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...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lookee what I found!

The prototypes of strong sensation: blazing lights, red earth, blue sea, mauve twilight, the flake of gold buried in the black depths of the cypress; archaic tastes of wine & olive, ancient smells of dust, goat dung & thyme, immemorial sounds of cicadas & rustic flute. Source unknown.

They fly in at night. Usually they are small & black. Occasionally we get a whopper like this. I released him outside but we have so many hungry birds no doubt he's been someone's breakfast by now.

My mummy loves me.

Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all. Proverbs 31:29

Isn't that a great picture?! Now we know where Ditz gets some of her quirkier attributes! My mother is a quiet woman who loves order & routine so goodness knows how she's managed with Ditz for a week!

It has been really hard to get away this year with all the other stuff going on round here but all things remaining equal & God willing Liddy will drive me north this afternoon so I can spend some time with my mother.

Our family rapidly diminished in the course of a few short years & what was left scattered to far corners yet the only birthday Ma has ever forgotten has been mine! Well, perhaps forget isn't quite the right word. Failure to post is more like it. My entire household was laying bets on what had happened & how long it would be before their ma realised her blunder. It was cause for great merriment because Ma is as reliable as a plumb bolt with the memory of a elephant. It was inconceivable that she forget a birthday, let alone the birthday of her only daughter!

Ma's been a great grandmother! It's a testimony to her devotion that all her grandchildren, most of whom are grown big enough to make their own decisions in these things, choose to visit her pretty regularly. Now Liddy is driving she goes up several times a month, often taking Ditz or Dino with her. If it's not her siblings it's friends from church & ma just sets up another bed & lays another place at the table. Given how much teenagers eat that is phenomenal love on her part. I should know. I feed them often enough myself.

Chatting with Ditz last night I was informed they were having vegetarian stir~fry for tea ~ & she was ravenous! That's the thing about my mother. She remembers everyone's favourite foods, favourite colours, their funny little quirks & ways so when I visit there is dark bitter chocolate in the fridge, marinated asparagus & brie cheese on the table at lunch, and anything ma has read & thinks I might enjoy set aside for me. She keeps ginger snaps on hand for Liddy & noodles for Ditz. She takes us to the beach so we can walk for miles & miles beachcombing for shells & out to restaurants.

Yes, she spoils us terribly...& you can bet Issi knows it. He sniffs suspiciously at the merest hint of a bag. His eyes get that *if looks could kill* glare. Dearest is girding his loins for the fray. He swears black & blue that cat sits in the driveway for 3 days every time I go away waiting for me to come home. Every time anyone goes out in the car he expects them to return with me ~ & is mighty miffed when they don't. Sad to say, I miss Iss too. He's got such a big personality he leaves quite a hole when he's not around.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Musical Children.

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance. Franklin P. Jones Today Queensland State Schools go back. Ditz does not. Ditz is still up at her ma's ~ & there she will stay for at least another week & a half. Yes, we have had a really, really long break ~ but I think we needed it. I'm actually not sure when we are officially supposed to start again but no matter. Eventually we will. A little more maturity on Ditz's part for year 10 would be nice but as that seems unlikely I guess we work with what we have.
Meanwhile we have been playing *musical children* ~ a bit like musical chairs except we don't normally sit on the children. Exceptions have been known. Theo came ~ & Theo went. Liddy & Ditz went. Dino arrived. Dino's girl friend arrived. Girlfriend left; Liddy arrived; Dino goes today; Liddy & I leave tomorrow. The cat's having a breakdown.

The girlfriend necessitated a bed. Ditz's room was the best option. Wonderful! An excuse to actually clean it. Visual/spatials are just messy. They spread horizontally. It's not that there's no order. They usually know perfectly well where everything is. It's just it's not tidy & becomes impossible to clean. I had asked all hols to wails & protests that I wasn't to touch but there reaches a point, you know. My point had been well & truly reached & I do try not to meddle because I really do understand personal space & the need for privacy but think if Child Welfare ever walked into Ditz's room ~ or the health & safety inspectors! At least now I can see the floor.

And the bed gets made once a year. Yeah, Ditz lives in her bed. I think it's a teenage thing. The funny thing is Lid complains bitterly about Ditz's mess but she is as bad, if not worse; just different mess. Ditz at least puts her clothes away & her shoes on the rack. Her clutter tends to be several piles of books: what she's reading, what she's read, what needs to go back to the library; 4 A4 notebooks, the thickest ones we can get for her writing [plus 2 dictionaries & both thesaurus because the first 2 got buried & rather than look for them Ditz just got another 2!]; several different sized art pads for her art; the water colour pencils, the colouring pencils, the drawing pencils, the coloured pens & inks, 6 different rubbers & as many sharpeners [No wonder I can never find either!]; 7 sorts of scissors [don't ask!]; the sticky tape [wondered where that had got to] & one of 3 staplers because I can never find one of those either & all the pots of glue. She's the creative sort, my Ditz.

Liddy on the other hand ~ well it would never occur to her to make that much mess in an artistic endeavour but she is a busy little beaver & always has something on [she walked up Mt Warning for Australia Day!] so she walks in her room, discards one outfit [on the floor] puts on another, spreads the tent & the picnic stuff, the rucksack & the drink bottles that are in constant use because what is the point of putting them away when you will need them again so soon? And so we go until I go rank & demand she sort out the mess so I can put what needs to go through the wash through the wash & everything else where it belongs. You know it's bad if I'm going rank because I'm a Ditz. I spread horizontally, books & papers , school stuff & artwork & whatever I put down on top of it when I got distracted: coffee cups, plates, the cat's worming tablets.

I am not talking dirt here, people. UGH! No we're not filthy pigs rootling about in a sty but tidiness does not come naturally & none of us like a *work~in progress* to be disturbed. If we're painting the easels & canvases, turps & thinners, paints & brushes stay put until we're done. Ditto what we're reading ~ or writing. You just never know when inspiration might strike & you need that stay bit of paper NOW! Which reminds me: Dino leaves today & there is a pile of rods, tackle, rope [3 different sorts], buckets, crab pots & nets strewn over my veranda & I need to go hustle somebody to sort it before he goes. Hey~ho, hey~ho, it's off to hustle I go...

Monday, January 25, 2010

While I'm at it...

Good children's literature appeals not only to the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child. ?
Has anyone read these? I read a lot of these horsey type stories despite the fact I never ever wanted to own a pony. Lorna Hill does them a little better than average. She has the knack of creating extremely likable characters. Hill is, however, far better known for her Sadler Wells stories set in what became the Royal Ballet School & while I have read some of them I never found the characters as engaging as the *Patience* stories. Even so Lorna Hill is extremely readable ~ enough to have me chasing down 2nd hand copies of those of her books I truly enjoyed.

Elfrida Vipont is another favourite of mine though neither plot nor characterisation is as strong as Hill's work & nothing like as brilliant as Antonia Forest. Her characters, while likable enough, tend to be a little flat & two dimensional. What I do like about her work is she has a real feel in places for a *sense of place* & she conveys very well an understanding of Quakerism for children. There is a sense of *Quiet* about her work that seems sprung out of the very silence of Meeting. The other thing that has always attracted me to her work is that unlike many Christian children's authors she explores the issues of conflict between faith & Art, with a capital A. Many of her central characters have artistic tendencies ~ singers or actresses mainly~ & one thing the Arts definitely need more of are people of morals & faith. I find it particularly intriguing as for many years Quakers were very opposed to all the artistic endeavours ~ a theme partially developed in The Lark In The Morn.

Apart from Good Reads for reviews, sometimes, a site I return to again & again [these things take time & gosh have they been slow!] is GGB ~ who are busily, albeit slowly, republishing many terrific but out of print girl's book ~ & sometimes this one because they are doing the same thing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Two impossible things I don't believe.

" Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast..."
Lewis Carrol.

I subscribe to Hamlet's philosophy ~ More things in heaven & earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy ~ so I was always the nerd, the geek, with just enough sporting prowess & social nuance to save me from complete social ostracism throughout school but the fact remains, I'm a geek. I forget to feed people; learning to cook early was a survival strategy in this house. I cook with a book to hand & I can assure you it's not the cookbook! I burn food because I forget I'm supposed to be cooking it, not incinerating it. I cook amongst tubes of oil paints, turps & thinners. I fail to see dust bunnies [who on earth looks under furniture unless they've dropped the spare change?]. I develop neurosis about quite ordinary things like driving into Brisbane but I can give you a point by point critique of poems you've never heard of, books you've never read, obscure artists & dead civilisations. I've been known to submerge so far into my writing my sons have dismantled the house about me without me noticing.

I am aware this makes me something of an oddity in any sort of social setting. Who on earth wants to discuss the price of cabbages & how many ways you can cook beans when someone has just postulated a brand new theory on what the Romans were doing in Britain in 2ndBC? And why on earth would you interrupt such a fascinating diversion to eat?! I know this is not considered good social etiquette even in secular circles. Amongst Christians, especially Christians of the Titus2 ilk, it practically puts me beyond the pale. [BTW, do you want to know the origin of the saying, beyond the pale, because I can tell you?]

Just so you know, I am aware of my failings in the area of practical living. It's true I spend far too much time in my head chasing dead red herrings. I have a head full of information that contributes nothing tangible to any one's existence & give very little consideration to how best to manage my home because on the whole the house manages very well without me, being a house & an inanimate object & all. I do not consider myself any one's role model. In fact, the mere thought horrifies me.

That being said, Dearest cheerfully passes his thorny theological questions over to me & I spend many happy hours researching, comparing, analysing because, let's face it, it's what I do best. In amongst all the other clutter in my head I have neat files on theology, scripture, Jewish culture, Roman idiosyncrasies & allied matters. I have been referred to on occasion as *the walking encyclopedia* ~ not a term applicable in the areas of math or science but I'm good for archaeological cross~referencing, obscure scriptural quotes & the sort of background trivia that would serve me well on a trivia challenge show. Got a question? I'm your gal ~ & if I don't know I know how to find out!

There is nothing in the least special about what I do. If you can read & think you can cross reference; you can research; you can draw conclusions from the evidence. Dearest relies on me to tidy his ideas into some sort of order. If I find out anything interesting I enjoy sharing. I enjoy sharing the insights God gives me with our little home group too. Yep. I'm still the one most likely: to know the physical specifics of crucifixion [trust me; you don't want to know]: which ethnic group the Galatians were affiliated with: where to find the meaning of that root Hebrew word. It's not that I have the time so much as that's the way my mind works. I am easily diverted from cleaning the loo by such things. I will happily rabbit on forever given the least encouragement. Ask my kids ~ who don't encourage me! For me it's just the gift the Holy Spirit gave me & where I operate most comfortably. The people I really admire are those with the gift of helps; those down~to~earth practical types who can see a need & meet it with practical applications. I just stand in awe & gape. [Isn't gape a lovely word?!]

Today's meeting, wherein I read a half dozen scriptures on the Holy Spirit, made a couple of comments & then opened it up for discussion was rather dominated by the more self~confident & opinionated members & with 5 of us busily bandying ideas about it was far too easy for our 2 quieter members to sink into obscurity. I am very sensitive to this realising it can be very hard for less secure people to make themselves heard [as I learnt in Uni] so I double~checked they were fine before we rounded things up.

Dearest & I are in agreeance that we need to try & keep everyone on the same page, so to speak. I was shocked to be told that our Sundays are giving everyone much to think about during the week & that they are once again excited about the scriptures & eagerly delving into God's word for themselves. I was shocked to find that I amaze anyone, let alone anyone in our little home group who are all amazing people themselves. I am also humbled, extraordinarily so, that anything God has used me for has actually mattered. Don't ask me why, but I always think my contributions are far to small to be of any consequence to anyone!

Cheerfully catching up with my beloved Indian friend over lunch & chatting homeschool because this year she will have 3 to teach, she reminded me that I had assured her that if I could homeschool anyone could do it. I'm pretty sure I told her more than once. She eventually took the plunge & found that yes, she too can homeschool successfully! Apparently I am her inspiration. It is a sobering thought. I never aimed on being any one's inspiration in anything. It seems I am entering the *older women* category who are to refrain from much wine & teach the younger women how to love their husbands & children. Now there's a scary thought!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Only the Best Books for Children.

...'that which we are we are:
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by by time & fate but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, & not to yield.' Tennyson
Every so often an author comes along whose work pierces into one's very marrow leaving you breathless for more. It is rare in an adult work, even rarer in children's literature. It was my good fortune to stumble upon one of the most brilliant writer's ever for children while I was still a child & I still read her work with amazement & pleasure. Her name : Antonia Forest.

Antonia Forest is the name she chose to be known by as a writer, though it is not her private name. I will use it because it is the name I know her by & the other really doesn't matter. Intensely private, to the point even her publisher's didn't know her real name, Forest wanted to write for adults. She was rejected 3 times & turned to children's literature to *get a foot in the door*. She never did write that adult novel. It doesn't matter. The Cambridge Guide to Children's Books lists her in its first section on neglected works. She has been compared more than favourably with Arthur Ransome [Swallows & Amazons] & Noel Streatfield [Ballet Shoes] & even Jane Austen! I prefer her to all of them!

So what is it about Forest that makes her so good? Firstly I have rarely read an author with such a good grasp on character. Everyone agrees characterization is one of Forest's great strengths. All her characters, even quite minor characters, are fully developed 3~dimensional characters you'd recognize immediately if you bumped into them in the street, or the classroom or church. They have strengths & flaws in an interesting mix & they are juxtaposed with characters who think & act very differently. The honourable & oh so trustworthy Nicola, arriving at boarding for the first time & cautioned by her extremely large family not to create waves just because her sister is Head Girl, strikes up an immediate friendship with *Tim*, who thinks nothing of helping herself to the pears in the Head's private garden because, after all, she is the headmistress' niece & there should be some perks to that. Wavering between her family's indeterminate Anglicism & downright agnosticism Nicola's best home friend is old tradition Catholic. This juxtaposition makes for multi~layered personalities, multi~layered plotting, interesting subtexts & a whole plethora of historical information in passing. If it were not for Forest I would most likely never have heard of the Blessed Edmund Campion or Hakluyt. I first came across The Lyke~Wake Dirge in End of Term & the Bronte's imaginary world in Peter's Room. It makes me seem a lot better educated than I actually am!

Forest also has an exceptionally good ear for dialogue. I'll even forgive her use of outrageous slang in The Thuggery Affair, overtones of A Clockwork Orange's dialect. She is keenly attuned to the short pithy comments children instinctively pick up on & then bandy about as catch~phrases for weeks on end: Blood for breakfast; I am not my brother's keeper; one coughing bear.

Along with characterisation Forest has an unerring feel for the internal dynamics that drive large families & school friendships. Nicola's *Family Liking List* is outrageous & true enough to sting. Her twin's watery manipulation as the youngest of a long, long tail is both aggravating & funny. I find the tension between the need to maintain the *twin thing* & the need to be a separate individual of the two central characters particularly well drawn.

At least half of Forest's books are essentially school stories. I hate calling them that because they are so much more than your standard school story & Forest's greatest strength after characterisation is her grasp on reality. Nothing happens that is not essentially possible. This gives her books a hard gritty edginess that is unusual for children's books, especially children's books of the time Forest first began writing. The other books are set on the family farm but cover a range of interesting topics that quite simply fascinated & intrigued me: hawking; pigeon racing; The Brontes imaginary world; the British navy; English history...

Best of all she is subtle & just plain funny.

Miss Cromwell presented Nicola with a postcard & said, alarmingly genial, " Describe this to me."

Experience of Miss Cromwell suggested that that this apparently absurd order should be obeyed literally. Nicola said, " It's a card from Colebridge library ~ about overdue books~"

"So far, correct."

"They sent it to home & ~ it must be Rowan sent it on. She's put~" Nicola deciphered a sisterly scribble ~ "Action this day."

"Very apt. Go on."

"D'you mean you want me to read all the printed bit?"

"No. That can be taken as read."

"I don't~oh~you mean it's addressed to Miss K. Marlow? Well~ I expect they don't know she's married yet ~ & p'raps the book was out on her ticket ~ they do get mixed up~"

"Understandably. And suppose we now come to the particular objects of this exercise?"

"Oh, you mean the books," said Nicola, enlightened. "Ramage & ~oh!"

"Exactly Ramage I recall. Who brought back the Mask of Apollo?"

"It's a fair cop," said Nicola ruefully, a split second before it occurred to her that very few people indeed survived that kind of cheek with Crommie.

All my copies are in tattered pieces. They have been well loved & read to death. People who read Antonia Forest don't let their cherished copies go so second hand copies of her out of print books are rare & difficult to find. I think Penguin has been reprinting the school stories, which are not actually my favourites, but any port in a storm. This is an author not to be missed by anyone who loves & appreciates quality children's literature.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Little Family Business...

"In a houseful of toddlers and pets, you can start out having a bad day, but you keep getting detoured." ~Robert Brault
It has taken a while but I have defaulted to the way my system likes to work; I am awake most of the night & sleeping through the hottest part of the day. For preference I like to work when the house is quiet & the temperature is cool & I am undistracted by other things. Sadly I can't do it during term time or Ditz & I would never get anything at all done & Ditz, unfortunately has inherited her mother & grandmother's night owl tendencies. Being young she can burn her candle at both ends. I cannot.

Liddy is heading up to my mum's for her long weekend ~ with Ditz. Ditz will stay when Liddy comes back. Three days all on her lonesome ownsome with her ma. She doesn't know whether to be delighted or terrified! I will follow the following weekend & have my week with my mother. It has been some time since I got to spend any time with her but although I have done almost nothing all holidays, which has been completely lovely, there have been things happening to keep me tied to home.

Amongst those things are my sons, who drift in & out of the house constantly, mostly in just now because they haven't worked since before Christmas & suddenly my budget for 4 is stretched to the limit feeding 6. They can even out eat Lid, & she's no slouch in the food department. However while here Theo had me typing up his resume because he wanted to apply for a job on Hamilton Island. Theo is a qualified landscape/horticulturist & Hamilton is stunning. Having typed the resume I then found technically I was once again the most computer literate person in the house when it came to attaching things to e~mails & sending them. [Liddy is technically better but she was at work at the time so doesn't count.] Theo, who is a pretty good salesperson, successfully sold himself & flys out on Monday to take up his new position.

Dino has his own irons in the fire ~ mostly labouring work on the island so he can fish & crab to his little heart's content. He has lived on the mainland for work but his heart's never really been in it. He is an island boy so if he can get work here he will take it. If not he will continue with the landscapers he's been working for when they resume work ~ hopefully soon.

Liddy is doing all her prep for her Melbourne trip, which includes a full medical. So funny. Although we have asked several times when she's had blood tests done, no~one has ever actually told us her blood type. Now she needs to know & I am curious. Both Dearest & I have the same blood type, a negative & rareish, but if I understand my biology correctly [which is doubtful] Liddy may have a different blood group entirely.

Poor Ditz has had a pretty thin time of it; long periods of nothing interspersed with frantic activity. She has read a lot but like me the opportunity to do nothing much is rather a novel occupation ~though I think it is starting to wear thin now. We'll finish our break with our week at mum's & psyche ourselves up for the coming fray. It is going to be another big year. VM returns to Singapore in July. Guess we try again!

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Have A Cat.

Once, in Ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this. Anon

I have this cat; a big, boofy, sook of a cat who has been known to cry inconsolably when deprived of my company. I have a gentle loving moggy who guards me like a tiger but there is another side to Mr Issi. Mr Issi is something of a Jekyll & Hyde.

It is well known that cats chase things: mice & balls & pieces of string. The occasional cat will hunt snakes with single minded devotion. Very few will take on a full grown goanna. The largest goanna I've seen around here was over 8'. Ones between 4' & 5 ' are common ~ too big for most cats. Not for Iss apparently. Ditz reports that while Dearest & I were on the mainland last week Iss took a flying leap of our verandah to grab the tail of one of these monsters. The lizard, not surprisingly & taken unawares, shot up the nearest tree with Iss clinging determinedly to his tail.

I think my cat is short the full quid. A roo short in the top paddock. A slice short of a full loaf. Brainless. My neighbours are complaining. All our neighbours own dogs. Little yappy dogs. I'm not a dog person but I'm not adverse to dogs ~ just the little yappy pretend versions of dogs. Whatever. Live & let live is my motto but my neighbours will walk their dogs past our place, parading by as if they own the whole section.

Now Iss is an alpha male. I've never met a cat who is so determinedly territorial & the sight of all these little yappy things parading past his house with their tails in the air & their snouts to the ground fuels Issi's testosterone. He has spied out the land. He has found sniper positions. He has initiated guerrilla tactics. He knows the enemy & he knows where they live. At the appointed times he sneaks out of the house, takes up his position & waits...waits till the dog has passed him then leaps onto it's back. More than one dog has had a whole batch of kittens right there on the spot becoming completely hysterical.

My cat is quite wicked my neighbours tell me but I don't walk my cat past their houses with his tail carried high & his nose sniffing excitedly. [I take no responsibility for what Iss does himself.] Of course they could walk the other way but our end of the road has all the vacant paddocks where dogs can do their doggy business & they do all know Iss lives here. So do their dogs. The dogs are starting to sink to their bellies & drag at the leash anywhere near our place. I think Iss is a bit of a bully. Do they do reform school for cats?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bird Tales.

We don't have professional burglars here. We have opportunists. Gerald Cyetko. Guess who's been back, parading along my verandah rail as if he owned it?
He toddled along to where the bird feeder used to hang & had a jolly good look around. Thanks to him there is no feeder. It's in bits on the deck. I haven't fixed it because I thought our friend would be back & I definitely want to discourage him. He needs discouraging. Cockys are hugely destructive. However he turned himself upside down all the better to investigate underneath the rail & then he found the pieces. He stared as if he couldn't believe his eyes. He began screeching his displeasure ~ which happily attracted Issi's attention. Cocky removed himself to a nearby branch & continued to scold while Issi eyed him off.

We have a lot of birds round at present, partly because we provide a permanent water supply in the form of bird baths, & plenty of scrubby coverage for the little birds. Tiny 2" Finchs are feeding on the grass seed along the road verge. I have seen whistlers & flycatchers then Saturday I was abruptly woken from my *granny~nap* by a loud thump on the upstairs window. A lorrikeet had hit with some force & was sliding down our bottom roof in an untidy pile of feathers. While I was still contemplating whether I could venture onto the roof in an attempt to immobilize it while it recovered it scrabbled in the leaf litter in the gutter & tumbled over the edge. I was at the other window in a flash to see Issi pounce.

"Somebody grab the cat!" I screamed but both Ditz & Dearest had been following the series of upstairs thuds with interest & were well aware there was a bird in difficulties. Not that I think we really had to worry. Lorrikeets belong to the parrot family & like cockatoos are extremely aggressive & generally more than capable of defending themselves. Even dazed & brained with no idea he was upside down on his back the lorikeet let out an impressive hiss & showed Iss his talons. Iss did a back flip & slunk under the table, tail swishing unhappily. Ditz swooped up Issi & brought him inside where I distracted him with an early tea & after some drunken lurching around our verandah the lorikeet managed to get himself air~born again, though his landing was a little uncertain.

Doves & pigeons simply break their necks if they hit our windows & Iss drags them inside trying to convince us he's a big brave hunter but they are so stiff by the time Iss is game to approach them we can't help but laugh. Poor Iss looks so mortified. One year mating parrots hit together at such an angle they pierced the glass with their beaks! Not happy, Jan. No damage to the birds, of course, but we were up for a new sheet of glass.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Little Musical Education.

You can't be arrested for assaulting your own symphony ~ Christopher Lawrence.

Some of the best books to come my way have come via my friend, Siano: The Waterlily; The Handmaid's Tale; & now Swooning. With a title like that how could I resist?

Siano knows me well. I could be quoting from this little gem forever. This is the history that makes history interesting & why I am such a big fan.

Swooning was originally the title of Lawrence's morning breakfast show on ABC radio which caused quite a kerfuffle. There were letters to the paper protesting the off~colour jokes on air. No, Lawrence wasn't being indecent; he was quoting Mozart! Mozart was notorious for being obsessed with his nether regions; a trait that endeared him to Ditz when she was younger. While Ditz was giggling madly I was the one rolling my eyes.

What is so charming about this little book is the strange stuff Lawrence comes up with. What on earth would possess grown men, psychologists & PhDs in their field, to speculate about dead artist's IQs? That is just bizarre but speculate they apparently did postulating that Goethe & Michelangelo were in the rarefied echelons of 200 or so but for Mozart they wouldn't even hazard a punt because Mozart is seriously a one~off. He wrote his first symphony at just 8, which is rather impressive but what is majorly impressive is he could talk backwards ~ fluently! He could notate a complicated piece of music while composing another piece in his head & he could pun. Punning is hard to do well!

If you want to make your music history a little more exciting I would strongly recommend you get your hands on a copy of this book. Yes, you will probably want to pre~read & edit as necessary but it is so worth it. Lawrence's style is very easy to read & highly amusing. In this fashion he really brings all those long dead composers to life & shakes the dust from their frock coats.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Judge others by their questions rather than by their answers ~ Voltaire.

So what have I been doing? [Does this question make me self~obsessed? So Woody Allen!]

Playing. Apparently I am the blogging tech whizz. I am still howling with laughter. The thought of me being a whizz at anything technological is just too funny for words. That being as it may I have been helping Lid set up a new blog & showing her how to use the stuff I use. There is plenty I don't know & therefore don't use & I have the crashed blogs to prove it. Even so it appears I have learnt something ~ enough at any rate to give my daughter pointers.

I have been giving pointers long distance to my friend Siano. For a visual learner this is something of an exercise in complete psychotic meltdown because I can't actually *see* the problem & have to *imagine* it, then transfer what I *see* to type ~ which may or may not make sense to the receiver! Good thing Siano loves me & can read between the lines a bit.

Plus I have set up Dearest's which created a serious meltdown because I don't do HTML & had to go in & fiddle. I had visions of undoing months & months of work & crashing the whole thing but we have survived thus far without mishap & I have finally found my delete button which will make life so much easier. Don't ask. I at least know I'm no techno whizz.

Then I have been making ~ & discarding ~ masthead banners. I feel the need for a change & have not been real happy with anything I've put up so far. Yes, I love the LOTR one but I've used it before & it's sorta old. Expect a continued series until I decide on something ~ which is unlikely to be any time soon.

The computer is so time consuming. Who would have thought designing mastheads would be so all consuming ~ & so interesting! And I have to fend Ditz of. Good thing I've got nice pointy elbows & can type with them jabbing out at the necessary angle for fending off computer boarders.

It is summer but I stuck my nose outside briefly & was nearly carried away by mosquitoes, which are in plague proportions this year. Iss is disgusted with us all. Ah, summer daze...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Strange Celtic Interlude.

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery,, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing & anything similar...Gal 5:19/20

I read Galatians with a very particular mindset because Galatia in central Anatolia was the home of immigrant Celts & even in Paul's day displayed many Celtic features. Just reading that list of sins gives me the Celtic picture of a very particular people, a people whose women stood a foot or more taller than their Roman compatriots & weighed 50 to 100 pounds heavier with more muscle density & who boasted openly to the empress Julia Augusta that, "we fulfill the necessity of nature much better than Roman women do, for we have intercourse openly with the best, while you are abused secretly by the least." If you know your history that's a pretty fair statement.

I read Galatians with a complete sub~text that starts with The Tain. The Tain Bo Cuailnge, usually translated as the Cattle Raid of Cooley, is one of the best known of the Ancient Irish epics whose imagery & wording still contains vestiges of the oral tradition from which it came & internal evidence that gives a very clear picture of the culture & mindset of a long vanished people.

See scripture doesn't drop into a cultural vacuum. When Paul wrote to the Galatians he was writing to a people with a mindset similar to that of The Tain & in many ways that mindset is very similar to our own.

The Tain begins with a lady, a queen in fact. Her name was Medb & she had a husband named Ailill. I know; the names are a bit of a problem but together Medb & Ailill ruled Connaught in style. Now the interesting thing when you study the Celts, even dull things like Celtic law, is that unlike the Romans the Celts treated women with equality. They could be educated in the arts just like a man. They could be trained as warriors. They could own property, initiate divorce & rule. Think Bouddicca. They held a great deal of worldly power, especially if they belonged to the upper classes as Medb did.

Now there is a whole subtext to this story because women were seen as aspects of the land they ruled & portrayed as goddesses but I don't want to get in to all that as it gets pretty graphic, the Irish not being the least shy about bodily functions. Instead I will stick with Mebd being a semi~mythical queen who was probably based in some respects on a real woman. She ruled a warrior society which is to say a society where courage in battle, self~glorification, drunkenness, carousing & promiscuity were rife & seen as normal. People were quick to take insult, quick to anger & they held grudges.

The first time I came upon the Tain I read with my jaw hanging because here are Medb & Ailill, married to each other for years, having this marriage squabble about who brought what to the marriage & who is richer than whom. It goes on & on, as these things do, but in the end Medb has to concede Ailill is richer than she is because he owns the bull Finnbhennach. This is a stinger because Finnbhennach was born into Medb's herd but scorning to be owned by a woman transferred himself into Ailill's herd. Pride rears its ugly head even higher & Medb decides to even the marital scorecard by obtaining the Brown Bull of Cuilange. The only problem is the brown bull is owned by someone else. Daire, of Ulster.

Medb raises her army & heads into Ulster to carry off Donn Cuailgne, the brown bull. They are thwarted for some time by the Ulster hero, Cuchulainn, [whole cycle of stories about him too] who systematically works his way through Medb's army by issuing single combat challenges. There is so much pointless bloodshed but from a warrior society's viewpoint I guess the idea was to get their young men to emulate Cuchulainn. I just get bemused by it all. Anyway Medb manages to carry of Donn Cuailnge & carts him home where he promptly takes on Finnbhennach & the two bulls gore each other to death. A completely pointless exercise to my mind with no winners at all. Mind you the Celts are notorious for taking on lost causes.

They took on one at Galatia too, allowing themselves to be seduced by the judaizers, allowing law to supersede grace, seeing the freedom of the Spirit as an excuse for licentiousness. Being Celts they would have taken it to extremes. No half measures here. Paul knows it. It is in chapter 5 we find the beautiful list of the fruits of the spirit: 9 attributes against which there is no law. Several centuries later this same ethnic group are producing beautiful gospels like the Book of Kells, setting of on solitary evangelical missions to the unreached peoples of Europe, including the hardest & most vicious of all & the hardest to reach, the Saxons, & preserving through the darkest of times all the wisdom & accumulated knowledge of the times.

A little of nothing.

"'Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.' Abraham Lincoln"
Summer is our down time. We literally do very little. I very deliberately schedule nothing & allow long periods of time for watching movies, reading & playing on the computer because once we start most of our minutes are accounted for. Besides normally at this time of the year it is scorching hot, making it impossible to become overly enthusiastic about anything. We have been blessed this year with cooler temps & plenty of rain & I am just now, after close on 6 weeks, starting to feel like a normal person instead of the harried, frazzled, slightly demented being I feel for the better part of the year.

Life still does happen, albeit at a much slower pace. I took Dearest over to the mainland to renew his driver's licence. The motor registry is always packed like the proverbial sardine can meaning huge ques & long waits so it wasn't something either of us were looking forward to. It is always hard to cope with so much *people impact* when in your usual environment everyone gives you plenty of personal space though the *artificial environments* are a close second. Flickering fluros do nothing for either of us & the lack of greenery quickly has us soul hungry for the blue & green spaces of home. We see this in the kids too, even the boys who now live on the mainland. They come home & just sink into the natural spaces breathing deeply of those things not made of man that give respite to the soul.
Then our little home Church is doddering along though very quiet over the Christmas period & we have our regular readings on hold just now. Dearest has chosen some random readings & set me chasing down the Greek for the more difficult & obscure passages ~ which I happily did ~ only to find while I was pontificating away that a new member is a Classics & Literature scholar & his language is ancient Greek! I felt like a prize dork ~ but as he found nothing wrong with my scholarship & was able to clarify one or two points we had a very companionable time indeed. As it is the level of scholarship & teaching I struggle with so often in church it was a delight for me to to indulge in the exchange of ideas & thoughts in the way I was trained with someone who also instinctively thinks that way. Naturally we have read widely in the same areas & found plenty of common ground. To not have to backtrack to explain my sources each time I cross~referenced an argument was a simple pleasure too rarely experienced though I do have good Christian friends I go & rant to when I feel the need to have the old brain cells stimulated a little more than usual.

Then we spent an hour with the Beans because I had promised Little Miss Bean that Ditz & I would paint with her one day. We painted all right. Ditz got her hair painted & her face painted. The garage floor got painted. Beano paddled in the water & flooded the floor. We blew food dye round paper with straws & food dyed the floor. We made butterflies & did dot paintings & made an almighty mess that Mrs Bean is probably still trying to clean up though we did tidy up before we abandoned ship. I hope we get invited back after that.

We exchanged Dino for Theo. Same face, same activities & the fishy smell lingers. Meanwhile Dino rang with a list of crossword questions he was stuck on & rattled them off over the phone fully expecting mother to know all the answers. I'm amazing. Know them I did. I'm surprised he didn't ring his ma. Her vocab is as good as mine but her spelling is heaps better!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Tuesday's Trivia.

"God and other artists are always a little obscure. ~Oscar Wilde"

I dislike people who pontificate about art as if art & artists inhabited some rarefied stratosphere unattainable to ordinary plebs like me. Irks me no end. Irks me when I know jolly well artists were, & are, as prone to sin as the rest of us & often less shy about indulging it. I dislike it when people don't bother to form their own opinions but spit out the same tired old depthless drivel that can be found in any tourist guidebook when all the really interesting stuff can be found somewhere else...when people look but don't see.

Now I have that off my chest I adore Michelangelo's work ~ more particularly his latter work which strikes me as more impressionistic but let's face it; the man began his artistic career as an art faker. Ditz & I have never forgotten that the aged patina on faked antiques was achieved by covering them in yogurt & human excrement before burial. Now you won't forget either, will you?! Totally gross. And how many of you have admired his David? Did you realise David is left handed as Michelangelo was himself along with Da Vinci? Have a look. It's true. The sling is held by David's left hand. Mind you, Michelangelo detested Da Vinci. He also dissected corpses & did not really want to paint the Sistine Chapel. An interesting man ~ & that's without going into his more controversial quirks.

Not so fond of Da Vinci. The man had a twisted mind. He is responsible for inventing high heels & it was just a tad obsessive to spend 12 years painting the Mona Lisa's lips. However there is something to be said for realism in art. I'm pretty sure the Mona Lisa has never been hung upside down as Henri Matisse's Le Bateau once was. It was 46 days before anyone visiting N.Y's Museum of Modern Art noticed ~ & had the problem rectified!

Art has been round a long time but a little historical digging makes the mind boggle because the Renaissance painters & sculptors modeled their work on the classical pieces of Ancient Rome & Greece ~ & the Romans made their statues with detachable heads!!! Helpful when you are busy assassinating emperors I guess. Rodin[1840~1917] however was accused of human sacrifice his bronze was considered so realistic. He died off frostbite in 1917, the French government happily housing his pieces in nice warm museums while denying Rodin financial aide.

I like Dali too ~ for his quirkiness, for his eccentricity, for the opulence of so much of his work but also for providing that shift in perspective that gives depth to one's own perceptions such as his
crucifixion scenes. In almost all his work you will find a self portrait, even if it is only a lightening sketch or silhouette.

But one of the more bizarre pieces of trivia belongs to Ghengis Khan ~ who imported cobalt blue into China from Iran. The Chinese adored cobalt blue. Actually, so do I!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Planting Seeds...

"Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us daily". ~ Sally Koch

Liddy amazes me. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry; I do know I was awed by the way God works in her life & how her gift is maturing before my very eyes.

It has been very evident for some time that Liddy has a gift for missions & evangalization but it just blows me away when I watch her in action. Seriously. I would not consider any boat trip a mission field. You get 20 minutes, give or take the odd minute or two, & my scholarly mind does not consider that long enough to even begin to break the ice but then I am a teacher, line upon line, precept upon precept & none of this fast food attitude to learning thank you very much; rather nutritiously sound lessons taken at regular intervals & well digested. Not Liddy, no. She sees an opportunity & she grabs it!

So I am on a boat with Liddy yesterday because she invited me to go to the mainland church with her. Ditz opted to stay at home, which is interesting as it was one of Ditz's friends who plonked herself in the seat in front of us & proceeded to engage us in conversation. The child is a worse chatterbox than Ditz so I am barely nominally keeping up my end of the conversation while her flibberty~gibbert mind hops from one topic of conversation to another. In all honesty I was just barely paying attention as it had already been a big day, I was tired & trying to follow a conversation over the roar of the engines is always difficult for me. I let the mention of *purity rings* slide past me like the wash from the boat while registering that Ditz's friend didn't seem real keen on acquiring one. Not so Liddy. She pounced.

"Why," Liddy wanted to know, " wasn't she keener on the ring which was being offered to her as a gift?"

Oh well, you know, she wanted to be a *normal* teenager... Yikes! I wasn't touching this one with a barge pole. It was all Liddy's but Liddy was up for it.

"What did she mean by *normal*? If she was a Christian how did *normal* sit with her Christian beliefs? What were those beliefs? But that's not what the bible says...." & Liddy whipped out her bible & moved into the seat beside said child who had simply been making random conversation to pass the time & found herself trapped between Liddy & the window with nowhere to go while Liddy read her way stolidly through Proverbs 7 [that's the one that reads something like My son, stay away from the whore in the low cut gown peddling her wares on the street corner; indeed run fast the other way; I haven't got it quite right but that's the general idea.] Then she flipped over the pages to compare Proverbs 31 [which we all know, don't we girls?] She then proceeded to thoroughly & systematically point out the error of the other's thinking while I waited, fairly sure Lid was going to pull one loose thread too many & the whole thing would unravel in her hands.

Eventually the word *love* got bandied around. Somehow it always does in these conversations & on cue Lid & I both go, "Love is a verb not a feeling." And the unraveling began! How a child who has been in church & Sunday school all of her short life can get to the age she is without even the foundations of the foundation laid beats me. Not a clue, not one, as to why her thinking was worldly & ungodly.

I get so frustrated because I don't feel able to deal with the present issues because there is no firm foundation to build on. I have to go so far back & work my way logically forward but Liddy says it's all about planting seeds. "She might just stop & think the next time a boy asks to pash her."

Might is a very speculative word, not one I like to see attached to spiritual mores like *purity*. When even our *Christian* youth see nothing wrong with the ways of the world & blithely head down that same fast track to destruction what hope do we have as a people? A nation? A church? Ditz's age but the thought of Ditz playing with so much fire just horrifies me beyond words. Fourteen year olds have neither the maturity nor the discernment to navigate the treacherous waters of sexuality where the heart is deceitful above all things. Fourteen years olds are still growing into the sort of person who will be a person of depth & character who will have something more to bring to a relationship than just their body. Fourteen year olds are not children but neither are they mature adults with an adult's wisdom & judgement. And Ditz wonders why I don't want her in school where this is the standard; this is the thinking; this is considered *normal*. Who wants to be *normal*?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Girls. You never know what they're going to think. J.D. Salinger.

My girls have gone away without me. Just for a day or so. Up to my mum's but I miss them.. No~one bleating over my shoulder that I've had the computer quite long enough & surely it's her turn now. No~one running through the house yelling, "I'm late [I'm late for a very important date] can you make me breakfast? Can you find my shoes? My locker keys? My belt? Come on! mum; we need to go, like NOW!"

Instead we had Dino who only noticed his sisters' absence as he was about to depart leaving behind all these horrible fishy smells. The cat has been in mourning. He hates his people being away, even the one that threatens to deport him to kitty care for attacking her toes & the one that says, "That cat doesn't love me!" I swear, my whole house is neurotic! Fancy caring what the cat thinks. Does the cat think?

I will head up for a week with my mother at the end of the month. After school has gone back. When we should be back too. Ditz will be so happy. I like making Ditz happy. After that we will be back running like headless chooks doing music. Do headless chooks do music? Apparently they do in this house. Ditz left with clear instructions that I was not to touch her room so what excuse do you think I can give for going in there & removing all the dirty laundry so I could wash it on the odd day the sun actually shone. Oh yes; Issi made me do it!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A little science is a dangerous thing.

Prayer does not use up artificial energy, doesn't burn up any fossil fuel, doesn't pollute. Neither does song, neither does love, neither does the dance. Margaret Mead.

Who would have thought it? I'm interested in fossils. True, not enough to pick up one of those little hammer thingies & go fossicking muddy shorelines but then I'm not a spinster lady relegated to Lyme Regis at a time when it was a social disaster to be female, unmarried & "monetarily constrained". No, I do my fossicking from the comfort of my armchair with coffee & chocolate to hand while the erratic summer rain scuds across the bay in great white drifts & thunders down upon my tin roof.

The things one learns though! Did you know the greatest fossilist the world has ever known was a woman?! Yes, well I didn't, science not really being my thing & all & me not being much of a feminist either. Her name is Mary Anning. She is credited with discovering the first ichthyosaur fossil , the first 2 plesiosaur skeletons ever found & the first pterosaur skeletons found outside of Germany. Click here to see the fossils.

I don't even know what those things are, could care less really. They're dead & all that remains is funny outlines inside bits of rock but Mary is fascinating if you know anything about the England of 1799~1847 [the period of Mary's lifespan]. Think Jane Austen & you have the picture. Women of a certain social standing were expected to marry. The " Lower classes" were expected to know their place ~ & keep it. Mary was lower class. Worse her family were *dissenters* & congregationalists rather than Anglicans. This shut Mary out of fully participating in the scientific community of early 19th century Britain & consequentially she did not always receive the credit she should for her finds. She wasn't even well educated, learning to read at Sunday school & copying scientific papers by hand but she knew her subject so well she was widely regarded as the foremost authority on fossils in England.

Mary is the subject of Tracy Chevallier's novel, Remarkable Creatures, which details her surprising friendship with Elizabeth Philpot, their study of the fossil rich shores of Lyme Regis & their struggle as intelligent & well informed women in the arrogant male dominated scientific circles of their times. Fascinating read.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Careful what you pray for...

Wherefore come out from among them, & be ye separate, saith the Lord, & touch not the unclean thing; & I will receive you & will be to you a father, & ye shall be to me sons & daughters, saith the Lord God almighty. 2Cor:6:17 & 18.

Once upon a time, which is how the best stories always start isn't it? there was a mummy who had 3 very beautiful sons. She loved her sons very, very much but in her heart of hearts she hankered after *one thing more...* a daughter of her very own to love & cherish...

When my kiddos were very little their favourite stories where the ones I told of how they were desired & cherished before they were born & of the day they were born. The kids never tired of hearing the old, old tale of the day they were born: who was there; what was said; what was done ~ a plethora of trivial details about the time before they were.

Now as a woman without sisters my experience of girls was somewhat limited. The girls at school had sisters. They puzzled me. I wasn't interested in clothes or make~up ~ or boys. Phuleeese. I had brothers. Who would want one of those? I enjoyed my girl cousins but they were sensible & interesting people with lots of different interests.

So when Dearest informed me that there hadn't been many girls born in his family for generations [& the families ran to 4 or more sons...Good grief! The mind quails!] I wasn't unduly alarmed. I was comfortable being the mother of sons. Loud, grotty, physical, I understood. Not that way myself but that was boys for you. I was delighted with Jossie. The twins were just 2 gorgeous for words.

Boys in the house make it seem very...full. They take up so much space. They make so much noise. They *do* all the time. And I began to think it was time for a nice quiet girl. Something a little different. I wanted to hang dainty dresses on my clothes line as a change from the grubby Ts & board shorts. Someone who might like the *girly* books on the shelves upstairs. Someone more like me. I figured my chances were pretty slim.

I fell pregnant again & pretty soon the familiar knock 'em down, put 'em to bed morning sickness raised it's ugly head ~ good indication I was carrying a boy. I wasn't too put out but when I lost the baby I decided it was time for drastic proactive action. I took the problem to God.

I should have been more clear. What I had in mind was more like Ditz ~ minus some of her odder quirks ~ but I was about to take a girl any way God chose to send her. For starters, as I pointed out to God, I didn't really want a single sex household where even the cat was male. Two sex households are generally better balanced, giving the children of each gender a better insight & understanding of the other ~ & thus, hopefully, a better preparation for marriage themselves. Then I was starting to feel quite peculiar in my own home. Boys are just different. They really are. They think differently. They act differently. They respond differently. They are aliens in human skins. At some point in this very lopsided conversation I had a *lunatic moment* & told God any girl I got was His. I mean really! All my kids were His. They start that way; they end that way. I only get to borrow them for a season. Put it down to hormones ~ but God took me at my word.

The next pregnancy was different. All the time everyone cheerfully told me another boy was on it's way I *knew* in my innermost being that this one was a girl. No, no visitations from angels or instructions like, "And her name shall be..." Nothing like that. Nope. Much simpler ~ & far less scary. The boys I carried *all out in front* like a galleon under full sail . I was quite a sight. The girls I carried *around my waist* like a spare tire. Boys give me *morning sickness* morning, noon & night; constant, debilitating, exhausting morning sickness. The girls I get a twinge of nausea every now & again but never to the point of being actually physically sick. If I'd known that I'd have requested girls earlier!

Jossie got the only name Dearest & I could actually agree on. The twins got names we both agreed we could live with. The girl's name we had all picked out & waiting for the girl to come along. It is a family name; the name of my mother & Dearest's grandmother. It shows up in family records as far back as we have them. It means Consecrated to God, an irony I was unaware of at the time.

For a year or two I had little dresses waving in the breeze alongside the boy~shirts & shorts & I can assure you as the only girl in a houseful of boys Liddy was quite the Queen Bee & not in the least backward in assuring any laggards that she was She Who Was to Be Obeyed ~ pronto! My boys, being of a generally easy going nature, promptly obliged. Liddy, being the only girl & the youngest to boot, was in a fair way to being spoilt absolutely rotten. The antidote to this sad state of affairs [a little sister to take some of the wind out of her sails] not only did not eventuate but did not in the least look like eventuating any time soon. I took the problem back to God. We got Ditz. Ditz is fully capable of taking the wind out of any number of sisters' sails.

I tell these stories because my children are treasured beyond all measure. It is my way of assuring them they were wanted, thought of, prayed for & prayed over, loved & cherished before they were so much as 2 cells sub~dividing in the hidden places of my body. What I hadn't quite realised is how much these stories have meant to my children. Like Mary, they have pondered these things in their hearts. Fragile as it is, may the story of their birth be a shelter of love amidst all the storms of life.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Leannai Lir.

Once upon a time there was a King who had 4 children. The King's name was Lir. His children were Fionuala, the fair shouldered; Aodh the bright; Fiachra the raven & Conn the chief, who were twins & youngest.

Now Lir was Lord of the sea & everything a king should be: beautiful & strong with plenty of red gold about his wrists & at his throat, a hosting of men to fill his halls & he had to wife Aoibhe, the most beautiful woman in all the world. Not only was Aiobhe beautiful but kindness ruled her tongue & she was well loved by all who knew her. But one day Death came for Aoibhe & stole her away & her children knew her no more.

The children of Lir grieved for Aoibhe until Lir could bear it no longer & took to wife Aoibhe's sister, Aoife the radiant. But Aoife was not as her sister Aoibhe. She had no greatness of spirit, no generosity of heart. Her soul was a crabbed & wizened thing with no pity for the children's grief & only jealousy for the love they had for each other & in her spite she did what ought not to be done. She would have killed the children but she had no courage for that & instead she turned them into wild swans joined together by fine silver chains, condemned to spend 300 years on Lough Derravaragh, 300 years on the Sea of Moyle & 300 years on Innis Gluire until a man from the north mated a woman of the south & the tolling bell foretold the coming of a new God.
A thousand years & more later Hans Christian Anderson told another tale of a spiteful stepmother turning children into wild swans who could only be redeemed by their sister knitting nettles into coats that would restore to them their full humanity.
It used to be one of my favourites but I read it now & am struck by the many layers that have survived the onslaught of Christianity & go unrecognized. There is the geis: the binding & forbidding of a certain thing on a certain person for the sister is not to speak as she weaves her magic or all will be forfeit & her brother's will die. The triple aspect of the goddess survives unrecognised. The Celtic belief in shapechanging remains.

Fairy~tales. We have relegated them to children's picture books but these were never stories just for children. Children do not understand sexual jealousy or the jealousy of an older woman for one far younger & more beautiful. The lessons of courage & loyalty, of love & devotion they may take for granted yet these are often the first stories we tell our children & they are not, & never were, just stories. They were a teaching tool for the long winter nights around the fireside while the wind howled around the thatched roof & the snow came down in great white drifts. They have been passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation long before they were ever written down. The archetypes are ancient & instantly recognizable. Read or told as they were meant to be they are amongst the most frightening literature I know. They reveal a deep understanding of the very nature of Man. They hold a mirror up to our inner selves & reveal that which we keep most carefully hidden from prying eyes & are amongst the most honest literature I know. They are amongst the first stories I ever learnt & will likely be the last to fade from my memory. They should be read with far more caution that most people give them credit for.

Sisters in Faith Award.

Jillian has blessed me with an award again; one I need do nothing with except pass it along so after some thought & as per instructions I will pass this along to my oldest blogging buddy, MamaO, at Nothin' but Time in the Olive Grove & my newest blogging buddy, Mrs Bean, at Loving, Laughing, Learning.
The instructions are nice & simple:
* Pass this on to those who have been blogging with you right from the beginning, reading, encouraging, bestowing friendship. [ MamaO & I *met* some years ago now on a Christian forum & have had a long distance friendship ever since. She is the most wonderful & generous person.]
*Pass this along to one new Sister in Faith ~ that would be Mrs Bean, whom I actually know IRL & who is just starting both her blogging & homeschooling adventure. Pop in & say hi. She loves visitors! [Don't we all!]
Thank you, Jillian. I ♥ you.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Friendships of silver & gold.

"No lapse of time or distance of place can lessen the friendship of those who are truly persuaded of each other's worth." Anon. Many of my friends live in my computer. They are often people I only know through their words & thoughts. They may not be who they say they are. They may not be who I think they are. I barely touch the edges of their lives, am barely a speck of dust in their everyday & yet almost without exception The Lord has blessed these strange otherworldly friendships & I have been deeply, profoundly blessed.

As only a homeschooling parent really understands parcels through the mail are the epitome of excitement, unless of course you are expatriate; parcels from home probably come close. Parcels with foreign postage the most exciting of all. Handmade gifts elevating the whole experience somewhere into the seventh heaven.

The card is my friend's daughter's artwork. She is 8 & very gifted. The detail is exquisite. I love the lantern hanging from a beam; the way the lamb is cuddling up to Mary; the sweet expressions on all the faces. With the card was this doily. It too is handmade by my friend. [I can say my friend; if she wants to deny it she will have to out herself! ☺] I can crotchet so I have some idea of the time & work involved in this beautiful design. I am humbled to think of all the hours my friend spent working on this special gift for me, each twist of yarn & hook a reminder of who she was making this gift for; hours of thought & prayer for me. She is the praying sort so I'm pretty sure there was plenty of prayer. I feel so blessed. It was so unexpected & arrived at a time when I was feeling quite low after a difficult day. You know who you are.


It should be summer around here...

"I simply can't resist a cat, particularly a purring one." Mark Twain. It doesn't feel much like summer. It's not that it's raining. Summer is our wet season so some rain is to be expected. It's not that it's overcast & gloomy. That's what you'd expect with rain in the offering. No, it's the fact that while it's not exactly cold it is not exactly warm either. More coolish ~ & that is just wrong for this time of the year. We should be sweltering with humidity at 80% +, temps constantly in the high eighties, an oppressive heat pressure cooking the bay.
I know it's summer because the poinciana is poincianaering.

The Illawara Flame Tree is flaming.

The cat is flat out for Australia. He thought Ditz's guitar case was his brand new bed bought just for him.

When I disabused him of that notion he commandeered the poof Liddy bought me for Christmas. He's sooo cute ~ but that little twitch of the tail says the poof's all his ~ & he's not sharing!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A book a day keeps the Mentalist away.

" She is too fond of books; & it has turned her brain. " Louisa May Alcott.
I came to books so young I don't even remember learning to read. I was enchanted that it was so easy to access another world ~ particularly during maths period. My left~brained, logical, linear thinking daughter is completely horrified by my right~brained celtic~knot thinking. It does her head in completely. She can't work out how I live inside my head. Nothing in there makes sense to her. When Ditz turns wicked she begins radom conversations with me, within Liddy's hearing, about imaginary friends in imaginary worlds as if both friends & worlds actually existed. Ditz, whose own world has to be very calm & ordered before she can sit quietly with a book & read. That may be but Ditz & I share a brain.

Nowhere is this discrepancy more obvious than in the "realism" genre. I read "realism" ~ as I would fiction; with a large pinch of salt, devouring biographies & archeology with copious amounts of coffee & chocolate. Liddy is grounded. She reads authors like Joan Lindgard's books on The Northern Irish conflict. I got bored after the first one. She read a whole trilogy about the racial conflict in South Africa. I managed a chapter or two. Liddy has a stack of missionary books I haven't even looked at because to my mind they are dull beyond belief. Left to my own devises I choose books like Portrait of a Marriage ~ Vita Sackville~West's most extraordinary relationship with Harold Nicolson [hardly suitable reading material for a teenager but I was, & am, charmed by Sissinghurst.] I was charmed enought to move on to all Nicolson's diaries, working my way steadily through a list of most peculiar authors: Virginia Woolf, Nancy Mitford & Oscar Wilde.

It is not only that in many ways my mind travels along similar paths as these authors, their sexuality aside, & of no interest to me in any way. It was only as I was listing them I was struck by that similarity & wondered what on earth that says about my reading choices! Ah, well. Between the pages of the books they wrote lies a world of excruciating beauty where language is used with exquisite precision & however wrong they may be they live passionate lives. They spoilt me forever for most modern novels, especially American novels that read like somebody's forgotten newspaper, dry as sawdust & moving predictably forward along a well~defined plot path to an inevitable end & a long yawn. I stopped reading when books stopped engaging me in a world of beauty & intrigue where anything at all might happen & one needed to be braver than one ever knew one could be just to climb out of bed in the morning.

Occasionally, very occasionally, an author comes along who again charms me with their exquisite use of language & their books I store carefully on my shelves to be read & re~read as good friends who have survived the passage of the years: Margaret Attwood, particularly The Handmaid's Tale; Helen Garner: Monkey Grip; Richard Llewellyn: How Green Was My Valley; Kate Llewellyn: The Waterlilly; Randolph Stowe: The Merry~go~Round in the Sea; anything by Rumour Godden. Stowe, Llewellyn, Wilde were poets as well as novelists & it shows in their writing. There is an enviable flow, a lightness of touch, scintillating use of metaphor & simile. I devour their books like a starving man who hasn't seen a square meal in months. I savour phrases for weeks. I roll images round my mind for months. Years later I will catch a glimpse & instantly recognise something read but not fully understood until that moment.

Liddy is more than a little horrified by the books she finds on my shelves, even given that her mother majored in Literature at university.

"But why on earth would you want to read that?" Of Monkey Grip [about heroin addiction & full of foul language]. Of Randolph Stowe [about the mental devastation left by WWII ~ amongst other things]. Of The Waterlilly [about adultery & gardening; & a white garden at that.]

For lines like this: clear, simple, direct & conveying so much more than the words.

"Now a waterlily has appeared in the front yard. Was it an omen? Standing by the pond, the man I went to the city to see said in his usual laconic manner, " You have a waterlily coming." There it was, half hidden by ivy..."

Books are not about plot & story~lines. I care little for such things. I care a great deal about beauty. I like best those authors who with a word or two can deliver a crushing blow to my solar plexus & leave me gasping & winded by the sheer beauty of their imagery. What infuriates me more than anything is that so few Christian authors have even dipped a toe in this treacherous water, serving up insipidity & predictability with the inevitability of Armageddon. Where are the Christians who write with delicacy & precision, with passion, with that exquisite lightness of touch that can convey a whole world in a word or two? Who have mastered the art of being minimalist without becoming unintelligible? Wilde, who was a very naughty man indeed & not the sort of moral man one looks for in a mentor, taught me more about the purpose & meaning of Christianity in one short fairy tale [The Selfish Giant] than many far more moral & well~meaning writers who committed the unforgivable literary sin of being dull. And what is a girl to do when the worthy are so uninspiring & the inspiring so unworthy?

Friday, January 1, 2010

And now we flip the calendar over.

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. ~Bill Vaughan

Both girls went in to town to watch the fireworks; Ditz with the Beanos; Liddy with kids off the island. I'd have been in bed well before the new year arrived if I hadn't been waiting up for Ditz but Ditz loves fireworks [well, she would, wouldn't she being something of a human variety herself] & she adored the firework show. I think she liked doing something with someone other than her family too but if she will indulge in chicken pox she gets confined to barracks!

Liddy continued down the coast to welcome the New Year in with the sunrise. Rather her than me. I saw the sunrise but I'd had a reasonable night's sleep first! Siano packed her goods & chattels & departed. There is a hole that she was occupying quite nicely, & an empty Issi niche, because Issi got spoilt quite abominably but Siano does some work with the Cat Protection Society & she surely knows the way to Issi's heart! His love may only be a cat food tin away but it is genuine for the length of her stays.

Siano left behind for my pleasure, having known me long & loved me well, a Penguin Book coffee mug for The Pursuit of Love. Nancy Mitford. Such a strange family. Even know I get a huge giggle out of the *child hunt*. Only in England. Only amongst the landed gentry. Based on fact. I can so visualise all those children bolting for home over the downs with hounds & horses hot on their tails! It sounds like fun ~ & so politically not correct! I smile every time I see it. Such a little thing. So much pleasure.

I don't like goodbyes. Ask anyone in my family. Liable to bawl all over everyone. I like all the people I love cocooned in a safe little bubble, preferably under my watchful eye, not wandering all over the world where anything at all might happen but seeing how they will wander we wish them courage for the journey & much joy along the way.