Thousands of people lined the streets of Sydney this week to farewell the extraordinary Dame Marie Bashir as she retired from her position as Governor of New South Wales after 13 years in office.
It may seem strange to talk about love in connection with a woman in high office, especially when I only met her a few times, but I thought Dame Marie Bashir’s grace, humility and compassion, coupled with her love of country and love of people, give her a dazzling light and an unsurpassed beauty.
Amongst the many charities she supported while in office, Dame Marie was a tireless advocate for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She always spoke with quiet passion about the importance of their work and was never afraid to use the word ‘love’ in her official speeches, pinpointing why Australians feel such a deep and abiding connection with the service that keeps them safe in rural and remote areas.
Dame Marie Bashir, pictured with Dubbo RFDS supporter Jack Stanmore
Members of the Broken Hill Women’s Auxiliary were also acknowledged this week, women whose tireless efforts over many decades have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the RFDS. They were named Volunteer Team of the Year and it’s an acknowledgment that is richly deserved.
Their epic annual pudding production starts in Broken Hill on Monday. By seven thirty in the morning the coppers at Perilya will be bubbling, Pam will be weighing fruit and June will be softening butter (although with a forecast of thirty-six degrees it won’t need much softening). Val or maybe Juarne will be standing at the scales, Margaret will be in the kitchen, Olwyn will be tracking orders, Pauline, Cynthia, Lynne and so many others will be unpacking cartons of almonds, cracking eggs, pouring brandy and sifting flour.
Juarne under close supervision from Val
A team of nimble fingered pleaters in aprons and blue hats will be seated at a long table in the middle of the room, waiting patiently for a dollop of mixture to be plopped into the middle of a square of calico – lightly dusted with flour so the pudding mix won’t stick – before they carefully pleat the calico around the pudding and send it into the kitchen.
The long racks behind them will be bare, waiting for the first batch of sixteen Christmas puddings to be mixed, weighed, wrapped, boiled, wiped and hung up to dry; sixteen puddings, out of a total of two thousand they have to make.
It’s a massive task.
I can’t help thinking that if Dame Marie Bashir were in Broken Hill she’d be rolling up her sleeves to pitch in and help. I wish I could be there to help, but this year it’s impossible.
So I’m sending out a plea. Monday’s a public holiday; if you’re in Broken Hill and you can spare a couple of hours, drive out to South Broken Hill, turn right at the first roundabout after the flyover and head through the main gates of Perilya. Pudding production takes place in the first building on the left.
All you need is an apron and a pair of willing hands.
The ladies of the Broken Hill Women’s Auxiliary will supply the love.