While I ponder what to next write in this blog of mine, the words of an old song keep popping into my head: “What should I write, what can I say, …….”
which is exactly how I am thinking.
However, the rest of the song, which goes something like this, “how can I tell you how much I miss you?” doesn’t fit my current wonderings
These lyrics were written (and sung) way back in the 1960s, by Carole King and it’s all about lost love and “…..it might as well rain until September”
Well, it is September and it has (surprisingly) just rained, even though the sun is shining. (Just one of those tropical downpours I have to become used to).
Still pondering what to write,
Francis Bacon, the 16th century philosopher - not the later (20th century) painter - is quoted as suggesting one should: “Write down the thoughts of the moment. Those that come the most unsought for are commonly the most valuable.”
So, do I? Write down the ‘thoughts of the moment’ that is.
So what should I do? What should I write?
Should I vent my spleen on the war-mongering that is proliferating on our planet right now?
Should I continue my diatribe about the inequalities that abound?
Or perhaps I should just tell about how I am in the throes of photographing and trying to sell great-grandma’s old fine china on eBay.
Because, yes, that’s what I’ve been doing.
Terrible feelings of guilt have been hard to slough off, but I am telling myself that if someone does buy these items, then they will be owned by a ‘someone’ who truly appreciates them and, unlike me, will not simply stash them away in a cupboard and never use them.
Then again, as I am unaware of the true worth of these pieces, I may be ‘ripped off’ by some antique dealer.
Nevertheless, I guess that ultimately the fine china teapot - and the tureen - will become possessions for someone who loves them. (Hopefully!).
But, of course, first I have to have a buyer.
We shall see.
And, look, I haven’t even mentioned Global Warming or fighter jets. (Phew!)
¯ “Last night I had the strangest dream I ever dreamed before; I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war…” ¯
What I thought was a children’s song from the 1980s, I now discover was written, not for children, but as a ‘peace movement’ song, written in 1950 by American song writer, Ed McCurdy.
I first found it in a children’s song book and taught it to nearly 100 small children in the school where I was teaching in the late 1980s.
I had not heard it sung before and so put my interpretation to the music.
It is only recently that I have heard it (via YouTube), sung by the likes of Pete Seeger, Simon and Garfunkel and Johnny Cash.
Although the same song, it sounds a little different from the one the children sang and (especially Pete Seeger’s version) is sometimes in an almost rollicking, hillbilly style and sounds even a bit ‘twee’.
I have to say that I preferred the way my choir of children sang it many years ago.
But I am getting off the track of what I wished to say, which was that the song needs reviving - and reviving in a BIG way.
When it was first written, World War 2 had only ended five years before. When the likes of Johnny Cash performed it, it was as comment on the state of the awful Vietnam war of the 1960s and 70s.
And, here we are now with the most horrendous wars and terrorism known to man proliferating across the globe.
We are in the throes of anger and hate overload, but it seems that, as long as humans are on Earth, they (we?) will never learn that war is pointless.
I’m convinced that the majority of people agree with the sentiments portrayed in the little song and I (and most others) know that the way to live in harmony is not to fight but to submerge ourselves in kindness towards others.
LOVE IS ALL THAT MATTERS.
When will we learn?
‘Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.’
(Dwight D. Eisenhower, From a speech before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 16, 1953)
Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
The room was filled with men
And the paper they were signing said
They'd never fight again.
And when the papers all were signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands end bowed their heads
And grateful prayers were prayed.
And the people in the streets below
Were dancing round and round
And guns and swords and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground.
Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.
Ed McCurdy. (1950)
Here’s a true story:
A friend of mine (a 70+ year-old grandmother – whom I’ll call Mary) corresponded for a while with an asylum seeker (whom I’ll refer to as Dishi) and was finally permitted to visit him in a detention centre – after she had ‘been approved’, and her identity proven.
Mary arrived at the detention centre in her small car and, after consulting with officials, she met Dishi, the young man she had come to see; discovering a friendly, warm and intelligent young man who was still able to smile despite his predicament.
Mary inquired of detention centre staff if she could take Dishi out for a short drive. The answer was ‘No’ but if she allows a (later) more extensive ‘interview’ where officials can verify Mary’s identity further and check her credentials, she may be allowed (one day) to take Dishi out of the detention centre for a short drive BUT she (they) must also take a detention centre officer with them.
If Mary’s interviewer is not perfectly satisfied with her motives and character, but almost satisfied, she will be allowed to take Dishi out, BUT will have to include TWO officers on the drive.
(Mary drives a small car).
This poor man, Dishi, who came to Australia FIVE YEARS AGO is a genuine refugee who has done nothing wrong. He was fleeing chaos and hoping to find a job in Australia to enable him to subsequently bring his parents here to live safely. So far, Dishi has lived (half-lived) in HUTS, behind wire, in detention centres on Christmas Island and in three different states in mainland Australia.
The processing of Dishi's refugee application - and of so many other asylum seekers - does not seem to be happening.
How much is the housing (HOUSING? they’re not houses!), feeding and transporting of these poor people costing the government?
I may be naïve, but surely it would be more economical to resolve how to effectively process applications and sort out the (so called) non-genuine from the genuine refugees and put a stop to what in my mind is the torturing of our fellow human beings.
Asylum seekers who arrive in Australia by boat are neither engaging in illegal activity, nor are they immigrants
The UN Refugee Convention (to which Australia is a signatory) recognises that refugees have a right to enter a country for the purposes of seeking asylum, regardless of how they arrive or whether they hold valid travel or identity documents.
The supermarket chain, Aldi, has withdrawn from sale copies of the Roald Dahl classic “Revolting Rhymes” owing to complaints form someone (someone?) claiming that the book contains inappropriate words.
That is, in the hilarious re-vamped tale of Cinderella the word ‘slut’ is used.
This book was first published in the 1980s, when most children had possibly never heard the word, ‘slut’ and had no idea what the word meant if they had. The word was generally just passed over as another very funny part of Roald Dahl’s story telling.
Here’s the offending section:
The Prince cried, 'Who's this dirty slut?
'Off with her nut! Off with her nut!'
I often read this and other ‘Revolting Rhymes’ to students in my classes over the years and never had a complaint.
(Children all knew that ‘nut’ referred to ‘head’)
I probably didn’t read this story to the very young children; small children who were still gaining enjoyment from the original fairy tales, but at about eight years of age and beyond, children were thrilled to hear such tales with a rude and yes, ‘revolting’ take on the old favourites.
Parents, also, found the book (and the others, “Rhyme Stew”, and “Dirty Beasts”) very entertaining.
These Roald Dahl books provided great opportunities for families to have reading time – and fun – together.
Other Roald Dahl books were also read by me to my pupils, including his far more serious memoir, “Boy”, which was a favourite, especially with Grade Five students.
It wasn’t only rude and grisly accounts that helped make Roald Dahl a favourite author for children and adults from before 1980 to more recent times. His books were (and are still, to some extent) devoured by millions; encouraging young people of every age to pick up a book and read.
The current furore over the word ‘slut’ has flabbergasted me. Perhaps I understand the original meaning of the word to simply mean ‘dirty’ or ‘slovenly’, but why some people place such importance on a single word and become all morally offended and (falsely?) high principled about it I cannot comprehend.
A final comment: If you are likely to be offended by words, why on earth would you buy a book that is entitled, “Revolting Rhymes”?
What did you expect?
To end, just another tiny extract:
'All right?' cried Cindy .'Can't you see '
I feel as rotten as can be!'
She beat her fist against the wall,
And shouted, 'Get me to the Ball!
'There is a Disco at the Palace!
'The rest have gone and I am jealous!
How delightful is that?
There seems to have been talk recently – and a few books on the subject – about children losing the ability to use their imagination and about kids living in cocooned inside worlds, with nothing but electronic games to amuse themselves.
Whilst I disagree with some of the more dramatic (hysterical?) statements concerning the demise of real, active and experience-filled, learning childhoods, I am in agreement (as I think I have stated before) with the people who suggest that an outdoor play-time led childhood is the more beneficial one to be experienced.
The topic of cubby houses has been in my mind lately as I have been seeing far too many of those terrible pastel or brightly coloured plastic ‘play houses’ both in back yards and in sales catalogues from (cheapish) department stores.
What’s the point in producing a lollipop-looking dolls-house thing that’s just big enough to fit a small child? A plastic set-up that’s destined to fade and fall apart shortly after the child has become terminally bored with attempts to make it into something exciting – or even satisfying.
Whatever happened to the idea of a family collecting building scraps of timber and constructing a real ‘cubby house’ – or even a tree house, as both an interesting activity and a personalised play space for the kids and their friends?
Is it too much like hard work to build something?
Would such a construction spoil the neat look of the perfect home?
Is it the dangerous possibility of a child getting a splinter in his or her finger?
Is it not safe for a child to learn to use a hammer and nails?
Is it the even worse fear of a child falling from a home-made play house and actually hurting themselves?
I fondly recall the cubby of my childhood, the dirt floor of which my sisters and I constantly swept clean with an old broom. The cubby that had a (glass-free) window that served as everything from porthole to shop counter.
I recall the cubby my husband built for our small children (with their help and advice!). It was in a corner of the yard, therefore negating the necessity of constructing two of its four walls, as they were provided by the paling fence.
Our young daughter often invited neighbourhood children into “her house” and even enlisted me as an occasional drinks’ waiter to bring out plastic mugs of cordial and sometimes a plate of plain biscuits.
That cubby house even had a (low) second storey, with a makeshift ‘ladder’ of wooden steps nailed to the nearby gum tree.
Certainly, there were a few falls and knocks, but not one child broke a bone and I cannot remember blood being spilled. But fun they had in spades.
There doesn’t seem to be much fun associated with the plastic ‘already-prepared’ constructions I see lately.
But I may be wrong.
I’ve always been a fan of Dr Seuss - a devotee, not only as a teacher and a mother (& grandmother) but as an admirer of his attitude to life and the wisdom of his words.
His simple and amusing books have helped millions of people throughout the world to learn to read, while imparting gems of philosophical wisdom dispersed in the undercurrent of his words.
A favourite quote is:
‘Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter, don’t mind.’
Oh, how true - and oh, if only everyone could digest that thought and remember it - and act upon it.
Then there is:
‘Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is You-er than You’
Sadly, most people go through life imagining they are something other that who (or what) they truly are. We all do it; we (nearly) all have a vision of ourselves that is different from the true self.
Likewise, I suspect we (nearly) all have a vision of how others see us other than the way they really do see us.
I have always had a feeling that I have a lot of ‘catching up’ to do before I can be like other people. I feel that most people have a better grip on life and a better approach to everything than I have.
I remember throughout my childhood, even though it was a fairly happy time, often thinking that I would never be as good as the other children in my class. Not only as far as intelligence went but even as far as having the ‘right’ look and the ‘right’ family and even the ‘right’ pencils, for heaven’s sake!.
Not so very long ago I had a simple reunion get-together with some old (yes, quite OLD) school friends, from long ago. While talking to a girl – now a middle-aged mother and grandmother - I mentioned some of my not-so-pleasant memories of school days. She surprised me by saying, ‘But, Dianna, you were always so clever!’
What a shock. I had never thought that any other girl in my class would have thought I was clever.
I had spent many a school day trying to be just like the other girls and never seeming to quite make it. That at least one girl had a vision of me as a clever person was a small revelation.
Perhaps it was a late-in-life jolt to my self-esteem and opinion of myself - to realise so many years later that others’ views of me (even though as a child) were quite different from what I had imagined.
So, I try to follow Dr Seuss’s advice and not even try to think about what others may think of me and to remember that I do not have to conform to anyone’s ideas or ideals - and to remember the words,
‘There is no one alive who is You-er than You’
Thanks, Dr Seuss!
Many years ago, I knew a man who claimed that all that was needed to keep young kids amused was a few tin cans and some stones and rocks. Although I laughed at the time, I am starting to agree with him.
A woman in USA (Lenore Skenazy) was labelled ‘USA’s Worst Mom’ because she let her nine-year-old child travel on the train by himself. She later wrote a book titled, ‘Free Range Kids’.
There seems to be an emerging, though small, movement of people who are concerned about the way children are continually watched over and over-protected nowadays.
I think it was Professor Paul Tranter of the University of New South Wales who coined the phrase ‘the unobserved child’. He and others claim that children who walk to school, and are exposed to nature, outdoors, weather and friendships are the lucky kids.
Nature (outdoor) play has been replaced with ‘playing’ inside, which supposedly keeps the children safe.
In fact, children who play outside, unobserved, are the kids who end up healthy, creative, happy and independent. Very rarely are they overweight, nor do they suffer from other diseases and conditions brought about by inactivity.
I consider myself most fortunate to have lived the life of an unobserved child.
Of course that was many decades ago and “things” were different then. Mothers often did not even own cars, let alone drive children to school and back each day.
We walked to school, often moaning about it during hot or rainy weather, but kept on walking. We walked to the bus stop and travelled by bus on our own or with siblings and friends.
We played outdoors in every spare moment and we mingled with other kids (and dogs!) in our neighbourhood. We even caught the train to the public swimming pool and swam and splashed around nearly all day, without a parent in sight! Would our mother be lampooned (or even arrested) today for allowing us to do this?
My life was a little different. As the second born in a family of five children, my mother did not have time to be a “helicopter parent”, to spend all her time hovering over her kids – well certainly not the older two!
And, as the middle child in our family was disabled and needed extra care, it made it even easier for me and my older sister to escape and make our own fun.
We went to the park, without an adult. We went to the shops, without an adult. We climbed trees, we explored vacant blocks of land and clambered all over half-built houses. We looked for spiders inside curled-up leaves. We rode bikes, without helmets and careered down roadways in ‘billy-carts’; all without parents around. And we survived. Sure, there was the odd broken arm and the occasional nasty bleeding knee, but nothing too serious.
I am happy to say that I think I gave my own children the experience of being ‘free range’. I hope they appreciated it!
How sad it is today for children to not have the freedom allowed previous generations of kids. What will be the consequences of this different childhood life-style?
This different childhood, with scant experience outside the home - and the constant cocooning inside the family car?
I began writing a blog in March 2012, thinking it might be a useful addition to my website, which contains pieces of my writing in other forms, such as fiction, non-fiction and children’s stories.
My blogs began as simple one sentence observations, usually accompanied by a photo. They soon branched into reports of how I was achieving – or trying to achieve – the sale of my/our house in eastern Victoria, Australia.
A year later, although our house hadn’t been sold, my blogs began to appear longer and more introspective and thoughtful as I commented on social and world issues and whinged a lot about things I disliked. I ‘got on my soap-box’ a lot and enjoyed having the chance to air my views.
Nowadays, well settled in our new home in the sub-tropical climate of south east Queensland, my blog, even though still used as a soap-box from which to whinge, has become (I hope) a vehicle for positive thought as well as self-reflection.
Surveying the statistics of how many hits this page receives daily, numbers have risen from single digits to the grand total (the other day) of 570 +.
I am not purposely writing for an audience; I thoroughly enjoy the ‘art’ of blogging for the simple pleasure of writing, but I have to admit that I do also appreciate that there is an audience out there; people who bother to read what I have written.
Unfortunately (I nearly wrote ‘sadly’!) any comments I receive are indeed few and far between and I can hardly recall the last time anyone posted a comment on my blog. I am therefore asking for you, any reader, to simply leave a comment - negative or positive, one word will suffice - (and it can be anonymous) - just to let me know that the statistical figures are not misleading, or even lying.
My confidence and my vanity are needy today, as I try to edit my memoir for the very last time.
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.