts!”

Seriously, what is the English obsession with Brussels sprouts at Christmas? Dad says it’s because they’re in season, which is fair enough, I suppose, but… They’re not in season over here! I haven’t seen them in the shops for months! Where does she even get them?

“We’ve got a duck,” I said, by way of return, “We haven’t enough people for a turkey.”

“A duck!” she said scornfully. “That’s not British!”

Since we were on the receiving line after the service, we had to move on fairly quickly, and I managed to get in, “Well, we wanted a goose,” as my sister and I went on in something of a huff.

That’s true – we had wanted a goose, which is something which my grandfather – who lived in Hampshire by the time I knew him – had most Christmasses. But geese cost about $150 apiece here, so that wasn’t happening and it’s at Hills tradition to have duck instead (according to the local shops, anyway), which are much more reasonably-priced around the Christmas season.

“A duck’s more British than a turkey!” I said to my sister. “Turkeys are American!”


I won’t say people should forget their background, heritage, and traditions when they immigrate to a new country, but… they should at least shed the idea that theirs are superior.

Don’t interact with the traditions of the locals of your new country in an, “Oh, you do that, do you, you ignorant savage? Let me tell you how it’s really done,” sort of way.

Instead, when one of the locals presents you with something you think is a bit odd, approach it in a more, “Oh, that’s interesting, I hadn’t thought it could be done like that. Here’s how we do it,” sort of way.

Mind you, I can say from my own experience that if an Australian went to the UK with the same sorts of attitudes about Australian Christmas traditions as the woman in question has about “British” ones, the response from the locals there definitely would be, “Oh, you do that, do you, you ignorant savage?”

 

Spawn of Roy (or, Spring Has Sprung)

Seven months ago, I talking about how I managed to come by a couple of Frizzle-crosses at a pet shop in the suburbs.

Well, half a year later, said Frizzle-crosses have begun their life of duty breeding pretty chickens for me, so I thought I’d share some pictures of the resultant troublemakers.

Roy is the father of all of the chicks pictured; Dorcha is the mother of one, while Popcorn is the mother of one and Charlotte Junior is the mother of two.

charlotte-and-popcorn-01

Charlotte Junior and Popcorn pictured here. Charlotte Junior’s grandmother was a bantam cross with some negligible Silkie blood somewhere – I don’t know who her other ancestors have been since I’m sure that line of hens has just been cloning itself from generation to generation, but her father must be either Graham (an Araucana cross) or George (3/4 barred Plymouth Rock, 1/4 Australorp). Popcorn had an Araucana grandmother, as well as some white Leghorn and ISA Brown ancestors along the way.

Here’s a picture of how Roy’s grown up:

roy-01

Roy and Dorcha are much more bantam-sized than any other Sizzles/Frizzles I’ve had, so while Dorcha is the teensiest-tiniest little grown-up chook I’ve ever seen (seriously, she’s almost as small as a quail and lays eggs about that size, too), Roy is about the same size as his other wives. All his other girls are definitely on the smaller side of things, maybe a little smaller than a rescue ISA but definitely much smaller than my large-fowl girls.

Keep the picture of Roy in mind as you read, along with the phrase “spawn of Roy”.

So, first, Popcorn’s two children:

Lucky (on the left) and Surprise (in the foreground of the right, with Lucky in the back). Yes, there’s a story behind those names.

On the right, that’s Lucky at the top and Surprise at the bottom; on the left, it’s Lucky in the foreground and Surprise behind.

What did I say? Spawn of Roy.

Charlotte’s child:

lucky-and-dimity-01

Okay, so that’s Lucky in the foreground, and you can already see her wing-feathers coming in curly, but my sister’s holding Dimity in the background.

I’m not sure how we came up with the name “Dimity”. My sister was calling her “Don Gato” for a while (because she’s “a cat of sooty black”, apparently), but my mother came up with Dimity – I suspect as a back-spelling of “timid”, which she was. She was the scardiest chick I’ve ever known, although she’s grown out of that now. Because of the timidity and fluffiness, we suspected that she would be a Super-Frizzle (quick genetics lesson later), but her feathers have come in normal-Frizzle.

dimity-01

Dodgy lighting – sorry. She’s developing a rather fetching gold lacing around the neck and chest area, though, which you can sort of see in this photo.

And, of course, Dorcha’s child:

squeaky-01

We have no idea where all that white’s come from, given her parents; but then, both of them are only first-generation ours, so we don’t know what any of her further-back ancestors looked like. She looks almost barred; she was a pure-black chick, with grey legs, and then suddenly in the last few days, it’s pink legs and white spots. Go figure.

squeaky-02

She’s almost certainly a Sizzle, though – just look at those corkscrew feathers! On the other hand, she might be a Super-Frizzle, although her feathers don’t seem ringleted enough for that. Here’s the Punnet Square:

punnet-square-frizzle

This is for the breeding together of two Frizzles, where F is the dominant frizzle gene and n is the recessive normal-feather gene. 50% will be Frizzles, 25% will be normal, and 25% will be Super-Frizzles, which is generally regarded as a bad idea because they’d usually very timid and may have other medical issues (we had one a number of years ago which honestly did die of fright; but the medical issues aren’t as dangerous as, for example, two genes for head-puffs in ducks). Frizzle-breeders usually breed them to normal-feathered birds, both to increase size and laying capacity and because the percentage of Frizzled chicks will be the same. Because of this, Frizzle is really more of a genetic trait than an actual breed, since there are no hard-and-fast breed characteristics other than curled feathers (e.g. comb, colour, &c.).

punnet-square-squeaky

This is the punnet square we’ve hypothesised for Squeaky, since Dorcha also has the very soft, fairly tightly-curled feathers of a Sizzle. Again, F is the dominant frizzle gene, n is the recessive normal-feather gene, and S is the dominant Silkie gene. According to this diagramme, 25% each should be Super-Frizzle, Sizzle, Frizzle, and Silkie, although Super-Frizzle and Sizzle phenotypes are very similar in appearance. Actually, it’s amazing that all four of Roy’s children are frizzled since technically it should only be 50%. But then, it’s not a very large sample sizes.

Not many aspects of chicken genetics are as straightforward as the feather type – I have no idea how the number of toes is determined, for example. Lucky has half a fifth toe (separate only at the last joint) on one foot, while neither of her parents have Silkie toes and her aunt had even less of a fifth toe, again on only one foot.

She’s also tiny.

With Dimity on the left and on the top right, and with Surprise on the bottom right. She’s the same age as Dimity and a day younger than Surprise. Considering the size of the eggs they hatched from, as well as the size of Squeaky’s mother, it’s not surprising that she’s so tiny!

Dimity and Lucky are beginning to look a bit like boys around the combe, but it’s too early to really tell.

Oh, and just for interest, compare Lucky, Surprise and Dimity to this picture of Roy, Dorcha, and Nora at seven weeks:

Small Chicks 03