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

Friday, July 31, 2009

"The Doll" ~ Papusza

"Not far from us lived a Jewish shopkeeper. I stole a chicken and took it to her, and she taught me how to read in return. And then I began to read various books and newspapers. I can read well, but my writing is awful because I read a lot and didn't write much." Papusza
Sometimes when you are researching you come across something that breaks your heart.

We, of a generation that saw the genocide of WWII, of Stalinist Russia & Mao's China, Vietnam & Pol Pot, are inured to mass tragedy. It is simply impossible to individually mourn so many. It is individual tragedy that still has the power to shatter carefully constructed barriers & strip the heart raw.

Ditz has missed it. She borrowed the book Bury Me Standing from the library & tossed it aside as being too difficult & not to her purposes. I opened it & the first thing I read was the story of Papusza. Even when I tell Ditz she won't be impressed but Papusza will haunt me now all my days.

Papusza was Polish Rom. She was a gorgeous looking woman, smart, sensitive, ambitious but she was Rom at a time when most Roms were illiterate, Her desire for an education, to be able to read & write, was frowned upon & she was beaten for it. Her desire was so strong she stole to achieve her ambition. She was also female. The Roms married their girls off at 13 or so & Papusza was married off to a much older man, a renowned harpist, & was deeply, deeply unhappy. For a Romany woman there was no way out. A man could leave; a woman could not. Children might have helped but she did not have children. Instead she sang.

Soon Papusza began writing her own songs. Not unusual. The Romany have always been renowned for their music & like many illiterate peoples can commit huge amounts of information to memory. Like generations of Rom before her her songs would have lasted for as long as it took to sing them & dispersed amongst the stars & fire smoke but that was not to be her fate. She was heard by a Polish poet who mentored her, got her published, advocated for the settlement of the Rom & inadvertently destroyed Papusza.

The Rom considered her a traitor for divulging Rom secrets to the gadj & shunned her. Her distress landed her in a mental asylum & quenched her creativity. Except for one brief period she never wrote again living isolated from all that made her who she was: her people, the long road of the Rom, her music. Nobody noticed when she died in 1978 but she is celebrated as one of the most brilliant & evocative of Romany singer/poets.

From: Tears of Blood.

So much snow fell,
it covered the road.
One could only see the Milky Way in the sky.

On such night of frost
a little daughter dies,
and in four days
mothers bury in the snow
four little sons.
Sun, without you,
see how a little Gypsy is dying from cold
in the big forest.

She survived the persecution of the Germans but not that of her own people. I cannot imagine her suffering. I hope that God has had mercy on her soul & she has found in the afterlife more grace & mercy than she received in this world.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor...

'Only human beings have motives, so they alone can be cruel.' Romani quote

Sometimes I am lucky & what Ditz wants to learn runs in tandem with things that interest me but our study on the Romany has been sidetracking me more than usual.

For starters I thought Kubla Khan was a figment of Coleridge's drug induced imagination but in fact the man really existed. He was a grandson of Genghis Khan, that ferocious Mongolian tartar ~ which is important to know because at the end of his reign his troops [& those of Mahmud of Ghanzi whom I'd never even heard of {sultan of Afghanistan in the 900s}] were rabbiting about north west India at the mouth of the Indus river where an Aryan people of the Sind lived a semi~nomadic life. Aryan life being more important than other life [echos of Hitler?] the Sind emigrated east & west & up into Armenia & Turkey spreading slowly throughout Europe over the next 400 years. Ok, they aren't sure why the Sind emigrated but they do know from linguistic evidence & DNA that the present day Romany Gypsy is descended from the Sind ~ & the time frame is about right.

I could be sidetracked forever just on the first bit but Ditz, as was only to be expected, declared this fascinating insight boring. Unfortunately for Ditz I happen to think a little background knowledge is important but knowing Ditz diverted into finding out about the traditional vardo {wagon} ~ only to find it is not so traditional & has only been in use for about 150 years & is now usually replaced with motorised transport. I was mesmerized for hours clicking on all the images of gorgeous wagons. I can't help it. I'm a visual learner.

Hopefully I can find some useful stuff on Romany music as well. That is sure to interest Ditz, especially if I can show her the link to some famous composers. Nothing like studying something you know nothing about to find out how little you know about anything! And I know very little at all about music history. And this, folks, is why I love homeschooling!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The menu merry~go~round

If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat? ~Author Unknown

I do not like to cook & I do not enjoy having to think about food though I am not adverse to eating a good meal if I have had nothing to do with its actual preparation. That being the case it is taking Ditz & I some time to make a complete change from carnivorous habits to vegetarian ones.

Part of the problem is that Dearest is strictly a *meat & 3 veg* man. He is perfectly happy to get a good plain meal, minus all spices & condiments, on his plate 7 nights a week. Boring is the name of the game.

Liddy & Theo are actually quite adventurous but strictly carnivorous so whatever I cook has to be an acceptable side dish to the meat lovers so it has taken a while to get even 3 or 4 main dishes happening that everyone actually likes.

So far we have: quiche ~ though I often add shredded ham to this to appease the meat lovers. Theo doesn't think much of this. Shredded ham is not meat in his opinion; Ditz begs to differ but not enough to pull it all out & set it aside. Quiche however is something we actually all like. Fried Rice. I put so much veggie in ours as well as egg it makes a very hearty & substantial meal for Ditz & I & this is the one meal Dearest will eat without meat, especially if I sneak shredded ham in. [Like I said, going strictly vegetarian is proving a little difficult but we are persevering.] Nut Patties. This one I particularly love, being a huge nut lover! It has 5 varieties of nuts; I just use whatever is in the cupboard but it is time~consuming to prepare & I am reluctant to make it unless I know I have oodles of time. Dearest also loves these so I don't get leftovers! I have a mixed vegetable stir~fry swimming in ginger & coconut milk which is very yummy, very rich & nowhere near as healthy as it should be. No~one else is real keen on it. Spring rolls are a goer but again require more time than I often have. All us girls love a sweet omelet with fruit but again this requires lots & lots of time & time is a commodity often in short supply.

Then there are the not quite successes. Egg & potato dum was one of these. Everyone quite liked the potato & curry. No~one liked the fried eggs. I may try this again minus the eggs but without them it is nowhere near filling enough as a main meal & not really worth the preparation effort to make the curry. We have tried the nut meats & meat supplements on the market but they're pretty disgusting. Ditz quite likes the bacon alternatives & will fry them up with baked beans & toast. I don't really like beans so I opt for a poached egg on toast. Don't even mention tofu to Ditz!

I have been perusing cookery books ~ an unheard of pastime for me ~ but for every book I am lucky to get even one recipe we can use & that is plain disheartening. Food is difficult enough for me without it looking & tasting disgusting. No~one wants a plate of things that look like long brown worms, or baby spew or something the cat couldn't quite digest. I am going to experiment with vegetable crepes I think, especially coming into summer when we can do lots & lots of salads but with all the vegetarians around these days you'd think someone would have come up with plenty of healthy & edible alternatives! No, it's not going to be me. I have other fish to, not literally; I don't eat seafood, not ever. YUK! *sigh* Now who's idea was this again, Ditz?

Oh, what a feeling!

I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once. ~Jennifer Yane

When it rains it pours round here. It's never just one disaster. Everyone gets those. Nope, we get them in multiples. Sort of like the twin thing. Not one pregnancy but two at a time. We do disasters in multiples too.

So there I was sleeping the sleep of the just because we've been sick with one of those winter buggy things where you're not really sick just *a little unwell*. Raging headache. Funny tummy. Liddy came home from work to tell us there was swine flue on the island & someone at work's partner had it & Liddy being Liddy watched her symptoms as closely as a scientist testing a new theory. I just went to bed & slept; it's probably all rumour anyway. We are all miserable & scratchy.

I was jerked awake by the sort of smell you don't want to smell at 4am in the morning; something electrical frying. I hurtled out of bed & shot down the stairs sniffing suspiciously. Not the kitchen. Not the bathroom. Not the garage. With a sinking heat I tracked the smell to the laundry where the hot water system resides. OK, getting an electrician to look at it was going to be the devil's own job but we weren't in imminent danger of being burnt to a crisp in our beds. The jump switch was off & I assumed, as indeed I should, that everything was off. Four days later we still had hot water & none of us could figure out why. We don't any longer & still no electrician. Everyone is bathing in 6 inches of water in a bowl. Liddy is not a happy Liddy but these things happen. Deal with it.

Theo came home & on being informed we were without hot water just said cheerfully he would have a cold shower. We all just looked at him. No~one said anything but we all though he was terribly brave ~ & completely insane ~ but he took himself off for a shower & shortly the sound of running water could be heard. Next thing Theo shot out of the bathroom still fully dressed & uttering a very pithy word indeed to ask meekly would I boil him some water! The cold water proved too cold for Theo.

I then noticed the fridge was no longer working properly & seriously hope it is NOT our whole electrical system having a meltdown. The fridge freezer is working but the fridge part is not. OK, I can work round this while we wait on the electrician. I can also acquire an almost new fridge for next to nothing. Thank you. Lord. No idea how I will get it here as our car does not have a tow bar & we do not own a trailer but having provided a whole fridge I'm sure the Lord can manage the little matter of shifting it.

I have lived on the island a long time. When disaster hits you just know nothing is going to get fixed in a hurry so there is no use fussing about the inevitable. Just the same, stumbling bleary eyed out to the car to run Theo to work in the dark this morning, I did not need to find the car has a flat tire! My whole day is thrown out. Liddy, who really isn't well & has come home from work early twice already this week, was less than happy to find she had to bike into work this morning. I must cancel out Ditz's flute lesson. What I will be doing instead is changing a tire as soon as the sun rises enough to see by & taking the tire to be patched as soon as the garage opens. The good news is that there is no choir tonight & the mainland car is now fully operational again. I am more than grateful for small mercies at this point!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tuesday Trivia.

Why is it trivia? People call it trivia because they know nothing and they are embarrassed about it. Robbie Coltrane

The world is an extremely bizarre place. We live in a world where dolphins sleep with one eye open, men are 6 times more likely than women to be struck by lightening, slugs have 4 noses, honeybees have a type of hair on their eyes & hot water freezes faster than cold water.

I live on the 2nd driest continent on earth; Antarctica is actually drier because there is rarely any precipitation there; the snow just gets shifted around by the wind. Out west kids can get to the age of 6 or 7 without ever having seen rain which I always thought just a little weird but if you live in Calama, Altcama Desert, Chile, you will never see rain at all because it has never rained there!

And it gets weirder. The sun shrinks 5 feet every hour. Should that be cause for concern? I'm not sure that it explains why the state of Colorado has a law on its books stating a pet cat, if loose, must have a tail light. Or the vagaries of 18th century English gambling dens who employed a man specifically to swallow the dice in the event of a police raid.

Istanbul [Turkey}is the only city in the world to straddle 2 continents though we have one that straddles 2 states & it is a pain because one state has daylight saving & the other doesn't! Yeah, I know. Go figure!

Just the same Venus takes the cake for pure arbitrariness; it spins the opposite way to all the other planets in the solar system. Maybe I'm living on the wrong planet.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Monday Memories.

Out of the cave, the tribal teepee, the pueblo, the community fortress, man emerged to build himself a house of his own with a shelter in it for himself and his diversions. Phyllis McGinley

God, in His infinite wisdom, saw fit to bestow me with sons. I love my boys but there were days I was not sure if we would survive each other. Weapons of war were not viewed as suitable toys. Nothing disuaded, my intrepid lads built swords out of sticks, guns from cut~off lenths of timber, lances from tent poles & graduated to fully fledged working bows & arrows out of She~Oak saplings & lengths of fishing line. These were more than a little scary & one or two people found out how much getting shot by a bow & arrow actually hurts!

There were some harrowing days during their fire~bug stage but as they grew bigger we bought them fishing lines, knives & lighters, built them a fire pit, taught them to use these things responsibly & let them rip for all they were worth. We only had problems then with stray friends who were not used to being responsible for their own safety & did daft things.

We had 50 acreas ~ not all ours but all bush & unused by anybody else. So long as the kids stayed on that 50 acreas they could go where they liked & pretty much do as they liked...well, you know, within limits!

Over the years I got used to the noisy silence of my boys getting up early & banging round the kitchen after bait before taking themselves off fishing. If they had luck I would be woken again some time later to view some poor gasping prize destined for the outside fire & my sons chancy cooking methods.

I have hands on kinesthetic learners & all my boys have some form of dyslexia. Jossie overcame his & became an avid reader. Dino didn't have as much initial trouble but is still my only real non~reader. Theo struggled badly for years & years but is now an avid reader. We did not have a computer. We didn't really do toys. At night I always read aloud, even when the kids could read well for themselves so I should not have been surprised, on arriving home from the mainland one day, to find a freshly mown paddock had acquired a tepee; & not only a tepee, made from She~Oak & completely shower~proof, but a little picket fence & a tiny row of miniature hay bales fashioned with the help of a sturdy ice cream bucket. It was quite the little homestead.

I was madly impressed. So was every child within cooee. Closer inquiry revealed this was Jossie's brainwave, the fist of many. Jossie, like his mother, could be fairly anti~social. He would often rather read but there were so few children in our neck of the woods he was in demand as a companion. This did not suit Jossie, who had been reading of the primary school charts for years & had graduated early to my adult fantasy library & disliked being routed out to play while in the midst of the most exciting part of a story. Nothing if not inventive Joss came up with a novel solution ~ in more than one sense of the word!

He built this amazing little homestead which had every child around just begging to be allowed to play in it. Joss then promptly outlined the plot of the latest book he was reading & sent everyone off to build a complete city in the bush with roads & highways & secret tunnels, castles & hovels, shops & farmsteads. It was madly impressive. With the game well under way Joss disappeared to read. Every so often, when the game was flagging & the plot waning, Joss would re~emerge, tweak the plot & as soon as the game was well under way again he would submerge back into his book.

Goodness knows what anyone who stumbled onto the construction would have thought! The game lasted for months but eventually the slashers arrived & began clearing the land for new houses & new neighbours arrived; neighbours who brought unsavoury habits with them & with whom we had a great deal of trouble.

I am sorry I have no pictures but in my mind's eye I can still see the knights valiant with their truebows & quivers of arrows, the fair maidens who refused to be rescued, a big hairy husky X & a giddy dalmatian standing guard against snakes & adult intrusion before the boys were old enough to grow whiskers & all the girls could think about was catching a swain.

We had a rough ride with the boys through their teen years. They wanted more than we could give & they resented it. The irony is, as one by one our children leave home & Dearest & I are left keeping a big & almost empty house, we occasionally float the idea of moving ~ somewhere a little more isolated, somewhere a little quieter with a smaller house & a slower pace of life. Each & every single time any child around rises up in arms. How could we even think of selling up the family home?! We want to bring our kids here, show them where we grew up. Ditz gets particularly wild. The child has every intention of gadding the world & living the high flying life ~ & she does NOT like to get down & dirty but she has made it abundantly clear she expects to be able to return home to where the stars can be seen in wild white streamers across the night sky, crabs are for the pots left out on the mud & if one is feeling a little peckish as one wanders through the garden one has only to snap a handful of beans, or search for red strawberries amongst the dark leaves & pop food into one's mouth. To say nothing of Issi. He would probably never speak to me again.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What's on my mind.

Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. Jesus Christ.

We have been so busy I don't often find myself writing of what is on my heart, occupying my thoughts & bothering my conscience so much as of what we are doing ~ & that is not half so interesting. Well, not to me at any rate.

Several years ago I read Brother Yun's The Heavenly Man & was humbled by the story of the Chinese church, the persecution they suffer & their willingness to suffer for the sake of Christ. Someone lent me Yun's new book, Living Water, & the very first thing I read was about what has been deeply troubling my heart about the western church for a long time.

Where, oh where, did we ever get the idea that to belong to Christ gave us a free pass out of the troubles of this life? Not from God. Not from Scripture. We, in the west, are like the Laodicean church ~ well of materially, comfortable spiritually, self~sufficient. We do not really know what it means to suffer persecution & we are spiritually sick. We tolerate sin because we have slotted comfortably into our world & instead of being alarmed about this we sprook nonsense about tolerance! Scripture tells us we are wayfarers & sojourners; we should not be comfortable in this world because this is not our true home!

I'm not in the business of condemning anybody. That is neither my place nor my business so I will try to use the first person so no~one feels condemned except myself because frankly, I am not guiltless & God has been drawing my attention to 2 things for a very long time: repentance & personal holiness. Obviously I'm a very slow learner.

Repentance is not saying, Oops! Sorry, forgive me. Nope. Repentance is radical. Repentance is the shearing away of absolutely everything in our lives that does not glorify God. I am in serious trouble on this one even before I get to my pet little sins that no~one knows about except me & God. It includes the things that are neither good nor bad in & of themselves. It includes some things that are perfectly good & may be ok for others but not for me. Repentance is not just a turning away; it is a turning towards: away from sin & selfishness, towards self~denial & God.

Western culture has so much to tempt & distract, so much to silence the still small voice of God it is no wonder our churches are full of pew warmers who wouldn't know a movement of the Holy Spirit if they fell over it. OK, maybe that's a little harsh but seriously, all week I wade through morasses of non believers. I am stained & tainted by the world every which way I turn. Come Sunday when I plonk my butt down on that church pew I don't want to be fed milk sop & stagnate for an hour amongst people who are not radical for the Lord. I want to be roused, challenged, strengthened, encouraged, fortified for the next week's battle. I want to be empowered to love more, forgive faster, sacrifice more, give more ~ in short glorify my Lord & saviour more!

I have been led in some choices in more recent years that have had a most peculiar effect because in real life I'm rather shy [ hard to believe the way I rattle on here but it's true] & I don't make friends easily. Actually I find small talk impossibly aggravating & totally exhausting & it puts people off having this tongue~tied woman standing round uncomfortably obviously anxious to be gone but I am starting to lose count of the number of people who have approached either Liddy or I & gone, 'So what religion are you?' Liddy, who has a gift of missions, promptly launches into a synopsis of the gospel. I am far more cautious & always want to know why they want to know! lol.

The thing is, if I've learnt nothing else from scripture & particularly from the Gospels, it's that personal holiness is charismatic. Jesus is the most holy man who ever lived & the people flocked to him in absolute droves. Yes, I know he worked miracles & people wanted all sorts of things from him but I'm pretty sure a starving crowd wouldn't have hung around to listen to Him lecture if there wasn't something to hold them bar the odd miracle or two. True holiness is mesmerizing. And it would be very easy to achieve if only I lived alone on an island without the 5 nutty & talented kids, one disabled man & a fruitloop of a cat who has yet to be convinced he's not human & entitled to his share of the available resources!

The signs of the times are not good. Every day there is more evidence that the world is hurtling towards Hell just as fast as it can get there & every day it becomes harder & harder to wade against the tide, to hold fast to that which is pure & good, to stand firm. Change within is frustratingly slow but it is there. I no longer desire many of the things I once did. I have learnt to be content ~ for the most part. It helps to live where we do, where God's thumbprint on His creation is very much in evidence but I have a long way to go. I do want to go though because without holiness none of us will see God & I do, after all, want to see God.
Football is all very well a good game for rough girls, but not for delicate boys.Oscar Wilde

It's back; Island soccer; mixed teams; the huffing & puffing; the pain. We haven't played since this folded when the boys got their *proper* team & could compete in a *proper* competition. People like Ditz & I, who like our run in the park but run out of puff after about 10 minutes, were discarded without a thought. Pity as Ditz & I, loathe to exercise of our own accord, simply stopped doing much of anything except hike up the REALLY BIG hill 2 islands over when we go to flute.

Now Ditz is too busy singing like a canary to take part regularly so we rocked up Saturday hoping for the best; the legs were good but the lungs were gasping within minutes. Having had pleurisy after the twins I tend to have trouble with my lungs just breathing normally. Forget huffing & puffing after a ball. I tend to get lobbed in goal until I let too many balls through then I get hoyed out to mind the back line ~ no place for me either. I'm just not as fast as I used to be & no longer willing to put my body on the line; It hurts.

However on the rare occasions I actually get the ball I can control it & place it somewhere in the vicinity of where it should go so I'm not quite useless. Not up to Liddy's standard. Goals is different. It's the only place I've ever been really hurt & today I got taken out by the biggest boy on the pitch. He's a sweetie I used to teach & finding himself crashing down on top of me grabbed me protectively as my elbow came up to shield me. I think I damaged him more than I was damaged. I can bug him on the pitch though. It's the little kids can run circles round me. How sad is that?

Just as well I have the next month to recover! Oh my!

Friday, July 24, 2009

What we did.

“Tiger! Tiger! burning bright / In the forests of the night, / What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”William Blake.

Liddy, who enjoys debating, has a dreadful habit of starting arguments & then using me as her prime resource! This is frustrating when I am in the middle of dinner preparations & unsure of what argument will best suit her needs ~ or worse, as I enter my dotage, I see scraps of useful information sliding into that black hole I used to call my mind.

Sadly Liddy had a much better grasp of how to debate than the young man she was busily trying to nail. Every time he looked like he was on shaky ground he changed the subject. Aggravating. My suggestion on how to deal with this [either block his access to her computer, just not enter into the baiting, or become repeative & insist he address the argument] were not well recieved. UGH. I think they needed to start with some simple ground rules as to what constitutes evidence because the historical data I was providing was rejected but then you can not convince an aethiest who doesn't want to be convinced no matter how good your evidence so I did think she was engaged in an extremely pointless exercise. Needless to say she wasn't in a very good frame of mind when she finally got round to ringing her brother to ensure we had a car for Friday's excursion.

Theo, who had not got around to fixing the bearings yet, got an earful. Liddy was absolutely ropeable as she has been asking for the car to be fixed for more than 2 weeks & had her money all organised. She is far more efficient than either of her brothers & she was not impressed. As it is Ditz's & my only free weekend for ages Liddy got on~line & worked out buses & trains ~ one way! She never thinks to check the return journey unless I remind her! It looked doable & no more time consuming than taking the car; just not quite so convienient.

It meant a really early start but unusually I slept in. Not so unusually so did Liddy. Super unusually Ditz was the first one up but it never occured to Ditz no~one else was awake so she left us all sleeping peacefully. Consequentially we all rushed round frantically like headless chooks, barely made our boat & were starving because only Liddy had thought about breakfast! Which is typical.

The run down the coast was pretty smooth despite about 4 changes & not having a clue where any of the stops or connections were & it turned into an absolutely glorious day along the way. We arrived before opening with a concession voucher friends had kindly given Liddy which was wonderful as Dreamworld tickets are not cheap & frankly super expensive for me because my inner ear is hopeless & I get sick at the drop of a hat. Ask Ditz. She took great pleasure in putting the two of us in a Wiggles teacup, meant for tiny littlies, & watching me go green & peculiar looking! I can do some of the up & down rides but nothing that spins as well.

Liddy knows me but Ditz, who has never been to an amusement park before, had worked herself up into a real tizz on the way down & was both so excited & so nervouse I think Liddy was rather sorry she'd suggested this particular outing but nevertheless she herded us towards the first ride of the day ~ a massive tire affair that shot the rapids through dark tunnels, a nice gentle beginning to what looked like being an adrenilin fueled day. I would not have started with a water ride but in fact I stayed lovely & dry; both girls got soaked!

I don't know what half the rides are called & it doesn't matter because I stayed on the ground minding the bag for most of them while Liddy & Ditz spun crazily through the air & argued about whether or not they would do the Tower of Terror & the Giant Drop at the end. The Drop is 59 stories & no way was I even remotely considering that! Liddy has done it before but was so terrified she wasn't real keen to do it again. Ditz didn't want to go on her own. By the time they were ready it had been shut down & I breathed a sigh of relief.

Liddy is a very considerate hostess & had taken into consideration my well known woosiness for amusement park rides so we detoured through Tiger Island to see their famed white tigers, watch the display & go ooh & aah over their sleek gorgeousness. To see these beautiful animals ♥♥smooching♥♥ up to their handlers just like Issi does to me was very sweet. A cat is a cat is a cat, no matter their size! The cats are obviously well loved & handled & showed obvious affection for their handlers. I would have been perfectly happy leaning over the fence all day & watching the cats loll in the shade but the troops were making impatient noises so we found an *all you can eat for the price* place & let Liddy refuel.

We then wandered through the wildlife sancturary which has plenty of the wildlife every tourist wants to see: emus & koalas & kangaroos; an avairy with a cassowary [I've never seen one before as they are a northern rainforest bird & huge with a doorknocker on their scalp!]; a night walk with owls & sugar gliders [which are just too cute for words!] & a pond with crocodiles. Don't like big crocs .... any crocs really, so we didn't stop.

The girls then headed for the Tower of Terror but as I said it was no longer running & we ended up at the dodgems. Even I was prepared to ride a dodgem & was happily chootling round the perimeter unbumped & not bumping anybody else when my lovely girls decided to gang up on me & I was attacked from both directions at once! Liddy was looking pretty worn by then so we decided to call it quits & head for home.

The return buses were not nearly so accomodating so we opted for the safest course & trained as far north as Southbank before getting a bus back the other way. Unfortunately I listened to Liddy, who has more experience with the town buses than I do, & we got a bus that meant a change because, Liddy assured us, it would only take 40 minutes to the jetty as oppossed to an hour or more. Unfortunately we chose the wrong bus & did the scenic detour! A ten minute trip turned into half an hour with panoramic views of the University Campus. I don't travel real well in crowded spaces up the back so was rather green when we spilled out at the busway change & started looking frantically for the busway we needed. It was getting dark & cold & we were all exhausted & Liddy was furious with herself but all's well that ends well & we reached the jetty at last & were back on the island in time to grab milk on the way home before the shop closed & a very happy puss~cat greeted us with unfeigned delight! When there's bags involved he frets that someone isn't coming back that night. Silly puss!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


"In this household, I do the singing." Enrico Caruso
August will be a busy month. Alison wasn't kidding when she told those children they had to lift their game & I'm so pleased Ditz has her first private lesson before everything hits the fan; pleased for her.

We have 3 concerts next month ~ I think I counted 3; one's not on the schedule yet & I've forgotten what it is. Firstly there is the MBC concert. This is a showcase performance with some of the Ten Tenors performing. VM has ties with the Ten Tenors. One of our older boys has just landed a spot with them & he has got a voice to die for; really strong. This will be filmed so the kids have to present really well, not just sing like angles! As I'm listening to rehearsals for this now I expect an extra rehearsal call before the 15th!

The kids are used to having cameras shoved in their faces ~ sort of. Let's just say this isn't the first time, won't be the last. Then there is something happening in town to do with Ian McKinley with the kids singing his version of the 23rd psalm. Lovely music! That is being recorded for the ABC & also filmed...oh, & the composer himself will be there! Kids dying inside already over that one.

There is a photo shoot at QPAC for promotional stuff & then October sees the Silkstone Eisteddford, a studio recording & an anniversary performance. December the kids who can are headed to Singapore; something to do with their Con.

It is just snowballing at the moment & absolutely fascinating to watch. I know lots of people think rehearsals are pretty dull but I have never found rehearsals dull. Parents of new kids are invited to sit in for a session & see what happens ~ which is only good business sense ~ but few parents really avail themselves of the opportunity. Ten minutes & they start to get restless. Ok, I'm weird. I actually like listening to trained voices sing scales & do their Ooohs & Aaahs. I like watching how Alison pulls a song together, the way she works on different things to give it shape & make it something extraordinary to listen to ~ & it is. As she says herself, no~one else is doing what she is. She has made a niche for herself in the choir/ensemble world with something very unique.

Lots of people do big choirs, especially massed children's choirs. Alison does small choirs with a very big sound. Just because you might only be 12 years old doesn't mean you have to sing as though you're 12 when you have a big mature voice. Alison showcases her voices. We've got mature boys still using their upper register effectively & girls who can make a very big raunchy Jazz/Blues sound. Shocks the pants of people when they first hear it!

So last night we bused in & out to choir, which so did not impress Ditz! We missed tea & got very ratty all round but Theo had put Liddy's car in for a service & overhaul & a jolly good thing too. The loud noise emmanating from that car was not the muffler, as we'd all suppossed, but the wheel bearings! So not good! We hope to have it back for tomorrow as Liddy wanted to take Ditz to Dreamworld next month for her birthday ~ only next month is a nightmare logistically & financially so she thought we might do it tomorrow instead. I am just relieved the car is in good working order before I have to choof all round the state; I have enough problems.

It is very sweet of Liddy. Cross as she sometimes gets with her little sister she is as bad as everyone else when it comes to spoiling her & really Ditz no longer gets too many opportunities to just be a little kid. Choir is all about career & training & performance & pretty professional. Much as Ditz loves it it is not the place to goof of. She takes her drama seriously too so this will be a nice interlude.

Taking a deep breath now...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday Trivia.

The devil can quote Scriptures and so can his ministers and they can quote them in perfect King James English. –Gary Amirault

I own one; I read one; I own several different translations...

Wycliff did the first English translation of the bible from the Latin Vulgate ~ & all his works were condemned at the council of Constance in 14 15. Wycliffe himself was exhumed, burnt & his ashes scattered. The Catholics were taking no chances with a declared heretic!

Wycliffe translated from the Vulgate used by the Catholic church of the time. It wasn't until 1970, with the Jerusalem bible, that anyone got around to translating the bible into English from the original languages! You'd think it would have occurred to someone before then.

The bible was originally written in 3 main languages: Hebrew, Aramaic & Greek. Translating from a Latin version strikes me as more than a little odd under the circumstances.

Authors included adopted Egyptian nobility [Moses], a Babylonian official [Daniel], a tax collector [Matthew], a fisherman [Peter], a rabid rabbi [Paul] & a gentile [Luke]. Despite being a book about God two books never mention Him: Esther & Song of Songs.

I don't know about your bible but mine has the books divided into verses with little numbers denoting which verse. Robert Stephens added them to the new Testament in 1551.

Not surprisingly Jesus is the most mentioned person in the New Testament. Then comes Paul, Peter & John the Baptiste. The fifth most mentioned person is a bit of a shock ~ Pontious Pilate is mentioned 50 times!

Don't believe God loves His creation? There are 1 260 promises in the bible! Written down. Recorded. Not that I think God would forget but I find them handy to remind Him of every so often ~ though He tends to remind me that quite a few of them are conditional & I need to make sure I do my part.

Then there are all the prophecies! All 8 000 of them! 3 140 are still awaiting fulfillment but
3 268 have already been fulfilled. Just the same it's the science stuff I find fascinating. When people were still gabbling about the world being flat or perched on the back of giant turtles or something Job declared the earth was suspended in space [26:7] & Isiah declared the world round [40:22.] Just for starters. Job also talks about light travelling [38:19] & sound waves from stars [38:7] Actually Job is full of interesting science & a good deal of the science God nails Job with Scientists still can't give adequate answers to. God might have suspended the earth on nothing & we might call that nothing gravity but no~one can give a reasonable [& understandable] answer as to what gravity actually is.

Interestingly, whether people believe or not, most educated people have read at least a little of the bible. The King James version, which was put together by a committee, is generally considered to be a literary masterpiece in & of itself & as such read for its own sake alone. I use a revised version of this simply because the poetical format makes memorisation easier for me, though I am fully aware it is not the most accurate translation. If I am studying I rely on more than one text anyway & then I want one where I'm not going to be distracted by the beauty of the language or caught up in a love letter written by over 50 different authors, 2 continents, & 1 500 years, give or take a year or two .

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Monday Memories.

"Marilla says that a large family was raised in that old house long ago, and that it was a real pretty place, with a lovely garden and roses climbing all over it.Lucy Maud Montgomery.

My aunt owned, at one time, the most wonderful old house. My father was not nearly so enamoured of it as it was a rather geriatric old house & he spent one frantic holiday replacing the cedar beams that had been eaten out by white ants before the whole roof fell in on the inhabitants. I come from an opinionated family & he gave his opinion of that house frequently & vehemently but as I was neither responsible for it's upkeep nor its mortgage I was free to love it unreservedly & love it I did.

It was already a hundred years old when my aunt purchased it ~ no indoor loo, no indoor bathroom, no laundry. Three great cement tubs lined the back verandah & a comode hid behind a curtain for those indisposed to make the long trek down the back paddock to fight the mosquito's for squatters rights on the outside dunny. Even I considered that something of a drawback. In a muggy Queensland summer the ripe smell of the dunny & enough mosquitoes to carry you away made any trip to the loo something of a brave undertaking & to be avoided if at all possible. The shower was a cement slab under the water tank ~ a space inevitably shared with large green tree frogs & where the frogs are the carpet snakes invariably follow. Showering was not for the faint~hearted!

One of my most treasured possessions is the manuscript my aunt wrote about the history of that house, well house & garden because my aunt was a gardener. As she herself confessed she didn't much like going anywhere unless it was *down the back paddock to gather potting mix*.
Like at least one prior house Trafalgar Vale was bought, not for the house, but for the rich red soil on which it stood! Obsessive is the term I think. It was years, & then reluctantly, before the house was modernised but from the day my aunt signed the papers she was turning that rich red soil to create the loveliest garden. There is however, one rather large drawback to that rich red loam; everything you own, sooner rather than later, turns red, especially floor coverings.

I have very clear memories of that house, clearer memories than of the one I actually grew up in. Funny that because my aunt was the most appalling housekeeper & cook; my mother is brilliant at both but the house itself when I knew it had a great serenity of spirit. French doors with lace curtains opened onto the long verandahs & the verandah rails were swathed in yellow alamanda & purple wisteria. Early in the morning, & it was very early if I wanted to see my cousin before she left for work, the air was rich & heady with all the garden scents. The light lay over house & garden like a Turner landscape & beneath the smell of damp soil & growing things lay the pungent aroma of turps & thinners.

My cousin introduced me to the pleasures of milk coffee drunk from blue & white china while the verandah slowly grew warm with sunlight & in the distance the blue eye of the bay winked seductively. The back verandah was engulfed in a large Jacaranda tree & all summer the ground was littered with macadamia shells because the back steps had a perfect notch to hold the nuts while we cracked the hard shell with a hammer.

My aunt grew roses, the old fashioned roses ~ Cabbage roses, Damask roses, Moss roses ~ the sort that still kept their exquisite scent even under the hot Australian sun. I think she got this particular obsession from my grandfather who was known to grow about seven different varieties on one rambler ~ at least he did until one of the boys ran the whole thing over with the mower.

"Go home & ask your grandfather," my aunt's teacher once told her, " if he has a Tamarind growing in his garden, because if there is such a thing, it will be there."

Genetics are funny old things. My kitchen window sill holds a variety of jars & vases sprouting different bits & pieces that sooner or latter get popped into the soil. The ficus has escaped it's pot & sprawls over half my ceiling. My house remains unfinished but outside my garden sprawls in lavish abandon. I am not the gardener my aunt was but she enjoyed my gardens. I pinch the soil between my fingers, feel how it crumbles, smell the heady promise of new growth while the house awaits attention & the dinner burns.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Oh, what a lucky Ditz it is!

"Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, save perhaps two.” -Fredric Chopin
Liddy had organised a lunch & movie outing ~ something both she & Ditz were really looking forward to seeing ~ so yesterday was well taken care of & Ditz got yet another day of school. If I were an excellent mama I would now make the child write a movie review & at least pretend we were doing school but I really can't see the point, particularly as Liddy did a blow by blow job on everything that was wrong with it & then Ditz explained to me on the boat home why it wasn't as good as it should have been so I feel we've covered the critical thinking aspect of things.

So while we were gadding about overseas Dearest had a visit from a very old friend [who just happens to be an American if you're interested] & this very old friend left a pressie for Ditz. Like the child needed another instrument! Ditz is so totally over the moon I was rather surprised. It was neither a clarinet nor a saxophone, both of which Ditz has been enamoured of for some time, but an acoustic/electric guitar, a JBanez acoustic/electric guitar. I am an acoustic all the way guitarist so this means nothing to me & it means nothing to Ditz who is only interested in the fact that it is a guitar, her very own, really, truly guitar.

I have a guitar & when Ditz was smaller she really loved it but it is an acoustic guitar meant for classical/folk playing & has a very wide neck. It is really too wide for me too, realistically, but I at least have an adult's hands. It was way too big for a small Ditz so though she could pick songs out by ear it soon defeated her & she had plenty of other instruments to be going on with.

Unbeknown to me Ditz has been saving her meagre pocket money to purchase herself a guitar. I do actually understand this. For a singer the guitar is perfect for self accompaniment & after the piano a reasonable way of composing so to have one land in her lap like this was rather a mind blower!

She chivvied me upstairs to hunt up the chord charts & old guitar music, though she is perfectly capable of playing by ear & I left her to experiment for herself. Later I will show her some basic chords & she can build on that. This is a steel stringed instrument that hasn't been played in some time [& I'd already decided the strings needed replacing, & replacing soon] when there was a ping like a gunshot & the top E string gave way.

For years our closest music shop has been halfway to town but just recently someone has opened a local music shop on the island! Guess where we're headed this morning! lol And though I know how to tune an instrument I have an abysmal ear & can never tell if the rotten thing is in tune or not so we will need a tuner. I hope Ditz has been saving hard because she will have to buy a whole new set of strings; no point just replacing the one that broke. God is very good to that child. Every single instrument she owns, & there are a few of them now, she got by the grace of God. The keyboard ~ on indefinite loan from a friend's daughter; the organ~ from our old minister on his death; violin ~ Ditz bought herself with a monetary present she was given; the flute ~ a complete act of God & now the guitar. Bizarre!

Guitar is the one instrument I do actually know something about ~ & how it works musically ~ so this will be interesting because my Ditz does not think highly of my musical acumen! ☺ Being steel the sound is a little too tinny for my liking but it seems to have a good tone, good enough for Ditz & she is fussy. I hope she gets good quick. We already endure the violin & that is more than a little excruiating at times. Another stringed instrument sounding like a drowning cat is asking a lot of the whole house.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to The Forum....

It was my Mum who got me into singing properly - she knew I had to do something with my voice because she knew I was talented. She was the one who pushed me into joining a choir all those years ago, when I was about 12. I remember she told me to start with the choir and just see where it took me. Susan Boyle.

Ditz was the cutest baby ever, a real huggable cutie, round & chubby & full of smiles for everyone but she had a temper! Boy did she have a temper & when Ditz lost it everyone within cooee knew about it. Ditz could hit pitches guaranteed to bend steel beams & she had an excellent set of lungs.

Ditz in the midst of a paddy would have the whole house begging me to do anything necessary to shut her up. In public she was embarrassing but on a boat it was unendurable. Ditz could clear space like nothing else but there are limited places you can go on a boat. In desperation I used to coo in her ear, a long drawn out hum & within minutes my funny girl would be screeching in harmony. I'd drop an octave & Ditz would follow me down until her screams turned into a harmonic, if extremely loud, hum. She never matched me; she always harmonised. It got to be quite a party trick but given Ditz's opinion of my musical ability she is mortified when I mention it these days. ☺

Ask anyone who actually knows Ditz & they always mention two things about her: she is incredibly noisy & she has the attention span of a fully~fledged gnat. This is not a good combination. It was one of many reasons to homeschool but extending Ditz's attention span proved more than a little difficult. It wasn't so much that she couldn't but that she was easily distracted & it was quite by chance I hit on something that seemed to work. Many thanks, Meatloaf.

Yes, I'm not too proud to admit I owned a copy of Meatloaf's melodrama, Bat out of Hell ~ or that I rather liked this particular album. Ditz liked it too. No the lyrics aren't the best but at the time neither of us was actually listening to the lyrics. We used to dance round the kitchen to this song & Ditz, being Ditz, made far too much noise for us to hear much of anything but the driving beat. It came in handy while trying to explain the vagaries of counterpoint to Ditz because I didn't really understand them myself but I pointed out it was a bit like the end where 2 singers are singing two different things & to drive my point home I got Ditz to sing one part while I sang the other. Not the best sound! lol.

But I discovered something. Ditz thought it was fun. It became our standard game as we drove round the island because Ditz could barely make it round once when we began but over time she learned to ignore what I was doing & focus on her part until both of us dissolved in giggles. Now Ditz rarely has problems holding her own part in choir & I must admit I get a dreadful glee out of that fact when I think of the 2 of us careering round the island screeching out Meatloaf at the top of our lungs. Just like I snigger every time Jan or Althea or Alison has Ditz doing a difficult part over & over & over because each & every time I have this mental vision of Ditz's first piano lesson : I can't, said Ditz. It's too hard'; I'll never be able to do that. And every time she got a new piece we heard the same sad refrain ~ until we pointed this out to her! Now she's not game to open her mouth no matter what she thinks.

Yep, it's been a funny old journey to the music forum but boy has it been a fun ride!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Just a little bragging on Ditz.

“The only thing better than singing is more singing.” Ella Fitzgerald

About 14 years ago I got given this little dynamo in a red~headed package & I must say the whole house thought she was just the ants pants & tended to spoil her terribly so it isn't a big surprise to find Madam is a supremely confident young lady. She got a large dose of smarts too & the bane of my life is dealing with a child who uses those smarts to pretend she's dumber than a dog's dinner. Frustrating? You have NO idea!

I'm still in a state of shock that what began as an adjunct to her math lessons has turned into the consuming passion of Ditz's life but I'm grateful, you know. I mean, what would I have done if she'd turned out to be a science freak or a math wizz? Actually it's the math component of her music that gives Ditz trouble. She spent her whole flute lesson counting yesterday. 3/4 time. I understand turning 3/4 into 4/4 but I'm blowed if I know how Jan could pick that extra note even from the other side of the room! He was onto Ditz every single time & every single time I suspect Ditz had temporarily spaced out. Then at the end he tells the child she's doing really well; she just needs to learn to count!

No matter how hard Jan is on her or how often he pulls her up she just nods her head & tries again until she does what he wants. If I tried that with her math there would be a flood of tears. Ditz was pretty pleased with herself by the end of her lesson & I was pretty pleased with her too because she had worked hard & 30 minutes is a long time for Ditz to stay completely focused.

I think I suffer from the general idea in western society that music is a nice enough hobby but not something you do for a *real* job ~ or something. I mean, we didn't do music for music. We did music for math & because of that I chose an instrument for Ditz to learn; piano because my dear friend, Sian, was prepared to teach Ditz & there wasn't another music teacher of anything on the island in those days. Surprisingly Ditz actually likes the piano. When Ditz declared she wanted to learn violin, viola! God provided a violin teacher. Ditto flute. What none of us ever seriously considered was voice.

Initially I baulked at Ditz joining the school choir & when the teacher changed Ditz opted out because Ditz has always taken her music very seriously.

Then we literally fell into the Strawberry festival. We thought it was for instrument. It turned out to be for voice & that is how we met Alison & got involved in Vocal Manouevres & all the time I had in the back of my head how good this all was for Ditz's math. Perish the thought!

This is our second year with Vocal Manouevres & both years when Ditz has auditioned she's made the smaller elit choir & I've blithely put it down to the fact that Ditz is well behaved & respectful & you know, can carry a tune okay. I'm an idiot.

Alison doesn't just teach singing. She trains *vocal artists*. She doesn't have an ensemble of choir singers. She has *vocal artists* singing as an ensemble. She is now well enough known that just saying Alison has trained you will get you an audition. It is a really exciting time to be a part of the ensembles & naturally I thought Ditz was a pretty lucky bunny all round, especially given she hasn't had a proper voice lesson in her life.

So I'm quietly reading away in my corner, as I do, one ear sort of cocked for the , Girls, we have to lift our game, lecture [so I can reinforce whatever it is Alison wants at home] when I hear, I don't just take on a singer for a term; I take them on for life! Ditz was looking pretty horrified. Alison is pointing out everyone [except Ditz] does a half hour to an hour with her every single week individually before going on to say Ditz is incredibly gifted & talented musically because she is keeping up with that ensemble [& outdoing some of the others] despite the fact she isn't getting the same advantages. Shock! Horror! Gasp! Ditz turned a brilliant & unbecoming red but she was pleased. Words of affirmation are Ditz's love language. Affirm Ditz & she will do anything you want & she will take full advantage of the ad hoc lessons I am scraping together for her this term.

Getting Ditz back after she'd handed in her application form for private tuition was like being handed an open bottle of Champange after it's been thoroughly shaken. In a burst of confidence Ditz confessed she's felt under a lot of pressure to perform well & keep up just because she doesn't get private lessons. She's ready for that stretch now. I can sense that she wants more & is prepared to work hard. Twelve months ago Alison roaring at her & telling her what's what would have dissolved her into pure mush but twelve months & Ditz has decided Alison is a paper tiger she can deal with.

I'm just hanging on for the ride. I didn't sign up for this, you know. I signed Ditz up for a math lesson. Funny the way God works things out, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Whisper when I'm near her...

After a good heart' she said, 'the least a woman can do is pick a face she fancies. Men's so much alike & many so sorry, that's the very least.' Jessamyn West

My Liddy is absolutely gorgeous, both inside & out. People are attracted to her. That's just the way things are. Drives Ditz crazy but she loves Liddy too so she has a conflict of interest.

Boys have flocked like bees to a honeypot but my Lid is fussy & she took to heart [waaay back in grade 4] my lecture on *special* friends being for adults & not for children playing at being adults. She has waited for that special someone to enter her life.

I'm not sure I'm ready for this stage of life. It makes me antsy. Women's lives are so often determined for good or ill by the man they choose & I have some reservations ~ & not about the young man concerned. Nope, I know my Lid & the first thing to know about Lid is that she's as malleable as butter & as sweet as sugar until you run up against her foundational beliefs & then all of a sudden you find yourself shipwrecked on an iceberg & sinking fast.

The second thing to know about Lid is she's a debater. And she never backs down. And she's my daughter. The first rule of debate in this house is support your argument. Many an admirer has run aground on this one. I never debate Liddy unless I'm absolutely certain I will win because she never backs down & she never concedes defeat. Months after a debate she will resurrect it having found new evidence to support an untenable position. Like I said...Can you imagine living with that?

I have a stop in my mind but is it just the reluctance of a doting mama to let her grown daughter fly the coop or is that my 6th sense sending alarm bells ringing because something is not ringing quite true?

Frankly I wouldn't marry Lid for all the tea in China. Most of the time it's smooth sailing but there are hidden rocks, strong undercurrents & dangerous eddies. Liddy is nowhere near as sweet & indecisive as many people think she is. She does not bend. She does not give in. She does not concede defeat. In certain areas there is no such word as compromise in her dictionary. Ok, I know none of us are perfect but what do you do with the child who describes herself as the perfect daughter?

I feel for this boy, I really do. I'm not sure he's strong enough for Lid & living with perfection is a real trial. I should know. I've been doing it for 20 odd years.

I ♥ my doona.

Whoever invented teenagers, invented the Doona. Marian McGuiness.

I love my doona. These have to be the best invention ever for a busy mother with multiple children.

Firstly they do away with that annoying top sheet that has to be tucked in & which invariably gets kicked out during the night & needs to be tucked in again in the morning.

Secondly they are lightweight but warm, completely machine washable & no harder to launder [& usually considerably easier] than a standard blanket.

Thirdly, & this was the clincher for me, even a very small child can make their bed when all they have to do is wrest a doona into some sort of order.

Quilts come with eiderdown & can be a right royal pain in the whatsit to launder if you have a sick child but the modern doona, filled with polyester, is almost undestroyable. We have a variety of throws for those nippy winter nights when you want to drape something across your legs but my kids will invariably lug their doona out & snuggle under it. I know they're good. Given a choice between a rug & a doona Issi always chooses the doona!

So when Pillow Talk dropped the price of their single doonas down to just $25~ I took full advantage of it. Spare doonas are a must & these fold up into a large pillow & can be stored like that in their own pillow case.

For the first years of our marriage Dearest & I attempted to share a doona. As we both tend to wrap ourselves in our bedding we invariably spent the night fighting over the doona. Now our bed has two single doonas on it & we both get a good night's sleep. Well, I get a good night's sleep. Dearest invariably has a squabble with the cat who thinks the second doona is his.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum. ~Graycie Harmon


Arian ni Morrigu.

I love to write. It's my way of dealing with all the people who live inside my head. Some of them have been round a long time & I would miss them if they suddenly departed.

Writing is not quite ~There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith ~ but it sometimes comes pretty close. It's more a case of sitting down & describing the movie playing in the background.

Ari wasn't the first person in this saga & hers wasn't the first *picture*. C.S. Lewis describes seeing a faun trotting through the wood, his first *picture* of Narnia. Mine was of an old woman sitting by the fire having found something in the fire one doesn't normally find in fires ~ a song. I did not say that the movie was logical or sensible or even slightly sane but that's what I *saw* & I thought is was interesting enough to go looking for what this was all about. What I found was Ari.

What is interesting is Ari has been around for more than 20 years, before my first child was born, certainly before Ditz bounced into my life. So does art imitate life or does life imitate art because Ari is my redheaded bard, my rather clever, bad tempered bard. I wouldn't wish Ari on anyone, certainly not on her ollamh, Diarmuid. Their squabbling has stalked my dreams for years.

I know not all writers see things & I'm sure it sounds quite mad to anyone who doesn't live with a crowded house full of tenants who have taken up squatter's rights inside their head but as I can't remember a time when I didn't have half a dozen people stalking about in there, numerous conversations going on that have nothing to do with me & a bird's eye view of a landscape that doesn't exist in this or any other world it all seems perfectly normal to me.

I actually don't mind my uninvited tenants. Most have become friends over the years whom I know very well but my youngest brother had some very uncomplimentary things to say about people who keep such fun people to themselves. I see his point but I had a houseful of children & was homeschooling on & off for years before it became a way of life & the reality is there isn't a great deal of time, not to write, but for the much more painful process of rewriting & editing because that is the part of writing I loathe with a passion. I enjoy the creative process, spilling the rush of images onto pristine paper, watching & listening to where the story is headed but going back over it, plugging the holes in the plot, streamlining it, fixing glaring errors ~ that's plain hard work; exhausting work. It requires a clear head & uninterrupted time, 2 things rare in a busy household.

I keep scribbling away, often poetry because poerty was my first love, & year by year the children grow older. When Ditz finally flies the coop what excuse do you think I can find for not getting on with the business of hard work versus the creative process?

Tuesday Trivia.

"The time has come,"/ the Walrus said,"/To talk of many things:/Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--/Of cabbages--and kings--/And why the sea is boiling hot--/And whether pigs have wings." Lewis carrolBack in the days Dearest had an oyster farm & periodically our kitchen would be alive with blue~ringed octopi. Now my kitchen is no place for blue~ringed octopi. Despite the fact that my brothers used to keep these things in a salt water tank [whence they escaped & roamed the house to be found months later dried up & shriveled in obscure corners] I am not particularly fond of octopi. One of these little beauties can kill you in a matter of minutes & by the time you see the beautiful blue rings it is probably too late. There is no cure for the choice little chemical [tetrodotoxin] the blue~ringed octopus' salivary glands produce. Chances are you will never even see it until you've stepped on it. It's a rather dull brown colour normally. I believe tetrodotoxin is similar to the chemical in puffer fish ~ which is why you shouldn't eat them either.

However octopi are interesting. For one thing they are smart. They're up there in the chain of things that don't have backbones with a well developed brain. In California in 2009 an octopus pulled on a valve & flooded the Santa Monica Pier aquarium & they've been filmed opening jars that have food in them. They've got their priorities right; food first.

Certain things about octopi have become pretty well known ~ mouth like a parrot's beak, blue blood, & 3 hearts [1 to pump blood round the body, 1 each to pump blood through each gill.] but did you know each tentacle has its own brain, all co~ordinated by a centralized brain in the head? Gives a whole new dimension to multiple personalities!

A mature female Giant Pacific Octopus has an amazing 28o suckers on each tentacle, will mate just once [ really weird mating habits which are far too gross to discuss on a family friendly blog] & won't eat while guarding her 150 000 eggs ~ which may account for her then dieing. The blue~ringed octopus' clutch only contains 50 eggs, which is a pretty good thing. I know they're rare & they're pretty but they remain one of the most venomous & deadliest things on the planet. Strangely blue~ringed octopi aren't recommended pets for salt water tanks. Wonder why?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Monday Memories.

Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions. ~Oliver Wendell HolmesNew term. I have a desk bowing under curriculum & our umbrella school has a list of requirements that must be met. There are books to be read, maps to be mapped, diagrams & quizzes, outcomes to meet & goals that have been set & all just for Ditz but sometimes I wonder why I bother. I really do.

We should be unschoolers. I can't; I just can't, ok. Unschooling is way to scary but unschooling is what we should do because in amongst all the *required* stuff there is the other agenda; the Ditz agenda. You heard me correctly. That would be the school~is~boring~I~don't~want~to do~that~do~I~have~to? Ditz.

I actually sort of like this other Ditz. This Ditz is a mini~me with a lot more sass. I gotta wonder about this child though. In the middle of church the child turns to me & goes, 'This is what I want to learn about this term.' Not the time!

Besides, I think scratching my head over her *list*, we've done Roman Numerals. However I think when we did Roman Numerals Ditz didn't have a purpose for them & let them fall through the holes in her head. She's got plenty of those so they disappeared fast. Now, however, Ditz is cross because she can't work out which chapter she's in in all those books that use Roman Numerals instead of regular ones & naturally it is all my fault because why didn't I make her learn them back in the day? Why indeed? Couldn't possibly have anything to do with my student by any chance? Hm? Hm?

OK, so we get to learn about Roman Numerals ~ again. I can do Roman Numerals. It's algebra I think is stupid & incomprehensible but then I don't want to build things where I have to guess anything. Then my beautiful, wonderful, sassy, intelligent Ditz turns to me & says, 'And gypsies. I want to learn about Gypsies.' Not a problem. I can do Gypsies. I wait. There's always a catch to these things & one day, when Ditz goes, I bet you don't know, she will be right. I won't know...but it wasn't yesterday.

'I bet you don't know what Gypsies were first called?' Egyptians. Ditz is used to me & not about to be defeated at the first hurdle. She has armed herself with spare ammunition. 'Well, I bet you don't know what else they were called?' Zyganni. Romany. [Yeah, I know. It's sad the stuff I know.] 'Well, I bet you didn't know...' but what my bright, intelligent, witty, sassy Ditz hasn't quite fathomed yet, because the prospect is just too horrifying, is that her mind is very like mine; A small matter of genetics which belongs to that other field of little interest to Ditz, science.

I can probably tell her more off the top of my head about gypsies than she'll ever want to know ~ & for the same reasons as she's interested. It the thick [very think] A4 spiral~back notebook, one of several floating around this house & marked PRIVATE in large letters & decorated with skulls & crossbones & threats of what will happen to anyone who disregards the PRIVATE warning is The Book! This is Ditz's best seller a la Harry Potter [& probably derived from that source] & about to send me broke keeping my wanna be author supplied in lined notepaper. She hasn't worked her way up to the keyboard & ink stage yet.

People, I am drowning in paper but do you think I can worm one intsy~teensy tiny bit of creative writing out of Ditz to send in with her English work? Nope! Not a one. Boring. Dull. The sad thing is I get this. I actually really, really do. See paragraph 6. Actually, sadly, I get a lot of Ditz. Why should she have to do math she will never use because it is supposed to be good for her? Why should she write book reports when she will never write another book report in her life? Mind you I'm not allowed to nab one of her CV's [that she's put together all by herself] for the non~fiction aspect of her English either. Why should she share a work in progress? She knows as well as I do sharing an unfinished work kills it deader than a doornail. Frankly, Ditz's agenda is far more intrinsically interesting than the set curriculum ~ & far more useless. That's the rub, isn't it? All the really interesting stuff is completely useless. I mean, what do you do with a lot of extraneous knowledge about gypsies & the life cycles of dragons? Oh, right, you write best sellers. *smacks head* Silly me!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Blogitty~bloggity Blog, Blog.

“Yes, blogging is entertainment. It is performance. Each blog post a show, sometimes an opera, sometimes a 30 second commercial. Like a show, it may start with a bang, lead you along from song to song, have a great climatic moment, then leave the audience wanting more.” Lorelle Van Fossen

So why do you blog? What is it about blogging that keeps you posting, week after week?

I was thinking about this because, you know, all my friends live in the computer. Well, not quite, but that's how it seems sometimes. I log on each morning in happy anticipation of hearing from *friends* from all round the world.

When I began blogging 3 years & 2 crashed blogs ago, I wasn't expecting anyone at all to read here so I was writing primarily to amuse me, & only me, but against all expectations people do ~ read that is. I have been richly blessed by the lives, so different from my own, that I have had glimpses in to.

We live, from choice, in a very small, intellectually isolated community. Visually it is stunning; like living in the country in many, many ways but I miss being part of a university campus with the give & take of ideas, the easy access to culture & information, the library...! Boy do I miss the library. Our library is tiny so thank the good Lord for inter~library loans!

In the maze of years that compromise my life we began homeschooling & suddenly I found I had a computer. I had Internet. I had access to sooo much information. What I didn't have was a single other person I knew in real life who homeschooled their child. Seriously. Not one single other person. My kids felt like freaks. Ditz still suffers from freak syndrome.

Initially we used the State Distance program because that's all Dearest knew & I didn't know enough myself to convince him there were better choices out there but at my fingertips I had all this information: homeschooling forums & homeschooling blogs & curriculum suppliers & HSLDA ~ link after link after link & there was little old me sitting in my little island pond, overwhelmed, sifting through all this with my jaw dragging along the ground & not a little touch of envy.

Church too: suddenly I wasn't the only Quaker I could talk too. I could read what other Quakers around the world were thinking, the concerns on others' hearts, how the Lord was leading others. I became aware that the Lord was calling people out of mainstream churches into home churches, or small community churches or non~denominational churches & that amongst all the Christians being called to a plainer, simpler lifestyle there was a resurgence amongst Quakers to plain dress, plain speech, simple living & a Christ centered approach.

So blogging became my fishing line. I baited it with a little of this & a little of that because I have a flibberty~gibbert mind that skitters from subject to subject randomly & patiently waited to see what, or who, bit. I am quite shy & introverted ~ except in writing. Writing is my natural medium. I am very comfortable using the written word & so I never wanted one of those oh so worthy blogs full of good instruction & streamlined to cover one subject area in great depth. Things, meh. What interests me is people. I'm interested in what people are passionate about, the things that are important enough to them to write about, how they live their lives, what they believe, how they cope. Blogging is a way to reach out, make connections, share space. That it is such an international community is an added bonus for me.

It is through blogging I have got to know other homeschoolers, other Quakers & people so different from me I wish I could peel their brain like an orange & investigate it segment by segment. Don't worry. I'm far too squeamish to literally do that but the idea is there.

So why do you blog?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Just chit~chat.

Ssssh. We're still on holidays...but guess what I busted Ditz doing yesterday? Reading her poetry text! Be still my beating heart!

So our break is nearly over & Monday sees the madness start all over again. On the plus side the new math program arrived on Friday & I am overjoyed. Ditz should be able to knock this over in a week or so, freeing our schedule for more interesting things.

I actually feel rather at a loose end on break, especially winter break when it is too miserable to do anything much but attach myself intravenously to the computer. Our schooling schedule gives definition to my days & something interesting to do with my time. [Yes, I know the house could do with looking at but that is nowhere nearly as interesting as the gruesome things Nero did with Christians.] Ok, I sorted out the linen cupboard & the upstairs area for the next building project but it just doesn't give me the same sort of a thrill as finding my child knows what a metaphor is & can actually use one! It just doesn't, ok. I'm odd that way. Nope, shopping doesn't do it for me either despite the fact we did another trip & Ditz was actually getting into the whole, let's try stuff on thing ~ at least she was until everything she liked didn't fit & the largest size was in L womens. Even explaining it was Chinese sizing & meant for tiny little women without hips & busts did not mollify her feelings. She was mortified & the last thing I need is the child obsessing about a. her weight or b. her seize.

We got home from shopping to find Dearest in a tizz because Iss had lost the plot & had nearly killed him tangling round his feet because when we go out on a Friday Iss worries we're not coming back again & starts behaving in neurotic ways guaranteed to drive whoever's round completely batty. For some reason he was particularly psychotic this week. I'd like to know what goes on his brain sometimes because he wouldn't let Dearest into bed a couple of nights. Very funny. I woke up to Dearest trying to reason with the cat about moving over & sharing the bed! When Iss does finally move it's to plonk himself on top of me protectively & glare balefully at all comers. Not the brightest crayon in the box, that cat. He thinks he owns me, which couldn't possibly be true now, could it!

And true to form, now the holidays are nearly over the sun is peeking out, the mercury's starting to rise & the days are promising to be glorious from Monday on! If it wasn't for Ditz's music I'd shift our holidays to match the weather but we are tied to her music, even more so this term as I have lined up a couple of private voice lessons ~ which is sort of making Ditz nervous but excited at the same time. It's a delicate balancing act this not spooking my extroverted but very sensitive child while still encouraging her to take a risk & reach her full potential. She is very good at hiding her light under a bushel & must have a bit of Ostrich in her if she thinks any of us actually believe she's as dumb as she makes out!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Little House Longtime Passing.

Most of the story of Longtime happened before I was born. Yet, because Longtime made me whatever I am, it is my story; & that is the way I must tell it. I must tell it all, even to the earliest coming of the white man to this secret country. Hesba Brinsmead ~ Longtime Passing.Some writers have better publicists than others ~ or something ~ which is the only way I can explain why some books ever even get printed. Sometimes good books get printed yet others, equally good, do not receive the same acclaim or exposure. I guess the public is fickle.

Reading around, especially on homeschooling blogs, I hear again & again how great the Little House books are ~ & they are ~ but they are not the only books out there dealing with pioneering trials & tribulations so I am going to discuss the Aussie equivalent ~ Longtime Passing.

This may interest those who like a compare & contrast because exploration of Australia was a long, slow & painstaking process thwarted by one simple geological fact: The Great Dividing Range.

Without touching on the obscure & little known mishaps of European settlers who may or may not have preceded the founding of Britain's penal colony at Port Jackson in 1788, the first colony was built beside what is now known as Sydney Harbour & for quite some time settlements were built north or south because going west was nearly impossible. From north to south along Australia's eastern seaboard lies that formidable mountain range known as The Great Divide. Not the tallest mountains in the world. Not the most rugged. Not the coldest. Not the most impenetrable. But these mountains proved themselves formidable to would be intrepid explorers.

They may be the oldest mountains in the world. In practical terms this means they are well eroded & when rock is well eroded the soft stuff goes first & only the hard stuff remains ~ leading to deep un~navigable gorges, weird outcroppings, dead ends, blind gullies, & sudden sheer cliff faces. Going in a straight line is not remotely feasible.

Going in a straight line should not be a problem with a good compass but only some~one who has never had the Australian bush close in on them would think that. Long, long history of people lost in the Australian bush & very few are ever found again. For years the Blue Mountains were feared to be completely impassable. Anyway it took until 1813 before Blaxland, Wentworth & Lawson found their way across the Great Divide & things like roads & accommodation were still decades away.

Ah, yes, the Australian bush! Made up predominately of eucalyptus trees, commonly known as *gums*. I believe there are something like 2 000 different varieties though as one English visitor once tartly remarked, having seen one variety, why would you ever want to see another? lol. The thing with gums is they are mostly hardwood. Not easy to hack your way through a forest of eucalypt ~ & that's before you consider that choice variety known as *ironbark* ~ for a reason.

It is into these mountains, this terrain, the Truelance family comes to make their home. The Blue Mountains west of Sydney is some of the loveliest country in the world. The views are breath taking, the Candlebark country its rainforest heart. Just getting in or out was a feat in & of itself. The children, of necessity, did their lessons with mother at the kitchen table.

This story is semi~autobiographical, based on Hesba Brinsmead's own childhood & recollections, in the same way that Laura Ingallss Wilder based her books on her family history. This makes them uniquely authentic & though the time is round about the 1920's the Candlebark area was so isolated & the living conditions so difficult it actually has the feel of a much, much earlier time.

The books are out of print but still available second hand on~line for a quite reasonable price.

A little illusion.

Illusion is the first of all pleasures. Oscar Wilde.I enjoy the sort of art that teases the mind. Not the sort that moves & hurts the eyes but the sort that sees reality in 2 different ways. It amuses me.

I think it's very clever.

I enjoy the shift in reality; the point at which a thing becomes something else.

Or in looking at one thing something hidden is suddenly revealed.
I have trouble with geometrics but I can always find faces. They're good, aren't they?