Time to think about gifts and all that jazz

I went to the osteo this morning, as I tend to about once a month or so for a chin wag and so that he can put my neck, back & jaw back into place, and we got onto the topic of Christmas.  He was talking about a study he had just heard about by St Vincent de Paul who found that a huge number of people get given really crappy, junky presents that they really didn't want anyway and would have rather have been given a charity present.

I think that it is a really timely reminder as I have a few (well quite a lot) of nieces & nephews, kris kringles to do, and it is really easy to just get a "junky-little-something", when it just ends up in the bin the next week.  There are so many options now to do better than that.  There are second hand fantastic gifts to give, there are charity gifts that are giving money to the charity to do something wonderful with, and a token (maybe a card, or a pin, etc) for the person.

Oxfam, World Vision and Tear are some of the bigger ones that provide us with "really useful gift ideas" that won't clutter up people's houses with another ornament that they don't want and I am sure that if I keep scratching the surface (or surfing the net) there will be a bunch more.  Just find the one that speaks to you most.  There are also some great toys and other gift ware that are made by people in third world countries and the money will go straight back into their communities - fair trade choices.  If you don't like shopping on the internet, there is always the Community Aid Abroad shops.  They always have great stuff, then there are the local school art fairs, or local art/farmers markets or local shops that stock well made things.  

I think that given the state of affairs in the world right now, giving less presents that mean more may mean that it is a slightly more important Christmas present.

Reading by Moonlight: How Books Saved a Life by Brenda Walker, reviewed

"This whole plot, - the beginning, middle and end - had been lived before by others, but I had to live through it myself to understand it, to know that agony can be an analgesic, that the memory of pain can itself be a painkiller. " Paul Theroux in The New Yorker as quoted in Brenda' book

Brenda Walker's book, "Reading by Moonlight: how books saved a life", is ultimately about Brenda's journey of breast cancer, from the beginning, through the middle to the end, living it and learning about it, and in particular, her reading journey through, or to be more precise, her memory of the books that she has read over her lifetime that in some way served to help her through this treatment to survival. She tells of her truthful pain and decisions that a woman must make along the way during the process of the treatment (like the decision of whether or not to get cosmetic surgery or not).

It is a very heavily reference novel with at least 52 references to books or publications throughout the book that are in sometimes in such detail that they detract from her very well structured and heartfelt story.  The references that she uses, whilst they are all very relevant to her journey and story, at times, seem to be fleshing it out a little too much and making this piece of writing a little bit self indulgent, showing off how well read she is.  In many ways, this feels like an academic piece, an English literature book, one that I should be taking notes on (I did), which explores all of these books in relation to her circumstances.

Where it fails most, I think is that she has not given enough context of herself.  I was left with a sense of hollowness of who she was, without a depth of her son and a real sense of her place, where she lived.  I  I didn't get a real feel for where she was other than in the west of Australia, which is a big state.  Her son, once introduced, was lost, forgotten.  I was left wondering about the impact that this had on him.  I am aware that she wanted to write about the books, but the personal, emotional journey is important to the reader to.

Where Brenda did really well was to give a fantastic insight into the process of breast cancer treatment, the difficulty of it, and that through the distraction of books and readings she was able to survive and to look forward not back and be grateful, or as Robinson Crusoe said, "I am here, not there."


We read this for our book club, and the scoring in our book club was from 2/10 - 6/10.  Most felt that the quotations were arduous, and a distraction to the story.  A couple really enjoyed the references and the re-storytelling of them that Brenda did of them.  Brenda highlighted how incredibly wellread she is and most of the book club had wished that she have given more of herself to the book rather than her book reviews.

Have you read it?  What did you think of it?

Bewitched: Five Sentence Fiction

I have decided to play along with Lillie McFerrin's Five Sentence Fiction.  Head over to Lillie McFerrin Writes Blog to see who else is writing!

What it’s all about: Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week Lillie McFerrin posts a one word inspiration, then anyone wishing to participate will write a five sentence story based on the inspiration word. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just take your inspiration from that word. 

This week’s inspiration word is: BEWITCHED

Here is my piece, I hope you like it:

Candice Rose was woken not by the usual way of her alarm, but by the fragrance that had wafted through into her bedroom, into her nose and placed itself just south east of her left sinus.  It was a soft, sweet, musky smell that was calling to her, drawing her attention.  It was the kind of smell that made Candice Rose's heart begin to beat faster, moving the blood at a much faster rate around her body, concentrating particularly around her neck, cheeks and lips.  Candice slowly took another long breath in, soaking in the fragrance, confirming something she had almost forgotten. Then even with the raised heart beat and slightly shaky extremities, Candice Rose closed her eyes, lay back on her fluffy white pillow and smiled knowingly at who was about to walk in the door.

The Last of the Nomads by WJ Peasley reviewed

A friend of mine lent me this truly remarkable book not long after we came back from travelling through the outback of Australia, on the dusty dirt roads, as she knew that I had been really struck by the different ways that people in our land are living: the conditions are so vastly different to what people in the city are living in, and over here in the East of Australia, we live in a "blissfully unaware" state of this.  All of our encounters with the indigenous people who we met were incredibly enriching for each of us, and spending time in each of the communities that we went to was certainly one of the greatest highlights of our trip. 

That being said, WJ Peasley's book, "The Last of the Nomads, which was published in 2009 by Fremantle Press, was a deeply moving journal of Dr Peasley's (an anthropologist doctor of aboriginal culture) journey into the Western Gibson Desert in 1976 to find Warri and Yatungka, who were believed to be the last of the Mandudjara tribe of the desert nomads.    Peasley describes the journey in incredible detail: the waterholes, the sand dunes and trees and also Mudjon the elder who accompanied them, and the emotion they all go through on the journey.  His descriptions are thorough, but not tedious to the reader.

During the time that he undertakes the trip, Western Australia is going through a terrible drought and Mudjon was terribly concerned about the well-being of Warri and Yatungka and approached Peasley to help him find them to bring them out to the Reserve that the rest of the their mob had moved to.  Previously they had resisted due to years ago breaking traditional law by marrying each other.  They, Warri and Yatungka, feared retribution.  Mudjon wanted to go out to reassure them that they would be be safe from punishment and needed to be where water was so that they would survive.

Peasley documents so well the angst of breaking life as it has always been by brining the nomads into civilisation (Warri and Yatungka had never seen white man) when they have never seen it, taking the last of the nomads of the land so that none were left and the land was left to fend for itself.  He seemed to feel the pain of where white man had interfered, but what we had started, he didn't feel could be left unfinished.  Peasley touches on the fact that the Australian Aboriginals are unlike other indigenous peoples in that they have never developed an alcoholic beverage of their own, so therefore their culture was never geared up to the use of alcohol and the social effects and its abuses "...There were no rules laid down in Dreamtime to control its use.  The Tribal elders had no guidelines to assist them, and have no precedents from their totemic ancestors, the lacked authority to formulate the necessary rules.." pp32.  He postulates that this may be why in the reserve people drank to excess.  The rules, the traditional rules are not there to live by. 

It is a fascinating read and all through the book I felt privileged to have his insights into Mudjon's, Warri and Yatungka's lives.  I would recommend this book for part of a greater understanding of the nomads of our land.

Tea Tree Inspired by Nature

I was down at Inverloch (down by the sea) on the weekend with the family and while my boys were building yet another dam, I went exploring in the neighbouring group of tea trees.  I was taken back to my childhood when we used to climb through the tiniest of holes and make cubby houses in the tea trees 

Once inside, there was silence and peace.  The longer I stood still, the more the birds came back as though I was not even there.  I began to feel as though I belonged in there.  All of the wind and rain, the busy noise of the dam building, the talking from my mum and husband had all completely disappeared.  I could not hear a thing other than nature.  I could actually feel my body calm down and relax.  Peace.

On Wednesday, as luck would have it, in my writing group, Emilie ran an exercise for us to chose a single object from the natural world and describe it in as much detail as we could.  Following is what I came up with, I hope you enjoy.  Please note, poetry is not really my thing, I just wrote as I felt, as the emotion and words came, thinking of the tea tree.

Tea tree
Shedding skin
Pungent odour
Spider webs hiding
Tiny spiky leaves,
On frail sticky branches
Crackling in the breeze
Whooshing ghostly noises
Padded under foot
Silent hidden spaces
Nature's cubby houses
Broken branches
Weathered soft limbs
Silky Smooth white sticks
Dark green puddles,
Of pointy little sharp leaves
White petals floating
Hard little nuts,
Of little seeds gathered
Along those frail little sticks
Peel the bark skin back
To find different shades of brown,
Cream, beige and tan
Peel and peel again
Until it is tissue thin
Lean against the trunk
And feel the breeze move
This frail and fragile tree
Sway back and forth
Round and round it moves
Feel the movement of the tree
As you lean on it.

Thank you for reading