Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Recently I posted on my Facebook status that some people work hard to change the world and some people change the world just by being who they are. I don’t know if this is a phrase I’ve coined but I don’t recall reading it anywhere else.

I really like this thought and I hope it’s mine. Hold on a sec. I’m going to Google it … nope, seems it’s mine.

Where did it come from? I’ve been obsessing lately about the acceptance of people with differences. You would think this is a constant in my life. There are huge differences in my family.

Firstly, my father lost his left arm and lower part of both legs when he was 18. This was 73 years ago. But Dad was exceptional from birth. My grandmother had said that when he was growing up she gave up having conversations with him because she was ‘always wrong’. Yep, he has the determination to always be right. And he has the determination to always do things his way. He has an incredible intelligence in many respects; a logical thinker and planner who works through things to see how they operate and to see if there is a better way. But he has also been an arsehole because of this mind-set and rarely wakes up to how he hurts people.

In my way of thinking about this though, Dad would not have survived physically or mentally without his mental wiring. And I also know after my own experiences that few could possibly conceive of the horror he went through with his accident and subsequent rehabilitation, the ongoing problems he has had with health and healing throughout his live AND the prejudices he has had to fight all his adult life just to live the way he wants to.

People see a man missing limbs and automatically assume he’s missing large portions of his brain too. The behaviours have ranged from patronisation and condescension to downright rejection of him as someone who could work or drive or live as the average person does.

That fight has always been part of his life. The whopping chip on his shoulder is always present. And so it is inspirational that he has achieved many things in life beyond mere survival. He has married and raised a family of four children, worked in numerous jobs such as electrician, businessman, retailer, journalist/editor and so on. Going into business for himself was necessary in midlife because people would not employ him on the basis of his disabilities. It’s easy to say they wouldn’t get away with that today … but in fact people do despite the laws. Dad even took on the State Government in the late 1950s/early60s in the courts because he was refused the right to have a drivers’ licence. He won! It is his battle that earned people with a physical disability the right to drive a car! Most people don’t know this. I didn’t until quite recently.

So having said all this about Dad, how is it he cannot cope with my daughter who also has a disability? The problem is, my daughter’s disability is intellectual or perhaps behavioural. It’s a hard one to describe and even categorise.

Doctors first said she was autistic and the diagnosis has evolved over the years to become, finally – that she has a severe intellectual disability at the mild end of the scale! Ha! They say she is not autistic yet she does have some autistic traits.

What I believe is that the part of the brain which processes language does not function in the same way as the average person. This means she is not able to learn in the way most of us do through verbal communications. Yet she is very bright in visual respects. Her use of the computer is quite good, she is reasonable at numbers, and a whiz operating the remote control of the TV.

She is also exceptionally friendly. It means shopping with daughter in tow takes much, much longer because she greets everyone she meets. This brings a smile to the faces of most people, but sometimes there is cold resistance.

My daughter may not grow up to save the planet. She may not develop a cure for cancer or run a multinational corporation or write a best seller. Most of us don’t. But perhaps just by being who she is, she will inspire a smile on the face of someone who will. And I’m learning to value a thing I’m dubbing the Smiling Ripple Effect.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Which device is that?

Correct me if I’m wrong - I have only ever written one story where “it was all a dream”. It was in Year 9, I think, and involved leaking gas from a science experiment where tomato soup was mixed with something else … possibly inspired by a Goodies episode!

Very early on in my ‘writing’ lifetime, I was discouraged from using that device! It’s a bit like “it was a dark and stormy night” (Edward Bullwer-Lytton in his novel Paul Clifford) or “and they all lived happily ever after”.

There’s just one more that I really, really (and I do want to emphasise this point) REALLY hate. You see it most oft in light weight romantic comedies.
And that’s where the hero must stop the great love of his life from getting on to an aeroplane and flying out of his life forever. This usually includes a high speed chase to the airport through peak hour traffic, and in the case of The Zoo Keeper, a climb up the side of a massive bridge on the back of a gorilla who sounds a bit like Nick Nolte … funny that.

I wonder who was the first to think up that device? And what form did it take before air travel became accessible to the plebeian multitudes? After all, the romance is not quite there with a high galloping pace for the hero to ride his burrow to the Cobb and Co Station to stop the love of his life hopping on the coach to rattle away forever … or watching from the banks of the Nile as she sailed away …

In the future, will he be trying to beam across to the spaceport in time to stop her checking her hand luggage in and hopping the first shuttle to Magrathea?

Of course an exception to the rule is Casablanca where he watches her fly away on purpose.

The point, I guess, is why the mad dash to stop the fleeing lover when you could just hop a plane/coach/train/wagon/spaceship and follow them to their destination and possibly bring them back – or here’s a twist – stay with them?

I don’t really hate clichés; I think they present any number of options, such as providing a gorilla with a celebrity voice! I just hate it when they are used in a lazy way.

Saturday, 13 August 2011


My friend Ana posted on Facebook the following words of wisdom:
What my parents taught me:
Religion - "You better pray that comes out of the carpet"
Logic - "Because I said so, that's why"
Irony - "Keep crying and I'll give you something to cry about"
Wisdom - "When you get to my age you'll understand"
Justice - "One day you'll have kids, I hope they turn out just like you!!"

Which inspired from me the following response:
Some 'H' words I'm learning from my kid
Hindsight has 20/20 vision but I don't - where the hell are my glasses Robyn?
Housework - tears don't mop up spilt milk ... usually Mum does
Hubris - brought into check when the kid introduces you to strangers by saying "Have a look at Mummy's dead tooth!"
Humility - those words "I love you mum" and knowing she means it
Humour - When she learnt to count to 10, counting to 3 didn't cut it any more.

There’s another I didn’t include (because I didn’t think of it at the time) and that’s ‘helplessness: when my daughter refused to choose between the two options I presented to her; a technique that had been most successful for most of her life to date because it didn’t occur to her previously that there could be more than two’.

But it’s all perspective isn’t it! I find perspective is one of the things that clouds my mind significantly. I try to see all angles on all things, which I guess is counterproductive to whatever it is I’m trying to achieve.

For example, I read this today on TV Doctors (sorry, the link doesn't work ... it's over here
about how some researchers are concerned that TV shows about doctors are sending the wrong messages to medical interns. Examples of concern from a researcher included the inappropriate relationships in Grey's Anatomy or the unethical behaviour in House. (I do rather love Hugh Laurie but I think Becker made a better grumpy doctor)
Another crusty interviewee suggested role models are more likely to be found in the people they meet on the job – although I’m inclined to think this is more likely than the former. What the researchers don’t seem to take into account is that the modern masses have a far greater ability than say 50 years ago to draw succinct lines between fact and fiction.

My point is that when I watch TV I don’t tend to give in to the narrative. My mind clicks over all the time analysing the dialogue, the action and the likelihood that this would actually happen. It does tend to spoil the experience somewhat with most shows because I simply cannot ‘suspend disbelief’.

Suspending disbelief is something I always aim for in my writing even when the subject matter may give rise within some of my readers to cynicism. The subject matter, i.e. the presence of ghosts and bizarre events, may be why the majority of my family does not read my fiction – a sadness for me, I feel. They do tend to have the scientific approach to life rather than the creative and mystical.

Yet I also embroider my stories with real events, things I have actually witnessed or have encountered in my ‘adventures’ as a journalist working on country publications. There is a wealth of stories there!

How does one effectively suspend disbelief? How do we remove the debris of multiple perspectives?

And back to the original question … how do I exert influence over a child who will no longer choose from the options I present?

Ah, the learning curves of life.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Owed to my own joy

I’ve been trying for two days to get into writing mode but my head is resisting it vigorously. Now that I have my blog rant out of the way I’m going to try with a better blog.

There has been an idea floating around in the vast reaches of my mind for quite some time about the nature of ‘joy’. It was particularly highlighted for me on Sunday when I had the great pleasure of taking photographs of a visiting steam train. Take a peek over here if you like trains (toot toot, chugga chugga).

There are more images over at Just search for MarshEvents. (Sorry, I couldn't get the link to work).

While the shoot in the morning was okay and enjoyable, it was fairly routine. It wasn’t until the afternoon, standing on Parwan bridge and watching the steam locomotive billowing out clouds as it charged along past the bull farm, that I actually touched that special place in my heart. It put a whopping big smile on my face that was still there several hours later and vestiges the next day.

I use the word ‘vestiges’ advisedly. The simple pleasure provided me with a joy I seldom feel and it is far too fleeting. The feeling evaporated slowly through the day.

But that is the whole point of joy, is it not? If joy was any more than fleeting, would it not be something more akin to mania?

I wrote about ‘joy’ in a journal on Redbubble some time back and how it relates back to art – Come Write In (ecstasy and the artistic cringe)

The tangent here is perhaps a bit different though. It is more an exploration of lifetheuniverse blah blah blah.

Whatever our life’s work may be, what is it we are looking for in pursuing it? What is our ultimate aim?

When I was quite young, I asked my mother if she believed in God. It was just a question at the time, but it took on a huge significance to me as an adult. My mother snapped back that she didn’t have time to think about such things.

Now don’t be judgemental! My mother is a good and moral person. Perhaps my timing was really bad (most likely). And Mum has at times delivered flippant responses to things that have had huge importance to me. But I understand this much better now as a mother than even just a few years ago.

I’ve been most fortunate to be raised by parents who wanted their children to make their own minds up about weighty issues in the world. I am yet to decide (if a decision is necessary) whether it was because Mum and Dad were just trying to make their own ways in life, or if it was a conscious decision. It matters not, really. The result is that I was able to explore Christianity (which provided me with a few precious memories of going to church with my Grandma on Sunday mornings), and later to work out for myself that I am perhaps more an Existentialist.

Wow, we just took the scenic route through some rather craggy parts of my brain. But this last point is what I’m getting at.

As an Existentialist, I believe in the here and now. Please understand that I do not embrace this belief! I was introduced to the whole concept when first attempting university in the early 1980s. Philosophy101 introduced me to a whole range of ideas I’d not encountered before, but this one stuck … and the premise that believing we are truly alone did in fact build on personal despair which was initially sown when I was aged about 10.

To a point, I believe that we do in fact have the freedom to create who we are, but I believe there are elements of nature/nurture there too. In revisiting this thought now, perhaps I am not entirely Existentialist.


Let’s throw in some random popular culture references here! “Pursuit of Happyness” (sic) is one – the story of a man sticking to an ideal. “Happy Feet” (ah sigh, singing penguins) – about someone who is different but determined to pursue that which makes them who they are. You get the idea!

As a creative person (insert an assertive nod here) I am faced with conflicting notions that I must create to fulfil who I am, but the belief that art serves a luxury function that would not survive in a post apocalyptic existence. Wow, what do I mean by that? Gardeners feed people, agriculture too. Engineers build things that help us to survive and thrive. Mothers nurture, fathers protect, sewing provides protection from the cold, enforcers maintain an order of some description, scientists discover and invent. Art … presents ideas … and perhaps these lead to some of the other things.

In the here and now, my art does almost nothing for my practical existence. I pursue it because it is what I must do. I try to market it because I need to live in a capitalist society but marketing is not what I do well if at all. This simple fact reduces the positive effect my art has on me.

But Sunday’s joy was something else. That joy empowered me to do all the other things I must do. Witnessing and capturing those joyful seconds meant so much to me. The joy was fleeting because a part of my essential being is to share and few have shared these moments with me. The lack of sharing has disempowered.

I think at this point my therapy session must end. If you have read this far, thank you so much for sharing my journey into some fairly hefty ponderings. The huge upside is that I have found the next stepping stone in my own personal pursuit of ‘joy’. Perhaps too I will share exactly why steam trains have such an effect on me. It’s a happy little anecdote. I can temper it with why bagpipes make me cry. Don’t want to appear to be too ‘manic’!

Who said this is all about art? My rant for the day.

This is mostly a personal rant about crappy customer service so you don't need to read on if that topic is a bore to you. :)

You know you’re in for an interesting day when the alarm clock goes off and you discover the cat has sat on it during the night and changed the wake up time.

The next thing, I decide rushing out the door, to buy daughter a sandwich for lunch and donuts for breakfast at the Darley corner bakery where the people are nice. But first, I go to my least favourite store in town to get money.

There’s no one at the front of the store except me and the two young ladies at the register. Laughing, I tell one of them the ATM won’t read my card so I’ll dash in and grab a couple of things and get money on the way out. She smiles.

As the other cashier puts my items through I ask for the cash out.

“No. I haven’t got any,” she said. And she offers no solution or condolence.
I’m stunned. “What about you?” I ask the other and she said the same.

“We don’t give money out this early in the morning. We’re not a bank.”

So, I asked her why she smiled and let me go into the store, knowing that getting money was the only reason I was buying anything.

“You don’t need to buy anything to get money out,” the first girl pipes up as though trying to be helpful.

And the other said: “I didn’t hear you. I wasn’t listening to you.”

So now comes the grumpy old woman rant. Are you ready?

Why is it these people cannot seem to apply any level of common courtesy LET ALONE CUSTOMER SERVICE?

The people in the corner bakery are just lovely. The chap in the petrol station on the other corner is very nice. The pharmacy are personable and compassionate. I’m not sure about the hairdressers but I figure they’re in the business of making people happy with their hair and I know it’s a cliché, but hairdressers tend to love to talk.

So why is it the only other business in that centre, the main one, just can’t seem to figure out that if you’re nice to customers, they’ll come back and in the long run it makes your own job more enjoyable?

This one is STRIKE THREE. Strike one and tolerated was the assistant manager packing ice cream with a roast chicken and me not discovering it until I got home. Strike two was the dressing down I got from a cashier in front of customers when I politely asked her not to pack bread with milk. “Don’t you dare tell me how to do my job,” was part of her rant.
Once again I have put Darley supermarket on my COVENTRY list and I don’t care how congested the traffic is in to town, I will not be going back there.

On the plus side, when I finally got Robyn to school everyone was so nice, from the ladies in the office to Robyn’s aide and teacher and her classmates. Funny how a bunch of eight-year-olds ‘get it’.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Diving right in

Is the water cold? I'm dipping my toe in the blog, slinking back a little because it's just a touch scary. I'm not entirely new to this but so far I've had little success with blogging and if you've seen my previous efforts you may have been just in time to see the tips of my fingers sink into obscurity. So my question is ... will it happen again? Will I disappear in a blogging whirlpool, a few sad bubbles floating to the top from time to time?

I'm hoping not, of course.

This time I have a few bits and pieces of knowledge and experience on my side. Yes, blogging is still a bit of a fuzzy mystery to me. But for the past four years I've published journals on an art site ... you might have heard of it ... I have also tried my hand at My Space, but despite forwarding copious amounts of proof of identity, MySpace refuses to help me open an old account because there is nothing on that account that verifies who I am. It doesn't help either that the email address used at registration is long gone. So I've given up on them! And left my old account up because basically I have no choice in the matter.

I also have gathered together, on Facebook, friends, acquaintances, people of similar or far-differing interests with maybe one commonality. I am doing the same on Twitter and now here. While it sounds calculated, it isn't really. I am enjoying this type of networking as I am hopeless in meatspace. At parties, I'm the one who tries to blend in to the decor. I sit outside in the cold old beer garden at pub singles nights (well, um, night!). I tend to avoid parties and I really only 'socialise' if it's work-related. I love the concept of parties. I'm just not good at them.

However, I love talking to people. I love the exchange of ideas, views, concepts and colours of the world. I love to learn and I love to share whatever I've learned. So I hope this time my blog will have wings, whether they be water wings, wings on a prayer, wings over wind or whatever.

Just a little PS ... my renewed effort is inspired by a number of things. Firstly, friend Cathie T who is listed on my site. She is a lovely person, a friend I met on Redbubble and continue to stay in touch with. It is long-term inspired by Danny and renewed by his assertion that taking blogs into the world instead of hiding in an unused writing space is far better. And finally, by a chance meeting with a lovely lady today whose children may appear in next week's paper and who friended me on Facebook today. (Thanks Nadine).

If you're interested in reading any of my Journals on art and all things, head on over to my profile at There are 14 entries in the series entitled Come Write In. I may at some stage replay them here.