Let’s just kiss: 70s best

I’m a 70s woman. It was my heyday. The clothes! The music! My best friend from high school just became a grandmother for the first time. Her new granddaughter’s name is Sunny and she said the Boney M song, Sunny, from our teenage years must have been prophetic. It was one of the best from the 70s. Here’s another: The Manhattans singing “Let’s Just Kiss and Say Goodbye”. That voice. Puts some sugar in the bowl for sure.


Who are you?


“For the last ten years of his life, Tim’s father had Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the devoted care of Tim’s mother, he had slowly deteriorated until he had become a sort of walking vegetable. He was unable to speak and was fed, clothed, and cared for as if he were a very young child … One Sunday, while [Tim’s mother] was out doing the shopping, [Tim and his brother], then fifteen and seventeen, watched football as their father sat nearby in a chair. Suddenly, he slumped forward and fell to the floor. Both sons realised immediately that something was terribly wrong. His colour was grey and his breath uneven and rasping. Frightened, Tim’s older brother told him to call 911. Before he could respond, a voice he had not heard in ten years, a voice he could barely remember, interrupted. ‘Don’t call 911, son. Tell your mother that I love her. Tell her that I am all right.’ And Tim’s father died …

Tim, now a cardiologist, goes on: ‘Because he died unexpectedly at home, the law required that we have an autopsy. My father’s brain was almost entirely destroyed by his disease. For many years, I have asked myself, ‘Who spoke? Who are we really?’ I have never found the slightest help from any medical knowledge. Much of life cannot be explained, it can only be witnessed.'”

~ From The Wise Heart: A  Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology by Jack Kornfield


A woman’s dream


Today was the running of the Melbourne Cup. Cup Day is a big deal here. It’s a public holiday and hundreds of thousands of people go to the races. Horses are flown in from all over the world.

Today, an outsider called Prince of Penzance won, at 100-1 odds. The horse was ridden by Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win the Cup in its 154-year history. Michelle’s brother, Stevie, a young man with Down’s Syndrome, was the horse’s strapper.

Australia’s been riveted by the story since the horse crossed the finish line this afternoon. And it keeps getting better. In tonight’s news, it was revealed Michelle is the youngest of 10 children, and that her mother died when she was six months old. Her father raised all 10 children by himself. To cap it off, when she accepted the trophy, she talked about those who had wanted to drop her as the rider because she was a woman. She cheerfully said they could “get stuffed”.

She even looks and sounds a little like Velvet Brown.

What a fairytale! Here’s what she said this afternoon:

“To think that Darren Weir has given me a go and it’s such a chauvinistic sport, I know some of the owners were keen to kick me off, and John Richards and Darren stuck strongly with me, and I put in all the effort I could and galloped him all I could because I thought he had what it takes to win the Melbourne Cup and I can’t say how grateful I am to them … I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed, because women can do anything and we can beat the world … This is everybody’s dream as a jockey in Australia and now probably the world. And I dreamt about it from when I was five years old and there is an interview from my school friends, they were teasing me about, when I was about seven, and I said, ‘I’m going to win the Melbourne Cup’ and they always give me a bit of grief about it and I can’t believe we’ve done it.”


Knitting Xmas presents again

I’m knitting Christmas presents again, after years away.  I think I stopped because I wore some of my own socks and realised I’d been making them too big. Burst my bubble for a bit. All those socks given as presents and mostly too big. Oh well.

I’ve forgotten the yarn I’m using in the striped ones. The pink and purple ones are in Poems Sock Yarn by Wisdom Yarns. The pale blue is going to be a beanie for me because I haven’t knitted one before. It’s in a very beautiful yarn called Sublime by Sirdar which is merino, silk and cashmere. The pattern is Sitka Spruce, adapted for DK yarn by Tin Can Knits. The basque is a twisted rib stitch which is very nice.




“The concept of being a warrior is applicable to the most basic situations in our lives, to the fundamental situation that exists before the notion of good and bad ever occurs. The term warrior relates to the basic situation of being a human being. The heart of the warrior is this basic aliveness or basic goodness. Such fearless goodness is free from doubt and overcomes any perverted attitudes towards reality.

Doubt is the first obstacle to fearlessness that has to be overcome.

We’re not talking here about suppressing your doubts about  a particular thing that is taking place, nor are we talking about having doubts about joining an organisation or something like that.

We are referring here to overcoming a much more basic doubt which is fundamentally doubting yourself and feeling that you have shortcomings as a human being. You don’t feel that your mind and body are synchronised or working together properly. You feel that you are constantly being short-changed somewhere in your life.

When you were growing up, at a very early stage, perhaps around two years old, you must have heard your father or mother say no to you. They would say ‘no, don’t get into that’ or ‘no, don’t explore that too much’ or ‘no, be quiet, be still’.

When you heard the word no, you may have responded by trying to fulfil that no, by being good. Or you may have reacted negatively by defying your parents and their no by exploring further and being bad. That mixture of the temptation to be naughty and the desire to be disciplined occurs very early in life. When our parents say no to us, it makes us feel strange about ourselves which becomes an expression of fear.

On the other hand, there is another kind of no which is very positive. We have never heard that basic no properly, a no free from fear and free from doubt. Instead, even if think we’re doing our best in life, we still feel that we haven’t fully lived up to what we should be. We feel that we’re not quite doing things right. We feel that our parents or others don’t approve of us.

There is that fundamental doubt, or fundamental fear, as to whether or not we can actually accomplish something. Doubt arises in relating with authority, discipline, and scheduling throughout our life. When we don’t acknowledge our doubt, it manifests as resistance and resentment … resistance in everyday life provides us with many ways to manipulate situations …

The basic no, on the other hand, is accepting discipline in our life without preconceptions …”

~ From Smile at Fear by Chögyam Trungpa



Image: An elm tree coming into leaf a few weeks ago. It is a favourite time of the year for me, watching the accordion pleats emerge from their tissue paper envelopes.

Be disturbed: Lurid Beauty at NGV


The Lurid Beauty: Australian Surrealism and its Echoes exhibition opened at the NGV last weekend. Australia is a kind of natural location for surrealism with the strangeness of the plants and animals, and its isolation and repressed cruelties. And it goes further here. The dreamscapes tip over into nightmare.

Albert Tucker is the leader of this genre and I am always disturbed and frightened looking at his works (the gruesome clown and woman in the de Chirico-like streetscape, the tram, the body). God knows what it was like to be married to him, as Joy Hester was. She’s the one who painted the deeply sinister picture of the prone figure and the “Fun Fair” booth. A clue maybe?

The works that excited me were made by two brothers, Voitre Marek and Dusan Marek, two displaced persons fleeing the wreckage of post-WW2 Czechoslovakia who sailed to Australia aboard the SS Charlton in 1948. The ship had mechanical problems at Gibraltar and while waiting, the two brothers started painting on whatever materials they could find.

Dusan painted Equator on the the back of a discarded card table top to mark the ship’s crossing from the Northern Hemisphere to the South on 12 October 1948. Notice the womb of the female figure connected to a petal-like propeller, and the hand – love this – coming down to unmask her. The notes say the Marek brothers settled in Adelaide because they’d heard it called “The City of Churches” and they thought it might be like Prague. The notes make a wry comment, which I’ve forgotten, about their reaction on arriving in said City of Churches.

My other favourites are the James Gleeson one, the Daliesque The attitude of lightning towards a lady-mountain, and the yellow frangipanis (more turbines!) inside the rolled paper by Eric Thake called Salvation from the evils of earthly existence. Click on an image to enlarge it.

Lurid Beauty: Australian Surrealism and its Echoes is on at NGV, Australia until 31 January 2016.


Top image: Scientific Priest, 1965, Dusan Marek; other images: works by Louise Hearman (teeth in the night beside road), Albert Tucker (various), Joy Hester, Dusan Marek (various), Voitre Marek, Fiona Hall (sardine cans), Susan Norrie (black tables), David Noonan (boy in shorts), Man Ray (photo of eyes), Russell Drysdale (two men hunting rabbits in stony landscape), Minotaure magazine (works by Salvador Dali and stone objects from Boeotia, 9th-7th century BC), Eric Thake, James Gleeson.



In a seminar I’m doing we’re asked to think of our most romantic moment. When I look I see most of mine involve flowers. How funny. Here are some. The interesting thing is what happens after I recall one or more of these moments. If I’m out on the street, everyone starts smiling. Try it for yourself.

I’m 20 and very unhappy. I’m sitting on a train on a Saturday morning. Sunk in gloom, I barely register my stop is coming up next. Then a young man who I haven’t noticed leans over the space from the window and hands me a flower from the bouquet he is carrying which I also hadn’t noticed. I feel embarrassed and don’t know what to do. I want to get on with being miserable. I’m glad my stop is close. Looking back now, I send my love and gratitude to him.

Another time. I’m 30 maybe. It’s the Friday night of a long weekend about 8pm. I’m at my cousin’s house to pick her up and drive up the coast for the weekend. As I walk out to my car I see her husband has covered the dashboard of the car with flowers from the garden. I am astounded. When I look at my cousin, she just shrugs as if to say it is nothing special or that kind of thing happens every day in her marriage. I wonder if she reads this post whether she will recognise her husband :)

Another day, just a few months ago. It’s the day for the gardener. I see him out in the garden. An hour or two later, I open my front door to leave for an appointment and see a pale orange rose on my doorstep. Delight and surprise take over the day.

A night this time, about 8 years ago. No flower this one. I’m at a pub in South Melbourne with a group of “hash harriers” planning to run around the suburb down to the Bay and back again. There’s a man there looking at me intently. He introduces himself. I’m going to run with another group, one man and a couple of women. The man in my group has sprayed himself with Lynx and my stomach’s churning. I’m running to get away from the smell. At the Bay, as a gag, they have tied cans of VB to the pier posts. The intent man is drinking a can and he comes up to me and offers me a swig. Looking back, this occurs as very romantic.

A final one for now. I’m 20 and on holidays at Coolangatta. I’ve met a guy who’s also on holidays from south of Sydney. He’s a professional lifesaver with dusty brown legs and yellow shorts. He and his mate and me are in a mini-moke driving through leafy tunnels in the national park near Murwillumbah. The sun is streaming through the trees. It’s a public holiday and we want to make a barbeque and all we can buy is some pieces of steak and a few white bread rolls. We find a deserted picnic area and the steak sandwiches are the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Later, we decide to sleep in the surf club bunk bed for something different, and when I want to go to the bathroom he escorts me to the communal men’s bathroom in the middle of the night holding my hand.


The guest house


This being human is a guest house.
Each morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ The Guest House, Rumi (Persian, 1207-1273), translated by Coleman Banks


You are a marvel


“Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? That two and two make four and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them … You are a marvel. You are unique … In all the years that have passed there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move … And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.”

~ Pablo Casals, 1876-1973

Image: Pablo Casals by Dezsö Czigány


A non-couch potato future

Contrary to the stories about the evils and viciousness of Facebook, when I started using it actively about a year ago all I saw were the surprising number of acquaintances who, though I saw them only last week, were now apparently in Paris, and a constant stream of feel-good messages. Instead of people being nasty, it was all lovehearts and people assuring the world that they’ve made it.

And sometimes, it is inspiring! Here’s one such example. It’s the story of Ernestine Shepherd. Ernestine started lifting weights at the age of 56, and now, at the age of 77 looks and speaks like a woman in her 30s. She gets up every morning at 2:30am to go for a run with her husband, and I love the scenes of her in her kitchen at this early hour. She is in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest female bodybuilder; if they had a category for inspiring others, she’d be a record-breaker in that section too.

If you’re a woman, or a man, and you’re planning a couch potato future, you might like to listen to Ernestine.


Veronika Decides to Die


This is a good book this: Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho.  I read somewhere that Coelho supposedly writes “philosophy for horoscope readers” and that he himself says he writes “fairy tales for adults”. So be it. Give me fairy tales every day.

His subject – the human condition under the sentence of death – and the setting – an insane asylum in Slovenia – is part of a long tradition that all the big guns of European literature have explored. People like Camus, Thomas Mann, Solzhenitsyn, Günter Grass and many others have covered similar ground and often with far less clarity, wit and insight than Coelho.

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What keeps anyone in any kind of unhealthy relationship?


I like reading the advice columns in the Guardian online. What the readers say to the person with the issue (the “OP”, original poster) is fascinating. A few readers play the jerk, but most engage with the issue in good faith and really want to assist the OP. Regularly, people offer profound and generous insights from their own lives.

The following quotation is what one reader said in response to an OP a few months ago. The OP was a woman in her 20s talking about her relationship with her father. The reader’s response is a tour de force. What makes it so good is that he or she has discovered that freedom is a function of responsibility, and love, a function of acceptance.

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