I have just had my days at my work reduced to three! This is new for me. I used to work four days a week . . . but I won’t count that in my list of 50, as it was imposed not sought. But I see this as a blessing and an opportunity. You see I am writing, I am writing a book. I need lots of time to think and organise and write -and now I have this extra day.
So, I did something new to make sure I don’t fritter these days away. I have decided to spend my time in a local library, writing. I now regard these days as ‘work days’, except on Mondays and Thursdays my work is writing. Last Thursday I drove to Rouse Hill, about 7kms from home, to the new Vinegar Hill Library. It is a wonderfully large, light-filled library, situated above the Town Square, that is acsessed from a wide timbered staircase. There is a coffee shop below, which I visited before finding myself a booth.

I needed to sit and draw up a plan in a dedicated note book. I have been getting emails from Procrastinating Writers, (ha ha) and it worked. This was their first suggestion!
I had begun! I mapped out my journey on paper, then on computer I began one section. The time soon disappeared. But not before I looked at all the wonderful resources on display, joining the library, and borrowing the latest patchwork magazine (this will save me money) and an art book. I told the librarian I would put my name on one of the booths for each Thursday, and that I would become a Frequent Flyer! She smiled.
My new resolution is to spend time at least ONE of my days, writing in my library booth. This is achievable -important for a goal. If I get there on both days that’s a bonus. So here I am this Monday, at home, getting lots done . . blogging . . and I’m about to start writing. The new resolve is working!

No. 4 ANZAC Day

I like the city on ANZAC Day. People talk freely to each other. It began at the bus stop, when I admired two men’s medals; colourful tributes to their service in Vietnam. A man on the bus asked me about the medals I was wearing – my Mum’s. She served with General Macarthur in Brisbane. On the 25th April, Sydney is free of traffic for 12 hours as the ANZAC march takes place.
I arrived mid-morning, timing it well, as within minutes I could see the red banner of The 9th Division in the distance. My father had marched behind that banner in the Middle East and in New Guinea.

It is a very distinctive, and there is no mistaking it for another. All the banners of the 9th Division bear the letter T, a symbol for The Rats of Tobruk. I watched each battalion pass, most men walking straight and tall, some assisted in wheelchairs, and others driven in jeeps to the applause of the crowds who had gathered. I followed the marchers along the march route, through crowds of people to Hyde Park, hoping to talk to some of the diggers from the 9th Division. But I was delayed along the way by talking briefly to an old friend I’d spied, and obtaining 3 memorial crosses outside St Andrews Cathedral. When I made it to Elizabeth St, the identifying banners were down and my link was gone.
I took time to visit the War Memorial, something I have not done for a long time. In itself it is a deeply moving place to visit, with it’s memorials and symbols. As I walked away I was drawn to the sounds of a pipe band, under trees in Hyde Park. There is something in my Scottish heritage that draws me to them. A few songs were performed, as a prequel to the Commemoration of ANZAC, to take place in front of The War Memorial, when the march had finished. I stayed. This is the first time I had attended this post-march Service. The earlier rain had now cleared to a sunny sky, and it was inviting.
Scots College pipe band heralded the Commemoration had begun. Their flag bearers flanked either side of The Pool of Rememberance, bearing multiple flag’s in our red, white and blue. The officail party included Don Rowe, of the RSL, The Premier Kristina Keneally, Archbishop Peter Jenson, Lieutenant governor of NSW and our Air Vice Marshal, Major General and Rear Admiral. Quite a gathering! A crowd three deep flanked the Memorial pool, as well as invited guests, under two marquees.

All their voices joined in hymns that filled the warm autumn air with a sense of respect and honour. The service men offered prayers and both the Premier and the Archbishop spoke from personal experience of their links with ANZAC. The haunting notes of The Last Post were played by a solitary bugler, an offering to recall the fallen. With the aid of The Welsh Choir the National Anthem was sung, with the three service commanders in salute. This was visually very moving.
When the service was over I made my way to a bus stop via The Cenotaph, magnificently laden with floral tributes. On 25th April every year it carries the memorials of a grateful nation to our war dead. My last stop was Northern Suberbs Crematorium where I delivered the crosses I had been carrying.Three family members are there, my Mum, my Dad and my Aunt, close in death, in the War Memorial section of the gardens. All three had served their country during WW2. This daughter of a digger will not forget.

I went to my first Writer’s Festival last year, in Byron Bay. I soaked up the speakers, known and just launching writers, who spoke on a variety of world concerns and writing issues. The many marquees in Belongil’s Field became a temporary community for the writers, thirsty for inspiration and hungry for information. I attended a workshop with a celebrity author and even bought a souvenier T-shirt with it’s subtle festival image.

I have been looking forward to my first Sydney Writer’s Festival in May, 2010. I even marked 10th April on my calendar when the Official Guide would be released. That Saturday I bought a SMH just to get the lift out. When I opened it later, the Program Guide was not inside!! I felt mightily ripped-off by my random purchase at a petrol station in far away Drummoyne. So, I went online to view the Program. It was too hard to navigate 25 pages of options, venues, days, paid and free events!

Last Saturday at the NSW Writers’ Centre I stumbled across a pile of Programs for the SWF waiting to be noticed. I picked up the top copy, not yet realising what I was holding. A large image of a Hindu god looked back at me;  as it were, a portrait. ‘What am I reading?’ I wondered. Then I realised it was the elusive SWF Program. HOORAY! But why this eastern face? I had to look inside for the answer; a successful book. .  sacred India at the Opera House . . ancient spiritual traditions . . tantric holy men . . verses of a Sufi scholar . . Thevaram hymns . . possession by a Hindu deity, on stage. All this for ONE book published last year?

Good grief Sydney! (or more particularly SWF organisers). Is this image all you have to offer the writers of Sydney and beyond, who give up hours, days of their time to enjoy our fair city with it’s unique architecture and people, while enjoying all things literary? Is this image meant to entice and grab?  Let India keep her own demons. We have enough of our own -people whose lives have been shipwrecked by materialism and a culture of Me.

I’m all for the richness of various cultures and the visual feast reflected in the architecture of mosques and temples -I have a ticket to Thailand for next January. I wonder if we as Australians have something spiritual to offer our own people? I believe we do, going back to another ancient spiritual tradition to find it. But it’s now right here on our own shores, not in the middle east. You will have seen the architecture of this tradition if you have been past a church lately.  And this God comes only by personal invitation, not by an aggressive possession ritual. He comes not as spectacle, but in relationship, communicating His still small voice to those who will hear it. We don’t need any more broken lives here, shattered souls who lie in the wake of embracing a Hindu diety that brings fear, not fulfilment.

On that photo again, some of the small images INSIDE the festival program speak to me more than the foreign deity on the front page.  I would be pleased to wear any of these on a souvenier T-shirt too!

What think you???

2. Hello world!

The Colours of My World

I added to my list of  ’50 new things in 2010′ yesterday. I went to The Royal Easter Show for the day. Yes, I have done that before, but yesterday I attended in a very different capacity. I was helping to man (or woman, as the case may be) an exhibit at The Show. Lots of people came past , watched and asked me questions.

If you were there yesterday, and in The Arts and Crafts Pavilion, you may have seen me on the Bernina stand, with some other enthusiasts, demonstrating patchwork techniques. It was lots of fun. People were very friendly as they noticed what we were doing, coming over to look more closely, both men and women. They would always make a comment, usually about how complicated it looked and remark about someone they knew who did patchwork.

The Bernina stand was draped in a variety of colourful quilts from The Quilters Guild of NSW. Some of the quilts on display were Community Quilts, that were made by members of the Guild for charity. The quilts might be going to a child in hospital, to a teen in a refuge, or to a family whose house was destroyed in a fire. I love this charity aspect of patchwork  that is shared the world over. Having gained something  from the creative process involved in quilt making, these women overflow with a desire to use their craft to bring beauty into the lives of people in need.

The quilts that were hung for display were owned by individuals who had put hours and hours, months and months, and sometimes years into producing them. They were works of art! I would have loved to answer “Yes” when asked “Did you make those quilts?” If only! I was happy just to be showcasing a traditional craft and putting it ‘out there’ for a wider, newer audience.

One small step . .

: ) Helen

As soon as the flyer came in the mail I knew I wanted to try it! I’d never done this before, but had contemplated doing so from afar. Now here it was, right in my backyard; and it would start in a week – a boxing class at my local ladies gym. (I’ve been getting fit since October, and I hoped paying the annual subscription to my closest gym would ensure I kept at it.) There would be an extra cost for boxing. I signed up.

With great anticipation I arrived for 7pm. There was much excitement in the air from the buzzing conversations of the women who had already gathered. About 20 all up; a variety of ages; all shapes and sizes; blondes, brunettes and one red head. We had one thing in common- our first boxing class.

Then I saw them, boxing gloves, laid out on the floor before us; twenty pairs – blue, black, purple, white and pink boxing gloves!  COLOUR! I knew I would just love this Class, and smiled on the inside.

We played some team games first to warm up. Games! This was all about having fun while getting fit. There were teams and we had to run and fetch the boxing gloves, then steal some from opposing teams – the winner was the one with the most gloves at the end. I hadn’t had such fun since being in the volleyball team in high school. There’s something special about playing in a team.

Then the coaching began, and we were paired with someone of the same height. Our expert trainers gave us demonstrations of the jab, cross-over and under cut. My partner had pads that I would box into, then we swapped and I had to throw the blows. Fantastic! I did mention to her that I would just die if someone was really hitting at my face! It all seemed to be over too soon, but my arms spoke loudly of their workout. This had to be the most fun I’d had for $10 for a very long time.

When I got home I made a note of my evening on Facebook. A guy I’ve known since high school said in his comment, “I didn’t think you were the boxing type!” I replied, “Neither did I!”.