Memories of a rural childhood – B is for Blackberries and Birthdays



The best blackberries to pick were often in the most difficult places. I remember one time when I donned gumboots and carried a bucket and billy down the hill in order to pick the large, sweet, tasty, well-watered blackberries near the creek at the bottom. Our dog Axel accompanied me. He stood beside the bucket whilst I clambered out along a fallen gum tree to pick the delicious fruits. Every so often I returned to empty the billy into the bucket. I was impressed with Axel’s loyalty and staying power until I realised that he, having a sweet tooth, was helping himself from the conveniently placed bucket!


I was most impressed when reading an extract from a Family Bible with my Grandmother, I realised that I was born 100 years to the day after my great grandfather, Robert Ferres – and that one of my brothers was born 100 years after one of his brothers! The chances of such duplication seemed quite incredible.

Many years later when teaching probability to a year 12 Maths class, I came across the shared birthday paradox – in a room of 23 people, the chance of two sharing the same birthday is 50%. I took a chance and introduced the concept. My students were sceptical until we shared birthdays and, fortunately for me, discovered that two of them did share a birthday! Anyone interested in the maths can find a relatively simple explanation on this site. It doesn’t, however, help with the added complexity of the 100-year gap!




Memories of a rural childhood – A is for Apples and Apricots



My maternal grandmother Ida Mary Gibson Roberts (nee Ferres) visited us one day a week for many years. One of my most enduring memories is of her sitting at the kitchen table peeling, trimming and cutting up huge piles of windfall apples (even the very tiniest most grub-eaten ones) so they could be stewed for the family to eat with our evening meal.


Some hot years Dad drove into the Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market between Christmas and New Year to take advantage of the availability of cheaper fruit at that time. We loved it when he came home with many cases of luscious, ripe apricots. We kids ate lots of them fresh. We also helped with cutting them in half and placing them in the Fowler’s Vacola bottles ready for preserving and cutting them up for jam making.