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What I did in my holidays

16 January 2017 | Gillian Bouras

Idiosyncratic snowmanIt 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.

GOMA's summer of frivolous art

12 December 2016 | Sarah Klenbort

Colourful pompomsI 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.

Mekong coconut workers

11 December 2016 | Brendan Ryan

Splitting coconutWatch 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.

Tips for surviving Christmas angst

05 December 2016 | Barry Gittins

Kid in Santa hat looks out rainy windowCricket 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.

No vacancy at the inn (or anywhere else in Australia)

04 December 2016 | Marlene Marburg

No Vacancy signPlease 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.

Learning self-respect in newborn baby hell

30 November 2016 | Suvi Mahonen

Crying babyFrom 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.

Revisiting river country

27 November 2016 | Rory Harris

Murray River EchucaEchuca is a string of hand held families in the sun, their floppy hats nodding over ice-creams smeared ear to ear. In Bendigo we sit on the bed eating treats from along the road. The Age is our tablecloth. The ghosts of parents past, promenade the High Street, they holidayed closer to home and always travelled with a deck of cards and a bottle in the suitcase ... Hills wrap Castlemaine, the trains have stopped running, the fruit and veg is biodynamic and the sky is scattered wool ...

A perfect stranger's perfect gift

21 November 2016 | Maureen O'Brien

Hand picking up a flowerRecently I went with a group of friends to see the musical Dusty. Afterwards, walking with one of my friends, I spoke about how special it had turned out for me seeing this musical on the day after my 54th wedding anniversary. Dusty Springfield's songs were ones my husband and I would have known well at the time. Just as I was reflecting on how some events have more significance than what appears on the surface, a young man on my right turned to me and handed me a large red flower.

Spring: Thirty short poems

20 November 2016 | Carol O'Connor

Number 30Counting angels dancing on a pinhead? How about, making count the stranger who stands right in front of me ... Love lies hidden. Quick! Look under the moss, hear the stone sing ... Mother Earth is groaning ... Dislocation. Disconnection. Displacement. Only you, only you, only you can take us home.

Already died

13 November 2016 | John Falzon

Salvador AllendeI talked to no one, let no one catch on, ate nothing, never got wet in the sea, or from the sea in the sky. I did nothing wrong except everything. But even so I never turned away from the poem, even when I shaved off little bits to sharpen my sense of the poem, or the unseen warfare in the world.

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