Monday, March 31, 2008

A busy April

I have taken on a few extra projects at the moment. One of them is quite sizeable (indexing an academic text book, which is not something I have ever done before, but I understand the basics and thought I’d have a go) and the other is hopefully not so sizeable (formatting/layout of a magazine). They are both for friends and Christian organisations and I wanted to do them, but they also both happen to be required in the next few weeks. (I had a moment of stress this afternoon when the second one came in – as I do also have a full-time day job - but I think it shall all be OK.) So, if this blog goes under, that is just to ensure that I don’t!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A late poetry Friday

I got so excited by the goblin mail last night that I completely forgot to post Poetry Friday! I spent last night just hanging out with someone who’s struggling to come out the other end of a 'trial' at the moment. So I thought I’d post yet another Sara Groves song, from her album which happens to be titled The Other Side of Something. I think song-writing is quite a talent. You have to start with a poem of some sort, and then put it to music in a way that works. I think songs count as poems, for the most part (and the modern definition of a poem seems to include just about anything). Here it is (and I listen to this song quite often because it’s on the same album as her recording of Come Thou Fount):

What I Thought I Wanted

Tuxedo in the closet, gold band in a box
Two days from the altar she went and called the whole thing off
What he thought he wanted, what he got instead
Leaves him broken yet grateful

I passed understanding a long, long time ago
And the simple home of systems and answers we all know
What I thought I wanted, what I got instead
Leaves me broken and somehow peaceful

I keep wanting you to be fair
But that’s not what you said
I want certain answers to these prayers
But that’s not what you said

When I get to heaven I wanna go find Job
I want to ask a few hard questions, I wanna know what he knows
About what it is he wanted and what he got instead
How to be broken yet faithful

What I thought I wanted
What I thought I wanted
What I thought I wanted
What I thought I wanted

Staring in the water like Aesop’s foolish dog
I can’t help but reflect on what it was I almost lost
What it was I wanted, what I got instead
Leaves me broken and grateful

I’m broken and grateful
I want to be grateful, peaceful, thankful, faithful, grateful
I want to be broken, peaceful, faithful, grateful

Sara Groves

Picture from

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Goblin Post

I just got in this evening and found a letter in our box from eight-year-old Lucy, written in goblin. Except it’s addressed to “Dear Aunty Ali”. Don’t know who Aunty Ali is. I thought I got to be the Fairy Queen ...

Lucy apparently took up my letter with fascination, memorised the whole thing, read it to anyone who would listen and has now written back to me. (I don’t have a scanner at home or I could show you!) She’s done well and even used the double vowel and consonant symbols (it’s a fairly comprehensive alphabet Mr Tolkien put together). This is what it says:

Dear Aunty Ali,
I still like cats and cooking. I don’t like school. Can you come to Brisbane? Thanks for the Easter eggs.
Love from Lucy

(And that took half a page of goblin to write!)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

That unmentionable thing again ...

The early-bird rate is almost finished for the EQUIP conference this year, so I have just registered. It’s always a great day! (Even better with the twilight session, if you ask me :) ... because that means that I can get up at a respectable Saturday time, get organised (maybe even jog), do the washing and admin, then go and relax, instead bustling off first thing to the city and leaving the mess for later.) I am involved in the book club this year (well, I’m actually not up until January next year) and have been allocated the book Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? by Carolyn McCulley. I have a small and secret (at least it was till I blogged it) dread that I might become one of those “singleness” people, which is not something I particularly aspire to (don’t know too many people rushing out to be experts in the field!) but if you are single, then you should read this book. I am glad that I am not first up on the book list because I am keen to see how this is all going to work.

It’s an interactive book club, not an exhaustive book review, so it is perhaps not imperative that I read other books out there on the subject, but I thought I would try anyway. So, I have ordered Fine China is for Single Women Too, by Lydia Brownback over here, and will read The Single Issue by Al Hsu. I’m also going to read The Path of Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliot again. I was reading this post recently, which interviews Wendy Alsup, from Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and I was reminded me that it’s a great book, and that, while I have read it about five times already, perhaps it’s time to get it out again. I also came across Jean’s 2008 book list today, which looks good too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fighting Words

Have let blogging slide the last week or so. I read posts like this and this, get performance anxiety and don't want to do it anymore. Then Easter weekend turned into something I hadn't entirely planned on it being, for a variety of reasons (wrote a post about that, then decided it was too boring, too personal, too something ...).

But one of those unplanned events was spending a night up at Katoomba Easter Convention. While up there I caught up with, albeit briefly, the group of Christians in the defence forces who go up every year, with whom I have stayed for the last five years, and had a good chat to my old bible study co-leader, Pete Ritchie, who was a "trooper" at holding together a bible study group of people who literally came and went with ships passing ... This group of people all deserve a medal (to add to their collections) for the efforts they make to reach out to and support Christians in a very difficult environment. I also caught up with Dan and Simone Godde. You can read more about these people and what they do here (and if you are looking for a difficult ministry to support in your own country, well here’s one).

I actually met my brother-in-law at a Fighting Words conference, before my sister then met him in Toowoomba where he was on pilot’s course learning to fly helicopters in the Army (but I had nothing to do with that scenario!). He's now in Iraq with the Australian Army, so we are all praying. Here's a few recent pictures of him and my youngest niece (sweetest little thing in the world), the day she discovered the joy of splashing.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wrote Tolkien to his children

If you are curious about what Tolkien might have written to his children in the Father Christmas Letters, well here is a sample, from the 1926 letter:

I am more shaky than usual this year. The North Polar Bear’s fault! It was the biggest bang in the world, and the most monstrous firework there ever has been. It turned the North Pole BLACK and shook all the stars out of place, broke the moon into four – and the Man in it fell into my back garden. He ate quite a lot of my Christmas chocolates before he said he felt better, and climbed back to mend it and get the stars tidy ... The tap turning on the Aurora Borealis fireworks is still in the cellar of my old house. The North Polar Bear knew he must never, never touch it. I only let it off on special days like Christmas. He says he thought it was cut off since we moved – anyway he was nosing around the ruins this morning soon after breakfast (he hides things to eat there) and turned on all the Northern Lights for two years in one go. You have never heard or seen anything like it. I have tried to draw a picture of it; but I am too shaky to do it properly and you can’t paint fizzing light, can you?

I love it! Kids books are great. You can write all sorts of outrageous things.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Goblin Letters

Over the weekend I spent a lot of time writing letters to my nieces in goblin alphabet (I've mentioned this alphabet already, but I found it in the back of The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien, which I bought in Gould's last week - I have the 1976 George, Allen and Unwin edition). And I mean a LOT of time. Soon after I began I realised how long it was going to take and almost gave up the idea in despair. But, I don't feel like I am a particularly good Aunt to these two dear little girls up in Brisbane, so I pressed on, knowing, as anyone who has any connection with two siblings would, that what you do for one, you have to do for the other. So, given that I may never put so much effort into such a thing again, here are my letters (I won't reveal what they say, because it's a little piece of nonsense, and my original ideas were severely culled when I realised how labour-intensive they were going to be - most of the little pictures are only ONE LETTER!). 'Twas fun plugging my name into fantasy name generators to see who I could be. I started out with idea that this could be but the beginning of something, and my nieces could write back to me in 'goblin', but I think it might be too difficult for them (not to mention that it might drive ME crazy!) ...

This one is for the oldest niece. She loves cats:

And this is for the younger one. She loves cooking (and I gave her cooking gear, including gingerbread cutters, for Christmas if you're wondering what gingerbread men have to do with goblins):

P.S. I did do the drawings, with watercolour pencils, but I copied pieces of them out of three children's books: Trolls and their relatives by Jan Eriksen, illustrated by Per Aase (a previous boss gave me this book when I left work to go to Scandanavia?!), Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, illustrated by Arthur Rackham and Shirley Barber's Fairy Book. The gingerbread man, however, was all mine :) ... And I scanned them at work before I posted them because I thought, 'if one of these goes missing in the Easter mail, that would be tragic'.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

More on friendship

Well, so far my post about friendship in your thirties has had more readers than any post ever I think, and couple of links (for some reason George’s link isn’t showing up – I don’t understand how that works), and people say it resonates for them. That’s comforting. Infact the Seinfeld episode is comforting. It lets me, and others, know that we just one of many “victims” (I don’t like the victim mentality, and endeavour to avoid it, but will use the word here) of a widespread phenomena, and destroys that “myth of chronic uniqueness” (great phrase I found on this blog). Other’s share our plight. And it shows that people are not mean, or nasty, or deliberately exclusive, or targeting you to leave out of friendship circles, and they don’t (necessarily!) dislike you – they might even think you’re nice, and have potential (cf Seinfeld), they just don’t have current vacancies. I don’t know the solution, but I think perhaps awareness is a big part of it. If you are in your thirties, and find yourself looking for new friends, beware: it might be hard to truly break your way into existing circles. And if you are in your thirties and think you have enough good friends, well, maybe you could reconsider: move some of the furniture, build an extension (or, if I stick with the other analogy, create a new position) ...

Anyway, when I got another middle-ear infection I told myself I had to “eat properly” and not start cooking like a bachelor (we do our own thing in the new place), so I’m going to go stir tuna and sweet chilli sauce through two-minute noodles! (Well, hey, I figure it’s Saturday night ...)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Poetry Friday

I skipped poetry Friday last week, but it's back. I thought I'd share some modern poetry by Sophie Hannah (who I am not overly familiar with, but who is someone to read more of perhaps), with thanks to Simone for sharing it originally. I really like this poem. There are times when we need to leave circumstances or situations, but in so doing are not choosing to leave individuals ...

Leaving and Leaving You

When I leave your postcode and your commuting station,
When I leave undone the things that we planned to do,
You may feel you have been left by association,
But there is leaving and there is leaving you.

When I leave your town and the club that you belong to,
When I leave without much warning or much regret,
Remember, there’s doing wrong and there’s doing wrong to
You, which I’ll never do and I haven’t yet,

And when I have gone, remember that in weighing
Everything up, from love to a cheaper rent,
You were all the reasons I thought of staying
And you were none of the reasons why I went

And although I leave your sight and I leave your setting
And our separation is soon to be a fact,
Though you stand beside what I’m leaving and forgetting,
I’m not leaving you, not if motive makes the act.

Sophie Hannah

Thursday, March 13, 2008

When we're not hiring friends

Nicole recently posted a great series on hospitality over here (that is the link to all the posts in one). It seems to me that the bible makes a command to "practice hospitality" as an end in itself, with that being a good thing. It doesn't say "practice hospitality in order to ..." and we are even instructed to entertain strangers, whether we'll ever see them again or not. However, implicit in most people practising hospitality is perhaps some element of relationship - of beginning or deepening one - but it appears that it doesn't need to be so (though it's a little hard to avoid relationship with house guests).

However, the thing I have been thinking about lately is more along the lines of cultivating friendship. One of the things I have personally struggled with since I moved to Sydney is making real, genuine friends. I think I am reasonably friendly, and I have worked on that in the past (and after three years of taking volunteers on field trips in North Queensland, when I moved to Toowoomba the minister of the church there remarked, after some observation, "you could hold a conversation with a gate post", and began to send off to talk to new people, which surprised and amused me, because it was only necessary practice that made me thus) and I turn up to just about everything. And I think other people are reasonably friendly, and many have been ministry-minded and made an effort and been hospitable, and attempted to catch up with me on occasion, and I have greatly appreciated that. And I do have friends. I have been to weddings and birthdays and engagement parties and so forth.

The problem I'm finding seems to be that people are actually full-up when it comes to CLOSE friendships; the sort whom you might call during the week to chat about anything and everything, the sort you might turn to when there's a real problem. They've got their summer-beach-holiday friends, because they've been going to that beach with them for the last five years, they've got their Christmas-tradition friends, they're still in close with that crowd from University days. They just don't need any more of THOSE sort of relationships. And I have felt that. It appears it's just part of being the age I was when I moved to Sydney. And this is not my unique observation or experience. Seinfeld has turned the phenomena into stand-up, because it's universal enough that people can relate and laugh (and I think I owe a long-ago reference to this Seinfeld moment to a conversation with Andrew Nixon along these lines). This is how Seinfeld sees it, from the Boyfriend 1 episode (incidentally, you can read all the Seinfeld scripts at this site - hours of amusement - I have never been a dedicated Seinfeld watcher, but more's the pity):

When you're in your thirties it's very hard to make a new friend. Whatever the group is that you've got now that's who you're going with. You're not interviewing, you're not looking at any new people, you're not interested in seeing any applications. They don't know the places. They don't know the food. They don't know the activities. If I meet a guy in a club on the gym or someplace, I'm sure you're a very nice person, you seem to have a lot of potential, but we're just not hiring right now. Of course when you're a kid, you can be friends with anybody. Remember when you were a little kid what were the qualifications? If someone's in front of my house NOW, that's my friend, they're my friend. That's it. Are you a grown up.? No. Great! Come on in. Jump up and down on my bed. And if you have anything in common at all, You like Cherry Soda? I like Cherry Soda! We'll be best friends!

And I can totally understand and relate to it - and laugh. I am one of the worst of culprits myself. I am just, by nature, one of those two-or-three-bosom-friends kind of people, not a three-dozen-acquaintances kind of person (which is perhaps why I have felt myself really starting to suffer for the lack of them). And there are times when I just long to spend time with old or close friends, and have them all to myself and not have to share them with people new on the scene (and I hear the self-centredness!). Furthermore, social research always proves that most people CAN only have so many close friends, that we are just not capable of sustaining more than a handful. So, I have been thinking about how as Christians we might deal with this phenomenon. Or is it even something to be "dealt with"? Should we just accept the reality of putting the "not hiring" sign out, because we all just can't take on any more deeper friendships, and leave others to a Sunday lunch rotation? Is it only those of us who find ourselves in our thirties without close friends who even notice or care? (Though I would expect that in today's world a good many people are going to move location during their thirties, and find themselves faced with the "not hiring" phenomenon. Perhaps that's when we just need to find the other movers who are currently taking applications.) I won't post any more thoughts now (I actually don't have so many yet!) as this post is long enough, but I'd be interested in others' thoughts or experiences.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Fire demons

Glendyn, who actually read my post below on country amusements and metho rockets, to my great surprise, left a comment about how to play fire demons, which made me laugh right out loud. I would dare you, Simone, actually I'd double triple dare you, to have a go at fire demons, except I don't want to be responsible for the burning of small boys (but I'd be seriously impressed :) ...).

A maternal weekend

Well, I put my Mum on the plane last night, and we did have a good time! In brief (if I can manage brief), on Friday we went first over to Peter’s of Kensington, via the old 8-level house, which Mum badly wanted to see inside ofbut I don’t live there anymore. We had to go to Peter’s of Kensington, because it has become something of a family joke that I am always saying “you can get better ones of those at Peter’s of Kensington”. So Mum had a good fossick around in there and we got a few bargains. Then we went on to Coogee. I parked in Denning Street so we could walk down the 250 steps and then around through Trenerry Reserve to Coogee Beach. I think it’s a spectacular approach walking down those stairs, with the ocean directly below, such that feel like you are going to descend right into it, and the coast stretching off to the North. We sat in Bazura’s and had coffee and a light lunch, admiring the vista, then strolled about and along the esplanade etc. On the way there Mum had asked me if she was going to get shot-at at the Coogee Bay Hotel?! (Apparently her colleagues in Brisbane had told her she might – which was news to me, but I believe that is where the kafuffle with the NRL players was, so then we had to have a photo in front of that dangerous place.) We essentially came home after this. It took us a while to get going Friday morning, because Mum wasn’t on daylight-saving time, and so what I thought was a late night Thursday wasn’t for her ... Friday night we went up King St for dinner and ended up in Thai Riffic. Mum’s had oesophagitis and stomach ulcers and I don’t know what else, so you just can’t go all out on spice.

Saturday we headed for the city, for a little shopping at the QVB, Myers and DJs, Kinokuniya, wandered in Hyde Park, strolled over to Darling Harbour, where there was small powerboats racing loops of it, which I don’t consider very exciting, but they had to open the foot bridge, which was a little more exciting. Then we’d decided to catch the monorail back to the city (I’ve never caught the monorail before myself). That night we came home and I did lamb roast and rhubarb dessert (good old-fashioned country cooking, guaranteed no chili). Sunday morning we went to the morning service at Annandale. I am actually considering becoming a morning-attender myself, which is a different story. This meant an early start for a Queenslander and Mum asked me if it was going to go for hours and we’d be reading out of the prayer book (my family has no experience of Anglicans). Not quite. Then we went to Broadway shops for a while. Here Mum could at last get into the supermarket and by me more food. I think that’s just a mother’s way. She also repeatedly went through the linen cupboard. Mum has a “thing” for Manchester. I gave her my room and my bed and slept in the loungeroom, the result of which is that she thinks it’s no wonder my back sometimes hurts because I need a new mattress as mine is hideous. I’ve realised that it is actually 12 years old, so perhaps I do.

Mid afternoon we headed for Nielsen Park, via New South Head Road and some of the sights, where the plan was to go for a nice peaceful walk under the trees along the Hermitage trail. That wasn’t quite to be. There were cars everywhere, because the weather was so glorious, so Mum got out to help me squeeze little Bessie into a tiny parking spot and promptly stepped in dog poop. So disgusting. But thank goodness for the wet ones in a mother’s handbag. I am almost a wet ones convert. We got down to the beach, where the first task was to get in the water and wash away the dog poop. It was fairly crowded but nice, and I thought we’d soon escape the crowds. But, we headed around the head to the start of the trail only to discover that it was closed and physically guarded by security guards and that there was a colossal racket out on the harbour thanks to the super boat grand prix, which involved boats screaming about and helicopters following them overhead. I’ve never heard of a super boat grand prix, and couldn’t believe it had to be that day, of all days. I’m with Paul Keating and Clover Moore that we can ban that stupid event. There were police everywhere in expectation of great crowds of viewers, but no-one was the least bit interested, and just wanted to have a relaxing, peaceful Sunday afternoon, which was sorely interrupted by all that noise! So, we decided to press on to Watson’s Bay. On the way back to the car we were peering through the fences at some of the waterside mansions, just sneaking a look at how some of the other half live, when, I don’t know where it came from, but suddenly I had stepped in dog poop too, and managed to flick it up the back of my leg, presumably off my thong. Unbelievable. It was just soooo disgusting! So, out came the wet ones once again. And when we got to Camp Cove we waded out into the water once again to deal with dog’s business! But, the sodding power boats were far enough away from here that it was very pleasant and we wandered out to the lighthouse and stared at the ocean etc. It’s a shame that the nudists have taken over Lady Bay, because I wouldn’t mind a swim in there myself, it just looks so beautiful, and the elderly men strolling up and down in all their glory detract somewhat from the other delights. We came back and got had fish and chips in the park looking back across the harbour, followed by gelati, and then just sat on the wall along from Doyle’s and watched the sun go down.

Monday’s plans were a little curtailed by the fact that I had to be home for a plumber who was meant to come between 2 and 3. So, we just wandered around Newtown. I showed Mum where Moore College was, and we wandered into Moore Books. Then we went over to Gould’s bookshop. And here is where we had a miraculous moment! When I still lived at home and was at school Mum had a booked called The Albatross Book of Verse, which is a little old poetry anthology, crammed with poems in tiny print that span from Chaucer and the 1300s to 1950. I used to read it all the time, which I think is where I got started on poetry. So, when I went off to University Mum happened to find another copy in a second-hand book shop and bought it for me. A few years later Mum moved to Brisbane and somewhere lost her copy (I think she leant it to one of those irresponsible book people who knowingly or unknowingly fail to return someone else’s treasure). So, over the years she has occasionally asked me whether I was SURE I didn’t have her copy, which I didn’t, and asked me to buy it if I ever saw it again, which I never have. Anyway, we had just been discussing this very book, and Mum was, rightly so, despairing of ever finding anything in that shop (if you have never been in Gould’s it is piled high with books, in no order whatsoever except for the very broadest categories, with books still in boxes about the place and books three rows thick on some shelves) and wandered off from the poetry section, when I decided to just keep scanning to the end of the row, and would you believe I found it!! For the massive sum of $5.95. So that was Monday’s bright moment. I found this great old book called “The Father Christmas Letters”, by J.R.R. Tolkien, which I have never heard of before. But it is a book of letters he wrote to his children every Christmas, for nearly twenty years, complete with his own illustrations and even features the goblin alphabet in the back. I have decided that I am going to send letters to my nieces in the goblin alphabet. Last year I gave Lucy “The Princess and the Goblin”, by George MacDonald, who I am sure Tolkien must have read, which she really liked, and I have given Brittany an illustrated version of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market (I think that is a lovely story for two sisters), so I think we can have some fun with goblin letters.

We then went exploring in Camperdown cemetery. It’s an amazingly old place, full of lopsided grave stones. I love the little cemetery lodge under the massive fig tree. I am sure that if Anne of Green Gables ever visited here she would have read poetry in that cemetery.

So, that was the weekend, and Mum now knows where I live.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

My Mum is coming!

Tonight I am collecting my Mum from the Airport. She's coming to visit for the first time in the five years I've lived in Sydney, and I am looking forward to showing her some of my favourite places and places she might like. Some people think it's a little "not normal" that I have lived here all these years and my Mum has never been to visit. Perhaps it is. I don't pretend to know what normal is anymore. She didn't visit when I lived in Townsville for three years either. But, there is no particular reason for this. As in, there is nothing particularly wrong with my relationship with my Mum, that I am aware of. She's not as involved in my life as some people's parents, and I don't rely as much on the idea of parents for advice and support as some (based on my observations of flatmates, who will call their Dads in particular to discuss all sorts of things) and that is just the way things are.

But as to visiting, I think the reality is that when you live in a share house and don't have your own place, that is some deterrent to family coming to visit. They might not feel so comfortable trying to stay out of the way of your flatmates in the bathroom and so on. And in the case of my older sister, brother-in-law and their two kids coming to stay it is almost physically impossible, because renting spare rooms in Sydney is something most people just can't do (though I'd love to show my nieces Sydney, and would be happy for them to sleep anywhere at all - but then again, flatmates might not be).

I also think the reality is that when you are not the child with the grandchildren, well, you're slightly less of an attraction. It's just easier for me to be the person who does the visiting. My Mum also grew up way out in the country at a place called Rye Park, and then lived in country towns, and only recently moved to Brisbane. She doesn't like navigating cities a great deal. And until a few years ago she'd never been in an aeroplane, and had, and still has, her apprehensions about that.

When my younger sister got married and moved to Darwin, I went to Brisbane, collected my Mum, and we flew on to Darwin for a visit, and did a little mastery of the flying fears along on the way (and I had the Xanax at the ready!). So, now she's up to flying solo, and even managed to check-in online and print out her boarding pass ahead of time in Brisbane (I booked the ticket online, because my Mum just doesn't believe in credit cards) and she's coming! Generally I get seasoned fliers and city-accustomed folk, who arrive on Virgin flights, to go upstairs to departures and wait outside up there, because you're allowed to pull up for a couple of minutes up there, but not so at arrivals (at least you couldn't last time I tried), but I think this time I am just going to pay the exorbitant airport parking fee and be there waiting for the flight. There’s only so much stress you can put a person through!

So, I have made a cake, cleaned my room, vacuumed (my flatmate very kindly did the bathroom this afternoon), shopped and put things in the fridge so it looks like I am "eating properly" :), fished around for one of the better looking towels in the cupboard and now I am all ready! It can be a little intense being one-on-one with just your Mum for days, so hopefully we cope and have a good time!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Country amusements and metho rockets

I fear that my blog has been all a little too "girly" of late, with love stories about curtain-shopping and dish-washing and crocheted hat displays, so I thought I would balance that out with a slightly more rugged post of what I spent the rest of my time as a teenager doing. The photo here is of a typical Sunday afternoon in the surrounds of Tamworth, where I grew up. This particular Sunday afternoon we were on a farm out at Ogunbil. I am not in the picture because I took it, but that is my older sister. The church I went to back then (which was fantastic, I have to say) ran "Koinonia" groups on a Sunday afternoon, which involved the church getting together once a fortnight in smaller groups which met for lunch, followed by a bible study and then afternoon tea. The kids, who had sat through church, because they didn't hold to running Sunday School during the church service, got to roam free during the bible study portion. So, when we were out of town (and a good many church families lived out of town) this usually meant piling onto the back of truck, doubling up on quadrunners and motor bikes or just setting off on foot into the paddocks and the hills, where we'd just wander about looking for pigs, fixing the odd fence, throwing the odd cowpat at an unsuspecting someone (very strictly dry cowpats only allowed), doing weird-style jumps we made up into the “bombing hole”, or if it rained we'd muck about in the hay shed and do somersaults off the top into the loose hay or set up a vault of hay bales, or some such other thing. They were great days! And some of these guys were some of the truly "wildest", and yet the most responsible, people I have yet to meet. The guy second from the left in this picture, Matt, was particularly known for being a good shot - and could apparently shoot a snake from across the paddock. And yet, just in case you stereotype my friends, I will tell you about some of the others in this picture. It really disturbs me when I hear Sydney people refer to country folk, and say things like "hunting, shooting and fishing", in a donned boof-head voice, as though they had no class or “culture” (by which they mean one particular culture only), no additional skills, and nothing much between their ears. This is my soap-box for today! The fellow on the left, roaring at the sky, is Glendyn Ivin. He made a very poignant little short film, based on a childhood moment from Tamworth, called Cracker Bag, that won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival in 2003. Now he's in Melbourne working on a feature film. The guy in the middle, Campbell, holding the fencing wire, is one of those people who are truly good at everything: academia, athletics and all things sporting, art, music, skateboarding, farm stuff - you name it, he excelled in it. And not just at a small-town scale either. He came down here to study at UNSW and did an honours that was awarded first in Australia. Now he lives in Sydney, where he likes to discuss theology and philosophy, and has THE biggest coffee machine I have ever seen inside a person's house, with temperature and pressure gauges and a separate pump and so forth, so he can do coffee with the best of the city's coffee snoots. In his spare time he's turning an old warehouse in Newcastle into an art gallery. So, yes, they can hunt and shoot and fish, but they can do that on top of the rest of the talents and “culture” of most. Anyway, soap-box ended. Back in those days I was nick-named "Mountain Woman", by the guys, because I was usually out there trying to keep up. I don't recall that I was ever out to prove anything, I just always liked the outdoors and physical activity, and thought that what the guys were up to looked like fun. All of this wild fun was had without any streak of rebellion - and in fact, many of the farm boys were heavily relied on and trusted by their parents to get things done. The time that I was involved in mischief it was largely my idea. I was on a different farm with a friend of mine, Amy, who lived on this farm and had her own tom-boy streak. We wandered off down the paddock, as we usually did, and just poked about. Down in one of their lower paddocks was a really old house. It was essentially completely run-down, with the floor boards all gone inside and the windows missing etc. But it still had the old corrugated iron tank on the stand in the old yard. I looked at that tank and thought, you know, it could be fun to roll across the paddock inside that tank. So, how we managed to knock it off the stand I don’t know, but before too long we had it sideways, then we jumped inside and started running, like mice in a cage, and pushing till we worked up some momentum up and went crashing across the paddock screaming and yelling along the way. When we finally came to rest somewhere we looked and there were all the adults on the verandah up at the house, having been drawn outside by the great racket, staring down the paddock at us and what looked like a tank come to life, and a ute was headed our way with dust flying. The thing is, the farm owners had been just about to give that tank, which was actually in fairly good condition, to someone to use, and we had completely ruined it. Amy’s dad was seriously displeased!

Anyway, something else I learned from the wild guys above, I think on a day when Campbell had injured himself and couldn’t lead the paddock adventures, is how to make metho rockets. I thought this was very cool back then, so, at the risk of being arrested for something or other, I thought I would describe how you make a metho rocket. All you need is an empty plastic two-litre milk bottle, metho, matches and something sharp to make a hole. You then make a hole, about a centimetre in diameter, in the middle of the plastic lid of the bottle (that’s probably the most “dangerous” part). Next you pour a little metho into the bottle (and I mean only a LITTLE) and swill it all around till the whole inside of the bottle is wet with metho, but then you tip out all the excess metho, so there aren’t pools of it still in your bottle. At this point you should have the lid on the bottle. Then, without delay, you just lay the bottle on it’s side, light a match, hold it in front of the hole (and you only need to hold it in front of the opening of the hole – don’t poke it IN the hole) and wait ... sooner or later, if you haven’t got a dud, there will come a very cool whooshing sound, and the bottle will fly off whatever it was on and shoot through the air (and bounce off the walls if you happen to be inside). And there you have a metho rocket! It soon runs out of propulsion and isn’t going to cause anybody a serious injury, unless you’ve done something seriously wrong.

So, that’s what I did during some of my teenage days, and just went home in the evenings and wrote love stories, read Bronte books, did cross-stitch and learnt crochet.

And I thought I'd better add a disclaimer: the writer of this post will be in no way be held responsible for any injury caused during construction or use of the described amusement.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Poetry Friday on Sunday

I didn’t get to it on Friday because I was off to a church weekend away, so here is a belated poetry Friday. I really like Don Carson’s biblical poetry because it just makes the familiar new again, and impresses it upon me afresh. So here are two sonnets based on Ephesians 3:14-21, which is one of my favourite prayers in Scripture:


Much loved by God himself – transcendent thought!
And what a love: not cautious, sensible,
A metered mite – mere word, a syllable,
A “love” – cheap, plastic coinage, sold and bought
At varied prices, all inflated, sought
In counterfeit; but inexpressible
In worth, and tested in the crucible
Of crucifixion (hatred come to nought!).
I trace this love’s strong roots and find at last
Not objects loved, but God’s own wellsprings free –
An ocean without bottom, shoreless, vast,
As timeless, endless as eternity.
Receive my stilled devotion, O my God;
As object of such love, I’m overawed.

D.A. Carson, Ephesians 3:14-21 and 1 John 4:10


To grasp how wide and long and high and deep
This love of Christ, experience it when
Mere knowledge burst its categories, then
Escape the fragile frame of language, reap
The richest crop salvation brings, and heap
Up memories of a sea of love, again
And yet again cascading o’er us – men
Can know no other bliss so rich and deep.
Lord God, in love you have established us,
And rooted us in soil no less fine:
Not single plants exposed to every gust
Of wind, but all the saints drink love sublime.
Make me to know – a creature hewn from sod –
The measure of all fullness found in God.

Ephesians 3:17b-19