Must-see TV shows

It’s funny, but I almost prefer TV shows to movies these days – there’s more opportunity for character growth, the plots can be far more interesting and compelling, and TV shows generally can take more risks. There’s one proviso – they have to be really, really good. Here are my top TV show picks (as a grown up, I’ll share my childhood faves another time).

The West Wing

Let me be clear. Everybody everywhere simply must watch this show because it is the BEST SHOW TO EVER BE ON TV. No questions asked. It’s in a stratosphere on its own and has everything you could ever ask for in a show – spectacular dialogue, characters so well-drawn you actually know them, compelling and thought-provoking storylines… it’s amazing and I could watch the episodes over and over again my whole life (and I probably will!).

Seachange

I read somewhere that while most shows are plot or character driven, Seachange was philosophically driven, which is what made it so brilliant, so charming and poignant and unique. This is without doubt the best Australian series ever made.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy is one of those shows that if you haven’t seen it, you don’t get to have an opinion. Because if you think it’s run of the mill teenage froth about a girl with super powers, then you have completely missed the point. Joss Whedon is a genius and Buffy is one of the cleverest shows ever made. And it features a kick-arse chick so what’s not to love.

Firefly

More Joss Whedon genius at work – I get angry – actually angry – that this series was so abortively short. Better than it’s spin-off film, Serenity.

The Wire

If you take offense at nudity, sex, swearing and violence, then stay away. But if you can stomach it, The Wire is one of the most confronting and realistic cop shows ever made. It doesn’t shy away from embracing reality – which makes it tough but amazing viewing.

Dexter

I don’t know why I am so obsessed about a show featuring a serial killer, but Dexter is just brilliant. Perfectly cast with fantastic dialogue, Dexter makes you question all you ever thought about right and wrong. It’s dark, but with genuinely funny moments too.

Frasier

This is a spin-off show that was way better than its original (Cheers). I love the contrast between the brothers and the father – class warfare at its funniest. Eminently watchable and with a great cast of loveable characters.

Seinfeld

If people say they don’t find Seinfeld funny, I ask – WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Seinfeld articulated what we were all secretly thinking and the re-runs never get old.

Yes, Minister/Prime Minister

It doesn’t matter that this was made many years ago, this hilariously incisive political commentary is as true today as it was when it was made. Sir Humphrey has got to be one of the best characters on TV EVER.

Red Dwarf

LOVE this show. It’s silly and witty and tackles complex scientific issues through a robot whose head is shaped like a novelty condom.

Blackadder

More British humour at its finest, and with Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie, you really can’t ask for anything better. It doesn’t matter how many times I watch it, I still laugh out loud.

Arrested Development

A very, very funny comedy with an equally dark edge. It’s grit-your-teeth funny, with so many layers operating at once.

Jane Eyre

This BBC version with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens is absolutely wonderful. I found I appreciated the screen version far more as a series than as a movie. Nothing gets lost, and you just get absorbed in the story. The chemistry between the two leads is also perfect.

North and South

Well, it is my favourite book, and the good new is the BBC series lives up to the written version. Like Jane Eyre, it’s perfectly cast, and it captures Gaskell’s vision impeccably.

Press Gang

OK so this probably belongs in my childhood fave list, but the force of its brilliance just has to be acknowledged. This is not just a show for kids – it’s compelling and witty and just wonderful. The opposites-attract romance is also perfectly done – who doesn’t love Spike and Linda?

There you have it 🙂

Why do women objectify themselves?

I did warn everyone that one of my (endearing?) faults is that I think too much about things. So I warn you, this post is the result of a lot of thinking that has been going on inside my head after seeing a poster promoting Playboy Mansion quilt covers last week.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, the poster features a scantily-clad young woman reclining on a quilted bed with paparazzi behind her taking photos( I mean, can you be any less subtle about visual objectification? I think not). Along with the infamous Playboy bunny image in the foreground are the words proclaiming, “Live the Dream.” So I guess through buying the Playboy Mansion quilt set, we too can Live the Dream of being a Playboy Bunny.

Ok, hold up. The Dream?

Is it really a Dream to be an objectified plaything for a decrepit and perverted octogenarian? Is it really the Dream to live in a house of equally desperate women who have so little self esteem that their only worth is tied up in their sexual appeal? That when they hit the ripe old age of 21 they are discarded for a fresh young bunch of equally deceived girls whose one hope is that they too may Live the Dream of having as many people see them naked as possible?

Is this REALLY what young women dream about?

I know I’m generalising, and that there are plenty of young women who would be appalled at such a notion. But one only needs to look at the fandom of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton to ask – what is going on with the sexual identity of young women?

I had previously asked myself this the other day when I heard two articulate young women on the radio promoting Lingerie Football. They were themselves players, and they were hawking the game as a “fun” outing that was “basically no different to beach volleyball” and “really a great family event”.

Now, something I really can’t stand is when people make up their minds about things in a knee-jerk fashion without actually thinking it through and formulating a coherent argument. Think of all those nut-cases who claimed Harry Potter was from the Devil without ever actually having read the book, for example. So I didn’t want to do that with Lingerie Football – I really did have to work out why it went against my beliefs and if it actually was different from a game of beach volleyball, when, let’s face it, there’s a fair amount of ogling going on in that game too. So I did some reading and some thinking, and then I read this http://bit.ly/MwaBwx.

Well after I got past being just plain disgusted, I felt I knew what was different. The core identity of the beach volleyball players is athletic. Sure they aren’t wearing much – which I’m sure some in the crowd enjoy – but they are there as athletes, people are there primarily to see them playing the game well. The women playing Lingerie Football however, are first and foremost, sexual objects. Their core value is in being sexually appealing. To make the difference even more clear, just try imagining the crowd celebrating beach volleyball goals by making the “pussy sign” above their heads, or passing around a blow-up doll (as was the case at one Lingerie Football match, if you check out the link above). Even the player on the radio admitted, “it’s marketing, we can’t get people interested in the sport without this”. Well, how heart-breakingly sad that the only way these women believe they can get themselves recognised as athletes is to objectify themselves as sexualised fantasy playthings at the same time.

In some ways, we have come full circle. Women broke free of the patriarchal virgin/whore dichotomy, whereby society denied women sexual or reproductive rights, setting them up as either socially acceptable virgins who played by the rules set out for them, or whores who broke the rules when it came to sexual freedom. I am a libertarian – I do believe that, under law, we should be able to pursue whatever lifestyle we choose as long as there are protections for those who can’t protect themselves and it harms no one else (what constitutes harm is of course a huge area for debate and worthy of another post at another time). But I feel like women have just exchanged one form of tyranny for another –  we have simply re-commodified ourselves as sex objects in an all-pervasive raunch culture. Everywhere they look – from Bratz dolls to those girls on The Shire with lips so big they hit their noses to Katy Perry singing about threesomes in the park with people you don’t know and Designer Vaginas and Paris Hilton’s sex tapes –  girls are socialised into accepting that they only have value if they are sexually appealing.

I hate that my funny, witty, confident, creative and crazy daughter is growing up in that culture. I hate that when I tell her she’s beautiful, I wince a little, because that term has become so plastic and sexualised and commodified and stripped of any real meaning. I am determined she will have strong, opinionated, intelligent, kind and corageous role models – Anne of Green Gables and Jo from Little Women, Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Frank and Joni Earekson or Aung San Suu Kyi – that she will know her value as a person has nothing to do with how she appeals to men. I think I’ll start with a ban on all reality TV shows where banality is celebrated instead of skill – and certainly no dolls with knee-high boots and nightclub attire. Or, for that matter, Adairs Playboy Mansion quilt sets.

It’s a tall ask, I know. But I’m betting there are lots of you out there with daughters who feel pretty much the same, and want them to actually Live Dreams that bring deep and lasting fulfilment to themselves and others.

Movies I love

As promised…my list of must-see movies! Hope they strike a chord with you too 🙂

A Room with a View

This is my favourite movie EVER. To be honest, I’m not sure why – I just love the characters and the unexpected love story. My one regret when I was in Italy is that we didn’t have time to go to Florence – I will get there one day and ask for a room with a view, a’ la Lucy Honeychurch.

Anne of Green Gables

The adaptation is just a hair’s breadth away from being as wonderful as the book. I can – and do – watch this over and over again, and can’t wait to share it with Little Miss.

An American Werewolf in Paris

My taste in movies is even more eclectic then my taste in books. This horror-comedy is really funny – the scene where the head appears in a plate of fish is hilarious.

Shooting Fish

Not enough people have seen this movie! It is an absolute gem, and stars Kate Beckinsale before she was famous. It’s charming and funny and romantic and sweet – a winner.

Much Ado About Nothing

This adaptation of Shakespeare’s play (incidentally, my favourite of all his plays) is perfectly cast, which is what makes it so wonderful. The playfulness of the text comes to life; the opposites-attract premise of the story is just delightful.

American Beauty

I found this movie really astounding. It was darkly beautiful; I couldn’t get it out of my head for days. Challenging and confronting.

Lantana

Another disturbing movie that is absolutely brilliant; Australian cinema at its best. The complexity of the relationships is dealt with in such a thoughtful and truthful way. Beautiful, uplifting and harrowing at the same time.

Lord of the Rings trilogy

The gorgeous scenery and actors (Viggo Mortensen – sigh) as well as the cinematography really capture the essence of Tolkien’s world. This is one of those rare occasions where I enjoyed the movies more than the books.

Psycho

I find it hilarious that my gorgeous mother, who wouldn’t let me watch Young Talent Time or play with Barbies, was fine with me watching this Alfred Hitchcock frightener at the tender age of 12. I think it was because it is a classic. And it really is – there’s a reason why the shower scene is infamous! Psycho is the perfect example of how sometimes less can be more.

Look Both Ways

A lovely Australian film, with the wonderful William McInnis. Moving and sweet.

The Princess Bride

Everybody in the world simply must see this movie. Funny, magical, romantic, touching – a swashbuckling adventure with heart. The music is also beautiful – I walked down the aisle to the instrumental version of the theme song, “Storybook Love”.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

I just adore Audrey Hepburn, and Holly Golightly is one of the most charming and effervescent characters on film. This is such a funny, beautiful, sad and sweet film – and at the end when she’s looking for “Cat”, it always brings a tear to my eye.

How to Steal a Million

Another Audrey Hepburn classic, this movie is just heaps of fun. I’ve watched it many times and it never fails to disappoint. I wish modern-day romantic comedies were as funny and as clever.

American Psycho

This may have the been the first novel released in packaging due to its graphic content. It’s classic Brett Easton Ellis; dark and disturbing but with a wry humour as well. Not for the fainthearted, but worth it.

Heat

Not everyone I’ve spoken to likes this movie – and I’ll admit, it is a little slower than others of its kind – but the complex characters and intricate relationships make it very compelling to watch. The emotional arc of the characters is finely drawn.

Vertigo

Another Hitchcock classic. He really was the master of the psychological thriller. It’s not as graphic or violent as psycho, but absolutely gripping.

Dial M for Murder

I just love these old suspense thriller movies. Just because a movie is black and white and there’s not much action, sex or gore, doesn’t mean it can’t be enthralling.

The Lost Boys

The first and the best of the vampire movies – this totally takes me back to my early years. This is what the 80s was all about.

The Usual Suspects

Clever and fast-paced, this thriller has a great twist and cool characters.

Braveheart

This really is a modern-day classic, despite the fact that Mel Gibson has since turned a little nutty. There’s something so perennially compelling about humanity’s fight against tyrannical rule.

Amelie

Fresh, charming and sweet, Amelie is a gorgeous French romp. Just delightful.

Memento

It’s the premise of this movie that makes it a must-see – it’s told backwards. Not a movie to see if you’re tired, because you probably won’t get what’s going on, but it’s a highly original and interesting premise.

Blade Runner

While I accept this is a science fiction movie, I think it”s appeal is to a far wider audience than sci-fi geeks. Essentially Blade Runner explores what it is to be human; again, complex characters and a great storyline are aided by a superb cast  – including a young Harrison Ford.

Wizard of Oz

One of the best children’s movies ever. Great music, great characters, lots of fun and magic and adventure.

Sound of Music

I defy anyone to remain unmoved by this wonderful, uplifting tale. The fact it’s based on a true story makes it all the more amazing. And the songs are timeless.

Moulin Rouge

I did think about making favourite musicals a post all on their own, but just decided to include them here. Music and song can convey emotion so powerfully and with such clarity. My favourite line, and one I try to live by: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love, and be loved in return”.

Les Miserables

OK, so this is technically a modern opera and the screen version I love wasn’t ever on at the movies but I don’t care, because it is the greatest story ever told and the music and lyrics are absolute perfection. It’s about love and grace and freedom and redemption, and contains the best line of a song I’ve ever heard – “To love another person is to see the face of God”.  And that wonderful song, “Do you hear the people sing?” Sign me up for a revolution, please.

Romeo and Juliet

Baz Luhrmann brilliance. This movie is feast for the senses; the cinematography, the wordsmithery, music, scenery – it’s just beautiful. The fact it features a charming young Leonardo Di Caprio also helps.

Fight Club

This movie is a brilliant commentary on the soul-destroying apathy of modern consumerism, violence, and masculinity. Interesting, entertaining, with a mind-blowing sting in its tail.

Kiss Ass

Kick Ass is just super cool. It made me want to be an assassin with a funky superhero name. Comic, but with a dark edge.

Stand by Me

This is such a Gen-X movie; we all loved it. It’s a beautiful exploration of friendship and a snapshot of childhood days, which doesn’t fall into sentimenatlism.

Singing in the Rain

Love this old classic. Lots of singing – as you might imagine – great plot, wonderful characters – just perfect.

Willow

A magical adventure to capture the imagination. Not for young kids, though; I was caught out last year when I got all excited about sharing it with Bookworm and Picasso. Then we started watching it and I remembered that the premise is basically about a witch trying to kill a baby…yeah, it didn’t go down so well. No matter – they’ll love it when they’re older.

Schindler’s List

I’m sure everyone has seen this movie, so I don’t really need to say much about it – only that it is harrowing, and simply must be watched, because as the adage rightly says, those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

The Neverending Story

Surely, the Neverending Story must be on every child’s best-loved list. Magical and haunting, the tale is timeless.

Jason and the Argonauts

Not many people have probably heard of this one; it’s an oldie but a goodie. Lots of silliness and fun, with Greek Gods thrown in.

Hercules Returns

Another great Australian movie. This is really just a very fun romp, and I’ve never since been able to get the song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the old Oak Tree” out of my head.

Dead Man Walking

Deeply harrowing, this movie deals so compassionately with the subject of capital punishment. It doesn’t preach and it’s not simplistic. It shows the complexity and pain that go along with truly horrific crimes. But it also explores the beauty of mercy and redemption.

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

Okay, okay, so this is in no way a high-brow classic. But it has a young Christian Slater (whom I adored at the time it came out) and it’s good fun. I like the Robin Hood story, and I thought this was romantic and funny and engaging.

Scream trilogy

Including the Scream movies may seem strange – but I always enjoy postmodernism when it’s done well, and this is done very well. I enjoyed the self-reflexive nature of the films – that they so obviously reflected on the horror genre just as much as they were movies in their own right. Very clever.

Toy Story

In my opinion, this movie is still Pixar’s finest. It’s just so  cleverly done – great animation, witty dialogue, loveable characters – a movie that is equally enjoyable for both for adults and kids, which is a rare find.

E.T

A childhood classic. You laugh, you cry, you rejoice – all good kids movies should make children feel something, and that’s part of what I love about E.T.

Getting Square

Another Aussie winner. Hilariously funny, engaging and sweet. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying the good guys win in the end and that’s part of what makes it so great.

Indiana Jones

I loved the first three and hated the last one, which was just silly. Probably Raiders of the Lost Ark is my favourite – Temple of Doom still freaks me out a little with the eyeball soup. Souljourneyboy once confessed that as a young fella he snuck out one night to watch Temple of Doom against his parents’ wishes – and was completely terrified.

Witness

A gripping thriller which stars a young Harrison Ford – what more could you want? It also gives an interesting insight into the life of the Amish.

The Accused

An honest and raw account of sexual violence, The Accused is brilliantly cast and expertly directed. It’s the kind of movie that makes you mad at the world, but with good reason.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

Guy Ritchie’s ability to make movies seems to be limited to this genre, but he struck gold with this darkly comic British crime adventure. Great characters, funny twists – a must-see.

So there you have it! My “Bill Collins” list so far.

Books!

One of my very favourite past times is reading. I love nothing better than to sit down with a good book, cup of tea and some chocolate, and enjoy being lost in a book for a few hours (or days). After my last post, where I mentioned my love of the book Middlemarch by George Eliot, I fell into a discussion with a lovely colleague of mine about books. Thus I was inspired to share with you my favourite books of all time.

This list was extremely difficult to create, as I have read thousands of books and enjoy pretty much every genre. I also like to think it is a fluid list, as I may well read a book tomorrow that simply must be added. I think the list below reflects the books I have enjoyed the most, as well as books that have changed me in some way, or moved me deeply. I hope some of you share my love for these books – and if you haven’t yet read any of them, I encourage you to!

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

My all-time favourite book. It has everything I love – a historic setting, social commentary, complex and flawed characters that grow throughout the course of the book, and a deeply compelling love story. Sigh.

Middlemarch by George Eliot

This novel competes for first place because, like North and South, the characters are wonderfully believable, there are multiple love stories, and it allows Eliot to explore and comment on the inequalities that existed in the Victorian era. Dorothea is one of my favourite characters.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Elizabeth Bennet is probably the most likeable heroine in all literature. Intelligent, quick-witted, self-deprecating and vivacious, it’s no wonder she turned the head of the proud but reserved Mr Darcy.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I loved this book so much that I gave Bookworm the middle name “”Atticus” after the main character. A profoundly moving story about racism in America’s South, this book changed the way I think about the world and how to live honourably in it.

Anne of Green Gables series by L.M Montgomery

I couldn’t pick one book – I had to pick the whole series. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if teenage girls read Anne, the world would be much better off. Again, I gave the name “Anne” to Little Miss for a middle name. I love Anne’s imagination, her love of life and desire to bring joy to those around her daily.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

I don’t think I have ever been more astounded by a book than by this one. I found it deeply moving – and actually quite upsetting. It is exquisitely written – and stayed with me for days after I had finished reading it.

Narnia series by C.S Lewis

Again, I couldn’t choose just one book from this series. My all-time favourite is Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but I love them all. True classics that deserve multiple readings.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Another astounding novel. If you ever want to experience the genre that is magic realism, then read this book. It’s not an easy read, but it is remarkable.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

A deeply moving, life-changing novel. I read this when I was just 15 and I think it was the first time I truly grasped what poignancy really was.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Richard Lacayo

This is not a novel probably many people have read, but it’s quite unusual in that it tells the story of the first Mrs Rochester (the mad woman from Jane Eyre). A very interesting feminist take on a classic (that I also love, for different reasons).

1984 by George Orwell

I love dystopian fiction and this is probably the best-known of the genre. It disturbs me that Orwell’s brilliant commentary on authoritarian regimes has now become the title of a moronic reality TV show.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

I actually find Brave New World more disturbing that 1984 because I think this is the kind of dystopia that still awaits us. A world of apathy and mind-numbing idiocy. I think it’s being hurried along by shows such as “The Shire” and “Being Lara Bingle”.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

The world is divided about Twilight (and yes I did read and like them, but no I don’t think they’re great literature) but I have to say I was far more impressed by The Host. It had a really original premise, was thoughtfully written and had characters that didn’t feel like the cardboard cut-outs of the Twilight books.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I love the whole four books in this series, but the first is a stand out. Delightful characters and an engaging tale of four sisters – I actually burned with anger when Amy burned Jo’s book.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Mr Rochester was the original, and the best, brooding, melancholic hero. Their passion for one another is swoon-worthy; for the time period it was written in, the raw chemistry is pretty racy.

The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde

While Oscar Wilde’s plays and poetry are among my favourite pieces of writing, I love this novel. It is an unusual and confronting picture of how the soul can be tainted and destroyed.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

It’s not a brilliant classic – but it is an eminently readable novel with great characters and a superb twist. I also love the opening line, “Last night I dreamed of Manderlay again.”

Harry Potter by J.K Rowling

There’s a reason J.K Rowling is so successful – she’s good! I personally liked the first four Harry books best; they really captured that magical sense of wonder I remembered from reading fantasy when I was a child. I thought once they got darker and more “young adult” they kind of lost something special.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

When I was a child, my mother had this as an audio book on tape. I can still recall lying on the couch in the late golden afternoon sun listening to this wonderful novel. Great memories.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll may have been higher than a kite when he wrote it, but it was worth it because this is a true classic. One of my very favourite poems is “The Walrus and the Carpenter” – in all its absurdist glory.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A Milne

These stories are just delightful. They are so beautifully “English” – I loved having them read to me as a child and I love reading them to my kids.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Not a novel you read for enjoyment – it’s truly heart wrenching. But absolutely worth it.

The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton

Really, this list could have been filled with Enid Blyton books, but I restricted myself. No other author captured my imagination as a child as much as she did. Of course they do require some explanatory notes about the period they were written in – not all girls have to do the washing up and not all black golliwogs steal things – but we are all products of our time. The Magic Faraway Tree series was my favourite.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

A beautiful, poignant little tale. I first read it in English, and then when I studied French in high school, tried to understand it in Saint-Exupery’s native tongue. Despite the horror of that experience, it remains a favourite.

Fairy Tales and stories by Hans Christian Anderson

These tales don’t require any explanation – they are timeless classics, despite some of them being Disney-fied. The original tales and often the best, even though they don’t always have happy endings.

The BFG by Roald Dahl

Again, there are so many Roald Dahl books that are absolutely wonderful, but the BFG is the best, in my opinion. A beautiful read for all ages.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

I remember loving this book and being disturbed by it at the same time. I do like though that it is a children’s book that isn’t afraid to deal with death. A moving tale for the older kids.

Daniel Deronda by George Eliot

Another namesake book – Picasso’s middle name is Daniel. In true Eliot style, this novel is an incisive social commentary – this time, on anti-Semitism in the Victorian age. Not the happiest read, but wonderfully rich and thought-provoking.

So there you have it!

My favourite books – for now 🙂

Life’s short, live it well

Most of you know it was my Grandmother’s funeral on Friday. She was nearly 92 – she had lived a full and complete life, and I was glad she left this world when she did, before she suffered much as she gradually declined.

But no matter what the circumstances, death is always confronting. To tell the truth, I hadn’t thought much about her death leading up to the funeral. Everything was so hectic at work and then we all got sick and I was trying to get the kids packed to go away (you know how it is). But once we were sitting in the church, looking at the coffin and the lovely display my Aunt had made to represent my grandmother’s life, I felt really overwhelmed.

As my mother said in her eulogy, by the world’s standards, my grandmother was not really an “important” person. She grew up on a farm in the Depression and trapped rabbits to sell their hides so her family had enough to eat. She didn’t have a “career”; she lived her whole life in a tiny country town that’s barely a dot on the map. Like most of the millions of people who come and go, my grandmother will not be remembered in history books or stories. But she was a quiet, faithful person. She served her family, friends and her community her whole life without asking anything in return. She valued the few things she had and was not wasteful. She brought up three children, who in turn had children, who now have children. We are here because of her, and hopefully, will make the world a better place because we were in it.

One of my favourite novels of all time is “Middlemarch” by George Elliot. Her main character, Dorothea, is one such faithful person. The novel ends with these words as it describes Dorothea’s life:

“The effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

I love this quote – I love the fact that there are thousands of such people living their hidden lives, quietly adding to the growing good of the world, even though they’ll never be recognised for their efforts.

My life is so different to my grandmother’s. As a feminist I am glad of that – that I have the opportunity to have a career and spread my wings and do so many things that perhaps she did want to do, but never had the chance to. But I don’t want to lose sight of what she knew was important. Careers come and go, the lights on the world stage eventually dim – and what we have left is what really matters. I want to be a faithful and loving partner, friend, mother, sister, daughter. I want to make the lives of those around me better. Our lives are so unbelievably short, they really are just a breath. It’s good to take moments like this and think about the legacy we want to leave. Maybe nothing will change – maybe everything will. But when I get to the end, I want to be sure  I can look back with happiness and contentment – as I believe my grandmother did.

Kids

I was reminded once again today that kids are very different than grown-ups.

Now I know this revelation isn’t exactly mind boggling, but sometimes I think most of my frustration as a parent ends up being because I just didn’t have the right expectations to start with – sub-consciously I expect an adult-like reaction or response, and I get annoyed when this isn’t forthcoming.

I’ll set the scene for you.

I am on holidays this week and have had a lovely  – albeit busy – few days with Bookworm, Picasso and Little Miss. Yesterday we went shopping, out for morning tea, played tennis and cards, read books and gardened. We also spent a lovely time looking at the scrapbooking albums I made for the kids on their dedication days. I had made just one album for both the boys, because they were dedicated on the same day, and another one for Little Miss when it was her turn a few years later. Picasso said he wanted his own one, just for him, and I promised him that I would at some stage make one, so he wouldn’t have to share with Bookworm.

Today I did more shopping, took Bookworm and Picasso to the movies and out to lunch, did a thousand loads of washing, then set about busily packing to take everyone to my grandmother’s funeral, and then on a mini-break to Canberra, over the next few days.

Yeah, it’s as tiring as it sounds. So you can imagine my annoyance when I’m crashed out on the couch after packing all the bags and Picasso asks me why I haven’t made an entire scrapbooking album for him since yesterday. Because of course he thought of it yesterday, and he can’t understand why it’s not been done yet.

What followed was not my most shining mothering moment. I got cross – I accused Picasso of being ungrateful and of course it all ended in tears. When we talked it through he was distraught, because he just hadn’t realised how long it takes to scrapbook an album, and he genuinely thought I could and would do it in the five minutes after he asked me to (you know, just before I took another ten minutes and learned to fly a plane).

Kids just don’t have the same relationship with time that we do. I think it was Steve Biddulph who said we have prehistoric children in a modern world, and it is so true. I feel like I’m always hurrying everybody everywhere; I’m sure when my children eventually seek therapy it will be because I appear in their memories as this blurry image that keeps hissing, “Come on! We’re leaving in FIVE MINUTES! I can’t understand why you’re not dressed! I’ve said it three times!”

After we’d both calmed down I did explain to Picasso that making an album like that takes months, and I would try and get it done before Christmas. Patience is a good thing for him to learn – but I learned a lesson too. We shouldn’t assume our kids naturally understand something that we understand, because chances are they don’t.
And their concept of how long something takes is not necessarily accurate.

I think this revelation will come in handy tomorrow when we have to drive for seven hours (without Souljourneyboy). I am determined to keep my cool and not get stressed. I am prepared to play mind-numbing games of I Spy, answer countless queries about whether we’re “there yet” and sort out nonsensical arguments about who’s looking through whose window.

Stay tuned to see whether we all survive…

Bonfire!

Along with trampoline injuries, Enid Blyton books and slip-and-slides, there’s another experience every kid really should have – a bonfire!

I’m sure I am not alone in looking back longingly at Firecracker night. You remember – where kids were terrorised by those firecrackers that ran along the ground (was I the only child who hid in the laundry when they were lit?), when grown-ups who were over the limit waved lit matches around, and injuries were sustained by the following exchanges: “Did you light it?” “Yes, I lit it.” “It’s not working, you musn’t have lit it.” “I lit it!” “Well I can’t see the spark, you better go check.” “It’s just taking a minute.” “It’s not working, we’ll have to get another one.” “All right, I’ll check.” Ka-boom. Souljourneyboy is one such firecracker survivor.

Despite the danger – or perhaps because of it – we all loved Firecracker Night, and collectively rolled our eyes when the government put a stop to it and officially declared the end of all fun.

So we’re not allowed firecrackers anymore, but fortunately we are still allowed bonfires. Souljourneyboy’s parents live on acreage, and each year we pile up all the branches and trees for the annual burn-off. Its become quite a tradition with family and friends; there’s a sausage sizzle and roasted marshmallows, pyromaniac kids doing frightening things with lit branches (egged on by Uncle E), ice cream and lots of fun.

Take a look:

It’s becoming a tradition that I really love.

My grandmother’s funeral is on Friday – she lived in a tiny country town called Bombala, which is where her funeral is being held. I have so many memories of holidays at Grandma’s place – often with Soul Sister along for the ride – and it was such a wonderful part of my childhood. We’d visit the second-hand bookstore, spend a couple of dollars on cheap romance novels, and read for days at a time. We’d go for walks along the river and spend hours sitting at the kitchen table eating my grandmother’s cooking and playing board games.

I’m taking the kids to Bombala for her funeral on Friday, and I honestly don’t know when I will ever visit the sleepy little town again. Now Grandma is gone, I don’t have any family there and considering it’s a 7-hour drive, it’s not somewhere you just drop by for a quick visit. So I kind of feel as though I’m saying goodbye not only to my Grandmother, but a part of my childhood too.

So while I feel a little sad…it also makes me determined to build wonderful traditions for my family, and make sure my kids have great memories to look back on and treasure when they’re older.

So cheers for Bonfire Night!