Taking a break.

I think I need to retreat from the world, for a while. The more informed I am about world affairs; local and national politics; famine, flooding, fires and earthquakes, and all the horrors that accompany modern warfare, the more depressed I become. And, I don’t want to be depressed. I’m normally a happy optimist. I think I need to switch off the news bulletins and retreat into La-La Land for a while. Just until I get my hope back. Now, I don’t want you all giving me advice on how to trust in God and keep the faith and keep looking up etc. I know. I do. But, there’s so much misery going on right now that I can’t help feeling a little dismayed at the state of things. I’m one of those weird people that think you can have faith and still get discouraged. I think it’s one of the many paradoxes in life. I’m also well aware that many of you are now anxious to point out how wrong I am, and that’s okay. One of the things that tipped me over was the last lot of news out of Syria. Have they all gone mad? And, please oh please, don’t send air-strikes. Do they really achieve anything other than more mayhem, pain and grief? (Deep breath, Old Girl. Breathe in; breathe out.) Yesterday I went to lunch with my best friend. We drove through the beautiful Barossa Valley. The hills and fields were a lush, lavish green. Yellow soursobs were scattered through the weeds on the side of the road. Some of the wattle trees had sent out their first few balls of sunshine. Sheep were grazing among the vines. Birds were chirping and burping and having fun. The sun was shining. (Welcome back, stranger.) After lunch, as I walked back to the car, I stopped for a moment and tipped my face up to the sky. I breathed the fresh air and let the sunshine kiss my face. It felt good. I need a bit more of this, I thought, and a lot less of the other. So, dear world, I’m zoning you out for a while. It doesn’t mean I don’t care. It doesn’t mean I’ll ignore you forever. I’m just giving myself time to regroup. Finally, one of my spammers sent me a slightly enigmatic message that I thought I’d repost here as a public service. It said: open the springform slowly. Thanks fella! Reading that made the whole thing...

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Hollywood makes me nervous.

A couple of books I really love are currently being turned into films. 1. The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak and 2. Divergent by Veronica Roth. I’m very, very nervous about the outcome. Let’s face it; there have been a number of books that have been thoroughly mauled by the film industry. Poor old Stephen King, for example, could only count on one hand the number of his works that have made it through relatively unscathed. Most of his books had me pinned to my seat. Most of the films had me trying to stay awake. (The Green Mile, Shawshank Redemption and Misery were the exceptions. Can anyone suggest any more?) The Book Thief is such a masterpiece of exquisite writing. How will that translate into cinematography? I’ve heard that Death is taking a back seat and the little girl will be the main character. See! Already something is lost. I’m more confident that Divergent will translate into film quite well. It helps that there is plenty of action that will give the film some zing. But, will they capture the world in all its complexity? Will they get the nuances right? I loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy on the big screen, but there were moments of, “That’s not right”. And, although I thoroughly enjoyed the first instalment of The Hobbit, it wasn’t quite as I remember the book. Or, perhaps it’s that it wasn’t quite as I saw it in my imagination as I read them. Perhaps it’s the books that have the elements of fantasy and magic that are difficult to put into film. After all, Schindler’s List worked very well on the big screen. I don’t know why I’m worrying. I rarely go the cinema, so I’ll probably not see what they do to Zuzak’s masterpiece. Crisis...

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12 Things I Like About Winter

Twelve things I like about winter: 1. It’s not hot. By the end of summer I’m way over wiping sweat off everything. 2. Here in the driest state of the driest continent, winter means water is in the dams; creeks are running and ducks are happy. 3. Everything is green. For people living in the northern hemisphere, or in snow regions, that sounds strange. You’re used to trees dropping leaves and everything being covered in snow and slush. But, here in South Oz, it means lush green life. 4. Roast dinners. There’s something morally wrong about hot roast dinners in the summer, with the one exception being Christmas Day. However, I confess they’re losing their appeal now that it’s up to me to cook them. 5. Soup. My latest favourite soup is spicy apple and pumpkin soup. It’s delicious and easy to make. 6. Sitting by the heater with a blanket over my legs and the Wonder Dog snuggled on my lap, under the blanket. Except when he wriggles around and drags the blanket off my feet. (Grr) 7. The football. Especially if I’m watching it on telly, by the heater, with the dog on my lap and a mug of soup in my hands. 8. Lying in bed, wrapped up in the doona, listening to the rain on the roof. 9. Striding across the fields without the worry of a snake biting your ankle. That’s if you still stride anywhere, and I don’t. 10. No one expects you to wear a bathing suit. 11. It’s followed by spring. 12. It’s nearly...

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Ah, sweet mystery

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer 20 years ago I had a friend who was very worried about me. (Actually, I had/have a lot of friends, but I’m just… Oh never mind.) I couldn’t reassure her that I would be fine. Then, in the midst of my treatment, she and her husband were driving along a country road and collided with a cow. The beast hit her side of the car and she was seriously hurt. The Old Boy and I visited her in hospital and she was almost unrecognisable. A week later the life-support was turned off and she was gone. Twenty years later I – the one she was so worried about – am still here. A few years ago the Old Boy and I spent a lovely weekend on a friend’s houseboat. It was stinking hot, so I spent a lot of the day inside near the air-conditioning. (Let me just say, the river is lovely at twilight!) Mrs friend spent most of the day in her leopard print bathing suit on or in the river. She was lithe, tanned, healthy and fit; the physical opposite of me. Shortly after that holiday she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I thought, But she’s so healthy. She does triathlons for fun, for Pete’s sake! It should be me, not her. She lived for just over another year. Seven months ago I received a lovely email from my son’s ex-mother in law. We were friends but after the divorce we were estranged for a while. Thanks to facebook we had reconnected about two years ago and were back on a friendly footing. She wrote to tell me how concerned she was for me and the family now that the cancer was back. She promised that we were in her prayers. Five months ago she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. This week, she died. I’ll be going to her funeral in a couple of days time. I’ve had the same spot of cancer sitting in my ribs for nearly two years, going nowhere, doing nothing. Go figure. Life is a mystery. We kid ourselves that we know how things will pan out for us, but really we have no idea. Every day, every breath, every heart-beat is a gift we should cherish. Live life joyously, kindly, generously and graciously, with celebration and thanksgiving. Here endeth the lesson....

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*#*@*#* cancer!

I’d like this to go on record: I HATE cancer. (I refuse to dignify it with a capital letter.) I’ve recently been inspired by two young men: Shane Crawford and Samuel Johnson. Shane, a retired footballer, recently rode his bicycle from Melbourne to Perth – the same distance as the tour de France and in less time – to raise funds for breast cancer research. He raised over $1 million. What a champ! Samuel Johnson, an actor, is riding his mono-cycle (the strain on his back must be killing him!) all around Australia, also to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research. His sister has it and is not going to get better. He’s called his venture: I love my sister. What a guy! The more people I meet in the cancer world, the more inspired I am. The strength of the human spirit, the humbling generosity and kindness of the medical profession, the courage of those who can see the end approaching, is overwhelming. I wish I could do something for the cause. I’m not able to ride a bike any distance worth doing (not even down our street), I can’t do marathon running, or jogging or even walking. I’m not famous. I have no media presence. I don’t have much money. Even my cancer is pretty wimpy. Okay, it’s not curable, but for the last two years it’s just sat in the same spot barely doing enough to earn it’s keep. (I know that’s a good thing but I sometimes feel a bit of a fake.) So far this year I have had two friends diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and it looks like they might not see Christmas. Another friend has bowel cancer and is in the middle of treatment. Another has had his brain tumour reappear…again. Another was diagnosed with cancer in the gall-bladder and is halfway through chemo. Another has breast cancer and is also on chemo. And now I’ve heard of an ex-brother in law who has it in his pancreas, liver and kidneys. FLIPPING HECK! What’s going on? This blasted disease seems to be spreading like the flu virus. Then again…the common denominator is me. Would it be too paranoid of me (or too egocentric) to wonder whether I’m like a cancerous Typhoid Mary? Am I polluting the people around me? (After all, it’s all about me.) Thank the Lord for the boffins who are working on finding a cure. In my life time we have seen the death rate drop dramatically for many types of cancer, especially if diagnosed early. But it still takes a terrible toll on patients, their families and friends, even when the outcome is good. Take care of yourselves out there, if only so I don’t have to worry about you. Meanwhile I’m thinking about what I can do to make a difference. Why don’t you give it some thought as well?...

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