Tag Archives: reading

The Little Red Book Box.

“A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation… A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold.”

― Henry Miller, The Books in My Life

Do you remember those snazzy red telephone booths from back in the day? Well, that’s what I thought of, when I stumbled across the little red book box at our local park. It was drop dead gorgeous. Indeed, to be perfectly honest, I wanted to take it home with me…along with the book. Designed to withstand the weather, it houses an arm full of books. The concept is, that you take a book and leave a book. So, it operates as a free, community-minded, book exchange.

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How good is that?!!

Well, I guess the system is only as good as it’s “clientelle”. Like those roadside food stalls with an honour box to leave your money, this system depends on trust. Integrity. Honesty. You need to be a giver and a taker.

Not a cheat and book thief like yours truly, who took a book without leaving one behind. Well, I didn’t have a book with me, and I do plan to drop one back. I truly do, even though I find it exceptionally hard to part with any of my books. Indeed, they might need a crow bar to pry the book out of me.

So, what was the book? It was Alexander McCall Smith’s: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I have other books in the series, but not the first one. So, it was a good find.

Now, I just need to read it.

Looking at my book pile, that could be a problem…along with parting with a book.

Humph…no one said that it had to be one of MY books, did they? That definitely puts a different slant on it.

Do you have anything like this book exchange system where you live? It’s a great idea!

xx Rowena

PS Just a little coincidence. I’m currently reading Markus Zusak’s: The Book Thief. Obviously, it’s led me astray.

PPS: It turns out that the little red book box in our local park, has “friends”. Known as “little free libraries, they’re the brainchildren of our local library. What a great idea. Sounds like I should be investing in a new trench coat to transport my book choices in appropriate attire. Wouldn’t that be great! Much better than a brown paper bag.

 

C- Convict Brick Trail, Campbell Town. ..A-Z April Challenge.

Welcome to Day Three of the Blogging A to Z Challenge.

As you may be aware, we’re Travelling Around Tasmania Alphabetically during April, which could involve some very interesting twists and turns and I’ll somehow have to draw our path on a map at the end of the month. I’m expecting it to resemble a spider’s web with threads darting all over the place. After all, we’re hardly travelling for economy, are we?!!

Today, we’re heading South from Bridport in the North-East to Campbell Town, which is in the Midlands region. However, before we reach Campbell Town, we’ll be driving via Scottsdale and into Launceston via the notorious Sidling Range, where the government hasn’t straightened out the vicious hair-pin bends or even installed guard rails. Although the famed Targa Tasmania Rally goes through the Sidling (with the locals watching out with great expectations of doom, gloom and action-packed crashes), most of us try not to eat before tackling this road. It’s seriously rough and you don’t want those Cornish Pasties going to waste!

While mere mortals and Mainlanders quiver and shake at the prospect of tackling the Sidling and usually take an alternate route, my husband’s face lights up glowing like a neon sign. He might’ve moved to the Mainland 30 years ago, but every single one of those hazardous twists and turns has been tattooed into his muscle-memory…not that I’m about to suggest he tackles the road blind-folded. Our car might be able to fly. However, landing equipment was NOT included.

Anyway, after surviving the Sidling, we’re clipping the outskirts of “Lonnie” (Launceston- pronounced Lonnceston in “Tasmanian”) and heading South.

Our claim to Campbell Town fame,  is Geoff’s third Great Grandfather, James Newton, who scored himself a brick on the Convict Brick Trail, which is dedicated to some of the nearly 200,000 convicts who were transported to Australia for almost 100 years from 1788 onwards. It runs along the footpath on High Street, commencing outside the historic premises known as the Fox Hunters Return, which is adjacent to the Red Bridge. It extends into the CBD on the western side and to the IGA Supermarket on the eastern side.

Obviously, this trail is rather different to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and could well be renamed the Campbell Town Walk of Infamy. Well, not exactly. Most of these convicts passed well under the radar.

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In my element at the Book Cellar, located opposite the Red Bridge.

While we’re in Campbell Town, I recommend you visit the Book Cellar located in the historic Fox Hunters Return, an 1830’s coaching inn. Being a self-confessed book-aholic, I had a field day in this place. I managed to pick up a book which had reprinted the writings’s of Geoff’s Great Great Uncle, Daniel Griffin who was a journalist. His writings included a series on the local history, which included quite a lot of family details. There was also a book about the history of Scottsdale, which included photos of a couple of my husband’s school teachers. That was another must have. Lastly, I picked up a Tasmanian school cookbook and plan to make Jelly Slice sometime. I’ve never seen it outside Tassie.

Before leaving picturesque Campbell Town, I’ll let you into a local traveller’s secret. Campbell Town has a public toilet which remains open 24 hours.

Well, you might laugh at the mention of that. However, Tasmania isn’t New York and the city which never sleeps. Tasmania closes at 5.00 PM on the dot other than the local take ways and you’ll find they’re generally shut by 7.00PM. We ended up ordering many counter meals at the local pub and yes, we were very thankful to find this toilet at about 10.00 PM.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed our visit to Campbell Town and feel free to hang around and have a look. There’s so much to see!

xx Rowena

PS Here’s a link to a more comprehensive port I wrote about Campbell Town while we were down there back in January: Campbell Town.

Coffee! Coffee! Wherefore art thou, Coffee

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This weekend I’d like to invite you around to join me for  William Shakespeare’s 400 Death Day Party. Since I doubt Shakespeare was much of a coffee drinker, we’ll be having tea served in my Shelley tea cups with generous slabs of birthday cake…along with Tim Tams. No doubt Shakespeare would approve!

For those of you not embroiled in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, we only have six more sleeps til the grand finale next Saturday when our all stops journey through the alphabet finally comes to an end for another year. My theme this year is Writing Letters to Dead Poets. This has become quite a philosophical journey as I ask them about the nature of happiness, the role of suffering, advice for young poets and a love of the natural world. My ignorance has been growing my the day!

Once again, I’ve posted An Alphabet Soup Post listing links through to posts A-T.

Since starting Letters to Dead Poets, I’ve retreated into my cave and switched off from the outside world as much as is possible being married with two kids on school holidays and two dogs desperate for walks at the beach. Indeed, I’ve just returned with two pooped pooches from the beach. Nothing like chasing the ball and running round with other dogs. Heaven help me if I show any sign of going out! I was lucky not to be wiped out in the stampede.

On Friday night Geoff and I went out for dinner at a Mexican restaurant on the local waterfront. The kids were staying with my parents for a few days and it was great to be able to kick back and converse. After not leaving the house for a few days immersed in my writing, I also needed to be pulled away. Do something else. Look beyond the screen and the four walls around me.

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Walking back to the car, we were stopped in our tracks. A huge cloudy galleon hovered   over the beach, silhouetted by the full moon. Mesmerised, we stared in awe and dashed home to get the camera and tripod.  By the time we came back, the clouds had changed and weren’t quite as breathtaking but the photos were still impressive. Geoff took most of them. He is much more technically adept than me and also has a excellent eye. We are both keen amateurs.

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We also spotted this very ambitious spider building its web across our backyard by night. It’s been dubbed “Bob the Builder” and “Luke Skywalker”.

I guess you could say things have been quiet when photographing spiders is one of the highlights of the week. That is aside from writing.

Tomorrow , will be ANZAC Day here in Australia. The 25th April commemorates the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli, Turkey, during WWI. Geoff’s Great Uncle served at Gallipoli and his mother’s cousin served at Kokoda. The kids will be marching locally with their Scout Troop.

How has your week been? I hope things have gone well.

The Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Part Time Monster and I encourage you to pop over for a cuppa via   the “Linkup Linky“.

xx Rowena

D-Roald Dahl: Letters to Dead Poets #atozchallenge

Dear Mr Dahl,

It is such a privilege and an honour to be writing to such a literary great. Indeed, it is incredibly humbling. I apologise in advance for writing such a long letter but I had no idea how many twists and turns our journey would take. Or, that the man who has made the whole world laugh, had endured so much grief.

When I was a little girl, you brought all my chocolate fantasies to life in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and seemingly wrote about my own daughter in Matilda.  Even though she is little, she is very strong-willed, determined and capable. As a parent yourself, I’m sure you can appreciate how this iron will can be a force for good and let’s just say “not so good”.

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My daughter and I at Matilda The Musical in Sydney, 2016.

Anyway, now that I’ve captured your attention, would you mind just sitting still for a moment. NO! DON’T MOVE!!  I told you. SIT STILL. This won’t take a moment. The best way for me to see inside your head, is climbing through your ear. Just need to scrape away a bit of wax. No use trying your nose when you’ve got a cold. Ah! In like Flynn! I apologise or the ongoing discomfort while I pull out my map, compass and torch. When you’re walking around inside someone else’s head, you really need to be prepared. Don’t want any accidents, especially when I can be rather wobbly on my feet and I didn’t bring my walking stick.

Sorry for popping in on you like this but if it’s any consolation, I didn’t get a lot of notice either. I was simply walking along the beach with my dogs photographing the clouds, when someone or something, jumped inside my ear and suggested that I write Letters To Dead Poets. Not just any dead poets but the ones who have inspired and spoken to me. Lit that spark!

So here I am with my notebook in hand ready D for Roald Dahl. Indeed, I’m just peering out through your nose. So, please don’t sneeze! That’s NOT how I want to learn how to fly. That said, I’m open to other suggestions!

There is so much that I would to ask you and so much I’d like to share that my words and thoughts are flying all over the place, each with a mind of its own. Sounding like your Vicar of Nibbleswicke, perhaps I need to fly around in circles to make sense of my thoughts. However, should I go forwards or back? Goodness knows!

While I’d like to come back to you another time to ask you about your writing, this letter has assumed quite a different purpose.

Plane Crash 19th September, 1940.

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I’d like to ask you how that plane crash in WWII changed and influenced your life. You fractured your skull and temporally lost your sight. Prior to the crash you were working in business for Shell and afterwards you emerged as a writer with such an incredible imagination…as well as a sense that something had changed in you.

As your biographer, Donald Sturrock noted in Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl:

“A monumental bash on the head” was how Dahl once described this accident in the Western Desert, claiming that it directly led to his becoming a writer. This was not just because his first published piece of writing was a semi-fictionalised account of the crash, but also because he suspected that the brain injuries which he received there had materially altered his personality and inclined him to creative writing.

His daughter Ophelia recalled her father’s fascination with tales of people who had experienced dramatic psychological and physiological changes – such as losing or recovering sight – after suffering a blow to the head. He also told her that he was convinced something of this sort had happened to him, as it explained why a budding corporate businessman working for Shell, without any particular artistic ambition, was transformed into someone with a burning need to write and tell stories. This hypothesis was doubtless attractive, too, because it pushed potentially more complex psychological issues about the sources of his desire to write into the background.

Nowadays doctors might well have diagnosed Dahl as suffering from what is called post-concussive syndrome. The initial symptoms of this condition are normally forgetfulness, irritability, an inability to concentrate and severe headaches. Dahl suffered from all of these. In some patients the symptoms disappear, but leave behind longer-lasting behavioral changes, which are usually associated with mood swings and an increased lack of inhibition. In some cases, too, it can also result in a fundamental alteration of the perception of the self.

With Dahl, these alterations were marginal, but they were nonetheless significant. His sense of embarrassment – already minimal – was further diminished, his sense of fantasy heightened, while his desire to shock became even more pronounced. He emerged from his crisis more confident, more determined to make a mark [1].

However, this plane crash was only your entre to the workings of the human brain.

Theo’s Dreadful Accident 5th December, 1960-  Hydrocephalus.

By some horrible twist of fate, while your four month old son Theo was out with his nanny, a taxi drove into his pram fracturing skull and causing hydrocephalus, or fluid on the brain. It was a horrific accident and he was lucky to survive. However, after some promising signs, his condition rapidly deteriorated and he had surgery to insert a valve to drain the excess fluid into his heart. This valve kept blocking putting him through surgery after surgery, each time further increasing the likelihood of permanent brain damage and blindness. So, you did what Dads do. You went to fix the problem. You knew a bloke who made hydraulic pumps or model aeroplanes which didn’t block and you linked him up with neurosurgeon and the Wade-Dahl-Till (DWT) valve was developed. While Theo’s condition improved and he didn’t need to use that shunt, their invention changed the lives of 3,000 children…thanks to the love for your son and your resourceful thinking.

My Journey with Hydrocephalus.

Like Theo, I also have hydrocephalus and quite coincidentally, we were born on the same day nine years apart. Given your sense of humour, I don’t know whether you’re now wondering  whether being born on the 30th July means you’re going to have expansive water views inside your head, or maybe not. Indeed, when I was first diagnosed, I pictured a cheeky cartoon character called Bart Simpson surfing inside my head. So, my imagination is alive and well too!

In my case, the hydrocephalus was probably caused by a particularly difficult birth and wasn’t diagnosed until my mid-twenties. For some reason, whatever compensating mechanisms I’d  had, suddenly stopped working and I plummeted into a terrifying neurological abyss. I had brain surgery to insert a shunt, followed by at least six months of intensive rehabilitation. By the way, my shunt also blocked.

Surgery launched me on the precarious pathway towards recovery but also a strange sense that something had changed. A feeling you also expressed.  Having a bruised or broken brain, isn’t the same as having a broken leg. You can seem quite alright on the outside and yet there are “complications”, subtle changes and with it, much confusion. These subtleties are not easily understood from within and are even harder to explain. I wish we could have talked about that. Perhaps, we could’ve nutted a few things out together, which not only would’ve helped ourselves but could also help our “colleagues”. I’m not talking about fellow writers here but you already knew that.

At the time, a friend mentioned that you had invented the shunt. That surprised me. After all, you don’t usually expect writers with such an extraordinary imagination, to be equally good at  “nuts and bolts”. I thought we were all dreamers lucky to have a toe dangling anywhere near terra firma, let alone both feet. However, there is always an exception and thank goodness for that!

Ever since my diagnosis, I have wondered how different my life would’ve been if I’d been diagnosed as a baby. Reading Theo’s story gave me some serious insights into just how different it could have been, especially if it had been symptomatic at the time. That was pretty scary. Although some things might have been easier, I’ve always suspected that I would’ve been that fragile, special child kept locked up in the china cabinet and only brought out on special occasions. There would have been no netball, climbing trees or undertaking other “risky” activities. No adventures at all…just sitting still.

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Who could have suspected that this little girl had a harbour in her head?

Yet, basking in ignorance, I learned to read when I was four, pulled off an Arts Degree with Honours from the University of Sydney. At 22, a friend and I boarded a KLM Flight bound for Amsterdam. We had open tickets and could stay away for 12 months. Our only plans were to spend 3 weeks in Paris. During that time, I did a solo poetry reading at the famous Shakespeare Bookshop where the likes of Ernest Hemingway had hung out. I didn’t know that then or that even the Proprietor, George Whitman, was a larger than life figure. I was simply an intrepid 23 year old backpacker from Sydney who’d self-published her anthology on a photocopier. That’s all.

Then, in my mid-twenties, these ripples suddenly and inexplicably took off with a vengeance, raged into a tsunami. There was no doubt then that surgery was a matter of life and death and my neurological functioning was seriously impaired.

So, to a large extent, I don’t need to imagine what it was like for your family when Theo was struck down, although he was so much younger. After all, it’s very rare that even when two people are travelling along very same road, that they walk in the same shoes. Have the exact experience. The story always veers left or right but there’s still that common ground. By the way, I also remember my Dad thinking about how the shunt was made, why it blocked and how to manage the pressure.

Anyway, that was my story. Unfortunately, your affair with the Neurology Department wasn’t over yet.

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Roald Dahl photographed with wife Patricia Neal and children Olivia and Theo

Your Wife – Actress Patricia Neal – Has  A  Burst Aneurism – February 1965.

In February, 1965 while pregnant with your fourth daughter, Lucy, your wife had a burst aneurysm. Following emergency surgery, Pat remained in a coma for almost three weeks, lying on an ice mattress to minimise swelling and besieged by tubes. Antibiotics to prevent infection and anticonvulsants to prevent further damage to the brain dripped constantly into her system. You sat by her side, hour after hour, endlessly repeating: “Pat, this is Roald.”

For days there was no improvement in Pat’s condition. But on March 10, almost three weeks after the haemorrhage, she began to regain consciousness and went home a week later.

However, as Pat struggled to put her thoughts into words, to teach herself the names of colours, to work out how to use her right arm and feed herself, she became overwhelmed by the awareness of exactly what she had lost. The fact that she was pregnant, also made relearning how to walk particularly exhausting. You later described her condition in stark terms: “If left alone, she would sit and stare into space and in half an hour a great black cloud of depression would envelop her mind. Unless I was prepared to have a bad-tempered desperately unhappy nitwit in the house, some very drastic action would have to be taken.”

Apparently, your methods were Spartan. No self-pity, no indulgence toward the illness, just a determination to beat all the disabilities. With an approach based on “common sense”, your aim was to avoid “inertia, boredom, frustration and depression” and “get me to do it myself”. You sent her for physiotherapy at a nearby RAF military hospital. Then each day, between nine and 12 in the morning and two and five in the afternoon, you arranged for friends and neighbours to visit. These amateur therapists read children’s books to her and played elementary word games, simple arithmetic and puzzles…activities to stretch her mind.

On New Year’s Day 1966, you publicly raised the stakes on your wife’s recovery, telling the press that he felt certain she would be “working again within the year”.

After knocking back a few roles, finally, Edgar Lansbury offered her the lead in a film version of the Tony Award–winning play: The Subject Was Roses by Frank Gilroy. Pat liked the part of Nettie. Her therapist Val Eaton Griffith convinced her to accept it.

Yet Pat remained anxious that she was not ready. Val, however, had already persuaded her to deliver a speech in New York in March 1967. You wrote the text of her address and Val coached Pat on it daily for a month, before accompanying her to New York for the celebrity dinner.

“An Evening with Patricia Neal” was a fund-raiser for brain-injured children held at the Waldorf-Astoria. Her speech won her a standing ovation. The adulation stimulated her desire to recover and she began to believe she might pull off the movie comeback.

That night she saluted you for your efforts. Later, she would articulate her gratitude more eloquently: “I knew at that moment that Roald the slave driver, Roald the b—–d, with his relentless courage, Roald the Rotten, as I had called him more than once, had thrown me back into the deep water. Where I belonged.”

Mr Dahl, I appreciated your patience with me or going over what must be old ground or you. However, I wanted to share the gallant way you fought to save your son and your wife. It would be such an encouragement to people affected by neurological conditions. It is my hope that people will read your story and feel great encouragement. That through hard work, persistence and courage they can improve their lot, even if they can’t go back to how things were before. They still have a future.

Wait…There’s More!

However, these rendez-vous with the Neurology Department were only the tip of a huge iceberg of grief. Despite your career’s stellar success, tragedy was seemingly just around every corner.

When you were only four years old, your seven year old sister, Asti, died. Overcome by grief, your father succumbed to pneumonia a few months later, leaving your mother to carry on. Then in 1962 when you were still dealing with the aftermath of Theo’s accident, your much loved daughter Olivia died from encephalitis due to complications from measles. Olivia was also seven…the same age as your sister.

Surely, you had to ask yourself, God and the world what all this insanity was all about? Why do such awful things happen to good people? Why are so many rotters out there still walking round alive, when your angel’s been snatched away?  Now, I can’t help wondering if these thoughts were going through your mind as you wrote Charlie and The Chocolate Factory in the aftermath of Theo’s accident and your daughter’s death? One by one, the horrible children in the story disappeared until only Charlie was left. Was this your way of trying to grapple with your all-consuming anguish? Was this your way of saying that it should’ve been the other way around? That all the horrid people of this world should have been taken and your Olivia spared? I wouldn’t blame you for flying away in that great glass elevator either and somehow trying to find the happiness you’d lost.

Having picked up some of your bits and pieces, I can’t help but sense that you were caught up in a macabre, nightmarish déjà vu where the nightmares of your past repeated themselves and yet the characters and scenery had changed. I’m sure that trying to make sense or unravel it all had to be a burning obsession. How do you explain the strange happenings in the universe? What are you supposed to do with the all the random, floating pieces which haunt you in the night? Do you turn them into stories? Develop a sense of humour which something turns the darkness light, and the worse it all gets, the funnier you become? Is that how you wrote your greatest work: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while coming to grips with your son’s accident and then losing your beloved daughter? You somehow ended up righting this cruel world by giving a poor working class boy the golden ticket and he is the one who ultimately gets the chocolate factory. His fortunes turn completely upside down and goodness and order is restored. There is some sense of fairness in this world and the knowledge good will triumph over all the bad, even though there is utter heartbreak all around you. Why was your beloved Theo, an innocent baby simply lying in his pram hit by a random out of control taxi and how could he fracture his skull and lose his sight (albeit temporarily) when you had also fractured your skull and lost your sight when your plane crash during WWII? How could your beloved daughter Olivia who was so vibrant, intelligent and alive suddenly contract measles and then die from encephalitis, a rare complication? It was hard enough for you to lose your daughter but she was only seven and the same age when your older sister, Asti died…a death which seemingly  led to your father’s untimely death from pneumonia only a few months later and left your mother battling to hold the fort. When you lost Olivia, did you also wonder whether you would succumb like your own father? That you wouldn’t survive? After all, you seemed to be following the same script. Yet, it was during this time that you wrote your greatest work Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, a few years later, your wife Pat had a series of strokes following a burst aneurism while pregnant with your daughter Ophelia. While many would’ve packed the towel in by now, you sat by her bed side and spoke with her: “Pat, this is Roald” over and over again. No doubt you remembered what it meant to be all alone in the neuro ward and that incredible, crushing despair and you fought that beast with everything you had devising a gruelling rehabilitation program which might had had her cursing but brought her back.

Yet,while you’re family lie was travelling through hell, your literary career was  travelling along a parallel street enjoying success. In 1961, James and the Giant Peach, your first famous book for children, was published. You had started working on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory shortly after finishing James and the Giant Peach and it as published in September 1963, initially in the USA with the UK following a few years later. Apparently, the idea for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory grew out of your love of chocolate and your experiences as acting as a taster for a well-known chocolate factory while at school.

I don’t think you or I can even begin to unravel or explain all of this but I do hope that by reading about how you suffered so much and truly knew the full meaning of anguish that it will give the living hope. That you could go through all of that, not give up and still laugh and seize the day.

I have found this poem very encouraging:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)

By Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

 

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

 

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

 

So, after what has been a very extended journey, it’s now time for me to pack up my bag and find my out. At the same time, something, tells me this letter is only the beginning.

Warm regards

Rowena

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Sources

 

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/7934421/Roald-Dahl-the-plane-crash-that-gave-birth-to-a-writer.html

Donald Sturrock, Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl.

 

A Reply from Lewis Carroll #atozchallenge

There I was eating my Weetbix with its usual smattering of Pooh Bear’s honey, when a letter arrived on a silver tray. I must be getting used to strange happenings because I didn’t batter an eyelid, when the postman was a fish!

Of course, I knew straight away that the letter could only be from Lewis Carroll.

With most of us being bears of little brain, especially first thing on a Monday morning, I should probably recap. Even I am starting to forget which question I asked what poet. I hope that all makes grammatical sense. As I said, it’s first thing on Monday morning. No further explanation required…just more caffeine!

I asked Lewis Carroll about whether children should be allowed to go on such dangerous adventures, especially all by themselves without a responsible adult. Even though Alice’s adventures in Wonderland all turned out to be a dream, surely even such dreams are dangerous in themselves and should be discouraged! I’m sure some would even argue that dreaming should be banned!

So, without any more of the ado for which I’m renowned, here is his letter:

Alice Tea Party

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your fascinating letter. I’ve been asleep for such a long time and so much has happened all around me. It’s all so exciting!

Anyway, you asked me about whether it was safe for children to have adventure, even in their dreams.

Well, to find your answer, I did what I did right back in the beginning. I went and asked Alice and all of a sudden the answer popped straight into my head:

Doors are meant to be opened. Otherwise, why is there a key?

It made sense to me so I hope it also makes some kind of sense to you as well!

Naturally, I am looking forward to joining you and the family for a tea party at your earliest convenience.

By the way, you forgot to tell me that airplanes have been invented. I’ve been darting all over the world and having all sorts of adventures. The strangest thing happened though. They wouldn’t let me take my knife and fork on board. How are you supposed to go on an adventure without a knife and fork? They’ve been everywhere with me. That’s been another one of those conundrums.

Aside from my troubles with the knife and fork, it’s such a thrill to be alive!

Carpe diem. Seize the day! Paris, Rome, London, New York…next stop Sydney!

I dropped my watch in a cup of tea

And now time can’t catch up with me!

That’s the first spot of poetry I’ve written so far!

Cheerio!

Many thanks and fond regards,

Lewis Carroll.

I think I might go and drop my watch in a cup of tea as well. That sounds like such a jolly good idea!

Thank you so much for joining me on on this journey with Dead Poets. It’s definitely not the sort of journey which should be undertaken alone and I might be needing some help holding up m head. I’ve been learning so much. Gone on so many adventures re-reading their work , that my brain is growing exponentially and will soon burst through and start poking through my ears. Deary me, I hope it doesn’t start waving at everyone or I won’t get any work done.

So, the journey continues and tomorrow I’ll be back with D.

“No puppy dogs. That is NOT “D for dog!”

Best wishes and thanks or stopping by,

xx Rowena

 

 

Thinking time

What makes a great book? Thought you’d enjoy this great post by Sue Vincent over at Daily Echo. I also recommend reading the comments xx Rowena

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

Lindisfarne Gospel

What is your criteria for a good book? Apart from wanting it to be well written and presented, what is it that you look for? Entertainment value? Information? Emotion, relaxation or a momentary escape from the humdrum round of daily life? Probably a bit of all of those, and  few other, more personal preferences too.

I read a lot. These days, not quite so avidly and with more discrimination than in the past when I would devour anything that came with words between covers. The libraries I first began frequenting as a small child were places where a thousand suns lay hidden between dusty pages, waiting for the hand and eye that would release them to blaze through the imagination.

It taught me a lot; reading across multiple genres, many eras and styles, I learned about people and the way they thought, acted and reacted. I learned about places and…

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Matilda The Musical: “if you’re little you can do a lot…”

“I think theatre should always aim to make its audience laugh and cry, unless there’s a really good reason why not. Stories are best when they are a bit like roller coasters, with highs and lows, twists and turns, a good bit of fear and the significant risk that someone might vomit. Matilda has all these things, making it the perfect story for a stage musical.”

-Tim Minchin, wrote the music & lyrics for Matilda The Musical.

Yesterday, my daughter and I finally went to see Matilda The Musical at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre, Darling Harbour. It is based on Roald Dahl’s Matilda while Dennis Kelly wrote the book for Matilda The Musical and Tim Minchin wrote the music and lyrics.

We absolutely LOVED IT!

Indeed, we loved it SO MUCH that we’ve bought the CD, musical score, the Matilda Doll, T shirts and even a T towel. It was absolutely sensational…clever, heart-breaking, funny, entertaining and then there were the special effects. They were a show in themselves, even including laser. Wow!

Anyway, while I’m waiting for the performance to start, Miss is absorbed in the set. The stage is framed by a kind of blackboard with Scrabble-like letters stuck haphazardly on it in a myriad of sizes and fonts. At first, they appeared quite random but Miss is sitting there picking out words, having great fun. That was an unexpected bonus and I guess that pretty much summed up Matilda. It was full of unexpected twists and turns along with spectacular effects, lighting. The whole package was so incredibly dynamic.

Of course, how you respond to any performance isn’t just about what is projected onto you but also about how it connects with your experience and who you are as a person.

What it means to you.

Naturally, I couldn’t watch Matilda without projecting her onto my daughter. Although she doesn’t have Matilda’s genius, she loves reading and is smart. However, the most pertinent similarity was their size. Miss is quite small for her age and Matilda is small in a world of sinister, ginormous adults.

Matilda… “if you’re little you can do a lot…”

You end up leaving Matilda feeling about 10 foot tall and that you could conquer the world…even if you’re still a little kid. It is so incredibly empowering. Don’t let bullies, size, horrible parents, your past…stand in the way of where you want to go and what is right. You can do it! Good can triumph over evil but you need to fight for it. Stand up! Matilda was a little girl standing up to beastly adults who wielded such power but she stood up to them.

“’Cause if you’re little you can do a lot

You mustn’t let a little thing

Like little stop you”…

“Naughty”, Matilda The Musical.

Our daughter is small and very petite. Only last Friday, she came home from school and told me she’d joined the school band and was taking up the Baritone Horn. I’ve never even seen a Baritone horn and I don’t really know how big it actually is but it looks big on Google. Being Mum, of course, I immediately wondered how she was going to lug this HUGE instrument to and from school on the train and how she’d find enough air to actually blow a note. I’m so glad her teacher set he sky as her limit and not her feet like her good old Mum. Naughty Mummy! It’s my job to encourage my kids, not to drop a slab of concrete on their heads, giving a myriad of reasons why they can’t do something when indeed they can.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had to challenge my concept of my daughter.

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Miss on Stage Performing Marta with her Musical Theatre Class.

There was also her insistence on auditioning for the role of Marta in the Sydney production of The Sound of Music, even though she had severe vocal nodules and had been banned from singing for a few months while she had voice therapy.

This girl might be small in stature but she certainly has enormous might.

So, Matilda the Musical was the perfect show for her and for me to really appreciate that just because she’s a child and just because she’s small, that doesn’t mean she can’t conquer the world. I’m just not sure she can take me with her!

Matilda the Book Lover

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Both being avid readers, my daughter and I both loved how Matilda glorified books and reading. Matilda literally devours books with such a passion and loves to learn, tell stories and stretch her brain beyond its very expansive limits. She is neither intimidated or ashamed of being a child genius but doesn’t show off about it either. She is quite grounded. Indeed, she stands her ground quite firmly knowing who and what she is while her parents constantly tear her down and ridicule her intelligence. Her father consistently says she’s a boy and despite correcting him, he persists, which is just about as bad as it gets as a parent yet her parents keep hitting rock bottom after rock bottom. Her mother, which her peroxide blond hair and lairy leggings, keeps telling her glamour and appearance is far more important for a girl than reading books.

On the other hand, there’s the librarian who loves listening to her stories and her teacher, Miss Honey who becomes a true kindred spirit.

Humour

Matilda the Musical wasn’t all about life lessons and moral tales.

It was entertainment, humour, spectacular effects. These were perhaps achieved through a degree of exaggeration, hyperbole and stretching the imagination to its logical conclusions, which turned even the most serious moments into very deep belly laughs.

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Miss Trunchbull

Even though she was incredibly cruel, undoubtedly evil and absolutely despicable, my favourite character was the School Principal, Miss Trunchbull, played by James Millar. Just the fact that you have a man playing a female character, gives you some idea of the absurdity of this character. Indeed, she could’ve stepped straight out of Monty Python, played by a much younger John Cleese. Of course, everybody detests somebody who is cruel to children. You’re instinctive response as a member of the audience, is to swing like Tarzan onto the stage and grab all those poor little children and whisk them away to safety while the evil Miss Trenchbull rots in jail for eternity. She shuts children in cupboards, force feeds a boy chocolate cake and calls children “maggots”. Moreover, the lighting and use of special laser effects, have you shaking in your seats. She is absolutely terrifying and everything you ever feared as a child and more.

Yet, somehow this evil character becomes funny. Indeed, hilarious!!! That is brilliant theatre!!

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Maggie Kirkpatrick as Joan “The Freak” Ferguson in Prisoner.

By the way, if you are Australian or somehow saw actress Maggie Kirkpatrick in the 80s TV Drama Prisoner, there’s an immediate likeness. My daughter disagrees.

Matilda’s parents also share this fusion of despicable evil and humour. They are so awful and tick every single box in the bad parenting book yet they’re somehow funny. Just when you think they couldn’t get any worse, they do. Of course, you appreciate all of their foibles through the eyes of Matilda who is so grounded, sensible and smart but has the lousiest parents imaginable.

I really loved the song “Telly”, which is sung by Matilda’s loser Dad:

All I know I learnt from telly

The bigger the telly, the

Smarter the man

You can tell from

My big telly

Just how clever

A fella I am!…

“Who the Dickens

Is Charles Dickens

Mary Shelley?

Cor, she sounds smelly.

Harry Potter?

What a rotter!

Jane Austen,

In the compost-in

James Joyce

Doesn’t sound noice!…”

Words and music: Tim Minchin.

The End

However, unfortunately, all too soon Matilda the Musical was over. Although I could write a book about the performance, it’s not the same as being there and now all we’re playing the CD over and over again like love sick puppies.

There’s also the matter of tackling that musical score and scratching something out on my violin.

Perhaps, that could be the beginning of Matilda…the Unmusical!

Wish me luck!

xx Rowena

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Enjoying divine Iced Chocolates at the Lindt Cafe, Darling Harbour.