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13 February 2017 |
A school mate of mine had a sister called Edith. I wondered why Edith didn't go to our school. 'Edith doesn't look like us,' I told my mother. 'No,' agreed mum, 'that's because she was born different from most people. But she's quite happy, and her family loves her. Babies bring their love with them.' Edith had Down syndrome. I know now my mother had a point: such children as I have observed in the long years since I knew Edith have been happy and loved. But it's not always the case.
12 February 2017 |
The chimneys of various shapes and sizes on the priest's houses next door, have not spumed since the winter, and in and around St Patrick's things like that might seem symbolic. Will fires ever be lit there again - lest the people speak - the ribbons spliced up and down the wrought iron railings, rattle in the brisk autumn breeze, telling stories of love, suffering and endless disharmony, broken trust, send messages to those in the passing traffic ... better the devil you don't know ...
05 February 2017 |
Narrow, pointed arch entrance, low vaulted ceiling, stone and wood panelling - here four murderers walked over 800 years ago to rid their king of a meddlesome priest. Amidst singing and candlelight at Vespers, Thomas Becket stood at the Cathedral altar, knowing the armoured knights were coming: 'Here I am, not a traitor of the King, but a priest. Why do you seek me?' After their clamouring and brandishing of hatchets and axe, he knew his fate, bent his head in submission.
29 January 2017 |
I grew up terrified of my father's barber, Andre. He announced his arrival by ringing the bell of his black Raleigh bicycle at our gate. I was dragged to the chair where the towel was passed on to me. Andre did his best to keep his calm with me. I must have tested his nerves to a limit when he told me of the day he so badly severed one ear of a young boy who wouldn't sit still that a pig's ear had to be stitched on in replacement. 'I don't believe you,' I replied, but sat frozen from thereon.
16 January 2017 |
It seems incredible that there were ten of those summers, consecutive ones when three generations coexisted happily. My siblings and I had an idyllic Ocean Road beach practically all to ourselves, the men went fishing every afternoon, except when, to Grandfather's annoyance, an easterly was blowing, and the women, in time-honoured fashion, kept everybody fed. Of course change was inevitable, although I didn't really believe it, and started with my grandmother's death. I was 19.
12 December 2016 |
I will always remember the first time I saw Giacommeti's statues in in Europe. They were grotesquely thin, elongated people. Giacometti explained how he tried to make people with more flesh, but after World War II and the six million, it was impossible. And so those statues reflect the time he lived in. Queensland's Gallery of Modern Art, on the other hand, is celebrating its tenth anniversary, and has chosen fairy floss and rainbow fuzz to reflect our current society.
11 December 2016 |
Watch the man in his stained shirt barefoot under the palms. Adrift from younger workers he manages a rhythm, a cigarette-dangling-from-the-lip focus. His lined face belies the strength of his forearms, thrusting each coconut onto a metal spike that is his altar. Seven days a week he splits coconuts with the precision required to not sever a wrist in a country with no health insurance. Upriver, in the seamy heat of the Mekong Delta, it could be the 19th century. I don't know where to look.
05 December 2016 |
Cricket games, feasts, the origami orgy of Christmas present wrappings rent asunder ... the underlying truth in all of this, for many of us, is deep emotional pain and loneliness that's gone unheard, unnoticed, all year. Family is both a lodestone and a millstone at Christmas. It's a truth magnified by aspirational love. As Pope John XXIII once said, cutting close to home, 'Mankind is a great, an immense family. This is proved by what we feel in our hearts at Christmas.' It's a big ask that carries a price.
04 December 2016 |
Please god of the fit and strong, forbid we should become 'the un-lucky country'. Help us to conjure the nerve to say, There is no room for you here in Australia. No vacancies. All full up. You will be turned away while you are trying to give your family respite from poverty or war. We have no room for you. We are using our space for shops. And Christmas trees.
30 November 2016 |
From the moment my newborn daughter woke me, my day became a litany of bodily requirements. Pee, drink, change nappy, feed, burp, feed, drink, soothe, pump breasts, change nappy, feed, burp, feed, soothe, eat, drink, soothe. As for healthy living? Forget it. I sucked on spoonfuls of peanut butter and ate family-sized blocks of chocolate. And if I was lucky enough to snatch a yoga stretch in between bouts of colic, it was to the tinkling melodies of her play gym rather than Sanskrit mantras.
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