Deliberate Acts of Kindness

Meet Chris, Ian and Victoria (the sheep) of Purple Dove Awareness Group and Food is Free.

They welcomed Theo and I to their home with (literally) open arms. We had never met before, but that made no difference. A few text messages and we are friends.

This would be the case with anyone they meet, I’m sure. In fact, complete strangers have benefited from their generosity for many years already. Things don’t always turn out the way you might predict.

We’ve come to The Summit, outside Stanthorpe, today to learn how to weave ghastly grey grocery bags into waterproof sleeping mats for those who are sleeping rough. Along with that skill, we’ve learned of the quite phenomenal work of Chris and Ian. If there is an hour in which they can help someone else, they’re probably already doing that.

Within a year of Chris and Ian’s marriage, Ian was diagnosed with prostate cancer and given 10 months to live. That was 10 years ago. Now, between treatments and surgeries, Ian and Chris run garage sales and market stalls and organise the markets at the Stanthorpe Showgrounds on the fourth Saturday of each month. The funds they raise are all sent to support both prostate cancer and breast cancer.

Not long ago, they set up raised garden beds, a lot of them, on their own property in which they grow a variety of vegetables. These are cared for by them and placed in a stand by the road at the end of their long driveway, not to sell, but as part of “Food is Free”.

“We don’t want people to feel bad if they need help,” said Chris. “When it’s like this, they can come past and take what they need without having to ask for it and perhaps feel like they’re being judged.”

And it’s becoming a cooperative part of the community. Someone left a note and a bag of miniature shampoos and conditioners near the veges the other week. They had a surplus and knew someone else might benefit from it.

There are helpers, too. Sometimes there are 10 or more people weaving bags into mats under the watchful eyes of Victoria, the mower sheep.

“Victoria was Victa,” explained Ian, “Then we turned her over and she’s Victoria. We bought her to be friends with out other sheep, but they don’t like each other, so she’s up here with us.”

Victoria spends her days being loved and fed by visitors – including Theo, mowing – obviously, and being followed by the cat. Wherever you find Victoria, the cat will be there, curled up comfortably on Victoria’s body, enjoying the pre-production, nature’s own, walking blanket!

Like me, you probably think that this is a pretty big undertaking for a couple who are, ostensibly, retired. It didn’t start with these activities and it hasn’t stopped with JUST these, either. Not at all.

In 2015/2016, Chris was part of Walk for Life. With Ian trailing her with their caravan and car, Chris walked around Australia for 12 months! Raising money for both prostate and breast cancer, Chris walked each day. They raised about $40,000! And that seems like it was just the beginning of the philanthropic story. As they travelled and stopped to sleep each night, Chris and Ian met many homeless people and those who were living in their cars; it’s more common than I realised. When they returned home, they decided to do something to help and it grew from there.

During the hour and a half I visited, Ian took two phone calls and this meant they were heading out to pick up a large donation of furniture as soon as we left, before a doctor’s appointment later in the day.

“That happens all the time,” Chris told me, “People know we help so they often ring us to pick up things like that. They also know to call us of they’ve got people who need something. We can usually put something together. Do you want to see the container?”

We walked past more garden beds, and Victoria and the cat in the shade, to unlock a newly purchased, roofed by Ian, container. This now holds all the goods that Chris and Ian can’t house elsewhere until it finds its home with someone in need. Shelves of blankets, toiletries, clothes, towels, appliances, furniture, knitted beanies, items for markets and garage sales and….loads of things, line the walls. All are totally organised so Chris knows she can put together a package with ease, depending on the specific need.

I’m sure there is more that I didn’t ask about or find out about, after all we were only there a short time, but I do know that these ventures need time and support. From what I know, Chris and Ian are unlikely to ask for any assistance, but if you’d like to see a little more of what they’re doing, encourage them, and possibly support their efforts to support others, I expect they’d find a need to fill. You can visit their Facebook pages below.

Thanks again, Chris and Ian, for your welcome, your hospitality and the great work that you are doing every day (and the zucchinis!).

My Mum the Shearer

It seems that I’ve inherited my mother’s ability to find, be found by and adopt any lost sheep. In some cases, her ability is literal. We adopted a large, lost sheep. We were in Central Australia, the year I turned 9. We’d been travelling for 6 months around the country and now had taken up residence in a single carriage of a converted silver bullet train (something like this). My bed was over the hot water service in the ‘laundry’; Mum and Dad had a fold out bed in the lounge room so my brother and sister could share the double bed in the single bedroom that there was.

When cattle or sheep were rounded up, little ones would often be brought into the community, almost like a toy, and, as toys often are, they’d be discarded and forgotten. This had happened to Sheepy. He had been around the place for a while. He was no longer little and cute, but full grown, fat and fluffy. Well, he would have been had his overgrown wool not resembled a large and fibrous tumbleweed, complete with spinifex grass and felted matting. Sheepy had wandered into our yard one day and, as I mentioned, Mum is genetically predisposed to be unable to resist something or someone in need of assistance. Sheepy became her personal project. She blunted the few pairs of scissors we had, regardless of their original purpose, trying to create a coiff from a conglomerate. The community thought it was hilarious, but I could understand her concerns. Desert days are not cool and Sheepy was lumbered with inches of filthy thermal insulation. Each day, scissors of various sizes and Mum waged war against Sheepy’s many extra layers.

With time and perseverance, Mum won the war against the wool. Sheepy bore his new, attacked by vicious lawn mower, wool cut with lightness and freedom, if not pride. His accepting personality was overcome, layer by layer, with the more realistic taciturn nature of a scruffy, hot male specimen. So Sheepy left his temporary home and ran off to rejoin the community at large. And, not long after, and not shared with the shorter siblings, Sheepy made a guest appearance at a local barbecue. Such is life, I suppose.

Travel Snippet

I wrote this last September and have just found it on my iPad. Clearly, I did NOT write anymore posts on the holidays. I DID have a good time though. Thanks for sticking with me since I DID begin. If you’d like to receive an email each time I write a new post, please click theĀ FOLLOW button down the bottom. I look forward to your comments.

Eski Caterpillar.


Welcome friends, relatives and happy wanderers to Eski Caterpillar! (more about that name later). Hello from 36,000ft. Today I’m winging my way to Manchester via Singapore and Dubai. Emirates has been a new experience in being waited on:
“Yes, madam will have a hot towel, thank you for asking. Would I like a carrot and ginger muffin? Oh, alright then! Omelette or frittata? Hmmm.”
4 weeks away with my mum, sister and cousin. 1% responsibility, 99% recreation!
With my amazing husband and the kids and animals at home, and my time to myself, this seemed like a good time to take the plunge and begin a blog.
Thanks to the prompting of my lovely friend Diana of The Butterfly House.

Eski Caterpillar

Part 3 – Creative Writing – A Journey

3) Write a setting based on the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen.

Tasmania. Dove Lake. Snow capped mountains rise, blurry in the distance, around a gorgeous blue green lake. The air exits my mouth in cloudy puffs, drifting slowly in the calm air. The rough cut planks of the walk way form one of few human scars amidst the clumps of prickly heather. Heather is one of those mysterious plants that look round and soft and even a little fluffy from a distance. Up close, I notice the rough stems and gaps in the semi spherical blobs on the rocky ground. Dove Lake lies a few kilometres hence, glassy in the quiet of the mid afternoon. It’s enticing waters are as alluring as a siren’s song, and just as dangerous. Despite the smooth beauty of the surface, this way lies a swift and glacial freeze.