Saturday, 23 November 2013

Man's Search for Meaning

Viktor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning

Man's Search for MeaningMan's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Inspirational. This is a life-changing book and I don't know why I haven't read it before. The copy I read I got from the library but I am going to purchase my own copy.

View all my reviews

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Clover Cottage Sojourn

Lower Dam, looking back toward the cottages

No mobile phone reception here - let alone Internet. No dramas getting here either: first, a comfort stop in Donnybrook – and to buy fruit and veges, then lunch in Bridgetown. It isn’t far from Bridgetown to Manjimup, less than 50kms on the South West Highway. The route continues down Muir Highway for a short distance (approx 17kms) before turning into Wheatley Coast Road. The road is sealed right up to the turn-off to Clover Cottage Country Retreat.

There is a low stone wall and wooden gate at the front of our picture-book cottage. Sapphire-blue fairy wrens (and the pale grey females) come right up onto the verandah and inspect our every move - in case we drop a crumb or two, so of course we do! Willie Wagtails chase behind and under the sheep that munch on the pasture on the other side of the wall. I watch as they swoop on any flying insect (of which there are many) So far we haven’t had any mosquitoes but the bush flies are friendly. Two dams on the other side of the pasture curve into the contours and further on the Warren River is flowing strongly. Roland can’t wait to wet his line and, even though there is a light drizzle, he is soon out on the water. I’m so happy to see he hasn’t lost his fly-fishing skills. He is a catch-and-release angler so I know I won’t be cooking fish tonight.

In the event, Roland caught and released two decent size rainbows. He told me that there are plenty of fish in both dams but they are difficult to catch having been ‘pricked’ so many times. Chironomids seemed to be the main insect diet and quite a few of these diminutive insects also enjoyed a sip of red wine from my glass! The trout also feed on galaxiids, the minnows that we used to call gillaminkies in Africa.

Paul Thomsett, the owner of Clover Cottages, has known Roland for many years and has given him a day on the Trophy Lake for a birthday gift. Roland takes this up and drives to the Trophy Lake which is some distance away. I choose to stay at the cottage. After early morning Yoga practice and breakfast, I go for a walk down to the Warren River. On the way, I take some carrots to feed to Edith and Plonkey. Edith is a beautiful brown French donkey and Plonkey is light grey with darker markings; he is an old fellow. The donkeys see me coming up the track and greet me with their mournful donkey song. There a couple of alpacas sharing the paddock with Edith and Plonkey but they don’t get a look-in when there are carrots being handed out. I’ve brought a broccoli stalk for the chooks but Edith catches sight of it and tells me in no uncertain terms that she loves broccoli stalk! The chooks will have to make do with the few left-over leaves. I was going to give them my apple core but Edith says she’ll have that as well, thank you. Five fat hens clucking, “Hurry up, hurry up” and then turning up their beaks at my paltry offering.

Edith & Plonkey
This morning I met Floyd, a truly gorgeous golden retriever; he is also known as ‘The Blond Bombshell’. He actually came to bury a bone in the garden of the cottage but, when he saw me, changed his mind and went next door.

I practice asana on the verandah with the blue wrens, willie wagtails and other birdlife flitting past me as I stretch and bend. It is warm in the sun, the perfumed wild flowers make me sneeze and I finish off my practice with Yoga Mudra.

I continued reading David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Now I’ve finished except for rereading parts that particularly drew me in. I am sorting out the story in my head; analysing and critiquing a (good) book is a habit that dies hard. It is a marvellous story and well told – once I learned how to read it. Thanks to Kim for recommending the book to me.

Tomorrow we head off to Albany via Walpole and Denmark. I’m looking forward to catching up with some good friends on the way through.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

This and That

I can understand people being concerned with the physical ailments connected to ageing but for me it is the mental deterioration that matters.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is an intriguing book. Interesting that she started writing it through NaNoWriMo some years ago. I have two unfinished novels started during NaNoWriMo that hang over me - as does the patchwork quilt I started working on in 1964 and never finished. I will one day if I live long enough. Maybe.

Given the introductory paragraph of this blog, you can understand why Neuroplasticity features in my reading at present. Recently, I finished Barbara Arrowsmith-Young's book, The Woman Who Changed Her Brain. and, apart from her ... 'earnest' literary manner, the book held my attention throughout. I would have liked her to give more examples of her techniques but I imagine she holds those close to her chest - that being her living. If the training to teach in her schools wasn't held in Canada I would be tempted to enrol. I was lead to her book through Norman Doidge's book, The Brain that Changes Itself. I am still working through that.

Learning Sanskrit chants seems like a good way to keep the brain from deteriorating. I find Sanskrit difficult although the Ganesh chant is easy to remember and one that I use often in meditation. My friend and Yoga Teacher, Rakini, taught me the chant when I went to Bali with her last year.

Yoga Philosophy is profound. Working toward understanding, even on a basic level, takes immense concentration. Swami Venkatesananda's books are one of my entry points, together with the work of Georg Feuerstein. Sometimes I despair at ever gaining any sort of grip on the philosophy until I realise that "grip" isn't what it is about! Then, I forget.

Asana helps both focus and concentration. I have found that some of the movements I'm learning at the gym in Pump are also helpful. The left brain/right brain work can only be good for the neural pathways.  Learning to juggle is proving difficult! My hand/eye coordination is not good. I close my eyes and remind myself, "Use the Force, Luke!"

Todd Sampson, in his TV series Redesign My Brain features the importance of creativity in improving the brain. The imagination and intricacy of plot in Erin Morgenstern's book fires up my creativity. The threads of the story she winds and weaves so skilfully remind me of a perfect tapestry; it is not only the front of the tapestry that is in view, the reverse is equally as accessible and those are my foci.

Another novel that draws me in and leads me down pathways, through labyrinthine passages and imaginative situations (albeit far more violent and explicit than Morgenstern's) is Kraken by China Miéville.

So many books to read.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Fairy Dust

Lily went to a fairy party. The Fairy-chief sprinkled fairy-dust (glitter to you and me) on her head. She is quite sure that she will now grow wings, and went to bed full of dreams of waking up a fairy with her own wings. 

This morning when she woke, she asked me if her wings had sprouted. Rubbing her little shoulder-blades, I told her I could feel the wings budding. "What is budding, Granny?" 
"Like a flower, Lily. Before the flower opens there is a bud and the flower slowly unfolds".
"Oh, when will my wings unfold?"
"Well, if you are a good girl; if you do lots of singing and dancing, they're sure to grow out one day!" 
"Do I have to eat healthy food?"
"Oh yes, lots of healthy food is important."
"Is porridge healthy?"
"Porridge is very healthy, do you want Gran to make you some for breakfast?"
She ate all her porridge on the strength of that. 
"Is sugar healthy?"
"Not really, but a little treat now-and-again is OK."
By this time Rosie was rolling her eyes in 12-year old fashion and the conversation turned to dobbing. Both girls dob on each other quite a lot. Dobbing, for those who are not Aussies, means telling tales - tattling. The discussion went like this: "Why haven't you got wings Gran?"
"Because I used to dob my brothers all the time so my wings won't grow, and I'm too old to fly now."
Silence while this astounding news is digested and then a change of direction.
"When my wings grow I'll be able to reach all the cans on the top shelf, even the ones that Dad can't reach!"
"What will I do with my wings in the rain? In the car?"
"You'll have to learn to fold them up inside their pockets on your back, like a back-pack."

Friday, 26 July 2013

Dream Poem

I was digging through some old files that I've been meaning to throw out since we moved from Walpole. Some of the material in the files dates back to my first year at Curtin Uni in 1993. I came upon this poem - attached to a story I wrote about my Russian grandmother in the first or second year of my PhD (1998-1999). I haven't changed punctuation or anything else. Here goes -

Dream Poem

I have a Russian cousin I didn’t know I had
Until I dreamed about her last night.
My Grandmother introduced us on the way to her death
She died in 1967.

I was wearing my grandmother’s slacks,
I found them in an old, battered brown suitcase.
Nobody knew she was going to die although she was ninety-two.

Grandmother was a secretive woman.
She recognised her slacks though, and laughed to see me wearing them.
that’s when she introduced me to my cousin Maria.

Maria is young, well, younger than me
and a migrant to Australia.

Maria was married twice in Russia.
The first time very young and for five years.
she tells me
“This husband liked entertainment too much”.

Second time, to Sergio, for twelve years.
“Same mistakes”
she tells me.

“No children”.
she tells me.

We sit together watching the lights beam down.
Dipping into the Swan.

She still flies in his private aircraft
she tells me
(but he doesn’t know).

There are documents I can’t read, written in Cyrillic.
Mysterious dream.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


March has long gone and here I am finishing off the travel blog at last.

Disembarking from the ship was fraught. As I came through the turnstile my identity card was refused! Bells rang and security stepped forward. I was sent (like a naughty schoolchild) to what we used to call the Pursers Office but on VoS is known as Guest Services. The security officer phoned Guest Services and I was told that there was 'a message'. Of course, all sorts of calamities rushed through my mind. Leaving Roland to carry on down to the terminal, I had to rush up to Deck 5 (from Deck 4) and wait in the queue until there was a spot. The young Chinese officer swiped my card and asked me if I was me. Naturally, I replied, "Yes" at which point she told me I was free to go!  I asked her what was the problem? She replied, "A message!" End of conversation. No apology, no explanation. I have to say, I don't think I will ever travel on Royal Caribbean again. Apart from this episode, sometime on the ship (or in Singapore) my credit card was skimmed.

There were more than 3,000 passengers leaving the ship at Singapore and I now had to find Roland! He was still waiting on the deck but I was sent to the terminal via another gate. Luckily I saw him standing there looking so forlorn. I waved and shouted until he spotted me and came tearing down the gangway. It only took about 5 minutes to clear Customs but then we (and 3,000 others) had to wait for our transport to the hotel. Eventually I remembered to look at our itinerary and found the name of the man waiting for us (Mr Hoon). Our car to the Swissotel Merchant Court was a very smart Mercedes and our driver was Josef.
Swissotel Merchant Court
There was another long wait to check in at the hotel and then, success! We were given an upgrade to an executive suite with free WiFi and a few other perks. Breakfast was included but for other meals we ate at one of the many food-halls.

Singapore is amazing. We went for a walk to China Town. My goodness, it was like being inside a washing machine on spin cycle. Mind you, everything clean and tidy as expected. We took time to go on a Singapore River cruise. This turned out to be a great way to see many of the sights that we may otherwise have missed. I was particularly taken with some of the sculptures along the banks of the river such as the one pictured here.
sculpture on the Singapore River
On our visit to the Botanic Gardens we saw some other whimsical sculptures, often slightly hidden so you come upon them unexpectedly. The Orchid Garden in the Botanical Gardens were splendid. I am not a big fan of orchids but the colours and variety in the Gardens nearly converted me (but not quite). There was one area where the orchids were backed by mirror walls thus intensifying the display.

Walking around the area near our hotel we found this Seafood
Market! We didn't go in but it was a funny (peculiar) place to find in Singapore.

I was impressed by the sunshades over many of the Malls - also acting as umbrellas. Singapore is almost on the Equator and it rains a lot; maybe every day. There were storms when we were there but nobody seemed to miss a beat.

There is so much to see in Singapore, it is quite overwhelming. I would like to have visited the Lotus shaped Arts Science Museum, the Cultural Centre that looks like a hedgehog and the Singapore Flyer (you can just see it to the left of the Arts Science Museum below). Apparently it takes 45 minutes to go all the way round and the views are spectacular. Next time ... Another place I will visit next time are the Gardens on the Bay. Two days in Singapore are not enough.
Art/Science Museum

Singapore River at night
Merlion, symbol of Singapore
On Sunday, we took a bus tour of the City and the Botanical Gardens. We saw from the land, landmarks we saw from the Singapore River the day before. The bus tour took us through the housing estates and we were given an excellent tutorial on some of the social aspects of Singapore. There is not much land in Singapore so all produce is imported from Malayasia and elsewhere. For the most part, the population live in apartment blocks and the demographic is mixed - old, young, rich, not so rich, different nationalities, commercial enterprise, worship and so on. We went past the old Colonial Sector and many of the Embassies. The United States Embassy was extremely well fortified but some of the others, barely at all. One area we passed I couldn't quite figure out; it seemed to be fully fortified and there were signs threatening trespassers with death (images of guns shooting people). This seemed to be right near Orchard Road so it could have been the Governor's Palace? This is about as close as I can get: The Istana

We visited Little India and I wished I had been able to sample some of the delicious looking foods available. It was at this point that the heavens opened and we had to hurry back to the bus.

When walking in Singapore I was able to get a sense of the history. There is so much development happening that the historical aspects tend to fade into the background. Next time (and there will be a next time ...) I will visit the famous Raffles Hotel and have gin-sling. The time went far too quickly and after an extremely early start and an exceedingly revolting coffee at Changi Airport, we were on the plane home to Perth.

On the way home at last!
I think I must be a bit like a horse, I can hardly wait to get home again.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

One Day in Ho Chi Minh City

The tour, Ho Chi Minh City Highlights, began in Phu My and a long (2+ hours) bus trip from the port to the city. The distance may not be so great but the traffic was heavy. Our guide, Tuan, kept us entertained and amused with information and some jokes - one joke pertaining to the so-called "Condom Trees" (Rubber Trees) that lined the highway from the port to the city. It was a long involved story suitable for Reader's Digest! I could probably remember it but it was such a shaggy-dog tale that went on and on. Clearly he (Tuan) had told it before as it lasted most of the way.
Rubber Tree Plantation
All along the highway were coffee/refreshment shops. Part of the deal in these places are the hammocks; rows and rows of hammocks where, after your meal you can have a nap for as long you wish. I imagine you'd have to pay for the privilege.

The population of Saigon is estimated at 10million and there are approximately 6million scooters and motorbikes. The most popular scooter is one made in China and available for the Dong equivalent of $300 (Australian). There are approx. 20,000 Dong to the Aussie dollar. The scooters come at you from every direction and the trick, when crossing the road, is to set your course and not waver one iota! The drivers avoid you so, if you jump out of the way or something like that, you will be hit for sure.

The weather in Saigon was hot and humid. Apparently, when we were there (in March) the tourist season is coming to an end and the really hot weather is about to start. Tuan explained that once the tourist season ends so does his job. The wages are low and the population is still expanding as it has been since the end of the war. Farming is the main source of income and the fertile land produces up to three crops a year. Coffee is the major export with rice a close second. Tuan explained he came from a farming background and only started learning English as a young man in his late teens/early twenties. There is not much future for those who cannot speak English.

 Tuan taught us a few handy phrases to use - one of which was sing-a-song to be used when you need the loo! Some of the other phrases were a bit tricky for someone as language-challenged as I am but nodding and smiling seemed to be OK. 

The main Post Office was high on the list of where we absolutely had to go. The reason became clear once we got there ... that's where the authorised money changers hang out. I made my solitary purchase in the hawkers alley there - two wine holders shaped like the crescent moon and painted with a delicate pattern.

The History Museum is a fascinating place and the antiquities on show are extraordinary; many are incredibly beautiful and, to my mind, reminiscent of ancient Greek and Egyptian sculptures.

We visited the former Presidential Palace now known as Reunification Hall which became famous when a North Vietnamese tank crashed through its front gates on April 30th 1975, signalling end of the Vietnam War. We were taken through the bomb shelters under the Palace where many of the maps and some of the old telephones are on display. I found it spooky and couldn't wait to get out into the open air again.

I believe we visited the Jade Palace but I have no recollection of it at all!

Many of the people (particularly the women) wear masks. I, along with most of the others on the tour bus, thought this was because of the pollution but ... according to Tuan ... it is to keep the facial skin pale! He said they take the masks off at night and there is still pollution but no sun!

Quick thoughts on Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City: Noisy, dirty, scary, fun, traffic, slums.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Shore Excursions

The notes from the cruise are rapidly disappearing under a pile of paper so it is about time that I continued my discourse (although I hope not as formal as "discourse").

One of the best things that happened on the Voyager of the Seas cruise was meeting Siraj early in the cruise, at Vitality Stretch class. We shared an instant rapport and I feel this will be a longterm friendship - although she lives in the US and I live in Western Australia (thank you to Facebook, email). Anyway, Siraj reminded me of an incident that happened while we were in Bangkok where we were on the same shore excursion: Hidden Jewels of Bangkok. Part of the excursion included a tuk tuk ride along the main drag in Bangkok - including a police escort! The ride took us from Wat Rachanadda temple to another temple. I had never been in a tuk tuk before, neither had Roland. It was exhilarating and noisy.

in the tuk tuk 
To cut a long story short, an elderly couple decided against taking the ride in the tuk tuk (or missed the cue) and the tour buses had already left. The Tour Guide only discovered they were missing when we boarded the bus again after the next stop. We waited and waited but they did not appear. I think the Guide was having conniptions by this time. Eventually, after numerous phone calls, it was decided that we continue on our way. We hadn't gone far when one of the tourists on the bus shouted out, "There they are!" or "There he is!" How she recognised him I have no idea as he was a stranger to her as he was to all of us on the bus. I guess she was an observant person. On her shout, the bus pulled up and we waited for the man to fetch his wife who was having trouble walking. It was a fair distance for them to have walked in unfamiliar surroundings.

The trip back to the ship took over two hours owing to the amount of container-trucks. The driver had to detour as the road was so congested. What a relief to get back on board, it was a tiring day, albeit filled with excitement and new experiences.

The following day we visited Pattaya, a seaside resort. Parts of Pattaya have a dismal, sad feeling, like a nightclub in the morning when all the revellers have left and the cleaners haven't arrived yet.

We enjoyed walking along the beach front and did some shopping in the multi-story shopping centres. Some were fixed price but many were 'negotiable'. Roland's favourite is looking for watches - not that he ever buys anything!

I spotted this jet ski on a trailer, complete with rider, driving through the traffic! 
Riding a jet ski through the traffic!

Now you're famous!
If memory serves, I bought multi-coloured pixie hats for Rosie and Lily from a street vendor in Pattaya and paid full price much to her delight and my chagrin! It still worked out at a pittance and we were both happy.

Random thoughts: we learned that Tinglish is a mixture of Thai and English! That appeals to me.
The humidity was incredible; a tourist pushed past me in the street in Pattaya and she was dripping wet, really sweaty wet. It felt horrible.
Siraj wanted us to visit the Sanctuary of Truth a wooden castle (or temple) near Pattaya. I stressed out about missing the boat so declined but it is on my list for next time.

I'll continue with Ho Chi Minh City next time. I hope it won't take as long to get motivated.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Picking up where I left off - in Thailand

You are here

After returning home from our holiday I had time to write one blog. My next adventure was an emergency appendectomy on Easter Sunday evening. Unusual for a person my age to have appendicitis - but that did not make it any less painful! I recovered well and came home the next day (Easter Monday). After that, procrastination set in and this is the first time I've had the inspiration to sit down and blog. Plenty has been happening here including our smash-proof screen door locking itself and not letting us in or out. We're waiting for the locksmith even as I write.

Of course, the holiday is a dim memory now but I'll turn to my trusty Moleskine and see what I can find.

We enjoyed Bangkok and Pattaya in Thailand. The traffic was horrendous, kilometre after kilometre of container trucks - mainly running on gas, we could see the gas bottles stacked up behind the drivers' cabs. Even the tuk-tuks run on gas. The trip from the where the ship was docked (Leam Chabang) into Bangkok took upwards of two hours and gave us a chance to see some of the countryside although mainly built up. A little bit like Bali on steroids.

In Bangkok we visited a number of temples including the huge Reclining Buddha at Wat Po. I was fascinated to see the back of his head in tight little (gold) curls. Overheard in the crush of tourists, "Looks like a gold submarine".

Wat Ratchanadda and Loha Prasat with 36 surrounding spires is a wonderful place. The spiral staircase winds up and up to a spire from which we could view the surrounding city. All along the corridors on each level are Buddhist adages in English and Thai. Lots of seated Buddhas all along the outside wall and signs to say, "You Are Here".

my favourite

Rows and rows of gold Buddhas

Seated Buddha

The Big Buddha at Wat Suthat

view from the top

Roland said he was "All templed-out"!

The murals were beautiful and I had fun photographing the details. One of these days I'll buy a better camera.

To be continued - Pattaya, Ho Chi Minh City and finally Singapore.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Calm Seas and Warm Weather

Voyager of the Seas is a massive cruise liner. Over 3,000 passengers and nearly 1,500 crew. We (Roland and I) embarked at Fremantle on 9 March. Can you imagine the logistics required to get 3,000 people on board?

Kath and the girls took us to the wharf. The ship towered above the buildings, a great, white palace. Lily was determined not to be impressed and told us, in no uncertain terms, "It is just a little boat." Kath told me later that she had wept all the way home and then lay on her bed crying, "Granny, Granny!"

Once on board the first event was Life-boat drill. We saw people at the Life-boat drill and never saw them again the rest of the cruise! By the same token, some people we saw every day and some people we saw for the first time when the ship docked in Singapore two weeks later. This is one of the mysteries of cruising on a gigantic ocean liner ... I think that many passengers spend their whole time in the casino. Others keep roughly the same schedule as we do and we bump into them all the time. Some folk are confined to their cabins due to illness or other reasons.

Some passengers are just more noisy and it is difficult to miss them. One group played cards next to the adults-only pool every day and you could hear them a mile away. The deck of cards they used were not like any I've ever seen before (I had a good look when I walked past). I wasn't cheeky enough to ask about the cards and anyway the card players did not seem to speak much English. The three swimming pools were popular as were the many whirlpools (spas). I swam a few times although the water was overly warm and not really refreshing - plus crowded with fairly large people who swim right over the top of people my size. I didn't venture into any of the spas - too crowded and unhygienic for me (that's because I once saw someone squeezing their pimples while sitting in the spa - I suppose the heat of the water opens the pores? Still, makes me feel nauseous).

There were plenty of children on board and they seemed to enjoy the swimming pools most of all. The children were well catered for all round. In the cabin next to us were 4 young children and they were so  well-behaved. I complimented their father when I saw him and he was well pleased and surprised! I asked him if the children had fallen out of the bunk-bed but it turned out they had been jumping off the top bunk and that is what I could hear!

Our cabin was on the lowest level, deck 2, so we had 170 steps to climb to the main buffet restaurants on deck 11. The first couple of days we were puffed but soon picked up fitness. Using the stairs instead of the lifts has a double benefit (as explained to me by my sister Annette) First, you don't get sneezed and coughed over, thus avoiding flu and colds; secondly, your weight doesn't sky-rocket. The food on board was excellent and heaps of it. I even succumbed to eating some sweet puddings, something I don't normally do. Luckily I found the scales in the gym! Another benefit of using the stairs was being able to see the excellent selection of art on each landing; tapestry, sculpture, photographs and paintings.

fruity breakfast
in the buffet

Rest and relaxation were the main pastimes also reading, sleeping and exploring the ship. The Ship's Library was not as well-stocked as expected but I read 3 or 4 books during the cruise. The gym offered stretch and abs classes first thing in the morning that I attended regularly as well as doing my own Yoga practice. Apart from that I played on my iPad, looked at the view and generally kicked back. Calm seas and warm (hot) weather.

More to follow.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Here's an idea worth sharing

Lily received a birthday party invitation last week. Nothing unusual in that - when you're 4 going on 5 and in Pre-Primary, birthday party invitations come thick and fast. What was unusual about this invitation was the pamphlet that arrived with it.

The little girl whose birthday it is came up with the idea (or maybe her parents came up with the idea) that, instead of gifts, this year she would like her guests to make a donation to the Smith Family Foundation for disadvantaged children. Indeed, the pamphlet in the envelope was from the Smith Family Foundation.

I do believe that many parents would welcome this initiative as so many gifts nowadays are duplicated or re-gifted or just plain junk that is looked at for 5 minutes and then thrown into the toy-box or the wardrobe never to see the light of day - until brought out for re-gifting, throwing out or donated to the thrift shop (who will probably throw it out).

Of course there is going to be a party - a disco! How much fun will the littleys have dancing the afternoon away! I'm pretty sure Lily will be showing off her moves to the other children.

Sure there will be gifts for the birthday girl (in this case) - from grandparents, parents and so on. Meaningful gifts. Something to treasure. But, if the whole class is invited to the party and each child donates even $10.00 the the Smith Family Foundation - how good will that be!

What do you think?

Saturday, 16 February 2013


I have just read a fairly challenging book, Embassytown by China Miéville. The review on the link is by Ursula Le Guin whose writing may have had some influence on China Miéville. Kafka also springs to mind.

One quote to share, "We were trying to find Language to make sense of a time before whatever came after." spoken by Avice, the main character. 

Roland kept asking me what Embassytown was about. I struggled to define. It is science fiction and, as one reviewer wrote, anthropological. It is about semiotics, about politics, war ... 

I do recommend this book if you're up for a challenging read!

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Playing shops

Playing shops with Lily (age four-and-a-half) is an entertaining occupation. First, she sets up all the goods (toys) for sale on the lounge then she designs a front counter with flowers and two fairy figurines. She tells me exactly where I must sit (I am to be the shop-keeper although I only find this out by default).

Rosie (age eleven-and-a-half) is, of course, intrigued with what her little sister is doing but she is determined not to show it. I see her rolling her eyes as Lily issues multiple orders to her gran.

Once everything is ordered to her liking Lily disappears into her room and comes back wearing a fairy dress. "Hello" she says, "My name is Binnie Riddle." This is when I discover two things; one: I am the shop-keeper and two: I'm glad I've got a pen and paper to write down her name.

"Hello Binnie Riddle" I say, "My name is Poppy Macaroni. What can I do for you today?" Binnie Riddle chooses some toys and pays me with imaginary money. I say, "Here's your change."
"What's change?" she asks. Never one to miss a chance to enlarge her knowledge I explain. Massive eye-rolling from Rosie.

Lily runs off to her room and comes back in a different fairy outfit. "Hello!" says she, "My name is Bung Bunny and this is Sophie" (a rather moth-eaten teddy bear). Another transaction takes place and off she goes again.

Each time she reappears she is wearing a different outfit - a long scarf wound around her body, a funny hat, a big pink coat (the temperature is well into the 30sC); and each time another name: Poodley Bum, Happy Bibble, Kinley, Ballerewa, Lily Explorer, Mermaid Star, Wan Hot, Fat Rat Person, Sleepy Head, Hansel Hunter, Chinkle, Lady Cherlotte and finally, Owie Person. Each name is carefully enunciated and I have to repeat it back to her so she can make sure I've written it down correctly. I slip up with Ballerewa because I say, "Ballerina"
"No, Gran, not Ballerina, my name is Ballerewa." (much eye-rolling from Rosie).

Then, quite suddenly, the game is over.

"Are you looking forward to going back to school Lily?" I ask.
"No" she replies with some emphasis and adds, "I only want to go to parties."

Being a grandmother has untold rewards and I have two of the most delightful grand daughters I could ever wish for.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


A quote from Sylvia Boorstein that I find helpful

The Truth of the Breath

Some people practice throughout their entire lives just by paying attention to their breathing. Everything that is true about anything is true about breath: it’s impermanent; it arises and it passes away. Yet if you didn’t breathe, you would become uncomfortable; so then you would take in a big inhalation and feel comfortable again. But if you hold onto the breath, it’s no longer comfortable, so you have to breathe out again.

From Body as Body 

Sylvia Boorstein

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Today I read

One good thing about being retired is I can read all day if I feel like it.

Today I feel like reading so into The Hare With Amber Eyes and then the second volume of Ursula le Guin's collected short stories. I read the first volume last month - Where on Earth which I thoroughly enjoyed. The second volume Outer Space, Inner Lands awaits.

Actually the weather is conducive to gardening (apart from swarms of mozzies and flies) but I have put enough DEET on myself lately to float the ark. This morning I was at the beach for a walk and a swim - a mosquito got me at I walked into the water - direct hit in the middle of my back! The water was divine. We are privileged to live in such an amazing place as the South West of Western Australia.

Gearies Break