Thursday, January 27, 2011

In a heartbeat...

She stands watching him, waiting
For the lift of an eyebrow, for the turn of his head
For the curve of his lips, or the rise of his chest
And while she waits...
A child is born to the world.
A heart is lost to love.
A gambler walks away from her addiction.
A friend holds his tongue and leaves things lie.
A leaf falls from a tree.
A shoot rises from the earth.
A prayer is answered.
A book is closed.

And when he raises his hand
As he has many times before
She runs
Anticipation adding speed
To her eager joy
Only to return the ball
So they can play again.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reviewing the Reviewers

A re-run on Radio National about reviewing has stayed with me over the past couple of days.

I am still left with the question of 'what is the role of the reviewer?'

Is it to give a personal response to something they have read?
Is it to promote discussion about a literary piece and a broader discussion of literature as a whole?
Should they inject their review with their personality or not?
Should it get personal?
Is it a way to fill space, get newspapers sold, get people clicking onto blogs?
Is it about the reader? The writer? The publishing house or the reviewer?
Still pondering this one.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Dial I for Murder

The home phone rang at 10.00 pm.
I have a few family and friends who will ring around this time, but still that first ring jangles the nerves as I check the clock to confirm the lateness of the hour.
10.00 pm.
The rain was hitting the windows at a 45 degree angle and the dogs raised their heads in query.
10.00 pm.
I answered. 'Hello?'
There was a muffled noise at the other end.
Someone crying? Someone choking?
'Hello?' Louder this time.
Still no response, but someone definitely there.
Usually I would hang up at this point, but something made me persist.
A quavery voice finally filtered through.
'Hello? Who is this?' The voice was both demanding yet faint.
'Well you rang me.' By now I was getting annoyed. 'It's Karen.'
'Karen. Who is this?'
She told me her name and I laughed.
'Karen who?' She was still confused.
'KT,' I said.
She blamed her new iPhone. Somehow, as she was turning out the bedside light, she'd rung my number.
As I hung up the rain continued to tattoo the window and the dogs returned to sleep.
Now how could I use that in a story...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Everything old is new again

Yesterday I had afternoon tea with Peggy who turns 90 next month. We share the same birthday, albeit some years apart. Peggy grew up in Collingwood and is an avid Collingwood football supporter. She was a seamstress in her younger days for labels such as Roger David — men's trousers. That was her forte.

We discussed how much change she'd seen in her lifetime. Living through the Great Depression, talking about the handouts of food which helped keep her family of six alive. She talked about the Coolgardie Safe - her fridge when she was a child - which consisted of a box and wet hessian to keep the contents inside cool. At one point I sourced a recipe for her from the Internet - I had to print it out twice, the second time in a larger point size. No problem. Easy done.

She marvelled over this, how far we've come. But when she talked about the climate extremes she had experienced throughout her 89 years, I realised the gadgets may have changed, but we are arrogant to think that we can control our environment.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Extreme Australia

I live in a cool area in the eastern states of Australia because I dislike the heat, so I welcomed the rain over the Christmas period rather than grumbled at the lack of sunshine. As I sit here this morning, though, I can't take pleasure in the patter of rain on the leaves outside when over 200,000 of our Queensland neighbours are experiencing floods and an incredible loss of homes, stock and even lives.

In February 2009 our community experienced Black Saturday — a disasterous bushfire period where 173 lives were lost. Hard to believe that lives are being lost in January 2011 in floods. What an extreme country we live in.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Hello, Cocky

The black cockatoos are back here for their annual visit, their high-pitched call heralding their arrival. They sound different from their white cousins who have more of a screech, but they are still loud enough to wake you in the morning. There is a plaintive note to their cry and I always enjoy catching a glimpse of them wheeling in the sky before they move on to wherever they go for the rest of the year.
My cousin used to have a neighbour with a pet cockatoo that was a good mimic. My aunt must have spent a lot of time standing on the back porch calling her son's name, for the cocky soon took up the task and often called out his name, with the same intonation, only scratchier. And then there was Aunty Kate's budgie with the goiter which scared me as a child whenever we dropped in for a visit. I have had a bit of a love-hate relationship with birds ever since Alfred Hitchcock...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

No don't stop - or, the problem with lack of intonation

A few recent electronic misunderstandings have led me to muse the lack of intonation inherent in emails and blogging. I have never been one to use emoticons (smiley face) but these at least go some way to expressing the intent of the author. ie This is a joke, or, I am using irony here. Coupled with a lack of intonation is the careless use of grammatical indicators in emails, texts and blogging that could also help point the reader in the right direction if used.

Which reminds me of an English class where we were given the words 'no don't stop' and asked to interpret their message. As we found, the message or (urgency of the message) could change, depending on the use of grammatical indicators.

No! Don't stop.
No! Don't! Stop!
No, don't stop.
No don't. Stop.
No? Don't stop.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hot Cross January

Our Christmas Tree was so pretty this year that it is still sitting in the corner of our lounge room.
Which is why I did a double take in the supermarket today - yep, there they were
HOT CROSS BUNS for sale.
By my calculation Easter is in April this year
but there they were in all their glory.

Made me come home and check the calendar
just to make sure I hadn't missed a few months...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Year of Writing for Children - 2011

2011 is the Year of Writing for Children with Karen Tayleur.
Well, that's what it says in the Victorian Writers Centre program, so it must be true.

Which means I have been sitting here lately thinking about the shape of the course —
which will be 5 Sundays, 10am to 4pm over the course of the year.
It's an exciting idea for me — to liaise with writers over a long period rather than a few weeks here or a term there.
Thinking about other people and writing is a sure way to get me thinking about the shape of my own writing. At the moment I am exploring Story Beginnings and exercises to let the imagination flow.

See you in March!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Who do you think YOU are? (And where do you come from?)

Unless you are an Indigenous Australian, all Australians come from somewhere else. I was always at my dad to map out the family tree for us, but he never got around to it and I have found myself taking on the task instead.

I've been watching the 'Who Do You Think You Are?' show with interest and finally hopped online to just to check my own relatives out. I am the keeper of the photos in my family, which meant that I could rifle through the three boxes of photos, checking out any info written on the back of each photo for a clue or reminder about who belonged to whom, confirming what I found online.

I managed to waste a whole day following the little leaf links to relatives I have never met and most I have never heard of. It has already given me a lot of food for thought and raised questions that I have no answers for — yet. Family folklore being what it is, I assumed that I came from mostly Irish stock, but so far my Scottish heritage outweighs the Irish connection. (This is just on my father's side. My grandmother never talked about her life in the olden days, even when I asked her point blank. It saddened me to find out yesterday that she — and her 12 siblings — were orphaned when she was 9. It did make sense, however, of the fierce regard she had for holding close to her sons and their families.

One of my favourite findings so far is a painting of the ship (Marco Polo) on which my great-grandfather was born — David North McColl 1852 — en route to Australia from Scotland.

Think I am going to have to restrict my access to this site if I am to get any writing done this year...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

And so — 2011

Christmas Carols have a way of hitting my nostalgic spot like no other song, save one. Yes, just when you thought it was safe to turn off Bing Crosby, New Years Eve snuck up on me last night and whammo — good old Auld Lang Syne. I think it must have been genetically encoded into me that this song would always bring a lump to my throat.

We have the poet Robbie Burns to thank for the words. (He's the one in the fancy cravat.) I guess it is no coincidence that he is considered a pioneer of the Romantic Movement and I know that he was a favourite of my grandfather Thomas Burns, but maybe that was due to the surname.

Another favourite of Pa's was Christina Rossetti (she of the nearly Princess Leia hairdo). When he died I inherited a tiny padded ox-blood coloured covered book of Rossetti's poetry — a book from his childhood — and eventually two chair rockers. The book has since gone AWOL and one of the rockers sits in the corner of my study and catches the late afternoon winter sun, a perfect spot for reading. We spent considerable time together when I was a child, my pa and I, rocking away, pondering the strangeness of life. He with his magic roll your own cigarettes machine and racing form guide and me with a book in my lap and one of Pa's strong mints used to cover his tobacco breath. For years after he'd gone, my nan would watch the Scottish Highland Pipers on New Year's Eve as if to pipe him back to her. If she had leftover Christmas pud to eat at the same time, all the better.

Stupid song.