Saturday, August 01, 2015

Developing Belshaw's bucket list 1 - introduction

This photograph might be called Belshaw or an archaeologist up a tree! In fact, I was just seeing how hard it might be to shimmy up, something not helped by the boots I was wearing!

Sometimes I feel the need for a break from real, serious stuff. This is one of those times. For that reason, over the next few days I plan to run a series of posts loosely linked around the concept of a bucket list. I'm not quite sure how many posts there will be. That depends on my mood. I haven't a clear structure in my mind, nor a defined end. I just want to wander. 

Let me explain why I'm doing this.

On Thursday, I had an interesting discussion this morning with researcher Michael Bennett (@nthistorian)  from NTSCorp about our shared interests in Aboriginal history. 

NTSCORP Limited is the Native Title Service Provider for Aboriginal Traditional Owners in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory. The company deals with claims under national land title legislation. Michael's particular role as a researcher is to investigate the often fragmentary early records to try to establish and test connections between people and place.

The discussion re-inspired me in the value of my own work in trying to trace the Aboriginal history of Northern NSW across the last 30,000 years. I am reasonably sure that I have the basic framework right I am also convinced of the value of integrating multiple sources including the archaeological record to try to tell a story. However, it can be quite difficult maintaining enthusiasm focus when working so much alone.   

In our discussion, I referred to the work of my friend Caroline Chapman (@CarolynChapman1) in painstakingly collecting names and details of individual Aboriginal people from a variety of records. 

I greatly admire Caroline and her work This is a photo of Caroline (left) with our blogging companion AC at the Uralla Food and Wine Fair. They are, of course, drinking New England beer! The relevance of all this will become clear in a moment.   

Pioneered in Australia at the University of New England by researchers including Alan Atkinson and Norma Townsend, family reconstruction involves the detailed creation and analysis of family trees to inform details of past life that would not otherwise have been clear. The work is genealogical, but this is then used to inform historical analysis. Alan Atkinson's Camden is an example of the genre.     

This is very important in Aboriginal history in general and in the resolution of land rights issues because it often provides the only vehicle by which the past can be reconstructed. I came home from my meeting with Michael to find a Facebook message from Caroline that she added more names to her New England Aboriginal data base, bringing the total number of people mentioned to 562. She was also now working through the pastoral property records. In Northern NSW, these properties employed many Aboriginal people in the very early days.
I congratulated her and said that we must get together. She responded that she would provide the smoked trout! 

This is the link to the photo at the Uralla Food and Wine Fair because we all bought wine, honey and smoked trout. We would have bought more, but the Fair had been a considerable success, with many things sold out by the time we arrived. Still, I did come back with smoked trout!

This afternoon in what must seem a total segue, I went to see TAS play Newington. in the rugby. In the thirds competition, TAS Firsts beat Newington Thirds 24-0. 

I have written a little bit about my return to watching my old school play rugby, including my sense of shock at just how big the boys were. When I played, I was both heavier and faster than average, giving me an advantage, especially in my favourite role as break-away. Now I would be a smallish forward, even at schoolboy level.

When I began, it seemed all very strange for I knew no-one. Then I started writing for the Green and Gold Rugby Forum on the Thirds competition. 

This photo shows today's match between TAS and Newington. TAS in the Blue and White. Again, the relevance will be clear in a moment.

Initially, Green and Gold was simply an on-line forum on a topic of interest, something that kept me involved. It was still strange going to matches on my own at at which I knew no-one and then coming home to post. 

Slowly a momentum gathered. In my own small way, I became a name connected with my old school. Last year, I wrote the first ever Green and Gold report on the thirds competition. Today in its own small way was a new advance, for I watched the game with Newington parents, Sam and Andrew. Sam is a poster on Green and Gold. When I commented about my solitary habits, she suggested I watch with them. That was good. 

I said that this was a rambling post. These various events have crystallized a sense of dissatisfaction based on my own inability to take advantage of the so many opportunities open to me. Very specifically, I worry about and sometimes cannot do anything about the big things when the smaller things offer so many possibilities.

Caroline's smoked trout is a case in point. There is absolutely no reason why I can't schedule a trip to Armidale to visit the archives, to see Caroline to catch up on our work while eating smoked trout and drinking New England beer or wine. It's just a focus thing!  

I will continue the story in my next ramble.        .     

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