Tag Archives: Allen& Unwin

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

 

 

 

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On a cake and a prayer

In the small hours of Tuesday morning, I settled into bed and into my 15 minutes of  dedicated, purposeful reading with my current book   Heaven on Earth by Stephanie Dowrick. My bookmark was placed, from the night before, at page 118, and, when I pressed open the pages, this is the prayer that greeted me:

Watch, dear Lord, with those
who wake or weep tonight.
Let your angels guard those who sleep.
Tend the sick.
Refresh the weary.
Comfort those who are dying.
Soothe the suffering.
Have mercy on those who are distressed.
We ask this for your love’s sake.

Augustine of Hippo

I know very little about Augustine of Hippo. I don’t know exactly when he wrote this prayer.  I don’t even know if I like him, or his ideas, or would have liked him way back when. But it moved me deeply  that someone, a hugely long time ago (somewhere, perhaps between 386 and 430 AD) wrote the words that I needed to hear, that I needed formulated for me, in 2014.  It moved me that, on the very day I needed them most, they appeared before me. But, in truth, it was more than being moved; it was more as if Augustine himself,  scroll in hand,  had reached through the ages and said, “Here, take this, I wrote it for you, right here, right now.” Was it a miracle ? (Unlikely)  Was it timely? (Certainly)  Did the prayer work? Possibly, but evidence suggests not for the bone-tired sister I had in mind. But, for me, it did bring some peace and rest and I have repeated this prayer every night since.

Last Sunday, the recent, particularly stressful weeks of  letting ‘nature’ take its heart-breaking course with my daughter’s mental health came to the inevitable conclusion; and she was hospitalized for the sake of her health and well-being. No fun for anyone: not for the daughter, crying uncontrollably; not for the mother listening, helplessly, on the other end of a phone thousands of kilometres away, across land and sea, and not for the on-the-spot aunt, trying to cope, in utter weariness, with the complex needs of elderly, frail parents and a troubled niece.

A few days on, a few prayers later, another phone call to my daughter and I hear words that cradle me: “Mum, they keep bringing us little cakes. They are so delicious. It’s so good to eat cake again. ”  Thank you, thank you, anyone who wants to be thanked. My daughter is delighting in cake once more.

This is only the beginning for my daughter’s recovery. It may even be a false start. Years of less than perfect mental hygiene do not vanish at the pop of a pill or two. Many of the bloggers I follow are affected by mental health issues; by health issues; many are weary; many are caring for family; many are grieving. There is nothing unusual about these situations. They are part of the human condition. As Stephanie Dowrick writes  on page 150 ” First Noble Truth: In life there is suffering.  We free ourselves whenever we ask:  “How can I help?”

And, I would add, by asking, “How can we help each other?”  By being “Angels” for each other? By prayer, by care?  By simply being there, and here, and taking time to listen, to read, to be compassionate and to lighten each other’s load? And by reminding ourselves, over and over, that in life we can also find joy and laughter and fun….and cake. 🙂

Helping  make the Christmas Cake; circa 1988, New York

Helping make the Christmas Cake; circa 1988, New York

© silkannthreades

 

Looking and seeing…it all stacks up.

This post was inspired by Clanmother’s On the Road Book Club and her 2014 Reading Programme …..

and by The World According to Dina on the subject of landscapes, and the difference between looking and seeing………

and by my miscalculated comment to Ms Vickie Lester of Beguiling Hollywood   that I would struggle to find time to review her book, It’s In His Kiss, because I only had about 15 minutes free, each day, in which to read.(  Yeah Right!  No wonder I wasn’t a maths scholar.)

SO, I thought I didn’t read much and that I didn’t have much time to read. But when I looked around me, this is what I saw.

Morning scene

starts with a read of  The Press and a page of poetry. The Press comes with breakfast coffee; the poetry comes as a prelude to bed-making, always read as I sit on the edge of my unmade bed, facing the morning light.

Somewhere, between doing the laundry and the breakfast dishes, I steal a moment with my current living room display book.

Portrait of a Garden

Portrait of a Garden

And, as the day progresses, I  flit from page to page of books and magazines that arrive in the post or are delivered by hand of friend

And when I need a change of pace, I read your blogs and write my own and catch up with reading that can only be done via my computer…Facebook, email, It’s In His Kiss, international news sites….

Evening falls,

new duties call and old ones unwind for the day,

and, eventually, some time closer to 2 a.m. than midnight, my head finds the pillow once more and I do my “15 minutes” of dedicated, purposeful, slow, daily reading.
Last month, I finished Common Ground and, this month, I began Heaven on Earth.

Thus the day passes, from word to word, from page to page, from book to book, without much rhyme or reason, but quite nicely all the same, thank you.

Clanmother says that “reading is the catalyst for transformation”. Despite the random  nature of my reading habits and choices, I find almost everything I read transforms me, in some way or another. I love the ideas and experiences that come to me through the written word.

I thought I read so little but, indeed, I read a lot

Little by Little it adds up to a Lot.

Little by Little it adds up to a Lot.

and that realisation transforms my view of myself in my home landscape.

My Reading Canvas

My Reading Canvas; much richer and more substantial and varied  than it first appears.

 

Thanks Clanmother, thanks Dina, Klausbernd, Selma and Siri,  thanks Ms Lester.

ps There are some days when I truly don’t get any reading done apart from my 15 minutes at bed-time and there are other days when I barely manage that.

pps To add to Mr Muldoon’s statement/question “Why Brownlee left”, it occurs to me that  Brownlee was needed to turn the earth in another corner of the world ie Christchurch. Who would have guessed?  😉

© silkannthreades