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...

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Monday Memories.

You think that upon the score of fore-knowledge and divining I am infinitely inferior to the swans. When they perceive approaching death they sing more merrily than before, because of the joy they have in going to the God they serve. Socrates.

Did I mention I hate those, "Mum, Come quick!" moments? Cuts bleeding like a stuck pig & requiring stitches; the child who stepped on a legless lizard & got bitten but it might have been a snake; muttonbirds tangled in fishing line...

And did I ever mention I really, really dislike handling birds? They spook me. They look solid enough but weigh lighter than air. Too weird. I've done my share of birds: honeyeaters braining themselves on the glass windows to make a fluttering attraction for cats; rails & pittas crashing through our undergrowth straight into Issi; sick chooks & poisoned scarlet honeyeaters; kookaburras that should have known better & screaming pheasants but the bird that put me in the mental nut house was a black swan.

All our swans are black. They migrate on to our bay at the end of winter to mate & nest & raise their young, a great flock of more than 200 birds. They congregate in the sheltered curves of mangroves on the other side of the bay where I can happily observe them through the binoculars. What I did not want to hear was, "Mum! Come quick!"

Eight children: my 4 & the 4 they regularly played with. Eight pairs of eyes gazed at me imploringly. Eight pairs of eyes assured me that I would know what to do. Sixteen hands grabbed me & dragged me out the door, down the hill, through the mangroves & gluggy mud.

"There," they breathed in awe struck wonder. "See. It's not even frightened of us, mummy. It can't fly away." UGH! I was considering the baleful red eye & long snaking neck whipping too & fro & the sheer size of the thing. I am not a big woman & was unhappily contemplating my chances should this very large, very unhappy, black thing decide to make his unhappiness adamant.

I sent one of my boys home for the largest towel they could find while I pointed out adamantly we were not, I repeated not several times, acquiring another pet. This was a wild animal, hurt maybe, but wild & it would not want to live confined with us.

Birds are definitely skittery, hard to catch & easily frightened when caught but this extremely large bird contemplated my advance with a large towel spread gingerly with barely a flicker of acknowledgement. Definitely not a well bird at all! He let me wrap him firmly with barely a quiver & I braced myself to lift him & very nearly put myself flat out in the mud because big as he was he weighed next to nothing. Trailed by a kite tail of children I began the process of getting the swan, the children & myself safely out of the mangroves.

Our mangroves are a mix of buttress roots & hooped roots crammed & tangled in a knotty sprawl along our shoreline. Negotiating them usually requires 2 good hands. I didn't even have one. Progress was slow & hampered by children scampering in front of me to peer at the swan so they could assure me he was doing so much better now he was safely in our care. Somehow I don't think that's what was going through a brain the size of a pea!

I took the easy route to the low lying land farther down rather than try to negotiate our hill, hampered as I was, & headed to the farm where the owner of 2 of the children resided with a car! Bedlam as children erupted across the lawn screeching their news at full volume. I gratefully handed over the swan who took a car journey to the bird lady who pronounced *sea lice*, doused him & eventually released him. It was weeks before my skin stopped crawling.

Sunday Surprise.

A wallaby? Well it's like a kangaroo but smaller.

I have heard all my life what a terror to our native wildlife cats are. Domestic or feral they are hunters & I have seen an athletic female take a bird in flight. Issi knows he's not allowed to hunt but he's a cat ~ though on the rare occassions he's actually caught something he's never seemed to know quite what to do with it because in cat communities it's the ladies who do the hunting.

I've kept cats all my life so I know first hand what excellent hunters cats are & ours have always been brought in at night & aren't let out in the morning until the sun's well up. Saves a lot of heartache all round.

The rub is I don't own a dog & for a good reason. Dogs are totally responsible for the lack of macropods on the islands. They hunted & terrorised the kangaroo & wallaby population until it fled & swam the channels to the big eastern island that is mostly National Park. Even so we have always seen the occassional small swamp wallaby. Very pretty. A little browny grey wallaby with a sweet face & dark points.

We usually see them down near the waterhole at the farm where there is plenty of scrub but the guy who now owns the property has several very large & aggressive dogs & no wallabies. Very occassionaly, at dawn or dusk, we will spot one grazing along the foreshore at the bottom of our property. A macropod needs quite a large grazing area & as we become more urbanised there are fewer & fewer suitable parcels of land so I was more than a little astonished to have Dearest bail me up at the bottom of the stairs with a finger to his lips. Opening our front door very gently he pointed out a gorgeous rufus coated wallaby the exact firey shade of a fox's coat. Dark tail, dark points.

He moved about our yard casually & we got a really good look at him gazing round our fire pit before he took fright & shot off down the hill through the braken. Issi was looking quite bewildered & rather spooked. Big hoppity things don't usually wander through our yard like that.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

All the miseries of mankind come from one thing, not knowing how to remain alone.
I am tired & sadly lacking in inspiration. I am dreading next week & all the driving straight across town, on the highway & over at least one bridge in peak hour traffic. It makes me depressed & depression tends to make me completely inert. Plus next week officially begins winter & a cold wind is already whistling about the bay & the thought of standing on windy jetties after dark next week is so not attractive. Yep, I have a serious case of the miseries. Nothing for it but to perform biological impossibilities, grab myself by the scruff of my metaphorical neck, give myself a good shake & get on with it.

I think I will go & cuddle the cat.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wednesday's dramas.

There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy, and the tired. ~ Francis Scott Key FitzgeraldLast week we spent on the deck getting everything screwed down that had to be screwed & everything nailed that needed to be nailed. Consequentially this week has been very quiet. I use the term quiet loosely. There are of course the usual dramas but I have been too tired to do more than yawn hugely at them & hope they've rolled away by the time I open my eyes again.

Wednesdays around here, as everyone knows, we just run from the moment our feet hit the floor in the morning until we drop into bed at night. I like Wednesdays but they are exhausting & Ditz wound up & over~tired is just horrible to deal with. Prima Donna in full mode. Oh Yeah!

So what I don't like is dramas on top of dramas to fill my Wednesdays. They leak into Thursdays & my week disintegrates around me. Dearest, in his wisdom & foresight, has decided Wednesdays are a good day for me to do some extra running around. This invariably means leaving the island a little earlier ~ only somewhere in the rush Liddy needs collecting from work & Liddy wanted to come with me to do some running round of her own. Now this is all fine & dandy only I am getting old & it takes less & less before the old brain goes into overload & the inevitable result is DISASTER!

Firstly we found Liddy's car unlocked & the contents of her console strewn all over the floor of the car. Her L Plates were missing & our first uncharitable thought was to blame Theo! Which we proceeded to do, quite roundly. As it turns out Theo was not to blame. Thank God for steering locks & that no damage was actually done to the car, an absolute miracle given no~one has been near it in more than a fortnight.

So standing in line at Bunnings to pay for a couple of heaters to take the chill of our big open plan rooms designed for Queensland summers & not the icy depths of winter & fishing through my wallet for Liddy's key card I was horrified to find I also had Dearest's key card & Dearest needed his key card! We piled the heaters in the car & rushed back to the jetty scanning the crowds for someone, anyone, trustworthy enough to hand the card to & deliver it safely whence it belonged.

There is almost always someone for these sort of emergencies & God did not let us down this time either. I rang home & we proceeded to the next stage, which now included Ditz clock watching, an activity she invariably indulges in when she thinks we are starting to run late for choir. Someone counting off the minutes does not contribute to my equilibrium.

Liddy has been paying off a road bike ~ or more accurately Liddy has been handing me her hard earned cash on Wednesday & I have been paying off her road bike as I pass through Cleveland. This week she wanted to collect it. She is missing the physical activity soccer gave & the bike is her way of training & getting fit for next season. Along with the bike Liddy acquired a bike rack for the car ~ which needed to be fitted, didn't it! Ditz & I left Liddy to it [with the car] & hoyed it up to choir on shanks pony.

I settled into happy obscurity with the inevitable book while the music rolled over the top of me. It didn't even register when Liddy burst through the door in a major flap yapping away at me like a mad woman. I came to consciousness dimly as Alison commented I was rehearsing [I was?!] to which Liddy tartly commented she hadn't realised because I was actually reading. Alison, in mock dudgeon, snapped that no~one read through her lessons! while the choir howled with laughter. Honestly, she must think us a doey lot. Ditz regularly goes *off the air* too.

Liddy. Bike. Liddy finding herself with her brand new, hugely expensive bike strapped in it's bike rack to the back of her car & parked at the bike shop had run, yes run, all the way to choir to get me to run [she had to be joking!] back to drive the car because Liddy is still on her L~Plates. I am grateful that she didn't just think, oh well, it's just round the corner & I'm a pretty good driver, & driven herself. I'm sure the thought crossed her mind but she did the right thing though I did find her driving round & round the car park looking for me because the car park is not the open road & therefore not illegal. *sigh*

Then there was the drama when we got to the mainland jetty of struggling with unfamiliar straps & things so both bike & rack could be taken safely home. You try doing that in the pitch dark with only a street light on it's way out to see by. Liddy invariably gets snappy in these situations & snaps at Ditz, who is only trying to be helpful but takes offence & gets all huffy ~ fun & games, ladies! It was late & it was cold & a dinner of Maccas is not enough energy for my girls to run peaceably on but it was the quickest thing going Wednesday so that is what they got.

Once on our own jetty I handed over my white jacket & Liddy shot off home while Ditz & I manhandled the heaters down the pontoon & jetty. She nearly beat the car home & parked her bike in her bedroom. She is taking no chances with this bike & Ditz has been told not to so much as breath over it on pain of death.

Home at least meant caffeine! Hot, milky, sugared caffeine! The psychotic one informed me he'd been abandoned all evening & didn't think much of it ~ until he discovered the boxes provided a heat source! Then he abandoned me! Deserted for a heater!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

“A man who won't die for something is not fit to live.” Martin Luther King
People astonish me. I'm not sure how their reasoning goes but I'm not sure which astonished me more: the poll I was looking at or the comments that came after.

On Sunday someone mentioned that the 2 most requested songs at funerals were either Frankie Baby's I did it my Way or ACDC's Highway to Hell. Oh, & Queen's Another One Bites the Dust is right up there in the top 10 too. In actual fact Goodbye my Lover by James Blunt is at the top of this rather dubious pile because I just had to go & find out for myself, didn't I, if people really did think like this. Seems they do.

And if the accounts are true, there was Jeanne~Antoinette Pompadour, Marquise d'Etoiles, dying in her bed & begging, 'Just a minute', so she could apply more rouge. Seriously? Rouge to die in? I can think of things that would trouble me more on my deathbed than applying rouge or thumbing my nose at religion with my choice of funeral song.

What do people think happens to them when they die that they can be so facetious? Nope, I don't get it. Even if you don't believe in God, or Heaven & Hell, death is a pretty serious business. You don't get to come back & say, 'Oops, my mistake. Let's try that again.' And Highway to Hell? Really? But what if it's true? Oh, right, superstitious stuff!

I have a problem with this. It strikes me as callous ~ witty, in a rather macabre way, but callous just the same.

On the other hand, Douglas, a Scottish Shepherd turned preacher who wrote the definitive book for me on the 23rd psalm, would probably argue it's at least honest. He said, & I'm paraphrasing here because I can't find my copy of his book just now, that unless Christ is your Lord & Saviour then this psalm does not belong to you; it is full of personal pronouns: the Lord is my saviour; He leadeth me; Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. A very different mindset & here is the thing for me & something I concluded a long time ago when I was struggling with why anyone would ever believe any of this stuff: Take God out & what you are left with is not very pretty.

More & more we are seeing ugliness in people & things as we become more & more a godless people, telling ourselves comforting lies in the face of unpalatable truths.

Better minds than mine have grappled with Pontious Pilate's, 'What is truth?' For me it just got really simple. I can not cope with rampant humanism because left to their own devices I just do not find the majority of humans all that decent. Sorry, but I don't. I've worked with homeless youth & battered women. I know how many of the 200 odd children go to primary school here without breakfast & do not get tea at night. I could go on & on. The statistics on child murder are frightening. their own children. Highway to Hell indeed!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tuesday's Trivia.

Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting. ~Dave Barry

Theo went fishing & caught this. It is a schnapper, what has to be one of the ugliest fish ever. Seriously ugly. The sort of face only a mother could love & in this case, probably not even then. He informed us proudly it was 6ocm long but thankfully he took it away & cooked it somewhere where they appreciate eating things that look like this. I just don't appreciate things like this, full stop. Not ever.

With things like that living in the ocean I'm surprised anyone ever goes swimming in it from choice. Maybe they just don't know. I mean this thing has teeth to make a shark proud. So it is a worry given 71% of the earth is covered in water, most of it salty & deep enough to harbour all sorts of strange things.

And it gets worse. The longest mountain range is under water. The Mid~Ocean Ridge circles the globe from the Arctic to the Atlantic, then into the Indian before crossing into the Pacific. That's longer than the Andes, Himalayas & Rockies combined!

Mauna Kea in Hawaii, if you measure it from the ocean floor instead of what actually sticks out of the water, is taller than Mt Everest but the Challenger Deep in the Marinas Trench of Guam is the deepest spot on earth going down, down, down for 35, 802 feet!

I seriously do not like the ocean. Some of what lives there is downright spooky. On the other hand it has given me one of the best analogies I've ever found for the Peace of God. Places like the Challenger Deep are so far below the surface that no light shines there but in that absolute dark no wave breaks. The waters are perfectly still. No matter what storms are breaking overhead, no matter the surface froth & turmoil, the tranquil deeps remain undisturbed.

I'm good at the surface froth & bubble but at my core the centre remains undisturbed. The peace that passes all understanding.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Laugh's on me.

They sing, they will pay. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Ditz is doing creative Generation. Days at Boondall on the other side of town. Hours upon hours of waiting around, parked, I sincerely hoped, inside somewhere out of the wet.

I sent an E~mail: YES, Ditz can do Creative Generation.

Can you let me know if I can park my butt somewhere during rehearsals. Logistics mean I have to wait around but so long as I have an obscure corner to read in I'll be fine.

This is the answer I got: You can sing in the choir if you like? We will order you a T-Shirt...

Ditz is mortified. She thinks poorly of my singing voice...

Monday Memories

“To understand a man, you must know his memories. Anthony Quayle.

Of all the words in the English language I dread the most, "Mum, come quick; you have to do something!" ranks right up there. Like seriously. Me! You expect me to do something? With 5 kids I've heard those words more often than I care to remember & the surprise on the end of them was rarely pleasant.

I'm squeamish about things like other people's blood, other people's animals & things that aren't unidentifiable by the cold light of the moon. Being told that there is a fruit bat crying outside is not what I want to hear. Fruit bats are wild animals. Yes dear, they are meant to hang upside down like that. Leave it alone or it's mummy won't come back for it. No darling, I don't want a fruit bat for a pet!

Well, it's mummy didn't come back for it, did she. The poor thing was hanging upside down a bare foot off the ground & it was getting cold. Even to my untutored eyes this was one very young fruit bat who most surely should still have been with its mummy & it was most definitely crying...heartbreakingly.

I hardened my heart for another hour. What on earth does one do with a very young fruit bat? And besides there were all those spikes & hooks to consider. It was destined to be a losing battle. My children surrounded me with accusing eyes. 'It's crying, mummy!'

Yes, well. I've always been a sucker for tears & my children know it well. What could I do but gingerly approach something I was terrified of because I can assure you none of my oh so brave children wanted to do this. They never did, which is why the stream of ,"mum, come quicks".

I gingerly unhooked the unhappy beastie & got the surprise of my life. Up close the foxlike little face was rather cute. The huge eyes fastened on me trustingly. I was in love. The batlike wings were soft & delicate as silk. I had expected them to be rather rough & leathery but everything was delicate, fragile, softer than soft & this wild animal, too young & stupid to be afraid of us, was so grateful to be held warmly, carried, admired.

I spent an hour with the phone book looking for a wildlife rescue place. By the time I found someone who could help the last boat had gone & I had one very hungry, helpless bat on my hands. The man on the other end of the phone was cheerful. He would be, wouldn't he? He didn't have a starving bat in his kitchen & 4 wide~eyed children. I described my predicament. I had an extremely young bat who must have fallen off his mum's back because young bats spend their life being carried round by mum. Great. I have a doey baby! Pulp up some fruit he said sensibly & feed the bat with an eyedropper & someone'll meet you in the morning...& he hung up! I stared at the phone in disbelief. What sensible home owns an eyedropper?! We certainly didn't own one & this was the island of 15 years ago. We had one tiny store that most certainly wouldn't sell eyedroppers & was shut anyway. I had four children to have at a school concert in a little over an hour & a baby bat to deal with!

I began by pulping the fruit because city girl that I am I spent my childhood on my poppy's dairy farms & I knew perfectly well how poppy weaned his calves. You stick your fingers in the milk & get the calves to suck your fingers. I figured a similar process would work perfectly well for a doey bat... & so it did.

Unfortunately my wide~eyed children were intrigued with this method of feeding & began clamouring for a turn. I handed the fruit to Joss as the oldest. I forgot to mention there is such a thing as a sucking reflex & once latched on an animal is reluctant to let go so within seconds I had a bat glued to the end of the child's fingers & a shrieking child.

We then wrapped our bat warmly in a cloth nappy & pegged him upside down on the inside clothes line. This did not make our bat happy. He was incredibly affectionate & only really happy ~ & quiet! ~ when he was being carried. He cried the entire time we were at our concert driving Dearest to distraction & he cried most of the night while we tried to sleep. However cute he was none of us were overly sad to see him depart in the morning.

Shortly after this our bat population contracted a rather nasty disease that can be spread to humans through bites so I would never take on another bat the way I did this one but I am so glad I had the opportunity to learn how soft & affectionate these small creatures of the night truly are. Their affectionate natures would actually make them an excellent pet choice.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rosh Hadesh

Go & enjoy choice food & sweet drinks & send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Neh. 8:10This was the New Moon week so the heavens opened & torrential rain fell. Brisbane flooded. Choir got cancelled, which is unheard of. We got something like 11" in 24 hours. That is a lot of rain! Great weather for ducks as the saying goes ~ but we are not ducks & watched the rain with a cynical eye because we had things to do & they were all outside things.Verandah posts & railings were on the menu. We had had the forethought to move our posts inside & drilled & screwed them together on our living room floor while the rain fell outside & when we finally got a break in our weather we rushed outside & frantically jammed them in their holes & screwed them down tight.

We also had two ramps to put in. I-- & G----, who worship with us, had a cut up floor available & God had ensured the dimensions were absolutely perfect for what needed to be done. Both ramps slid neatly into place with nary a hiccup. It was incredible. If you've ever built anything you know that just doesn't happen. Things have to be measured & cut & tweaked & poked before they will fit where they are supposed to fit because you measured very carefully before you started. Oh, yeah?

We slid the last post into place late Friday afternoon & the girls & I tidied the verandah up. Lots of lovely scraps for the fire. Friday was absolutely glorious & we were hopeful that Saturday would dawn just as fair. Perish the thought! I woke early to the rain thundering on the roof like a stampeding buffalo herd & then the wind began. Branches thudded & clunked after the rain but at least it was warm.

Friday evening the girls & I had spent in the kitchen ~ my favourite room in the house ~ I don't think. Liddy was experimenting with dips & finger foods & boy did she turn out some wonderful concoctions! Cucumber & pear dip. Sweet & sour dip. Mushroom thingies on crispy toast squares. Those were particularly good! Yum! I had a beesting cake to make ~ a cake my kids adore because the custard is *real* custard made with eggs & milk & cornflour & not the imitation stuff that comes in a packet. Dearest marinated his chicken. The kitchen began to look like ground zero & we were all very late to bed.

I'm not much of a party girl. All my children are far more social than I am but I found myself looking forward to our celebration despite the weather which did a Contrary Mary all day offering blue sky one minute & torrential downpours the next. We lit the fire & had a wonderful bed of coals by the time we started. Unfortunately several of our guests became ill & couldn't make it which was a pity & Dearest is fretting about all the food left over.

Now for those curious to know how we tackled this:

Firstly apologies for no piccies. We think the memory card on the camera has blitzed. Anyway the thing won't take outdoor shots; they white out.

We sat around our fire toasting our toes though the weather was behaving nicely & because this was our first one & no~one, including us, had a clue we began with why we were doing this. I have 7 reasons & some interesting information.

1. Jesus kept the feasts. His was a kosher household, very devout. They went down to Jerusalem each year to keep the Passover. Jesus was presented in the temple according to the law...a careful reading of the scriptures shows he was Jewish in his thinking & outlook & kept the customs of his faith so keeping the festivals helps us understand Christ better.

2. God sees all believers as part of Israel, adopted or grafted into the root of Israel & so these festivals were given to us too.

3. The feasts were to be a statute forever throughout the generations ~ a reminder of the goodness & providence of God.

4. The feast shed light on biblical prophecy & God's plan for mankind.

5. They shed light on the plan for the Messiah.

6. The feasts utilise all 5 senses to bring about a deeper understanding of God.

7. God might be always there but he also appointed us special times to meet with Him in the feasts.

Now I know lots & lots of Christians would argue that we are under grace, not the law & that is true but it also necessiates a proper understanding of what is meant by grace because Jesus stated he did not come to do away with the Law but to fulfil it. Not one iota of it has been done away with ~ which is a bit of a worry as I'm not good about legal things & am so not detail oriented. So one of the things I turned up was this interesting tit~bit: In Jewish thinking the Torah {Law} was instruction, that if followed enriches one's life; ignoring it diminishes one's life. The festivals are for our enrichment.

For the New Moon festival particularly it is a mini new beginning, a symbol of hope: God will return; God will restore; God will renew. It is a reminder of the redemption of Israel through the coming of the messiah & it is an opportunity to sense God's shekinah [dwelling glory] under the night sky.

So we ran through that & then just very simply went through several scriptures that touch on the instigation & meaning of the festivals. Genesis 1:14 {the term translated seasons is moed & means appointed times. It is the word used in Leviticus too} Lev 23: 1 & 2; Isiah 66:22 & Neh 8:10

We then read a traditional Jewish prayer & recited psalm 118 together. Psalm 118 is part of the longer Hallel which is usually recited at Passover I think & shorter versions are recited at the other festivals. We then moved into some new testament scripture & had communion together before heading on to the veranda & the FOOD!

I was a bit surprised at all the questions I got asked & even more surprised that mostly I had the answers! lol. A bit wonky about how the Jewish calendar actually worked. Math stuff, but I knew why it was worked that way! :) So I didn't get to just plow straight through ramming information down people's throats, as is my wont [shocking, I know] but had to stop & explain & show how I'd come to my conclusions. When we'd finally got through everything I-- turned to me & said, 'Why doesn't the church teach this?!' Which was exactly my reaction when I first started seeing how this stuff worked. The best I can come up with on that is that the Judaic Christian church would have gone under in 70 AD when Rome blitzed Israel & we lost the Judaic tradition but kept the gentile traditions with their tacked on paganisms. Yet when we return to the Judaic roots we find one long continuous, unbroken thread running through scripture.

I have been blessed immeasurably by returning to the Jewish roots of Christianity & savouring the delightful surprises God hid away in there!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Once there were flowers.

Let us dance in the sun, wearing wild flowers in our hair... ~Susan Polis Shutz

I am a child of the outer Sydney suburbs ~ those strange un~urban places beside the Port Hacking River: Cronulla, Caringbah, Gymea, Kirrawee, turned into something strange & foreign, buried under concrete & tarmac, resurrected only in memory. It was a strange nether world connected to the Sydney sprawl by the Illawarra train line, saved from soulessness by the long sprawling reaches of the river & confined by the Royal National Park to the south.

Every place has it's own uniqueness. Southern Sydney is quirkier than some. Waterfront is prime real estate but steep, bound deep into its bowels by sandstone & clay, engulfed in smoke & falling ash during the fire season. Visiting could be interesting. Some places could only be accessed by a flying fox. Several I knew you counted a hundred or more steep, narrow steps down to the house & as many to climb out again. As blocks became fewer the houses grew odder, occasionally only one room wide going straight down the cliffside & at least one place I remember spent months dynamiting sandstone before they ran out of money & the place was still inaccessible.

But when I was a child a lot of southern Sydney was still the backblocks, still bush, still wild. Our place was a 3/4 acre block running down to the river where the blueberry ash & she oak grew wild & my mother laboured amongst the sandstone to wreck order out of chaos to create a garden that was a curious mix of native & exotic, wild & cultivated, bush & formal.

At the top of our block a little rill ran through the maidenhair & the fishbone ferns. It was a damply exotic & enticing place for an imaginative child. I thought everyone in the world lived in a paradise like mine. I learnt too late that such paradises are a delicate & fragile organism. The brilliant Christmas bells were the first to go. I can remember them blooming amongst the clay & sandstone when I was very little but never again. The flannel flowers lingered longer but they too had disappeared before I had finished high school.

It has taken most of my lifetime for Australians to begin to appreciate what they have & to plant amongst their azaleas & camellias, their roses & daffodils the strange exotic blooms of their native country but only the hardier types ~ grevellias & hakias, tea tree & kangaroo paw, wattles & euculypts but the shy, delicate flowers of my childhood are gone forever. They are too difficult to propagate, hard to transplant, prone to sudden malaise.When we moved to the island 20 years ago I was delighted my first spring to look out on paddocks turned hazy purple with wild orchids & fringed lilies & hidden in the damp bush places the exquisite green orchid with its centre of blood red. As houses began to sprout around us like a fungal growth I scoured the paddocks attempting to transplant some of the small fragile plants but their delicate systems never survived & year by year I have watched with sadness as there are fewer & fewer flowers each spring.

I guess I'm one of the lucky few. I remember how it was, the scarlet & gold flush of Christmas bells, the pale cream & green of flannel flowers, a haze of purple everywhere the eye can see. I would rather a sea of wildflowers than anything man can make.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Original sources.

“There are a terrible lot of lies going about the world, and the worst of it is that half of them are true.” Winston Churchill.

Bodrom, Turkey. Ever hear if it? It was a Greek colonial town subject to Persian over lordship & designed to be relegated to decent obscurity except for an odd quirk of fate; it is the birthplace of Herodotus & Herodotus as we all know is the father of history.

Well educated, from a prominent family & widely travelled his Inquiry [the Greek work for History] formed the basis for Greek & Roman historiographia & while Herodotus strove for accuracy in his work it suffers from a strong Grecian bias. When it comes to History he may have been the first but he is hardly likely to be the last to write history with an unashamed bias.

Plutarch, also a Greek though he became a Roman citizen, doesn't even pretend to be writing history & his Lives are sometimes glaringly contrary to the known facts. At least he never pretended to be writing history. His focus was moral philosophy. That his discussion of morality happened to focus on real historical figures was perhaps unfortunate.

Then there was Gildas, the first British historian whose De Excidio Britannicae {On the Ruin of Britain} is a ranting diatribe against the corrupt priests & leaders of his time & hardly an unbiased & reliable treatise; some things never change but my favourite of all is Geoffrey of Monmouth.

If you haven't met this gentleman you really should. Geoffrey wrote a history of Britain. He called it Historia Regum Britanniae {History of the Kings of Britain} & it begins with Brutus leading the Trojan exiles to the promised land of Britain, a "comprehensive yet highly suspect chronicle" that mixes history with myth & when history & myth fail, downright invention. It is a scream & it was highly popular & widely read though even back then the serious scholars of the time were up in arms about it. When brought to task Geoffrey was unrepentant. If his history wasn't strictly true then it should have been! Now that's an attitude I can sympathise with.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Little Grace...

A short Life & a merry one will be my motto. Robert Boyle, pirate captain.

The Irish hate the English. The English think the world would be a better place without the Irish & the ongoing row in that country is the remains of a long standing dispute that traces its origins back to Henry the VIII; he of the many wives.

Politics is so not my thing & the ins & outs of why the English thought they had any right to be on Irish territory rather escapes me. I am left with the vague impression the English thought the Irish uncouth, ignorant bog~hoppers badly in need of the civilizing influence of the English. The mind boggles when stories abound of mice making permanent homes in the hairs styles of the period!

Anyway Elizabeth inherited the Irish fiasco from her father & any number of her Lords came to grief fighting the Irish in their own bogs but Elizabeth herself met her match in an Irish Sheila, one Grainne ui Mhaille ~ Anglicized to Grace O'Malley ~ Sea Queen of Connaught.

Grace's family, unusually for Irish aristocrats, were sea traders who taxed those who presumed to fish in their waters. Grace grew up around boats & was, if the stories are true, more than a little wild. On being told she could not accompany her father on a voyage to Spain because of her long hair she shaved her head almost bald, shaming him into acquiescing. At any rate they married her off to the Tanist O'Flaherty [tanist=heir] at 16 & she proceeded to bear him 3 children.

The Irish were involved in politics up to their long Irish noses, conspiring against each other & the English foreigners without discrimination & in this regard Grace was very much a woman of her times. She was also far cannier than her husband who had inflated ideas without enough intelligence to make realities of his pipe dreams.

He came to an unmourned end & Grace took on Richard Burke, marrying him under Brehon Law for "one year certain." At the end of the year she was in possession of his castle at Rockfleet, lent out her window & casually dismissed him in the druid way with, "Richard Burke, I dismiss you," effectively ending the marriage while keeping the castle.

She was some lady & over time had inherited her father's fishing fleet as well as other ships & began her long running dispute with the English in her traditional waters, a dispute that led to accusations of piracy. As the Irish have pointed out in another context, when you lose it is treason. If you win you are a freedom fighter. Grace was certainly dabbling in politics. Whether you consider what she was doing piracy & treason or freedom fighting depends on your political affiliations!

What did happen eventually was she drove Bessie mad & they had a surreptitious meeting in 1593 where, by all accounts, they got along like a house on fire, conversing in Latin. I can imagine two like minded, strong willed women ruling amongst ambitious men would have shared a great deal in common.

How & when Grace died no~one really knows. The Ireland of her childhood changed drastically during her lifetime & the bitter legacy of that change is still with us.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tuesday's Trivia.

Man - despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments - owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains. Author Unknown

Iteru ~ the Great River, the oldest name for the Nile, longest river in the world travelling through 1/10th of Africa for 4 160 miles ~ give or take the odd mile or two, depending on the tides I guess or which part of the delta you're measuring from.

That Egypt survived, & even thrived, is completely due to the Nile, which has it's source in Ethiopia. And while it was at it the Nile produced Nile crocs that have brains & hearts more advanced than those of other living reptiles though frankly, I can do without crocs of any description...

And yet it seems there is a huge underground river flowing beneath the Nile with 6 times more water than the river above. Why not? There's at least a dozen rivers flowing beneath London, like the Fleet, most tributaries of the Thames. Pub trivia contestants go down on this one all the time. I mean, how many other London rivers can you name? I didn't say I could name them; I just know they're there, the remains of tributaries diverted into canals & culverts, forced underground to flow into the Thames under the very streets bearing their names: the Fleet, the Falcon, Stamford...

Well, I did mention the word *trivia*.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Monday Memories

Campers: Nature's way of feeding mosquitoes. ~Author Unknown
When I was growing up I camped ~ a lot. In these things ~ the big, old fashioned bell tents. Heavy duty canvas. Heavy wooden centre pole. Rough rope guys. Man, anything you need to know about camping you learn dealing with one of these things & then one day you realise the thing doesn't frighten you any more. It point of fact you are so super confident that in the dead of night you manage to walk the leaders tent 10 feet away from where they are sleeping the sleep of the truly worn out. Girl Guides of a certain age & inclination never wear out.

Anyway when I was about 15 I think the Guiding movement held one of it's big Musters. Orange was inundated with girls between the ages of 12 & 16 from all over the country & Orange is, well it's a parochial country town. Nothing much there really but space. Space is good when you have thousands of teenage girls on the loose.

I think every company in the country was told they could send maybe one or two girls & because the Guiding movement believed in shaking things up you knew jolly well you'd be sharing a tent with a bunch of strangers. I went from our company. I was probably the only one who even wanted to go.

All this information arrived in the mail that had to be filled out because there were only so many spaces for each of the activities & they needed time to try & give everyone at least one first preference. What a logistical nightmare! But exciting if you were doing the choosing.

So thousands of girls converged on Orange, which is sheep country & cold in winter & landed in this enormous field laid out like a military camp with kitchens & latrines & hundreds of these big bell tents sprouting like strange & bellicose mushrooms all over the paddock.

Well, we were Guides, & prepared for anything. My tent made it's bag rack, inflated our air mattresses & eyed each other off like unsociable cats but we made it through the evening without anyone showing their claws & at some point crawled in to our sleeping bags to shake & shiver because it was absolutely freezing.

We woke to rain. It was bucketing down like nothing on earth. No~one seemed terribly inclined to move though it did register in my foggy little brain that I was rather more comfortable than I usually was. The reason for our unexpected comfort became apparent when the first of us decided her bladder would have to brave the elements. She stepped into two inches of water ! All the air mattresses were floating!

At this point there was a flurry of activity as we all sought to rescue as much of our bedding as possible before sticking our heads out to survey the camp. The bell tents were still standing. I have known a really sodden one to simply slide down its centre pole & envelop the inhabitants but they were a pretty hardy tent as a rule & survived all sorts of abuse. What was no longer standing, as we discovered, were the shower & latrine tents. The paddock was a sheet of water several inches deep. As we meandered towards the central marquee the girl in front simply disappeared. She'd gone down a latrine pit. Yummy.

Be Prepared might have been the Guiding motto but it was organised chaos & the forecast was for even more rain. Our first day in camp & thousands of girls had no dry bedding. Some, not having made a bag rack to keep their gear of the ground, had no dry anything. The leaders were frantic. I'm so glad I wasn't a leader. Thinking back the leaders must have been horrified. Anyway they rounded up all the bedding & took it into town to be dry~cleaned then packed us all into a disused chicken coop for our second night. I think everyone got 1/2 an air mattress. It was a tight squeeze.

Much later on Dearest & I camped at Garie in Sydney. Now Garie is in the National Park at the bottom of the sea cliffs but only about a 20 minute hike in ~ which is quite long enough if you are humping all your gear. Twenty pounds just gets heavier & heavier for every minute of walking. It was mizzling, but not enough to be anything more than a vague annoyance & after Orange it took more than a bitsy shower to rattle my camping composure.

We chose our spot & put our tent up ~ Japara, really lightweight but rainproof & not needing a fly. We then collected a bunch of firewood, no mean feat because it had been drizzling steadily for days & everything was pretty sodden. We'd just got back to our tent when the rain decided to get serious. It hooted down in a massive deluge for about twenty minutes while we played cards then the sun came out.

We stuck our heads out to see if the sun was going to stay because we'd walked in & were absolutely ravenous & what we wanted to do more than anything was eat. The valley was dotted with nylon tents that had acted just like a sieve; the rain had gone straight through. Sodden campers were poking about for dinner but no~one had a fire going. I got a fire going in about 5 minutes & it was usable for cooking in 20. Dearest was carefully drying out wood for the morning & thankfully put a good store of it in the tent because during the night everything left out got nicked. Then to add insult to injury, while everyone else ate cold baked beans straight from the tin we cooked. Sauteed chicken in onion & tomato. The aroma wafted all over the camping ground. If looks could kill...!

So yeah, I taught my kids to camp young. They camped so much 1/2 the island thought we didn't have enough space in the house for the number of kids we had & the tents were their permanent bedrooms. Yeah, right.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

How I got there from nowhere.

Like all the best families, we have our share of eccentricities, of impetuous and wayward youngsters and of family disagreements.-- Elizabeth II
That is one of my favourite quotes ~ a massive understatement after her *annus horribulus* & it always makes me laugh. However mad our homelife gets at least I'm not subjected to seeing it play out in the international press!

So after a day pottering through the local thrift shops after some extra cutlery & things we can use as finger bowls & serving platters I came home & helped heft the ramp into place ready to be screwed down on Monday & pottered round the yard some more. When I got tired I made a cuppa & sat in the autumn sunshine on the deck letting my thoughts wander as I watched the tide swirl through the mangroves.

The deck is Issi's favourite place to be. He can see everything, find the sun, sprawl in the shade, sniff the one hundred & one scents on the air. I became aware that absolute hordes of birds were flitting through the treetops & the air was electric with birdsong. Beneath the warmth of the sun was an autumn crispness, sweet & tart as an apple.
It is at moments like this God tends to talk to me ~ probably because I shut up long enough to realise I'm being spoken to! I've been putting information in & putting information in & letting it bubble & spark & percolate for the last few weeks but not really getting any clear sense of direction.

Dearest has been off & running. Something about doing this festival has really sparked with him & he's full of ideas & knew just exactly what he wanted to see done. Not me. What I had envisaged as a little family thing & fairly quiet had taken on a life of its own & I was rather horror struck but as I sipped my coffee, one of those *perfect* cups of coffee that occasionally happen along, I was struck by how perfect the setting was for what we wanted to do.

And then it struck me. Not a lightening strike, just another meandering thought worming its way through my subconscious. Jesus was Jewish ~ racially, culturally, religiously. Now of course I knew that Jesus was Jewish. Duh! My mind makes odd connections. There I was idly thinking about the sort of things I do with the girls & the sort of things they do with each other & how that changes when any of the boys are around & how there are certain people I really miss being in my everyday life [everybody wave to Sheila now!] & homesickness & the sort of things that I get homesick for ~ an absolute mishmash! But Jesus was Jewish. He was born a Jew into a devout household. He lived as a Jew keeping the Law & he died as a Jew, cursed on a crucifix. The New Moon festival would have been a regular part of his life, something he celebrated with his family, his community, his synagogue.I have my starting point & it is amazing how much falls easily into place when I get the first piece. I know the first reading now ~ & I know why I will choose it. I have two others ~ & I know why I have them. I have, unformed & malleable, the feel & form for introducing this festival, bringing together family & friends, but there is something else too, something that I have never come to terms with.

I can never remember not living with a sense of *otherness*, a sense of not belonging, but it was a long time before I realised this was because this world is not my home. I am a stranger journeying here, a temporary resident only, a stranger & an alien. My home is elsewhere & in this world there is a constant sense of homesickness. I've lived with it so long I barely acknowledge it any more.

Now at the back of my mind [percolating away] I had the bit from Isiah 66 about the New Moon festival being reinstated when Christ returns & in the pit of my mind something stirred. I am going home. The family of God will gather round the table & I will recognise the rituals because they are the ones God set in place & are not of man. There will be familiarity, a sense of homecoming. More than anything else this feastival is a celebration of hope. Christ will return as the new moon returns. Where two or three are gathered in his name there will He be in the midst of them. *does little jig* Now I am looking forward to celebrating with everyone!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mrs Darling! Liddy's pumpkin recipe.

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” Jim Davies

Not sure what happened to the coriander. Maybe I imagined it...

Sweet Braised Pumpkin

Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 15 mins

750g Pumpkin
1 ½ tablespoons oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4cm piece of fresh ginger, grated
6 red asian shallots, chopped
1 tablespoon soft brown sugar
½ cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice

1) Peel the pumpkin and cut into large chunks
2) Heat the oil in a heavy based frying pan; add the garlic, ginger and shallots and cook over medium heat for three mins
3) Add the pumpkin and sprinkle with sugar. Cook for 7-8 mins, turning the pieces regularly, until the pumpkin is golden and just tender.
4) Add the chicken stock and fish sauce, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and bring to a simmer until all the liquid has evaporated, turning the pumpkin over regularly.
5) Sprinkle with lime juice, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Food, glorious food.

There is one thing more exasperating than a wife who can cook and won't, and that's a wife who can't cook and will. ~Robert FrostMy children are foodies. I have no idea how that happened but foodies they are & I have a large kitchen made for cooking as a community activity. Even so, some days it feels pretty crowded though truth be told I hate to cook alone. OK, I just don't like cooking but I really hate to cook alone. I did years teaching homeless kids basic survival skills & have you ever tried to teach a kid to cook spagetti bog who won't use garlic...or onion...or tomatoes...or capsicum? Not fun I can assure you. I should be grateful my lot like experimenting with different flavours.

Liddy cooked Friday night. Sweet braised pumpkin which was very Thai with the tang of lime, ginger & coriander; peppered stir~fried beans & asparagus; fillet steak with onion marmalade. It was really, really nice. Liddy & I were particularly keen on the pumpkin with it's very Thai flavours, so light yet tangy. I think she missed her calling but as she pointed out rather tartly, she likes to cook for herself. That's fine so long as she shares with me!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

of ramps & wheelchairs & cooking vegetarian

Vegetarianism is harmless enough though it is apt to fill a man with wind and self-righteousness. ~Robert Hutchison
In the interim years wherein I have succumbed to the majority of my family's preference for meat I have forgotten that eating vegetarian normally requires a little more preparation ~ & in my case forethought.

Today was particularly busy. Ditz is a little off~colour; not sick sick, just a little unwell. lol. I love that phrase. It covers a multitude of unwellness! Anyway we had a slow start to the day, made slower by Ditz trying to convince me that if she didn't want a really outrageous piercing I should allow her a less outrageous one. Oh yes?

Not having trudged all over the place yesterday [because Ditz is a little unwell] we were reasonably alert for today & I took full advantage of it whizzing Ditz through her history & science in record time. Ditz talked nonstop but this is not uncommon. Whatever is wrong with her it has not affected her tongue!

I had washing to put out & bring in, a general tidying up of our school work table & filing because some days are too rushed to do more than poke a paper between the pages of a book & hope for the best, only the pages tend to accumulate rather fast.

Then it was on to the main business of the day, helping Dearest drill holes for the verandah posts & sort out the run for a ramp. We are hoping to get Kimba to our festival but Kimba has a wheelchair & our house is a bit inaccessible for wheelchairs so we jumped at the chance to be able to make Kimba as independent as possible so that our home is somewhere she can feel comfortable. Friends have recently taken up a floor & the long bits are a perfect fit for a ramp. What's more God had seen we'd left the perfect place for a ramp; it just needed a bit of tidying so Dearest can do his building thing. I had a full day of yard work.

I really don't mind pottering round in my yard. It is infinitely preferable to pottering round in my kitchen & the thought of being able to tell Kimba [you reading here girl?!] she can do wheelies on our verandah was hugely motivating. We are ready to go but of course I worked until I lost the light having given only half a thought as to what I was eventually going to feed the ravening hordes.

My half thought amounted to steak for the meaties & a particularly yummy nut pattie for Ditz & I. What I'd forgotten was how much preparation time I needed. Five different sorts of nuts to be diced small & the pistachios had to be shelled first. I was doing ok until I went for the cornflakes I'd bought earlier in the week to make my crumbs for this recipe. No cornflakes! No~one admitted to eating the last spoonful & failing to inform me. I had a bowl full of nut meat squishy with eggs & no crumbs to bind everything together. I handed Liddy the car keys & we shot out to the shops but Liddy decided she wanted to do desert so it was not the quick trip I'd anticipated. Needless to say dinner was very late but those are a very good pattie. Unfortunately the meat~eaters think so too. There were no leftovers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yes, We did do Mother's Day.

A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother. ~Author Unknown
We don't fuss overly much about Mother's Day; commercialism issues & I often get special treats from my kiddiewinks on odd days throughout the year so I don't feel I lack being loved.

However... the girls do like to make a little bit of a fuss. After years of Liddy hissing in horror, " How can you watch that stuff?" I have finally managed to corrupt the child irredeemably & she has been steadily adding to my Johnathan Creek DVDs so she can watch all the episodes that so used to give her the heebie~jeebies when she was younger. I'm not sure what about them made her skin crawl. The music perhaps? Certainly the latter episodes grew darker but most of those I never saw as it was Caroline Quentine who first drew me into this series. Such a funny, funny woman but I digress.

I grew up when Agatha Christie was still all the rage if you were into crime fiction at all ~ & I was. I never could stand Agatha Christie because all her characters were cardboard cutouts so not interesting enough to care about who did what to whom. However I ran into Dorothy L. Sayers along the way & initially I felt really, really clever, as you always do, when I found I was able to work out the murderer in her books. Then I read her take on writing crime & she states unequivocally that the most interesting aspect of crime fiction is not who but how! I have been hooked ever since & the thing that has always intrigued me about Jonathan Creek is that it is very much about the how. Each episode presents an *unsolvable* case & it is pure bliss to see how sleight of hand, & tricks of illusion can be used so innovatively.

BBC t.v has spoilt my taste for poor American copies with such things like the Mentalist. As she's grown older Liddy has appreciated the wit & cleverness of things like Jonathan Creek more & more. Ditz, weaned to images from Meet the Ancestors has a fairly hardy constitution when it comes to these things & has always had a fairly mature sense of humour. Both girls know how to make an occasion out of something fairly simple so once I had picked up my new DVD Liddy supplied chocolate, Ditz made coffee & we proceeded to eke Jonathan out, one episode at a time, to make him last as long as possible. He is finished now, unfortunately. I occasionally watch the Mentalist but it is not the same. Patrick Jane is no Jonathan Creek. *sigh*

So I wasn't expecting anything Sunday morning & Liddy works anyway so between running round making sure she was organised & organising for church my morning was fairly well occupied. So I was surprised when Ditz finally surfaced & presented me with a pot of Hyacinths in bloom. The poor things were looking a tad bedraggled. Not only had she never thought to water them, in her effort to keep them secret until the big day they had spent several days locked in her sunless cupboard. Maybe we need to do some basic botany?

There is also, so to speak, a sort of joke on the side, one only someone raised on BBC humour could appreciate. Hyacinth is the name of the main character in Keeping Up Appearances, another show guaranteed to have me rolling in the aisles as I cringe about this woman's inherent snobbishness. However I have decided it is time to teach my children the meaning of true subtlety & plan on collecting at least one series of Penelope Keith in To the Manor Born. They don't make comedies like this any more. Pity.

jumping genetics.

The childhood shows the man As morning shows the day.~John Milton, Paradise Regained

Genetics is a funny thing. I think genetics & I know red is a recessive gene so Ditz & Joss got 2 recessives to produce the red tinge they both have in their hair. I know the twins are identical because of their eyes. Brown dominates over blue. I have 3 children with brownish eyes but the twins are both blue~eyed. Long dominates over short so Joss is 6'6'' but the twins are 5'6'' ~ so not fair!

The pic is my brother & I but it could easily be Ditz & Dino. Same faces, same eyes, same smiles. I understand in my own illiterate scientific way the way hereditary works. What I do not get are the intangables. Ditz doing her Ditzy thing & wham! It's like seeing & hearing 'Ri back in the days. I mean, how does Ditz know to do that wry thing with her mouth, the hands to the cheeks or the dramatic cooling of an overheated face. No~one else in the house performs these stunts but Ditz has them down pat from someone she's seen about twice in her life. It is seriously weird. Or she'll be in another room & her voice gets a certain pitch, the stresses fall a certain way & I'd swear on my grandmother's grave I was listening to 'Ri.

And Liddy is seriously spooky. Upset her & she instinctively looks & sounds uncannily like my mother.

I saw once this amazing doco about our reproductive systems. Sorry people, I'm a poet not a scientist, & what struck me forcibly was how intricate everything became the smaller it got; the delicate, billowing garden within us. I can still visualise it years after I've forgotten the science.

As I get older I find myself clamping my jaw the way my mother always has. I never used to do that. I make a conscious effort not to but my DNA is hardwired a certain way. We are indeed fearfully & wonderfully wrought & in thinking these things I am reminded of a certain microbiologists whose name escapes me but who set the DNA of peat bog & mice to music & found he had something that played uncannily like Bach or Chopin. I thought then, & think now, how amazing that even our DNA is programmed in such a way that it glorifies the Lord God ~ because seriously, who else would take so much trouble with something unlikely to ever be heard outside a peculiar few?

Yeah, definitely one of those days when the old mind goes rambling down some strange paths but at least you can't say the journey was dull.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Music & home ec.

“Some people think music education is a privilege, but I think it’s essential to being human.”- Jewel – singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist
We have settled into our new routine now & after several weeks I have a far better idea of how the Beautiful Feet curriculum works & I must say so far I am fairly impressed because there is a little bit of everything presented in a number of different ways.

We are looking at all the different instruments in the orchestra ~ & yes Ditz knows this stuff. She's played in band, plays 3 different instruments & tended to be a bit snooty about the whole thing. The snoot was in part because they started with violin, the backbone of any orchestra, & Ditz plays violin. From a purely practical standpoint she had reason to snoot. However we were also looking at Corelli & Vivaldi, the 2 musicians who changed violin music beyond recognition.The tapes give some history & snippets of well known pieces that even I recognize & Ditz certainly does but the history Ditz didn't know. I can't say she's all that interested but the lessons, after the first one, have been neither long nor onerous: a little bit of listening, a little bookwork, a little colouring & we're all done. Seriously. This is a very enjoyable curriculum & worth the expense. Having looked at the instrument & the composers we looked at the violin makers so a little research into Stradivaris. Now I could have made Ditz write it all out but have you seen the child's handwriting?! Instead I copied the wiki article & we just cut up the relevant bits to paste in her workbook while we chatted about the interesting bits because 400 years after Stradivaris no violin maker can yet duplicate the sound he got from his instruments though there is speculation it is due to either the volcanic earth he mixed with his resin or the way he soaked his wood in salt. Ok. I didn't know that!

So this is a very integrated curriculum! Instrument, composer, instrument maker, music. Yep. I'm impressed. I think we have a much better chance of Ditz remembering the bits she's not overly interested in as well as the bits she is with this method. I'd certainly recommend it to anyone interested in a music appreciation curric.

On a slightly different front the vegetarian thing is wobbling along with varying degrees of success. I must get Ditz a workbook & we'll do this as a research paper into the nutrition needs of vegetarians, recipes, etc & call it home ec. I love homeschooling!

The spring rolls were a success.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tuesday's Trivia.

THE earliest inhabitants of Britain are supposed to have been a branch of that great family known in history by the designation of Celts.Thomas Bulfinch
Random Internet browsing turned this up & I must say I howled with laughter given how much some people insist pants are men's clothing & men's clothing only.

When the Romans first invaded Britain they had their first encounter with braccae ~ the word from which we derive the term breeches ~ an item of clothing primarily worn by Celtic men, though not unknown to women. They were typically trousers that reached to the knee, or in the colder north, to the ankle with a drawstring at the waist. The Romans were not impressed & thought the Celtic men terribly effeminate because, as we all know, real men wear togas!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Monday Memories

I promise that I will do my best To love my God, To serve the Queen and my country, To help other people And To keep the Brownie Guide Law.

I was, for most of my formative years, a member of the Guiding association. I can still remember my mother asking me if I'd like to be a Brownie. I had just turned 7 & I had no idea what a Brownie was but it sounded infinitely better than the jazz ballet classes she'd also suggested. For a child who couldn't carry a tune & had two left feet that was just cruel. The tennis classes I also took were cruel. I wasn't particularly co~ordinated in some ways & the act of serving a ball completely defeated me. I amused my entire class for weeks, my arms windmilling but completely unable to release the ball so that I could at least take a swing at it. Guiding was a far better option & for the most part I enjoyed my years in Guiding.

In some ways Guiding was rather daft ~ grown women running round asking to be called Brown Owl or Tawney Owl, & little Australian girls dancing round plastic toadstools singing that they were pixies or fairies but so much of childhood is daft & inexplicable what's a little more?

I was one of the last girls to go through Brownies on the old system, gain my *wings* & *fly up* to Guides. When I joined Guides it was still operating under the old system too & to be a *Queen's Guide* meant years of diligent work & a huge & very attractive badge at the end of it. I very badly wanted one of those really, really nice badges to sew on my sleeve & began the painstaking process of passing tests & doing badges. Along the way I discovered camping Girl Guide style & I gained so much from the amount of camping my company did I am grateful my parents were prepared to fork over the sometimes exorbitant amounts of money that enabled me to participate so often. My boys, even as very little boys, were extremely hard to impress, but the sight of their mummy swinging a billy can full of boiling water round & round her head certainly managed to impress them; a little trick I learnt in Guides!

By the time I approached 16, when I would have to leave Guides, I was struggling on just about every front: spiritually, academically, emotionally. So much had changed in the Guiding movement in their effort to make themselves more modern & attractive that I was no longer sure I even wanted the badge I'd worked towards for so long. I only had one or two badges still to work towards & did eventually complete my Queen's Guide ~ & I'm glad I did it ~ but I was never impressed with the dull piddling little badge they handed out in place of the old one. I felt then, & feel now, ripped. I want one of the old badges.

When I joined Brownies I had no idea that my mother had been a Guide & eventually I rounded up all her old badges to sew on my camp blanket because history is important to me. It is why I got so upset when the Guiding movement changed so much, callously ditching history & tradition & replacing it with things that had no meaning & no tradition, but looked pretty. I was never interested in looking pretty. I most definitely missed the girly~girly gene & refused to compete in an arena where I would most definitely be embarrassed & humiliated.

Enter my Liddy. Guides was one activity the island did offer so as her 7th birthday approached I dutifully enrolled her in Brownies pretty sure she would enjoy it as much as I had. If the company had been like my old one I think she would have but a company very much reflects the interests & tone of it's leaders & there was too much quiet work, not enough physical activity for Liddy. I was also hugely unimpressed that the girls were given so much say in how the company should be run for one simple reason. Children are by nature selfish & that selfishness was reflected in the company. The girls had lists & lists of activities they wanted to do ~ Dreamworld, Movieworld, Bowling, Skating etc ~ things not wrong in & of themselves but costing the parents money & time when when leaders actually led & Guiding meant something the leaders taught service ~ service to one's family, one's community, one's God. Service is out of fashion & I was less than impressed.

When Liddy moved into High School we let Guiding lapse. It was expensive & I did not feel she was getting maximum benefit from it. Liddy herself wasn't all that rapt in it.

Ditz, who because I was a de facto leader [voluntary help being almost non~existent & badly needed] had simply been dragged along as a matter of course & looked forward to the time when she would be old enough to join. When that time came around a particularly nasty group of girls was involved & by then it was obvious Ditz's gifts were going to occupy too much time for other activities & she was never enrolled. I am sorry. As Guiding was originally envisaged it was a wonderful way for girls to develop skills, self confidence, independence & competency in areas they might otherwise never have encountered. It offered opportunities & experiences otherwise unavailable to the average girl. For example I learnt to abseil as a Guide & gained my First Aid certificate then. The little I know of nursing is the remainder of Guiding skills.

I have come to hate one little word in the English dictionary ~ relevance. Everything these days has to be relevant. It is ruining churches & it has ruined the Guiding movement. I do not believe everything needs to be made *relevant*. I believe that if things have meaning they are automatically relevant. Take away the meaning & you are left with dust & ashes. I am grateful I was a Guide before the meaning was completely lost.

Saturday, May 9, 2009


"The Nazis victimized some people for what they did, some for what they refused to do, some for what they were, and some for the fact that they were." - John Conway

Liddy went to the mainland last night, hooking up with her brothers & heading in to town for the N.Z V Aussie league match. She came home on the last boat, by which time I was rolling with tiredness. She was both apologetic & cross. They had just missed the 11 o'clock & there is nothing more infuriating than watching the boat chugging home without you. It also meant a long cold wait on the jetty.

After a day out Lid likes to take things quiet & easy her 2nd day off. After all we had the new Jonathon Creek series to watch. It was not to be. Dearest needed batten screws & after some consideration & considerable negotiating we opted to cancel piano & go get the screws early then catch a movie Ditz was keen on seeing ~ The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. A Ditz Pick can be rather alarming & we've watched some doozies of movies thanks to Ditz but this one was a goodie.

First of, this is in no way a children's movie. It is a holocaust movie. Now I know there's been some quibbling about inaccuracies in the storyline ~ no 8/9 year old boys would have been in Auschwitz [& it would be Auschwitz because of the number of crematoriums]; the fence was far too well guarded to let anyone out let alone anyone in but these are small things & do not detract from the terrible symmetry of this movie.

One of the really nice things about this movie is the simplicity with which it deals with a complicated issue. Bruno is the 8yr old son of a death camp commandant. Germany's complicated politics do not concern him. He loves his father. His father is a good man & a hero. What's more he is portrayed in that light ~ but as Bruno learns he is capable of monstrous things.

Removed from his friends in Berlin Bruno forms an unlikely friendship with a boy on the other side of the Auschwitz wire. He learns that fear can make cowards of us all, that we all harbour a monster within ourselves & that there is redemption for past wrongs.

There is no really overt violence depicted on screen; it all occurs off camera with sound effects but this very gentleness makes the final scenes all the more harrowing.

The holocaust is difficult to depict accurately & I understand the need to be sensitive to the memories of those who actually lived out this terrible reality but sometimes fiction conveys truth far better than realism & in this case I think that is true. This is not, as some have said, the story of one Nazi family's personal tragedy. It is the story of the terrible logic of the thinking behind Nazism & the inevitable end that such thinking leads to.

This seems to be one of those films that impact audiences. There was utter silence in the theatre as the final credits rolled. Ditz, who has just finished a study on WWII merely remarked that it wasn't happening now. Well, no, not in Australia & never to that extent but...not a deep philosophical thinker my Ditz. Liddy & I, who saw where it was all heading very early on, were affected differently. Liddy slid further & further down into her seat as the last scenes rolled ~ & they must have been a legal nightmare in themselves to shoot! I was stunned philosophically. If you argue anyone is expendable then all life is expendable, even your nearest & dearest & you get this shattering result.

All in all an interesting little film but don't take the children unless you are really sure they know what the Holocaust did & was & that it discriminated on the basis of age & gender, religion & nationality.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tickety~tick, tickey~tick de boom boom

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. " ~ Anatole France

I can handle most things that belong to the animal kingdom ~ snakes, spiders, the odd scorpion. What I cannot abide are those things that are a parasite in nature ~ leeches, fleas, ticks! They make my skin crawl, my liver quiver, & shrieks form in the pit of my belly. I do not like parasites!

I don't like ticks & in particular I don't like paralysis ticks. Of the 4 animals we have owned we have lost two to paralysis ticks. Christy, our dally, had one crawl up inside her. I looked & looked & looked, you know, but until it was hanging out her orifice & huge I couldn't find it & by then it was far too late. Bindy, Theo's cat, was rather wild & wouldn't let me near her. She was pretty far gone when I could handle her & we lost her too despite all our care. Both deaths were devastating so I am fanatical about grooming my animals & checking them over every single day, but especially in tick season.

It shouldn't be tick season but we've had rain & there are one or two about. Normally I drag out a nit comb several times a day & run it through Issi's fur. He is used to this treatment & lifts his head so I can run the comb down his throat in long strokes that have him purring & spluttering in ecstasy. It has the added advantage of picking up any debris in his coat & the odd flea he may have picked up in his wanderings & is a blessing when he moults, clearing his coat of great handfuls of fur at a swoop.

Issi loves to be groomed. He's a lazy puss & would much rather I groom him than have to do it himself so when he cringed away from the comb but was obviously irritated by something under the chin I feared the worst. Sure enough I could feel a lump but no way was Issi letting me near it to see. I grabbed a great wad of Ichthamol ointment, known round here as *black grease, & smothered as much as I could under his chin knowing it was thick enough to suffocate anything alive under there.

Several hours later I tried again with the comb. Iss raised no further objections when I gingerly ran the comb under his chin but I was hampered in my investigations by ~ black grease! Oooey. Eventually I was able to see & found not one but two paralysis ticks attached to his windpipe! Yucky, yucky! he's a lucky puss. No damage done & he's none the worse for it.

Anything that will smother a tick is a blessing ~ oil or lanolin or Vaseline. I learnt this trick with Iss when he was little. He constantly got bush ticks attached to his eyelids where he was too antsy to let even me near with the tweezers but I could smother them & they would die & fall out themselves.

It may be foolishness but we love our animals & can't bear to have them suffer. I don't understand cruelty to animals who cannot defend themselves from us. We have so much power over them, the least I can do is use that power for good. Besides Iss loves me. I have the chicken treats!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Here we go again.

If you have stage fright, it never goes away. But then I wonder: is the key to that magical performance because of the fear?

Stevie Nicks

Last year I wouldn't even consider it. Last year I hadn't been driving on the mainland in 20 years ~ certainly not in a big city. Last year we were new to this whole singing thing. This year I am out of excuses. This year we are doing Creative Generation.

This has a huge choir. Naturally Alison is involved & if Alison is involved she takes her AVAE choir with her. The kids are lucky. Most aren't in state schools but they are professionally trained so I don't have to do all the rehearsals etc. And Alison was immediately aware that boats were a problem for us & said they would work around it with us. Ditz, naturally, is keen. Ditz, apparently, was asked to audition for a solo ~ & said no. She does not feel ready to solo at a big production like this, one that channel 10 is televising; 90 minutes of a 2 hour production. Yeah, well, I so wouldn't want to do that either. Hard to imagine my Ditz lacking for confidence but apparently some of the shibboleths haunt her.

Interestingly I am hearing her more at rehearsals. Her voice has got stronger ~ a lot of hot air is coming from somewhere. As she pointed out, yeah, she can be heard when the boys aren't there! So June looks like being a busy month. June looks like developing into one of those nightmares I hate, when I am travelling on the mainland more than I'm at the city...hanging round waiting because I can't get home. It sucks being a performing parent!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tuesday's Trivia.

Where there is a sea there are pirates.

I knew about Grace O'Malley, who was an Irish thorn in Good Queen Bess' pride. Jeanne de Clisson [13oo ~ 1359] is rather more interesting though not quite as much fun.

She was first married off at 12 & must have been a pretty hardy lady because she survived childbirth twice & outlived her husband. By 16 she was married to her 2nd husband & produced another 5 children. In that time & place that alone was something of a miracle.

The politics are a bit complicated but when Philip VI beheaded her beloved Oliver she got a tad upset, sold of the family jewels & property & invested the proceeds in 3 warships. The warships she painted black with red sails & with these she marauded the English channel after any French ships she could get her hands on. If caught by Jeanne your chances of survival were zilch. She was neither a kind nor forgiving lady, personally executing any aristocrat foolish enough to be aboard his own vessel. However she did always spare 2 or 3 crew ensuring that Philip heard that the Lioness of Brittany had struck again.

I bet Philip really regretted upsetting that particular lady!