Category Archives: Uncategorized

Recipe for a Happy New Year

Another New Year. A chance to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. I hope you enjoy this wholesome, healthy New Year recipe. Share it with your friends over a cuppa. I’m sure it will become a favorite.

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Recipe for a happy 2016

Take twelve whole months, clean them thoroughly of bitterness, hate and jealousy. Make them just as fresh and clean as possible.
Cut each month into 28, 30 or 31 different parts, but don’t make up the whole batch at once, prepare it one day at a time.

Take the following ingredients, and mix well into each day:

One part of faith, one part of patience, one part of courage and one part of work.
Add to each day, one part of love, hope, generosity, and kindness.
Blend with one part of thankfulness, one part of meditation and one part of good deeds.
Season the whole with a dash of good spirits, a sprinkle of fun, a pinch of play and a cupful of good humor. Pour this into a vessel of love, cook thoroughly over radiant joy, garnish with smiles and serve with a cherry of cheerfulness.
You’re bound to have a happy year.

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And if that fails bring out the champagne or Grossmutters Scripture cake. Scripture cake is also known as “Bible Cake”, “Scriptural Cake” and “Old Testament Cake” and was extremely popular in the latter part of the nineteenth century.  The cake was meant as a way to teach young girls baking and Bible verses.  The cake was sweet to eat, and a chance to modestly exhibit knowledge of the Bible.  It was fun in the form of an early trivia game, and a great dish to take to a church supper.  The original recipe didn’t include the ingredients only the amount next to the scripture.

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Grossmutter’s Scripture Cake

1 cup butter                              (Judges 5: 25)

3 ½ cups plain flour                  (1 Kings 4: 22)

2 cups sugar                             (Jeremiah 6: 20)

2 cups rasins                             (1 Samuel 30: 12)

2 cups figs                                (1 Samuel 30: 12)

1 cup warm water                     (Genesis 24: 17)

1 cup chopped almonds            (Genisis 43: 17)

6 eggs                                      (Isaiah 10: 14)

1 tab honey                              (Genisis 43: 11)

pinch salt                                  (Leviticus 2: 13)

1 teas mixed spice                    (1 Kings 10: 10)

2 teas baking powder               (I Corinthians 5: 6)

Method: Follow Solomon’s advice for making good children, (Proverbs 23: 14) or you can cream butter and sugar, add honey, eggs and water. Sift flour and baking powder together. Proceed as in ordinary rules for cake making putting in the fruit and almond last of all.  The raisins should be seeded, figs chopped and almonds blanched and split. Beat well. Place in a large tin and sprinkle with slivered almonds.

Bake in a hot oven approximately 2 ½ hours. Biblical references are from the Authorised King James Version of the Bible.

Öffentliche Silvesterparty am Brandenburger Tor

There are so many ways to wish family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers a Happy New Year. I have German/English heritage and for some unknown reason in our family it has always been the tradition to have a Scottish toast. We’d raise our glasses and in our broad Australian accents recite

Lone Scottish Bagpiper stock photo                  Snowman, greeting card, vector illustration vector art illustration

May the best ye’ve ever seen
Be the worst ye’ll ever see
May a moose ne’er leave your girnal
Wi’ a tear drap in his ee
May ye aye keep hale an he’rty
Till ye’re auld eneuch tae dee
May ye aye be jist as happy
As we wish ye aye tae be.

If you are like me you may need a translation:

May the best you’ve ever seen
Be the worst you’ll ever see
May a mouse never leave your store-room
With a tear drop in his eye
May you all keep hale and hearty
Till you’re old enough to die
May you all be just as happy
As we wish you all to be

We’d link arms and sing  Auld Lang Syne by Robbie Burns as the clock struck twelve. These days I listen to it on YouTube.

During this festive season I wish everyone I meet a Happy New Year and whatever your race, religion, gender or sexuality, whatever language you speak, wherever you are right now, let’s all make sure that we have an amazing 2016.

May this coming year be filled with Peace and Joy 

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Happy Christmas 2015

May it be filled with joy and happiness

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So much for me being organised this year. Here it is Christmas Eve and I’m sending you all greetings. My excuse? The heat. We have air-conditioning downstairs and only a portable one in our bedroom. Great for sleeping at night but during the day upstairs is like the second rung of the oven and my study seems to be the hottest room of all. Hence I’ve been staying downstairs and using the heat as an excuse to be completely slothful.

Australian Christmas

Teaching has finished for the year and I don’t start back with my Memoir Writing class until next February. What a great excuse to read the pile of books beside my bed. Fun stuff, but serious as well. I have The Velodrome by Liam Davison. A dear friend gave me a signed copy. A treasured gift and so very special. Liam died on the Malaysian flight  MH17 when it was shot down over the Ukraine killing all 298 people on board. I have such wonderful memories of a generous teacher of novel writing. He was my Melbourne University referee and his reference enable me to do my Masters  degree at Melbourne University. I also attended his farewell dinner from Chisholm TAFE where I met Carol-Anne Croker who convinced me to continue studying and to do my PhD At Swinburne University. Carol-Anne and Mairi, who gave me Liam’s book have walked beside me every inch of my academic /creative journey.

I have just finished a thought provoking book Poems from the Madhouse by Sandy Jeffs and am ready to start an anthology by fifteen Maine (USA) writers. My writing Group has been going 20yrs and we published our latest Anthology in November titled Kingston our City. It is going to be online as an ebook. My new novel still isn’t published but I’m considering making it an ebook in the New Year. I guess while the summer is here I’d much rather swim each morning or take my kayak for a paddle. Later I’ll do something…Honestly I will :>)

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Recently, when walking the dogs around the streets of Hampton I actually saw this holly growing and couldn’t resist taking a picture on my iphone.

May you all have a happy Christmas and may we, at this special time, remember the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

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Christmas: remembering fascinating family characters

Christmas is a time to remember the past and to dream for the future.

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Tinsel is hung, solar lights flicker and laser lights dance on the water. Christmas has come to the Tidal Canals and we are celebrating another year of sun, sand, great neighbours and good cheer.

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Today we drove past our old house in Edithvale and delighted in the changes that have taken place over the years. Opposite was Ma and Pop Whitting’s home and I couldn’t help smiling at my memories of Pop.

My dad was an engineer and pedantic about everything being correctly measured and assembled with care and attention to the finest detail. Pop Whitting used to drive him mad. Pop was a cockney lad  from England and near enough was good enough. I remember the day he decided that the refrigerator in the kitchen was taking up too much room so he grabbed a saw, and cut up the left side of the wall beside the refrigerator, across the top and down the other side. He then shoved the refrigerator back level with the kitchen wall. Brooms, pans and a mop went flying out of the broom cupboard in the laundry behind the refrigerator.

‘Where will I put my brooms?’ Ma cried.     ‘You’ll find somewhere,’ Pop replied. ‘At least you now have more room in the kitchen.’ I’ll never know how he managed to miss cutting the electrical wires inside the broom cupboard . Sheer good luck, I guess. To cover the jagged edges of the sawn kitchen plaster he simply tacked a wooden strapping edge around the fridge  and painted it the same colour as the walls. I’d love to go into the house one day just to see if the refrigerator is still recessed into the laundry cupboard.

Pop was an original, a one off character who lived off his wits. When he was eighty he decided one afternoon to climb a ladder and paint the guttering. No preparation, just slap on as much paint as possible to cover any dirt. He happily painted a section of the gutter before deciding it was time for a cup of tea. Balancing the nearly full open paint tin on top of the ladder he proceeded to climb down. On reaching the bottom rung he looked up in time to see the tin of paint spill all over him. Thank goodness he was wearing glasses because it covered him from his bald head to the tops of his shoes. Instead of standing still, he yelled ‘Ma’ and proceeded to slosh down the side way, around the back of the house and into the kitchen leaving a trail of white paint behind him. It was left to Ma to clean up and the rest of the guttering was never painted.

My dad, on hearing the news shook his head and said, ‘You mean he didn’t even sandpaper the guttering before he started?’

Family characters. How they fill our memories and our hearts with love. 

Australian Christmas

Countdown to the Launch of Kingston My City

For the past twenty years Mairi has been founder, co-coordinator, payer of writing group rent, chief editor, apple cake provider and driving force behind Readings by the Bay and the Mordialloc Writers’ Group. We meet every Tuesday to workshop, refine and read sections of our work in progress. This community support and assistance, especially from seasoned authors like Mairi is invaluable and creates long lasting friendships. It also ensures the memoir, short story or poem is reworked and polished to a publishable standard.
Ideas are swapped, story lines discussed, achievements applauded and rejections seen as stepping stones on the pathway to publication.
All the members associated with the Mordialloc Writers Group take pride in launching this latest anthology, but we all know, without the expertise, enthusiasm and dedication of Mairi it just wouldn’t happen.

Up the Creek with a pen ...

Not long now until the group’s ninth anthology is launched. Everyone is invited to help us celebrate 20 years of meeting together and writing.

Our community writing group has been meeting at the Mordialloc Neighbourhood House for twenty years and for our anniversary anthology we reflect on our relationship with the City of Kingston.

We have reminisced about wartime precautions on Parkdale beach and the transformation of suburban streets by developers. We have reflected on the City of Kingston’s creation by negotiation and amalgamation, Patterson Lakes created by feats of engineering.

There are snapshots of dances at Moorabbin Town Hall, surf lifesaving carnivals, Edithvale billycart shenanigans and cycling to school, the demise of horses and the rise of hoons, joyous beach weddings and sad farewells. Stories woven around everyday life and observations to trigger your own memories.

Perhaps you’ll recognise the places and characters, the community groups and events, remember…

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Sails on the Bay and the Grill and Grape.

Two wonderful occasions, two excellent meals. Treasured memories of Alan’s birthday celebrations.

This birthday had not started out well. Alan had gastro, then the flu followed by a nasty cold. Paul and Marian had arranged for a special meal out at Sails on the Bay at Elwood and Jason and Karen in Queensland had sent an online voucher for dinner for two at The Grill and Grape at Hampton. Unfortunately both had to be cancelled. Alan was far too poorly to appreciate or savor a good meal at this stage. He was living on small amounts of home made chicken broth and dry toast. Not the sort of thing you have to celebrate a special occasion.

Later, when Alan’s tasted buds had recovered, Paul and Marian took us to Sails on the Bay. The following Friday evening we booked using Jason and Karen’s voucher at the Grill and Grape. The menus at both places were superb.

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At Sails we had an entree of *Barramundi ceviche, jalapeno, coriander, lime & avocado followed by delicious, melt in the mouth, braised beef. At the Grill and Grape we enjoyed delicious Calamari with rocket and pear salad followed by a well cooked paella chock full of fresh ingredients. At both restaurants  we enjoyed an excellent shiraz.

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I’m sure these uplifting outings ensured that Alan had a complete and speedy recovery. There is nothing better than an excellent atmosphere, fabulous surroundings, good food and wine to reassure you that you have returned to the land of the living and good times lie ahead. We feel incredibly fortunate.

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A family is like a circle
the connection never ends
and even if at times it breaks
in time it always mends
A family is like a book
the endings never clear
but through the pages of the book
love is always near

Yesterday a special friend bought me a huge bunch of purple statice flowers. How wonderful to be able to spread the joy by giving others something to brighten their day

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Friends, Springtime and the Bellarine Peninsula

Bollards, sparkling water, bobbing boats and happy children at Geelong, on the Bellarine Peninsula.

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I loved the quirky bollards lining the Western Beach shoreline and noticed all the  joggers, dog lovers and  mums with young children smiled as they passed each one. So did I.

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The aim of this trip from the Mornington Peninsula, around Port Phillip Bay to the city off Geelong was to visit an old friend. Janet and I have known each other for over fifty years.

Life’s more fun when you share it with friends 

friends

The last time I saw Janet was in her home in the Australian outback town of Coober Pedy.

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Then the talk focused on underground dugouts, opal and heat. She now lives on her own close to Melbourne but on the opposite side of Port Phillip Bay. It has been years since we saw each other, mainly because the road distance around the bay from Carrum on the Mornington Peninsula, through heavy traffic over the Westgate Bridge to Geelong on the Bellarine Peninsula on the other side. It makes any sane driver think twice before attempting the journey.

Janet does not drive far these days so I managed to catch up with her in her home in Geelong. This time the talk was about art and craft, making greeting cards and stringing together light reflecting mobiles. She sells the beautifully handcrafted cards where ever she can. They are absolutely gorgeous. I particularly like the cards with pink, blue and yellow daisies and the ones with chips of Coober Pedy opal. Opal comes in so many colours and Janet knows where to by the opal chips in bulk. They add just the right splash of colour.

Opal Doublet        Opal Bracelets         Coober pedy opal

One day I hope to be able to attend one of her card making classes.

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On arrival I was greeted at the door by two little dogs, Tiny And Joel. Janet appeared and it was if the years between had never existed. We were once again seventeen years old and doing our apprenticeship together. Memories flooded our talk. We laughed about being so young and so impressionable. Our fondest memory was when we went to the Tivoli Theatre in Melbourne and were unexpectedly seated in one of the exclusive ‘boxes’ that jutted out from the side wall inside the theater. Our joy was complete when Tommy Steele looked up and saw us excitedly grinning and madly applauding in our box seat. We felt he sang The Little White Bull just to us.

Having eye contact with a celebrity was a memory that has lasted a lifetime. He never knew what an impact he had on two impressionable teenagers and it has given me empathy over the years for all the young girls who scream when a celebrity/rock star appears. I know how they feel.

After our visit we decided to skip the long journey home and pay to drive the car onto the ferry that sails from Queenscliff, past the Port Phillip Bay heads over to Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula. It was well worth the money. While on the ferry it seemed too good an opportunity to miss to call in to see a good friend living at Blairgowrie.

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Carol-Anne Croker is amazing. She has supported me all through my PhD while doing a PhD herself. You couldn’t wish for a better friend. When we arrived thinking we were staying for a quick cup of coffee, much to our surprise, Louis began cooking fresh mussels and prawns. My husband was delighted and felt like royalty to be treated to such a seafood feast. Many hours, and a glass of wine later (drats that we had to drive) we continued on our way home.

Let’s kick off our shoes and dance around our handbags – sing at the top of our lungs – badly…Make the time to catch up, drink wine, eat cheese and chocolate in ridiculous amounts and enjoy each other’s belly laughter until our cheeks hurt and our sides are splitting…No matter how old we are or what challenges come our way.

 

Deakin University Literary Fest

At the Geelong Campus and surrounding libraries

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When the wattle, magnolias and daisies are in full bloom Melbournians know that spring has finally arrived.

Ah, now we hear the heart of the year for the young trees leap and glow              And nesting birds speak hot love-words as they flit from a dancing bough           AG Stevens

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At last we can finally shed the winter woollies, don trendy gear and enthusiastically join in all the spring activities and festivals Melbourne has to offer. The Deakin University Literary Fest is one such event not to be missed. Part of the festival is the Home to Home Digital Story Exhibition.

Home to Home Digital Story Exhibition is a free exhibition of stories revealing a part of society that is usually hidden away. Open until  Tuesday 15 September 2015  you can visit the exhibition (open to public ) at Gallery Two, Deakin University Waterfront Campus.

Geelong Waterfront campus map

These stories uncover the hidden lives of young Australians with disability living in nursing homes because there is simply nowhere else for them to go. Storytellers have produced insightful videos about their unique experience of living in a nursing home, being at risk of living in one or being a parent of one of these young people. Through these stories, we are invited to glimpse what life is sometimes like living in residential aged care where the average age of fellow residents is 84, where there is no choice about what time to go to bed, what to wear, or what and when you eat. The emotions of grief, frustration and sadness are deeply present in this collection of stories. But so are the themes of perseverance, strength of character and hope. To find out more visit http://www.summerfoundation.org.au

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While you are in Geelong take time to soak in the joy of spring flowers, bay views and sunny days. Living on the Mornington Peninsula on the other side of Port Phillip Bay and rarely driving the miles needed to get to Geelong on the opposite side, I had forgotten the amazing beauty of the area and the friendliness of the people. It will not let so many years slip by before I visit again

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Writing Friends

“There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin

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Despite a chill wind straight for Antarctica and a train strike I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with two special writing friends, Mairi Neil and Jillian Bailey. We listen to each other, share our hopes and dreams, keep each other’s secrets, workshop our stories and make time to catch up, drink wine, eat cheese and chocolate in ridiculous amounts. Most of all we laugh until our cheeks hurt and our sides are splitting.

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This is my first ‘selfie’ picture. Not great, but with practice I will improve. A bit like writing a story. The first draft is always full of mistakes and can only improve with the input of others and a rewrite. To belong to a writing group means having writing friends willing to give you constructive comments about your work that can greatly improve the finished story.

We live our lives through texts. They may be read, or chanted, or experienced electronically, or come to us, like the murmurings of our mothers, telling us what conventions demand. Whatever their form or medium, these stories have formed us all; they are what we must use to make new fictions, new narratives. (Heilbrun, 1995)

Mairi Neil has her own amazing blog here at wordpress. She formed the Mordialloc Writers’ Group twenty years ago. Over those years she has edited and published eight professionally printed and bound anthologies showcasing the short stories and poems produced and work-shopped throughout the year. Every anthology has a theme such as Off the Rails about the Frankston train-line or Carnival Caper featuring the Mordialloc Carnival, once a regular feature near the mouth of the Mordialloc Creek.

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When asked to write a short story with a carnival theme the only thing that came to mind was my unexpected meeting with an elderly  woman in Queensland. You know how sometimes you are waiting for a bus and start chatting with the person next to you. Before long you are swapping life stories even though you know, and maybe because, you will never see each other again. Soon a bus arrives and you have to leave but her story stayed in my heart. I decided to weave it with fiction for this anthology.

Roses for Robbo

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I can hear it, smell it, long before I see it. My skin prickles. Horses whinny. The bittersweet smell of nuzzled hay and sugar laden fairy floss saturates the early morning air. Years ago the Merry go round churned out an off key rendition of Roll out the Barrel and local boys were the clowns. Molting camels spat at unwary visitors, and…I quickly drag my mind back from the past and concentrate on the footpath, lengthen my stride, quicken my pace. I pump my arms to try to tighten years of flab, but it never goes away. Use it or lose it. Got to keep fit. Got to keep going. Concentrate on tomorrow.

Sleepy shops, blinds half raised, doors partially open and not quite ready to welcome visitors, line the shopping strip. My nostrils quiver at the smell of hot baked bread. A couple of whole grain bread rolls from Bakers Delight and a banana will see me through the day. The Shorehaven Motel is cheap and clean, but I don’t order breakfast. I can look after myself. After rearing five girls and a boy on my own I know how to manage. They’ve all gone their separate ways. I’ve got twelve grandchildren. Imagine that. Twelve, and soon I’ll have a baker’s dozen. But that’s not what I’m here for. This trip is about Rob. It’s always about Rob.

I moved to Queensland ten years ago after my operations. I nearly died five times. Intestinal infections and a stuffed up repair job meant I had to be near my kids. I’m closest to Jenny, my youngest. She built a granny flat on their property in Gympie and I help with the garden and take care of the boys.
‘Do you have to go again this year, Mum? You know how I worry about you,’ she says.
‘I must’
‘But you’re seventy-five now. Surely it’s time to give it away’
‘While there’s breath in my body, I’m going.’

Twenty-seven years ago Rob was nineteen, six foot five tall and bulletproof. For years, I’d rented a rundown house in Ozone Avenue and the kids grew up on the beach. Mark lived next door and often fled from raised voices and smashed crockery.
‘Would you like to stay for a sandwich, Mark?’
‘Sure would Mrs B’
‘You can stay the night if you like’
‘Thanks Mrs B.’ That night became every night. He shared Rob’s bedroom in a covered in section of the bull nose veranda. Mark relished sleeping on a blow up camp bed on the floor next to Rob’s bed. They talked and laughed long after they should have been asleep. I didn’t have the heart to chastise them. Every day, Mark and Rob helped me suck sand out of the roof between the rafters with a vacuum cleaner so the ceiling wouldn’t cave in. Sand seeped into everything. We became used to the grit of it in our teeth and missed it when we moved. Food just doesn’t taste the same without a bit of sand. On stormy days, I’d look at two eager faces. ‘Get going then,’ I’d sigh.
‘Surf’s up,’ they’d shout, grabbing their boards and racing out the door.

‘Morning, Mark’ I call. He is arranging several boogie boards beside the entrance of his surf shop.
‘Back again Mrs B,’ he says wrapping his arms around me. ‘Give me a kiss you sexy beast.’ I punch his paunchy belly
‘You’ve put on weight, you big log. Time you joined Jenny Craig.’ He kisses my cheek.
‘Thought you’d be by sometime today.’ He points inside. ‘Let’s have a cup of tea.’ The walls of the tiny lunchroom at the back of the shop are covered with pictures of Mark, his wife and their three girls.
‘No boys yet?’
‘We’re working on it,’ he says with a smile. Childish kindergarten scrawlings of bright yellow suns, and lopsided houses cover the refrigerator.
‘Strong tea, milk and one sugar,’ he pours boiling water into mugs. I stare at my mug. ‘To the best dad in the world,’ I read.

Mark leans forward and holds my hand. ‘He would have made the best dad,’ He lowers his head. ‘Rob a dad?’ I notice a few grey strands among Mark’s brown curls. ‘Weren’t you both going to remain single and surf forever?’ It’s good to see Mark smile.
‘Like some toast and vegemite for old time’s sake?’ he says. I shake my head.
The shop door clangs open.
‘Sorry, Mrs B. Got to go. Must keep a roof over our heads.’ He hurries to greet his first customer for the day. I follow him. ‘See you tomorrow?’
‘Same time, same place.’

Lisa’s bridal shop window displays a gown of frothy tulle and seed pearls on the forever-smiling virginal model. I push open the heavy door. Gwen takes pins out of her mouth and sticks them into a pad strapped to her wrist.
‘Good to see you again, Marg,’ she says, giving me a bear hug. ‘Seen Mark yet?’
‘Just a couple of minutes ago.’ She looks deep into my eyes. ‘How have you been?’
‘I’ve been better.’
‘Take care of yourself.’ She reaches under the counter. Gwen hands me a familiar square packet. I fumble in my purse.
‘They’re free this year,’ she says with a smile. I tuck the packet of dried petals into my bag.

Twenty-seven years ago the circus was just a well worn tent surrounded by a few mangy camels and two Shetland ponies munching on hay. Rob would live, eat and breathe the circus. He would do anything over the summer, muck out the horses boxes, groom the camels, cart water and help with the rigging. He painted his face in a big clown grin and he seemed to grow even taller when the children shrieked with delight. He was so proud of the pennies he earned and the eight of us could go to the circus as many times as we liked. We ate chips, donuts oozing raspberry jam, hamburgers, sausages, dripping fat and smothered in onions on a slice of squishy white bread. Silly when I think about it.

I walk back to the motel to rest, but my memories won’t leave me alone. Was it really twenty-seven years ago that Rob put on his red clown nose, long shoes and baggy pants and ran out into the ring with the other clowns? He and Marko honked the horn of the comedy car, pulled floppy ears and the more the kids laughed the sillier Robbo got. He did somersaults; back flips, and pretended to throw a bucket of water over the kids ducking in the front row. The bucket was filled with red rose petals. He hid behind Marko, moved when Marko moved and then curled up on the sawdust and rested his head on prayer like hands. I heard his pretended loud snores. The girls and I waited for him to jump up, to laugh and clap his hands. It was such a good trick. But he didn’t move. He lay there like a baby taking a nap. Other clowns ran over. They poked and prodded and laughed and honked horns right by his ear, but he didn’t move. I clutched my cardigan across my chest, not daring to breathe. When Marko gathered Robbo’s limp body up in his arms, I jumped the barrier…

The light of a dying moon relieves the pre-dawn darkness. Mark and I walk in silence down the bush-lined track until we reach the wide expanse of white sand. Tiny wrens sleepily call to each other, sand scrunches between our toes. We finally come to the place where day after day I would sit and watch Rob and Mark paddle out to sea. Rob was so happy then. So big and strong. Brimming over with life.
‘Scatter my ashes here when I die,’ he said jokingly one day as seagulls wheeled and cried overhead.
‘Sure, mate,’ Mark replied and splashed him as they raced each other into the sea. Did Rob have a premonition? Did his enlarged heart; so big it could encompass the world, warn him that time was short? For the twenty-seventh year, Mark places a half circle of candles in the sand. Their flames flutter in the early morning breeze. We sit together cross-legged at the edge of the water.

I look through a rainbow of tears at Mark’s manly features and the red clown nose. Marko and me. Fifteen minutes is all we need. Fifteen minutes once a year. The first tentative fingers of sun turn the clouds rose pink and I quietly talk to Rob, tell my son what has happened during the past year. Births, deaths, joys and sorrows. As the sun rises, I stand and throw my arms wide to embrace all that he was, all that he is. Mark wraps a comforting arm around my shoulders. Rose petals float out on the waves as I say goodbye to my boy for another year.

***

I used to worry about taking small incidents in my life and writing about them until I discovered this quote by Helen Garner

What I know about is domesticity; about marriage and families and children, so that’s what I write about and therefore a lot of my events take place in people’s houses. Anyway, I was feeling particularly bad about this one day I was walking along the street thinking, “My God, my scope is so small, it’s so small.’ And I looked in the window of a print shop and they had that Van Gogh picture of the inside of his bedroom. I stood there and looked at it and I thought, ‘that’s a wonderful painting and everyone knows it’s a wonderful painting and what is it? It’s only a chair and a bed. It’s a painting of someone’s bedroom, their own bedroom.” I found that very encouraging. There’s no way you can know if your own work’s important, you do it because you like it and it’s the only thing that makes you happy.

These days I happily write anything and everything and don’t care a toss about whether it is literary or not. There is incredible freedom in writing what comes from the heart

Blogging? Good Intentions

With a happy smile I pressed the send button and signed up for Blogging 101.

Blogging 101: Zero to Hero 

Blogging 101 is three weeks of bite-size blogging assignments that take you from “Blog?” to “Blog!” Every weekday, you’ll get a new assignment to help you publish a post, customize your blog, or engage with the community.

You’ll walk away with a stronger focus for your blog, several published posts and a handful of drafts, a theme that reflects your personality, a small (but growing!) audience, a grasp of blogging etiquette — and a bunch of new friends.

I was committed, dedicated, determined to make time for myself to follow all the prompts, clues and leads that would be emailed to me daily for the next three weeks. Of course I would have time. I’d simply MAKE time.

Ahhh…the best laid plans of mice and men oft times go astray. Or as my feminist friend tells me, ‘If you want to give God a laugh, tell Her your plans.’

From day one I felt that life was conspiring against me (the list of impediments too long to include here). But so what if I missed following the leads and doing what was needed to become a great blogger. I’d soon catch up. After missing day five I finally threw up my hands and gave up. However I have printed (forgive me for killing many trees) every email and will try to follow the suggestions and sound advice.

Yesterday this email came from Michelle.

It’s our last weekend together, sob!> As always, use this time to catch up, or catch some time away from your blog. But if you want to make the most of these last days of Blogging 101, we’ve got two good ideas for you:

I could not resist sending the following email.

Dear Michelle. I’ve printed your emails but life has been cruel to me these past two weeks and prevented me participating. Can I possibly do blogging 101 again? Hopefully next time around I’ll be able to fully participate in the course. At least I have your emails to work with now that life has calmed a little. Fingers crossed

Would it reach her, or was I replying to some unknown automated address instead of a real person? I was delighted when the following email pinged into my inbox.

Sure, you can take it as many times as you’d like. You can register for August here: http://bloggingu.wordpress.com              I’m glad you enjoyed it, and look forward to see you again! Cheers, Michelle

August the 3rd? My birthday? I vowed years ago that the celebrations must last at least a week. No hiding away, no taking off years. I’ve earned every single line in this crinkled face and am proud of every one. No! It’s time to kick up the heels, eat, drink and be merry with family and friends.

Okay, I know this blog font has changed and I haven’t a clue how to make it Times Roman or twelve point or… Bear with me. I will join other learner bloggers and participate fully in getting grounded in blogging basics in the September intake of Blogging 101.  After that is Blogging 201: Branding and growth.

At the Blogging University website I found several ebooks

  

Emblazoned in large letters are the words

A blog you can be proud of.

I am woman. A blogging woman willing and eager to learn the craft.

 

Women’s Healthy Aging Project (WHAP) Celebration

 

Twenty-Five Years Celebration.

The Women’s Healthy Aging Project (WHAP) is a longitudinal study of over 400 randomly sampled Australian-born women.

In 1990, hairdressing scissors in my hand I beat my two small boys to the telephone. A voice asked if I would be willing to take part in a study run by Melbourne University into health issues confronting women. The decision to participate resulted in twenty-five years of belonging to an ethically sound, well researched project which took me on a journey of self discovery and knowledge.

Once a year I fast overnight, catch the Frankston train to Melbourne and tram to Royal Melbourne Hospital. After handing in a completed questionnaire, blood tests taken and breakfast over I am weighed, measured and the oral and written tests begin. Depending on what is being studied that particular year follow up x-rays or tests are sometimes required. However, I always felt that it revealed up previously hidden health information and that I was part of something larger than myself.

Most of the previous studies into heart disease etc are based on men. This is my opportunity to do something to help other women and I applaud Melbourne University for instigating and supporting this study into women’s health. Age has a way of creeping up on us.  I was amazed last time I was measured to discover I’ve lost an inch in height. That explains why the clothes line seems higher these days.

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The 2nd June 2015 was the twenty-fifth anniversary of WHAP at the Mental Health Institute in Parkville. Associate Professor Cassandra Szoeke explained the health issues facing women in an easy to understand down-to-earth manner. Her lovely smile and obvious passion for research shone through as she told the room of volunteers about the project. I was amazed how it has grown. The data is now available worldwide to many PhD students from numerous countries studying a myriad of women’s health issues from diet, to cholesterol levels, mood swings, aging, the role of grand parenting in postmenopausal women’s cognitive health etc and they are finding this unique Australian study data invaluable. I believe it is now the longest running study of women’s health in the world.

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During the twenty-five years I’ve also journeyed from VCE to PhD and was delighted to have the opportunity to talk to the current PhD students about their research and possible findings. What I learnt from them will be invaluable in the years to come.

Initially funding was granted for two years, then more was found and the project progressed on a general basis until the focus turned to menopausal women, HRT or no HRT. Then came post menopausal. Now WHAP studies in Australia aims to identify modifiable mid-life risk factors for the development of late-life cognitive decline, improve the understanding of dementia, and target early disease identification utilizing clinical, biomarker and health risk profiles.

These aims are fortified by the ability to leverage the considerable database on health, lifestyle and socio-demographics collected prospectively from 1990 to date. This is the first study with a comprehensive neuropsychological battery, over a decade of cognitive follow-up, with all participants being offered amyloid imaging from 2012, and prospective longitudinal data including clinical and physical measures and bio-bank samples from over 20 years prior.

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I must admit that to have a pet scan to check for signs of amyloid, a protein that may result in Alzheimer’s disease, was scary. For the first time, I was hesitant about having this test, and could have refused if I so desired. However, on request I was immediately given all the details regarding the test, talked to my local doctor and decided to go ahead. I’m so glad I finally overcame my fear.

Being a WHAP volunteer has given me insights into women’s health issues and tools I can use to keep active and well as long as possible. That one phone call back in 1990 has led to an exciting journey. I will treasure the silver Melbourne University angel and certificate given to all the volunteers on this special anniversary of this study into women’s health, but honestly I feel I have gained far more than I have given.