Despite my best intentions, this Sunday morning saw me up (and dressed) by 6am. The plan was to sleep in, have a lazy breakfast in bed and read my book for a while. But the sleep fairy scampered off at the usual time, leaving me wide awake – so it was clearly tea o’clock, followed by an attempt at blog o’clock, despite being rather low on inspiration.

Returning to (almost) full-time work this week has stretched me in numerous ways, not the least of which has been the impact of daily interaction with large numbers of people and the need to present a happy-smiley-helpful face to them all. Every day. After a year of semi-hermiting, this required some internal adjustment and quite a few early nights to recharge.

Glyde-In Community Learning Centre

There are upsides, of course, ranging from increased income for a few weeks (always useful) to the delightful work environment and the extraordinary community spirit I encounter on-site daily. It really is a lovely place to work.

But, whilst it’s all good fun, the daily rush has reduced my contemplation time to the drive to and from Fremantle each day. Since the 20 minute commute each way is mostly spent either mentally preparing for work or recovering from it, I completely failed to come up with a blog-topic. A cool, quiet house and a cup of tea in the early hours of this morning made me introspective, however, and my mind started to fill up with various things from the past week – so I’ll share those.

  • Being a grandparent can be an emotional rollercoaster. My grandies are fur-babies: two adorable Ocicats, Cloud and George, and their very cute (pure black) companion-kitty, Corvy.  They’re usually a source of endless entertainment, amusing stories and cuddles, but last week was rather different. Over the space of four days we all went from anticipation to worry, dismay to serious concern, followed by relief, elation and – finally – crushing disappointment. and sorrow. I can only guess what Daughter Dearest and K went through as they assisted Cloud to give birth to one kitten, which came out backwards and didn’t survive. As if that wasn’t enough, after an extended labor they then rushed her off to the vet, where a second kit was delivered by caesarean. That little girl only survived for two days. *Much sad* Cloud’s recovering well and her parents are bouncing back slowly, but it’s been a rough week for them. *All the hugs*

  • I love the rain, particularly when its accompanied by cool weather. But this time of year is usually very hot and dry, with average highs of 31.7 and lows  of 18.3 degrees. Despite bracing myself for it, I generally find the unrelenting heat (particularly at night) oppressive. So the local impact of a tropical low over the western Pilbara provided a very welcome respite this week, delivering record rainfalls and the coldest February day on record. Hurrah! Of course it helped that flood waters weren’t an issue locally, for which I’m grateful – but it was good to see some people able to make the most of things!

  • Compost bins are a combination of ghastly-eek and great satisfaction. The eek is the occasional wriggly or scuttley thing, along with the somewhat squishy texture of some of the compost. Rubber gloves are the answer to all that and reduce the aargh-factor substantially. The satisfying part is filling six big bags with compost – and using four of them when planting out our fig tree and transplanting our rose bushes later in the day.

  • Flying trees are rather exciting! It was pretty amazing to see just how efficiently two people could dig up our 3.6 metre Ugly Tree (aka Dragon Tree / Dracaena Draco) and remove it. We’d advertised it as ‘bring your own crane for removal’ – and they did! We were happy to bid the Ugly Tree a fond farewell and will be planting a Persimmon in its place – along with some more of our home-grown compost 🙂

  • Finally, I stepped up and  joined a newly formed writing group at the local library this weekend. My objective is to challenge myself to write different things and in different ways. As a warm-up exercise, we each chose a writing prompt from a set of cards (provided). My prompt was Open your mind to new ideas – which was rather amusing under the circumstances. Our homework assignment for next time is to write a short piece, focusing on a specific word. In this instance the word is decayand it’ll be interesting to see what responses emerge.

There were other things (it was a busy week), but these are the ones that floated to the top. How was your week?

The first time I watched Fiddler on the Roof  was when I was 14. It made a huge impression on me at the time. I laughed, I cried, and I went away profoundly moved by the story.

Topol’s voice (as Tevye, the narrator) stayed with me over the years, and at odd times I’d find myself saying things like Tradition! – or – On the other hand… usually in a poor imitation of his rich tones and gregarious manner. It always made me smile.

Twenty years later I hired the video and sat my kids down to watch it with me, having told them it was an excellent film. They were 10 and 12 at the time. It may have been a little to soon for me to be trying to inspire their social conscience and historical awareness, because they soon got bored and opted for bed instead. But I watched it through to the end anyway.

I laughed, I cried, and I came away profoundly moved by the story, but with a far more nuanced understanding of the historical context. It reinforced the memes and rekindled my awareness of complex sociocultural issues.

Heading into the New Year, these are the things on my mind. I’ve realised that it’s not about resolutions or making changes, it’s about awareness of my core values and an understanding everyone in this world is a brother or sister and should be treated as such.

When I watched Fiddler on the Roof for the third time this week, fully 44 years since I first sat in a darkened cinema and fell under its spell, my puppies kept me company. They were only slightly confused when I laughed, cried, and sang along to every tune.

Once again I was moved. If anything, I was more moved by the stark realisation that some things never seem to change. Details, certainly. Situations, of course. But whether it’s in Antevka (Tevye’s village in pre-revolutionary Russia), in Turkey, or closer to home in Papua New Guinea, whether it’s religious, ethnic or simply a struggle for power, people face discrimination, oppression and isolation. And they cope with strength, courage and determination. These appear to be universal themes across time and space. Sometimes the good guys win, but often they don’t.

So I end this year as I started it: with the words of one of my favourite songs as my New Year’s wish to all for 2017. I do hope that the good guys win more often in the year ahead and that you all travel safely through it.

Let the Good Guys Win (Murray McLauchlan)

May I get what I want / Not what I deserve / May the coming year not throw a single curve / May I hurt nobody / May I tell no lies / If I can’t go on give me strength to try

Bring the old year out / Bring the new year in / Bring us all good luck / Let the good guys win

May the one you love / Be the one you get / May you get some place you haven’t been to yet / And may your friends around you / Never do you wrong / May your eyes be clear / And may your heart be strong

Bring the old year out / Bring the new year in / Bring us all good luck / Let the good guys win

May the times to come / Be the best you’ve had / May peace rule the world / Let it make us glad

When you see something wrong / Try and make it right / Pull your shadowed world /Into the bright sunlight

Bring the old year out / Bring the new year in / Bring us all good luck / Let the good guys win.



So many charitable organisations these days want detailed information from donors. This, of course, is so that they can encourage people to become repeat donors, to buy lottery tickets, to sponsor and support – on their terms.

In many cases, however, this ploy often has a negative effect on those self same donors. Many kind and helpful people end up with donor fatigue. We feel taken advantage of or harassed and many of us opt out of donating at all. But the thing is that many of us aren’t necessarily tired of donating or helping. In fact we’d love to.

But how do we help? Where can we give on our own terms, rather than on those imposed on us by one or other organization?

With Christmas on the horizon, I was thinking about all this quite a lot. Then, a few weeks ago, I found out about Manna’s Hampers for the Homeless initiative. It spoke directly to my ongoing concern that not everyone gets to eat every day, even in Australia.

The idea of providing some basic necessities for people in need had enormous appeal. So I put the suggestion out, asking people I know – and people they know – to consider stepping up and helping out, at whatever level they were comfortable with.

And you did.

Donations started to arrive on our doorstep a few days later and soon my study was overflowing with tins of baked beans and tuna, with toothpaste, biscuits, lollies and more. I’ve been both humbled and overwhelmed by the response.

Thank you. Thank you for letting me know how this has impacted on each of you. I agree that the stark contrast to our far more privileged lives is sobering – and the realization that our contributions will make a real difference to people’s lives is indeed heart-warming,

I thought you’d like to know that we surpassed our arbitrarily chosen target for donations by a goodly margin. Between us we gathered 15 complete hampers, as well as some carry-over items. Lolo Caseiro, the Kitchen Manager at Manna, and her son Kai helped me unload the boxes when I delivered them to the depot this morning. They were delighted with everything and assured me that it would all be used. They’ll be distributing 300 hampers to the homeless of Perth close to or on Christmas Day and our contributions will be included.

We did a good thing, folks.


Lolo and Kai at Manna with our hamper contributions.


Have you ever walked past a homeless person, perhaps in an arcade or in a bus station? And have you ever thought something along the lines of how hard their life must be compared to your own? I certainly have.

There is a fine line between living a life inside society and enjoying its privileges, and one lived having fallen through the cracks. Those cracks  must just seem to get deeper and deeper – and finding a way out could rapidly become insurmountably difficult. Or at least seems to be so when living it.

Perhaps it was thoughts like these that got me to start up our Foodbank charity food drive late last year. Since then we’ve generated a steady slow flame of community support, and delivering the accumulated goods to the Foodbank depot regularly every three months. It’s been a tangible way of helping those in need – and a mindful acknowledgment of how much we have by comparison to them.

This quarter we’ve decided to shift our focus slightly. We’ll be supporting the Manna Christmas Hamper for the Homeless project. Manna has been providing food for the homeless since its inception in 1996, when the founders drove past a group of homeless people taking shelter under a tree on a cold and rainy Perth afternoon. The group was still there hours later when they passed by again. So they went home and made them some soup.

From these gentle and kind beginnings grew an organisation that’s continued to gain momentum, providing hot meals and other simple home comforts to the needy and disadvantaged in Perth. The people for whom the cracks are widest.

This year, at a time when we all get together to celebrate family and friendship, to share gifts and food, I thought that perhaps we could all spare a thought – and a few items – to help them out.

So I invite you participate in our Christmas Hamper Food Appeal.

All it takes it to put together one or more hampers for the homeless and needy of Perth. The list that Manna provides is heartbreakingly simple, so much so that it brought me to tears when I read it. The ask is really so very small.

Why not join us in trying to make this a slightly jollier season for others?manna_hampers-for-the-homeless-2016

Please note: We’ll be delivering all hamper donations to the Manna depot at the end of the first week in December.

GenghisCon is a project that’s been dear to my heart since it’s inception in 2001. I’ve watched it grow and blossom from a fledging idea hatched in our lounge room into a full-grown, successful annual convention.

It’s fun to see what the changing committees come up with in terms of ideas for convention activities each year and how much the Genghis-community pitches in to help out.

With the 2o17 GenghisCon on the horizon, I’ve volunteered my services to be ‘Market Day Liaison’. This is really just a fancy (and short) title for trader-wrangler and organiser of fun stuff associated with the market day.

I want to make the market day to be a draw card and have some cunning plans in mind. I’m thinking that having some entertainment to entice people into the market area would be fun. Perhaps a few different items/events, each running just enough to be entertaining and draw the crowd in. We could have some roving minstrels, a fairy floss machine, random juggling, handouts of cookies (baked by moi and other lucky ‘volunteers’), a raffle… and whatever else I can come up with.

This will take a little while to plan, so I’m starting now to avoid the aargh-factor later on. What I’d REALLY like is to get some help from anyone with ideas / time (just some) / creative spirit / musical and/or juggling abilities. Help?

GCon Traders 2017