Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Should auld acquaintance be forgot

Now's the time for getting well and truly into excessive consumption mode ( just in case we were at all restrained over Christmas), as we say farewell to the old year and face the new one with hopefully not misplaced optimism. For those of us who decide to party, as the clock strikes midnight, no doubt we'll be lifting our voices in song in yet another boozy rendition of Auld Lang Syne - a nice if somewhat archaic tradition which we can blame on old Robert Burns who obviously let sentiment get the better of him after a few whiskies - while we try not to fall victim to too many sloppy kisses, or kissers for that matter.

This New Year's Eve I've decided that instead of making a lot of ridiculous and unrealistic resolutions, it might behoove me better (Robert Burns again?) to think back over the departing year and figure out what I can maybe learn from it. A quick retrospective glance is initially rather depressing as there have been rather a litany of, if not disasters, things that could have gone better. I began the year resolving to find a brilliant new job and embark on a late midlife career challenge in some starring role, and of course to find true lurve - the lasting kind. On both counts I flunked out. I'm still in the same job and any lurve that came my way was of the fleeting and/or fantasy kind. Still and all, I don't despair. On the job front, I have a new and fantastic boss and we are already in the throes of establishing an excellent and productive working relationship, one that for me bodes very well for the future. On the lurve front, I remain optimistic, although I have of late tempered my optimism with perhaps more realism. My wish list has been amended somewhat and now weighs more heavily towards those human qualities I really value such as honesty, integrity, caring, compassion and family values, than it does towards physical, monetary, status and intellectual attributes - oh shallow me (that was)! I would really just like to find someone who I can genuinely care for and who can genuinely care for me and so long as we don't find each other mutually repellent, who cares about the odd flaw. God knows I have plenty, some of which you've already heard plenty about. The fragile fetlocks however are very much on the mend and I've finally reached the stage where I can fling off the dreaded surgical shoes and slip into something else - if not Manolo Blahniks, at least not velcroed clodhoppers.

I can't let this year go past without thanking those dear friends and family of mine who've propped me up, kept me sane, made me laugh and just been there in the good, bad and indifferent times. Some of these friends have been through particular hells of their own. Three of them are facing a new year still battling with cancer and all the pain, uncertainty and fear that sentence entails. As I wrote about in an earlier post, my brother has spent most of the year grappling with the loss of his wife and trying to fashion a life without her. By their calmness and courage these people I care about have shown me that often what I whinge and complain about is nothing and I should be grateful for the many blessings I have, especially good health.

Other people in my life have disappointed me in different ways and I've felt overwhelmed sometimes with confusion, anger and resentment at behaviours that I just don't understand. I'm trying to learn patience there too. That old chestnut about time being a great healer is actually a good one - a great example I read somewhere recently is if you're a woman who hates being whistled at by construction workers ... just give it time. It works with people too. If you're not sure about someone, just give it time ... true colours will out in the end. Or you'll die first, or they will.

Time of course is what New Year's Eve is all about - an arbitrary line in the sand. Whatever we do or don't do to acknowledge it, the line will be crossed regardless. The world at the end of this old year is a pretty messy troubled and hopeless one in many ways. Let's just hope that those who lead us can look back and learn their own lessons from the past, rather than blundering on into the new year making the same old mistakes.

Happy New Year and may it be a peaceful, healthy and happy one for you!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Footwear at the Cutting Edge

Well I was wrong - not green moon boots after all but these fetching numbers nattily fitted with velcro straps for ease of slipping on and off. The physio who fitted me helpfully advised that the section over the instep is detachable and can be quickly removed when weather permits for a charmingly summery effect! I fear however greater exposure would only reveal more of the increasingly tattered and frayed dressings which must remain until the unveiling in a few weeks.

The procedure was not too agonising am pleased to report. Major hassle of the whole thing is the bloody (well not literally) dressings as of course am forbidden to get them wet. Showering is therefore an interesting venture. After considerable experimentation now have it down to a fine art, with a strategically placed folding chair in the alcove for me to lower myself onto, while propping the pins up outside the shower on the laundry basket, the feet being encased in old shopping bags tied up with masking tape. At first almost drowned myself under the deluge of water pouring straight down onto my head until it dawned that a simple adjustment to the shower head would fix that. Slight problem with this solution in that the parts most in need of washing are somewhat hard to get at while in a seated position. Fortunately no intimate encounters are in the offing, so am not too fussed.

A major drama ensued last week, amusing in retrospect, highly alarming at the time. Shortly after my sister left to return to the bosom of her family after doing an absolutely sterling job looking after me, decided to launch myself into the shower. Quite efficiently managed the ablutions and towelling off and was feeling quite pleased with myself until on the verge of emerging in all my semi-clad splendour, discovered that I couldn't open the bathroom door. Has been a slight problem with the bathroom door knob which has been hanging loose (as it were) for quite some time awaiting a passing handyman (as have I but that's another story). On this occasion even though I have been successfully opening and closing the door despite the wonky knob, it had firmly latched itself shut and refused to be budged. A slight feeling of concern soon escalated into major panic as I wrestled and sweated over the blasted thing - the exhaust fan booming away all the while (as of course the switches are outside the door) and the dogs pawing at the door from the other side, obviously alerted by the expletives issuing forth. Eventually it became clear it was a futile exercise and visions of being discovered some time in the future as a putrefying corpse floated before my eyes. The only means of escape it transpired was the window. What luck there was a folding chair in the shower (everyone should have one) - as after clambering up on the toilet seat and shoving the fly screen off, I managed to get the folding chair through and position it on the other side for me to land on. Problem solved! Slight difficulty once I got onto the ledge though as with the metal window frame gouging into my buttocks I couldn't figure out what the hell to do with my legs - had of course neglected to get the plastic bags off my feet before launching into the escape which made them extremely unweildy and so ended up teetering on the brink for quite some time. Eventually managed to contort myself sufficiently to get one leg down and the other one through, trying not to think about what might happen if I fell, which miraculously I didn't.

Relief at having survived that ordeal has actually made the rest of my convalescence a breeze. Am sure there is a lesson in that adventure somewhere --- perhaps when things like doorknobs break, get them fixed?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bunions Be Gone

( Pics are not of me obviously as I have yet to classify as "post-op"except in my fantasies plus mine are more wrinkly.)

On Tuesday I say goodbye to the dreaded bunions at long last and very good riddance to the little buggers I say. My right foot especially has turned into a very poor apology for a foot (despite the red toenail polish which, although the orthopaedic surgeon rather fancied it, stopped well short of transforming the flawed fetlock into anything remotely resembling sexy!).

The upside will be, eventually, normal looking human feet which can take a bit of pounding occasionally - in other words toe the line - as it were. The downside is that I will be somewhat of a crock afterwards, hopefully not too immobilised but initially perhaps forced into the indignity of a walking frame (I'll fit right into the demographic in the Mitcham Shopping Centre however). I will also be besporting charmingly green coloured surgical boots, for I understand six weeks. Although these will do nothing at all for my occasional attempts at stylishness, as the specialist suggested, rather than try and hide them (how could you anyway) I think I will "make a statement" and cleverly team them with … well everything. Perhaps it will start a trend. People will gasp as they see me and demand to know where I got those fabulous boots.

Anyway once I survive the ordeal I will let all my similarly afflicted (bunion-wise) friends know just what a breeze it all was, or alternatively what a hideously excruciatingly painful nightmare it was - perhaps the latter as it doesn't hurt to milk every opportunity for sympathy in these tough times. I will of course be a model patient for my dear sister who is doing her Florence Nightingale bit and coming to nurse me back to wholeness for a week after my surgical experience. Thank God she is, as the dogs are notoriously hopeless at breakfast in bed or shopping or washing or anything that doesn't instantly and directly benefit their own little selves. No doubt they will be bashing at the door for walkies as soon as I set boot inside the house again.

Well onward and upward, or onward and best foot forward in this case. I will be brave and focus on slipping into some smart sexy summer sandals in my new feet, without a gargoyle like protrusion ruining the effect. Of course once the feet are refurbished, the rest of the bodily premises may look a tad shabby by comparison and rather like house renovation, once you start, where the hell do you stop!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Everyone's going OS (except me!)

Just in the last few months there has been rather a constant stream of friends and workmates tripping off on overseas jaunts, and today my sister and her husband left for their long awaited trip. They have been furiously saving and planning for about two years so the level of excitement had about reached fever pitch by today. Here we are at the airport (my sister on far right, my two very tall and very blond nieces in the middle) and moi of course. Bro-in-law was given the job of taking the photo to calm him down as this being his first trip overseas, he was getting a bit jittery. I think they arrived at the airport about three hours before the flight was due to leave, just in case!! So I'm hoping they have a fabulous time and return home safely with lots of wonderful memories, photos and stories to tell. If only I could budget like my sister, maybe I could afford a trip myself! Hopefully I will become sufficiently inspired by the travellers' tales as I do think it's the most fantastic experience, and one that everyone should aspire to.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What to read???

Fellow bookaholics can probably relate to the nagging sense of anxiety that I feel every time my pile of books to be read starts to dwindle and the prospect of having nothing to read starts to keep me awake at night ... another definition of insanity perhaps, considering that if I actually sat down and read all the unread books I've bought still lying around, it would probably take me at least until Christmas (not sure which year)!!!

Nevertheless I do like to plan ahead to avert such a possible (if unlikely) catastrophe and as a result start thinking about books I might like to get out of the library well ahead of time. Like me, when it comes to fiction, you probably have favourite authors who can always be reliably depended upon to come up with something unputdownable, to the extent that opening the first page of one of their unread novels and plunging in could almost be likened to the buzz produced by indulging in other more physical addictions!

Sometimes when I'm casting around looking for another "fix" I've thought I should be more adventurous and try authors I haven't previously read, or find books similar in style or story line to the ones I typically go for. This can be a long laborious process if it involves trolling through the library shelves or a good way to while away a few hours if it involves browsing a real or virtual bookstore (which can of course be fun but life is short), So I was really pleased to discover a great website recently that offers the facility to conduct this process for you.

It's called "Fantastic Fiction" and claims to have bibliographies for over 15,000 authors and information on over 250,000 books (so some of your faves have got to be in there). Everything and more you always wanted to know about fiction authors and their books is there, e.g. new and forthcoming hard and paperbacks, all their novels, non-fiction works, awards, what books the author recommends, where you can buy new, used and on Ebay, and if you go to a particular book, you can find a list of similar books by other authors!!! Bliss for bookaholics! Happy reading!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My dear friend Ginny

I first met Ginny about 9 years ago when she was assigned as my "mentor" on my first day in my new job, and I couldn't have had a better one. She and I have subsequently become great friends and have shared some memorable times together. In one of these pictures we are at my 60th birthday party, with her gorgeous daughter Becky. She also came with me over to Geelong earlier this year when I finally graduated - she insisted on being present as she said she so admired my achievement in getting to the end of a gruelling few years of arduous study while working full time. It was a really special experience for me to have her there. Ginny is always the life of the party - could talk to a stone wall as someone once said, is bubbly, enthusiastic, happy and gregarious. She absolutely adores her two lovely children - Becky, who as I said is breathtakingly lovely and very smart too, and Matt - a tall, athletic and delightful young man - who is on his way to being a lawyer. Both kids are an absolute credit to Ginny, and they equally adore her.

Imagine the shock then when it was discovered in the last couple of weeks that Ginny has cancer. She is today in Sydney undergoing a very major operation, following which she will be subjected to extensive chemotherapy and radiation. Because of the location of the cancer, the surgery will be difficult, long and very invasive and she will need to undergo significant therapy and rehabilitation afterwards. The positive side is that she is still young, otherwise healthy, and has a wonderfully supportive family, a host of friends who love her and because she is a strong and courageous woman, has every chance of beating this.

It is still devastating though to think of this lovely, bubbly woman who has brought such laughter, fun and friendship into my life having to go through this ordeal. I am hoping and praying the surgery goes well and that she makes a successful recovery. Another reminder I suppose, as if we need any more, that life is precious and fragile and the health and vigour we take for granted today can be snatched from us at any moment.

Let's all make the absolute most of the benefits and gifts we have and always be on hand to lend our love, support and help to those of us who have heavy burdens to bear, like Ginny and her family do now.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Un-Happy Feet

It seems my devotion to my fitness regime has been sabotaged by my very un-happy feet. Perhaps it's just their way of saying "give us a break", but in recent times, it's been a litany of podiatric problems. First it was corns and calluses, then bunions which admittedly have been hanging around for a while but in recent times have swollen to undreamed of heights, then last weekend a chilblain on a big toe - not a pretty sight. Now my right foot has totally thrown up its toes and is barely working at all. It started with a soreness seemingly from nowhere, which I was kindly told by my gym instructor on Wednesday night (when I had to cry off from aerobics) might be gout!!!! Ye gods, I know the old bod is struggling, but gout!!! I know this is not corroborated by any medical evidence whatsoever, but just the word conjures up images for me of porky, red faced, bulbous nosed old men (sort of Sir Les Patterson types). Anyway the pain has become quite a lot worse over the last couple of days, requiring a visit to the doctor. The diagnosis is still somewhat vague - the best he could offer was maybe a sprain, or maybe a stress fracture -anyway thankfully not gout. So I am hobbling around popping anti-inflammatories and waiting to see what happens basically.

I must say this is rather a bodily betrayal on the part of my feet, as I have really been enjoying my fitness sessions and actually for once feeling quite toned, fit and if not exactly muscular, at least tight in all the right places rather than flabby.

Oh well, at least the enforced rest will help with making inroads into the pile of books, paper work and blogging topics waiting to be addressed!

Teddies for the Bears

One of my favourite animal welfare organisations, Animals Asia, as I have mentioned before desperately needs funds for helping the rescued bears in China and Vietnam. Abracadabra Teddies is currently running a special Big Summer Online Teddy Bear Auction until 31st August 2008, and all funds raised will go towards helping the bear rescue.

My love of teddies goes back a long way. I clearly remember being tucked into my small bed at night squashed up against the wall to leave room for a long row of teddies and other assorted stuffed creatures who had to share the pillow with me. (Of the creatures who share the pillow with me now, we will discreetly not speak). Anyway if, like me, you are a lover of teddies, do have a look at their fantastic range (some are vintage bears and special editions). The money is for a truly deserving cause.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A taste of spring

Here in Adelaide we have had a couple of days of somewhat premature spring weather - given that spring officially begins on 1st September. We seem to have had a particularly long, cold winter so the warmth of the sun is very welcome. I occasionally escape to a nearby park at lunchtime to read or meditate or just enjoy the fresh air and commune with the ducks, who I must say are considerably better company than some of my workmates. Possibly more intelligent also. But that's another story. Life is problematic in the career area at present and well ... the love life as previously mentioned has had its ups and downs, so while I sat watching the ducks in the park yesterday, I was hoping spring would start to appear in me. The bleakness of winter is still haunting my thoughts rather too much at present and I feel I must make a conscious effort to restore some positive feelings. Sometimes all it takes is just sitting quietly for a while in a beautiful place and feeling its calmness and peace ... sometimes it's a bit harder, but I hold onto the thought that springtime will prevail, in me and in the park!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dogs about the house

As anyone who has dogs or for that matter cats, knows only too well, whenever you're engaged in doing something around the house, they have to be "involved". My domestic duties around the house are considerably lightened these days by being fortunate enough to have the lovely Maria who comes once a fortnight to keep order and restore cleanliness to grubbiness. However occasionally I have to get involved in such things as changing the sheets and it was during one of these episodes recently that the dogs partook enthusiastically of the whole exciting process. Once the bedclothes were all in a heap on the floor, Scully sprang onto it and ascended to the peak, like a mountain climber, then dug around madly until she'd made a nice nest in which she immediately curled up and went to sleep, not to be budged for anyone. I think she thought as she blended in quite well with the colours of the quilt, I might not notice her. Fergus meanwhile installed himself on the unmade bed - his favoured position, in whatever state of dress or undress it is - and also refused to be moved. Needless to say, the bed changing process took a good deal longer than it should have, especially as I took the opportunity to capture the little dears on film!

I recently read a post in the "Blogher" blogging community for women (which is fascinating by the way) about the joys pets bring into our lives, which I wholeheartedly endorse. They don't even have to do anything really, just seeing their funny little whiskery faces looking at me makes me feel wonderful!

Found ... and lost

I haven't referred to my romantic quest for a while, the reason being I thought I'd found something that looked and felt so much like the real thing, I wanted it to have time and space in which to grow and blossom. My forays into the online dating world seemed to have finally borne fruit, in that a few weeks ago I met a man who was sweet, kind, caring, thoughtful and so drop dead gorgeous he made me weak at the knees just looking at him. What gave me hope after a long season of little hope was that he seemed to care for me and seemed to want what I wanted. We had some very special times but ultimately it seems the relationship is not to be, for reasons I confess I don't fully understand. Apparently a chance encounter has caused him to be conflicted about his feelings for a past relationship but be that as it may, I don't think after all he is the man for me.

Getting close to someone is challenging for me. It brings up lots of old demons of fear and mistrust that I struggle to conquer. I know though that I am gradually learning how to be open, trusting and courageous in the face of these doubts, as one must be to achieve anything worthwhile. Cynicism and game playing are characteristics abhorrent to me and if I give away too much, so be it... I have a lot to give away.

This time I think I have learned how to love and let go. I thank this person for the gifts of caring, warmth and passion they brought to me and if they can't be lasting ones, then I believe they are there to be found with someone else.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

9/11 - Lest we forget

I was recently reminded of the horrific events of 9/11 by reading an account of Caroline Overington’s interview with the widow of one of the victims. Caroline Overington is a Walkley Award winning journalist and I have just finished reading her book “Only in New York: How I Took Manhattan (with the kids)”, a fascinating and humorous account of her experiences as a foreign correspondent who relocated to New York from Sydney together with husband and two year old twins.

We are of course approaching the 7th anniversary of 9/11 and it was with rather a sense of chagrin that I realised that, for me at least, time has significantly diminished my awareness of the enormity of that act of atrocity. Not least because I was not there, I am not American, nor did I know anyone directly affected by the event, but also because time has a way of stealing away and trivialising our righteous anger and outrage about all such tragic episodes in history. Of course the enormous scale of the horrors perpetrated through such episodes as the Holocaust, acts of genocide, mass destruction or any manifestation of man’s hatred against man impairs our ability to identify with and really register it on a personal level. It’s easier just to turn our minds away and think of something less confronting.

It is however when we can condense the epic scale of such tragedies down to a smaller frame and see the effects on the lives of ordinary individuals like ourselves, that we can truly comprehend the devastation and destruction of humanity that such events represent.

Caroline Overington was privileged to have the opportunity of interviewing Sally Alameno, the widow of Andy Alameno, who was an employee of Cantor Fitzerald, a company located across 5 floors just above the floor where American Airlines Flight 11 smashed into Tower One of the World Trade Centre. He was one of 658 employees of that company killed in the attacks. She and Andy and their children are pictured above right.

Caroline Overington's account of that interview is moving in its simplicity and directness. As she says, this was just a normal Mum who got up one morning, coped with the everyday hectic morning family routine, saw her husband off to work, took her kids to kindergarten and returned to find that her world had been ripped asunder. This young woman and her little children in an instant had lost their beloved husband and father, with no chance to say farewell. I think we can all relate to the pain of that. If we magnify this individual family tragedy across all the victims of that act and all such acts of infamy whenever and wherever they have and are occurring, we get just a small glimpse of the insanity, futility and assault on humanity such evil represents. Let us never forget to be angry and never lose our sense of outrage at acts of vengeance perpetrated against the innocent.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Susan Jeffers

I have always had an interest in the field of personal growth and have read a number of books over the years on how to understand ourselves and others better, how to deal with the difficulties life throws our way, how to establish and maintain better and more lasting relationships and many other aspects of life that sometimes seem really hard to grapple with alone. I do feel the insights offered in some of these books are really worthwhile and although obviously one needs to adapt what is relevant for their own circumstances, it is surprising how often a new approach to a long standing dilemma can reveal itself in such writing.

An author in this genre I have recently come to know and admire is Susan Jeffers. I have read several of her books, "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway", "Embracing Uncertainty", "The Feal the Fear Guide to Lasting Love" and most recently "Opening our Hearts to Men". Her consistent message throughout her books is that when we get in touch with our higher consciousness and switch off the ego-driven reactions, it becomes much easier to operate with a sense of love, caring, calmness and self-confidence, rather than fear of failure or rejection. Developing a strong sense of self-worth is difficult in the face of disappointments, loneliness, career obstacles, family and relationship problems, but as Susan Jeffers points out, if we focus primarily on addressing our own attitudes and taking responsibility for addressing the problems, and less on judging others, it opens the way for real insights and real solutions.

She has proposed this approach on a broader scale as an answer to stopping violence and promoting peace in the world. If we each really try to reduce the amount of negativity in our thoughts and actions, we can add to a critical mass where life-changing actions can begin to take place and blame, hatred and alienation can be transformed into caring, healing and peace. A great message I think, but it all starts with us.

Friday, August 8, 2008


The wonderful organisation, Animals Asia, which I submitted a post on recently (entitled "Caring for Bears"), is celebrating its 10th birthday this month.

To recognise that event, and also to help raise additional funds for rebuilding the sanctuary in China which was seriously damaged in the recent earthquake in Sichuan province, Jill Robinson has come up with an innovative fundraising idea called Honey Money Days (honey of course being to bears what chocolate is to humans!)

This gives people the option of arranging a fundraising event of their choice in honour of the bears - anything from a get-together with friends, to try out some recipes using honey, a sponsored walk or whatever, as long as it's during August or September. There's quite a few ideas on the website.

This seems like a great idea to me, to combine having a bit of fun and raising money for a very deserving cause. If anyone has any suggestions or is interested in getting together to arrange something, do let me know.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

No paradise for dogs

Thailand, as I know from my own couple of trips there to visit my son Simon, is a beautiful place - some may say a paradise. The people are warm and friendly, the scenery is magnificent, the sense of history, culture and tradition is all pervasive. It is particularly shocking to see therefore in this beautiful land of gentle people the brutal treatment meted out to dogs.

As any tourist will attest, huge numbers of stray dogs (and cats) roam the streets of Bangkok and most of the major tourist destinations, especially Phuket. These dogs live in appalling conditions and attempt to survive on handouts of food from tourists or by what they can scavenge. There are no shelters or agencies such as the RSPCA or Animal Welfare League in Thailand and no laws providing protection against abuse or promoting responsible animal ownership. With no controls or protections in place, the only way the escalating numbers can be controlled is by culling programs and these are carried out in the most barbaric and callous manner. The most common method is by strychnine poisoning which results in an agonising death for the poor creatures. The Asian Tsunami of December 2004 of course only served to magnify this problem as there was a huge increase in abandoned dogs and cats when people lost their homes and businesses.

The Soi Dog Foundation first came to my attention following their appeals for help following the Tsunami. The Foundation is a charitable organization, based in Phuket, Thailand, which aims to reduce the numbers of unwanted dogs and cats on the streets, improve the living conditions of the existing street and stray dogs and feral cats and provide medical treatment where possible for the many sick and injured animals which would otherwise be left to die or subjected to cruelty and abuse. Sponsors for dogs and cats are desperately needed to help cover costs of transport for volunteers, feeding and treatment costs for the animals. Sponsorship costs approx. $20 per month for dogs and $13 per month for cats and helps provide food and medical treatment for the sponsored animal.

I became involved several years ago by sponsoring a lovely dog, Shambala, who sadly died not long ago from a tick borne disease which didn't respond to treatment. I am now sponsoring another dog, Roz, (photo top left). It is not very much in terms of money and helping one dog among thousands may seem trivial, but every little bit of effort helps.

I recently received a request to sign a petition to help try and prevent the latest round of horrific abuse where a local government initiative to remove unwanted dogs has involved the tranquillising of large numbers of dogs by garbage disposal employees. The dogs are then dumped in the back of a truck and driven around all day in the heat until those that have survived are dropped off at the Govt Dog Pound, to what one can only imagine must be even worse horrors to come. Here is the link to the petition, if you would like to sign it.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mamma Mia: the movie - Go See It!!

As someone who is a total non-lover of musicals, I was a bit sceptical about this movie, even though I'm a dyed in the wool Abba fan from way back and not ashamed to admit it. (Although my Dancing Queen rendition leaves a bit to be desired these days, I still join in very lustily, if a touch desperately on "Gimme Gimme Gimme (a man after midnight)".

However having seen MM the movie last weekend, I have to say that if you feel like a couple of hours of completely over the top, unrestrained joie de vivre, do go. The plot plays at best a cameo role and what there is of it, is entirely predictable. However, the visuals, the cast, the setting and the music are all totally brilliant. The cast must have had a ball making this and it shows! The rendition of "Super Trouper" by the incredibly sprightly Meryl Streep, delightful Christine Baranski and insanely funny Julie Walters - in their finest seventies glitzy flares and ginormous platform boots has to be seen to be believed!

Super Trouper - ABBA

The economics of love

Economist Harry Clarke, in his very interesting blog on "economics, politics and other things" in a recent post referred to an article written by Ben Stein which was published in the July 13, 2008 edition of The New York Times. The article is entitled "Lessons in Love, by Way of Economics" and puts a rather interesting new perspective on relationships.

Ben Stein's hypothesis is centred around the idea that the level of return one gets in relationships correlates to the level of your investment. If you invest enough caring, patience and unselfishness, he suggests, you are likely to reap the rewards in terms of love. He does caution us though that high quality bonds yield more returns than poor, so we should stick to high quality human beings - steer clear of any potentially problem investments in other words!

He also advises that in love as in the stock market, research pays off, so no plunging in blinded by lust or peering myopically through rose coloured glasses. Diversification also is not profitable - returns are greater when a monopoly exists, so no fooling around on the side. A longer term investment is a more profitable proposition also, so one night stands should be eschewed in favour of more solid commitments. Other tips include keep realistic expectations and stick with winners.

Sounds a lot more sensible than any dating advice I've heard recently!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The art of happiness

Happiness (which I have sometimes seen as just an illusion dreamt up to make us think all this slogging away and muddling through has some purpose) is apparently a much more concrete entity than that, according to the latest psychological research.

A founding researcher in the field of "positive psychology", Dr Martin Seligman, was among the first to begin scientific investigations into what "makes the human heart sing" – a leap beyond "Beyond Blue" if you like. His theory is based on the very logical hypothesis that if psychologists can help people move from the extreme negatives of neurosis, depression and mental illness to normality, then perhaps they could also help them move from normality to the more positive end of the scale - in other words not just cope, but flourish. This hypothetical journey into the light, he contends, is linked to emotional competencies such as optimism, engagement, creativity, altruism and a sense of connectedness.

A fascinating aspect of his research findings is what apparently doesn't make us happy. Among the non-raters are:

  • Money (not really a surprise, although I have always suspected it must help to ease the misery to some extent)

  • A Good Education and/or a high IQ (ignorance is bliss perhaps?)

  • Youth (apparently despite their physical advantages, all that existential angst gets in the way for younger people)

  • Sunshine (a surprise here for all those sufferers of seasonal affective disorder).

And what does you may well ask – interestingly it's a lot of things in life that can't be bought, taught, inherited, or just luckily stumbled upon, e.g.

  • Community spirit – contributing to the lives of others

  • Friends, family and our commitment and sense of connection to them (what have I been saying about the value of blog networking?)

  • A sense of purpose (I think having worthwhile but achievable goals really helps)

  • Being in control of your life (makes sense - if you're a victim of any of life's really tough blows, it's clearly going to be hard).

Moving beyond the purely diagnostic, psychologists are even daring to be prescriptive and suggesting strategies to boost our feelings of happiness. These tend to focus on cultivating the art of gratitude (sincerely count your blessings, in other words) and regularly practicing acts of altruism. Other suggestions include savoring life's joys (really cherishing those pleasurable moments and sensations), thanking those who have helped us or made us happy, learning to forgive those that have done the opposite, investing time and energy in friends and family, taking care of our bodies and finding effective ways of coping with stress and hardship.

So, contrary to popular belief that happiness is an arbitrary and subjective concept, it is apparently capable of being not only put under the microscope, but cultivated, nurtured and largely self-initiated. Perhaps not a revolutionary idea, but certainly an enormously valid one and a breath of fresh air amidst the obsession with depression that seems to prevail in our society today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mme B - my blogging inspiration

I first became enthused about the idea of blogging, thanks to a tour Mme B kindly gave me of her lovely blog featuring photographs taken around her home and garden, birds, her cats and other delights of the natural world ( do have a visit if you haven't already). She and I have been friends for many years and share an enthusiasm for writing so it wasn't difficult to convince me to have a go. Mme B has created a great network of friends across the world through her blog, to the extent that she and MB plan to visit some of them when they go away in the near future.

This is the real joy of blogging I think, the fantastic opportunities it offers for networking and linking up with people of common interests anywhere across this remarkably globalised world of ours, as well of course as the benefits of keeping family and friends constantly updated on your own life and activities. When most of us lead such busy and preoccupied lives as we seem to today, keeping in touch with friends and family tends to fall further down the list of priorities than it should. They are however very special in our lives, and if this is one way of making that contact easier, then I think it's great!

The above photo was taken of Mme B and her lovely mother some years ago when they were living in Brisbane and I spent a hot and humid but very enjoyable week with them. Think you'll agree they make a very glamorous pair (and still do today)!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The great weight debate

In acknowledgement of our nation's growing girth, the Federal Govt Health & Ageing Parliamentary Committee recently launched an inquiry into obesity. Obesity of course has been recognised as a major risk factor for conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, some cancers ... and the list goes on. Despite the wide dissemination of that knowledge in the community, statistics show that more than half of Australian adults are either overweight or obese, we are the FIFTH fattest nation in the world and what's even more worrying one quarter of Australian children are overweight or obese.

Experts are still attempting to come to grips with why this situation has developed, as well as what to do about it, however obvious factors seem to include too little exercise, high consumption of fatty and takeaway foods, the lost art of good home cooking, generally unhealthy lifestyles, children sitting in front of TV's and computers instead of being outside playing etc. Of course the opposite obsession with ultra-thinness, especially in the celebrity world, is equally as unhealthy and we don't want to be encouraging an epidemic of unhealthy dieting or anorexia. There is however a happy balance in between those two extremes and I have recently been involved with a fabulous organisation that seeks to promote that, particularly for women.

Healthy Inspirations is an organisation with branches around Australia, dedicated to improving the health, and wellbeing of women, through diet, weight management, exercise, fitness, relaxation and one on one counselling, support, encouragement and advice. I joined the Mitcham branch in February and the "before" (above left) and "after" (above right) photos speak for themselves. Not that I was huge, as all my life I've been lucky enough to stay fairly slim without much effort. However as the result of bad eating, no exercise and not caring much, by the end of last year I had really bulked up, around the midriff area especially and generally felt flabby, frumpy, unfit and not happy with myself. Thanks to the great girls at Healthy Inspirations Mitcham though, I have certainly slimmed down, but what's more important have developed good habits in healthy and nutritious eating, feel fitter, healthier, stronger, look better and am enjoying a renewed sense of self-esteem as a result. The all woman environment initially appealed to me as I didn't feel confident enough to cope with young gym bunnies (of both sexes) and the trendy "gym" environment which can be a bit intimidating to someone who's been out of it for a while. Having made friends at Healthy Inspirations with women of all shapes, sizes and ages, I am really comfortable with staying on and in fact love going. The girls who run the place are an absolute delight - you can talk to them about anything - they are fun, supportive, caring and really interested in how you're going. (They don't look like gym bunnies either!).

So for all you women friends out there who need a boost in the old bod department, do think about the Healthy Inspirations option.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A sick boy

Poor Fergus is feeling rather sorry for himself this weekend. He had to submit to a dental operation yesterday. As the result of an infected tooth, and a couple of other dubious ones, the vet recommended a thorough going over in the dental department. Not only did the tooth in question (a large canine) have to be extracted, but a couple of others as well. A typical male invalid I have to say - in other words a drama queen. We have been subjected to many mournful "poor me" expressions, however suffice to say when food is in the offing a remarkable transformation takes place - in fact he had only just returned home from the surgery when he managed to scoff down his dinner at the speed of light and then look for more, before re-assuming the patient posture once he realised no more would be forthcoming! What remains of his teeth are now sparkling white however and his breath is nice and fragrant once more, although mother will be paying the bill off the credit card for some time to come I fear.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Brotherly love

Relationships between brothers and sisters have often been called life's most influential and longest lasting relationships - lasting longer than ties to parents, spouses, or children (Bank & Kahn, 1997). As such they can certainly teach us a lot about ourselves.

This past weekend I spent some time with my brother, just he and I, something we have rarely done through the course of our relationship . He is walking a very hard road through life at present, having recently lost his wife of almost 30 years suddenly and unexpectedly as the result of a rare complication following a surgical procedure. I spent some time sitting with him in the hospital the day she died when he was faced with the enormity of having to give his assent to turning off the life support mechanisms. The nightmarish atmosphere of that room and that day lives with me still ... I cannot conceive of the torment it must have caused him.

This photo of them both was taken during a holiday in Thailand I shared with them several years ago, when we all had a fantastic time visiting an elephant camp.

She was a delightful woman, much loved by her large family of sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews - quiet, unassuming, but warm, caring and perhaps one of the most completely unselfish people I knew. My brother has lost someone very precious.

However he is moving through the grieving process and all it entails with quiet fortitude, dignity and a remarkable degree of perceptiveness. We talked on the weekend about what this journey is revealing to him, about himself, life and also, as became evident, his other family relationships. Some of the things he is learning on this painful but illuminating journey of self-discovery I think I should try to incorporate into my own journey, to help with those periods of stress and uncertainty we all face at times. Perhaps one of the most significant is gaining a real appreciation of today and a gratitude for the life we have in our hands now, because we can never be sure there'll be a tomorrow. To me this means taking the time to say thanks, or I appreciate your help, or I love you, or I understand how you feel to those people in life who mean a lot to us. There's no guarantee they'll be around next week, next month or next year to hear those words and be cheered by them. It also means enjoying what we have in life that's good - warm clothes, delicious food, lovely fragrances, a beautiful sky, flowers, a hug from a friend, the quizzical look on a dog's face - all that every day stuff that makes life worth living ... or taking that long dreamt of trip if we can possibly scrape the money together and just soaking up the wonder and discovery of that experience to the best of our ability (and worrying about the damage to the credit card later!)

Another challenge for my brother, and for us all I think at different times in our lives, is letting go of the future, giving up trying to control the universe to conform to our desires (and as a control freak from way back, this is a major challenge for me!). The universe and much that's in it, is largely completely beyond our control and while we can do our best to influence outcomes for the better, essentially we have to roll with the punches and learn from whatever curved balls get thrown our way. The forward path is pretty much obscured for my brother right now and with the death of his much loved wife, his plans, dreams, expectations and hopes in that regard have been shrouded in a blanket of incertitude. But he is learning to move forward despite that, trusting that things will unfold and evolve in time, and in the process developing those wonderful (and rare) qualities of patience and acceptance.

So my dear brother in his sadness had much to teach me and I hope I am always able to be there at his side along the journey into the unknown, and also that it eventually takes him to a place of warmth, safety, love and security again.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Caring for Bears

Animals Asia

I seem to have inherited my family trait of devotion to animals in spades. You only need to check out the number of dogs in attendance at our family gatherings (who usually outnumber the humans) to realise we're fanatical dog lovers. All very spoiled little pooches of course, I might add. However I believe it's important also, where we can, to try and support those many animals who don't have devoted owners and in fact are subjected to all manner of inhumane, cruel and neglectful treatment, for no reason other than that they can't adequately defend themselves.

A few years ago, when planning a trip to Thailand, my travel agent gave me some literature on Animals Asia, an organisation which is doing some wonderful work with many animals at risk in Asia, in particular the Asian Moon Bears. I have been a regular supporter of Animals Asia since then. The Foundation is a Hong Kong-based government-registered animal welfare charity founded by an Australian, Jill Robinson MBE, in 1998. The organisation is dedicated to improving the lives of wild, domesticated and endangered species, ending cruelty and restoring respect for animals Asia-wide. Moon Bears have been killed for their gall bladders for 1,000s of years in Asia, as well as having been subjected to the grossest forms of cruelty and torture to extract their bile. Jill Robinson is doing magnificent work in educating those involved to stop this practice, rescuing and treating bears who have been subjected to it and setting up sanctuaries for them where they can live out the rest of their lives in peace and free from suffering.

Do check out their website. There are many ways of giving support, through purchasing gifts, making donations, sponsoring bears and even giving presents to the bears at Christmas.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More adventures in looking for luurve online

A major area of debate with myself in the online dating venture has been deciding whether to show or not to show the photo. I am currently fearlessly exposed, so to speak as am conducting a sort of self-experiment to gauge whether or not my success rate zooms or plummets. Prior to this, suffice to say that most of my efforts (about which I remain extremely ambivalent) had met with resounding, even deafening failure।

Well as they say it's a feast or a famine। Having bravely left my moniker displayed for all to see (hopefully not the boss or anyone else who thinks I'm much too refined for such activities), I added grist to the mill by including a couple more recent shots I had taken professionally for another purpose (seriously). These are if I may say so myself, quite flattering of yours truly. In other words the photographer (more on him in another post) had performed miracles
with, I'm assured, the assistance of only minimal air brushing ... I know, that's what they all say.

Anyway what had been a spark of interest generated by the original photo, erupted into a virtual torrent of contacts. Three days later I was still ploughing through the various entreaties attempting to make considered assessments and politely respond (as we online daters are strictly instructed to do.) Until I lost the plot after a trying day at work and in the attempt to
sort the wheat from the chaff (no offence intended ... as of course what may be chaff to me could very well be someone else's Mr Right (or Mr Weetbix as the case may be), managed to delete the lot. Oh well, there's always next weekend. It seems the weekend is the peak time
for online dating activity - whether it's the climax to a week of frustrated singledom or the home alone on Saturday night again syndrome, I don't know. But the week days in between seem much quieter by comparison. Good thing, I say, gives one time to draw breath.

On the matter of polite responses, previously referred to, the online dating agencies seem rather anal in their fixation about the need for this. To the extent the one I use provides quite a long list of standard pre-prepared one liners, from which one may choose. In their attempts however to couch rejections tactfully, most of the ones that mean "thanks but no thanks" begin with "xxx is thrilled to have received a kiss from you ... however". Now to me this is a wild assumption and a blatant fabrication. If xxx was indeed "thrilled", I doubt she'd be batting the kisser away like a pesky fly. On the contrary, on the rare occasions when a photo and/or profile or email
goes so far as to generate a thrill, one loses sleep waiting for the next exchange! So why can't they tone it down a bit, e.g. something along the lines of "xxx understands your interest and sympathises with your desperation, however you are not ringing any bells with her".
Alternatively, a polite but tactful silence would, I think, be all the message anyone of any discernment should reasonably require.

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Music to quiet the soul

I stumbled upon Levon Minassian, this sublime Armenian artist of the "doudouk" on a world music site called Calabash and fell instantly in love. The album I first heard was "Songs from a World Apart" - aptly titled, as his music literally does transport you to another world ... do have a listen.

When I figure out how to put music on here, I'll try to put it up, in the meantime clicking on his website link above, will play samples.

Bookaholics Anonymous

Given my addiction to books, I was intrigued to note there is in fact such an entity as "BA", although currently no chapter exists in South Australia. Perhaps I should start one. However with the escalating popularity of Blogs on every conceivable subject, not surprisingly there is a multitude dedicated to books. So probably enough is enough. For those who are interested in checking out book blogs, BookFox gives a fairly comprehensive list.

My love of reading started from a very early age. When I turned one, my grandmother presented me with the first of many "Anne of Green Gables" books, presumably on the premise that it's never to early to develop a love of books. (I'd like to say I read it in one sitting, but child prodigy I wasn't!). My reading tastes could be called eclectic, or more honestly random and haphazard and I usually have several on the go at once. I'll keep my "current reading" list updated and will welcome any suggestions, recommendations, reviews or whatever.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Lurve on the Internet

Herein I must say a few words about my ongoing experiences with online dating. As my friends know, I have been single for quite a few years now since the demise of my second marriage.
In the earlier years, well at least before I turned (gasp!) 60 (herinafter referred to as BITGS) this was purely a matter of choice, and there were in fact frequent brushes with romance, some lengthier than others. I hesitate to launch into a roll-call here but there were some notables among them.
From time to time encounters were precipitated by an audacious venture into the world of online dating, which occasioned some optimistic leads at times. At other times Mr Potential materialised in a comfortingly sane non-cyber sort of way. Sadly the last few years have been unkind in the serendipitous romantic encounter domain and of late I have been lurking the murky corridors of one well known online dating site more often than is probably wise.
It occurred to me that the discrete blogging (no real names used of course) of a few of the more amusing excerpts from my online dating experiences may be entertaining and/or instructive especially to those women friends who are similarly partner-challenged and thinking about taking the plunge into the online minefield.
There is no dearth of advice, instruction, helpful hints, warnings etc. available now in the public domain to the hapless (or hapfull???) online dater, but nothing beats a bit of personal experience in my view. Before I launch into the truth and nothing but, an introductory list of basic do's and don'ts compiled by experts in the field may be a good intro.
I wholeheartedly endorse this list, but would include a few additional tips - take a pinch of healthy scepticism, a tablespoonful of honesty, a bucketful of caution and common sense, chuck away all expectations, throw caution to the winds and enjoy!!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Love it!!!

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt". Bertrand Russell .......... mmmm some examples just spring fully formed to mind don't they ???

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Women in Politics

Have just finished reading “Getting Even:– Women MPs on Life, Power and Politics” by Anne Henderson. For a political afficionado like me, makes fascinating reading. My interest in politics was initially sparked by several years as a political staffer, which led to a period of party membership, and has been reinforced by the completion of a degree in Politics last year. For any woman with aspirations to a political career this book should be required reading. It is a very frank account of the difficulties women face in entering what is still a very blokey world. She claims that things have changed for the better, citing as examples the 1996 and 1998 elections in Australia which saw a significant influx of new women MPs into Parliament, a trend also seen in State Parliaments, however it is debatable just how much has really changed. What does appear to be a persistent trend, and I have read a previous book on this called “Media tarts: how the Australian press frames female politicians” by Julia Baird (great cover by the way) .. is the savagery with which women MP's are treated by the media, in comparison to men. Everything about them is dissected in brutal frankness from hairstyles, clothes, demeanour, speaking voice, partners or lack thereof, even empty fruitbowls! This just doesn’t happen to the blokes, many of whom quite frankly could equally do with a makeover in the hairstyle and dress departments. Why? Henderson suggests it’s because women by virtue of their gender are always going to be judged on the basis of their physical attributes and conformity or otherwise to prevailing standards of acceptable (read non-threatening to men) behaviour. Of course in any sphere women with ambition, power and influence often become targets of misogyny from not only men, but other less successful women in many cases.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The joys of pets

My pets are a prominent feature of my life, they being two Border Terriers, extremely cute and adorable (from a mother's highly prejudiced point of view). Many note that for people who live alone (as I do) pets provide a substitute for human company. I disagree. I find the company they provide is uniquely characteristic of their own particular doggie personalities, and possibly superior to the company of a number of humans I have known. We have developed a good level of instinctive rapport, in that we sense each others' needs and moods and tend to adapt our behaviour accordingly... well realistically perhaps I do more of the adapting than they do. Especially when I arrive home late from work and they are impatiently awaiting dinner, or what is most often the case demanding it through various verbal and non-verbal clues. Left to my own preferences, I would probably sink down in front of the heater, pour a stiff drink, turn on the TV or whatever, but instead regardless of my state of exhaustion, work induced frustration or whatever, race immediately to set out the dog dishes, grab the dog food from the cupboard, stand back from the rush and serve. Guilt plays some part in this to be honest, as I know they have no say in the timetabling of our lives, whereas I have total control.

Oh and I neglected to say, their names are Fergus and Scully. Check out their personal blogs in my blog list, set up thanks to Beneful Dogspace, a great new facility for dog lovers to put their precious pooches online.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Welcome to The Annals of Annabelle

Wherein you may find absorbing information, amusing trivia, abstruse musings, aimless anecdotes, acerbic or possibly asinine observations (depending on her mood), assiduously researched and au courant political comments and all sorts of arbitrarily composed nonsense. Annabelle and her life are doubtless far more engaging to her, living at the centre of it as she is, than to observers, spectators or the simply curious, but here she is bravely exhibiting it for the delectation of whoever may happen by. She sincerely trusts you will enjoy a brief trip down the road with her and if you do, drop by and say hello!!