Been to the sea-side lately? I live near the sea, so it is something I (almost) take for granted. It worries me that there are people (especially children), even in
developed countries, who have never seen the sea; who have never seen the ocean and the wide blue sky overhead.
Being near (or, occasionally, in) the sea is good for the soul.
The look of the sea, the sound of the sea and the smell of the sea are all things to delight in.
If, as so many people claim, the sea is ‘good for the soul’, then what about those who have never been to the sea? Is there a piece of their soul missing? Are their souls missing out on something essential?
The American author, Kate Chopin (1851-1904) once wrote, ‘The voice of the sea speaks to the soul’.
And Van Morrison (Northern Irish singer songwriter) more recently penned these words:
“hark, now hear
the sailors cry,
smell the sea, and feel the sky
let your soul &
spirit fly, into the mystic...”
There are countless words in poetry and prose written about the sea and its beauty, its wildness and its ability to cure and soothe.
Perhaps there should be a ‘rule of life’ that all people must spend some time at the sea-side. Ludicrous thought that may be, but how good an idea – if only it could be implemented?
I am about to head off on a short trip to some further-away beaches, to walk along some different stretches of sand beside some other parts of the Australian sea.
Hopefully my soul will be refreshed.
I suspect I was what could be referred to as ‘a
precocious reader’ when I was seven years old. Although being a selective mute was a problem, I was able to read almost anything. As my Grade Two year was nearing completion, I had begun to look forward to being a Grade Three student, especially as I loved the Grade Three Reader.
A poem included in that book was ‘Little Boy
Blue’ - not the one about the boy who ‘blows a horn’, but a poem written by the American poet Eugene
Here it is:
LITTLE BOY BLUE
The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket molds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new
And the soldier was passing fair,
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.
"Now, don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So toddling off to his trundle-bed
He dreamed of the pretty toys.
And as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue,--
Oh, the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true.
Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place,
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face.
And they wonder, as waiting these long years through,
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue
Since he kissed them and put them there.
I had read the poem so often via my older sister’s book or whenever I could get my hands on a copy of the Grade Three Reader, that I almost knew it off by heart. I loved the poem more than any other poem or story I had ever read.
It made me cry but it also made my heart sing at the thought of the angels.
My Grade Two year ended and I was soon to be in the presence of Little Boy Blue and able to possess my own copy of the Reader that held the words.
What a shock then, to be told that ‘the powers that be’ at my school had decided to accelerate me from Grade Two to Grade Four.
No Grade Three for me.
And no Little Boy Blue. I cried for myself as well.
I consider our house to be a home. It’s where we live; we eat there, we sleep there, we talk there, we work there, we read there, we write there, we sometimes play music there, we talk on the telephone there, we watch TV there, and, perhaps best of all, we welcome people to visit us there.
Sure, we also keep our home clean. We try to keep it tidy as well, but that doesn’t always come about; there is just too much else to do to spend (waste?) time tidying up the place where we LIVE.
On the kitchen bench there is almost always some paper and a couple of pens as well as a mobile phone (or two) to add to the bowl of fresh fruit and the electric blender that is never put away. Occasionally there is also a vase of flowers.
On the other side of the kitchen sink, on the bench near the cooker, is a kettle and a toaster, which also are never put away.
Then there is the bucket style container that holds all the large utensils, like the soup ladle and the wooden mixing spoons. And - perhaps strangely for a house of only two people – there are two teapots, each on their own small marble stand (or trivet). One of us really likes green tea and the other prefers Earl Grey.
Well, that’s just the kitchen.
The living room has a sofa and ottoman, several comfy chairs, a dining setting, a book case, lots of cushions and several side tables and lamps. On almost every surface is a small pile of books. Some books are in the midst of being read. Some are waiting patiently to be read – perhaps fresh from a visit to the library.There are also books that have been taken from the book shelf to be read for a second time.
All of this contributes towards making our house a home.
But that’s just my opinion.
I have been into homes that are so neat and tidy I have felt ill at ease, afraid of ‘messing up’ the shininess and the order of things. Most places like this have one thing in common: there are no books to be seen; no newspapers, no reading matter at all. Where is it? Where are the books? Are there none there at all? is what I want to ask.
Once, when visiting a house belonging to people I did not know and for the purpose of writing a eulogy for a family member, we needed a necessary detail for the service. The‘lady of the house’ embarrassedly lifted up a seat cushion on a lounge chair to reveal paperwork and some magazines. It seemed that all papers and magazines had been secreted under cushions, as if there was something shameful about having such things on show. What was that all about? The house was ‘as neat as a pin’ but there was something missing. It was too neat. Perhaps if the papers and magazines had been included in the ‘décor’ that house may have seemed more like a home.
Or is that just my way of thinking?
I recently read Anne Lamott’s excellent book, ‘Bird by Bird –instructions on writing and life’, and took particular notice of her statement about something she tells her writing students:
“Write about your childhood, I tell them for the umpteenth time. Write about the time in your life when you were so intensely interested in the world…..”
With this in mind, I checked some of the childhood stories in my memoir and thought I’d share this:
When I was a small girl at school we were inundated with Bible stories. I’m sure that we children didn’t differentiate much between those stories and all the other stories that we were told or that were read to us. Of course, we understood that Bible stories were somehow ’special’ because they were from the Bible, but we were more than happy to listen to them.
The magic involved in The Feeding of the Five Thousand was something to marvel at, while The
Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son were stories with messages of which we were quite aware. The Talents’ tale, where one man buried his talents, so as not to risk losing them and so incurs the wrath of his master was a trifle more obscure for our young minds.
How many times we drew Joseph in his coat of many colours is hard to remember. The wonderful
thing about the chance to draw Joseph was that it involved using every different Lakeland (or
Derwent, if you were one of the lucky ones) coloured pencil.
For some strange reason many of us also enjoyed drawing Jacob having his famous dream of
a ladder reaching up to heaven, with his head resting on a large stone. A stone for a pillow! Now that was something to ponder. Perhaps the eagerness to illustrate the story was the chance to draw angels, or at least a very bright light at the top of the ladder.
My favourite, and that of many others, was the story of Moses in the Bulrushes. It was fantasy at its best. A little baby, threatened with death (and we dared not try too hard to imagine the reality of such a threat) who was placed in a basket in a stream (how on earth did it stay afloat? we
wondered, mentally picturing a basket similar to our grandmothers’ shopping baskets). And the baby, put at further risk by his older sister, Miriam, making a gamble on good fortune playing a part. For the baby Moses to be found by a princess was almost too good to be true.
Another Bible story, happy though its intention may have been, gave me nightmares. It was the
one where Samuel is called by God. The young boy hears someone calling his name and asks Eli, who is the only one nearby, if he called him.
‘No, not me,’ says Eli.
Samuel hears his name being called again and again and each time Eli tells him it is not he
who is calling. Eli suddenly realises who is calling Samuel and tells him that it is probably God who wants him.
Gulp!‘What will I say?’ asks Samuel.
‘Just say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth”’ advises Eli.
So Samuel does so and the Lord tells him what he wants him to do.
But what worried me was what if I heard a voice calling me and I think it might be God. What would I do? How would I escape? I decided that the only course of action was to pretend that I didn’t
Pretending that I didn’t hear, became a way of life for me in later years, but it wasn’t God I was ignoring.
Nearly 10 o’clock in the morning and I can feel it coming: the chocolate urge; the need for chocolate. Just two squares of Aldi store-bought Choceur dark Chocolate.
Every day at 10 AM.
Am I an addict? I think I might be. I can tell the time in the morning without checking a clock or watch. I know when chocolate time is near and I am aware if chocolate time
has passed and I haven’t indulged.
But, can you call 2 squares of chocolate an indulgence?
Funnily enough, my chocolate craving is satisfied with just the 2 squares. I rarely, if ever, wish to supplement it with more, once I have eaten the 2 squares.
Occasionally (only occasionally), but especially if I have been writing something that has tired (and tried) my brain in the afternoon, I will eat another 2 squares of chocolate.
The chocolate eating is always accompanied by a mug of Earl Grey tea.
Perhaps it is the tea to which I am addicted? I don’t think so.
Anyway, having this persistent chocolate urge (not addiction) set me off on a search for facts
about chocolate and, guess what? I discovered that chocolate IS good for us.
Read this (from the Victorian Better Health Channel):
‘Chocolate is made from cocoa beans. Components in cocoa beans such as antioxidants may
help protect against degenerative illnesses like heart disease and cancer. Chocolate also contains protein, fat, iron, caffeine and other substances. There is no evidence that chocolate causes acne.’
And another couple of delightful pieces on information I found:
‘Apparently chocolate melting in one’s mouth can cause a more intense and longer-lasting pleasure than kissing’.
‘A single chocolate chip can give you enough energy to walk 150 feet’.
Then there’s The History of Chocolate
(All this info was on the‘net – on various sites)
"Hot Chocolate: the Blood of the Gods?"
It is widely believed that chocolate was consumed as a drink as much as 2600 years
ago. The origin of the cacao (pron. Ca-cow) tree (from which cocoa comes) is in dispute
A theory or two:
Some say it originated in the Amazon basin of Brazil; others say it is native to Central
America. Possibly – and here’s one theory: during his conquest of Mexico, Hernando Cortez, the great Spanish explorer, came upon the Aztec Indians using cocoa beans to prepare their royal drink which they called “chocolatl” (meaning warm liquid). Excited about this new product, Cortez took some beans back with him to Spain. With some added cane sugar, the chocolate drink became very popular, especially among the Spanish aristocracy. Spain wisely started to plant cacao trees themselves which developed into a very profitable business. Remarkably, the Spaniards succeeded in keeping the art of the cocoa industry a secret from the rest of Europe for nearly a hundred years.
Well, whoever discovered it, whoever invented it, whoever created the chocolate we now know and love – Thank you so much.
10 AM is often my favourite time of day.
Today I read that our leading newspaper is sacking 35
editorial staff and 30 photographers.
How can we be surprised? Who amongst us does not seek
news from the Internet and TV news services? (Or even prefer ‘realty’ TV shows and celebrity gossip to news stories?). The days of newspaper news gathering are
sadly over. It’s a distressing situation and I am disappointed that the quality photos taken by talented photographers (some of whom I have admired for decades) will no longer appear; to be replaced by amateur shots taken by the public or ‘stock photographs’ sourced from the ubiquitous ‘Getty Images’ – (or even Google Images?)
Editorial opinions and reports will dwindle to ‘stories’ produced electronically or provided by hacks from anywhere.
It is a sad situation.
However, what is a news organisation to do? Their income has been slipping downwards for years. The general public are deserting newspapers and the advertising revenue is grinding to a halt. And yet – and yet - I will miss the newspaper in its current form. I will miss the quality and
correctness of the writing and the quality and sheer beauty (at times) of the photography; photographs taken by people with a passion for their work.
And yet again, I am as responsible for this type of ‘progress’ as anyone else. I have been reading the news on-line - and reading the commentary and even posting comments (in place of writing
‘a Letter to The Editor’) - all on-line.
What to do about all this? There is nothing we can do, I fear.
Pity for the people who have lost their jobs – and what will they do now?
Photographers will find it hard to compete in a whole world full of photographers; those emerged since the advent of the mobile phone camera and the iPod, iPad devices that seem to be used quite successfully by everyone older than about three years of age.
That’s progress for you.
Not progress that I necessarily want, but progress for which I am, in part, responsible.
This is one time when I am glad I was able to appreciate some of the (so-called) Good Times past.
And, yes, I sourced the accompanying pic from Google Images.
From today’s ABC News online:
‘Joe Hockey says wind turbines 'utterly offensive', flags budget cuts to clean energy schemes.’
Joe Hockey is our Federal Treasurer and this is his take on wind farm renewable energy.
Personally, I love wind farms. I love the look of them and the job they do.
When flying from Amsterdam to Norwich, UK, a few years ago, I was thrilled by the spectacle of a shoreline dotted with these magnificent ‘beasts’ called wind turbines. I have been almost as thrilled to see them popping up in a few places in Australia, notably the ones on Lake George near Canberra, which are precisely the ones Joe Hockey (wince!) criticises today. The last time I drove near them I counted over 60 ‘windmills’ and thought it a good start.
I am reminded of the old ‘Windmill’ poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 – 1882),
which begins, ‘Behold! a giant am I!
Aloft here in my tower….’
Certainly, the poem goes on to describe how this windmill is used for grinding wheat into flour – ‘With my granite jaws I devour
The maize, and the wheat, and the rye,
And grind them into flour…….’
But it is the magnificence of the windmill - or wind turbine – that stirs the soul; its majestic presence, I suppose.
There’s a lot more to the poem and it’s certainly worth a read, even though the reference is to a windmill and not a wind turbine.
This verse fits either:
‘I stand here in my place
With my foot on the rock below,
And whichever way it may blow
I meet it face to face,
As a brave man meets his foe’.
Poor Joe Hockey – the sensitivity of a slice of stale white bread and his appreciation for the worth, beauty and future of his country shrunk down to dependence on the price of coal and the value of what spews out of iron-ore mines.
We await with dread his comments on solar power.
Things are not looking good for the Australian renewable energy program.
Below is a snippet from a South Australian study investigating the possibility of solar farms.
(Start yawning now!)
‘The viability of large-scale photovoltaic solar farms in the District Council of Mount Remarkable was investigated by estimating the levelised cost of energy produced and comparing the cost to the current price of energy from projects of similar scale.’
All I can do is groan.
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.