Hi All

I am a little later wrting this than I would like to be, but sometimes it is hard to fit everything in with the physio and exercise bike  time that I have to fit in to every day (well, most days). 

So HMAS Ballarat were kind enough to give me a really good goal to aim for in my recovery when they invited me to Perth to be there when they came home on Sunday the 14th of July.  I flew over on Friday the 12th as Perth also happens to be my home town and I had not been home since 2016.  It was a lovely opportunity for me to fit in a visit to some family and friends. I won’t bore you with all the details but…. 

From the airport on Friday afternoon I went straight to the suburb I grew up and to what used to be my local shopping centre.  It is always so lovely to return there. So many memories. When I was at Primary School we used to be allowed to leave the school grounds at lunch time to walk to the local fish and chip shop to buy the greasy goodies for lunch once a week. To be honest, we mostly just bought chips and usually asked for the “crunchy bits”, the crunchy bits that were just the batter.  YUM!! Can you imagine primary school kids being allowed to walk, unsurpervised, to the local shops to order newspaper wrapped bundles of salty yumminess these days, including crossing three roads!   As if! 

As I said, great memories! 

Once at the shopping centre I surprised my God Daughter, Emma, by turning up at her hair salon to get my hair done – GRIN!!! She did not see that coming.  I finished the afternoon with a cuppa with Emma’s Mum, my childhood friend, Tracey. 

On Saturday morning I caught up with my elderly aunt at her aged care facility, then met my twin cousins, Debra and Dale and my sister, Glenis, for lunch before heading north. I collected Tracey on the way and we continued north of Perth to meet someone I had been looking forward to meeting for years now. 

At two o’clock we knocked on the door of the home of veteran, Ian Coate, artist, illustrator and his wife Susan.  You must know Ian’s artwork.  You can find his Facebook page here and you can find his website here.  

Ian and Sue welcomed us with open arms and we entered their home and were immediately captivated by the original pieces of Ian’s work on the walls of their home… pieces that I have seen so many time on Ian’s Facebook page.  It was so wonderful to see it up close. 

On arrival there was a little growling from one corner of the lounge room which drew my attention, and low and behold, there was Ian’s “fairly tame” drop bear… well tame enough for me to have my photo taken with him with relative safety…… He is the one in the middle… 

After  a good chat and a cuppa Ian was kind enough to show me his work room and studio.  I am just so frustrated that I did not take any photos. I think I was just so enthralled with everything I was looking at. There was so much to see. If you have children (or if you are  teacher perhaps) you need to check out Ian’s creation “Mythic Australia” on the facebook page or the website.  Absolute magic.

Of course I could not go to Perth and meet Ian without taking him his very own laundry bag decorated with some of my favourtie pieces of his artwork. I think his grin is an indication of the reception it received.

I could not resist having a photo of myself and Tracey taken in front of Ian’s wonderful pieces which features his wife Sue front and centre.

Ian very generously gave Tracey and I copies of his books

and perhaps most importantly, one of the Drop Bear Safety Pins… 100% guarenteed to keep you safe from Australia’s deadly drop bears… or your money back…

of course I don’t know anyone who has been attacked by a Drop Bear and survived to tell the tale so I suspect that Ian is pretty safe bet for not having to pay up on that offer.

The next morning I headed off early to Rockingham, south of Perth, and met up with Anna C and Jo R and her mother.  Can you believe that I did not remember to get a photo of the group of us.  seriously I think I am slipping. 

HMAS Stirling and HMAS Ballarat could not have looked after us any better.   We were met at the gangway of HMAS Stirling and escorted over the causeway to a carpark that could not have been any closer to the proceedings.  I was delighted to meet the Commanding Officer of HMAS Stirling. He thought I was one of the family or friends there to meet the crew and when I explained who I was he gave me a huge grin and a great welcome.  It was very obvious that Aussie Heroes was highly regarded.

One of the first people I met was the Senior Navy Chaplain (not his official Title) who happens to be my personal recipient from five or six years ago now.  It was lovely to meet him for the first time on the wharf.

I am delighted to say that all of the senior chaplains from the Navy, Army and Air Force have received gifts from Aussie Heroes now. 

There were the usual speaches and then finally…. HMAS Ballarat came steaming into view and the excitement for the families and friends mounted.  This crew had been away for nine whole months.. some of them not seeing their loved ones for that entire period.

My suitcase when I left Sydney was packed full…. and not just with my clothes… I had two quilts and nine laundry bags to hand out.  One LB was for Ian. I left four LBs with Ian to be passed to other serving members in the West.  I also carried with me two quilts with matching laundry bags for two crew members and two special laundry bags — more on those later.

This lovely quilt was made by Lynn

and this is the first quilt made by

This laundry bag was a bit of a joint effort, cut out and designed by me, embroidery by Pennie.  I started piecing it and Jenny A helped me out by completing as time was short. 

This gorgeous young man came straight up to me when he saw me and expressed heartfelt appreciation for not only his quilt, but also those of his shipmates, and the rest of the work of Aussie Hero Quilts.

Melissa L, this is one of your recipients.

Ashleigh and Clarissa, this is one of your recipients with a Thor from the Avengers quilt and bag.

Jenny D this fellow received your Rick and Morty quilt…. and he loves it…

I had the pleasure of meeting this new dad who received a quilt from Joy H and a laundry bag from me.   You will be pleased to know that he managed to have leave in time to be home for the birth of his precious little girl, though he had to go back to sea to complete his deployment. 

Anne, who accompanied me, brought this mum up to meet me.  She told me that her daughter had received a quilt sent by a lady from Woodlands, a suburb in WA.  Now if my memory serves me correctly that is where Mum lives.  The irony is that that is where I grew up and I apparently mentioned that in the letter I sent to her daughter when i sent her quilt to her years ago.  Small world. 

The chaplain’s family were happy to see him and I was very pleased that I was able to be there when the ship’s Warrant Officer presented his wife, Deb, with her very own laundrty bags. Yes, we dont usually make bags for spouses but I had had two HMAS Ballarat crests left over and asked who I could make LBs for. The Warrant officer asked if it would be possible for us to make two LBs that the ship’s company could give to two women who had contributed significantly to the morale of the crew whilst they were at sea.   The Chaplain’s wife was one of them…..

And Fiona was the second one.  Fiona managed the ship’s Family and Friend’s Closed Facebook page.   it was an invaluable asset to the families left a home…. a great way to get information back to the loved ones left at home and and great way for the families to connect. Fiona also received a Commanding Officer’s Commendation.  What wonderful recognition. 

Finally I thought I would share this with you. I travel with two walking sticks that fold. I don’t like putting them in the overhead without folding them but if I fold them and put them in the overhead locker it is easy for them to get pushed around and moved and they can be hard to find. This bag is really just a short skinny LB but it was perfect. Because it was bright red it was easy to see and the handles made it easy to grab.  It certainly made my trip to and fron Perth much easier. 

Well that is my trip to Perth in a nutshell. I had a wonderful time and i am certainly indebted to HMAS Ballarat for inviting me to be there. 

Till next time… keep spreading the word and happy stitching!

Jan-Maree xx