Go mbeannai Dia duit.

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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Eve.

The funny thing is, at the end of all the huzzah and hurrah, many of us are exhausted rather than exhilarated. DONATA MAGGIPINTO, Christmas Family Gatherings
The tree is down. I know, I know. It seems like Christmas was hardly any time at all this year but we just aren't going to be here & nothing will frazzle my nerves faster than drowning in beginning of school stuff with the vestiges of Christmas still to be packed away. Ditz's desk is now at least usable whether or not she actually uses it. I have lugged all her books back downstairs & organized it so I can see what has to be done.

If I was a list maker I would be making a list & checking it twice but I lose lists so I just keep them in my head & hope I don't forget anything important. The new curriculum I need is ordered. That must be a first but this is curriculum I actually want rather than curriculum I have to have & that is a far different matter! Ditz's audition form for choir is filled out & ready to be posted before we leave. Liddy has started work early so God willing we will be off the island on the 2.35 pm boat & on our way north before the traffic seriously starts clogging up. Duchess, if you are reading, Liddy has serious expectations that you have New Years all planned & there is something exciting on hand to celebrate the incoming year.

Uh~huh. She has no hopes of me. I just keep looking longingly at my bed. There is washing still to be done thanks to the boys who said they'd be back & left everything where they dropped it but not a hair nor a hide have we seen of them in days so I am cleaning up. There are cucumbers to be picked & a cooler bag to be packed with cold water & anything else we want to take with us. I have to find clothing for everyone although both Liddy & Ditz pretty much pack for themselves these days.

We had an incredibly heavy dew last night & as I drove Liddy in to work the droplets lay across the grass as thick & white as frost. The damp air was as heady as golden wine ~ & much nicer! It will be a steamy old day but the morning is glorious despite the deafening racket the cicadas are making in the trees. I keep finding their discarded shells in my veggie patch. Yes, it is going to be a long & busy day & Ditz may not survive it. Between the heat & the mozzies last night she didn't sleep well & is already scratchy this morning. My, won't she be fun to play with in an hour or so! Coming Ma, ready or not!

Monday, December 29, 2008

How to waste an entire afternoon.

A facility for quotation covers the absence of original thought. Lord Peter Wimsey, "Gaudy Night"

No, I'm not going to discuss more obscure literature; at least not directly. If you've read the books you will know that Wimsey was the garrulous sort, likely to quote long passages of poetry & have long, random & rambling conversations about...absolutely nothing. He's great fun to read. The more excited he got the more garrulous & talkative he became. If you don't like that sort of stuff it would drive you batty. I merely find it funny.

He is on my mind because I have this friend whom I see perhaps once every 6 months or so despite the fact that until recently she lived on the same island & only 3 minutes from my house; a homeschooling friend. We are both busy mums & quite terrible at catching up so when we finally do we have 6 months worth of talking to spill on the table & spill we do. Ditz, who gets on particularly well with her younger son, rolls her eyes lots when we arrange to catch up. She knows this is a session that will go for hours. We have taken to meeting at the cafe knowing that eventually they will kick us out & we will have to go home though we can still be standing chatting in the car park even after we've been kicked out.

The downside to our meeting, from Ditz's point of view, is that my friend is a lovely & generous woman who is only too happy to share 20 years worth of resources with me! I love generous friends! Liddy gets on really well with the older boy & walked down to join us for her lunch break. My friend & I, homeschooling books piled on the table between us while we discussed who could lend what when & the best way of shifting the material on now she is moving, were totally oblivious to the strange looks we were getting.

Normally I'm chatting with people I don't know very well [& don't necessarily like] about something Ditz related. I don't often get to have a chat & a cuppa with an actual friend friend. My children would say that this is a good thing because we sure can talk! We talked so long Dearest organized his own dinner & fed the cat! However my friend & I were not totally to blame this time. As we were saying our [prolonged] goodbyes her older boy piped up with some questions on Celtic mythology. I'm sure Ditz's soul quailed within her at this point because that is like lighting tinder in a gunpowder factory to me & I was off & running. Every time I might have wound down he asked another question, obviously as enchanted as I am by Celtic thinking & absolutely delighted to be able to pick the brains of someone who could explain some of the things he didn't understand.

We did eventually find our way home. I might have felt guiltier but everyone I know knows perfectly well not to ask me to do anything or go anywhere all year because I am never available. As a consequence we spend our 6 week summer break socialising like mad. I am not the social sort & find it quite wearing. Ditz would like to ditch school & do nothing but play music & socialize & if she could do both at once she would be perfectly happy.

Besides I had spent my morning productively putting the backlog of washing from the boy's stay through the machine & clearing the leaves out of my gutters. It's been a while. I had an inch or two of soil at the bottom! It all went on the garden before a massive storm broke over the top of us but despite all the thunder & lightening we only got an inch of rain.

Today I must pack. Why do we need nearly as much stuff to go for 3 days as if we were going for 3 weeks?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

If from whinny~muir thou comst at last..

...Fire & fleet & candle light
And Christe recieve thy soul... The Lyke Wake Dirge

One of the things I used to enjoy doing when all mine were little was reading their bedtime stories. We actually had a routine for this. Each child got to choose a story but I would also choose a bible story & a poem.

Poetry is not something most people read aloud to their kids & I can't say it's given any of mine any great appreciation for poetry. They do all use language well & have unusual vocabularies so it seems to have had some benefit.

I read a lot of ballads, partly because what passes for children's poetry makes me cringe. Children have good taste too. One of my favourites was the Lyke Wake Dirge. OK, so reading poetry for watching over a corpse is a little gruesome ~ except none of mine had the least idea of what a wake was never mind a lyke! [A lyke is the corpse ';) ] We simply enjoyed the rhythm of this very old traditional poem which is recorded as being sung as early as 1616 but is believed to be much older & whose imagery may predate Christian beliefs.

I didn't even know it was a song for years & years , which is odd given I like Steeleye Stan & they put out a version, but have since heard several very lovely renditions of this that make Ditz roll her eyes. She doesn't like the old 5 note scale whereas I'm rather keen on ditching all those troublesome sharps & flats!

I think it was Pope who said a little learning is a dangerous thing because I was so sure I had this poem worked out I never bothered to investigate further. Being Shakespearean educated I had learnt that Fs often looked like Ss gone astray & happily translated fleet as sleet ~ & it certainly makes sense that way. Classical reading made short work of obscure things like whinny~muirs, brig 'o dreads, hosen & shoon & whinnes & as a Christian I was cognizant of the old Catholic idea of purgatory & the purification of the soul. As a CeltNut I knew what a wake was ~ all very ghoulish for someone who has never been able to watch horror movies.

I am still inordinately fond of this poem but I understand it better now. I know that fleet really does mean fleet. I even know that fleet means a large floor & the imagery is representative of the home as a whole. I find it spookier than I used to. I've finally grasped that the Yorkshire folk [Yorkshire being he dialect this poem is written in] adhered to the old Celtic belief that the soul did not immediately find it's way into the presence of God [as the bible teaches] but lingered around the place until burial! oooh~eeew! No wonder stories of ghosts abound thinking things like that! I don't think it holds much theological water either because salvation is certainly not dependant on good works but then I don't have the Medieval moralistic thinking that dreamt up this poem either. If you've ever been pricked by whinnes on an English moor then you know someone had a very nasty mind indeed! I think I have too much time on my hands. Who on earth needs to know this stuff?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

the things I think when it's wet.

Hic jacet Arturus Rex quondam rex que rex futurus ~ here lies Arthur, the once & future king.
It is wet. Another 1/2 '' of rain has landed & water is still leaking from the sky. Someone should fix the faucet! It is wet, the library is shut for the Christmas break & I have time on my hands. Ditz & I may bake later on but for now my mind is unwinding like a spool of thread & where my mind invariably goes is down the old Celtic paths & where the old Celtic paths lead, sooner or later, is to Arthur. There is no need to point out that Arthur belongs in the Dark Ages if he belongs anywhere at all & may not even have been a Celt.

There is no good evidence for Arthur's existence although he is mentioned in Gildas, the Annales Cambriae, & Nennius. The Celtic word Art simply means bear & could very easily have been a title. He is also mentioned in Aneirin's 7th century poem Y Gododdin & Aneirin was the royal bard of the northern Pennine it gets pretty convoluted pretty quickly, which is just how I like it. You can tug at anything & something will invariably come up.

Take the sword in the stone. That is one piece of information I took to be pure invention, total mythology, but you know it may just be based on fact. Yeah, yeah, I know but don't snicker too loudly just yet. There is some evidence surfacing that Celtic blacksmiths chipped sword moulds into blocks of stone & poured their smeltings into that. Now doesn't that shed a different light on the old stories? I just love archaeology!

They can't prove Arthur. They can't disprove him either. There is far too much evidence that someone led a cavalry band against the marauding Saxons during the 5th century. Whoever he was certainly halted the invasion temporarily.

I have my own take on all this as well. After all I start with the premise that there is no smoke without fire. I also have a background in Celtic things so I tend to make some odd associations. Take that harmless English word *king*. Chances are you think of an absolute ruler who is the descendant of a king but that is not how it worked in the Celtic kingdoms. Ri is the Celtic word for king. You see it in names like Ryan [little king] & Riordan [king's poet] . Ris were a dime a dozen. Everyone was a king! Every two bit overlord claimed kingship. Some Ris had bigger war bands & claimed fealty from smaller Ris. They were called Ard~Ris, high kings. Nope, don't go thinking they were absolute rulers either. *First amongst equals* is how the Ard~Ris were seen.

Kingship was not the birthright of a firstborn son either. There was some form of democracy in operation to choose the best man for the job so the leadership might go to an uncle, nephew, cousin or younger brother ~ or even, to the Roman's complete disbelief ,a woman! aka Boudicca. Arthur may have been a king as legend claims. He may even have been a high king but it is more probable he was Dux Bellorum, War Lord.

All the evidence suggests he was a gifted military leader & that is how he is remembered. Stripped of the Later Medieval Romantic drivel the picture that remains is of a man fighting & winning 12 decisive battles at a time when Britain desperately needed a leader to admire & follow, to meld a country suddenly stripped of its Roman protection into a force that could protect itself, & unite the Celtic tribes, no mean feat in itself! Actually that last impresses me far more than the first two. The Celtic tribes were notoriously difficult to manage. Every man could fight or not as he chose; ditto every king. They'd lay down arms on a whim or fight like beserkers for no apparent reason. They baffled the Romans & they frightened the Romans who decimated the Druidic sanctuary of Iona in an attempt to eradicate Druid influence which held the memories & the genealogies of the people. Like any other persecuted religion Druidism went underground to re~emerge in altered form amongst the Christian culdees ~ or that's one version of the story. There are others but I like this one.

One of the oddities of the Romans [& I think they were a very odd people] was that much as they often despised the Celts they admired certain of their traits ~ verbosity being one of them. The Celts were known for being garrulous talkers. Didn't always make sense but they had the rhetoric & so they were employed as tutors in Roman households. Now what sort of stories do you think a garrulous people would be most likely to tell? Exactly! There are stories of Arthur to be found all over the continent. No, I don't know that that's how the stories were spread & certainly by Medieval times itinerant troubadours were spreading different versions of the stories that would eventually become Le Mort de Arthur all over the place. Odd that a man who may or may not have existed still holds such a grip on the imagination. I find that in itself fascinating.

I read the Arthurian stories early, was bored silly by Le Mort, found Geoffrey Ashe & archaeology & now find myself straddling two worlds when it comes to Arthur. There is the Arthur who certainly never existed with his round table & courtly Camelot & there is the other Arthur who's sons are named in Britain & fought 12 named battles before falling at Camlann & whose name still brings visions of knights in shinning armour & knightly honour, courage & a vision for the future.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thinking ahead.

You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star. NietzscheI have plenty of chaos; just waiting on that dancing star.

No sanity headed this way, just a change of chaos. Now that Christmas is over I can give some thought to January. Ouch! Liddy wants to catch up with her aunt & cousin while they are at my mother's. Her idea of catching up is bolt up over New Year's, her driving, me riding gunshot! Oh yes. This sounds like such a brilliant idea ~ I don't think. Only if we don't go then we will miss them as Liddy has no more time off until the end of the month. *sigh*.

Now don't get me wrong. I want to catch up as much as Liddy does. I'd just prefer to do it more slowly & sanely. As that does not seem to be the way my house works I guess we'll do it the usual way with a frantic last minute dash & me threatening to drive unless Liddy gets a grip.

The middle of January is designated for camping at Springbrook with Sian. January is the only time she can be sure of nabbing us as once school starts back up choir eats up nearly all our free time. We all enjoy this time away so much despite the small discomforts of life under canvas. I camped a lot growing up & so long as I can take things at my own pace will happily hike all day up & down the rugged Springbrook trails.

By the end of January, when I should be thinking curriculum & school, Liddy has 2 weeks holiday & we all expect to be heading north to my mother's. Again we look forward to this time. Not only do we enjoy spending time with mum she is a fantastic cook, the meals arrive at regular intervals & I don't have to do anything about them except eat them! The girls also enjoy the routine, undisrupted by our often erratic lifestyle at home. It is probably the most relaxed part of our year from our point of view. Although it invariably rains, January being our wet season, the weather rarely inhibits our activities. As mum lives alone with just her cat for company I'm sure our arrival is something of a trial. I'm quiet enough but Liddy is a busy little soul & likes to pack her days to the hilt while Ditz is just... noisy. It is happy noise but noise. She sings from the moment she opens her eyes to the moment she drops asleep at night & it gets rather wearing when you are not used to it. I simply tune Ditz out a lot but mum needs more practice. Perhaps we should visit more often.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest. ~Larry Lorenzoni

Yesterday this. Today the heavens opened & dropped two inches of water on our heads in half an hour.
I know it was two inches because Dearest & I now have a weather station in the garden & I promptly rushed outside to find out exactly how much water was pouring over the top of us.

Which has not deterred the kids in the least.

First they insisted on another round of pancakes. You may now all laugh. This is an American recipe that I have used for years. I found it in an American recipe book. Unfortunately at that time in my life I had no idea that all purpose flour is what we would call plain flour ~ meaning it doesn't rise of its own accord. I assumed, seeing we would use self~raising flour for pancakes & pikelets, that this is what was meant. The baking powder did throw me somewhat but undeterred I added the teaspoonful according to directions, beat my whites till they were stiff & fluffy, carefully folded the whites in & watched in amazement as my *pancakes* rose high & light & cake like! Despite learning that the baking powder is necessary because what was meant is plain flour I still use self~raising flour for this recipe, producing pancakes that blossom & swell to truly alarming proportions. One is a meal.

Today is St Stephen's Day; first Christian martyr. Or Boxing Day if you prefer. It is also Dearest's birthday. Shocking Day to have a celebration. Everyone is trying to recover from Christmas but out here he has a choice of watching the first cricket match &/or the Sydney to Hobart boat race but I do think his parents could have managed things better.

Boxing day is another medieval tradition whose original meaning has been lost in the hub~bub of Christmas. Money used to be collected in alms boxes & handed out to the poor on Boxing Day & during the 19th century those who were rich enough to have servants handed out tokens of appreciation to their servants the day after Christmas. Said token arrived in boxes.

The carol, Good King Wencelas, celebrates the idea of alms giving though the *king* was actually the Duke of Bohemia. Just the same, Wencelaus was considered a saint & a martyr in his own time & greatly influenced the Middle Ages idea of the rex justus ~ righteous king. As Christians it is a pity we have let so much of this ancient knowledge slip. No wonder so many people see no special religous signifigance to the holiday. Poor Dearest. As usual his celebratory dinner will consist mostly of Christmas leftovers.

...& the damage done...

“Strange to see how a good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody.” Samuel Pepys Christmas morning dawned dry & warm but not broiling hot. We came into Christmas with the usual assortment of dramas. The boys had no prop but wanted to order one. Ditz had to clamber down the hill & through the mud to read the number on the broken prop . She, naturally, got bitten by a tick. The prop arrived in record time. Great delight all round until the owner of the motor arrived & declared it the wrong prop! Yes, they got it working but..!!! I bought the lads a jerry can of petrol just before the island ran completely out of fuel. That will be all the people fueling up their boats for the Xmas break. Goodness only knows when there will be a delivery so people can run their cars!
The boys are home; fishing, crabbing, scurfing. The cat is delighted. Theo brought his girlfriend with him ~ failed to tell me until they were practically here. Liddy & I scampered round madly trying to find spare sheets & the mattress we use for overflow so we could bed her down on Liddy's floor.
We had an early tide so it was scurfing before breakfast; Theo's surfboard, Dino's boat. Everyone had a good appetite for our usual Christmas breakfast of pancakes with maple syrup, toasted walnuts, cream & icecream. Yeah, I know but it's once a year & it's Christmas. It holds everyone until a late lunch.

Liddy is a pro.

Ditz...not so much. She sticks to the doughnut & hangs on for dear life.

Dino surfs. Can you tell? He used to do this behind the trawlers in Great White Shark country. Strange as it may seem I'm rather fond of the lad & did not think that was such a good idea.
For those who don't know & have never done this, scurfing is towing someone behind a boat on a surfboard ~ or other contraption. Those who are really good can stand up ~ like water skiing really, & surf the stern wave. That would be Liddy, Dino & Theo. Those not so good just lie along the board on their bellies & get towed. The Ditzs of this world loll in a doughnut & try not to drown.
The verandah quickly became awash in towels, T~shirts & boardies drying, sunscreen & insect repellent
while Liddy & I tackled the roast & put out the salads. Mangoes, cherries & watermelon are still on offer... And some of you are snowed in for Christmas. Poor things! ;D

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A mere trifle.

According to English tradition, trifle is a dessert of sponge cake, soaked in wine, covered in macaroons, nuts and whipped cream, etc. ( In this case etc is very important)

I like trifle. It is one of those odds & ends deserts that can be elaborate & expensive to make or very cheap & very simple. I like it either way. The argument in this house is not over whether or not we'll have trifle but how we'll have it. Traditionally it is made with port or sherry or Madeira but half my household does not like alcohol spoiling the taste of good food; naturally the other half thinks alcohol enhances the flavour! It is also traditional Christmas fare in households like ours that don't want plum pudding in the middle of a broiling Australian summer. I don't eat anything with *squashed flies* [raisins, sultanas, or most other dried fruit] in it so you won't find Chrissy cake or plum pudding at my table. Most years you will find trifle, with or without alcohol!

So here is my mandarin custard trifle recipe.

1X100 gram packet of preferred jelly crystals

300g Madeira cake [if it's bit stale its better for soaking up the liquid]

1/4 cup of sweet sherry [or cointreau]

6 mandarins [I use 2 tins of mandarin segments instead or I'd spend all day pulling pith off. I do not like pith!]

1X 300ml thicken cream whipped

Fresh fruit of choice [I like kiwi fruit, raspberries, strawberries & nectarines with the mandarin flavour]

Thick custard.

Make the jelly & refrigerate until nearly set

Make the custard & set aside to cool. It needs to be quite thick.[Don't use a bought pouring custard!]

Cut the cake into 1X1cm slices & arrange over the base of a serving bowl [8 cup capacity at least!] Drizzle your liquid of choice over the cake. The mandarin juice from the tins works well if you don't want alcohol. Then pour the partly set jelly over the cake & refrigerate until set.

If you use fresh mandarins peel well & break into segments. If using tins make sure they are well drained. Place the mandarins over the jelly in the dish. Spread custard evenly over the mandarins. Top with cream & refrigerate overnight. Serve topped with the fresh fruit of choice.

Traditionally [there's that word again] trifle is made in a large glass bowl so that the different colours & layers are displayed but it also looks stunning done in individual wine glasses or serving bowls.

The English have enjoyed trifle for over 300 years. The word itself dates back to the medieval trufle from the old French, trufe, something of little significance... Anyone doing a medieval study? For everything that's said about English cooking they do some things suburbly well & trifle is one of them. It may have started life as a way to use up that stale cake & questionable fruit but it has evolved into something to delight both the eyes & the tastebuds.
No, I haven't made mine yet. Liddy asked if I would wait till she finished work today as she wants to make it with me. It is one of those recipes she's seen made but isn't quite sure she could do herself yet. However it is very simple to do though it does take a bit of time making the jelly & custard.

It is Christmas Eve here so I wish you all the blessings & joy of the season: good friends, family around you & the Christ light within you. Ganeida.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one. ~Erma Bombeck

It is a glorious morning! Even better I will not be on the mainland today. I did that yesterday. I was not a happy little shopper. I had plans on disturbing Ditz early & heading to the mainland before the shops got crowded which would have meant I'd be home before the worst of the heat ...until Liddy put gremlins in the pipeline! Liddy was starting work at 10.15 instead of 8am so the earliest boat I could go on was the 10.20. Yes, I was seriously unhappy.

So there I was watching the line form on the pontoon & down the jetty knowing every stop would be the same & everything would move at a snail's pace when Liddy arrived in absolute floods ~ which is not like Liddy at all. I hate getting caught like that. I had to be on that boat while trying to get *tea & sympathy* into Liddy at the same time. Poor kid. She's sooo tired & everyone's tempers are fraying & she will take things said out of frustration personally & she had just walked out of work. I felt awful leaving her but she did manage to pull herself together & walk back into the fray. She has a great boss who really is mentoring her & grooming her for more responsibility [& Liddy hates responsibility!] & he sorted out all the fraying tempers & Liddy's meltdown & she was much more her usual cheery self when I arrived for her late lunch.

Meanwhile Ditz & I faced the mainland fray. There was a line of cars all the way down the hill from the first set of lights to the round~a~bout! Ditz's eyes popped. Three changes of lights it took to get us through! Queensland drivers are insane at the best of times. Christmas is not the best of times. Liddy is always astonished that while there may be hordes before us & hordes behind us I always seem to get this little bubble of space with no cars in our immediate vicinity. I just figure the Lord knows how stressed I get & ensures I have the breathing space I need! :) I must do ok. Ditz is a terrible backseat driver when Liddy's behind the wheel but she pays no attention to my driving & sings away merrily. I just wish she would sing the same song as the radio or turn either it or herself off!

I had three stops I needed to make: the fruit barn for a tray of mangoes & a whole watermelon; the hardware for the last table & chairs; the shopping centre for new sheets. It took us hours & hours. It was hot & crowded & there was no parking. There never is unless you're prepared to walk for miles. I parked near the hardware & made Ditz walk. Ditz hates shopping at the best of times; she particularly hates Christmas shopping. Even being given some spending money so she could buy small gifts for everyone was not enough to sweeten the experience but to give Ditz her due she remained a cheerful & willing little helper. It would have been much harder without her help & she gets rather a buzz out of carrying the heavy & awkward things for me. Long may it last.

We got to the jetty just in time to watch a ferry pull out. I told Ditz not to stress about trying to get on it as there was no long term parking anywhere near the jetty so I would have to find some & walk back. Anyway, the next boat went directly to our island which is always better.

Iss is delighted with the tables & chairs. More Issi toys! Normally I find him curled in one of the chairs but the glass tops are lovely & cool when the heat is on. Another chore to add to my growing list; disinfect the tables before we use them.

Today's chores include putting the last table together & removing the wrapping before getting down to the serious business of making cheesecake & trifle. I have beds to make & rooms to clean as the boys swear they will arrive Christmas eve. Dino did make it to mum's as he said he would though I got a frantic phone call when he was nearly there but unsure of his direction & with a pile of unwrapped gifts. Not sure what he expected me to do about those.

Outside the cicadas are shirring in the trees. There are arrows of light shafting through the trees & the promise of heat to come. I'd best get moving while it is sill cool enough to work without melting. Christmas is coming faster than I am.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

One coin, different sides.

Methinks you are my glass, and not my brother...~William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

Dino is one of my twins, part of the great cosmic joke that is my life. You see I'm a bookworm. Give me a quiet cornor, a cup of coffee [chocolate if you're feeling generous] & a good book & I'm perfectly happy. Food is not necessary. I will happily bypass exercise. I am my own best friend. I have the writer's knack of peopling my world with congenial company & if they aren't real so much the better! My children think I'm quite mad. What's worse they were all made in a completely different mold.

Dino beat his brother into the world by a whole three minutes. I used to think he was a bit short the full quid as a result; not quite cooked. Theo would pass him the fork & we'd find Dino trying to insert it into the electrical outlet. Theo would never put himself at such risk when Dino was around to be put at risk instead. It might take two of them to move the furniture around so Dino could climb into forbidden corners but it was always Dino we found at the top of the pile. Then there was the day they drove the car. My friend was visiting with her little boy, also about 3. Half way through our coffee we realised it was rather quiet & neither of us had seen the boys for some time. We suck our heads out in time to see my friend's car kangaroo hopping into the scrub. One boy was on the floor working the peddles, one was steering & the third was attempting to change gears & direct! Yikes! It used to drive me to distraction. They were dangerous. I wasn't sure we would all survive each other.

I was relieved when they all moved into boats. Our bay is shallow & fairly protected & they could do fairly little damage to themselves or anything else. Rowing made them fit & healthy. I understood the pleasures of sitting in a blue puddle with a fishing line contemplating one's navel. I did not understand their aversion to books & a propensity for running all over the island as if long distances were a sprint in the park.

For some years they easily cleaned up at the inter island sports day for everything over 800m. The coach raved that Dino was one of the best natural runners he'd ever seen. Dino couldn't have cared less. He was not in the lest competitive. That would be Theo. Theo, nowhere near as gifted was far more determined & far more competitive.

My sons were practical children who have grown into practical men. They were hands on learners who now work with their hands. They are concrete thinkers. The abstract, the fantastical, the speculative is not for them. That is purely their mother's province. My attempts to impart something of God into their lives was met with skepticism. Where was my proof? What evidence did I have? They humoured me as obviously delusional. Poor old mum, her kids have sent her batty.

For years we rolled our eyes at each other. I 'm a Celt. A sense of *otherness* is part of who I am. Obviously it was not a part of who my sons were. I couldn't work out how I'd been landed with such aliens. My children know that my story telling leans towards *being on the imaginative side*, rather than literal. I am at home in the arts. Metaphor, simile, mythological allusions, obscure references are food & drink to me. The less plainly something is said the happier I am. I wallow in Song of Songs, John's gospel, Isaiah & Revelation. My sons wanted to know how Jesus knew there was a silver coin inside the fish!

So when the Holy Spirit began manifesting himself in Dino's life I was highly amused. This was so outside Dino's understanding of how the world works that when he hits a theological impasse he rings home. He expects years of studying, learning, meditating to be condensed into a bite sized pill that will explain the inexplicable. I keep telling him he needs to know God, not about God.

The pull on his life is growing stronger. He came to church with the girls & I on Sunday. He wants to join one of the cell groups & be involved in a bible study. Liddy is quite envious. She can't get to either because of living on the island & her work times but her direction is much clearer. She has been hashing things out with the Lord for much longer.

And in that most obscure & delightful of books, Isaiah, I hold fast to the promises of God for me & for mine: I will contend with those who contend with you, & I will save your children [40:25]...All your sons shall be taught by the Lord & great shall be the prosperity of your sons. [54:13]

I haven't told Dino. I'm not sure he's ready to cope with the fact that God talks back.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Trivia

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!" Clement Clarke Moore.

Clement Clarke Moore, who wrote the poem originally titled A Visit from St. Nicholas & now generally referred to as The Night Before Christmas, was a dour straight~laced professor of classics who notably wrote A Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language & refused to publish his poem as it was a mere trifle. He is remembered for his mere trifle. No~one remembers, let alone reads, his 2 tome academic achievement. It is in Clarke's poem that Santa's reindeer are first named. Rudolph is a later ring~in.

We had a gorgeous illustrated version of this poem when I was a child & I took great delight in reading it to mine when they were little. Now even Ditz is too old for such simple pleasures.

I know you've seen the cutesy pictures but reindeer are similar to caribou ~ a good sized, hefty deer that can stand as much as 4' high at the shoulders, weigh 250 pounds, travel at 50mph & pull twice its own weight ~ perfect for lugging sleighs round the sky all night! Reindeer are Santa's because they are the deer of the Artic Circle. There are no wild reindeer left, unless there is a remnant in far northern Norway. They have all been domesticated.

I was also fascinated to learn that the chances are very good that all Santa's reindeer are female ~ despite all those strong, male sounding names. Male reindeer shed their antlers before winter but females retain theirs until the spring. OK, some neutered & young bucks may also keep their antlers but they wouldn't be the biggest, strongest deer in the herd either.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle...

Friday, December 19, 2008

O, Come all ye faithfull...

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together." ~ Garrison Keillor

For 20 years Christmas officially begins for us with the Island carol service. Traditionally this in held in the Anglican hall, a high set, old~fashioned wooden building with a set 0f 20 rickety steps, small windows & fans that barely move the languid air. Into this small, cramped space half the island attempts to squeeze wielding insect repellent, mozzie coils & wads of paper to be wielded as fans. The other half stand on the steps & smoke.

Ditz, who has yet to master any of her times tables, studiously applied herself to being able to rattle off the names of all Santa's reindeer for every year Joyce asks the same lot of questions & every year we are the only one's waving our hands excitedly in the air. Well, Ditz & I wave our hands excitedly while Liddy pretends she doesn't know us. I won myself a packet of chips [which Ditz gave away to a 2nd cousin] for knowing whose birthday we were celebrating! Ditz won one for knowing where He was born. Liddy ate a packet of chips & pretended she didn't know us. Meanwhile Ditz waited anxiously for the reindeer question. She waited so anxiously that twice she had her hand up frantically before Joyce had got around to even asking her question & twice she was deferred. By the time the question actually arrived Ditz was practically popping out of her skin. Joyce tried to warn her that she had the list right there & would check but Ditz barely heard her, frantic to get all 8 names out before she forgot one!

I think we rather spoiled Joyce's party. In the twenty years we've done his nobody else, child or adult, has managed all eight names & Joyce has taken great delight in informing us all! I also think she mistook Ditz for Liddy remarking that it had taken 18 years for the child to learn this. Both Ditz & Liddy were mortified, if for different reasons, but Ditz got another packet of crisps which Liddy eyed off hungrily.

Both Liddy & I were starving. Very, very occasionally Dearest gets a hankering for a take~a~way meal, which can be dicey on the island. There are only two places at present where you can get meals unless you want pizza: the RSL or the Bowls club. Of the two the Bowls club usually has the better reputation but Dearest wanted a seafood basket & Ditz just wanted a hamburger so we ordered that from the RSL & went on to get Liddy & I chicken Cesar salads from the bowls club. The chef has changed but a Cesar salad that is mostly iceberg with a few stray pieces of bacon & chicken, the odd crouton & a poached egg is one thing; anchovies hidden amongst it is quite another! I can't stand seafood & at the first taste I was spitting a mouthful of food over the verandah & gagging like mad. If you don't like seafood, & I don't, anchovies are the worst thing out. Liddy doesn't eat seafood either so we packed the meals up & back we went to complain.

Liddy was not a happy Liddy. I was ho~hum until the chef tried to tell me anchovies were standard in a Cesar salad. Then I got steamed. Cesar salad is one of those things I order a lot; it is light & filling & usually fairly harmless though I've never had a poached egg over one before & certainly I've never had anchovies. Who in their right mind adds a seafood cocktail to chicken?! Liddy didn't go there. She pointed out the anchovies were an optional extra & shouldn't have been there at all. We were offered another meal but by then we were out of time so wanted our money back instead. The upshot was we went to carols without having eaten. I'm a light eater & used to erratic meals but Liddy is what's known in the vernacular as a 'good eater'. She can mow down half a cow with no problems & she likes her food at regular intervals. We laugh like maniacs at all the people who suggest the child's anorexic. Liddy loves her food & appreciates it in ways that totally escape me.

Which reminds me, I want breakfast & as it is blowing a gale, overcast & chilly I will appreciate something hot & that 2nd cup of coffee. Tomorrow I must remember to check the t.v program, which I rarely look at, & see if Ditz is actually going to be on t.v this Christmas. It will certainly solve the problem of which channel's carol program we watch.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

the twin thing

I may be a twin but I'm one of a kind. ~Author Unknown

Back in the days...I first read Heidi's Children back in primary school & I became enamoured of the whole twin thing.

This is a singleton phenomena & as little girls do, when playing *happy families* mine always included a set of twins. I was aiming for a mixed bag. What I got was identical boys. I would not recommend this to anybody.

I love my boys but there is no getting round the fact original sin got doubled in their case. Oh yes, they look like angels. The blue eyes & blond hair is how I know for sure without blood tests & DNA tests & all sorts of other tests that they are identical. All the other kids got the brownish green eyes like an Irish bog.

At one they invented their own language ~ which they then taught to Liddy. My middle 3 are not native English speakers! At 2 they were dismantling their cots, the dividing wall in their room, & the plumbing caps on the toilet . At 4 they were killing the car with a tent pole straight through the radiator a la St George & the Dragon! At 6 their teacher was rolling her eyes because they had no singular pronouns. Everything was us, ours, we. Personal space, personal property were foreign territory to them. By 12 they hated each others guts enough to request they share no classes together even though each other were the only people they knew at their new high school! At 15 they said things like, 'You try this on so I can see how I'll look in it', or 'Get your hair cut this way so I'll know if it will look any good on me.' By 16 Dino had dropped through the cracks in the school system & we packed him off for Western Australia to go trawling with his cousin. It was the best thing we could have done for the boys.

I never bought into the *they're identical & it's sooo cute to dress them the same* philosophy. I can't think of anything more aggravating to the psyche. Twins have enough identity separation problems. I know. We watched the war unfold in our house. It was not pretty. I will never forget them parked in a corner of our living room taking it in turns to slam each other's heads into the wall! It was rare for them to fall out to such an extent when they were little but it was a foretaste of things to come.

Identity was such an issue that they didn't even have a separate name. They referred to themselves by a meld of their Christian names. I worked hard to combat this ~ everything from buying different gifts at Christmas & for birthdays even when I knew they would both like the same thing, to never dressing them the same, to sending them to visit their grandparents separately, eventually even separate schools & separate sides of the country & it was like blowing in the wind. They may have 2 souls but they are one in spirit.

I know there is a massive downside to being one of a pair & never being seen for yourself. It is aggravating to always be referred to as Mr Dino because the teacher can't tell whether you're you or your brother. It is maddening to be he focus of unwanted attention & insensitive curiosity... until you find out how useful it is.

I am not supposed to know but I do, that the two of them changed classes, then schools, then sports teams on a whim. All the kids knew but the teachers never twigged. I've lost count of the times one's claimed to be the other because what difference does it make after all?! He's me, I'm him. Not in law, bucko!

Mothers of twins often seem to remember the sleepless nights & the running after toddlers headed in 2 different directions. People who don't have twins goo & gush & say, 'Oh, how sweet! Twins!' Twins are not sweet. They are interesting & fun & unpredictable & aggravating, double trouble & twice as nice. Like anything else in life there are compensations & drawbacks but I would not wish twinship on anyone. Despite the fun & uniqueness I think it is very hard for twins to see themselves as separate identities & sometimes even harder for others to see them as individuals. That matters when it comes to spiritual things. We each stand alone before God & are accountable for ourselves. I think more than most twins find that almost impossible to do. From conception they live in each others shadow. When one dies he leaves only half a person behind. No~one wants to live as half a person.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fruit & fires.

Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there. ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732
Tropical nectarines! My very favourite & this year we have no fly. We are, however, losing fruit because it is bursing out of is skin on the tree. The tree needs a heavy prune & I am just waiting on the last of the fruit to ripen before I do it then I will fertilize & mulch heavily & hope for wonderful things next year. The anticipation is terrible & mostly goes unfulfilled.I don't know how many years we have tried for water melons only to watch the flowers wither & die, the vines shrivel under the schorching sun & all our hard work come to naught. This year we look like being luckier. The fruit is swelling on the vine like a pregnant lady; they are the size of softball already. The vines are running all over the garden & are still looking incredibly healthy.
What I do have is an influx of grasshoppers & am busily trying to kill them off before they do too much damage.
We are also doing the whole fire thing now we have our fire pit back. We need the boys to scrounge some decent sized logs that will burn all night & give us the sort of coals that mean the marshmallows won't burn. What is Christmas without a BBQ, a roaring fire & marshmallows to end the day with?

Monday, December 15, 2008

On the first day of Christmas...

“This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last.” Oscar Wilde

We've done it. We've got the tree up. It's all we've done but it's a start. Ditz has gone all avante guard & done a minimalist tree this year. I was rather impressed. She's gone for 'less is better' so most of the decorations are still in the box & she chose those things that matched her colour theme of gold. I have yet to work out where I'm putting the stockings but I'm sure Ditz will have some good ideas for that too.

This year Ditz declared she was too old to decorate the tree but of course once I started pulling out the boxes she couldn't help herself. She is nowhere near as jaded as she would like to think herself. Ditz trying to contain her excitement is like having a live hand grenade rolling round your floor. I'm not overly keen on live hand grenades.

Because I am a mean mummy & the music scene these days is fraught with questionable morals & *colourful* language Ditz is only allowed to listen to either the Christian radio station or the classical radio station. For a musical afficiando this is paramount to child abuse but was not enough to prevent her entering a competition for free movie tickets. *sigh* How that child does complicate my life!

I would never in a thousand years have chosen to go & see Bolt. If I did go & see Bolt I would not have travelled all the way in to town to see it. As I pointed out to Ditz, parking was going to cost me more than the tickets were worth. God is going to great pains to ensure I know my way round Southbank! *big sigh* The mind boggles at what next year may bring!

Naturally the premier was on a Monday night. Monday's Liddy works late. This meant I could not take the island car because Dearest needed to pick Liddy up. Monday the last boat is 10pm, which meant we were tight for making it back in time. Ditz knew I wasn't wildly enthusiastic about this whole venture but she'd won herself the tickets so I agreed to drive her in to town. I think I mentioned somewhere that I thought Ditz needed some frivolity in her life. I'd like to rescind that.

And this people is why our eating habits just get stranger & stranger. 3.30pm is far too early for tea. It's not even snack time. No~one is hungry then, especially if, as so often happens, lunch occured between 2 & 3. By 6pm, when we arrived in town, it is another matter entirely. Anticipating this, & knowing Ditz had sweets in her bag, I walked Ditz into Southbank for Pizza & ice cream The pizza was terrible but the ice cream was pretty good. It just nicely filled the gap between parking the car & finding our seats for the movie. We did not get lost, caught in traffic or cross unknown bridges so the time I had allowed for these crisis was available for eating at a leisurely pace. We saved all that for coming home.

I know it's clever & everything but I'm just not a big fan of animation & frankly Bolt is anything but cute & cuddly. He is one very ugly looking mutt. So I wasn't expecting to enjoy myself, you know. If Liddy had been available I'd have sent Liddy in with Ditz. How wrong could I be?! Bolt was really, really good. Good message, great story, funny, funny movie & I didn't notice anything even remotely questionable. Ditz positively glowed. She felt like she'd given me a real treat & given that she seems to suffer a guilt complex from all the running round I do on her behalf she was chuffed beyond words to be able to do something nice for me. The child has quite good instincts.

It was after 11 by the time we got home. I have no idea why I attempt to give this child a well regulated life with a designated bedtime that will ensure she is awake, bright eyed & bushy tailed, at a civilised hour. Every year we become more decadent, staying up later & later, gallivanting all over the countryside, hob~nobbing with questionable sorts. It is heady fare but so far she's still pretty grounded; total air head but she knows what the important things in life are. Nah, we had a great night together. "I'll go get my ball!" *maniacal laughter*

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Food 'n' phones.

If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things that are missing. If you don't have love in your life, no matter what else there is, it's not enough.” Ann Landers
I have love & I know I am blessed to have it. It is not always convienient, but when has love ever been convienient.
Liddy arranged for us to go out to dinner with friends...only she forgot to inform us till the last minute. Dearest didn't feel well enough to go, Ditz is tired & I rolled my eyes because apparrently I was supplying dessert.

Making dessert is not normally a problem. Dessert making falls into one of the *easy~peasy* categories in my life. I just don't normally do it round here or we'd all be as round as barrels. I collected my ingredients & Ditz & began the noisy process of making my mum's no bake cheescake, which is deliciously yummy & a standard celebration dessert. It is also incredibly easy to make so that even Ditz can make this unsupervised.

Just when I was at my stickiest the phone rang. Ditz was busy licking out the condensed milk tin so I picked up to find I had my Dino on the other end. My boys aren't the sort to ring home regularly & I figure if I'm not hearing from them all is well in their lives. If something were wrong they would ring, right? Apparently not. Dino had rung to chat ~ & not idle chatter either. He had some very specific religious questions he wanted answered. I do not find it easy giving religious instruction to an extremely pragmatic child over the phone. Dino is one of my practical ones. If he can't see it, feel it, taste it, hear it, it doesn't exist. My mind works quite the other way ''Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ''
Lewis Carroll

We have some very interesting conversations as you can imagine! I have a lifetime of reading & understanding the scriptures behind me & I am very secure in my beliefs but Dino asks deep questions & is too impatient to wait while I condense my theology into a logical nutshell. I am logical because the scriptures are logical. Having thrown some spanners into his works & helped him untangle his spiritual knots & given him some tough meat to chew on I discovered I'd missed getting Libby's lunch up to her. She, of course, had tried ringing without sucess!

Meanwhile the cheescake still wasn't made. Ditz had wandered off & the cat was eyeing off the cream. I tried again & managed to get the cheescake finished & in the fridge to set before doing raspberry pots. This is an even simpler dessert & a firm favourite but so rich & unhealthy I very rarely make it. Whip one large container of cream Add enough icing sugar to sweeten it & fold in a packet of frozen raspberries. It takes all of 10 minutes to make. Five minutes into the whipping the phone went! It was obviously going to be one of those days. I had Theo & Theo was also ringing just to chat seeing as he is on his own down Ballina way working & anxious to know what plans were in the pipeline for Christmas. Theo never believes I can organise anything properly & feels much better if he is supervising. Why I do not know. It never makes any difference to what we do & no matter how many times I say, 'If there something specific you want let me know in plenty of time,' he never does & then wants to know why such & such a thing hasn't been done.

Liddy, who enjoys being the only worker in the house & enjoys having her lunch paraded to her through the shop was quite put out. Now all I need is for Jossie to ring but somehow I can't see that happening this year ~ or any time soon. Life is too short to have people missing who should be there.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


We do not remember days; we remember moments. ~Cesare Pavese, The Burning Brand

I have been busy & that is a good thing. I don't have time to remember. Christmas is not the happiest season for us. As Ditz says morbidly, 'All your family dies at Christmas.' Unfortunately it is her family too. She gets a little antsy around Christmas, especially if the phone rings at odd times. It is better to keep busy & let the anniversaries pass unnoticed. There are enough unguarded moments when the sight of a silver head, the drone of a light aircraft engine, the pungent smell of turps & thinners, brings memories surging to the surface, raw & sharp as a scalpel so that taken unawares I weep uncontrollably in public places. This alarms my girls. It alarms the public. This is not how one is supposed to grieve. Who made up these rules anyway?

I have found healing to be a painfully slow process. My head has never run very well in harness with my heart. Logically both my aunt & my father had a surfeit of days, good lives, much love, more than many people in this world ever have & certainly that is something to be grateful for. If only Eve had had the sense not to chat with snakes in the garden! If Adam hadn't been such a wimp! I blame Eve less. A talking snake would certainly intrigue me enough I would stop to chat. I'd still stop, which just goes to show I have learnt nothing from the past.

Mark is completely un~understandable from a worldly viewpoint ~ & I'm not doing well from a Godly one. Mark, who was social in every cell of his being, whose witness reached more people in a day than mine is likely to in a year, who was gifted in expressing his love for Christ in ways most people could understand & had everything to live for. Little brothers just aren't meant to die before their big sister! They aren't meant to die before their mother ~ or their wife! But he did. Mark should be annoyingly alive & bigger than life ...well actually he is, just not here, but here is where he was expected to be.

So from my birthday in October, when my aunt departed this world after a last tea~party with long dead relatives, to my father's death exactly a month later & Mark's in December, we traverse a Christmas season fraught with unexpected landmines. Amidst the commercialism & the gaudy trappings, the canned music & the greed we are acutely aware of the fragility & brevity of life; that at any moment it could end. That we have these moments together, a time to share & enjoy each other, surpasses all the Christmas glitz

We have always celebrated with restraint. We don't go overboard with decorations & food & I've had Christmases when celebrating anything is the last thing I've felt like doing. My children, for the most part, aren't touchy~feely sorts but for all of us, at the back of our minds, in the hidden places of our hearts, ghosts walk. We won't talk about it. We won't be sad & gloomy, which would be silly because our family isn't a sad & gloomy lot & certainly Mark was the life of any party. Heck, he often was the party! Just the same we will be acutely aware of the gaps where someone once was in our lives.

I'm funny about Christmas anyway. I find the way we celebrate peculiar. Certainly Christ was born but he came to die. Christmas was only a means to an end. Surely Easter should be when we break out the champagne & celebrate.

I am reminded of the closing Seder prayer: this year on the island, Next year in Jerusalem. This year our loved ones are celebrating with the promised Messiah. Next year...? None of us know what next year will bring. At the heart of Christmas lies the heartbreak of Easter & promises fulfilled. If not next year, one year. We can face the future with hope & confidence for He has given us the peace that passeth all understanding ~ even in the face of death, even in the midst of grief, & out of that peace flows joy unspeakable.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Alone again.

What is a home without children? Quiet. ~Henny Youngman

Ask the cat. Liddy has gone some place with the sort of rides I don't go on to celebrate a friend's 18th. Ditz is at Jupiter's, the big casino on the Gold Coast, as she likes to tell everyone, participating in Abba Mania; she leaves that part out. The child is not adverse to stirring the bucket.

I ran Ditz into town to be picked up by the courtesy bus then picked up the second table & chair set before heading home & I can tell you I'm really not sure what to do with myself. The cat is somnolent in the heat. I don't have Ditz blathering constant nonsense in my ear. There is no Liddy suffering from angst. The boys haven't arrived for Christmas yet. It is just Dearest & I, a taste of things to come?

There is lots I could do ~ like put up the tree or put together the 2nd table or do a load of washing, mop the floors but where is the fun in that with no~one to distract me from my purpose & no~one to trash my work as soon as it's done? What I would like to do is garden but it is too hot for that & by the time it is cool I will be travelling again to pick up Ditz. I am alone so rarely one would think I could use the time far more profitably but it just feels so abnormal I can't think what to do with myself. Adjusting to a childless house could be harder than I think.

Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination. ~Oscar Wilde
Ok, I don't necessarily agree with Wilde but I do find him funny & it is a tart reminder after a day at the shops indulging in Christmas purchases.
I can only get one set of these in the car at a time but this is the first of three small tables & chairs that will adorn the deck for Christmas in the hope that the weather will actually be dry & we can eat outside. I prefer the smaller tables but apart from anything else in the event of a cyclone, & we do get the occasional one this far south, I wanted something I could lift myself & move indoors quickly rather than needing several very hefty men & an engineering degree.

There wasn't a lot of choice so I was pleased to get something in black, which was my preferred colour choice. Liddy, who is quite mechanical, put the table together for me & we ate our Friday night pizza on the deck in the cool of the evening.

Way back in October my mother gave me a little money for a birthday indulgence. It is perhaps still a little premature but I have bought the birdbath & set it up under the sapling growing through the deck. Everyone is referring to it as Issi's new toy. Hm. Dearest wants it on a plinth so it will eventually be even higher but luckily Iss, being male & incredibly lazy, isn't much of a hunter. I have visions of hanging a feeder in the tree when it is big enough but the girls are horrified thinking that all I will be feeding is the cat!
I have started the Christmas shopping too but neither Ditz nor I are shopaholics so by lunchtime we'd had enough & bolted for home. Ditz resorted to scare tactics this morning & informed me I only had 5 shopping days left till Christmas. She got my attention but luckily she is wrong. I have longer than that to finish getting my act together.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree...

"At daylight came a hideous chorus of fiendish laughter, as if the infernal regions had been broken loose...'' C. H. Eden, 1872
The kookaburra, a medium sized [18''] member of the kingfisher family whose diet consists of lizards, mice, insects & snakes. I've seen them bat round a decent sized snake before eating it.
Here has a link where you can hear the *fiendish laughter*. They are pretty common all over & despite the formidable size of their beak it doesn't really hurt to be bitten by one. We get a fair few birds braining themselves on our big glass windows, including these fellas. I run a rescue mission before Issi, our cat, can make up his mind to eat them. He knows he's not allowed & because he hesitates he's lost.

They are pretty social birds & not afraid to congregate around humans. They also mate for life & like rainbow bee~eaters the young of one season help raise the next lot of chicks so it is not uncommon to see family groups. They weigh about a pound so a group of these rattling around on a t.v antenna is not good news!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Only in souls the Christ is brought to birth, And there He lives and dies." -- Alfred Noyes

This year's cards have koalas on them. For some reason tourists seem to think these beasties are cute & cuddly. I should like to point out they climb trees & have a formidable set of claws! They are also usually pretty grumpy customers & any school unlucky enough to find one on the premises has to keep the kids well clear as they will attack & are quite vicious fighters. They make cute cards though.
Several of our species are renowned for crying like babies: koalas, possums, & curlews amongst them. I grew up with possums. Before we moved into the house my parents built we lived in a shed on the property & each night as we fell asleep possum eyes glowed down at us from the rafters. They are pretty noisy & used to chase each other up & down the roof. Every so often there would be a wild shriek as one overshot the mark & hurtled into space.

My mother used to put out scraps for our regulars. She still tells the story of hearing a knock at the door one year & opening it to find no~one there. The second time it happened she was pretty cross about it until she noticed mama possum. It was mama possum doing the knocking so she could show of her brand new bubba to mum.

The wildlife is opportunistic. One year we had hordes of kookaburras congregating on the t.v antenna. It was the best perch for diving into our pool but it created an awful lot of snow on our screen & I can't say we were all that impressed.

Just the same it seems daft, given our weather, to send out cards wreathed in mountains of snow when the mercury here is in the 90'sF & the humidity has finally reached 100% in a precipitous deluge & some themes are universal: stars, wise men, presents carol singers. OK, so they're koalas but hey, a little credit for originality!

Wacky Wednesday

Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding he sings. Edward Gardner

Yesterday we just kept moving. Ditz & I are developing some really bad eating habits ~ well Ditz is. Mine are already pretty ingrained but there is literally no time to stop & eat. And it was hot! Stinking, steamy hot. I looked at the hill we had to hike up & just thanked God that this was our last flute lesson for the year. Jan, the optimist, gave Ditz some fun music to keep her occupied over the why do I have a sneaking suspicion that child isn't going to touch an instrument all summer?

So Ditz has her certificate & her breakdown, which is really interesting now I can look at it properly because it is now obvious that if she'd sorted out her scales she would have done much, much better. lol. Ditz got lovely accolades about her actual playing: warm expressive tone quality, excellent tone & breath control, excellent dynamics & musically phrased [for the Largo], & under general comments: You play musically & with strong clear tones, your scales let you down today. Which is pretty much what Jan has always said about Ditz's playing from the very first time she blew into a flute. She gets a great flute sound. We just figure all that hot air's got to be good for something!

We detoured home for Ditz's violin & went on to her violin lesson. Her violin teacher wishes Ditz was as enamoured of the violin as she is of the flute & singing but having begged & begged to learn Ditz has found the violin much harder & more frustrating than she either expected or likes & she is only really persisting because I think it is really helping her musically in other areas. Besides it gives her another clef she understands. Oh, & it gives her something to do, you know. Like don't mention 'bored' around me. Three instruments & you want to tell me you've nothing to do?

Home so Ditz could change; at which point we discovered her brother had helped himself to her black uniform socks & departed for Western Australia, which is two time zones & thousands of miles away! We were already tight for time & I was starching a shirt we weren't sure we needed when Ditz began wailing. Food? What food? We rushed for the next boat so we could detour for socks.

I handed Ditz the refedex & told her to look up the street I needed. It had already been a long day & Ditz wasn't listening so it took several tries to get the right street. Sad experience has taught me Ditz is not a reliable navigator [though she's getting better] so I had to double check but at least this was a local concert & fairly easy to find. Liddy, of course, would have known exactly where to go & the shortest way there but I require a little more leeway.

As this was a school break up concert I sat on the grass with all the parents & grandparents for the first half of the concert so I could listen to the kids sing but 2 males decided to stand right in front of me & network & most of the time I couldn't see anything anyway as parents converged around the stage with video cameras & phone cameras & blocked the view for everyone else. As this is a rather elite private school I wasn't very impressed. Nor was I impressed that everyone talked all the way through the concert & no~one would join in the singing. Eventually I just went & sat in the car & read until it got too dark to see & then I went to sleep. Can't take me anywhere. I will sleep at the drop of a hat these days.

I woke as the kids were swarming out the gates & poked my head out to look for Ditz ~& a good thing too. She'd lost the car & was giddy with relief when she spotted me. Still we got the earlier boat & that is always a good thing but by the time we got home we'd both lost our appetite & just had a snack of sorts. It would not matter if it were a one off but unfortunately it is happening more & more often because of all the travelling with music & we don't like sandwiches. What I need are some good snack ideas that won't go funny in a lunch box. So anyone who has got good healthy snack ideas feel free.

Bearing in mind that the whole exam thing has done Ditz's head in & having promised her we won't do them next year I went ahead & ordered Beautiful Feet's History of Classical Music for next year. This has a time line of the major composers, a set of cds, & a study guide & I figure it will fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge. Maybe a year of theory will make the practical exams look much more attractive? Maybe.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hi 5!

Examinations are formidable even to the best prepared, for the greatest fool may ask more than the wisest man can answer. Charles Caleb Colton.

I must say AMEB is fast. Ditz's flute teacher rang tonight with
her results. No surprises.

Yes she passed ~ by the skin of her teeth. C+. A pass is a pass & we're not proud. I had to laugh though at the breakdown. Her scales need more work. Hello? Tell us something we don't know. Her playing itself got huge accolades though again, her counting needs work. Don't we know it! Ditz does not like to count. When she first began band the hardest thing for her was to play at time because she thought everybody else was too slow so took off just as fast as she could play & would be bars & bars ahead while the conductor rolled his eyes & I cringed. Ditz likes her music fast & all year the Largo has been driving her to distraction. Week after week I listened to Jan painstakingly take Ditz through it bar by excruciating bar while Ditz chafed at its slowness but the work paid off. When it counted she played it really, really well. Naturally the Largo is the piece I liked best & Ditz liked least & therefore practised least.

I think Ditz has shocked herself. I don't think she thought she was good enough & unfortunately if she doesn't find challenges bracing she looks for ways to avoid them. Those she takes on she tackles with perseverance. Grade 3 was a stretch for her too. Jan said it would be at the beginning of the year & how easy it is to forget that she really hasn't been playing for all that long & she started in a school band. If she had done grade 2 she would have aced it. She really had to work hard to do the grade 3 work. Just reading the stuff is a challenge!

So I'm pretty stoked for the kid, ya know.

Ditz has also won herself some tickets to the premier of Bolt ~ which is in town. At night. On Monday. Yes I will have to drive her in. It will cost me more in petrol & parking than the tickets are worth but she is so excited & I do think she needs to do some silly things just for fun. Especially because I was right. The next round of Abba Mania is about to begin with the attendant logistics problems but I will be limiting what Ditz can do. At this time of the year my budget just can't carry the cost of too many extras.

Tomorrow Ditz has flute & it's great she can face Jan with a pass. She's been trying to wriggle out of this lesson all week but funnily enough she stopped protesting once she knew she'd passed her exam.

Flute, violin, choir concert at one of the schools , which I have to find in peak hour. *sigh* I'm travelling more for music than I ever did for soccer. The Wave is finished. We have a bit of Mara still to go but we may do that as bedtime reading. Knowing perfectly well that the schools have wound down for the year & are no longer doing any learning I'm not pushing Ditz too hard, just enough to tie up our loose ends before we break. I need to stop. My life is not fun when it gets this out of control. I want to garden & harass the cat & contemplate my navel on the deck, count the raindrops, read something that actually requires my brain to work, wander along the waterfront & through the mangroves & if I don't leave the island or drive a car for 6 weeks I won't be the one weeping. No I can't see that happening either but I'm the eternal optimist.