Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Pensioner Power

The milestone of reaching 65 may have passed a few days ago, managed to keep below the radar fairly well but decided the occasion had to be marked somehow. No party that’s for sure, have never been a party girl. I’m not entirely anti-social but on the rare occasions I venture out to attend such a ‘do’ you’ll probably find me lurking on the fringes mumbling “are we having fun yet?” I’m more of a You’ll always find me in the Kitchen at Parties kind of girl, hovering around to see if I can do something useful, or perusing other people’s bookcases to check out their books and magazines and DVD collections. Not that I’m judging those who like parties, and I certainly enjoy sitting round having a good chat with friends, but I guess I’m just too darn lazy to go to the trouble of making lists of things to do or buy or make or pick up in order to stage such an event. Oh dear, what a party pooper.

That said, as I stated back in the early days of this blog six years ago, if my genetic makeup is anything to go by I could be around for a good while yet, and the last thing I want to be doing in this third trimester of my life is sitting around in the oldies’ waiting room joining the queue to mount the slippery slide which will speed me on my way and land me with an unceremonious bump at the bottom then bid me a fond farewell.

I have friends my age who are zipping back and forth across the planet seeking out all manner of wonderful places to explore, cultures both similar and vastly different from our own, surrounded by languages they can’t understand. The conversations may be very ordinary, but it can be fascinating to hear them in a foreign tongue. Others are trekking around the country and also heading overseas to help strengthen community networks, provide training and assist local workers in assessing how best to serve the needs of their communities. Others are so active in retirement they wonder how they ever had time to go to work.

One thing is apparent, it is not a time to be idle, use it or lose it they say, so I sometimes wonder what awaits me when I finally close the doors on my current working role, maybe this time next year. The grey nomads are safe from any invasion from my quarters, and I think the dodgy back is going to see me relegated to terra firma instead of hopping on long-haul flights to explore the wild blue yonder. So what am I going to get up to? I have a few ideas, but who knows what could open up when the time comes.

Past the use by date? Never. Not me, nor anyone as far as I’m concerned. We wrinklies might be greyer, balder, paunchier, slower and creakier than at the start of our working lives, but if we don’t pass on the wealth of experience locked away in our still active brains, and the desire to make a positive contribution wherever we find ourselves, we’ll be doing both ourselves and those who come after us a disservice.

I’ll never make a lot of noise, but I don’t want to fade into the background either. Dylan Thomas may have penned it appropriately with his classic
Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day…

So, as my last word on this auspicious occasion of reaching pensionerdom, I wrote a somewhat less profound ditty of my own.


For my birthday
they gave me a little blue card
but somehow I still
find it rather hard
to believe I’ve arrived
at this new stage of life
where the prospect
of facing adventurous strife
is somewhat diminished,
for my daily activities
are more subdued
than once they were
when life was fast and
whizzed past in a blur.

In the distance
retirement beckons me
but it won’t
be one of inactivity
I’ll still be pottering
here and there
pulling out weeds
while I pull out my hair
from working out
what to do with my days
for no structure in life
can be a real maze.

The grey nomads are safe
I’ll leave them alone
I won’t be buying
a travelling home
I’ll stick around
and do my bit
try new things
and see where I fit.

Will I age gracefully
or disgracefully
the jury’s out on that,
but one thing is for sure.
This bona fide
fully fledged
card carrying pensioner
might be wrinkly and grey
and a little bit mad but
I won’t throw in the towel
or raise the white flag,
there’s years in me yet
to work it all out
for I’ve finally earned
the right to be 
an official old bag.

Friday, 25 September 2015


We look for asylum
Mama taught me
to say in English
as we distanced ourselves
from war, falling bombs
falling buildings
fear of guns, knives
and men who used them
who did unspeakable deeds
in the dead of night.

Eastward, ever eastward
set adrift from country
from family
from Papa
Burning sand, blistered bitumen
dry, cracked skin and shoe leather
Discarding things as we worked out
what we could live without.

Days became weeks became months
became who knows how long
as one foot in front of the other
moving, moving all the time
the rising sun showed us the way
as each day stretched out
much like the one before.

We look for asylum, Mama said
but no welcome mat
no open arms.
The eyes said it all
Move on, not here, no room, move on
so move we did, further still
from home
from Papa
by any means possible.

Then southward we were told
was the way to go
to find our freedom and new home.
So south we went
day in, day out
week in, week out
until the land ran out.

Now set adrift once more
we desert people
out of our depth
All at sea on a bottomless ocean.
Blue sky above
now a menacing bruise
as the elements unleash
their worst and conspire to take
our vessel
our bodies
our spirits.

When all seemed lost
a distant light spelled hope.
As lightning split the heavens
thunder shook us to the core
soaring black 
walls of water rose,
hung suspended
crashed and
sent us sprawling.

I still can taste cold
salt water on my tongue

Plucked by strong hands
dumped on the deck
placed in a spot
a sad and sorry
wet bedraggled lot.
Hope rises yet again
for this boat will not sink.
The stranger’s eyes meet mine
as he utters things I do not understand
so I speak the only words I know.

You take us to the asylum now?

Di Adams

© 2014

My Sensitivity Blemished

This past week marked the 4 year point of my Jack Jumper Ant desensitisation treatment. I travelled to Hobart on the bus as usual, alternating between a cryptic crossword, the passing scenery, and taking photos. Arrived at the hospital, went through the usual obs, had my jab, and proceeded to pass the next obligatory hour with my latest novel before being allowed to leave. Not my latest novel, as in the one I’ll someday write, I wish, just the latest one I’m reading.

All was fine for about half an hour, then my eyes started to itch, nothing particularly unusual as I do have dry eyes. Put some drops in, kept reading, then it hit me. Suddenly felt hot, which again is not necessarily anything out of the ordinary, as those wonderful Big M moments still plague me fairly regularly after all these years. But then I felt sick, really sick, so off to the bathroom I shuffled. Nothing erupted, but then I saw myself in the mirror. Hmm, that’s not right, I thought, looking rather red and blotchy and glassy eyed there.

I was promptly tossed on the bed, not literally mind you, the staff were very concerned and caring, stuffed with pills, hooked up to BP and ECG monitors, and consequently checked for the rest of the afternoon until the head to toe rash and nausea had subsided. Staff rang the bus company to reschedule my return trip, I made it back valiantly on the late bus, drove home, had a bite to eat and crawled into bed somewhat worse for wear.

After 23 visits, about 35 jabs, and a live ant sting test thrown in to see how the treatment was going, it took visit number 24 to bring me undone. Think I must’ve jinxed myself by saying when I first got there “Yay, only a year to go.” It’s not normal, but an adverse reaction can happen even at this stage of the treatment, so now I have to go back in four weeks instead of my usual three months.

“Why is it so?” we all wondered. No definitive answer arrived at, so we’ll see what happens in four weeks. I’ll make sure I book the late bus back just in case.

Also got me thinking about desensitisation in general, and my mind went back forty years to a moment when my first son was only a few months old. Plastered across our television screens on every channel was the plight of a famine of biblical proportions in one of the African nations. Emaciated people, vacant eyes in bodies barely alive, children with swollen bellies, mothers cradling their dying babies as they sat in the dirt powerless to change the fate that awaited them.

My husband wondered where I’d gone. He found me out in the laundry, washing nappies, tears streaming down my face. I’d seen such scenes before, but somehow, the life of my own baby who I knew was safe and secure and in no danger of starving triggered something much deeper within. I could no longer be a casual observer, immune to the suffering of mothers on the other side of the world who knew their babies had no hope of survival. And obviously not just the mothers and their babies, but that was where the initial response kicked in.

We see it every day on television, the playing out of natural disasters, wars, criminal activity, domestic tragedies, industrial accidents, plane and train and car wrecks. We receive hourly updates, the never ending litany of dramas unfold right in front of us via social networks and every media source, and before you know it we seem to reach our limit of being able to really care.

We become desensitised. We are removed from the disaster, it doesn’t touch us personally, and because we feel powerless to do anything about the problem anyway, we start to switch off to the magnitude of it and the pleas for help. We suffer what has become known as charity fatigue, and skirt around fundraising collectors in shopping centres and on street corners, eyes averted, pretending to be on a mission of far greater importance. We become adept at avoiding the issue.

It took a hiccup with my Jack Jumper treatment to remind me that the desensitisation process can be very rudely interrupted, and I wondered what would have a similar effect on the attitudes we hold towards those unfortunate enough to be the victims of catastrophes we hope we will never have to face.

Much has been written of late of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler who lost his life along with his mother and brother, and whose lifeless body was washed up on the shore in Turkey. The photos of his body on the beach and of the Turkish policeman treating him with such care as he carried him away, felt like such an invasion of privacy, but that was the hiccup, the wake up call. It was that image and that moment which galvanised worldwide rage and horror and sentiment and public opinion.

I would hate to think anyone could be so desensitised to the suffering of others that such a moment went unnoticed, that a life so precious could be regarded as a simple statistic, collateral damage in the context of the bigger picture. Death in such tragic circumstances seems so futile, and unfortunately we can easily forget the human face as the tally of those lost rises in ever increasing numbers, but to see one solitary child, washed up on the beach like a piece of flotsam, is heartbreaking to say the least and makes the anger rise in me.

We want to jump up and down, grab politicians, presidents, prime ministers and kings, despots and dictators and gun wielding extremists by the scruff of the neck, shake them and scream “Can’t you see? Can’t you see? Is this the sort of world you want?”

But this is the world we have, like it or not, and for me to cope I have to bring it down to a very personal level. I can’t deal with the thousands displaced around the world, but I can go out of my way to better educate myself about how I could help one person, one family. How to get past the initial misgivings of venturing into the unknown territory of someone else’s trauma and attempting to be part of them finding a more hopeful future.

There are agencies and organisations right on our doorstep that would welcome such help if we care to look. Barely a few weeks have passed since that harrowing image gave us a reality check on the refugee crisis. Do I have the heart to make a move to be part of the solution, or will I gravitate to the fallback position of complacency. I wouldn’t regard myself as being insensitive to the needs of others, but when it comes to the nitty gritty I wonder how much space I’m prepared to give to others and the chaos they might bring.

Pretty confronting really.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Playing with Words & Pictures

Seems I’ve been dragging my feet for a while, not writing much, scribbling away in my journal, a poem here and there, reading mostly, wandering the bush, taking photos, visiting galleries, creating collages of words and pictures that interestingly have a way of crystallizing where I’m at as well as the direction in which I’d like to head. Making a concrete representation of what is happening internally is what often kick starts me on that next phase, though it also has a way of reminding me of my apathy and procrastination, my self doubt, my lack of courage to take the steps necessary to create the future hovering tantalisingly but frustratingly out of reach.

Hence the “Banishing Writer’s Block” blog title. Here I am, five and a half years since beginning what I’d hoped would result in a more productive writing life, and the results have on one hand been rather negligible. On the other hand the process has not been a failure, for over the past two years especially the creative venture I’ve been on has helped me focus, re-focus, see more clearly, contemplate, appreciate, dream, make connections, and look at things from a perspective other than the obvious.

I sit on the floor in galleries in front of a work of art and immerse myself in it, wondering what was going on in the artist’s head as the painting or sculpture or whatever came to life. Were they trying to convey something in particular, or simply allowing their own creative process to unfold, with sometimes surprising results far different from what was in their mind’s eye at the outset.

Gallery staff give me surreptitious glances as I sit for so long writing away. Thankfully the practice of taking photos, once forbidden, seems to be lifting from most galleries, a development I have fondly embraced, for many of my scribblings have no picture to go with the story of what I see, where I find myself within the work of art, how it speaks to me, what responses it evokes in me.

Our Artist’s Way group is working through Julia Cameron’s book Vein of Gold – A Journey to your Creative Heart, and one of our tasks a while back was to create a collage, our very own treasure map. Because images speak directly to the subconscious mind, they are a very potent form of wishing. For most of us the world is experienced visually, images evoke emotions, memories, dreams. A couple of hours flew by quickly as we sat on the floor ripping and cutting magazines, then arranging and sticking down the words and pictures, with fascinating results. We mulled over them for the next week determining what all the images represented for each of us, and it was interesting to find specific themes emerging.

I’d done one three months earlier, and the themes were similar, but I could see a slow progression with this new one, and now another six months down the track I’m putting together my second visual diary of words and pictures culled from magazines over the last year or so, stringing them together with my own commentary and reflections, and somehow in the process it embodies the essence of who I am, who and what I hope to be. It becomes a conversation with myself, and serves to encourage me in those moments of self doubt when I think life would be so much easier if I could just retire and put my feet up and potter in the garden instead of dealing with this incessant and insistent intrusion of words and the compulsion to put them together in some sort of order so they make sense or say something poignant or profound, prosaic or poetic, prodigious or at the very least, passable.
From my visual diary

For I know if I did that, retire and put my feet up that is, I’d get sick of myself pretty quickly, and have to go off pottering around everyone else’s gardens to keep myself occupied, welcome or not. They might appreciate the weeding, but it wouldn’t get me any closer to working through the briar patch in my brain that requires me to stop procrastinating and clear it out so there is fertile soil to work with once again.

Gardening metaphors aside, the struggle to bring something literary to life, nurture it, develop it, prune it when necessary, either to get rid of dead matter or whip it into shape, then see it through to its completion, is by and large the mountain too high I somehow cannot scale.

It’s all in the head I know, so while I attempt to get my head into a more prolific space, I’ll keep playing with words and pictures to see what they trigger. I’m up to page 28 of my 80 page visual diary, so maybe by the time it’s done I’ll either have given myself a good boost to get writing again, or I’ll be so tired of it I’ll be itching to get writing again instead of having sticky fingers. Either way, looks like the desired result could be the same.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

International Community Banquet

Move over Masterchef and whoever’s kitchen thinks they rule. Tonight at Poatina’s monthly open to everyone Community Tea we had a feast to tempt the taste buds from all corners of the globe, a somewhat strange term I’ve always wondered about seeing as the planet isn’t a box. Maybe it comes from when the Earth was considered flat. Be that as it may, we were dazzled with dishes from so many countries I lost count.

Italy, China and India were well represented with several varieties of pasta and rice, noodles and pappadums. Then things got more specific. Moroccan lamb, Aussie wallaby stew and bush tucker warrigal greens, Kenyan/Ugandan kunde, Belgian stumpf (that one had me stumped), West African jollof rice, French quiche, Mediterranean baked fish, German Kartoffel Brei – mashed potato with all sorts of stuff including sauerkraut, very tasty, and the good old favourite Pommie bangers and mash.

Sitting around the cosy Chalet open fire conversation was animated, bellies were satisfied, and then there was dessert. I lost track of what was on offer, but in amongst the trifle of Trifle was English bread and butter pudding, Indonesian Pisang Goreng – fried bananas, so yummy, German Thuringer Kirschkuchen, try ordering that at a restaurant. It’s a cherry cake, and very impressive too.

I slaved away in my kitchen all afternoon and dutifully made my national flags so no one would be confused about the inspiration for the dishes I created, but I think the consensus was that most of my contributions were somewhat dubious in their origin.

Ice from Iceland - a bucket of ice cubes
Greens from Greenland - a green tossed salad
French Dressing for the Greenland Greens
Roasted herb potatoes from Ireland – descendants of the one solitary potato that survived the blight of 1845 which marked the start of the Irish Potato Famine
Something cold from Chile – red jelly
And finally my one genuine offering from China – spring rolls served on a china platter made in China.

I had considered making Bombe Alaska, but figured that might have been stretching my culinary skills just a little too far.