Last night I went to Tuscany. San Gimignano to be precise. Oh, the food, the wine….
Yeah, okay, so I didn’t really go there. Well, not on an aeroplane in actual person. What do you think I am, a movie star?
I did, however, buy a bottle of Vernaccia di San Gimignano and make homemade ravioli. And I listened to Italian music while I wrestled with the pasta machine. (There may or may not have also been some choice Italian swear words in action.)
I knew you were busting to ask that.
Two lovely friends are currently living the Tuscan life on the trip of a lifetime in Italy. They’ve been posting photos and stories on Facebook and I’ve been reminiscing.
Yes, we did once fair dinkum go to San Gimignano.
On a seven-week European odyssey with three small boys in tow (ages 11, 8 and 5), we had wisely booked a week in a small Tuscan town at about the halfway point. We didn’t know it was wise at the time. The wisdom only became apparent when we got there after our previous stop in Nice included the line “I’m over it! I want to go home!” That was me. As chief travel agent, tour guide, purchaser, cook, washer and seemingly font of all travel wisdom, the pressure was building. The opportunity to stop and breathe in one place for a week brought sanity back to us all.
Sometimes the significant travel memories that stay with you are not about awe-inspiring art or impressive structures or spectacular landscapes. Sometimes they are about living the life, feeling a part of a community of which you are a part for just a tiny moment. That was Certaldo for us. I’d managed to book a three bedroom apartment in a former 13th century palace with a tower where you could sit and see the towers of San Gimignano in the distance for only AU$800 a week.
Of course, first impressions count when you travel and the fact that we arrived on the weekend of their annual food and wine festival may have had some impact on our positive experiences. We didn’t know it was on when we booked. Another of those serendipitous moments that make a holiday special.
It was like it was all meant to be.
We relaxed, shopped at the market, read books, ate a lot of good Italian bread and cheese and made day trip forays into neighbouring tourist centres such as Sienna and San Gimignano. We didn’t have a car so these were accessed by public transport. There’s nothing quite like squeezing onto a crowded local bus to make you feel a part of the community.
It was a favourite moment in our holiday and I can’t help thinking that its impact was greater because it came at just the right time. We headed off after our week-long stay with renewed energy and patience.
I’d love to go back but I suspect that it wouldn’t be the same.
In the meantime, I’ll find the odd bottle of Tuscan wine in the local Dan Murphy’s, drag out the pasta machine and relive la dolce vita at home.
It’s time for some more wisdom from everybody’s favourite Time Lord.
Things got very philosophical and deep for a while there…. (And for my blogging friend Bun and his boys, I finally found a quote from the Tenth Doctor I could tolerate.)
But you can always trust the Eleventh Doctor to come in swinging with the optimism:
Truths were told:
And my favourite fashion choices were upheld:
Relevant observations were made about the state of the world and its politics:
We’ve definitely all had moments like this (I feel like this right now with only one more week of term before the holidays):
And to finish, the Eleventh Doctor swings again:
Have you ever had an imaginary friend? Do you have an imaginary friend now?
If you once had an imaginary friend, I feel very happy for you.
If you have an imaginary friend now, I feel even more happy for you. (You thought I was going to say I feel worried for you, didn’t you?)
I think I’d rather like to have an imaginary friend now, at my age.
But that’s a discussion for another time. It’s not actually what this post is about.
Sometimes, a random thought will come wandering into my head like a lost tourist, plonk itself down on its suitcase in the middle of my thoughts and wait for me to ask if there’s anything I can do for it.
The latest one was this:
“I wonder what it would be like to be an imaginary friend?”
Let’s think about that, shall we?
You’d never have to feel guilty for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or the wrong place at the right time or the right place at the wrong time. An imaginary friend always has perfect timing.
You’d never have to take your foot out of your mouth or apologise for saying something thoughtless, hurtful or stupid. An imaginary friend always knows the right thing to say.
You’d never have to agonise over a gift, wondering if it’s appropriate or too much or too little. An imaginary friend always buys awesome imaginary gifts with his/her imaginary millions.
You’d never have to second guess yourself about whether you were a good friend or not. An imaginary friend has absolute confidence.
You’d never have to make conversation with other friends or relatives of your friend, especially those with political views that make your blood boil. An imaginary friend is invisible to everybody else.
You’d never have to worry about posting the wrong thing on Facebook or Twitter or forgetting to reply to an email from your friend. Imaginary people don’t have Facebook or Twitt….er….acc…..ounts….. Okay, you might have to wear that one.
What would it be like to be an imaginary friend?
I reckon it would be freakin’ awesome!
How about you?
Am I a good person?
Do you ever ask yourself that?
I ask it a lot. It’s something of a tenet, a measure, a check and a balance to my life.
Am I a good person?
How do you measure if you’re a good person?
For me, it’s always been about how I treat others and, more importantly, what I do for others.* Born into a family ‘blessed’ with an overactive servant gene, it has always filled my soul to be helpful to someone.
I’m not sure but I think somehow my servant gene has mutated into a selfish gene.
There are significant people in my life who require my help but I can’t seem to muster the willpower to do it.
There are tasks I have willingly undertaken for years for someone about whom I care very much that lately I have found a chore.
I take forever to answer emails requesting assistance for some task or other (if I answer at all).
Issues of justice for which I used to advocate passionately all just seem too hard now.
Friends regularly chide me (gently) for not being in touch for months on end.
When it comes to the blogosphere, I’ve been binge-watching shows on Netflix when I know I could be reading the blog posts of people who so kindly read mine.
Is there such a thing as a selfish good person?
Even when I try to be a good person, I can end up in a no-win situation. A genuine offer of assistance to a friend has become meaningless as I find myself regularly unavailable on the day required because I want to do what is best for a special group of children. Being good to the one means being selfish to the other.
Maybe it’s too hard to be a good person.
Or maybe we just have to be as good as it’s possible to be under the circumstances. A ‘good enough’ person.
And then we hope the circumstances change to allow us to be the person we really want to be.
What makes a good person to you?
*Consequently, should I do something against this tenet and do or say something that causes hurt to another, I never really get over it.
Australians like to think of themselves as a sporting nation. We have our own native football game, a Formula One Grand Prix, one of the greatest horse races in the world and we tend to punch above our weight in the Olympics, at least in the pool. We even have Winter Olympic gold medallists. Not bad for a country with no snow for most of the year.
At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Steven Bradbury won gold in the 1,000m short track speed skating event. He won because he managed to stay on his feet while all his opponents fell over.
In Australia, achieving something because everybody else failed is now known as “doing a Bradbury”.
Australians love a winner but we especially love a winner against the odds.
Anyone who knows me well will be wondering what on earth inspired me to write a post about sport because it’s not my favourite thing in the world. In fact, I actually loathe our national game. Living in a town obsessed with its football club, this is tantamount to treason and I’ve had many a robust discussion with fans about the (to me) undue influence the club holds (particularly on the local government purse strings).
But let’s not get into that.
So why am I talking about sport now?
Because Australia has just proved itself the true champion of the world with a spectacular win in an international sporting competition.
We just won the Quidditch World Cup.
For the uninitiated (or those who have been living under a rock for the past twenty years), Quidditch is the sport played in the Harry Potter books written by J.K. Rowling. It’s been adapted to be played by people who can’t actually fly and is now an international sensation with sporting clubs all over the world.
I have felt compelled to share this news for three reasons:
- As a nerd, knowing there is a sport out there based on a series of books about wizards is pretty cool.
- I am in love with the national Quidditch team’s name. They’re called the Dropbears. Australians use the existence of the highly dangerous dropbear to scare tourists about the dangers of walking in the bush. (At least, we use it on those easily susceptible to bullshit.)
- The coach who led this team to victory over the until-then-undefeated United States is my niece. That is very cool.
That’s a sports victory I can definitely get behind.
Congratulations to the Dropbears and especially to their coach, Gen Gibson. You are the champions!
In case you were wondering where I’ve been lately…..
I’ve been working full time for the past two weeks.
All the full time working readers: So?
Well, I also have kids.
All the full time working parent readers: So?
Well, I’ve also been sick. In fact, one day I felt so sick, I actually thought I might have caught man-flu.
All the sick full time working parent readers: Sss….. Yeah, okay, that’s probably fair enough.
To be honest, I felt pretty wimpy. I mean, people do this all the time. At work, I’m surrounded by working parents teaching full time in a challenging environment. And, being full time teachers, they also have all that other accountability stuff like Professional Development Plans and reports and checklists and planning and…. It exhausts me just thinking about it.
Even allowing for the added challenge last week of spending each day fighting off a headache and trying not to cough up a lung, it concerned me that I was so tired at the end of each day.
But then I thought, maybe working is like any other physical activity. It takes fitness. Just as I used to be able to run 10km without really thinking about it, now that I haven’t run in months, even a short 4km is an effort. Maybe working full time takes training.
Apart from the occasional short stint, I haven’t worked full time since I had the kids. Prior to that, I was working full time on an IT project in a large corporation. I was commuting by train for over an hour each way and I was working long hours. And I really mean long. Six o’clock train in the morning, 7.15pm train home was the standard day. A 9.30pm train home was not unusual. Then there were the days I’d catch a taxi home at 3am. (The trains stopped running at midnight.) Or the one memorable day when I caught the 6am train to work and then came home at lunchtime the next day.
It’s been over twenty years since that mad stage of my life. There’s no way I could sustain that now. And it’s not just because I also have children who need me at the end of the day. I just don’t have the fitness for it any more.
But unlike my running that I do need to get up and … er … running, I’m not sure I’m ready to put in the training for full time work just yet. So I’ll stick with the casual relief work and take each option as it comes. And hopefully I’ll still find the time to hang out here in the blogosphere for a while yet.
Have you ever felt like you’ve lost your fitness for something?
I’d like to dedicate this post to my friends and colleagues who work full time in challenging environments. You rock.
Dear Game of Thrones Fan,
I don’t watch Game of Thrones. Never have.
Now, before you go rushing to the comments section at the bottom of the page to tell me how astonished you are (no doubt in a tone of admonishment), let me finish.
I missed the initial viewing boat when Game of Thrones began because it was only available on Pay TV and we didn’t have it.
Now, before you go rushing to the comments section at the bottom of the page to tell me about streaming services, dvds and nefarious means of watching television shows (I know all that), let me finish.
You see, I’m not actually interested in watching Game of Thrones. At all.
“But you don’t know what you’re missing!”
Well, if I don’t know, I won’t miss it. I don’t think my life will be any the lesser for it.
You know, the more you tell me I must watch it, the more determined I’m going to become to never, ever watch it.
Contrary Mary, that’s me.
“That kind of attitude could mean you miss out on the best things in life!”
Now, tell me, honestly, if someone asked you, “What are the best things in your life?” what would you say? Would a television show make the list? Family, friends, music, art, travel…these would be on my list. I’m not sure television would rate very highly, if at all.
A bit of perspective, please.
What bothers me the most, however, is watching someone share the fact that they’ve never watched Game of Thrones on social media and seeing the comments fill with insults.
“Loser”, “Idiot” and worse.
Now, I look around the world and do you know what I think is wrong with a lot of it? We’re sinking into a mire of intolerance. If someone looks different, worships a different god, speaks in a different language, has different abilities, believes in something different, loves someone different, the shouty voices come out.
Goodness knows, we have issues we need to discuss and to find some commonality to move forward in peace and humanity. Insisting that I love the same television show that you do is not one of them.
So, let’s respect each other’s likes and dislikes and please don’t insist that I watch Game of Thrones.
And I won’t call you a loser if you don’t watch Doctor Who.
We all have a need to create. Whether we are a writer, artist, photographer, musician, decorator, gardener, programmer, cook or athlete, we all feel the joy of seeing something that has come from us. It feeds our soul and lightens our days.
But what if you couldn’t create?
What happens to the writer who is jailed because of his words? What happens to the musician who is shunned by her community because of the style of music she chooses to play? What happens to the artist who is locked away and told “You must do nothing”?
The writer may continue to write in the hope of regime change. The musician may move to another community in the hope of bringing awareness to the restrictions placed on others. But what does the captive do?
A young man held in immigration detention for many years said the worst thing about being locked away was not the lack of freedom of movement or the indignity of security measures but being able to do nothing. With nothing to do, there is only time to think. “You are useless, Mohammad.” “You are worth nothing, Mohammad.”
Last weekend I had the privilege of attending an art exhibition of works by those currently or formerly held in immigration detention in Melbourne. A small band of volunteers had supplied the asylum seekers with art materials and encouraged them to express themselves. The works were amazing and often heartbreaking.
“I found I could say things with colour and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” – Georgia O’Keeffe
My thanks to the artists from the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre, the volunteer visitors and Lisa Stewart (originator and curator of the exhibition) for an enlightening and moving event. Thanks also to Elly McDonald for the photos.
It is now more than eighteen months since our correspondent, Heath Dempster, was evacuated from the Central Republic of Kitchen in the wake of sustained attacks from wardrobe terrorists and continued unrest in the rebel Northern States of Boys Rooms. In this special report, Dempster returns to the region to discover how the people of CRK are faring. He spoke to our presenter Nigel Havestock yesterday.
Heath, it’s so wonderful to speak to you in the CRK again.
Yes, thank you, Nigel. It’s wonderful to be back here.
So, how are you finding it?
It’s very interesting, Nigel. In some ways, things haven’t changed but in others they have changed dramatically – both good and bad.
What’s been happening since you were last there?
Well, you would recall that my earliest reports were in regard to battles between the rebels and government forces in the Bench areas of the country.
Yes, the beginning of the Crumb Wars.
Precisely. There have been some interesting developments. Approximately six months ago, the Leader of the CRK, Mother, initiated a new Sourdough industry in a bid to improve the wellbeing of her citizens.
That sounds wonderful.
One would think so. Unfortunately, what it has done is exacerbate the conditions in the Bench areas and guerrilla attacks of toast crumbs have increased dramatically.
And what has been the response from the government?
That is what is interesting, Nigel. It seems that in order to support the fledgling Sourdough industry, the government has been tolerating these attacks, entering the area only when the rebels have moved on and initiating clean up before the rebels return. This seems to be maintaining some semblance of order while minimising the chance of increased hostilities. And, of course, the Sourdough industry is thriving in response.
What about other areas in the region, Heath? How are they doing?
Unfortunately, the Northern States of Boys Rooms have descended into complete anarchy and chaos. There was some attempt early on to enforce civic order but following extensive carpet bombing by leaders in the Northern States, this has been abandoned. It is unknown just how the citizens are surviving in such conditions but they have been sighted outside the States searching for food.
Heath, last time you were in the CRK there was some tension between the Leader and the Deputy Leader, is that correct?
That’s right, Nigel. Mother had sacked the Deputy Leader, Father, as the Secretary of Cleanliness on suspicion of siding with the rebels.
How is that relationship now?
Nigel, that is the most fascinating of the good news/bad news discoveries on my visit here. You may recall reading of the Leader’s humanitarian visit outside the CRK late last year?
Ah yes, in the wake of the recent earthquakes?
Yes. While she was absent from the CRK, the Deputy Leader was in charge and by all reports did a reasonable job of maintaining services and some civic order. He was particularly active in ensuring the continuation of hygiene and sanitation services, somewhat unusually as he has often spurned offers of ministry portfolios in these areas.
Within days of Mother’s return to the CRK, there was a shocking assassination attempt by a wardrobe terrorist cell, the Clothing Moths, that had been ravaging the country. Fortunately, the assassination attempt failed. However, the Leader was severely injured and unable to resume duties for some months. Father continued in the role, ensuring transport, food provision and sanitation services were maintained throughout the country.
What has been most fascinating, Nigel, is that while Mother has now resumed the leadership of the country, Father has retained his role in coordinating hygiene and sanitation services.
That is fascinating, Heath. Why do you think that is?
I’m not sure, Nigel, but I suspect Mother was not keen to resume control of those ministry areas and Father felt no option but to remain. It will be interesting to see if it continues in the longer term but it does seem to have brought some stability to the region now that the Leader and Deputy Leader appear to be working together for the betterment of their citizens.
Well, Heath, I wish you well on the rest of your visit to the CRK and do keep us posted.
Of course. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you, Nigel.
That was Heath Dempster, our correspondent, reporting from the Central Republic of Kitchen. Heath travelled to the CRK as a special media representative with the United Household Nations.
Want more information? Check out our Crumb Wars archives:
I’ve just finished appearing in a production of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ as Lady Egeus, Hermia’s mother. (Yes, yes, it’s supposed to be Lord Egeus, Hermia’s father but men are scarce in amateur community theatre.)
I’m part of a small theatre company called Theatre of the Winged Unicorn. It’s unique. And I’m not just talking about the name. It’s unique because it’s not just about the acting. It’s unique because it’s not about the stars of the show or the glitz and the glamour. It’s unique because it’s about community. And it’s about family.
It says something when you’ll happily accept a part that has only thirty lines and appears for a mere half an hour of total stage time just so you can be involved.
It says something when you’ll happily accept extra roles behind the scenes like “Box Office” or “Fairy Wrangler” because being part of a family is about supporting one another.
It says something when you’re sad that the show is over not because your stage role has come to an end but because your time hanging out with a great bunch of people has come to an end.
It says something when more often than not, the people you meet for the first time in a play become your friends for life.
I’m no great acting talent and I have no ambitions of fame and fortune. What I do dream of doing is joining with others I like and respect to create something beautiful, funny, tragic, mysterious or magical.
It’s more than just one midsummer night’s dream.
It’s a lifetime of living the dream.
A post in reverse response to the Daily Post’s prompt “Dream”. Reverse because I actually thought of this post (title included) hours before the Daily Post posted its prompt. Figured I’d better write it then.