Category Archives: education

Take a look, it’s in a book……somewhere

This is a self-indulgent post in which  I record my reading list ( read, reading, and to be read);  consider how far I have travelled without leaving home; and  note very briefly what knowledge, useful or otherwise,   I have learned on my literary tour.

It is a post which is the equivalent of an entry I would have made in my version of a commonplace book, more than a decade ago, before the computer stole my soul.

READ (Where I have been; quite far it seems)

What I’ve learned:

Danger Music by Eddie Ayres

Music will out even in the most dreadful of circumstances, hence the establishment of the amazing Afghanistan National Institute of Music

 

 

The Wife’s Tale by Aida Edemariam

There is a rich tradition of poetry in Ethiopia, which is not well-known outside of Ethiopia. One particular  type of scholarly poetry is called q’ene and plays with the double meanings of words. It often introduces words from Ge’ez, the ancient Semitic language from which Amharic derives, now only used in the Ethiopian Orthodox church. So a q’ene will have a surface (wax) interpretation but also a deeper and richer (gold) meaning, giving it the title semenna worq (wax and gold).

 

Classical Music by Joy Cowley

Some books choose you. After all what are the chances of reading your life, as it is unfolding,  in the first sentence of the first chapter of a book which you selected randomly from a pile of donated books ~”My father is dead and it is raining.” Thus it was on both counts.

The Thunderbolt Pony by Stacy Gregg

Reading about recent earthquakes on my home turf still makes my heart race.

The Kettle on the Fuchsia by Barbara Harper

I am a  wimp. I would have been a useless pioneer. And it was interesting to realise that a  lack of aeroplanes and fossil fuels was  never a barrier to travel.

Island of Shattered Dreams by Chantal Spitz

This book is available to us thanks to translation by Jean Anderson, founder of the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation.  To understand each other we need to read each other.

A Notable Woman edited by Simon Garfield

Data collection is nothing new. We have just changed the way we collect it. Before Google and Facebook,  there was the Mass Observation project.  Mass Observation was founded 75 years ago in 1937 by the South African poet, communist and journalist Charles Madge and two English eccentrics: the filmmaker and polymath Humphrey Jennings and the anthropologist and self-publicist Tom Harrisson. Formed in the aftermath of the  abdication crisis, Mass Observation sought to bridge the gap between how the media represented public opinion and what ordinary people actually felt and thought. The Mass Observation Archives are at the University of Sussex.

The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young

Cows love to live in family groups and have a rich emotional life, not unlike humans.

Advice for Future Corpses by Sallie Tisdale

Was this the wisest choice of reading material for a Trans-Tasman flight? The book begins “Chapter 1 Dangerous Situation.  Right now: imagine dying.”   Turns out I can do that in mid-air though it did feel slightly uncomfortable.

Scribbling the Cat by Alexandra Fuller

I may never understand how  different people/groups/races  in a country can love their country more deeply and fiercely than they do their fellow man.  It’s a strange love that tears a country apart. And Scribbling the Cat is not a good thing to do.

READING (Where I am; in China and New Zealand)

Rewi Alley An Autobiography

Rewi Alley’s interest in China was piqued by his encounters with the Chinese Labour Corps  who worked tirelessly for the Allies during World War One.

To Read Maybe, One Day, Sometime…….. (Where I may go; New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the library)

Changing Lives  by Janice Marriott and Virginia Pawsey

The Curious Curiosity by Glenda Barnett who lives in North Devon and is better known to me as blogger Celia Ladygarden

Granite and Rainbow: Essays by Virginia Woolf

Wherein  I hope to read more excellent essays like ‘ Hours in a Library’  which is the source of this lovely quote about reading lists and notebooks.

 If we wish to refresh our memories, let us take down one of those old notebooks which we have all, at one time or another, had a passion for beginning. Most of the pages are blank, it is true; but at the beginning we shall find a certain number very beautifully covered with a strikingly legible handwriting. Here we have written down the names of great writers in their order of merit; here we have copied out fine passages from the classics; here are lists of books to be read; and here, most interesting of all, lists of books that have actually been read, as the reader testifies with some youthful vanity by a dash of red ink. We will quote a list of the books that someone read in a past January at the age of twenty, most of them probably for the first time. 

In conclusion: I want to  thank my sister-in-law and her sister who keep my bookshelves stocked with a wonderful, eclectic collection of excellent reading material. Without them I wouldn’t have read or travelled very far this year.

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From my desk ~ Gandhi Jayanti

Today is a day for birthdays ~ my son’s; Anne-Christine’s; and Mahatma Gandhi’s. To celebrate, I am re-posting an article I wrote on this day four years ago. The original post and comments can be found here .  Enjoy.

In my garden there are native and exotic plants, long plants and short plants;

Choisya

Choisya

plants that are standard and non-standard; and some that are self-fertile and some that require cross-pollination. I have plants that are variegated, plants that are colourful

Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

and plants that are plain. There are weeds, and refugees from other gardens, and some uninvited guests. Each plant has a unique history, a story to tell, and most contain, in their gene pool, the essence/quintessence of some far off land and ancient culture. There is no homogeneity in my garden, except at that most basic level of planthood; that  fundamental point, whatever it is, that makes them living, breathing plants and not living, breathing animals. Yet, despite the variety and complexity of my garden inhabitants, I find that, if I provide them with water and food and treat them equally with politeness and respect, mixed in with a little song and a few sweet nothings, they thrive. Yes,  even with the most basic of provisions, they thrive.  They don’t fight or squabble, put each other down, rip each other apart for competitive advantage or napalm each other.  They are a miracle of good neighbourliness and co-operative, companionable living, willing and eager to share their environment with birds and bees, wild life,  and humans, too.

The multi-dimensional, multi-cultural and peaceful nature of my garden, reminds me that this time, thirty-five years ago, I was preparing to start the Michaelmas Term at Oxford University. I was a  young seedling transplanted from a small island in the Pacific to one of the most wonderful cities in the world. I was about to flourish, and enjoy one of the best years of my life, within the nurturing environment of the Oxford University Foreign Service Programme.

For one academic year, I , along with several dozen others, from all curves of the world, lived and laughed and learned…. and, yes ,sometimes, drank too much and, sometimes, loved unwisely, and sometimes, cried.  We were a microcosm of the world; we were all faiths, all cultures, all social and political classes, all sizes and shapes and ages, and, as you can see from the photo, all hairstyles 🙂

Foreign Service Programme in West Berlin

Foreign Service Programme in West Berlin (and I am very difficult to find in this photo)

Our common ground was in our education and our human-ness. We were nourished and cared for by the University, our daily needs provided for, and most of us were generously supported by that most British of  British institutions,   the British Council.  And, for  that, one, much too short, year, we were, despite our differences, the embodiment of good and peaceful co-existence; the way our world could be.

This post is written today in honour of the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi who was born on October 2nd, 1869.  Today is a national holiday in India. Worldwide, it is the UN International Day of Non-Violence.

http://www.un.org/en/events/nonviolenceday/index.shtml

to hear Mahatma Gandhi speak click here

Blossom in Peace

Blossom in Peace

For a good read on ‘things British Council’ and the mess of war and displacement, try Fortunes of War by Olivia Manning:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivia_Manning

Michaelmas 

is the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel and also denotes the first term of the academic year.

© silkannthreades

At my desk ~delving into past and present

At my desk, this spring day, I read these words

 

My Mother’s Other Life

Before we go out
to dinner or a movie,
after a long day…..

my mother would stop
in the middle of our rushing…
…and say,
calmly, just a second,

sitting down on a black-cushioned,
straight-backed chair placed
beside the door solely

for that purpose: to rest
briefly, to deeply breathe in
and out until her heart

slowed down and her face
calmed……

Philip Terman

And I listen to them, too. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/podcasts/76392/my-mothers-other-life

Am I hearing my mother’s other life or my own other life?

Last night I finished reading Connon Girls ~ A Study of 20th Century New Zealand women at university, by Marie Peters.

Once that was my other life. I was a Connon Girl.  Some fragments of my story are written within the text.

Connon Girls by Marie Peters. Flower photo by David Dobbs

Back cover of Connon Girls

Do I miss my other life? Not really. It’s a good place to sit , for a while, but from my desk, this spring day, my life is present here ~ mostly.

Nectarine in full bloom, Sept 6th, 2017

For I am a mother, and for a mother there is always an other life.  My daughter sings it.

Do you know what I know?

Do you know that :

~ instead of a bridal gown,  Marie Curie, “wore a dark blue outfit, which  for years after was a serviceable lab garment ” ?

"Marie Curie 1903" by Nobel foundation - http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1903/marie-curie-bio.html. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marie_Curie_1903.jpg#/media/File:Marie_Curie_1903.jpg

Marie Curie Nobel Prize Portrait 1903 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Curie

~ 2015 marks the centenary of the execution of British nurse, Edith Cavell?

~ the  Cavell Nurses’ Trust is organizing a fund-raising ascent of Mount Edith Cavell  in Jasper National Park, Canada, 22nd – 29th August 2015?

Do you know that :

~ beginning in the 18th Century there was a craze for seashells called  Conchylomania ? As the name suggests, it was the shell equivalent of Tulipmania. Some shells were bought and sold for more than a Vermeer painting.

( This is not a Vermeer painting!  😀 In the 17th Century Balthasar van der Ast perfected the art of painting shells. )

"Fruit still life with shells" by Balthasar van der Ast (1593/1594–1657) - 1. www.ibiblio.org : Home : Info : Pic2. Unknown3. The Athenaeum: Home - info - pic. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fruit_still_life_with_shells.jpg#/media/File:Fruit_still_life_with_shells.jpg

“Fruit still life with shells” by Balthasar van der Ast (1593/1594–1657) –https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balthasar_van_der_Ast

Do you know that:

~ Dr Maria Montessori, educator, physician, humanitarian, and founder of the Montessori method, and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was an unwed mother?   Do you know she sought refuge in India during World War 2 but was later interned  there as an enemy alien?

How about this? Do you know that Florence Nightingale ‘owned’ about 60 cats during her long life?  Her favourite cat, a Persian, was called Mr Bismarck. She also had a pet owl named Athena.

AND

Do you know the Christchurch City  Council Library has excellent online resources, a great  Facebook page , and an informative and entertaining  blog  where, just occasionally, there are wonderful surprises, like the Kobo eReader competition, which I won  at Matariki ?

My Koboglo eReader prize, complete with sticky fingerprints.

My Koboglo eReader prize, complete with sticky digital prints (my own!).

Thank you Christchurch City  Council Library and library staff. 🙂

Do you know if your local library has a blog, or wonderful digital and  paper resources like ours?

Check out all the resources I found at our library!

Spirals in Time
The Secret Life and Curious Afterlife of Seashells
Scales, Helen 2015
https://christchurch.bibliocommons.com/item/show/881509037_spirals_in_time

An Illustrated Work for Amateur Collectors of New Zealand Marine Shells, With Directions for Collecting and Cleaning Them
Moss, E. G. B.
Book – 1908 https://christchurch.bibliocommons.com/item/show/161551037_beautiful_shells_of_new_zealand

 

Marie Curie And Her Discovery
Avery, Lara
Book – 2015 https://christchurch.bibliocommons.com/item/show/894783037_marie_curie_and_her_discovery

Florence Nightingale
Small, Hugh
Book – 2000 – Chinese https://christchurch.bibliocommons.com/item/show/594982037_florence_nightingale

Rose of No Man’s Land
Perry, Anne ~
Pre-loaded Audiobook – 2013 https://christchurch.bibliocommons.com/item/show/810767037_rose_of_no_mans_land

( Quick question. Do you know the history of Anne Perry? https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/heavenly-again/ )

Maria Montessori
Website or Online data https://christchurch.bibliocommons.com/item/show/578459037_maria_montessori#bib_info

 

© silkannthreades

Good citizens, past, present, and future.

For Halloween I treated myself to a simple beaker of flowers.

Eye candy for humans, real candy for bees:  borage and phacelia

Borage and phacelia, good citizens of the garden, giving treats to all.

But I also received another, unexpected, sweet treat for Halloween; a lesson in good citizenship.

Friday morning a stranger knocked on my door; a smiling, cheerful, young woman. She told me that she lived down the lane opposite me. She said she wanted to take her two children  trick or treating. Would it be okay  if she brought them to my door around 5pm? ( Bear in mind that Halloween is not widely celebrated in New Zealand).  She said she was consulting a half-dozen neighbours and that would be more than enough households for her children to visit, and to give them a taste of Halloween fun.  They are only little, she said, just 4 and 6, and they are very excited about their Halloween costumes. Of course I said, yes, that would be fine, but I would have to go and buy some sweets because I had nothing suitable in the house.  “Oh, please don’t worry about that,” the young mother replied, ” I have prepared sweets for you to give them if you would like to join in.” Whereupon she produced a small ziplock packet of mixed sweeties/candy.

At 5pm exactly, Mum and the littlies came down my driveway, full of chatter and high pitched glee. They knocked on the door and squealed delightedly when I opened it ( I guess I have authentic witchy-white hair!) . “Trick or treat, ” they said in giggly unison. Their mother introduced them to me. Pleasantries exchanged, I produced the sweet assortment, and their little eyes grew round and big with amazement.  Hands dipped in to the bag until it was emptied. Then, with a polite thank you or two, the pink-slippered, silver-hatted witch and her Dracula-draped brother skipped off to another happy reception at my neighbour’s.

It was a lovely moment. Possibly one of the best Halloweens I have had; a thoughtful mother, teaching her children that their community  is a good place, and that they can be  part of the good citizenry that makes it so.

I hope she will, one day, also introduce them to what comes after Halloween; All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Days (also not widely celebrated in New Zealand, as far as I know).

Tonight and tomorrow I will light candles and remember  the good citizens of my small world who have died during the past year. Some were old and ready to leave us,  whilst others seemed far too young. In particular I want to remember two of our blogging community,  Catherine Crout-Habel  of Seeking Susan and Christine of  Dadirridreaming .  Many of you will know other bloggers who have died in the past 12 months. Please feel free to remember them in the comments, if you would like to.  They were good citizens enriching, and lighting up, our lives.

Summer lights

Summer lights brightening the days.

© silkannthreades

The Life Enthusiast Chronicles with Gallivanta

You may remember that a while back I dedicated my post ‘May the Singing Never Be Done’  to  Britt, life/history enthusiast, blogger, and author of Nola Fran Evie.

BUT the dedication to Britt came with a proviso…..that she locate the Totem Pole by Chief Lelooska in Portland, the replica of which stands near Christchurch Airport.

Britt took up the challenge with her usual gusto, and is about to reveal all in a forthcoming post on her blog, A Physical Perspective. I can scarcely wait to hear what she discovered, and how. Whilst she was off searching for the Totem Pole, Britt decided to issue her own challenge to me  (tit for tat 😉 ).  My challenge? To write a guest post for her regular series the Life Enthusiast Chronicles.

Gulp! I thought. But I gave it a go. Here is the result, my first guest blog. After my initial ‘gulp’, I thoroughly enjoyed writing for Britt’s Chronicles. Have fun with me and the sheep, and please remember to bookmark Britt’s blog if you want to find out more about the Totem Pole challenge.

Britt Skrabanek

Last month Andrea Stephenson of Harvesting Hecate revealed how crucial it is to remain curious in life, to explore every piece of the world, inside and out. In my monthly series, The Life Enthusiast Chronicles, beautiful beings from all over the world explain why life is so awesome to them.

This month I’m overjoyed to bring you guys Gallivanta from Silkannthreades all the way from New Zealand. Gallivanta’s blog is always playful, positive, intelligent, and inspiring. Even simple photos from her garden seem to awaken something special in all of her readers, including yours truly. Her youthful zeal shines through her words and I always leave her blog smiling big. 

To show you all one example of what a lively woman she is, back at the end of July Gallivanta sent me on a totem pole quest in Portland. Yep, a totem pole quest. I’ll write about my discovery…

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The gifts of a lifetime

In my previous post I mentioned Barbara, giver of the Happiness Kit.

Long before the Happiness Kit came into my household, Barbara (and her family ) gave us other gifts: the gift of thoughtful words, like these,

Barbara's Words, School Magazine 1944

Barbara’s  student words about our duty and responsibility to establish a saner world for our children: School Magazine 1944

and the gift of Angela, otherwise known as my sister-in-law. This coming week it will be Angela’s birthday. This post is my birthday  gift to Angela. ~

I write a lot about reading; reading books, in particular.

This is where my official reading life began;  Lautoka European School,

My brother; the advance party on the reading path.

My brother, first row, 4th from the left; the advance reading party; my mentor at L.E.S.

a small school, in a small colonial town, on a dot of an island, in the vast Pacific Ocean.  My reading ‘prowess’ was acquired, staid word upon staid word, with the assistance of the utterly dull, ‘what-have-these-people-got-to-do-with-my-life’  Janet and John readers, and a young teacher who, whilst relatively benign most of the time, once had the audacity to strap some of us on the back of our legs for failing to recognise the word of the day on the blackboard ~ “BARK”.  I was offended, and still am to this day! WOOF! 😀

Despite this unfortunate hiccup in my early reading days, my enthusiasm for reading did not falter. I attribute that enthusiasm to the pre-reading skills that were nurtured at home,

Playing with Mother aka reading readiness

Gallivanta playing with Mother aka reading readiness

and at  my mother’s kindergarten, through play and story-time. I don’t remember being read to, but I do remember the books that were read and that I later learned to read by myself. Many of those books remain on my bookshelves.  Here’s a sample:

As I was learning to understand, and love, the written word in Lautoka, about 200kms to  the East, another young girl was already well on the road to reading her way through the world of books.

In May, this year, that young girl, now all grown up as Angela Namoi, was awarded the  Pixie O’Harris Award for Distinguished and Dedicated Service to the Development and Reputation of Australian Children’s Books at the  Australian Book Industry Awards.  It was a fitting honour for Angela’s hard work and enormous contribution to children’s literature.  But more than that, it seems to me, the award acknowledges how from the smallest of beginnings, a few, simple written words, be they Janet and John or Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie, come riches far greater than any we can possibly  imagine when, in that magical nanosecond, we first decipher those squiggles on the page before us.

Angela puts it like this in these excerpts from her acceptance speech for the Pixie O’Harris award.

This is a huge honour and something I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Pearl Pinkie and Sea Greenie by Pixie O’Harris was a favourite children’s book of mine – who’d have thought that I would one day win an award bearing her name.

There are people to thank!……….

My parents are Australian, but I was born and raised in Fiji. My father was a missionary so we had very little money. Although our clothes might have been sewn from old curtains, it’s thanks to my mother’s excellent sense of priorities that our house was always full of books.

Growing up on a small island meant we were exposed to influences from absolutely everywhere. We read books from all over the world and I was always fascinated by the variations in language, and how connected that was to geography.

This has fed my passion for diversity of voice, so I have greatly enjoyed working to ensure the Australian voice is heard LOUD AND CLEAR in the wider world!

My early experiences confirmed the importance of books in a child’s life. The stats are there for everyone to see – broadly, a child who has books in their home is a child who will do better in life. I believe this passionately.

 

To that I would add: Congratulations and Happy Birthday Angela. You are much-loved.

Related but separate: two examples of Australian Children’s Literature

Possum Magic by Mem Fox

and  The Arrival by Shaun Tan

There are many more. Next time you read a children’s book, take a quick look and check its country of origin. You may find you are in the good company of an Australian. 😉

© silkannthreades