Sunday, February 28, 2010

AUSTENSIBLY JANE

DAY 83

Thirty six pages into Colleen McCullough’s The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet, I realised going back to Pride and Prejudice to relive the exploits of the Bennet family and the inherent characteristics of the Bennet girls in particular would be a helpful exercise before I continued.

That led me into another spin off. Freshly showered after two hours of mowing, with feet up in the recliner and home made latte and ginger nuts by my side (funny how I can only eat ginger nuts with coffee, don’t taste right with herbal tea), I settled into an afternoon’s viewing of The Jane Austen Book Club. Great little movie, not just a chick flick, and you don’t even have to be a Jane Austen fan to appreciate it.

I suspect I am not alone in admitting I only have Pride and Prejudice under my belt as far as covering Jane’s novels are concerned, a favourite of many for its creation of characters Elizabeth Bennet and Mister Darcy and the troubled route of their courtship. Of course, no romance worth its salt would be complete without some drama interwoven into it. If it was all plain sailing it’d be boring. Where are the obstacles, the misunderstandings, the deceit, jealousy, bruised egos? All this and more we need in order to feel fulfilled when our lead characters finally get their act together and finally get together.

One of the characters in The Jane Austen Book Club remarks that Jane never writes about what comes next. What happens after the romance, after the wedding, after the happy ending? And this is where Colleen McCullough’s book becomes of particular interest. Picking up twenty years after the end of Jane Austen’s novel, McCullough brings the Bennet girls to life again, somewhat older but not necessarily wiser, and we see them in a whole new light.

Got me thinking about how Jane Austen devotees would feel about Colleen’s depiction of Jane’s characters. I wondered if she had to get permission from anyone to even write the book. Maybe there’s a Jane Austen Preservation Society somewhere in England which oversees the copyright of Jane’s works and her characters, jealously guarding all things Austen so no one can tarnish the reputation of the author or her creations.

Not sure how Jane would feel about handing over her characters to someone else to manipulate, but I guess it could be seen as a form of flattery, to choose someone else’s creations and breathe new life into them more than 200 years later. As I’m only thirty six pages in, I’ll have to reserve my judgment and get back to renewing my acquaintance with Mister Darcy before picking up where I left off in The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

OLYMPIC DREAMS

DAY 80-82

Two weeks of staying up late for Winter Olympics viewing has brought back memories of my own fantasies of Olympic glory. A lifetime ago I was a sprinter, of the Summer Olympic variety, and I say fantasies rather than dreams as I knew I wasn’t that good, recognising such an achievement was a far cry from the reality of my capabilities.

Natural talent is one thing, but where does that moment come in a person’s life when the dream is so strong it becomes real, it becomes achievable, and it becomes the ultimate goal you are willing to sacrifice so much for over so many years to see the dream become a reality. Where does that commitment come from? How do you sustain it?

What happens to that commitment when you launch out of the starting gate for the downhill, only to come a cropper before you’ve even made it to the first marker flag? What happens when a skating routine you’ve done to perfection over and over again falls apart on the night and you end up on your rear end with wounded pride? How do you get back up and start from scratch after an injury most of us mere mortals would see as the death knell of a sporting career? How do you put the past four years of training behind you and look four years down the track, reliving the moment and seeing a completely different outcome?

Where does that strength of character come from? No doubt the sports psychologists who deal with these men and women would have several explanations and more than one method of bringing their clients from the depths of despair and disbelief back to where they can re-engage with themselves and their sport to the point where the Gold is once more within their sights.

Austrian psychotherapist Viktor Frankl survived the Nazi concentration camps of the Second World War, and his observations in the midst of such horror ring true for any situation of great stress. He saw those who were so intent on their own survival they became immune to the needs and feelings of others, but there were others who maintained their dignity, those willing to sacrifice their own needs for others. They were prepared to suffer the indignities of starvation, degradation and possible death because they could still see beyond the present. They kept a clear picture of what they believed the future held close to their heart. Staying alive so they would be reunited with loved ones, staying true to their values, keeping their sense of humour, these things and more kept them alive.

For good or bad, the events of the past mould us and shape our character, but they don’t have to determine our future. Dreaming of what our own future could be allows us to break free of the mould and chart a new course, but to make it to the winner’s podium, that’s where the commitment and determination come in. All the wishing and hoping, planning and dreaming come to naught if you don’t actually do something, so I end up coming full circle back to whether I have what it takes to produce a literary ‘piece’ of any sort, doesn’t have to be a masterpiece.

Just something that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. To finish something would for me be the realizing of a dream. I’m tired of fantasies.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

BRINGING GRANDPA TO LIFE

DAY 76-79

Another restless night. Between the bladder which doesn’t seem to have the willpower to last more than three hours after I go to sleep, and the persistent

Big M moments where the doona gets tossed off one minute and dragged back the next, it’s not unusual for me to be awake at 2 or 3 in the morning. Most of the time sleep returns quickly enough, but like many of my friends of similar vintage, there are those staring at the ceiling nights where the brain refuses to switch off in order to allow you to drift off peacefully. There comes a moment when you realise no amount of tossing or turning or pillow pounding is going to help, so you reluctantly drag yourself out of bed and go watch TV for a while or make a cuppa or read a book until the eyes get heavy again.

It was on one of such nights recently I propped myself up in bed and started writing some stories for my granddaughter. At 4 years old, Bella has never known her Grandpa Bob, as my husband died two and a half years before she was born. He would’ve been such a big part of her life, so working out how to bring him to life even though she is never going to know him is an interesting one.

So, with that challenge in mind I started scribbling, coming up with rough drafts of I only have one Grandpa, written in rhyme which touches on the differences between spending time with Nanny Marg and Parpy, and Nanny Di, Where’s Grandpa, a story about looking for Grandpa set as if he were still alive, touching on his favourite pastimes, The Night the Lights went out, about being scared during a storm, and Great Grandpa Percy’s Garden, a story about my own father who she will also never know, so she can get a sense of other family connections.

By the time I was finished the first light of dawn was filtering through the blind and sleep was not forthcoming, I was on a roll. Went for an early morning power walk, faced the day with gusto, but had a very mushy brain by the end of the day.

So the goal now is to complete them, not simply the stories but the whole thing, and that is where the crunch comes. I can see the illustrations in my head, I can see the finished product, but to nurture the dream into a reality will be the real test. Wish me luck.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

SYMPHONY UNDER THE STARS

DAY 75

From France to Finland, to Mexico and back again, from the great masters to Rogers and Hammerstein and modern composers, a packed City Park in Launceston was treated to an evening’s great music last night from the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

The plan was to get there about an hour early in order to find a parking space closer than a kilometer away and a good spot on the grass. Seems like everyone else had the same idea, they’ve obviously been before, but as first time TSO Symphony under the Stars attendees, our group did pretty well. Armed with rugs and low chairs (you’re relegated to the back if you have a regular chair), we joined the throng and spread out with our picnic dinner. Surrounded by lively chatter, the sharing of camembert and blue vein, grapes both whole and fermented, the chink of wine glasses and the quaffing of more down to earth brew, the crowd continued to build in anticipation of the night to come.

MC Tim Cox from ABC Radio greeted the crowd and guided us through the works and their composers as the night got underway. Lying back on my rug gazing up at the speckled cloud with the reverberations of the big drum vibrating through the ground made me realise I have to get out more, experience more of what this wonderful State has on offer on a very regular basis.

Guest soloist, soprano Jacqueline Porter delighted us with three songs from Die Fliedermaus, then in the second half to My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music. Diabetics were forewarned of the sweetness to come as Jun Yi Ma’s violin solo carried on the night air, charming us all. In vivid contrast the night wound up with vigorous foot tapping and clapping in time to the music as many danced can-can style a la Moulin Rouge. To whoops and whistles and hollers for “more, more” the conductor rallied the troops for four encores much to the delight of an appreciative audience who obviously had no desire to go home.

With a light cloud cover the stars did manage to wink here and there, but what better way to spend a balmy summer’s evening. My knowledge of classical music is scant at best, I don’t know my Brahms from my Beethoven, but I do know a great evening out when it comes along. How am I going to wait a whole year to experience it again?

HERE COMES THE AEROPLANE


DAY 73-74

I occasionally watch The New Inventors on the ABC, and am amazed at what the mind can conjure up when the need arises. What I enjoy about the show is that by and large it is those who are confronted by the absence of a resource or the gap in technology or safety, who are putting in the hard yards and churning out these gadgets, large and small, to make our jobs safer and easier, conserve energy either on a personal or environmental level, refine what is already there, or simply come up with a whole new way of doing something. Great way to get your product known.

On a much smaller scale, a seemingly insignificant little invention has come on to the market which to my way of thinking has the potential to have global impact. How many parents have coaxed their toddlers who are well and truly strapped into their high chairs so they can’t escape, with “here comes the aeroplane” as the spoon laden with unappetizing mushy something or other flies through the air destined for their mouth which shuts tight as soon as it comes into land.

Well, now you don’t have to pretend any more. Some enterprising somebody created an aeroplane spoon, probably a mum either through sheer frustration or the foresight to anticipate the market. Of course, there are still no guarantees the hangar doors will open when the attempt is made to land, but at least you can have a little more fun trying.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

IF YOU EAT FISH IN A DREAM, DOES IT COUNT?

DAY 71-72

Interesting question, one of the many conundrums dispersed throughout Arundhati Roy’s debut novel The God of Small Things, an insightful and tragic revelation of life within India’s caste system. The disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples, the unwritten laws of the Touchables and Untouchables, the power and powerlessness structured into the culture governing who can do what and how, or even who is permitted to love, and how.

The early rumblings of discontent, concealed under a thick layer of loyalty.

….despair came home to roost and hardened slowly to resignation.

Her characters come to life, in no small part through their description, such as with a frilly apron and a vinegar heart or she looked like a bottled foetus that had escaped from its jar…..and unshrivelled and thickened with age. What Roy also manages, is to get us to care about them, hate them, to fear for them, and to want to protect them as tragic events unfold and reach their logical conclusion with lifelong consequences.

He left behind a hole in the Universe through which darkness poured like liquid tar.

Childhood tiptoed out. Silence slid in like a bolt.

Roy’s adept descriptive skills unveil some beautiful images conjured up at moments seemingly at odds with the events occurring at the time.

There was no storm music. No whirlpool spun up from the inky depths…..Just a quick handing over ceremony. A boat spilling its cargo. A river accepting the offering.

Madness slunk in through a chink in History. It only took a moment.

Brown millipedes slept in the soles of their steel-capped, Touchable boots.

…Past giant spider webs that had withstood the rain and spread like whispered gossip from tree to tree.

And through it all, twins Estha and Rahel, inseparable brother and sister, caught up in the snowballing of the events around them, innocence and childhood sacrificed.

The moth with unusually dense dorsal fins spread its wings over both their hearts.

By playing out the drama of one family against the backdrop of a culture of contrasts at every level, Arundhati Roy has succeeded with her first novel in portraying a nation in very human terms.

Monday, February 15, 2010

MEL'S KITCHEN RULES

DAY 70

Move over all you cooks choking up the airwaves, professional or otherwise, churning out lavish dishes ad infinitum “which only take minutes to prepare”. Yeah, right. I’ve never felt the need to go all out with presentation, it’s enough for me to simply sit down to a good nutritious meal which I know is going to satisfy me, and anyone else who happens to be around, without arranging it all on the plate as if it is about to come under the scrutiny of a panel of Olympic judges who we know are subjective anyway and rarely give a newcomer a second glance.

I mean, I don’t just slap it on the plate, but I reckon last Friday night’s dinner which came from my daughter in law Mel’s oven looked and tasted good enough to rival anything turning up on TV. A rolled garlic and macadamia chicken roast with oven roasted potatoes, pumpkin, squash, zucchini and red capsicum, all infused with herb and garlic oil, topped with fresh asparagus, was a delight to behold and inhale, and even better to eat.

Spurred on by last year’s Master Chef (I gave her the recipe book for Christmas) and My Kitchen Rules, she is living proof that even after a hectic day of take daughter to Kinder, report into work for a while, run some errands, come home, run around after her eight month old for the afternoon, back to pick up daughter from Kinder, do some shopping, come home again, juggle two children while preparing dinner, you can still churn out something a lot more appealing than fish and chips or bangers and mash.

Take my hat off to you Mel.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

CURIOUS COMPOST

DAY 68-69

I am pondering which of the previous inhabitants of my house would have buried a sardine tin. Not that I ever knew any of them and the nature of their garbage disposal habits, but a sardine tin, with its top dutifully curled back and key still intact, decided to exhume itself today while I dug over what used to be my veggie patch in order to extend a garden bed. It’s not like there wouldn’t be enough room left in the rubbish bin to toss it in, so burying it in the garden did seem a trifle odd.

And there, right alongside it, was the T-bone of a T-bone steak, also still intact and not showing any signs of decomposition. Oh, that’s right, it’s all the flesh that disappears over time, not the bones, otherwise there wouldn’t be anything left for forensic anthropologists and pathologists to investigate, crime writers to write about or film corporations to make endless TV series about.

I’ve lived here for fifteen years, the longest I have lived in one house, or any town for that matter, and in all my garden excavations the sardine tin has remained undisturbed. I did suspect at one point that a previous household dog might have been buried in the general vicinity though (presumably after its demise), as my initial establishment of the veggie patch did unearth an interesting array of bones, none of which appeared large enough to be human so I felt assured no dastardly deed had befallen my abode which might come back to haunt me some time in the future.

As for the sardines, maybe the family moggie ate outside and the occupant was just too darn lazy to chuck it where it belonged, maybe the tin got so on the nose in the house they decided to bury it as far away as possible in the back corner of the yard. Who knows, not really worth pondering about.

Anyone for sardines on toast?

Friday, February 12, 2010

IT'S NOT EASY BEING GREEN

DAY 65-67

38 years ago I rolled up to my first day at school….as a teacher. Virtually a lifetime ago, but I still remember those years in great detail and with much fondness. It was quite normal back then to have 30-35 children in your class, and the idea now of being in a room by myself in charge of 30 five year olds sounds way more than just scary. Back then though, fresh out of teacher’s college and with youth and enthusiasm and idealistic zeal on my side, I took it all in my stride and with great gusto.

I only ever taught Preps, the first year at school, and relished seeing these little ones, some of whom were not happy chappies at being torn from their blissful lives of constant play, settle in to a brand new environment and thrive as they were faced with new challenges.

It was an interesting process when the time came to deliver my own children to their first Prep teacher, knowing the best thing I could do was to hightail it out of there as quickly as I could so the teacher could get the children settled and get the ball rolling. Seeing other little ones clinging to their Mums and having to be physically peeled off is no fun, and the nurturing parent in you just wants to scoop them up and return them to what is safe and familiar. As a teacher, it was surprising how quickly they settled as soon as the parents were gone and this new world opened up to them, but as a Mum it can be a heart wrenching moment.

Now, all this time later, my granddaughter Bella has just gone through this same experience, not her first day at school, but her first day at Kinder. Another year to go until we get to that milestone, but the process was the same, and it wasn’t a very happy one. Living out of town on a rural property, she hasn’t been accustomed to the usual routines of day care or play group or mixing with lots of other kids, so the whole thing was a bit overwhelming, both for her and her Mum.

There was great excitement at orientation day late last year, and getting fitted out with a school uniform, how on earth will she cope with wearing something other than pink, but the reality of being in someone else’s hands besides Mum or Dad or her grandparents was a bit nerve racking. Things went a little smoother on the second day (thankfully it’s only 2 days a week), but she didn’t seem to want to talk about it much, so hopefully after a couple of weeks the routine will kick in, she’ll find a special friend, and the whole thing will at last become something to look forward to.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

EMUS IN THE LAUNDRY

DAY 64

Who else would spend their wedding anniversary heading off on a 450km round trip just to pick up some baby emus? They certainly weren’t a gift from me to him or him to me, but somehow we ended up with the task some years ago of fetching these nutty birds who were to become the latest addition to our little rural community.

Was their enclosure ready? Of course not. So, where were they going to have to go meantime? Our place of course. Arriving home late we agreed the safest place was probably barricaded in the laundry, as these were only little guys and needed warmth and shelter at night. Good decision? Nooooo.

After witnessing the mess seven emu chicks can make in two days cooped up in the laundry before being allowed out into our yard, the mind boggles as to how Noah and his family kept abreast with cleaning up the ark as they catered to the needs of their floating zoo. The prospect of 40 days and nights confined with my new charges, let alone such an array of wildlife with no hoses, no disinfectant and no means of escape would have to do something very detrimental to your emotional state, if not your olfactory senses.

Even with the floor covered I lost count of how many hours it took to clean the floor, walls, laundry trough, shelves, washing machine; you name it, if there was any possible surface that could remotely be covered in emu pooh, it was.

For most of us our experiences of emus have come mainly from wandering through wildlife parks, some of which allow them to roam free outside the enclosures. Closely guarding your lunch from that persistent pecker, avoiding those beady black eyes which sum you up in an instant and convince you they are in authority, it is easy to be intimidated, giving you every reason to give them a wide berth just in case they do something unpredictable. For me, the occasional sighting of these long legged speed machines in the wild has always been from a distance, so being launched into a close relationship with these quirky creatures was a real eye opener.

It didn't take long to discover that they absolutely ooze personality. Imagine if you can witnessing their 'flop down, roll over, kick the legs in the air, jump up, stretch the neck, hiss and take off round the yard like a screaming banshee' routine. Or sitting in a circle, backsides out, beaks in, when one suddenly jumps up, races round the circle for a few laps, then flops down again, passing on the baton to the next one who does the same thing, then another, and another. Were they doing time trials or what? Or racing around excitedly when we played music, or all sitting on the sprinkler on a hot day. Not the usual image we have of these gangly, cumbersome creatures, but their antics kept me mesmerized for hours.

From tiny stripey youngsters who would run up and gather round each morning eagerly awaiting breakfast like kids waiting for a special treat when Mum comes home from shopping, they grew into ‘blackheads’, the stage I reckon where they are most attractive. Their very spunky black spiky hairdos gave them real charisma, they grew taller and became bolder, even venturing to steal the washing out of the basket before it could make it on to the line.

We learnt one valuable lesson in emu psychology the day we tossed a pair of red undies on the head of one who’d decided they were easy pickings from the washing basket. Did they stay on his head? Nope, they made their way right down his neck, and suddenly all hell broke loose. I guess it may reflect what happens in the wild when they observe that something is definitely out of place in the pack, for in the instant that the other six pairs of eyes took in this moment their attitude to their comrade went from mate to murderous mob. With peckers working overtime they flew at him and the offending article with such ferocity we had to chase the poor victim down and whip the ‘red rag to a bull’ from him, whereupon the others simply walked away as if nothing had happened. Emus are obviously extremely blinkered when it comes to what is acceptable and what is not.

Unfortunately the crunch came when they ripped my favourite shirt and stripped it of its buttons while hanging on the line, which they promptly ate. They like their roughage. Fortunately it was around this time that these poohing machines which I had come to the conclusion needed to go fertilise some other patch of land, finally had an enclosure to go to. Moving them from one spot to another was a laugh a minute, and moving them to an even bigger site when they reached adulthood was an absolute comedy routine. Sadly, all my photo evidence is from the pre digital era, so your imagination will have to fill in the gaps.

Monday, February 8, 2010

VISITOR OF A DIFFERENT KIND


DAY 62-63

Well, 2 months of this project is behind me, haven’t written anything earth shattering yet or made any progress on those ‘lost stories’ filed away long ago awaiting some attention to breathe new life into them. Then again, if I haven’t dragged them out by now to peruse once again and sift through what’s worth keeping and what’s simply a load of crap, then maybe they’re all better staying where they are. If this whole process is supposed to be a new beginning, then maybe I simply have to begin anew. Don’t think I can go so far as to throw them all out and delete the old files, I’m not quite that rash, but I definitely need to find something fresh that stirs me enough or riles me enough or challenges me enough to believe it is worth engaging once again in the torture of applying myself to a long term task. Until then, we return to the everyday.

I fell in love with echidnas decades ago, probably very early on after arriving from England when I was 10 years old. Not for me the supposedly cuddly koala or docile wallaby, I tended towards the more quirky native inhabitants, those which I felt had a bit more character and spunk. My favourites? Echidnas, emus, and of the gentler varieties, sugar gliders. Have had close dealings with sugar gliders and emus, will keep those stories for another time, but echidnas by their very nature don’t exactly allow for close contact.

After all my recent encounters with bugs of various shapes and sizes, went out to get the washing off the line today when hello, a surprise of a much more welcome nature greeted me, an echidna foraging with his long snout. My presence prompted the usual burrowing himself into a ball so all that was visible was his spiny exterior, but my patience paid off as he emerged and headed off on his quest for an ant snack. I never fail to get excited when I see one, either in its natural habitat or having strayed into my yard, that cute face, the sassy wiggle of the backside as they walk. Unique and altogether endearing.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

BUG COUNT THIS WEEK

DAY 60-61

MondayCricket in the toilet at work, not in the cubicle mind you, but floating around in the toilet bowl, didn’t spot him till I got up, so I certainly wasn’t going to fish him out then. Gave him the royal flush.

TuesdayWhite Tail spider in the washing machine, which means I actually picked him up and put him in there with the washing. Glad I was unaware of that.

Wednesday amPraying Mantis caught between the window and fly screen. I was ok about him, opened the window, and he was still crawling around outside the window when I got home from work.

Wednesday pmLittle Midgie fly things, not quite in Biblical plague proportions, but a definite swarm. Very warm evening, worked in the study with the desk lamp on, and despite the fly screen being well and truly shut, they came in in their droves. Not that they’re anything to get upset about, but they were in my hair, down my shirt, all over the desk, and the stickier I got the harder it was to dislodge them.

ThursdaySpider trekking across the doona towards me while I was reading in bed, obviously sent by his mates to remind me I was still on their list. Only a teeny little fella though, so all he got was the flick.

FridayNothing, zip, zero. Car smelt a bit weird when I went to head to town, but my zealous spraying effort paid off. No spiders, and for a whole week not even a spider web on the car. Hope the stuff lives up to its claims and keeps them away for a while.

SaturdayThings are looking up. No bugs today either.

SundayKnew it was too good to be true. Spider in the bath. Fortunately I wasn’t having one at the time. Went to have my shower, could see a black blob in the bath, but without the specs I was none the wiser. Put on specs, identified the invader, thought it was another White Tail at first but he wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to check out his backside so I squashed him anyway.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

READING MATTER

DAY 58-59

Sitting on the bottom of the staircase in Birchalls in Launceston is one of my frequent stopping places, scanning the first few pages of a little pile of novels from their ‘Specials’ table. Books are probably my one true weakness, and when you’re on a very strict budget you quickly learn the best spots to go hunting. Apart from fossicking in the second hand stores and charity shops, I have a few favourite haunts whose ‘specials’ tables have yielded some real bargains. Like my $80 hardcover edition of Lord of the Rings snavelled up for $20 a few years ago.

Have found in the past few years, not by intention but usually discovered in the course of reading the book, that I have picked up a fair number of author’s debut novels. As well as being delighted with my choices, I am often astonished at the author’s ability to craft a story that is both enthralling as well as enlightening, as the following will prove if you happen by a copy.

Testimony of Taliesin Jones Rhidian Brook

I heard the Owl call my name Margaret Craven

Coiled in the Heart Scott Elliott

Cold Mountain Charles Frazier

Village of Stone Xiaolu Guo

The Centre of Winter Marya Hornbacher

Angela’s Ashes Frank McCourt

The Memory of Running Ron McLarty

The Deep End of the Ocean Jacquelyn Mitchard

My Place Sally Morgan

The Icarus Girl Helen Oyeyemi

Why she left us Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

One Thousand Chestnut Trees Mira Stout

Have just finished Half of a Yellow Sun, an ambitious second novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian born writer who at only 32 years old, displays a wisdom in bringing a portion of her country’s history to life as it is interwoven into the fictional lives of her main characters. The story fluctuates between the early 60s and the Nigerian-Biafran war of the late 60s. Adichie lost both grandfathers in the war so her family’s connections to the conflict are strong. Main characters, intellectual Odenigbo, his partner Olanna and their child, their houseboy Ugwu, Olanna’s twin sister Kainene and her partner Richard who as a white British expatriate, sees himself very much as a Biafran.

We see the workings out of the complexity of the relationships of the sisters and their partners through the decade, how they experience the war from different perspectives, but how all eventually have to engage with the ravages of the conflict and its consequences for them personally, for their families, communities and their country.

For Adichie the issues which led to the conflict of the 60s still remain unresolved, borne out by my neighbours who are back on a brief visit from Nigeria and live in a community which was at the centre of the conflict at the time. The oppression of colonialism, the denegration and devaluation of the indigenous culture and its people, are all seen in stark reality.

Give me a factual account of the same events and I’d struggle to get through it, but if skillfully done the essential historical facts and their impact at a grassroots level can be strongly felt. I seem to have a habit of choosing novels set in non Western cultures in times of turmoil, and am currently part way through another debut novel The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, set in India amidst the caste system, winning the Booker Prize of 1997. Will let you know what I think when I’ve finished it but it’s looking good.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

WEIGHING IN AND MEASURING UP

DAY 56-57

Thanks to the warm weather during January which has meant the consumption of more salads and less carbs, my decision on New Year’s Eve to have a crack at becoming less pear shaped has paid some dividends. I’ve lost half a kilo and 2.5cm off my gut, having power walked on 21 days out of 31, covered 68km, and with another 26 hours of hard slog gardening (not just pulling a weed here and there) I must’ve burned up more than a few calories. Oh well, not a bad start, I’m all for a gradual improvement rather than a swift transformation, as quick fixes usually are short lived.

Our local General Store has a small portable step which the little kids like to use when they come to the counter so they can see over the top, handing over their 5c for a musk stick feeling important that they managed the transaction all on their own. It’s lovely watching them grow and enjoying the milestone in height gain when they eventually can see over the top without it. I stood on it one day and made an interesting discovery. The world looks different when you’re taller, what I normally looked at I now looked down on, and what I normally looked up to I was now looking at. Your attention seems to be attracted to different things when your perspective changes, and probably distracted by them too.

I think I was always the shortest one in the pack, but my motto of Good things come in small packages has stood me well over the years. What I lacked in height I made up for in speed, finding my place in athletics and sport, and the only really negative memory I have about being vertically challenged as my friend Dave dubbed me, goes back to my Year 9 High School class photo. I mean, who in their right mind would stick a 14 year old on the ground in front of the teacher to hold the class sign. Positively rude I thought, discrimination at its worst, just for being the shortest, so in protest I refused to smile, and my best friend sported a pout in supportive commiseration.

We spend so much of our lives working out our identity, shaping it, nurturing it, protecting it, enhancing it, hoping against all hope that we measure up in this competitive world and will be able to hold our own when the crunch comes. What I enjoy about getting older is how unimportant that has become. You become more comfortable in your own skin, have no desire to compare yourself with others and what they have or what they’re doing or what they think you should have or be doing, take less notice of what everyone else expects of you, take each day as it comes, not planning too far ahead so you can be flexible enough to change without any drama.

None of us are perfect, and sure, there’s always room for more self awareness and growth, but there’s something kinda nice about relaxing into who you are, no matter how short, or whatever we think our shortcomings are, and realizing that in the long run, sweating over the small stuff really isn’t that important. In reality, I think there’s much more satisfaction to be had in nurturing others so they can realise their potential and shape their own identities.