Archive for March, 2012

Books from Childhood

March 30, 2012

I know I was read to as a child, but I can’t remember what. Books were important in my household, and though we didn’t actually own many, we had a Colliers Encyclopaedia and some Reader’s Digest collections, we were a family who read. I remember going to the state library with my mother and brother in the middle of Hobart on a very regular basis as a child, and graduating from the children’s section to the adult. As a teenager I kept going – I especially remember stocking up for summer reading lying on the banana lounge in the back yard listening to the cricket.

But as I think back, I can’t remember the one book that impressed me but I do recall several that I loved and consider intrinsic to my childhood and fostered my love of reading and writing.

Let’s begin with bears. I loved Winnie the Pooh and still have an old red covered edition with my full name and address written in it in my mother’s hand, so I must have owned that early. I adored Pooh, coped with Piglet, found Owl too much, loved Tigger and Eeyore in equal measures and was thrilled to bits that a book had Australian animals in it in the shape of the irrepressible Roo and the maternal Kanga. I think I lived in the 100 Acre Wood for many years.

My other favourite bear was Paddington. I must have read all of them and have the collected works for my own children. I had this very clear image of Portobello Road for years, which when I got here to see it bore absolutely no resemblance to my imaginings! At least the Browns’ house cannot be similarly disabused. I have my own Paddington Bear too – one of the last gifts from my mother.

My favourite Australian writer was Nan Chauncy who wrote children’s adventure books from 1947 to 1969. I loved They Found a Cave, where the children outsmart the adults, living happily in a cave (a real cave used by Bushrangers outside Bagdad in Tasmania) until returned to civilization. But my favourite was the story set in Port Davey (Half a World Away – I think) where the family moves to the end of the civilized world and the daughter gets a wombat as a pet. Oh, did I want a wombat, was my heart set on having a wombat? Did I get a wombat, dear reader? Sadly no, although my father did build a pen that would keep one safe but my parents baulked at the last minute, taking advice from wild-life rangers that to keep a wombat as a pet was unwise, despite an acre of bush at the backdoor.

But it was the ‘girl’s books’ that hit me where I lived and made me write my first stories. I loved the Katy Did series (especially as my parents called me Kate); Heidi and all of the Anne (of Green Gables) books too – Nova Scotia seemed a lot like Tasmania to me. Little Women as well – I was Jo. That was the thing, you could be the hero(ine), get into trouble, not be so pretty, life was full of ups and downs but you’d be okay. They were books with clear unambiguous messages – being a girl is no barrier to having a life.

Anne, Katy, Heidi, Jo – you learnt about friendship, family, suffering, being tough, loss, love and you wanted to be like them and for me, like Jo, I wanted to write about them, or versions of them.

For many of us growing up is difficult. We aren’t the pretty, popular ones, we struggle to find our role, our place in the cosmos; our families are unhappy, violent scary places where love is not assured. Reading is the calm in the storm, the desert island you can ship-wreck yourself on, escaping to other worlds where friends call to you.

Reading got me through a lonely childhood, the troubled teens, as did my first stories, which told me I had some talent somewhere. Reading keeps me going now. It nourishes the spirit, takes us away to other places, times, to live with new friends. I couldn’t write if I didn’t read and I wouldn’t be who I am today without the books of my childhood.

Anne of Green Gables, etc by Lucy Maud Montgomery, first published 1908

What Katy Did, etc by Susan Coolidge, first published 1872

Heidi by Johanna Spyri, first published 1880

Little Women, etc by Louisa May Alcott, first published 1868

(Images courtesy Google Images)

Mid week poem – Denial

March 28, 2012

There is Nothing between us.

He shook off her touch, stalked away.

If you say so.

She shrugged, scuttled to her desk.

Avoided

his space

his disdain

his eyes.

But then – after his final pronouncement, his own cruel words

– when Nothing was gone

he was the one confused, bewildered.

He missed it.

He wanted it back.

That sweet Nothing which used to be between them.

He looked to her

to find her heart again

through her eyes.

He smiled at her and went to speak.

She looked through him.

Beyond him, as if he were a ghost

There was nothing there.

 

Now

what he had wantonly discarded,

only two short months before,

He wanted back.

He did not know how

He could not speak to her

about that which he had so easily denied.

This was not the Nothing

he had intended. (Images courtesy Google Images)

This Teaching Life

March 25, 2012

Having just vowed not to blog but to get down to some real writing – ie the bloody book – I stumbled upon this old thought about teaching and even though it’s not the end of the Summer holidays (but Easter break beckons) there are some things worth remembering here about this really quite noble profession.

This Teaching Life

It always happens about half way into the long summer holidays, the pains and joys of the last year having subsided, the terrors and fears of the New Year begin to threaten the horizon. Yes, I am a high school teacher. And right on cue, it seems I dive for the classifieds looking for alternative career paths. This is the time I look at B&Bs and Pubs across the country and wonder if we could make it work. I consider exotic foreign (well paid) postings and day-dream about retiring – alas, still too many years away.

But what I’ve done this year, as well as my regular desperate search for ways out of the profession, is compile a list of the things that make it all worthwhile. In most matters in life, especially such things as work and such impossible things as Education, it’s best to see the glass as filling up, not draining away. It helps focus my mind on the good things about teaching and kids: of which there are many.

  1. Two of the best texts I’ve come across in recent years have been through student recommendation. Jess R reviewed Donnie Darko in such an intriguing way that I was compelled to watch it. Heidi C insisted I read The Lovely Bones. I delayed and delayed, until after she had finished school in fact, but when I finally read it I was blown away, as she knew I would be.

I am reminded that students teach me things too.

  1. The best poetry I have read in years was by an anonymous Year 12 student whose writing gave me goose bumps with her exquisite handling of language and subject matter. She was better than I could ever hope to be.
  2. I couldn’t stand Tim in year 9 and I had written the worst report of my life for him. But he became the intellectual giant of my year 10 class and has signed up for my Senior English class this year. I can’t wait.
  3. Seeing the light of understanding come on – Tony Q when he saw Media Watch and A Current Affair and saw exactly how the media manipulated the truth
  4. Having the plumber turn up to fix the hot water system and finding he loved Macbeth five years ago with you, so you’re guaranteed a good job
  5. Having kids smile and wave at you, shout out Hey Swiftie, whether off the back of a bus, in the mall or the gym
  6. Having kids change lines to be in your class
  7. Having kids list your class as one of their favourites in their valedictory book
  8. Knowing that while you don’t connect with some kids, with many of them you do make a difference
  9. Knowing that there’s a lot of rubbish in Education but that in the classroom it’s still about relevant information, being entertaining; plus a consistent set of expectations and consequences
  10. Remembering that 95% of kids just want to be liked and get on with their lives. School is a necessary evil for most of us.

I know that teaching is an undervalued occupation in society these days and yes, I’d like more money but being with young people on a daily basis gives me great hope for the future. There are some wonderful, intelligent, generous, kind, funny, caring teenagers in this country (Australia and the UK) and it is a cliché, but teaching can be a rewarding job where you do make a difference.

Weather Wherever – Within/Without

March 24, 2012

Which season are you? (Which is not the same as which season do you prefer – later) Are you sunny and warm, pleasant and easy going, welcoming like a Spring day? Are you hot stuff, a bit too much, too extreme if there’s too much of you, better in small doses, overwhelming for most, like Summer in January in Australia? Are you mostly warm to cool, sort of tepid and not much fussed about anything much, more muted in your approach to the world, a bit Autumn? Or, are you cold and frosty, but cosy in a fire-side sort of way, better as people warm up to you, finding beauty in the icy coolness of your being, all so Winter?

We tend to have a favourite season, one where you feel you are at your complete best, where you are all that you can be. It is different for each of us and some people simply love the changing seasons, the colours, the moods, the way time slips by us.

Autumn is something of a sad time; the sweet warmth of Summer ebbing away, things dying, falling away, preparing to sleep and go slow. But Autumn is time to breath again after the extremes of Summer, the rains come, the temperature cools and the world seems more at ease with herself.

Winter is darkness, coldness, closed in and shut down, but that can be good too. Days shorten, night reigns, clear and bright on cloudless nights, cloudy and raining on others. There’s nothing nicer than being inside on a cold wet night by the fire. This is where Winter shines – comforts against the storms, watching the rain beat against the window, with you on the inside, safe and warm. Loving the countdown to the shortest day – the Winter Solstice (love that word) – knowing the light and the warmth are on their way back into the world.

Spring is life renewed, buds in the garden, newborns in the animal world, polar bears emerging from hibernation. Spring is the return of colour, of blue skies not grey, of a pale gold sun, of green grass and flowers. There is a perfume in the air and the world smells sweet and alive. You want to be outside again. The sun cheers our souls and we believe in the goodness of the world once more.

Summer is the brightness in us – the colours deepen and strengthen take on jewel hues, the sea is turquoise or jade, the sky ultramarine, the grass is emerald, the sand is topaz, the sun is amber with ruby flecks as it shines and burns with increasing ferocity. We sit outside, have picnics, we traipse to the beach, we swim and paddle, we sweat and complain, we tan and burn. We are so alive in Summer but for some of us it is too much and we yearn for the release that Autumn brings.

In some parts of the world the seasons dwindle to two – the tropics live between two main seasons. But in between there is the Build Up where the humidity climbs and the sky threatens and you nearly go crazy waiting for the rains, for the unending relentless rains and storms of The Wet, where mould attacks your walls and its impossible to dry clothes. The sweetness of The Dry cannot be over-stated – every day the same – blue clear skies, bright yellow sun, azure seas, dragonflies and the perfumes of frangipani and hibiscus on the air. Sweet air, clean air, dry air. Every day you smile, every day you know you live in the best part of the world and can’t remember the strain of the Build Up.

But it’s the weather within that matters. As Crowded House told us back in 1991 ‘Everywhere you go you always take the weather with you.’ So beware the sunny days without if you’re still stormy within. No amount of sunshine will change you, cheer you, if you don’t want to feel its beneficial rays.

Move around the world, live in the rain, live in the sun, find your season but vibrate to the positive in the universe, the vagaries of the weather, don’t become the storm yourself, don’t rain on every parade in town. (Images courtesy Google Images and Private Collection)

In Praise of Pink – a brand new poem

March 21, 2012

Once, when but a child

I thought of pink as weak and mild

Worn by pretty little girls

With too many ribbons and curls

But Pink is now uber loud

It’s out and proud in many a crowd

It’s there for women without all their bosomy bits

You can still wear pink without your tits

Pink is brassy and bold

It’s for tarts like me who won’t grow old

Pink is bright and strong

To be worn all week long!

Pink can be pale and sweet

Musk sticks and candyfloss to rot your teeth 

Pink can be soft and warm

Pink is my shelter from the storm

I am Miss Pink

From head to toe

I am much better as friend not foe

Pink is grand and true

The best and only colour – but perhaps not for you!

(Images courtesy Google Images and private collection)

Let’s Stick Together

March 18, 2012

Not just a fabulous Bryan Ferry song but another piece of advice in an occasional series about staying married and sticking together throughout it all. For better and worse, remember…

Do things together. Why have you got together if you don’t do things together? It can be as simple as having dinner together, walking the dog, or grand passions such as golf, fishing, the theatre, as well as the number one doing thing together: having sex, loads of it for as long as you can. It is important!

Do things apart. You need time away from each other. Do things with other people; keep your friends, your interests. You don’t become an extension of the other person, only able to exist with them, because of them – that way boredom and resentment lie. Sometimes extended time apart is a good things too – a trip away – to remind you both of what you have in each other. Absence, of a timed nature, does make the heart fonder.

Don’t be afraid to fight. If you don’t fight you’re not involved, there is no passion and what are you doing together? Are you sure there’s nothing to fight about – are you letting things wash over you for the sake of a quiet life? Be careful of this – this is the road to resentment and ruin. Fighting is essential to clearing the air, to sorting your differences. Fight frequently but small, don’t let things get so out of hand that fighting means the end.

Forgiveness has its own time. You must make up but we need our own time to get over things. Some of us have quick recovery rates, others take a while to bounce back. You can’t make your partner get over your fight in your time, you have to let them work through it. But that doesn’t mean they sulk for days, or play no-speaks. Knock that right on the head – it is corrosive and controlling behaviour, don’t stand for it. But don’t badger them either.

Agree on the big things. This means things like children, getting into debt together, where we live, what our moral and ethical compass is. These things matter, you need to have some ground rules about what is important, if these are deal breakers then go your separate ways as these are unlikely to change. If one partner is forced into a big thing by the other it will lead to disaster, sooner or later. Don’t force the other one to have children if it’s not their scene, they will resent you, the child and everyone’s life will be shit. Travel and spending patterns can be the same, as can personal indulgences. Agree about boundaries, allow some wobbles but be clear about your own bottom line.

Let little things go. This can be so hard to do! But you can’t harbour resentment over every missed kiss, lack of flowers, not having sex every night of the week, buying the wrong CD for your birthday (Doctor Hook, really dear, when did I ever say I liked them?) A missed compliment, not shaving for three days, snoring, a forgotten arrangement doesn’t spell the end. Remember all the things that work, the little kindnesses along the way – always better to see what is there, than concentrate on what’s missing.

Be truthful. Trust comes from truth, but softly said and wisely placed. Small lies hurt no-one – two drinks at the pub when it’s really four is fine, claiming the shoes were only twenty dollars when really they were fifty is acceptable too, but a child by your housemaid (Arnie) is not really okay at all, is it, nor is some truth from the past that could rear up and rip your head off. Even if you lie to yourself, avoid lying to your loved one – they’ll only lie to you and you’d hate that, wouldn’t you?

Remember why you got together in the first place. This is really important. As the years go by and we age and crumple, fatten and thicken, our sparkle dulls we need to look back to those magic moments from the early days. Remember how you used to feel, what it was about them that made your heart race, that made you never want to be without them. Those things are still there, if a bit hidden from view. Have dinner out, spend time together, reminisce, be nostalgic, hold hands across the table. Remember no-one else knows you as well as this person does and still loves you just the same! (Images from personal collection)

Dreams

March 17, 2012

I wake with the tail of the dream in my hand. If I open my eyes too quickly the dream evaporates, gossamer threads lost to the morning light.

So I lie for a moment, still, my hand tight around the thread, gently pulling it in – letting the image grow stronger, let the feeling develop, see the face, the place before I fully awake and then if I’m lucky the dream will come to me unbidden as the day unfolds and by the end of the day I will know and understand my dream.

There will be

Places from the past, but not as they really were – now they are some re-imagined dream-scape that I do recognise

Houses that I know and don’t – often with rooms locked away from the rest of the house, rooms that hold treasures and pleasures known only to me

Lovers from my youth – who visit me often, always as they were – handsome, aloof and somewhat out of reach. Some days I wake with the feeling and taste of them strong in me. It is an oddly pleasing thing to have them still in my life this way – dreams of them make me smile and remember them fondly

My family – but not usually all together. This is where the terror in my dreams lives – when frightening things happen to them. I wake in fear and must check immediately they are fine – these dreams I let go as quickly as I can

The dreams of work – the symbolic nakedness, the child refusing to do as asked, the undermining colleague – the friend I have adventures with

And sometimes, so very rarely, there will be a dream of my mother and I am always left wondering what if…

I revisit places and people and wonder why I’m here, what does being with this person mean? Why does water make me feel so good?

I hold the tail of my good dreams until they are strong enough to ride through the day, like a tiger – exotic and precious, dangerous and wonderful, making me strong and brave. (Images courtesy Google Images)

Mid Week Poem – Jack Lowe

March 14, 2012

Jack Lowe

was

The

most

beautiful

boy

I ever knew.

Viking Blond hair

Glacial blue eyes

China Doll face

Honey skin

Long athletic limbs.

Some years ago now

a story went around

that he was asked, on a train in the middle of Europe,

to model for German Vogue.

He smiled, of course – amused, bemused –

and graciously declined.

No Armani suits, or Calvin Klein poses for him.

Did he regret that?

Miss his fifteen minutes, his chance to have his beauty

Immortalized forever.

Does he look in the mirror now and see

grey hair, fleshy jowls and sagging belly, a lengthening of that perfect nose?

Does it matter to him?

I bet it doesn’t.

My not-quite-forgotten Summer-time Beach-boy beauty.

Too beautiful for us then

Too beautiful for the rest of the world now. (Images courtesy Google Images)

10 Songs About Enigmatic, Compelling (& probably) Dangerous Women

March 10, 2012

Here are some songs about women you might not want to get too close to, or alternatively find more compelling than your common garden gnome chicky babe. Some of us might like to be like some of these women!

These songs will take you right back to special nights with special people – I guarantee it! And some aren’t really about women after all. OMG – they’re all from the 70s – how time warped am I? Enjoy.

Witchy Woman – The Eagles (Don Henley & Bernie Leadon, 1972) Sparks fly from her fingertips, echoed voices in the night, she’s a restless spirit on an endless flight. Very atmospheric, and yes about drugs and dangerous women and what they can do to you. Always think of this song with One of These Nights – Eagles at their best.

Evil Woman – ELO (Jeff Lynn 1975) You made a fool of me… hey woman you got the blues, yes, you ain’t got no-one else to use. Love gone wrong, a broken heart, an evil woman on her way. It was great, as was most everything else ELO did.

Stairway to Heaven – Led Zep (Jimmy Page & Robert Plant, 1971) There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold and she’s buying a stairway to heaven… with a word she can get what she came for. What’s it all about – drugs, magic, mythology? Who knows, but it’s as compelling now as it ever was. You’ve got to wonder about the lady, don’t you?

Rhiannon – Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Nicks, 1975) All your life you’ve never seen a woman taken by the wind, would you stay if she promised you heaven? About a welsh witch sung by the ethereal Stevie Nicks, one of the most loved songs of all time, according to various lists.

Black Magic Woman – Santana (Peter Green, 1968, originally for Fleetwood Mac) Got a black magic woman, she’s got me so blind I can’t see, but she’s a black magic woman, trying to make a devil out of me. Made famous by Santana in 1970, sung by Gregg Rolie. Really a woman to avoid, a woman with too much magic for anyone’s good.

Witch Queen of New Orleans – Redbone (Vegas & Vegas, 1974) I’m gonna tell you a story, strange as it now seems of zombie voodoo and the Witch queen of New Orleans, she lived in a world of magic, possessed by the devils skew … stirred her witches brew. It was the beat and the rhythm that got to you as much as the lyrics. She’ll put a spell on you and I believed it back in the summer of 1974.

Killer Queen – Queen (Freddie Mercury, 1974) She’s a killer queen, gunpowder, gelatine, dynamite with a laserbeam, guaranteed to blow your mid, anytime. She was a hooker wasn’t she, but she sounded more like a spy, something deadly but compelling and simply fabulous music. It was perhaps the song that told us Queen were going to be something to be reckoned with.

Imaginary Lover – Atlanta Rhythm Section (1978) Imaginary lovers never turn you down, when all the others turn you away their around… my imaginary lover, your mine anytime. This was such a smooth song, yes, it’s really about loneliness and a bit of desperation but these guys really had the atmospheric longing down pat. You could see their imaginary lover, feel her just out of touch

Year of the Cat – Al Stewart (Al Stewart & Peter Wood, 1976) On a morning from a Bogart movie in a country where they turn back time you go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre contemplating a crime. She comes out of the sun in a silk dress running like a watercolour in the rain, don’t bother asking for explanations she’ll just tell you that she came in the year of the cat. You’re there, aren’t you, in the song, waiting to see what will happen, knowing she’ll have his heart out in a flash.

Jackie Blue – Ozark Mountain Daredevils (Larry Lee & Steve Cash, 1975 ) You live your life in a free form style, you’ll take an inch but you’d love a mile, there never seems to be quite enough floating round to fill your loving cup, ooh-hoo Jackie Blue, what’s a game girl if you never lose, ask a winner and you’ll probably find, they’ve lost at sometime. She’s enigmatic, elusive and most of all has the right name! Do you know how few songs there are with Jackie in them?? (Images courtesy Google images)

Happy 100 Blogs to Me!

March 8, 2012

Hey, ho I’ve made it too 100. It’s pretty impressive; two years and a bit and 100 posts. I have to admit I wasn’t sure I’d get this far when I started out.  The early months were tentative and uncertain, writing into the void, no echo, no response (only bloody spam) but something moves you on and so I continued to write.

Slowly, slowly it build, like a cyclone in the Gulf of Carpentaria, not yet a Category 5, or even a 4, but on its way to a 3 – some damage caused somewhere, well, let’s modify that – some impact felt somewhere: the winds and rain casting wider and wider spiral arcs. Perhaps not the most apposite metaphor but as a girl who spent the best twenty years of her life in the tropics, in and out of cyclones, it can stand.

What have I learnt about blogging?

It takes a while to find your voice. But it’s okay as nobody’s paying you any attention for a while anyway, so experiment, but keep your eye on what your saying (topics) and how you’re saying it (style and crafting)

You should read other blogs, comment and get involved in the great blog-sphere but be nice. There’s no need to leave nasty feedback, just don’t read the blog or revisit it. There are plenty of blogs out there to find and engage with; you don’t need to waste time or energy in negativity. However, thoughtful criticism or commentary is different. But not a lot of people here in ether-land seem to know.

Don’t expect blogging to pay your bills: very few people are making money out of blogging. The real money came and went years ago, or is for the exceptional few. If you’re blogging to make a fortune STOP RIGHT NOW.

Write what you want to. If you’re single purposed it is probably quicker and easier to find your audience. Some people choose to run several blogs to cater to their range of writing interests – seems exhausting and time consuming to me, but each to their own. Also – it’s better to write it out first, draft and then copy to your post box – more efficient way to write and keep track of your topics.

As you know by now mine is an eclectic blog, but I am noticing as my hit/visits/followers increase that more people are drawn to my Lifestyle-wisdom pieces in my Live Strong and Well category.  Does this shape the posts I make? I’m not sure. Certainly it’s been rewarding reading the stats about visits (hopefully reads as well!) to see that more and more people are visiting or people are coming back to read more. Either way is good.

I’ve noticed is that pictures seem to add to the attraction. I like the extra zing it brings to my post – either from my own photo collection or courtesy of the immense Google-images, where choice is abundant and can easily distract you from your purpose. From my observation getting onto Word Press’s Freshly Pressed seems to be more about the visual images than the written word. I’m not sure that’s such a good thing. Surely Freshly Pressed should be promoting good and interesting writing as well as lovely images?

How important is writing well? I pride myself on being well written, well structured with a decent vocab and an interesting hook, as well as nice touches of humour and humility. (I trust I’m not deluded!!) But other blogs with considerably greater following than mine are not all that well written. I am not in the least bothered by this, but find it intriguing as it seems to fly in the face of the advice on most blogging sites.

Posting often seems to be central to creating more traffic or visits. I’ve tried to up my posts to 2-3 times a week, with usually a poem mid-week; one from years gone by, that only needs a quick polish and can be out there. I like this mix, my followers seem to too. Weekends do attract the most visits but Tuesdays and mid-week is not without attention.

The more posts you have the more likely you are to have visitors who stumble on your blog through search terms attached to your posts. Using tags helps, using direct headings also helps too: get your topic out there cleanly and obviously. Obscurity doesn’t cut it in the blog-sphere.

My wisdomosity on reaching 100 blogs is that you blog because you want to, because you love to write and you want to find your audience, build your following, engage with your readers. You may be building a platform for your novel, or your poetry collection, etc but don’t do it just to sell something. I think that’s cheap and dishonest.

Blog because it brings you joy, because it makes you feel good. If you love it, it will show and your readers will come. Think Kevin Costner and his field of dreams. (For previous blogs on blogging see Find Your Own Voice and You Will Find Your Audience (Oct 4, 2011), Blogstar, Twitterati – Helping or Hindering Your Writing (Sept 2011), Hunting the Purpose (Oct 3, 2010) (Images courtesy Google Images)