|Gympie State High School....circa 1959|
For a period of five years, twice a week after school I went to another school conducted in a large downstairs room in the home of my piano teacher, Miss Alice Gidley. I wasn’t her only student, of course. Many other Gympie children throughout the years wandered in and out her doors.
Miss Gidley taught us the Major Scale; the seven-note diatonic musical scale; “Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do” (Eight, if you insist on insisting because “Do” is repeated on a higher level. Look closely - there are only seven original notes; but now I’m getting carried away on a major scale).
Once we had the foundation down pat we moved onto melody and chords, whether major, minor, augmented, diminished, half-diminished, or just jumbled up. It depended upon the number of hours spent practicing at home what we’d been taught by the ever-diligent, always patient Miss Gidley how disorderedly our muddle - our playing was.
We were thrilled when we mastered Beethoven's "Für Elise" and his poignantly evocative "Moonlight Sonata, along with Debussy's hauntingly beautiful "Clair De Lune" - as well as the other classical compositions placed before us. Our fingers tripped over each other in the learning process.
Examination time came around all too quickly. My nerves and the nerves of my fellow partners in crime were frazzled and our adrenaline flowed. Somehow - someway - I must have done enough practice because I always did well in my music exams. Not that it counted for much, it appears. These days I can’t play a note, let alone chopsticks (although the scales I'm sure I could still master - I think!)
After my mother passed away, Nana gave our wonderful old German iron-frame upright piano to a childcare/kindergarten centre in Mackay.
Originally, in the early part of the 20th Century, the piano had been a wedding gift to Nana and our grandfather on their wedding day. It had belonged to an aunty of my grandfather. The aunty, I learned from Nana, had been a piano teacher. Old though it was, our piano was in good "nick" and it had a rich tone. Our old piano held a great many stories between and behind its ebony and ivory keys. I’m sure many of Mackay’s youngsters enjoyed fun times sitting at and around it. I often wonder if it still exists. Wonders do happen…
Each Christmas Miss Gidley hosted a party for her students. We had to perform either a piano piece or a comical interlude; or both. Miss Gidley spent a lot of the dough she earned from giving her piano lessons on those parties.
When I was attending Gympie State High School doing Commercial and Home Science studies, an hour or two each week was set aside for a music class – not piano – but singing lessons. I must have been absent during those classes; not physically, but certainly in spirit because I still sing off-key…way off! The key went missing, never to be found. Not once did it turn the lock enabling me to make some dough out of singing!
Mr. Albert Leadbetter was our singing teacher. A pompous fuddy-duddy he approached the lessons seriously. I doubt any of my fellow classmates returned the favour. I know I, for one, didn’t. With his immaculately groomed, short back and sides, slicked-down hair, bow tie and braces how could anyone expect a roomful of teenage girls to contain their mirth? We tried our best; we really did, but he did himself no favours, particularly when he, stern of face, waved a baton about the place as if he was conducting the Vienna "Girls" Choir!
Week after week he tried, fruitlessly, to have us sing in tune about a poor harmless lark whose future was doomed. Albert Leadbetter probably didn’t know “Alouette, Gentille Alouette”, when translated into English, is about threatening to pluck an innocent lark. That’s not a lark – it’s a sick song with cruel intent.
He also had us singing about someone called “Marguerita” or similar; Margie was fond of collecting seashells along the seashore. I can’t remember the song; I think it originated from across The Ditch. Boringly he kept teaching us songs that inspired little interest.
D’oh! No wonder he lost our attention.
Mr. Leadbetter had time off because he fell ill (not life-threatening) - so Miss Jeanette Ryan, our Math teacher stood in. Miss Ryan taught us Guy Mitchell’s “Singing the Blues”, which certainly helped blow our blues away.
Upon his return, Mr. Leadbetter asked us what song we’d learned during his absence. He wasn’t impressed when we told him we’d learned the latest “Top of the Pops”; and he was even less impressed when we told him how much we’d enjoyed singing the blues. To his horror we asked if he’d like to hear our rendition. He almost ran screaming from the class room, bowtie askew; hair standing on end!
We teenage girls preferred upbeat to what he had us lackadaisically warbling off beat; but, it was back to the “Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do” for us - as punishment, probably for being so crass! He considered us, en masse, low class musical incompetents; he was so passé!
Quick Oatmeal Bread: Preheat oven, 230C. Grind 1c rolled oats in processor. Combine oatmeal, 1-1/4c whole wheat flour, 2tsp baking powder and 1/2tsp salt. Dissolve 1-1/2tbs honey in 1tbs vegetable/coconut oil; stir in 1c milk (over low heat to dissolve the coconut oil, if needed). Combine both mixtures until soft dough is formed. Form dough into ball; add more flour if needed; place on lightly oiled baking tray; bake, 20mins or so.
Tomato Bread: Combine100g natural yoghurt, 25g tomato paste and 25ml olive oil; add 125ml water; add150g sundried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped (not semi-dried) and leaves of 1 rosemary sprig. Put 400g strong white flour, 1-1/2tsp salt and 1tsp instant dry yeast in bowl; pour in tomato mix; work to soft dough; leave 10mins; lightly knead on oiled surface, 10secs; return to bowl. Repeat twice more at 10min intervals; then leave 1hr. Pat dough into an oval; roll it tightly like a scroll; roll back and forth on bench; press down ends to taper slightly. Brush lightly with water; roll in polenta; place seam-side down on lined baking tray; cover with cloth; leave 1hr. Slash down centre; bake at 220C, 45mins.
Carrot-Sesame Bread: Grate 175g carrots; add 150ml warm water and 100ml room temp orange juice; stir in 7g sachet yeast; leave 5mins to dissolve; add 25ml olive oil, 450g strong white flour, 50g wholemeal or spelt flour, 2tsp salt and 50g black/white sesame seeds. Mix well to firm-ish dough; leave covered, 10mins. Lightly oil worktop; gently knead dough, 10-12secs; return to bowl; cover; set aside 1hr or until risen by half. Line base and sides of large loaf tin. Dust clean worktop with flour; pat dough into an oblong; roll tightly like a scroll, squeeze ends together as you pick it up; lower, seam-side down, into tin. Cover; leave 1hr. Lightly brush top with wet brush; sprinkle thickly with sesame seeds; cut deep slash down middle; bake at 200C, 50mins.
Cheese-Onion Soda Bread: Preheat oven 220C. Heat 1tbs olive oil in pan; gently fry 1 large sliced onion until translucent, about 10mins. In bowl mix together 450g plain flour and 1tsp bicarb soda; add 150g grated Gruyère/Swiss or Emmentaler, onions and 2tbs sun-dried tomatoes, chopped. Mix together 300ml yoghurt and 3tbs water; then stir into the flour. Mix with spoon until it comes together to form a soft dough. Turn onto floured surface; knead until smooth dough is formed; shape into a 20cm round. Place onto a baking sheet; mark out wedges with a knife. Bake 30-40mins until gold and bottom of loaf sounds hollow when tapped. If it’s not ready, turn loaf upside down on baking sheet and bake for a few minutes more. Serve warm.
Easy Garlic Bread: Soften 1 envelope active dry yeast in 1/4c water. Place in bowl, 1c warm cottage cheese, 4 crushed garlic cloves, 1 unbeaten egg, 1tbs oil, 1tbs dried oregano, 2tsp sugar, 1tsp salt, 1/4tsp baking soda; mix in the yeast liquid; add 2-1/2c plain flour; mix well. Cover with tea towel…let dough rise until doubled in size. Stir down; turn into a greased casserole dish or loaf pan; let rise 30mins. Bake 40mins in preheated 180C oven.
Fig-Hazelnut Bread: Butter 23x9cm (9x3-1/2 inch by 7cm/3-inch deep) loaf pan. Preheat oven 180C/350F. Combine 250g wholemeal flour, 85g plain flour, 1tsp bicarb soda and 40g soft light-brown sugar; using your fingers rub in 70g cold butter, cubed, until like breadcrumbs; mix in 175g soft dried figs, stem heads removed and 100g blanched out; cool on wire rack.whole hazelnuts. Add 300ml buttermilk; bring everything together with your hands. This is a sticky dough; no need to knead. Put in the prepared tin; smooth top; sprinkle with oats and sesame seeds; bake 50mins. Leave to cool in tin, 5mins; then turn onto wire rack to cool.