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‘What a lot we lost when we stopped writing letters. You can’t reread a phone call.’ Liz Carpenter.

I got a letter from my Mum this week.  Not a long letter.  Not a fancy letter.  It didn’t really even tell me much that I didn’t already know, but it was still a lovely surprise because, quite honestly, I can’t remember the last time I received an actual letter in the post (not just from Mum—from anyone).  Come to think of itI can’t remember the last time I wrote one either . . .

I guess it’s not all that surprising.  Time and technology wait for no man.  Why write a letter when you can contact someone in a nano-second by phone, email, text or tweet?  There must be a whole generation of people out there who have never even thought about hand-writing a letter to a friend or relative.  In a world where ‘google’ is a verb, Wikipedia is the new Encyclopedia Britannica, Android is no longer only a character in a sci-fi movie and texting has created its own language one could begin to believe that social media has become the only acceptable way to connect.

I know I am showing my age here but I do remember a time when I wrote, and received, letters all the time.  When I left home at the age of 17 (centuries ago) to go and work in another country my mother had only one rule for me (or at least only one rule she voiced out loud)—I had to write a letter home every week.  It didn’t matter if I had nothing remotely interesting to say, whether I been out gallivanting around the town, whether I had been working flat out, or had been in bed all week with the flu.  One letter every weekthat was the rule.  And I wrote them.  For years and years.  And, truth be told, once I got into the swing of it I quite enjoyed writing them (but don’t tell my Mum that).  I must have written hundreds.

How interesting would it be now (and a tad freaky) to reread some of those letters written by my much younger self?  I reckon it would be a bit like time travelling backwards.  I wonder if I would even recognise the girl I was then?  I must ask Mum whether she kept any of them . . .

Because people do keep letters, don’t they?  Letters from childhood penpals, or school friends, or family, or old lovers.  They are precious to them.  The paper they are written on, the ink they are written with, the individual handwriting whether neatly scripted or quickly scrawled.  Some letters come with doodles or drawings and odd little inserts.  They have special a way of evoking memories and emotions.  They say you are worth the time and effort (and extra expense) of receiving a letter.  I guess that is why so many handwritten letters have survived throughout history.  They are so personal.  A bit like diaries.  People are loathe to destroy them.

Today of course people still have vast correspondences, but most of it is entirely electronic.  I wonder how many people out there feel compelled to save (all tied up with pretty string in a box in the wardrobe) sentimental printouts of emails, phone texts or microbursts from the twitterverse?  Not so very many I would guess.  And how much easier now to get rid of it all.  Highlight.  Delete.  Gone.

There.  I’ve gone and made myself all nostalgic.  Not nostalgic enough to stop writing emails or using my phone of course (I’m not entirely silly) but nostalgic enough to think about maybe writing back to Mum, instead of giving her a quick phone call.

I have to go into town this weekend anyway.  Maybe I’ll spend some extra time looking for some pretty stationery . . .

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘A camel is a horse designed by a committee.’ Alec Issigonis.

Camel milk.  Yes, you heard me right—this post is going to be about camel milk.  Why?  Well, it’s like this . . .

As usual, it got to about Thursday this week before I realised I had not even begun to think about what I might write for my regular Friday post.  (I keep thinking this is going to get easier but it never does.  Sigh.)  Anyway, in a bit of a panic, I went in search of my little ‘blog book’ where (when I think of it) I note down items that have caught my interest and therefore might (hopefully) also be of interest to others.  I hadn’t seen that little book in some time and it took a bit of searching but I eventually found it hidden underneath 4 sketchbooks, 2 pencil cases, a pile of scrap papers and a bunch of crayons which had come loose from their box.  This did not bode well . . .

I sat down and started to read through my notations.  Nope.  Nope.  Done it.  Nope.  Boring.  Sigh.  ‘Why would anyone . . .?  Nope.  Camel milk.  Say what?  Camel milk.  Huh.  I have no recollection of reading, or watching, anything (ever) about camel milk.  I realise of course that camels do produce milk—they have babies after allbut beyond that I don’t recall ever giving it another thought.

But I had noted it in my book and my interest was piqued (again??) so I went in search of camel milk . . .

And guess what?  It turns out that camel milk is the ‘next big thing’!  Who knew?  Not me, and seemingly not very many other Australians either.  Camel milk might be big business elsewhere in the world but in Australia it is still a fledgling industry.  There are only around 10 camel dairies in the whole country but from the amount of buzz online it would seem reasonable to assume that these enterprises are set to expand and develop.  They seem unlikely to have any issues around stocking their dairies at least—Australia is home to the world’s largest population of wild camels.

(Camels were imported here in the early 19th century to be used for transport and heavy work in the outback but when they were no longer needed they were set loose to fend for themselves.  Designed ‘by a committee’ or no, they found themselves particularly suited to the harsh Australian conditions and they throve.  There are now hundreds of thousands of them roaming free across the country.)

Of course, just because there are so many camels wandering free doesn’t mean they are automatically willing to happily stand in line and wait to be milked.  Catching them is difficult (and expensive) and once caught it can then take another 2-6 weeks to train a wild camel to the point where it can be milked. They also yield around four times less milk than a cow, so I guess it is hardly surprising I haven’t spotted camel milk on any of our local supermarket shelves just yet.

But give it time.  These camel dairies (sorry, but that still sounds so weird—’camel dairies’) are gaining momentum and heading out of cottage industry status into more commercial concerns so availability will slowly go up and prices will eventually come down. And, reading the research, there certainly do seem to be significant health benefits (if you are in to that sort of thing).  Camel milk has more fat and protein and less cholesterol than cow’s milk.  It is three times higher in vitamin C than cow’s milk and 10 times higher in iron.  It is also high in unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins but lower in vitamin A and B2.  (Oh, and apparently it tastes good too.)   And if you are not much of a milk drinker (like me—hardly ever touch the stuff) other products like cheese and ice-cream (much more enticing) are now also becoming more widely available.

Wow.  Considering I knew nothing about the subject when I started I seem to have just written a substantial promotional advertisement for the camel milk industry! Yikes!  Sorry about that.  (I swear no one was paying me for it—but perhaps they should have been!)

Still, I have left it all too late to re-write now so there you have it.  Camel milk.
All I have to left to say ishere endeth the lesson!

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.’ Oscar Wilde.

I have never kept (or even started) a diary.  Well, not a proper ‘Dear Diary—this-is-what-I-was-doing-this-is-what-I-was-feeling’ kind of diary . . .

(To clarify—I do keep a date-diary for important things (‘pay day’, ‘holidays start tomorrow’, ‘day trip to Forster with Pammy’) and appointments (‘M, M, & M due to get their nails done this week’) because my old brain just doesn’t remember these things for itself any more and there are only so many post-it notes that fit around the edge of my computer.)

. . . but I had also never really felt any deep-seated urge to write my daily thoughts and feelings down on paper either.  Truth be told, before I started this blog I never wrote much of anything—apart from a couple of short paragraphs in our college brochure each term (which I was coerced into by my boss I might add.)

However, now that I am writing more (and kinda-sorta-sometimes enjoying it) I can see that there might well be advantages to writing something . . . anything . . . every single day.  I can go for days and days without putting pen to paper because I ‘can’t think of anything interesting to write’.  I have the same issue when it comes to sketching (I can’t decide what to draw—so I don’t draw anything.  Sigh.) The fact that I know that the longer I leave it the more difficult it becomes to start up again appears to hold little sway.

But a diary?  No, I don’t really think a diary is for me. I would have nothing as sensational to write in it as Oscar Wilde, but even if I did (or maybe, especially if I did) I am not sure I would want to commit it to paper. It seems to me that private diaries seldom remain private.

Still, I definitely could benefit from the discipline of writing every day, and thinking about this reminded me of a book I read years ago ‘The Artist’s Way‘ and Julia Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages.  What are morning pages?  Morning Pages are one of the basic tools Julia advocates for unleashing creativity.

‘Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning.  There is no wrong way to do Morning Pagesthey are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mindand they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page . . .
and then do three more pages tomorrow.’
(Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way)

I remember when I read this book all those years ago I thought these morning pages sounded a bit . . . ‘Really?  Sigh.  How that is going to work?  Maybe I’ll give them a go.  Some day . . . ‘  But I never did.  Maybe I wasn’t ready then.  Perhaps I am now.  Now I kind of like the idea of writing without thinking and not having to worry about spelling, or grammar, or making sense to anyone else.  I like the idea of doing them longhand (perhaps I can even doodle around the edges and that will cover me for the ‘draw something every day’ (unkept) promises I also made to myself) and I also especially like the fact that (unlike a diary) I can tear the pages up immediately afterwards if I want to, so no-one is ever going to read them (ever) but me.

At worst I will have wasted a little (more) time in the morning.  At best—well, who knows.  I might surprise myself.  Anyway, my creativity could do with a bit of unleashing so I’m going to give them ago.  I’ll let you know how I get on.

But until then, just so you know I am not a complete diary-phobe, I thought I’d finish with an excerpt from a diary I read just the other day . . .

“Morning: Slept.
Afternoon: Slept.
Evening: Ate grass.
Night: Ate grass. Decided grass is boring.
Scratched. Hard to reach the itchy bits.
Slept.”

Jackie French
Diary of a Wombat

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.’ Brad Paisley.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I like this idea—that every day we are all writing another page of our very own book (although we are three days into this new year already and my own book is looking pretty empty so far.  I might have to get off my bum and do something about that . . . )

What kind of book will you write for yourself this year?

A drama?  A comedy?  A romance?  An adventure?  All of the above?   . . .

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Posted by on January 3, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Blessed is the man, who having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact.’ George Eliot.

nothing to sayI have nothing to say this week.  How sad is that?  (Well, sad to me, possibly not to you . . . )  Seriously, I have been sitting here for almost a full week (although at the moment it seems much much longer) fingers poised over the keyboard, determined to start my next post and . . . nothing.  Nada.  Not a single idea.  (Well—not a single idea that I think anyone else might be interested in reading.  I have been tired and cranky all week but I didn’t really want to write tired and cranky things here—there is enough of that in the world already.)

So, rather than berate myself, I am just going to acknowledge the fact and give myself a break (you could probably use a rest from me anyway) but I thought it only polite to let you know that nothing would be forthcoming today—just is case you thought I was being rude and ignoring you all.  (You don’t really think I would do that . . . do you?)

I don’t even have any new ‘artistic insights’ to share with you (I haven’t done my art class homework this week either—sigh—head drops to chest) but, by way of compensation (although I am not sure that is the right word) here is a quick sketch I did last weekend, before the malaise descended.  I hope it will suffice until I can drag myself out of the mire.  (A slow weekend of chocolate, wine and cuddles with my girls will work wonders I am sure . . . )

See you all next week.  X

P.S.
‘Word Count’ has just informed me that it has now taken 289 words to tell you I have nothing to say.
George Eliot must be turning in her grave . . . 

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Posted by on August 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I’m interested in everything but passionate about nothing.’ Jeanne Calment.

worldThis week my Blog Stats told me that people had logged into my site, not only from within Australia, but also from England, the USA, Canada, Brazil, Denmark, Italy, Malaysia, Spain, France, Germany, Ecuador and the Ukraine. While I realise that it is entirely possible that the majority of these people were actually looking for something, or someone, else and just happened to land on my blog by accident (although the log-in from Spain could well have been my sister as she was on holiday there last week) it still kind of blows my mind that any of these people in these far-flung countries could find me at all.

When I started writing this last year I barely knew what a blog was. (Seriously. I am computer literate in many aspects, but totally naive in others.)   I had no expectations of what I was going to be doing with it.  I really just thought of it as a fun idea that I could ‘play’ with for a while.  It would, hopefully, provide some small amusement for my family and friends, and when I ran out of things to say (which, by the way, could be any day now) I could ‘shut up shop’ and no one would really care one way or the other.  No harm, no foul.  I don’t think I ever really considered that I might be getting visits from people I didn’t know and had never met, or that any of these people would be the slightest bit interested in anything I had to say.  So, as lovely and surprising as it is to have these new friends, it’s also a little bit unnerving too . . . and it made me stop and think . . .

feeling pressureDoes this mean that I am going to have to become more ‘serious’ about this blogging-thing now?  (But where’s the fun in that?)  Am I going to have to ‘lift my game’?  (Where would I even start?)

Should I be writing more than once a week?  (Oh please God—No.)  Should I be concentrating on just one theme, instead of just blithely blathering on about anything that pops into my head that week?

Should I be spending more time reading those ‘How To’ sites?  You know the ones—How to write good blog (for dummies) . . .  How to write a better blog . . .  How to write a blog people will want to read . . .  etc etc.

No Pressure.

No Pressure.

Well—No.  I’m going to have to stop right there. That’s where I am going to have to draw the line.  I am sure that most of the ‘How To’ blogs are only trying to help, but I swear, if I read just one more that says ‘unless you have an undying passion for everything you do you might as well give up now and stop wasting everybody’s time‘ — I might just have to poke somebody in the eye.  (I am not quite sure how I would actually poke someone in the eye online but I’d give it a go.)

 Pas·sion: strong and barely controllable emotion.

It seems to me that we are constantly being told that we need to be ‘passionate’ about everything we do—our work, our writing, our singing, our art, our whatever . . . and if you are passionate about any (or all) of those things—that’s great.  I think that’s fabulous.  You rock.  But I just don’t seem to be built that way . . .

writers-block-cartoonI am enjoying writing this blog (most of the time) and when it feels like something I am writing is coming together (and making a modicum of sense) it is all very satisfying.  But do I have ‘strong and barely controllable’ feelings that send me hurtling towards my keyboard to get it all written down and out into the ether? No.  (I would love that to be the case but in truth I seem to spend most of my time wondering what the hell I am going to write about next.)  So, passionate?  Not really.

teaI am having a ball with my art classes and my renewed interest in sketching, and loving trying out new techniques and art materials—but do I wake up every day and feel a desperate all-encompassing need to get to my sketchbook and start sketching my dogs even before I’ve had my first cup of tea.  Nope.  (Cuddling the dogs, yes.  Sketching them—not so much.)

Cover_DBDoes this then mean that if I only enjoy these things but am not passionate about them I shouldn’t bother to do them at all?  That I shouldn’t share my thoughts, or opinions or insights on them?  Am I completely wasting my time? Or your time?  I don’t think so.  At least I hope not.  I am pretty sure that the blogosphere is laden with people who are passionate about their lives, their families, their pets (okay—I guess you could add me into that category), their sports, their knitting . . . . and I am equally sure there are as many out there who are interested in so many things they don’t know where to look first.  And it’s all good.  Who is to say that one is better, or more interesting, than the other?  Vive la différence!

winking dogSo, to all the lovely people who have been visiting my blog, old friends and new, ‘Welcome’.  It’s lovely to see you and to see you keep coming back, but be warnedwhat you see is what you get. Things aren’t likely to change here very much, at least in the near future (short of some life-changing epiphany).   I hope my writing will improve with time, but as my thoughts and interests seem to become even more random with each passing year, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for any kind of constant theme (although there will, of course, be more dog stories . . . )

I may not be passionate, but I plan to stay interested.  I hope you do too.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Someone once asked Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule, or only when struck by inspiration.

“I write only when inspiration strikes.” he replied.
“Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”

caveman novelI think, until recently, I just assumed that natural writers always had something to say—that they were chock full to the brim with stories, characters and plots, and that the words just spilled out of them and onto the page.  Then, surely, it was just a simple matter of rearranging the words on the paper in the right order to ensure that the reader got the general gist of it all.  (I can already feel pencils sharpened to lethal points being sent airborne in my general direction—by those who still use pencils of course …)

But wait—I say ‘recently’ because I have been reading up on the subject, and it seems that this is just not the case.  At all.  It appears that for many of our most esteemed authors (and plenty of our not-so-esteemed)  writing is (or was) a real, desperate and constant struggle.   (‘No pen, no ink, no table, no room, no time, no quiet, no inclination.’  James Joyce.)   Well, thank God for that.  What a relief.

writers-block-cartoonWriting does not come easily to me.  Up until now I have only ever written short pieces for the local community college brochure—and that only comes out once every 3 months.  If I had any sense (and I obviously don’t) I would have at least attempted to write something during the in-between months so I might have had the possibility of several articles to choose from when the time came for the next publication.  Of course that didn’t happen and I would find myself with the brochure two days away from going to print and me having written not a word and not one idea in my head. Well—to be fair, I probably did have a couple of ideas, but there are only so many stories you can tell about your dogs before people (at least those oddly strange non-doggie people that you still find lurking about the place) get fed up with you and go elsewhere.

So as the next deadline loomed I would spend days wandering about muttering to myself,  ‘Well I guess I could write about . . .  or maybe I could do something on . . . well, no, that’s not really going to work,  but perhaps . . . ’ until I drove the people around me mad enough to start offering me their own opinions on what I should write about in the fervent hope that I’d just go away and do it.  Eventually I would decide on an idea, sit down and get myself all organised—because, of course, everything had to be organised (computer all charged up, seat just right, cushion behind the back, wine glass within reach).  I’d sit deep in thought (honest) for a little while—and then—perhaps I should just go and put those drops in Mabel’s ear before I forget . . . and did I remember to fill up the bird-feeder this morning?  Maybe I’ll just go and put another load of washing on before I start.  Procrastinate?  Me?  I learned from the best.  (‘Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.’  Mark Twain)

feeling pressureAnd when all these must-do-now jobs had been done and I couldn’t put it off any longer, I would settle myself down to start again and—nothing.  Nada.  Except—what on earth was I thinking?  Why would I want to write about that?  Worse still, why would anyone want to read it?  Square one.

So, knowing that this always happens, what do I do?  I start a blog.  Am I stark-raving mad?  Here I am only a couple of weeks in and I am already babbling about having no idea what to write about.  I’m feeling the pressure.

Do you know, in the short time I have been doing this I have already had spam comments telling me that my blog is ‘lacking fresh content’ and that if I am ‘too lazy to add to it regularly’ I should go to http://www.something-something-something.com to get more interesting input.  Rude!  Now I know in my head that this is just a marketing ploy to get more hits on these other sites but  $&(*%!   The ‘lazy’ part stings.  Especially as I seem to have been at least thinking about writing (if not actually writing) almost full time lately.  I was quite ‘miffed’.  However, after a few choice words and a very good grumble I thoroughly enjoyed the delete—delete—delete of my spam file that followed.

notebook-clipart-notebookSo you may be pleased (or perhaps even horrified) to learn that I have started a ‘Blog Book’ in which I am jotting down notes about things that have piqued my interest and that may, or may not, turn into something worth writing about.  (Today on the telly I saw a bit about ‘Sky Running’.  Heard of it?  Me either.  My first thought was that these people were, quite obviously and without a doubt, all absolutely bonkers, but the more I watched the more interested I became.  Not going to try it of course.  Never.  Not ever.  But I digress . . . )

And there you have it.  This is what you are going to get when I can think of nothing else to say.  You are fair warned.  This blog experiment of mine could go absolutely nowhere—or it could go all overSitStayDog the place (which, I must admit, does sound a lot more fun).

I am practising my ‘mini-habit’ of writing at least a couple of sentences a day in the hope that I will be able to string those sentences together into something coherent and interesting enough for you to read, but if all else fails, I think I can absolutely promise you one thing—there will definitely be more doggie tales . . .

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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