The wedding

Son’s wedding on the weekend: gorgeous setting by a rock-pool, with ducks in the creek and roses going mad with colour. It was simply a beautiful, happy, loving, joy-filled day and evening. The reception was lit with a myriad of ‘fairy’ lights and the table decorations were giant martini glasses (and I do mean ‘giant’) filled with red liquid and floating tea-lights. Speeches were simple and heart-felt, and totally devoid of sleaze. Food was delicious and abundant. Drinks were varied and free. The cake was outstanding. All in all it was one of the happiest days I’ve spent in a long time. Instead of the traditional bridal waltz, the bride and groom were announced, they stepped into the room and immediately began doing their version of an Irish jig to some lively fiddle music. Of course, my son never having had a dance lesson in his life, was so bad at it he was hilarious. What a fun way to kick off the party. Underlying all the frivolity was the knowledge that a lot of the people in that room had experienced deep tragedy in their lives and in the life of their (our) family. Some of us are cancer survivors; some are recovering from depression; some have lost loved ones; some have just welcomed loved ones home from prison and are desperate to keep them from going back; some have had marriages torn apart by infidelity; some are struggling with serious illness… and so it goes on. We’ve learned that faith in God, the strength of a good family unit, and the love of loyal friends are the only things that really matter in life. Where would we all be without love, hope and faith? I watched our family celebrate my boy’s wedding; saw how they interacted with each other; watched the adults caring for the little ones; saw the affection being shared; younger adults taking time to talk with the oldies; the more physically able assisting the weaker…and I felt, rising up within me, an inordinate amount of pride and affection for that motley crew. All in all, we’re a pretty good bunch of people. Well done, us. I also realised how blessed I am to have such a family. I know there are millions of people in this world who are not so blessed. I wish you all someone to love you, someone to stick by you no matter what, and someone to come home to at night. (This has been a particularly sentimental blog this week. Be assured it will resume normal transmission next...

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Books and me.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with a group of women in the local college. (Hello girls!) I gave a “Readers’ Digest” version of my life and also talked about being a writer. I organized my thoughts around something the children’s writer – Christobel Mattingley – once told me: It takes all our lives to write books. To write well requires a lot of living, and our feelings and experiences are the wellspring from which our stories flow. It was interesting to rediscover how I’ve had a lifelong love affair with words, stories and books. Of course, I’ve always known that but, yesterday, as I recounted important moments in my life, I was surprised how often my life and books intersected. I wrote plays, poems and stories even in my early primary school days. I co-authored/published a monthly magazine for two years in my senior high school years. I worked in the Library and Resource Centre at the Teachers’ College I attended. I was the librarian in the theological college that my husband attended. I used to dream about owning my own bookshop/coffee shop. Books have comforted me in my loneliness, my poverty, my illnesses and my grief. Books have taken me on journeys to magical kingdoms where dragons fly, anything is possible and good finally (always) wins. Books have taken me into the heart of damaged people and helped me see why they do the things they do. Books have introduced me to other countries, other cultures and other ways of understanding the world. Books have made me cry. Books have made me laugh. Books have even, occasionally, made me angry. Our cultures are shaped by the stories we tell about ourselves, our history and the world around us. Stories, told well, are powerful things. I want to write the sort that make people escape for a while from the reality they inhabit; the sort of story that makes a person think, question and wonder; the sort of tale that brings love, hope and laughter to the reader (with an occasional shiver, of course!). Whether I’m speaking to an audience of two or two hundred, or whether I’m writing a 100 word review or an 80,000 word novel, I want to weave the sort of magic that a good story can bring. Thanks, ladies, for a lovely afternoon. Thanks for re-inspiring me; for reminding me why I do what I do and why I shouldn’t give...

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The grapes of…?

Yesterday the Old Boy and I took two lovely Irish ladies on a short trip through the Barossa Valley. They’re the mother and aunty of my son’s fiancee, out here for the wedding. (Only two weeks to go!) We had a nice day: the weather was perfect, the vines were green and leafy, the picnic lunch with a surprise visit by a hungry family of magpies was fun, the shopping was delightful and the visits to a couple of wineries were most pleasant. We even saw a mother, teenager and baby kangaroo grazing on the side of the road. As we tootled along through the picturesque towns and past the beautiful vineyards – vines to the left of us, vines to the right – I said: How blessed are we to live here?! Later, as our conversation meandered like the country roads we were driving along, I began to realise how blessed I am to live here. We have a small Irish branch on our family tree (doesn’t everyone) and I mean no disrespect for the wonderful Irish people but…the stuff that goes on in the North is nuts! When I was young there seemed to be a news item every second day about someone in Belfast being kidnapped and shot, or a bomb going off, or soldiers shooting someone at a check-point, etc. It’s not like that now; well, not often. But there’s still a lot of cr*p, all based on whether you’re Catholic/Protestant/Irish/English. Did you know there are even Catholic/Protestant names? For goodness sake! I’m not going to go into more details as I don’t live there and I haven’t walked in their shoes. But, my brain is boggling at the way humans love to find reasons to be separated from others. We even build walls through the middle of our towns to make sure we don’t realise we’re all human beings, living on the same little ball of mud, hurtling through space. Belfast isn’t the only place that’s divided like that (Jerusalem immediately springs to mind) and it probably won’t be the last. It’s just another expression of our fallen human nature. I feel for the people of Northern Ireland, living in a beautiful land but a divisive society and pray they’ll find a way through the suspicion, resentment and anger to reconciliation and peace. And I remind myself that I need to live in such a way that I don’t create those negative feelings in my community. The challenge for all of us is to sow seeds of appreciation, respect and trust with the people in our lives. Keeping with the vineyard theme: we can gather the grapes of wrath or the grapes of peace. Which one tastes the sweeter? What are you planting in your corner of the world? P.S. I still love the...

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The “what-ifs”.

I had an attack of the “what-ifs” the other day: what if I hadn’t been discouraged from writing back in the mumbly-mumbles; what if, back in the day, I’d tried to get into journalism like my father wished instead of teachers’ college like my mother wanted; what if I’d become a comedienne like I wanted; what if I’d had more confidence in my ability years ago; what if…? You know how it goes. “What brought this on?” you ask. My frustration levels are reaching an all-time high. Publishers accept your submission but won’t tell you if they’ve rejected it; you’re supposed to figure that out by yourself once a suitable time has lapsed. So, how long do you wait…hoping…praying…? No one replies to a polite email asking for a status update. Publishers won’t accept your manuscript except through an agent; agents aren’t taking on any more clients. One agent even says she won’t accept unsolicited submissions! So, what, we wait until she’s heard of us? How can she hear of us if we’re not published? Self-publishing takes more money than I’ve seen in years, so for now that’s not an option. So I send off another query letter and never hear a word in reply. “What’s that dull thudding sound?” you ask. Just my head thumping the wall. Another birthday is rapidly approaching. Have I left my run too late? Will I run out of life-time before I finally break the publishing barrier? When are you too old? I don’t feel it, but the numbers are starting to stack up. (To any publisher or agent reading this, please ignore the last few sentences. I’m actually incredibly young… compared to a giant tortoise.) Hence the dreaded “what-ifs”, accompanied by a hefty dose of the “if-onlys”. The fact is that regardless of all those “what-ifs” this is who I am; this is now. I don’t own a Tardis, so there’s no going back. All I can do is hope and pray I make good choices for the future. So I need to make my mind up: do I keep bashing my head against that wall? For now the answer is, yes. (I’m a stubborn old bag.) So… who do I choose to send my baby to, next? But, what if it’s not good enough? What if I choose the wrong mob to give it to? What if…?...

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