Pink = happy

Last night family and friends gathered for a “think pink” party for me. It was partly for my birthday (let’s not talk numbers) and partly to raise funds for the Look Good Feel Better program for breast cancer patients. (I asked people to donate to the cause rather than spend it on presents for me.) Everyone was asked to wear something pink. Some stayed conservative and limited it to a pink tie, or pink handkerchief in the pocket or, with the ladies, some pink jewellery. And, they all looked great. Others went all out, dressing up from head to toe in pink, and they looked hilarious. (Hooray!) One chap came as a pink pig, with piggy face mask and a lovely curly, plastic pink tail. Another guy wore pink pyjamas, pink bunny slippers and pink sunglasses. (Very, Sir Elton.) One lady came as a pink mermaid with a gorgeous pink fish tail, pink swimming cap and goggles. One couple came as the Almost Scarlet Pimpernel, complete with cape and feathered hat, and Almost Red Riding Hood, with a toy wolf in her basket. I was delighted, tickled, proud, impressed and overwhelmed with joy. I have some wonderful family and friends. My daughter had excelled herself in decorating the hall with pink cloths, pink balloons, pink cups and cutlery, pink glitter and pink fairy lights. My son-in-law baked all the desserts and cake. My son paid for most of the desserts and most of the bar tab. He and son-in-law were great MCs for the night, too. Best of all, we raised over $1000 for the cause. I hope everyone had fun. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling too well for most of the night, so didn’t get any dessert, barely any first course and no pink moscato from the bar. Bummer! Looking around the room at family and friends, all sorts of wonderful memories came flooding back. There were childhood memories of Sunday School anniversaries; High School; University days; the early years of marriage and, back in the 70s, singing in the Folk Den (in the local pub) with another couple with whom we’re still friends today. There were memories of my time in America both in 70/71 and 2004. (Wish I could go again.) There were photos of my parents, now both gone, and pictures of the Old Boy and me with our babies, when they were babies. (Gosh, we were so young!) Then photos of my grand-babies. Pictures of me at a couple of different graduation ceremonies, preaching, and being with church friends. Pictures of me at Disneyland, cuddling up to Donald Duck, and posing with a genuine Indian… It made me realise just how blessed a life I’ve had so far. In spite of all the sad, tragic and debilitating things that have made life difficult, the joy has far outweighed it all. And, the common denominator? People who love me. So, thank you to anyone and everyone who has been and who is now in my life. To my friends overseas: how I wish I could visit you all and give you a big hug. To the people from my past, thanks for shaping me into the person I am today. To the people who are in my life now, thanks for taking on the challenge. To the few who have hung in over the long haul, thanks for your loving faithfulness. And to my family, thanks for making my life rich with love and joy. I am a truly blessed woman. Think pink, folks!  ...

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What the Raven Saw

I rarely review on this blog. However, today I want to do a little rave about a children’s book I’ve just read. Now, before you ‘I-only-read-grownup-fiction’ people switch off, I beg you to read to the end. You never know; you might be so intrigued you’ll get yourself a copy of this one. In fact, give Children’s Lit a go. Think of some of the great movies that have come out of Children’s and Youth Lit: Narnia, Harry Potter, Twilight, The Goonies… As a reviewer, I read a lot of children’s and YA books and, believe me, I’m a hard marker. There are the occasional duds. For those I usually spend a few weepy moments wondering how and why they got into print when I’m still trying to get mine picked up. There are a plethora of good, enjoyable, that-was-nice books. They’ve got a solid plot. The characters are engaging. There’s a bit of adventure; a bit of humour. They’re worth passing on to the neighbours’ kids. Then there are the “Flipping-heck-that’s-brilliant!” books. This is one of those. Samantha-Ellen Bound, What the Raven Saw, Woolshed Press. She’s an Aussie author and I think it’s her first book. HER FIRST BOOK! (That strange sound you hear is me grinding my teeth in frustration.) My only complaint about the book is that the title doesn’t do it justice. It makes it sound like a three year old’s picture book. It’s not. It’s a magical, intriguing, quirky, extraordinary story. It has crime, romance, philosophy, humour, sarcasm and a touch of the mystical. The hero is a raven, with an over-developed sense of self-importance that hides deep abandonment issues. His serenity is disturbed by the ghost of a young boy; the boy’s very much alive and very stroppy sister; a love-sick scarecrow; a pesky pigeon, and a man up a tree. Raven’s best friend is the parish priest. The two sing duets together when the church is empty. Every chapter title is the title of an old hymn or Gospel song. (Ain’t she clever!) The writing is so beautiful, so gob-smacking brilliant it makes me moan. Here’s a little bit to whet your appetite. “The raven was sitting up in the church eaves, listening to the church choir… That was human’s single redeeming factor – they sure knew how to sing. Every time they opened their mouths, the raven found himself having horrible sentimental thoughts… He felt like he did the first time, as a very young bird, he’d poked his head out of the nest and seen the day wake up and break through the branches and the foliage of the trees. Or when he’d seen an enormous sea eagle, far from home, resting on top of an old stone cross. When it had launched itself into space the sky had seemed to tear itself apart.” pg 30/31 Ms Bound, I dips me lid to ya. You should be up for a number of awards in the coming year. If you’re not, I’ll be more than surprised; I’ll be outraged. (DANG! Why didn’t I get the idea first?!!!)  ...

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Santa Claus is coming to town.

This morning, in my town, Santa is riding into town. It’s the day of the Christmas Pageant. It’s billed as the largest street parade of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s only rival in the rest of the world is Macey’s Parade in New York. There are clowns, fairy tale characters, Scottish pipe bands, monsters and a haunted house. There’s a giant Christmas stocking, two gorgeous (and now antique) rocking horses and bucket-loads of marching girls. Of course, Santa (Father Christmas) and his reindeer make a grand entrance at the very end. I think that in the last few years they’ve added a manger scene, as a concession to those who know why we have Christmas in the first place.  So there are now two miracles connected to the pageant. The first is the story of Jesus’ birth and the second is the famous blue line. The authorities paint a pale blue line along each side of the street for the route of the pageant. Children are told they musn’t move past that line, and in spite of thousands of people lining up to see the show, everyone respects that blue line. It’s an invisible force field. You have to see it to believe it. So the busy, silly, over-partied, over-stressed, can-we-fit-it-all-in, who’s-going-to-have-Aunty-Beryl-this-year, has begun. Shops are praying we’ll all be as pressured to give presents as every other year, and maybe spend even more so as not to be shown up by the in-laws. Every year we tell ourselves that this year we’ll be more organized, more relaxed, more chilled out about the whole deal and every year, the closer it gets to the big day, we find the list of things to do gets longer and the money gets harder to find. It’s nuts! For this little editor, just when I want to be winding things down so I can join the rest of humanity in celebrating the Saviour’s birth by burying myself in tinsel, I find myself buried in manuscripts. Everyone has been working on their book all year, and they all suddenly realise it’s November. Oh no, they think, we really must get our manuscript finished and edited before Christmas. After all, editors, agents and publishers don’t celebrate the holiday like everyone else. Nooo…we all know they live with the Grinch in a cave somewhere in the Isolated Mountains of Publishing World. Not that I’m complaining…I need the income to help pay for the annual sillliness. It’s just that it’s November and I really must get my manuscript finished before Christmas.  ...

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Why read fiction?

Someone asked me, ‘What’s the point of reading fiction?’ Slightly gob-smacked that this would come from someone I know, I blurted the first thing that popped into my head: It teaches us things about the world. (Lame, I know, but remember I was in shock.) ‘Oh yeah,’ she said, ‘like what?’ Well I burbled/floundered/dribbled on with a pile of rubbish and I could tell from the slightly patronising, rather smug smile on her dial that she wasn’t convinced. But, later, I had some brilliant things to say. What a shame she wasn’t around to hear them. Of course the first mistake I made was to try to convince her that fiction is useful (which it is). Why do beautiful things have to be “useful”? Why does everything have to do something? Our Puritan ancestors thought that only things which had a practical purpose were worthwhile. Things that were simply ornamental were “frivolous” and could even lead to idolatry. I think they took things too far. John Keats wrote: A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never, Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing…An endless fountain of immortal drink, Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.  So…  What he said. (For those who are still Puritans in inclination and practice, can I just remind you that Jesus told stories all the time. He called them parables. Funnily enough, he expected people to learn something from them.) I’ve given this question a lot of thought and I could quote scientific research, draw graphs and pie charts (actually I couldn’t but use your imagination) and list a plethora of reasons for reading fiction. But, I won’t. I’m going straight for the most important one: empathy. That’s right, you heard me. I went straight for the jugular. Hardcore, that’s me. Fiction readers are constantly using their imaginations to picture themselves in another person’s shoes: to walk a path they would never take; to experience situations they would, probably, never face; to weep, to laugh, to dream, to hope, to fear another person’s joys, griefs, fears and hopes. They learn how to see things from someone else’s perspective. They learn about the world outside their own little bubble, and discover things about humanity and LIFE in ways they would never be able to do in downtown suburbia. They are hard-wiring their brains and hearts to empathise with others. I bet you anything you like that psychopaths, sociopaths and the other-paths don’t read much fiction. I know that in books (let’s face it, not everything you read is true) the serial killers are sometimes big readers, but remember that books are written by people who value books, so it makes sense to them that killers would be inspired by crime or horror stories. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if most killers, rapists and other violent thugs don’t read much more than the motor-bike monthly and the K-mart catalogue. Those people just don’t care about other people. They’d rather be skulling beers and brawling outside pubs, or quietly stalking someone, than reading a good book. So, if you don’t want to be a serial killer, read some fiction. That’s all from Dr Noble this week....

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