Happy Little Vegemites hit 60

by Maren Rawlings

Sibylesque vegemite quote

When I was young, I loved Vegemite. It was applied so liberally to my sandwiches or sangers that I was excluded from the lunch swaps. “Eerk, she’s got too much”. My father had several tropical diseases from his war service in the Pacific Islands and New Guinea and my mother appeared to be influenced by the pre-war “health” messages in its early advertising. As with all good campaigns, this began with appeals to the women who controlled the petty (literally) cash on which households ran in the meagre days of the depression.

Sibylesque Happy Little Vegemite Video link 2

See video link to ‘A rose in every cheek’ here.

The era of emotional brainwashing began subtly. Pictures of plates of sangers surrounded by green leaves did not cut it for the exuberant post war years. A joyous jingle ran through our heads as we munched away in the allotted playground eating areas. We’re Happy Little Vegemites was our Marseilles, so that Men at Work’s “man from Brussels” could be expected to hand us a Vegemite sandwich, presumably in acknowledgement of our accent. It did not work for me incidentally and I had to remark in bad schoolgirl French, that I was not British but Australian and we grew vineyards thank you, to source some decent wine in the main square. I must have lost my down under “glow”.

It is really an addiction you know. When the spouse’s activities exiled us to the United Kingdom, I had to buy it in a 4 litre paint tin (beautifully sealed down against the six week sea voyage – where’s a chisel?). By the time we had worked our way to the bottom, the salt had absorbed the humidity and diluted it sufficiently to act like Agar agar. I rang the distributor in London. “Waddya mean it goes off?” We could grow our own antibiotics. My children with their sangers, were envied by those still convicted to school dinners (“You over there with packed lunches, put your rubbish in the bin”). You cannot food fight with a stew, easily anyway.

Sibylesque Happy Little Vegemites

Now when I look at my old love, I find I can friend it on Facebook! I have imagined many personal permutations through a long life and this was a surprise that put a whole new slant on the word “spread”. The third wave of advertising is “relationships”, apparently (after “facts” and “emotions”). Is your personal space occupied by the wholesome and worthwhile? Do you love your Vegemite? Are you personally fulfilled as it caresses your gullet? Or have you had an affair with Nutella? I was a wine snob in Belgium but I can be a yeast purist anywhere in the world, sent from my iPhone.

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Maren RawlingsMaren Rawlings is a fabulously diverse educator and music devotee. She has taught at city and country schools including a 22-year stint at MLC, Melbourne. She has lectured in psychology at RMIT University and Melbourne Uni, written Psychology textbooks and, in 2011, graduated PhD in “Humour at Work” at Swinburne University where she currently tutors.

Maren is President of the Star Chorale, a community choir and this year they sing Verdi’s Requiem with the Zelman Orchestra.

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Photo Source: TV pinterest, Tangalooma volunteers dressed as vegemite, Weekendnotes blog.

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Call me on the Banana Phone, Grandma!

by Penny Cook

Sibylesque Imagination Quote

I love technology. Well, I love that I get photos of my grandchildren on my smart phone!! The world has changed. It used to be that the grandmother was retired, or never had to work, so she didn’t need photographic documentation of what her grandchildren were up to because she was there!! Either in a visiting capacity or sometimes as a carer,

But, as a full time working grandparent in 2014, I love the photos. I love that I am included in the stories of their play. Although I’m not there I get to see when the 5-year-old decides to be Tarzan and his 9-month-old sister is cast as Jane. He in his underpants and she in her nappy. I get to see her diving into an upturned basket and emerging with an Octonaut. I get to see Tarzan reading a book and Jane looking lovingly on. I get to be delighted with their play.

I wonder, if we have forgotten the importance of play.

Sibylesque Banana Phone

If children haven’t had lots of opportunities to ‘play’, to pretend a banana is a phone or pencils on the front of their bikes are headlights, then we have a serious problem with literacy. We know we are hard wired for language, but not for reading and writing. When children participate in ‘symbolic play’ (the banana for the phone), they are beginning to understand about symbols. They are learning that you can substitute one thing for another and transfer meaning. Eventually, they will understand those squiggles on a page represent the words we use to communicate. While they’re playing they are also talking and building a bank of words they can use to navigate the world, have their needs met and communicate their thinking. There is a body of research that strongly suggests if children don’t have quality verbal interactions with adults, by the time they are three years old they can be seriously disadvantaged in the literacy journey.

How do children ‘get’ these quality interactions? Well, there are lots of ways. Reading stories together is one. Being available to listen and respond to the wonderful life theories children are constructing is another. Singing is possibly neglected in the literacy world, but so important. Young children are very forgiving. They are not yet music critics so don’t care what you sound like. They just like to sing together.

Sibylesque Iimaginary Train

So are we putting the cart before the horse with our expectations about reading and writing? Do we have an understanding of how young children learn? Are we rushing children in to the ‘academic’ world and are we taking away the very substance of how they learn – play? Have we forgotten the connection between symbolic play and the ‘valued’ literacies of reading and writing?

How can we reclaim play for children? Well Grandparents, rip the sheets from the bed and string them between the couch and the recliner. Get in that cubby with the kids. Drink copious cups of tea. Be the dog, the baby, the mum, the dad, sister, brother or whatever. You are building readers and writers…. And don’t let anyone tell you anything different.

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Penny CookPenny Cook has been an early childhood educator for over 30 years. She loves to travel  – anywhere. Penny is a mother and ‘Nan Pen’, who is continuously fascinated and amazed by her two young grandchildren.  She has always wanted to live in  a tree house by the beach …..it’s never too late!!

Photo source: Smatoday blog, Vic Museum and ipad App store.

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Then and Now

A history shared ….

51 years Apart Couple  framed

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This photograph came from an unattributed source. More information is welcome.