Tag Archives: London

Weekend Coffee Share: 22nd July, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s so cold, that I’m wearing a woollen beanie indoors. Never thought I’d see the day. Beanies used to be as daggy as and my family spent years trying to get my grandfather to give his up. Now, it turns out that he was a man ahead of his time. The Beanie is back. Mind you, there are beanies and there are beanies, and I don’t think my grandfather’s beanie fell into either camp.

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The beanie’s profile over here in Australia, has also received a boost by a fundraising campaign: Carrie’s Beanies for Brain Cancer. Journalist Carrie Bickmore writes:

“On December 27th 2010 my husband Greg Lange died at just 34 years of age. He had lived with the disease for close to a decade. It took away his mobility, it took away his independence, and eventually it took his life. No one should have to suffer this way, and until we find a solution, people will.”

They have sold out of Carrie’s Beanies in my size, but I’ve added to my collection with a hand-knitted beanie from the op shop for a few bucks.

So, perhaps I should be offering you a beanie with your beverage of choice. It’s cold…19°C or 66°F. I could swear there’s snow piling up outside and icicles hanging from the rafters. Surely, that couldn’t be the sun shining outside when I’m frozen to the core!! Perhaps, if I type fast enough, I’ll warm up. My fingers are a purple-grey and looking corpse-like.

So, I guess it won’t come as a surprise that I’ve been trying to hibernate through the last week. Curl up under my doona like a bear and wake up in Spring when it’s all blue skies, warmth and happy days. The trouble is that no one else supports this state, and there’s always something to be done and peoples requiring Mum’s Taxi. The kids went back to school after two weeks off, so it was back to business as usual and a few stolen cat naps instead.

 

Well, I did manage to go for a walk along the beach yesterday with Lady and some friends who adopted a new dog during the week. The beach is always great, even if it was a tad windy and it was interesting to see their dog exploring the beach and lunging at the waves and biting them. Dogs are such entertainers. I’ve had a few dogs who’ve liked to bite the water stream out of the hose.

We have taken a bit of a left-field approach to our dog situation at home. I mentioned last week that we didn’t adopt Stella the very cute Matese x Tibetan Spaniel and that FB or Fake Bilbo has made himself at home. However, I couldn’t resist trawling the Internet for dogs and came across a heartfelt plea for someone to mind her Border Collie x Kelpie while she looks for pet-friendly accommodation. Luna arrives tomorrow afternoon. I have wondered why people foster pets before, because I get very attached. However, after losing Bilbo, I really felt for this girl and wanted to help. Luna arrives tomorrow. I’m hoping Lady manages alright. That’s what concerns me most. She’s always lived with another dog but having a dog which comes and goes while she’s already missing Bilbo could be difficult for her. At the same time, she will have a dog friend. We’ll see how it goes.

In terms of blogging this week, I did my usual contribution to Friday Fictioneers. I was very pleased with this one, and might expand it further: Kidnapped

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Dulwich Park, London.

I also tried something new this week and travelled to Dulwich Park in London via Google maps to hook up with Geoff Le Pard from TanGental  from  A Walk In The Park…Dulwich Park. This was quite a blast and much more rewarding than I’d anticipated. I was stoked when a friend saw my post and mentioned that she used to walk with her dog through that park when she lived in London. What a coincidence.

I am now plannning more of these tours for the blog.

Well, it seems like I’m rapidly falling asleep here, although it’s only just after 9.00 pm.

How was your week? I really hope you’ve had a good one and all goes well for the week ahead.

This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster Blog

xx Rowena

 

 

A Walk in Dulwich Park, London.

Tonight, my dog Lady and I went for an extraordinary walk, touching down in Dulwich Park, in South London to catch up with fellow blogger and author, Geoff Le Pard and his furry friend. I even found a cafe and met a few dog walkers to boot. How good is that?!!

This all came about after reading Geoff’s latest post: Milling About…Finding A Home, which talks about how he and his wife found their home in Dulwich Park, South London. I must be a bit low on patience this week, because I decided I’d had enough talk. I wanted to get to London myself> Walk the streets, museums, galleries and park my butt in a cafe. Not in a creepy, cyber-stalking kind of way. It’s just that I’d had enough of looking through the window. I wanted to be there instead.

So, I found a local park with a cafe frequented by mild-mannered local dog walkers. Now, I’m just waiting for Geoff. If I’d got onto this earlier, I could’ve been there in time for the Bloggers’ Bash. BTW, it’s just like me to run late!

However, there’s just one small problem with getting to London.

As you’re probably aware, I live in Greater Sydney, Australia. So, I’m hardly living next door. Moreover, as much as I’ve wanted to visit London and check out Geoff’s haunts, there’s been a small hitch. While they might have sent convicts out to the colonies at Her Magesty’s Pleasure, they’re not footing the bill to send us back. Indeed, I’d probably need to rob a bank to fund my ticket. However, knowing my luck, instead of running off with the loot, I’d pluck this card out of the pack: “Advance to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not collect $200.”

Reg Spiers

Aussies have done outrageous things to overcome the “tyranny of distance”. In the mid-1960s, Australian athlete Reg Spiers found himself stranded in London with no money to buy a plane ticket home. Desperate to get back to Australia in time for his daughter’s birthday, he posted himself home in a wooden crate and travelled as freight. You can read the full story here: The Man Who Posted Himself Home to Australia. It’s great reading.

While Reg might have been given a hero’s welcome, I decided to Keep it Simple, Stupid (the KISS Principle) and let my fingers do the walking. I travelled to London via Google maps. While I know this could be construed as cyberstalking, I picked a park on the map, found a cafe and thought this would be quite appropriate for a cyber coffee catch-up. I even took a photo…just to prove I was there.

As much as I love meeting fantastic people, especially fellow writers from all around the world through blogging, I often lament the ultimate Aussie devil… distance. That as much as our global isolation has made and shaped us as a nation, that I feel like sticking an outboard motor to the bottom of Tasmania and giving us a bit of a nudge North. Travelling to Europe is so expensive when you have kids, mortgage and an auto-immune disease to factor in.

So, while I’m waiting for Geoff, Lady and I went for a walk in the park. There were so many large, leafy trees and I certainly picked out a few oaks. It is Summer in London and while it’s partly-cloudy today, it is 20°C. Humph. Hang on a minute. We’re in the middle of Winter here in freezing conditions rugged up like Eskimos and it’s 16°C here. I’m feeling a bit ripped off. Well, at least, I’m catching up with Geoff and going on one of his many tours of London. So, the weather doesn’t really matter, does it?! After all, nobody goes to London for the weather!!

So, now that I’ve got the hang of Google maps, is there somewhere you’d like me to visit? Wow! This is starting to sound quite exciting…like climbing to the top of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree and finding yourself in the midst of a magical land. Where will I be going next?

As for me, I’d like to invite you to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It really is an amazing experience.

Happy travels.

xx Rowena.

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 10th June, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Tonight, I’d like to offer you what we Australians call a “rubber duckie”, an umbrella and a good waterproof torch. A rubber duckie? That’s an inflatable boat and if it rains too much more, you might be needing it to reach my place.

Yellow taxi

It’s been a very set week for Mum’s Taxi. 

It’s Saturday night here in Sydney, and I’m now trying to get the stuff I’ve been sorting through back in the cupboard so we can get to bed tonight. I’m making good progress, but it takes so long to sort through everything and even if I could throw more stuff out, we don’t have the available bin space. Indeed, despite taking stuff to the thrift shop. I’ve been doing a second bin run for the last month. While talking about garbage collection sounds as humdrum as it comes, our bin manoevres would make for good TV. You see, the garbage truck goes passed our house and then doubles back to pick up the bins on the other side. So, this allows us to refill our bin and wheel it across the road. This is no casual manoevre either. I have to keep an ear our for the truck and as soon as I hear its approaching rumble, my breathing accelerates and I start getting myself primed. I don’t know whether the truck driver has noticed me hotfooting across the road but I usually wait until the truck’s halfway down the street before I make my move. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Of course, there’s been the aftermath of the London Attacks this week. Two young Australian women were killed in the attack, and our sympathies goes out to their families, friends and communities. So many Australians have had a stint working in the UK just like these girls, yet we’ve returned home. I only spent a week in London when I was there in 1992, and was living and working in Germany. Yet, I still feel a strong sense of solidarity.

Above: Bush Rescue was set at the Echo Point Lookout at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, West of Sydney.

This week I’ve written two pieces of flash fiction. For Friday Fictioneers, I wrote: Back to Earth and Bush Rescue for Carrot Ranch. While Friday Fictioneers uses a photo prompt, Carrot Ranch has a text prompt. I’ve found it quite interesting doing both prompts in the same week. I’d probably say that I feel there’s more freedom and a wider scope with the text prompt, because I feel my flash has to link closely to photo to answer the brief. Many of these photos were taken in USA and that has been challenging a few times. I usually give my response an Australian element.

Have you written much flash fiction? How do you find it as a genre? Do you have a preference for text or photo prompts? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Anyway, so how has your week been? I hope you’ve had a great one. 

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Ally at Nerd in the Brain

xx Rowena

 

Winter Weekend Coffee Share.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Today, I can actually offer you your choice of tea or coffee along with an almost healthy Strawberry & Macadamia Nut Muffin. Although  I really loved them straight out of the oven last night, they were still scrummy cold this morning with juicy chunks of strawberry complimenting crunchy macadamia nuts perfectly.

It’s Winter here in Australia.At least, that’s the official line.As far as winters go, even for us, it’s been pretty mild now that last weekend’s storm’s been and gone.

Winter in Australia

This week, I posted a rather funny cartoon about 20°C  in Brisbane (Winter) versus 20°C in London (Summer) . The funny thing was, that I just compared Sydney and London’s weather reports today and you wouldn’t believe it. They’re the same…16-20°C!

Not that I’m bragging. I don’t control the weather and I didn’t choose to be born here but I’m not complaining.

At least, not this weekend!

That said, we’ve had a few strange things going on in the last week.

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Our beach track was wiped out in the storm and transformed into a cliff.

I’ve already mentioned last weekend’s dreadful storms which hit the Australian East Coast.

On Tuesday, we had a 4.0 magnitude earthquake 100 km of the coast from here. Well, you might ask if I noticed because I didn’t feel a thing. Indeed, I only found out about it while following up the Sydney Storm online.

Tuesday, must have been a busy day for exceptional events around here because a Great White Shark was photographed leaping out of the waves while a guy was filming his mate surf…”Good Morning, Jaws!” This was an hour’s drive up the road from here and we live in a beachside community where we’ve seen local fisherpeople catch juvenile Bronze Whaler Sharks but although we know the Great Whites seemingly swim passed here to attack surfers on the NSW North Coast, we like to think they’re further out to sea and chomping on something else along the way.

It’s funny about us Australians because half the time we’re beefing up the dangers of our wildlife to terrify the tourists, and yet denial also seems to be a national sport. Sharks? What sharks?

Not all of our stories about our dangerous wildlife are made up. On a more serious note, last Sunday tourist Cindy Waldron was taken by a croc while swimming in the Daintree, near Cairns. On the very same day on the other side of the country, diver Doreen Ann Collyer was killed by a giant Great White Shark while diving about 1km off Mindarie beach in Perth.

So, while we might jest about the dangers, they also need to be taken seriously!

However, things have been relatively uneventful here.

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Our daughter drawing a unicorn in the sand when her friend visited.

It’s looking like I didn’t get the job at my daughter’s school. I’m fine about that but am putting more thought into setting some goals and objectives, while getting things more organised at home. I feel like I’ve finally moved forward from the chemo two years ago and that my health is stable and I am okay. That’s a huge leap forward, although it still feels very tentative at times and sometimes, it feels absolutely terrifying and like I’m about to combust or something. Strangely, the big stuff doesn’t worry me too much but things usually related to my poor spatial skills like parking the car somewhere unfamiliar. Chemo? No worries mate.

Just call me “odd”. You won’t be the first and you won’t be the last.

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Anyway, I bought myself a book, which offered great promise this week: Shannah Kennedy’s: The Life Plan. I found it at a stationery and organisation shop called Kikki K, which says:

“Do you want to live with purpose and achieve your life goals? In The Life Plan, leading life coach Shannah Kennedy sets out a step-by-step strategy to help you identify your true purpose and values, declutter and find clarity, improve your time management, and create tools to help you stay focused.”

By the way, all these thoughts about getting organised at home just received another setback. We just visited a local 2nd hand book sale and returned home with two more boxes of books. I wonder if you can store books in the fridge…Then again, I don’t think there’s any room in there either. We’ll just have to read them fast!

So, how has your week been? I hope it’s been good and look forward to catching up!

Thanks for popping by! This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. You can click  for the linky to read the other posts.

xx Rowena

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Good night…Night Lights, Ettalong Beach, NSW.

An Unauthorised Book Tour…”My Father & Other Liars”: Geoff Le Pard.

For those of you who know Geoff Le Pard and his latest book: My Father & Other Liars, it is my duty to inform you that his book ran away from home in London and decided to brave the sharks, snakes, poisonous jellyfish, crocodiles and deadly drop bears and flew solo all the way to Australia.

Heading into Sydney.

Heading into Sydney.

By the time the book arrived here, it was clearly exhausted and handed me a note which said: “Please take care of this book.” Of course, there was a jar of marmalade in its suitcase and being the warm, friendly and book-loving Australian that I am, I took the book inside and it now calls Australia home. It’s even traded the marmalade in for Vegemite toast. Like most English backpackers who take up residence on your couch, I don’t think the book will be going home any time soon!

Although every author knows that their book takes on a life all of its own once it’s been published, I don’t think even Geoff expected his latest book to go on an Australian tour without him. Geoff is a very keen International traveller who has not only been to Australia but fallen in love with place. So, not unsurprisingly, I can hear Geoff shouting out all the way from the UK: “Wait for me!! How dare you leave without me!!”

I’ve had words like that with my own kids over the years and they haven’t listened and neither did Geoff’s book. It’s still here and Geoff’s nowhere in sight.

Apologies Geoff but we couldn’t wait. The book’s tour Down Under has unofficially been launched. Thanks to my filling fallen out, My Father and Other Liars and I boarded the train to Sydney to go to the dentist. My dentist is in Kirribilli just a stone’s throw from the Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you have ever seen the film Finding Nemo, the dentist in the movie could very well be my dentist, right down to the fish tank! Well, there is some debate but he’s close enough. So, of course, the book was thrilled to be on location. It fancies being turned into a movie one day!

The book takesin the view of the Sydney Opera House. I think it brought the London weather with it.

The book takes in the view of the Sydney Opera House. I think it brought the London weather with it.

Geoff's book really was refusing to toe the line and I seriously feared we'd be arrested or given our proximity to the Prime MInister's Sydney residence, be mistaken for terrorists. If you can't trust a package any more, who's to say you can trust a book these days? Particularly one which can not read signs!

Geoff’s book really was refusing to toe the line and I seriously feared we’d be arrested or given our proximity to the Prime Minister’s Sydney residence, be mistaken for terrorists. If you can’t trust a package any more, who’s to say you can trust a book these days? Particularly one which can not read signs!

After my appointment, we walked down the hill under the Bridge and the book insisted on photo after photo and even took a few selfies. Talk about pushy. I thought the book was trying to drum up some additional publicity but when I caught it emailing the photos to Geoff and tormenting him with those gorgeous harbour views, I had my doubts.

Do selfies always reverse the text in the picture or is it just me?

Do selfies always reverse the text in the picture or is it just me? Oh yes. Don’t you just love the wind! That is definitely NOT my usual coiffure!

Anyway, jokes aside, reading My Father & Other Liars has been quite a unique reading experience for me. Usually, when I’m reading a book, I’ve never met the author and know very little about them at all. After I’ve read the book, I might have been lucky enough to meet them at the Sydney Writer’s Festival or equivalent or read an article online but essentially the author remains a mystery…unknown.

Another dodgy selfie in front of Sydney's famous Luna Park face.

Another dodgy selfie in front of Sydney’s famous Luna Park face.

However, when it came to reading My Father & Other Liars, the cart went before the horse. Through reading each other’s blogs and numerous comments back and forth, Geoff and I have come to know each other pretty well, especially given we’ve never met in person. We’re friends. This meant of course that I knew the author before reading the book and I wondered whether I could divorce that from reading a work of fiction. For some of you, you might be able to make that disconnect easily but I tend to read mostly non-fiction and process the novels that I do read as real. You could say that for me the line between fact and fiction is rather thin. That is, if there is a line at all

To further complicate matters, I’ve also read a series of letters written by Geoff’s Dad outlining his experiences as a paratrooper, which Geoff has posted on his blog. While “Dad” seemed to have a good sense of humour, he seemed pretty honourable to me. He certainly didn’t appear to be the inspiration behind the book. So this was another connection I had to switch off.

After playing a spot of beach cricket, the book sunbakes at Umina Beach, North of Sydney.

After playing a spot of beach cricket, the book sunbakes at Umina Beach, North of Sydney.

Another thing I should tell you about how I read Geoff’s book was that I specifically ordered hard copy…a real book. Call me a late-adapter to technology but I don’t have a Kindle or any other such device and I find reading long chunks of text difficult on the computer. I have collected antiquarian books almost all my life and love the smell of must, those beautiful , meticulous etchings and the covers almost good enough to eat.

Proudly standing under the Australian flags

Proudly standing under the Australian flags

Yet, while I have my collection, when it comes to reading a book and I mean really reading a book, I not only read it with my eyes and I guess in turn my soul. I also read it with my pen. I have quite an elaborate system of taking notes in my book. I underline great phrases, similes or metaphors and if I really want to come back to something, I make a note in the margin. The ultimate though is circling the page number down the bottom so I can definitely find my way back to that point.

So, when it comes to me reading books: “No ink = no good.”

So as a good indicator of how I found My Father and Other Liars, it has plenty of ink throughout, not just highlighting Geoff’s expressions but also to highlight the scientific details. The book is educational as well as a great read.

When it comes to genres, just like its author, My Father and Other Liars isn’t a book you can simply pigeon-hole and slap one all-encompassing category. Indeed, it could easily be considered thriller, mystery, science fiction, drama and there’s even a bit of romance. It refuses to be contained.

Bilbo, our Border Collie, snaffled up the book.

Bilbo, our Border Collie, snaffled up the book.

So, what is the book about?

My Father and Other Liars addresses the tension between religion and science and what happens when these often conflicting spheres merge together. What emerges is a thrilling exploration which covers three continents and I must say, Geoff manages to convey a strong sense of these different cultures both through authentic dialogue but also through noting those little details. When he writes about England, there’s a “strong cup of tea” and while in Oklahoma, there was this bit of inimitable dialogue: “So who fancies biscuits and gravy, y’all?” I wrote “yuck” next to that one. For an Australian, biscuits are sweet and what Americans refer to as “cookies” whereas this is referring to what we would know as a “scone”. However, the character is not in Australia and using these authentic snippets, really helps to convey that sense of place, which is very important to me. After all, the inner person is also in an outer world.

Lady reading Geoff Le Pard's: "My Father & Other Liars."

Only to have Lady run off with it! Lady reading Geoff Le Pard’s: “My Father & Other Liars.”

In terms of reviewing the book as a whole, I’m going to defer to this review from Suffolk Scribblings: https://authordylanhearn.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/recommended-reads-my-father-and-other-liars-by-geoff-le-pard/

However, perhaps the greatest recommendation is that I as a non-reader of novels, haven’t put it down and am reading about 100 pages a day. I’m finding myself slipping into their world and almost talking to the characters or hearing their voices, which might suggest I need a psychiatrist but that’s been a long standing issue and something I call “being creative”. At the moment, I have 120pages to go and I feel that tension between racing to see how it ends and wanting to take my time because I don’t want the book to finish. I particularly like the character of Mo and so many of us, is well-intentioned and has blundered through life hurting those he loves most and struggles with intimacy. Mo is the book’s reluctant hero and I can’t but feel sorry for him getting embroiled in all of this but then again, a bit excitement speeds up the heart.

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I’ve just finished the book and strongly recommend it. It tells a suspense-filled, credible story filled with conspiracy and intrigue and well-developed, believable characters. Geoff has down a great job switching between three continents and even with my very poor sense of direction, I didn’t get lost. That said, at the start, I did find it hard to keep up with the number of characters but ultimately this just heightened the sense of conspiracy and those men in black were hiding everywhere.

Well done, Geoff and by the way, your book says: “G’day!” It also wants to know if the cheque’s in the mail? It’s had unexplained expenses and I swear there’s no mini bar anywhere in sight.

If you’d like to pop over to Geoff’s blog, you can find him at http://www.geofflepard.com

Have you read My Father and Other Liars or any of Geoff Le Pard’s other books? Any comments?

xx Rowena

PS: I must say that if you are wondering whether any red-faced embarrassment was experienced in the production of these photographs, the answer is most definitely. The kids were away and I felt like a real goose heading down to the beach with a plastic cricket bat. But the photo is paramount and I only ended up having to explain to one onlooker that I was photographing a friend’s book who was in the UK. “Publicity”, was all they said. Hmm…you seem to be able to get away with a lot as “publicity”!

Going Home

While some might enjoy a spirit of adventure and exploration, for others, there is “no place like home” and they will do whatever it takes to get back…just think of Lassie!

No doubt, we all know someone who has attempted a sea or tree change. What starts out as some kind of glorious utopian vision, soon falls back down to earth…not unlike a pair of clapped out underpants with bung elastic.  For some, it doesn’t take long and they’ve soon sold up and moved back home finding happiness on those familiar, well-worn paths. After all, the grass isn’t always greener and in the case of Australian immigrants, the grass could well be brown.

ET Phone Home

ET Phone Home

If you traveled overseas in the days before email and Skype, then you’ll also know what it means to be homesick. Phoning was prohibitively expensive and you were pretty much dependent on the letter.

Due to the high costs of traveling to Europe, it has been a right of passage for many young Australians to do a stint in Europe, rather than a quick, fleeting visit. In 1992, after finishing uni, I also set off but rather than following the road well traveled to the UK, I lived in Germany instead.  Even though I’d traveled solo before, it was quite a different thing going for the long haul and being on the other side of the world. Humph, I admit to shedding more than a few tears in Heidelberg railways station and desperately feeding coins into a very greedy payphone just to say: “hello”. I was a wreck and if I hadn’t had such a big farewell party only a week before, I too could have found myself on a plane home.

So, I guess I could understand that being so far away from home isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. That home is where the heart is and sometimes that pull can be way too strong to stay away.

Rewinding the clock back to 1964, aspiring Australian athlete, Reg Spiers, was living and training in London. For me, I can’t think of much more exciting than being in London during the 1960s.  Being a huge John Lennon fan, The Beatles would have to top the list but the whole scene would have been incredible and I’ve provided a link through to this photo montage of 60s London to get you in the mood: http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2013/08/snapshot-25-photos-of-1960s-london/

However, as the saying goes, home is where the heart is and for Reg Spiers, who desperately wanted to get back to Australia for his daughter’s birthday, London had become more of a prison. With no money to buy a plane ticket, he applied a bit of lateral thinking and decided to post himself home in a wooden crate. You can read about his incredible story here: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-31700049?post_id=770163024_10152981388113025#_=_

Inspired by Spiers’ story, Welshman Brian Robson who was living in Sydney at the time, attempted a copycat manoeuvre and decided to post himself back to Wales. Although The Beatles came to Australia in 1964, it wasn’t exactly Europe. Here’s a link to a movie showing life in Sydney two years later in 1966: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vR1CU8NjGW0

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”-Steve Jobs

Robson had emigrated to Australia as part of the “10 pound Pom” assisted immigration scheme. However, almost as soon as he arrived, he’d had something of an allergic reaction to the place and had to get out.

Leaving, on the other hand, wasn’t going to be easy. While Robson had enjoyed subsidized travel costs to get here, the catch was that he was obligated to stay in Australia for 2 years.  Only then, would he be issued with a passport, which would allow him to leave legally. Two years felt like a death sentence at the time and so inspired by Spier’s story, he decided to do the reverse journey. However, his trip was fraught with struggle and complications, including an extensive detour to America where he was discovered barely alive. Naturally, his story attracted media attention and rather than being charged, he was flown back to the UK First Class.

So you could say all’s well that ends well.

“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”

Muhammad Ali

As a serious Australian history affectionado, I am quite surprised that I’ve never come across these stories before and am not impressed that I found out about it via the BBC. We live in such a fabulous country and yet there is still that element of cultural cringe. So many Australians know so little about our own history and culture.

While these stories are funny and entertaining, it resonates that although life might be a thrilling adventure, there’s no place like home.

Well, actually, to be honest, I’m currently on holidays and couldn’t wait to get away from home but that’s another story…

There’s no place like home: www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJ6VT7ciR1o

"There's no place like home!"

“There’s no place like home!”

This is my contribution to the Blogging from A-Z Challenge.

xx Rowena

Explorations with Google.

When considering great explorers, I usually think of intrepid adventurers who have “discovered” new continents, crossed frontiers and ventured into wild, uncharted places on this planet. People like Christopher Columbus, Captain Cook, Sir Edmund Hillary as well as adventurers like Dick Smith and Jessica Watson…  the youngest person to sail solo around the world.

Yet, thinkers are also great explorers and we also uncover new territory. Or, as is often the case, we build bridges across distinct islands and create new nations of thought.

Keats expressed such intellectual discovery beautifully in On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer:

…Yet did I never breathe its pure serene

Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken…

I don’t know if anyone else would consider me a great thinker. I’m a blogger and a very low-ranking blogger at that. Yet, I also explore foreign territory in my blogs and general writing, attempting to create new islands of thought or alternative ways of doing things.

Google has become an integral part of this process.

Google not only facilitates my research. It also takes me off on fresh adventures. You know how it is. You Google one thing and something else shows up in the search results and you end up pursuing a completely different line of thought.  Before you know it, you are a few mental light years away from where you started out and it’s all very, very exciting stuff! You’re mind is on fire!

Although it might be online, isn’t this is what learning is all about… going somewhere new and investigating, asking questions and sussing everything out? After all, isn’t this how so many of history’s greatest discoveries were made… by seemingly wandering off on a tangent, getting lost and then suddenly the light bulb goes off? Or, perhaps by putting a few random thoughts together creating something new and world-changing?

At the very least, Google allows you to check something out and reach your own conclusions.

Only yesterday, someone was telling me about a huge island of plastic rubbish in the Pacific Ocean. Now, I consider myself fairly well read with a keen interest in the environment but I had never heard of this island before. Thanks to Google, I was able to come home and not only read about it but I could even watch a documentary online. This thing (and believe me it really does sound like a “thing”) is called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or the “trash vortex” and while you can’t really spot it on Google maps, it is located in an area called the “North Pacific gyre” – a vortex where the ocean circulates slowly because of little wind and extreme high pressure systems. Due to these ocean currents, it seems that plastic rubbish pools here. As with most things scientific, there is considerable debate about this so-called island, which is also described perhaps more accurately as a plastic “soup”.  Thanks to Google, I was able to read numerous opinions on the subject and formulate a reasonably well-informed opinion without a science degree or PhD, all from the comfort of my own home.

Yesterday, thanks to Google, I was a budding “scientist”. Today, I was in much more familiar territory…poetry.

I recently bought some antique sheet music on eBay. One of the pieces was called My Heart is a Silent Violin. I noticed that the words were actually a poem by Eric Von der Goltz JR. It is a very romantic piece and being a lover of all things violin at the moment, I Googled the poem. Halfway down the list, there was a link to The Old Violin – The Touch of the Masters Hand . The link mentioned that it had been his late father’s favourite poem. As a poet and lover of poetry, I was intrigued about what made this particular poem, out of all the millions of poems which have ever been written, that one in a million million… so I clicked through.

I wasn’t disappointed. I was very moved by this poem, which talked about how an old violin was being auctioned. At first, the auctioneer was struggling to get more than a couple of dollars for it. However, a master violinist stepped up and played the violin beautifully and suddenly the price jumped up into the thousands. It is a religious poem and God is the Master who appreciates and brings out the best in us. However, I also saw an application in how we treat people who are different, or at least different from us and often dismiss them.

We all deserve to be given a chance to shine with our own unique beauty.

The humble violinist

The humble violinist

As a violinist and yes I know I’m only a beginner violinist but a violinist is a violinist…I also viewed this poem from the perspective of the player, the violinist and not just the violin.

Being so moved by the poem, I wanted to find out more about the poem and its author, Myra Brooks Welsh. http://www.aboutonehandtyping.com/storiesfolder/master.html

Back to Google.

Yet again, Google didn’t disappoint. I found a brief biography of Myra Brooks Welsh written by Lilly Walters, who has her own story of triumphing over adversity. Lilly Walters, whose story appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul 2nd Helpings, was inspired by the poem after she lost most of her hand in a farming accident as a child. Her mother was terribly distraught at the time but she was inspired to help her daughter learn how to type and Lilly went on to share these strategies with others. You can read Lilly’s story here: http://www.aboutonehandtyping.com/storiesfolder/angels.html

Science, poetry and then Google took me into the world of cricket…an exceptionally foreign land!

We have been watching the Sydney Cricket Test or should I say we’ve had it on in the background today. It’s a very hot, very sunny languid day outside and we are pretty much huddled indoors. We are having a day of rest, a non-day or what is often referred to as a pyjama day, although we have managed to get dressed. I must also say that the dog is walking around looking quite pleased that he’s lost his fur coat and has been spotted actually lying in the sun at times.

Anyway, the Cricket Show had been interviewing cricket legend and commentator Richie Benaud. I am not into cricket at all. In fact, I have historically detested watching the cricket in the way that only a big sister with an obsessed little brother could. Wars were fought not over who could control the remote but over who could keep hold of the on and off switch as well as the dial which manually changed the channels. It was such a different era!!

Watching Richie Benaud doing the cricket these days is like seeing a history in motion. Born in 1930, he’s now 82 years old and he actually retired from playing cricket way back in 1964, five years before I was even born! He has personally experienced such a vast spread of cricket history that even I find him interesting, just like I enjoyed hearing my grandparents talk about the olden days.

I have grown up these days and while I don’t watch the cricket myself, I no longer mind or even notice when it’s switched on and Geoff will often have it playing in the background at home. To me, cricket is still about Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh and Kim Hughes and the West Indies were the ones to beat. Lillee retired in 1984 (Thanks again, Google!) That gives you some idea of just how long it’s been since I’ve watched the cricket!!

Back to Richie Benaud. Our son watches a bit of cricket but when I mentioned Richie Benaud, he hadn’t heard of him. Being a modern parent, I immediately looked up Google and was able to click on images and it brought up an entire gallery of portraits of a very young, muscular Benaud directly alongside his somewhat shrunken but ever so endearing, elderly self. There was even one of elderly Benaud checking out a much younger statue of himself: http://www.plowright.com.au/richiebenaudsculpture/richiebenaud1st.htm.

Harrods Bear Christmas 2001 in our daughter's pram

Harrods’ Bear Christmas 2001 in our daughter’s pram

I thought I had done just about enough googling when our daughter wandered in clutching what she described as her “winter bear”. Winter Bear is actually a 2001 Harrods’ Christmas Bear. Harrods has been producing Christmas bears since 1986 and each bear comes with “Harrods” stitched in gold on its paw along with the year. I have to admit that it’s looking very overdressed in its plush velvet snow coat in a sweltering Australian summer  (bring on the Speedos!)

Harrods 2001

Harrods 2001

I took this opportunity to introduce my daughter to Mecca of retail therapy and we googled Harrods. I have to admit that the website itself was a bit disappointing but I found this great blog post with a link to their annual Christmas parade: http://www.londonperfect.com/blog/2012/11/harrods-christmas-2012/comment-page-1/#comment-38637

So thanks to Google, I’ve covered quite a lot of intellectual territory in only a couple of days.

Like anything, Google isn’t perfect and like that vortex in the Pacific, there’s a lot of junk floating around in there. This might lead me into a whole new post about how we deal with information overload in contemporary world and the need for discernment. Just like any other source, we need to challenge and question what we find in Google.

My husband also mentioned another teeny little problem with Google… Internet Distraction, which I, of course, know nothing about!

Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever

Acute cyberchondria

Acute cyberchondria

There is also its evil twin, cyberchondria, which is well and truly fed by Google.

However, just a word of warning! Not all cyberchondria turns out to be chondria after all. Sometimes, all those dreadful imaginings actually do turn out to be real and when they do, we can’t blame Google.

Other times, somebody might just want a day off school!

So I guess Google is just like everything else.

It’s not perfect!

What are your thoughts about Google?

xx Rowena