Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What Ya' Readin: 'Cold Comfort Farm'

Initially, Cold Comfort Farm rather underwhelmed me. Its tagline as "the comic classic of rural life" and its opening paragraph held so much promise that I set my expectations high.

Cold Comfort Farm is a novel of gentle wit. When Flora Poste's parents die suddenly she is left, at age 20, possessing "every art and grace save that of earning her own living". Despite her Father's reputation as a wealthy man, he turns out to have been a poor one and she is left only a small inheritance. She decides to find a relative to live with who will house her in exchange for "her beautiful eyes and a hundred pounds a year", and whom she will take "in hand, and alter his or her character and mode of living to suit my taste. Then, when it please me, I shall marry".

Flora chooses to live with her peculiar extended relatives, the Starkadders. The Starkadders are in possession of a large farm in Sussex. They are ruled over by the tyrannical Aunt Ada Doom and the religiously fevoured Amos. Slowly, Flora either reforms or dispenses with each of the farm's residents. She does it with such poise and, seemingly, such little premeditation that one can't help but be impressed.

Stella Gibbon's Cold Comfort Farm is somewhat Austenesque in its humour and, I now believe, holds a well earned place in the affection of its many readers' hearts some 80 years after its first publication.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On weekend crafting

I finally got around to do some weekend sewing. You may remember this skirt. Well, it never looked any good on me, rather like a potato sack in fact, and so it had just hung in the wardrobe since I made it. So I decided to cut it up and turn it into these.

I don't actually have a baby to give it to, but I am sure one will turn up eventually! They are designed to fit a 6-12 month old. The pattern is from volume 1 of Sew Hip!, the new UK sewing magazine.

Since these only took me 15 minutes from wo to go I can see more going into the present cupboard in the near future.

On Wearing Red with Pride

I had plans for a different post this evening, but then I received this email from one of our military friends. I thought it was worth posting for wider circulation. I think it has a particularly relevant message given the two Australian soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan last week.

"Last week I was in Melbourne attending a conference.

While I was in the airport, returning home, I heard several people behind me beginning to clap and cheer.

I immediately turned around and witnessed one of the greatest acts of patriotism I have ever seen.

Moving through the terminal was a group of soldiers in their uniforms, as they began heading to their gate everyone (well almost everyone) was abruptly to their feet with their hands waving and cheering.

When I saw the soldiers, probably 30-40 of them, being applauded and cheered for, it hit me. I'm not alone. I'm not the only red blooded Australian who still loves this country and supports our troops and their families. Of course I immediately stopped and began clapping for these young unsung heroes who are putting their lives on the line everyday for us so we can go to school, work, and enjoy our home without fear or reprisal.

Just when I thought I could not be more proud of my country or of our service men and women a young girl, not more than 6 or 7 years old, ran up to one of the male soldiers.

He knelt down and said 'hi,' the little girl then asked him if he would give something to her daddy for her.

The young soldier didn't look any older than maybe 22 himself, said he would try and what did she want to give to her daddy.

Suddenly the little girl grabbed the neck of this soldier, gave him the biggest hug she could muster and then kissed him on the cheek.

The mother of the little girl, who said her daughters name was Courtney, told the young soldier that her husband was a Corporal and had been in Afghanistan for 5 months now.

As the mum was explaining how much her daughter, Courtney, missed her father, the young soldier began to tear up.

When this temporarily single mum was done explaining her situation, all of the soldiers huddled together for a brief second.

Then one of the other servicemen pulled out a military looking walkie-talkie.

They started playing with the device and talking back and forth on it.

After about 10-15 seconds of this, the young soldier walked back over to Courtney, bent down and said this to her, 'I spoke to your daddy and he told me to give this to you.'

He then hugged this little girl that he had just met and gave her a Kiss on the cheek.

He finished by saying 'Your daddy told me to tell you that he loves you more than anything and he is coming home very soon.'

The mum at this point was crying almost uncontrollably and as the young soldier stood to his feet he saluted Courtney and her mum.

I was standing no more than 6 feet away as this entire event unfolded.

As the soldiers began to leave, heading towards their gate, people resumed their applause.

As I stood there applauding and looked around, there were very few dry eyes, including my own.
That young soldier in one last act of moment turned around and blew a kiss to Courtney with a tear rolling down his cheek.

We need to remember everyday all of our soldiers and their families and thank God for them and their sacrifices.

At the end of the day, it's good to be an Australian.


Very soon, you will see a great many people wearing Red every Friday.

The reason?

Australian's who support our troops used to be called the 'silent majority'.

We are no longer silent, and are voicing our love for Country and home in record breaking numbers.

We are not organized, boisterous or over-bearing.

We get no liberal media coverage on TV, to reflect our message or our opinions..

Many Australian's, like you, me and all our friends, simply want to recognize that the vast majority of Australia supports our troops.

Our idea of showing solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect starts this Friday and continues each and every Friday until the troops all come home, sending a deafening message that every Australian who supports our men and women afar will wear something red.

By word of mouth, press, TV -- let's make Australia on every Friday a sea of red much like a homecoming football team

If every one of us who loves this country will share this with acquaintances, co-workers, friends, and family, It will not be long before Australia is covered in RED and it will let our troops know the once 'silent' majority is on their side more than ever, certainly more than the media lets on.

The first thing a soldier says when asked 'What can we do to make things better for you?' is...'We need your support and your prayers'.

Let's get the word out and lead with class and dignity, by example; and wear something red every Friday.

Lest we Forget."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What Ya Readin': 'Resistance'

After seeing Elaine recommend 'Resistance' by Agnes Humbert on her blog I rushed to my book shelf to pull off my copy and discovered that though I had a book of the same title, it had a different author. Undeterred, I set about reading 'Resistance' by Owen Sheers.

The premise of the novel is that in late 1944 the Germans have successfully invaded England. In a remote Welsh valley, not long after, all the men disappear in a single night. Without any knowledge of their menfolk's safety or whereabouts the women are left to cope with running their farms.

Some weeks later a single German patrol of six men comes to the valley. They have been sent by the SS Command to recover a map. When winter comes suddenly, cutting off the valley from the outside world, the Germans and villagers must negotiate an uneasy truce to ensure their survival.

Owen Sheers has created a convincing story line. Both his German characters and the Welsh women are portrayed with compassion. Both sides are tired of the war and in their isolation their common humanity overcomes their countries' equinimity.

Owen Sheers' Resistance is a vivid and compelling novel. As a first novel, it offers a tantalising glimpse of what Owen Sheers' may come to offer as a novelist.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

On going to the ballet

Yesterday we ventured into the city to go to the ballet. It wa a stinking hot day. What I am noticing about Melbourne weather is that it goes from one extreme to another in the space of just days.

We started off the day with a visit to a few of our favourite bookshops.....Reader's Feast, Hill of Content, and The Paperback Bookshop. I was very restrained and didn't buy anything, though I added to my 'to read' list. DH was not so stoic, he succumbed to a Penguin Book of Classical Myths. I understand, however, that he has had his eye on it for a while.

We lunched at Noodle Kingdom which does just beautiful noodle soups. Afterwards we wandered over to Pelligrini's - that Melbournian institution - for a granita. So good!

Then it was down to the state theatre after that to watch the Australian ballet perform Firebird and other Legends. This production is the ballet's annual tribute to the works of the Ballet Russes. You can see pictures from the production here.

The first ballet was 'Les Sylphides'. I love Chopin's music and this ballet is so soothing to the spririt. The fluidity of the ballet dancers truly belied the techinical complexity of Fokine's coreography.

We have a painting of scene from Les Sylphides on the wall. My Grandma painted it. Last year we had one of our friend's from church over. In her late teens she danced with the Dresden ballet in Germany. She was looking at our painting and said "oh, is that Les Sylphides". We had to check the back of it to find out, as I had never thought to look before. And she was correct, she knew the coreography so well she could tell just by looking!

Next was Petrouchka. Again, coreography by Mikhael Fokine. This was a complete contrast to Les Sylphides as the set, costumes and coreography are bright and colourful. I was particularly taken with the portrayal of the Moor, which at our performance was danced by Luke Ingham. I have been inspired to make a quilt based on the colour's of the Moor's compartment. The set used a colour combination I had never thought of as 'going' but it really worked - red, deep purple, lilac, green and dark blue.

Finally, Firebird was performed. This time Graeme Murphy had reworked the story and coreography. I don't know the traditional coreography so I can't comment on the contrast, but I enjoyed it very much. The chorus - the enslaved - danced in shells in the first act and the dancing of the firebird by Reiko Hombo was just superb.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

On a wet and rainy weekend

Last weekend we had a bit of change of weather here in Melbourne. It was very wet and rainy. Nothing like some nice lemony goodness to cheer you up in that sort of weather. So, I baked a lemon cake out of the excellent Gentle Art of Domesticity. Jane's blog Yarnstorm -which I see has moved urls recently - is also excellent for wiping away the damp day blues.

And, in the spirit of the French film festival which is on in Melbourne at the moment we watched some French films which one of my friend's at work had lent me. Both starred Daniel Auteuil who is wickedly comic. My favourite was The Closet. In The Closet Daniel's character is facing dismissal from his job and attempting to commit suicide when his crusty, ex-lawyer, neighbour convinces that he can not be fired if pretends he is gay. The other film we watched was The Valet which was also good. Unknowingly, until I checked his screen appearances on IMDB, I had actually seen Auteuil previously in My Best Friend , a film which I can highly recommend.

And well, Monty found the weather a little lowering to the spirits and thought the day was best just dozed away!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On Being Connected at Last

Finally....we are connected to the internet. It only took Iprimus two months to work out what our connectivity problem was. Turns out they had failed to put the correct codes on the line. Oh well, alls well that ends well! Now I have to go back and complain that we have been charged for two month's connection when we, um, didn't have it.

I had grand plans to post pictures of some weekend cooking tonight but DH is on duty at the base until tomorrow morning and I can't work out what cord goes with the new camera. So, photos will have to wait for tomorrow night.

What to post on....

How about some fantastic Australian blogs I have recently found....ok by recently I mean last November, but anyway. Here they are full of crafty and sustainable living goodness. I get so inspired when I read these kind of blogs and I am always excited to find blogs being kept by other Australians. Two of these bloggers are even Melbournians.

Down to Earth
Blue Bird Makes Her Nest
Pigeon Pair