Worth a spot on the bedside table….

The fact that I have already managed to read a book this year is, for me, pretty exciting and hopefully is an indication that my reading habits may improve in 2018.

I was keen to read Turtles All The Way Down after seeing it in stores, reading other reviews and finally, when it was selected by one of our students for an end of year academic prize.

It didn’t disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed John Green’s exploration of teen issues, especially the issue of mental health. In fact, as someone who works closely with young people, I feel this text gave me an appreciation and fresh insight into the mental health issues faced by our children in the 21st century.

I always enjoy a decent mystery and though the mysterious disappearance of Mr Pickett isn’t focussed on in quite the same way as a dedicated mystery novel, it was well structured and weaved its way effectively through the narrative.

The best compliment a reader can pay a writer is when they willingly exchange their free time to read what has been written….cover to cover. Thanks Mr Green, it was a privilege to sit and read your book!

In Praise of Moving

The mere thought of packing up goods and chattels to move towns and jobs propels some of my friends to crawl back under their doonas! And rightly so. Moving is not for the faint hearted. I know. Two months ago I moved towns and jobs. There have been many, many moments since when I realised I was in the grip of an existential crisis and tortured myself with an ongoing mantra: ‘WTH was I thinking?!?’

I wondered this when the silent reality of being an ’empty nester’ hit me just days after I was revelling the solitude and I was tempted to cry into my pillow at night.

It was a bit of a theme when I couldn’t sleep at night because every unfamiliar sound threatened danger of life and limb.

It crossed my mind a couple of times as I wrestled for two weeks with the pain and nausea of a blocked bile duct (I’ll spare you the gory details!).

It seemed that there was a use-by-date on new beginnings and adventures and that my quota had been filled when I was in my twenties. Truth be told, if I’d been offered a Get Out of Jail Free card, I probably would have taken it. 

So what’s the antidote for what I’m affectionately calling Moving Regret? I think it’s pretty simple. Get out. Go look. 

At the moment this involves driving around random streets to familiarise myself with my new home. It also doubles as an opportunity to admire (or is that covet?) the AMAZING old houses of this early settlement town.

Granted, the shopping malls are pretty lack lustre, but I’m not really a shopper anyway. In place of chain stores there are the coffee shops. I’m slowly working through the list. As I write this I’m ensconced in a French Patisserie! Who knew that such a treasure would be found in a regional NSW town!

Perhaps there’s a couple of adventures left in my quota. 

An English teacher’s response to “Why do we have to read this book?”

After 31 years of listening to them whinge, I ignore it now…..

I appeal to their sense of smugness and tell them it’s a classic they’ll be able to boast about having read…

I tell them these texts will make them sound more interesting at dinner parties one day….

I tell them it’s compulsory to read but never compulsory to like the texts and I insist they be ready to give an intelligent account of what they don’t like, thereby forcing them to present a constructive whinge… (Which means I get even more work out of them)

I tell them how in high school I secretly loved Shakespeare but was too crippled by peer pressure to admit it and why that’s an incredibly sad thing….

I talk about the time our teacher had us read ‘Sons and Lovers’ and how I was so moved by the story I started to refer to my Dad as “Dadda” until family members started to give me weird looks and I stopped…..

I admit that when I was their age I so enjoyed ‘The Canterbury Tales’ that whilst on holidays with Mum (Dadda had to work) I purchased my own copy and read it on the beach…

And my favourite response of all time to their whinges…..

I fill a jar with mixed lollies and tell them that the jar is the text and the lollies inside are the characters, setting, plot…..They represent all the things that happen in our lives…the good, the bad and the ugly…..I tell them that we read good literature because it reflects what happens in our lives and the lives of others and hopefully in the process we will become people who are more loving, compassionate and wise…

And then while we read, we eat the lollies.

Today I do not want to be a teacher

(With apologies to Glenn Colquhoun for pinching inspiration from his poem ‘Today I do not want to be a doctor’)

Today I do not want to be a teacher.

No one is learning anything.

Those who knew something have forgotten.
And those were knew nothing know even less.

The dull think they are bright.
The bright think they are dull.

No one remembers their homework and
only the innocent are punished by lunch detentions.

Today I do not want to be a teacher.

The clock is slow, the bell is late. The lessons
drag out and there are no holidays in sight
to quicken my step.

A good read…

Burial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I initially started reading Burial Rites when our school librarian handed me a recently purchased copy. As usually happens I surrendered my reading time to other tasks, the book started collecting dust and eventually guilt set in and I handed it back with the recommendation that she just put it into the library and let someone else read it while it was still ‘new’! After examining research on the impact of audi books on literacy levels in students and the hearing first hand the experiences of colleagues who are prolific ‘readers’ of audio books, I downloaded Burial Rites using my Audible account. I was not prepared for the amazing experience it would be to listen to this narrative. I especially appreciated having the unfamiliar Icelandic names read accurately by narrator Morven Christie. Her wonderful pronunciations confirmed my suspicion that I had been massacring the names in my original attempt to read the story with an Aussie accent! It took me awhile to adjust to listening without drifting off and day dreaming but somewhere along the way I became an avid listener. As the end of the narrative approached I realised how connected I felt to the characters. Knowing the history behind the story I knew it wouldn’t end well for the main character and at one point towards the end I chose to stop listening in order to delay the inevitable silencing of Agne’s voice. It is my intention to borrow the print version from the library and read this novel again in order to experience the rich descriptive language in a different way.

View all my reviews

Quam bene non quantum.

I’ve been thinking. 

Sometimes the only way to express grief is with words…

I like Latin. Latin always sounds so profoundly wise and almost like an apothegm. The phrase above is translated as ‘How well, not how much’. It reflects something of what I’m thinking as we go into this week.

Sometimes the only way to express sadness is in poetry.
To an Athlete Dying Young

BY A. E. HOUSMAN

The time you won your town the race

We chaired you through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.
Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay,

And early though the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut

Cannot see the record cut,

And silence sounds no worse than cheers

After earth has stopped the ears.
Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran

And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,

The fleet foot on the sill of shade,

And hold to the low lintel up

The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head

Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,

And find unwithered on its curls

The garland briefer than a girl’s.

Source: The Norton Anthology of Poetry Third Edition (1983)
Sometimes the only way to express sympathy is in prayer.

God of all mystery, whose ways are beyond understanding,
lead us, who grieve at this untimely death,

to a new and deeper faith in your love,

which brought your only Son Jesus

through death into resurrection life.

We make our prayer in Jesus’ name. 

Amen.
Sometimes silence is the only way.