I invite you to visit also my literary blog: Journeys in Creative Writing where I post original fiction including short stories, poetry and 'Paternity', a full length mystery novel.

Monday, 29 September 2008

To Award or Not to Award - That is the Question!

I have received an award from Suranga of Gappa who writes a mean blog post. Hers is a particularly fine gesture because she says the award is for blogs whose content and/or design are brilliant as well as creative(!). She called it 'a rocking blog of a rocking creative-writing senior'. I am thrilled.

I set to work to complete her task of selecting seven other blogs of quality to pass on the award. It's taken a while, but I think you'll all enjoy the links below.

Now, I have decided to join with Vikki of Red Chair Gallery who does not take part in blog awards. My reason is a distinct lack of time amd energy to meet the criteria.

I'm running two blogs - 70 Plus and my creative writing blog Journeys, and living a full life besides. My idea in having them is to encourage me to keep writing short stories, but blogging itself seems to be getting in the way of that goal!

From now on if someone does wish to recognise my work on either blog I will acknowledge the gesture by creating a link on my site to theirs, and be more than grateful. I will not pass on the awards to others, but I will also have a list of blogs I read which I truly prize.

To me, a comment on my site containing constructive feedback, or a link on your site is every bit as exciting as an award. And a lot less work for all concerned!

Quite frankly, I do believe that there are a lot of others who feel, like me, an ambivalence about blog awards. They're great to receive, but they do mean a lot of effort. For this reason too, I am shy about naming other sites.

I hope everyone understands ...

Now, to complete my deal with Suranga I offer the following excellent sites. And thank you again, with a very real appreciation of your commendation.

My choice of esteemed blogs has been informed by the creativity, thoughtfulness, passion and entertainment value of these sites. I particularly enjoy the fact that all of them provide glimpses of life as lived in other parts of the world.

1) Vikki North’s The Red Chair Gallery – great art and stories from a Californian gal who knows her mind. Vicki doesn’t accept blog awards, so I’ll just link to her and say how much I appreciate her work

2) Towards Sustainability - a stay at home mum formerly an environmental scientist, tells of an Australian family of five working towards a simpler life and a sustainable future in suburbia

3) Overheard in New York - a fun blog with contributions from spies in the office, at the beach, in the street … Here’s a taste:

Four-year-old girl: Daddy! Why did you knock over my sandcastle?!
Dad: Because you knocked over my sandcastle first.
(dad coolly turns to two-year-old son and begins playing with him)
Four-year-old girl, in hysterics: Daddy! I'm so angry at you!
Mom: Good honey, you're expressing your feelings really well.
--overheard in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire

4) Lilly’s Life - from an Australian consultant who says she loves anything authentic and creative. Lilly is sharing with Vicki of Red Chair a wonderful serial writing project – drop by and have a look

5) Why not blog it out – experiences in the life of a teacher of the English language in India

6) Just an Ordinary Gal - a blog about 'ageing, art, books, beefs, life, love, loss, media and social criticism, shopping, creativity, and anything else that matters that day'. From a retired journalist and college communications teacher in South Florida

7) New Dharma Bums - a retired couple from California who are acute observers of nature and their environment

Enjoy! And look for lists of my esteemed sites on the sidebar.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Swell Sculpture - A Community Event on the Beach

Believe it or not, these shoes are a giant sculpture exhibited last week by Australian artist Gregory Roy Cope as part of the Swell Sculpture Festival at Currumbin Beach on the southern Gold Coast, Queensland.

The event is held each year over ten days and draws thousands of families who meander from art work to art work - all set up along the beach. It's great fun and a serious contribution to the wonderful community spirit in the town.

You may remember that my daughter and son-in-law are building at Currumbin EcoVillage, seven kilometres up the valley (see post of September 6). We make the festival a fixture in our annual calendar.

Brian Sandstrom fashioned a 16th century style gold frame to 'mount' a distant view of the Gold Coast high rises across the bay. This was a cloudy/windy day and it's hard to see them, which is probably a good thing!

These young men thought they were by far a better subject

Frederic Berjot's self portrait had a more serious theme. He asks us if we will look away from the world's global problems as they mount, or will we face and deal with them? There is quite an impact when one first discovers this figure, sitting in a bed of ashes beside the sand.

Lynne Adams' Sunlight Flowers are made from recycled materials such as PET bottles to emphasise our responsibility towards waste and proper use of energy resources.

Creator Monte Lupo says his soldier crabs bear beautiful ceramic impressions of cityscapes because they are doing their best to co-exist with the challenges of natural and urban environments.

These little guys aren't real seagulls ... they're sculptures by Su Brown.

Leisa Russell called this My Throne. It's coated in ceramics with many depictions of her favourite animal: the horse.

The stunning lines of Frank Miles' work are a perfect foil for their environment ...

Which is the sculpture? This pose seemed to capture the fun of a day at Swell. This bikini clad work in bronze was purchased by Gold Coast Council when it was entered into the festival a couple of years back. She's lived on Currumbin Beach ever since, and has even made an appearance on the front page of the Gold Coast telephone directory.

This beautiful piece has been placed near the local bus stop - giving the passengers a lot of enjoyment! By Ruth Park, it's called The Foreigner Within.

You'll be amazed when I tell you that this bust of Sir Edmund Hillary, first to Mount Everest, is made from chicken wire! The exquisite detail has to be seen to be believed. Artist Ian Lovatt says in the festival booklet that 'achievement evokes a great sense of joy'. He must be a very happy man.

These kids had empathy for this young surfer who'd broken his board ...

Joe Stark called his surfer's dog 'Scooter'. He'd keep anyone at bay ...

Col Henry's group of surf life savers captured a time when rescues were made with rope and reel.

Victims of Fashion was the name Frank Malerba gave to his group of four figures depicting the pressure on women to have the right look, the perfect body and all of the required accessories ...

This personification of a tree was more than two metres tall. Clyde Watts and Dean Nikijuluw wanted him to evoke a new perspective, understanding and respect for our sacred living earth.

It didn't matter that it was sprinkling with rain - the show went on.

I snap this picture and I am reflected in a cube of perspex that captures a square of permanently green grass. Artist Shelly Kelly wanted the viewer to be seen as part of the work which she hopes would encourage thought about the now utopian ideal that green grass is the norm.

There were many other sculptures at the Swell Festival - all of them wonderful. But me, I'd give the People's Choice Award to the entry from Nature herself.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Of Spring and the Environment in Oz

Spring has really sprung in Australia in the past week with nature declaring that it's time to move into a new cycle.

We're expecting 26 degrees celsius today - by far the warmest day for many months, and unusually hot for this time of year.

One tree that's saying welcome to spring is my mandarin which is laden with blossom, pursued vigilantly by dozens of buzzing bees.

Bees were everywhere in my garden this morning and I had fun trying to photograph them before they moved on in their busy way.

I managed to catch a few but most were out of focus! I JUST got this one in the photograph below.

The entire tree is covered in blossom, and so is the ground beneath. Seems as though I can look forward to a crop as good as last years:

However, I do wonder for how long bees will continue to feel comfortable in my garden, what with climate change and the sad outcome of our local government elections just announced.

Almost three years ago councillors were sacked in our area on the
beautiful North Coast of New South Wales, and an extended inquiry was held into connections between some councillors and huge developer funding for the elections. The council was making decisions that were beginning to cover our soil with concrete in a very unbalanced way. The Commissioner's report was scathing, but no charges were laid.

Administrators ruled for the next two plus years and and two weeks ago we had our first new elections.

Initially it looked as though the pro-environment candidates would win in a landslide, with the first two - both women - coming in with thousands of primary votes more than the others.

However, we have what's called a preferential voting system here and, as usual, the devil was in the detail.

Unless you really understood what each candidate stood for, it was very easy to make a mistake with this system. You could give your preferential vote to a person about whom you knew nothing, and who could turn out to have a contrary point of view.

Now it looks as though the ballot paper was stacked with obscure pro-development people who apparently had done secret deals on preferences, and the clandestine scheme won the day.

The result will probably be: green councillors 3, pro-development councillors 4. The old pro-development mayor could be in again, with a casting vote at his disposal.

There are a lot of voters here wondering just what has happened.

Tweed is a beautiful mostly unspoiled area that makes the crowded Gold Coast high rises just across the border look monstrous.

We now wonder if this is our future as well.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Do you know a family who is coping with mental illness?

Almost one in four Australians suffer a mental illness at some time in their lives. This figure is increasing rapidly, and the problem is typical in many nations in the world.

It's wise to think about all of the loved ones affected by this dilemma. Think about the families, the friends, the employers, employees, the neighbours, the spouses, the siblings, the tax payers whose lives are directly touched, and we have a reasonable picture of the size of this issue.

And yet we don't speak about it openly. We're more likely to be silent about mental illness, aggravating the impact.

By remaining silent we're going along with stigma, a societal attitude that brings great suffering and stifles hope of a better future for everyone involved. Our silence allows politicians and society generally to ignore the problem - gives them a passport not to do anything to fix it.

We ourselves can help combat stigma through educating ourselves and spreading knowledge surrounding mental illness.

If we understand something fear tends to dissipate. That's where this video comes in.

I was impressed when I found it this morning on an excellent site Living in Stigma written by a person who suffers depression and, as an inevitable result, stigma that goes along with the disease. She has no choice, she says.

The video is Removing the Stigma of Mental Illness by lifestarmedic1. It's from Canada, but equally relevant to your home town!

Take a short break and find out what this is all about ...

Now, next time you're at the local library find a book about mental illness, learn more, and spread the word. You'd be doing everyone a favour, for no-one knows where mental illness will strike next.

Here are links to some of the many very good Australian web sites on mental health:

Schizophrenia Fellowship

Sane Australia

Victoria's Mental Health Services

Multicultural Mental Health Australia

Mental Health Council of Australia

Black Dog Institute

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Brisbane - a Sophisticated City

Brisbane has certainly come of age since I first came north from Sydney early in the 1980s.

The capital of Queensland was a big country town then, in the grip of Joh Bjelke-Pedersen, the controversial long time Premier of that state.

I still live in New South Wales - and at the time I was only half serious when I said that I wouldn't ever live in Queensland.

Truth was I lived in a house right on the border and Queensland was just across the road.

However, my memories are of a brash State that seemed very under confident, always needing to push itself forward as though to bolster its own ego.

These days however things have changed a lot, and no area is more proof of this than the very impressive cultural precinct that these days has grown to include the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), alongside the more traditional Art Gallery of Queensland.

The cluster of buildings, also including the Queensland Museum, State Library and Performing Arts Centre, is always abuzz with Queensland locals and visitors.

GoMA was running a Picasso exhibition when I caught a train north last Sunday to meet there with a couple of friends visiting from Sydney.

'Picasso and His Collection' included 100 of his works plus 80 others from such luminaries as Matisse, Cezanne, Rousseau, Miro, Modigliani and Vuillard which had been in the master's personal collection.

Many of these were placed in the exhibition alongside Picasso works which had been obviously sources of inspiration for the Spanish master.

Also impactful for me were the African and Oceania works sprinkled through the gallery, again from the personal collection and again placed alongside the master's own works.

The effect was startling, underlining the profound effect these ancient artisans had upon Picasso.

Look at these:

First, an African mask in Picasso's personal collection, and second, a fragment of
Les Demoiselles d' Avignon, a painting that was to become a watershed in the history of art.

Among stars in the exhibition (so far as I was concerned) were Matisse's Marguerite

and Mogliani's Dark-Haired Girl, seated. Source GoMA

There were many other wonderful pieces in the exhibition, and Brisbane was lucky to have them. But then Brisbane has established the type of environment where such riches can exist happily.

This is the foyer outside the new State Library, next door to GoMA where there are many facilities for students of life et al in this beautiful building. There is a sense of whimsy too, and plenty of space for fun.

These are giant sculptures of beetles playing happily on the ceiling of the library foyer.

Of course, children love the place.

Coffee and food are everywhere ...

Gardens and architecture mingle to create great eye candy.

The complex sits on the southern side of the Brisbane River and there are long boardwalks that lead to many parks and places of historical interest.

We're walking alongside the Art Gallery of Queensland.

And the CBD is on the other side of the water.

These days, Brisbane is a city that's well worth a visit.

I've Been Tagged By Kate of Shambles Manor

Apparently that means Kate will put her foot on my chest and hold me down until I answer the following questions:

1) Where was I 10 years ago? Let me see - I was pretty well where I am today except that my house was 1km away, in the same suburb. Boring eh? I did travel to Europe et al in between.

2) What's on my 'to do' list for today ? My 'to do' list today included a trip to the EcoVillage at Currumbin to help my daughter and other volunteers, answering questions for visitors at a World Sustainable Day. As you will have read in my previous post the village won the World's Best Real Estate Development earlier this year and with the honour comes the responsibility to spread the word about how to lead an environmentally friendly existence - although that's really what the village is all about anyway.

Hundreds of people closed in on the village to walk through three of the houses which had been thrown open for the day. It's great to see that many Australians seem to be developing a serious interest in sustainable living.

Also on the 'to do' - a visit to the Swell Sculpture Exhibition, again at Currumbin. Each year many very clever sculptors spend weeks and months to produce works that are mounted along the beach, drawing crowds for the ten days or so during which the exhibition continues. I had some problems with my camera so I'm going back in the next few days to take some pictures for 70 Plus and Still Kicking, and have a look all over again. Watch for the next blog!

3) What if I were a Billionaire ? I'd buy myself a house in the EcoVillage and live a sustainable life in a great community. I'd also do something towards the provision of low cost housing for the mentally ill.

4) Places I have lived ? Always in New South Wales in Australia. Born in Sydney, off to the beach 100km away at The Entrance when I was one, back to Sydney at 17, off to the Tweed Valley in Northern New South Wales at 43. Still there.

5) Bad Habits ? I'm a bit deaf and my daughter tells me I yell in a crowd.

6) Snacks I like ? Chocolate!

There Kate - can I get up now?

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Living in Currumbin Ecovillage

Kangaroos hop past the kitchen windows of Currumbin Ecovillage that was named World's Best Environmental Development in June.

The village on Queensland's Gold Coast in Australia received the award from the prestigious International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) in Amsterdam.

It's an exciting time for the far sighted developers and residents of the village who are working to help show the way towards sensible sustainable housing for the future.

The village is but a spit away from my home and it's where my daughter Lynne and her husband John have chosen to build their rammed earth home.

The lovely house with its central rock garden is almost at lock-up now so they hope to be moving in within a couple of months.

I've written an extensive post about the village, with many pictures, in my blog Journeys in Creative Writing. How about having a look?

Currumbin Ecovillage is being built in quite an area - the site is indicated by the arrow below:

Picture Ecovillage web site

Tuesday, 2 September 2008


A couple of months ago I promised to post pictures of my Michelias when they came into full bloom.

Well I was in the garden this morning and saw heaps of petals falling around my six lovely small trees and thought I'd better get moving or I'd miss out this year.

So, out with the camera and these shots are the results.

This pic shows just one tree of five that make an informal hedge at the back of my house. They're 4m high and really provide protection against our western sun which can be very fierce in Australia's summer.

These are Michelia 'Bubbles', a cousin of the Magnolia family that as you can see, come out in masses of creamy-pink cups. The flowers have a citrus perfume and are preceeded by luscious looking deep brown velvet covered buds about 2cm long. These nestle among rich dark green glossy leaves.

Some of the petals that have fallen recently. These delicate gifts of nature were Michelia cups but a short while ago. I don't know how the trees held them all!

Thanks to my lovely daughter Lynne for selecting these magic plants for my garden.