A Master of What?


This blog began some three and a half years ago and at the time I couldn’t really put a finger on what I was good at and hence the title.

Over these past years, kindly folk have suggested various masteries I could claim as my own but I’ve usually shrugged them off.

I’ve always struggled to say “I am good at…” and always wondered why.

Recently, I realised that perhaps it is because I possess no socially acceptable standard that I am a master of anything. It is hard to claim something for which you have no proof.

If you can say in society, “I have a degree in Literature/Creative Writing/Journalism. I am a good writer”, everyone around you will nod their heads, admire you and agree “You are a good writer.”

If you can say in society, “I have a Masters of Education from [name your own prestigious university]. I am a good teacher”, you will be regarded as an asset to any classroom.

If, however, you possess a degree in Mathematics but do not work in the field, what is it worth?

If you are qualified to teach science and mathematics but teach in an area where those skills are irrelevant, what good are you really?

And yet, I know I am a good writer. I know I am a good teacher. But my evidence for such claims is circumstantial and personal.

It is the people who tell me, “Write more blog posts, we love your writing”. It is the staff who smile happily when they realise you will be teaching in their classroom.

Fine for me.

Not so much for society.

One of my (pathetically) prized possessions is a photocopy of the front page of a training manual I once wrote which was reviewed by the upper management Training Manager (for some reason that I do not recall).

On the page, he had written “This is the best training material I have ever read in my 13+ years of training”.

Like all positions of employment I’ve ever held in my life, I had neither the qualifications nor experience to be employed as a training developer but for some reason they gave me the job anyway and I got this review within my first year on the job.

But it doesn’t look as significant hung on the wall as a Bachelor’s degree.

I’ve never even sat a music exam. So I have no proof that I can sing, play piano or guitar or write music. Well, I do have a school report from Year 9 Music that says, “She has a good working knowledge of music theory at this level and in the end-of-year examination scored an impressive 100%” so there’s that, I guess but I’m not sure how that would play out.

“So, what Grade level did you reach?”

“Me? Oh, well, none. But I have this great report from my Year 9 music teacher. Want to read it?”

“Probably not.”

The prompt for this post was a comment that found me consumed with jealousy for those who can claim a qualification to legitimise their obvious skills. I’d offered some assistance with a task on the basis of believing I possessed some relevant skill but was countered with the explanation that the other person possessed a high level qualification in the area in question and would therefore not require my unqualified help.

I can’t argue with that.

Of course, if it concerns me so much, why don’t I go out and gain such qualifications? Because I’m a Jack of ALL Trades. Which qualification would I pick?? I’m not sure I’ve got enough time or energy (or money!) to pursue a degree in literature, journalism, music, fine arts, computer programming, IT support or a Masters/PhD in Education, Science, Mathematics or a trade qualification in building, carpentry, painting, textiles, electronics, costume design, cake decorating or car maintenance.

So I think I’ll just go on as before, having a stab at anything that takes my fancy whether qualified to do so or not, and live the life of a Jack of All Trades.

And hope that someday someone introduces a Master of All Trades qualification.

I’d like to hang that on my wall.

MofAT certificate


Boireannach: A Place of Her Own


boireannach: ( /ˈbo.rə.nəx/) noun woman, female (from Scottish Gaelic)

I live with boys. Lots of boys. I have a husband, three sons and a male cat. Then there’s me – the lone female in the house. (If you don’t count the resident spiders some of whom must be of the feminine persuasion. I don’t love spiders. I’m just not a fan of housework.)

It’s not a major problem. I suspect the universe gifted me such a plethora of testosterone because I can take it. Probably better than I’d take a plethora of oestrogen. I am not a girly girl. Never have been, never will be. I was quite happy to have boys. Not sure I’d know what to do with a girl. Admittedly, I was lucky they turned out to be geeky boys rather than sporty ones. Science fiction and fantasy I get. Football bores me to tears.

However, as much as a family of boys suits me, there have been times when the testosterone load gets a bit much. Especially as they have got older and messier and smellier.

One day, a bit over a year ago, during the long summer holidays, I went looking for somewhere to sit down for a while. As I wandered around the house, I found the Eldest Son sitting at the dining table eating his lunch, the Middle Son watching Japanese anime on the television in the lounge room and the Youngest Son playing video games on the computer in the family room. Oh, and the Husband sitting on my side of the bed in our bedroom listening to the cricket on the radio.

There was nowhere to go that didn’t contain testosterone. And that includes the kitchen. Even if there weren’t any boys in it at the time, all it reminds me of is endless requests for food.

It was a breaking point of sorts.

For a number of years I’d toyed with the idea of taking over the cubby house in the backyard as my own space. The boys didn’t use it anymore and it was a usable size. Unfortunately, it was full of junk and the very thought of clearing it out gave me an attack of the procrastinations. I did try. I pulled everything out one day, sorted it, threw out rubbish. Then had to put it back in when it started to rain. The next time I went to tackle it, there was more in there. Sigh.

Moaning about the situation to a friend one day, she suggested that I ditch the cubby house idea and just build something new.

This was an attractive idea.

It would entail some expense. Some studio/cabin options were in the vicinity of $20,000. They were commonly around the $8,000-10,000 price range. This was not so attractive.

Eventually, after extensive research, I settled on the idea of a basic timber shed that I could upgrade. It would mean more work but it was less than half the cost of other options.


The people of Design A Shed deserve a plug for their helpfulness, friendliness and patience.

I ran the idea past the Husband, couching it in terms of being for my 50th birthday (he went to New York for his) and adding value to the house. He agreed to the proposal.

In fact, he more than agreed and this is my favourite part of the story. He not only agreed, he got it. As I listened to him explain what we were doing to his family and our neighbours, I knew that he’d heard me.

And so began Operation She-Shed. It was long, it was arduous, it was frustrating and it took well over a year from purchase to completion but I made it. And I made it.

Following is a pictorial history of the journey from pick up at the factory to the last brush stroke. Along the way, I’ve learned to do so many things. I’ve driven a truck, constructed a kit shed, installed insulation, cut down and fitted a door, lined a ceiling, laid a floor and a deck, cut and installed skirting boards and beading, built furniture, designed and constructed planter boxes and done an awful lot of painting. I’ve used a drill, a circular saw, an impact driver, an orbital sander, a drop saw and a nail gun. I got to know my local hardware store really well. The only job for which I called in the professionals was plastering the walls. I thought about doing it myself but I was getting impatient and having it done in an afternoon was easier than figuring that one out myself.

So, as I sit here in my new space writing this blog post, I still can’t really believe it exists and it is mine. Really mine because I made it myself.

A shed load of love and thanks to all the family and friends who helped me realise this dream through practical help, moral support, lending me things and making the appropriate wow comments whenever I shared my latest achievement on Facebook. You all rock.

Picking up the shed

I must thank my friend Kath for coming to my rescue and driving the truck to Melbourne to pick up the shed. The cost of delivery was phenomenal so there was nothing for it but to collect it myself but I didn’t think this was the trip on which to learn to drive a truck. She did make me drive it back to the rental depot after we unloaded for which I am grateful because now I can say, “I drove a truck”.

Preparing the site and putting in the elevation kit

We don’t live on an easy block to put things in the backyard. Everything has to be carried up steps. We also live on clay so digging holes is a mammoth task in itself. I’m incredibly grateful to my husband for taking on the task of putting in the elevation kit.

Building the shed

Oh boy. Or oh boys. Thank heavens for three boys. Carrying all those pieces of shed around the garage and up the steps and past the clothesline and up a path to the spot in the backyard was no picnic. They worked hard. And I’m still traumatised by the act of getting the roof on. (And yes, it’s a tad off-centre. Close enough.) I must also thank my friends Kris and Meg for lending me their impact driver and cordless drill. We would never have got it together without them.

The door

When it came to putting on the door, I held it up to the spot to check the fit and instantly lost a lot of light. Urgh. Hm, I thought. Wouldn’t a window be nice? So I went hunting through demolition yards and found a new door which I then had to cut down to fit. Still quite proud of that effort.

The verandah and deck

When it came to putting up the verandah, it was only when it weirdly sloped upwards that I realised I was supposed to cut down the railing posts to the right height. I’d already screwed them in so there was an interestingly unsafe exercise of cutting through them with a circular saw vertically while the boys held up the roof. Installing the deck was much more fun. I rather like banging in nails. Once more, thank you to the boys for carrying, lifting and holding.

Outside painting

One day I had a vision of my shed in dark purple and white. Cruising around the paint charts at the hardware store, I dismissed one colour as too dark and too blue but then read the name. “Dark Heather”. Well. Nothing for it but to ask for a sample pot. When she opened the tin, I knew it was exactly the colour I’d been looking for.

Insulation, ceilings and walls

The one thing about timber sheds with a corrugated iron roof is that they are hot. I knew I was going to have to insulate and I also came to realise that I was going to have to install some sort of ceiling with insulation even if it meant losing the skylight. My solution was to cut the leftover insulation in half to make it thinner, glue it to the back of some plywood and screw said plywood to the roof frame. It came up better than I could have hoped. Thank you to my friend Carolyn for solving the issue of “how do I get massive pieces of plywood home in a sedan?” by lending me her tray truck. When I got the quote for plastering the walls, I nearly had a heart attack and I wondered if I could repeat the same process on the walls as the ceiling but by the time I added up the materials, I was only a few hundred dollars short of the quote. I figured that $300 was worth the ease of getting someone else to do it. Thanks to Craig at Feathers Plastering for doing the job that many other plasterers turned down as not worth their while.

Beading and inside painting

Craig had asked what I was going to do about the join between the walls and the ceiling and I told him not to worry, I’d find and install something. Part way through installing the beading when I’d broken my drill bit drilling guide holes, banged my fingers, dropped the hammer from the ladder about five times and uttered numerous four-letter words, I was wishing I’d added it to Craig’s quote. But I got there in the end. And my solution to how to meet the pieces in the weirdly angled corners was to just keep the edges straight and then hide it all under putty and paint. Worked a treat. Painting the inside white added so much lightness that I didn’t miss the skylight at all. I also discovered I am not a fan of painting. I don’t have the patience. Although, using the roller was quite fun.

Floor and skirting boards

Soon after starting on the floor, I realised it really needed three people to be able to click in the whole length properly. Thanks to the Husband and Middle Son for helping out. I tried cutting the first end board with the circular saw but it was ragged so for all the rest I used a hacksaw. Yep, cut them all by hand. When it came to installing the skirting boards, I knew I was going to need a more accurate method of cutting 45 degree angles than the ‘protractor, pencil and hacksaw’ method I’d used for the beading with limited success. I put the call out for a drop saw and am grateful to my friends Julie and Cam for lending me not only the drop saw but also a nail gun. No more banged fingers. Using the drop saw was so amazing, I wished I’d thought to ask for one when I was doing the floor. I’d have had it done in half the time. I really want my own now. The nail gun was efficient but nerve-wracking. I blame that WorkSafe ad.

Steps, planters and painting the deck

For some reason, when we put the shed together on top of the elevation kit, it didn’t fit properly and we ended up with the front stumps exposed. This presented a problem for installing steps so I had to extend the deck. I think this was probably my favourite thing about this project – coming up with creative solutions to problems. From a decorative disc to hide an off-centre door handle hole to shoving a piece of timber up the inside of the door when the bottom hinge wouldn’t attach properly to building planter boxes to hide the posts sticking out the front, it’s been gratifying to find ways to hide the flaws.

Decking it out and connecting power

Ooh, the fun bit! I had a highly successful trip to Ikea for a shelving unit and a place to store tea and coffee supplies. And putting together Ikea furniture seemed a breeze after the various challenges with building the shed. It was a fun, if very wet, weekend. (You should have seen the mud I had to clean off the deck…) The desk is an old work desk that the boys used as a computer desk until we rearranged the family room and moved the pc to a smaller desk. I sanded it back, painted it and attached some new handles to the drawers so it wouldn’t look like the place that boys had sat at for years. And there were all sorts of bits and pieces sitting around waiting for a home, especially my series of coffee-themed pastels by artist and friend Jill Shalless. But my favourite item is the chaise-longue. I must thank my friend Naomi for spotting it on an op shop’s Facebook page and letting me know and then driving us to the town more than an hour away to pick it up in her station wagon.

Power at this stage is connected via an extension lead from the garage. Probably a more permanent solution is warranted but it’s working quite well at the moment. (I’d considered a solar system but couldn’t justify a system that cost more than the shed.)

What’s with the name?

I knew I wanted a name for my place. It’s personal to me. Boireannach is Scottish Gaelic for woman. It was perfect. It looks like the name of something, it represents my Scottish heritage and it signifies the importance of my ‘no boys allowed’ space. Thank you to my friend Margaret-Rose (aka M-R) for the nameplate.

Wondering how to pronounce it? Here’s a fun video that may help you.

The End and the Beginning

So there you have it. If you’ve stuck with me this long, thank you. It has been important to me to document this journey officially. It’s been a long road but I got there. There’s still some landscaping to be done but at last I’m in situ. I’m looking forward to the many creative adventures ahead in a place of my own.

Two Bloggers Walk Into A Bar….Or Onto A Road

WP on highway

Scene: Two WordPress bloggers meet somewhere on the information superhighway. Or, rather, on the pedestrian section of the information superhighway. We don’t want anyone run over by speed demons. You know, those bloggers who churn out posts at lightning speed, sometimes multiple times a day.

Random Blogger: Oh, hello MOSY! How have you been?

MOSY: Ah, okay, I guess.

RB: Haven’t seen you about much lately. What have you been up to?

MOSY: Oh, I’ve been a bit busy, actually. With the three R’s.

RB: Wow. Have you gone back to study?!

MOSY: Er….noooo. Three R’s? Running, Rowing and Recovering.

RB: Rowing and running?

MOSY: Yeeees. Sometimes I row and then run. One after the other. Hence the third R, of course.

RB: So, you’re telling me you’re insane.

MOSY: I’m not insane. My mother had me tested.

RB: Oh dear. Has it been that bad for that long?

MOSY: Really? You don’t know a quote from The Big Bang Theory when you hear one?

RB: The big what?

[MOSY rolls her eyes and sighs]

MOSY: Don’t you have a photo challenge to write about or something?

RB: Nah. I don’t really like the theme this week.


RB: You know, I do recall seeing you somewhere lately. On some blog or other.

MOSY: Well, yes, I’ve tried at least to keep up with other people’s blogs. Put my two cents worth in. Although, given the exchange rate lately, it’s more like one and a half cents worth on those Northern Hemisphere blogs.

RB: That’s right. You were making some bizarre comment about banana daiquiris or something. It was kind of amusing.

MOSY: Yeah, well, it’s easy to be witty in small doses.

RB: Witty? Was that what you were trying to be?

[MOSY stares at RB]

MOSY: Are you sure you don’t want to do this week’s photo challenge? I heard they’re offering prizes. [MOSY crosses her fingers behind her back]

RB: REALLY?? Oh, I’d better get right on that! I think I’ve got something from a few years ago that will be perfect!

MOSY: Yes, you’d best get on to that. You’re definitely in the running.

RB: Are you sure you’ll be okay? Will I see you again?

MOSY: Oh, you know me. Always hanging around like a bad smell. Or a bad electronic presence anyway.

RB: But you’ll post something soon, right? I mean, you know that if you don’t post regularly people will stop reading your blog?

MOSY: Right. [MOSY sighs]

Closing scene: The Random Blogger rushes away to trawl through photo archives while MOSY pulls out her laptop, stares at the New Post page for a few minutes, sighs, then puts it away and sticks out her thumb for a lift.



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Everybody’s Writing A Memoir But Me

Memoirs. I’ve always been very impressed by my fellow bloggers who have written – or are in the process of writing – their memoirs.

It’s not something I’m ever likely to attempt. I believe I have made it clear already that any memoir I tried to write would be very short and exceedingly uninteresting.

I can't even design a decent book jacket.

I can’t even design a decent book jacket.

I’ve not had exciting jobs or met fascinating people. I’ve not dined with opera singers or hung out with rock stars. I haven’t even had a riveting childhood. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my childhood, but it certainly isn’t filled with tales of deprivation or neglect – the usual stuff of memoirs.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover that my youngest son is writing his memoir. He’s only twelve but I am sure – from what I have heard – that he is writing an account of his Life So Far.

How do I know this? He keeps coming and asking me for vocabulary advice.

“What’s it called when someone punches their fist into their other hand?” (I couldn’t answer that one. What is that called??)

“What do you call it when you say something and the other person completely overreacts and how you then react to that?” Shocked? Surprised? Stunned? Stunned. That’s the word he was looking for.

I can’t wait to read it.


I’m joking about it being a memoir. Please don’t call the Child Protection services.


Pardon? What is he writing, then? No idea. He’s writing. That’s enough to know, don’t you think?



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“And Then Like My Dreams” by Margaret Rose Stringer (Not A Review)


This is not a review. I don’t like book reviews. To me, reading a book is such a subjective act, how can one assess the quality of a book with true neutrality? With a book, one person may snort with laughter, drawing attention from fellow commuters on the train while another gets only ten pages in and wonders what was so funny. Or one may find the richness and sophistication of a narrative inspiring while another has no idea what the author is talking about.

Those who have already stumbled across the blog of Margaret-Rose Stringer (better known as M-R out here in the Blogosphere) will know that she has written a book. She claims she began the blog as a publicity vehicle for her book. Whatever the reason, I am glad she did. She is a fresh, wicked voice in the Blogosphere and book or no book, long may she reign.

I’ve read her book – And Then Like My Dreams {a memoir} – the story of her life with Charles ‘Chic’ Stringer, master stills photographer in the Australian film industry. But I’m not going to review it. What I am going to do is offer a response – the depths of my feelings while reading this remarkable book.

I must first confess that I had to put this book down twice before I got to page three. That’s not M-R’s fault. She describes the impending death of her beloved Chic and the news of her father’s death on those first two pages with such raw emotion that I, having lost my own father mere days before, could not read those passages without time to recover. But such is her writing that it was only minutes before I just had to pick it up again to see what else she had to say.

I feel I’ve got to know M-R’s voice pretty well through her blog and reading her book was like an extended conversation. Well, okay, she was talking and I was listening so it was a somewhat one-sided conversation, but as she had such a great story to tell, I didn’t mind.

This book made me laugh loudly, cry quietly and – being a sheltered wallflower – blush frequently. I moved through anticipation of the beginning to dread of the ending.

It almost drove me mad that my life went crazy just as this book arrived in the post. It meant little time to read and this was a book I didn’t want to put down. So desperate was I to keep reading, more than once it fell out of my hands late at night as I squeezed in what reading time I could before my eyes got the better of me and closed against my wishes.

Some of her memories are described in film script form. I loved these, having grown up reading and memorising Monty Python and Goon Show scripts. It set the scene perfectly and gave me a visual response to whatever memory she was conveying.

Her pithy little footnotes were also a delight. I do so love a pithy footnote.

I was insanely jealous in parts – of her experiences, her travels, her oh-so-capable husband (he builds their house, for Pete’s sake!).

The last quarter of the book is a difficult read. In fact, I almost contacted M-R to tell her the promised review would not be forthcoming as I wasn’t sure I could finish the book. Having watched my father’s deterioration and death less than a year after his diagnosis of mesothelioma, this section of their story hit a little too close to home. I can imagine it an emotional read for anyone who has watched a loved one battle cancer.

But I felt I owed it to M-R and to her beloved Chic to finish the story. To know and to understand the whole story.

So, after a not-so-little cry and a good blow of the nose, I pushed on. I’m glad I did and I encourage anyone who feels the emotion too much to keep going. There is hope and light and laughter to be had in the ending of the story.

I know that M-R did not write this book for fame (it is so often fleeting anyway) or fortune (she assures us this is certainly not forthcoming) but because she wanted as many people as possible to know about her wonderful and amazing husband. I encourage you to read this book and meet this most remarkable of men.

M-R, thank you for sharing your story and your ‘Stringer’ as you loved to call him. I am so glad to have met him. I am only sorry not to have shared one of Chic’s meals with you both over a bottle of Italian red. I do so love an Italian red. And what fun that would have been.

Check out Margaret-Rose Stringer’s blog here for details on how to purchase this book. Then buy it. Then read it. Trust me.



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Five Go To Challenge Island

Five go to Challenge Island


“I’m so jolly glad it’s the holidays! What shall we do tomorrow?” Foolian stretched out his legs in the chair under the tree.

“Well, Forge is supposed to be here soon,” said Fick, munching on an apple. “Perhaps we could go to Challenge Island.”

Fanne jumped up. “Oh, yes please! It’s such jolly fun on the island!”

Suddenly the children heard barking from around the corner of the house.

“Oh!” cried Fanne. “That must be Forge and Fimmy!”

The two boys stared at her. “Why did you call him that?” asked Foolian.

“What?” said Fanne.

“You called him Fimmy. His name is Roger.”

“Oh.” Fanne started to cry. “I don’t know. It just came out.”

The boys put their arms around their sister. “Don’t worry, old girl,” said Fick. “Everybody makes mistakes. Last week I called the headmaster Mr Dumdum.”

Fanne laughed. “Oh, Fick! You didn’t!”

Fick laughed and rubbed his bottom. “Yes, I did.”

“Did what?”

The question came from a girl with short curly hair dressed in a shirt and boys shorts. She was standing next to a large brown dog.

“Forge!!” the three children cried in unison and fell on their friend, patting her on the back and shaking her hand. “It’s jolly good to see you!” “How was your term?” “Isn’t it just smashing to be together again?”

Forge was really Forgina but she had always wanted to be a boy so she wore boys’ clothes and would only answer to Forge. Recently she had developed a lot but the friends didn’t have the heart to tell her that nobody was going to think she was a boy with a bust like that.

“So, what were you talking about?” asked Forge as she sat down on the grass under the tree. Roger flopped down next to her.

“We were talking about going to your island, Forge,” explained Foolian.

Forge had been given Challenge Island as a prize for being Freshly Pressed when she was only 7 years old. Lots of others visited the island but they knew it would always belong to Forge.

“Mmmm,” said Forge. “I don’t know. It’s been kind of busy lately and whenever I go there, there’s so many other people already there.”

“Oh!” said Fanne. “Not these holidays! Forge, didn’t you hear? No one is allowed on the island for five whole days!! We’ll have the whole place to ourselves!”

Foolian looked concerned. “But if no one is allowed on the island for five days,” he said severely. “Then we shouldn’t be there either.”

Fanne, Fick and Forge looked at each other and shook their heads. Foolian always wanted to follow the rules. Forge laughed. “Oh, Foolian, you silly,” she said. “It’s my island. We can go whenever we want!”

Fanne and Fick nodded. Foolian thought for a moment. Then he smiled and said, “Let’s do it!”

“But after lunch,” said Fick who was always hungry. The four friends laughed and Roger jumped around them happily. Just then, they heard a voice calling them into the house for lunch.

“Coming, Mother!” called Fanne and hurried the others into the house.



As they walked past the parlour on their way to the dining room, Forge suddenly stopped and stared.

What is that??” she exclaimed.

The three friends stopped and stared into the parlour. “What?” said Foolian.

“The tuba,” said Forge. “Who on earth plays the tuba?”

“I do,” said Fick, suddenly embarrassed. Forge stared at him. “I…, I…,” Fick stammered. “I…, well, they were looking for people to join the orchestra at school last term and, well, I thought, why jolly well not?”

“But why a tuba??” asked Forge.

“It was the only instrument they had left,” said Fick.

Forge laughed. “Well, go on then,” she said. “Give us a tune!”

Fick glanced at his brother and sister who shrugged and nodded their heads.

“Right-o,” said Fick. He picked up the tuba and sat on the sofa. As he placed his fingers on the valves, he said, “I’ve only been learning for a bit so I’m not very good.”

Forge sat down next to him. “Go on, Fick,” she said enthusiastically. “Give it a good old blow!”

Fick took a deep breath and then played a few deep notes on the tuba. When he was finished, the friends all clapped and cheered. “Oh, jolly good, Fick!” “That was marvellous!” “Brilliant!”

Just then the children’s mother came to the door. “What are you doing?” she asked.

“Oh,” said Fick. “Forge just wanted to hear my tuba.”

“Well, isn’t that lovely,” said Mother. “Now put away that tuba and have your lunch.”

Fick put the tuba back in its case and the four friends and Roger went to have lunch.



“So how was your term, Forge?” Foolian asked as he took a bite of his ham sandwich.

Forge swallowed her mouthful of ginger beer. “Oh, it was jolly good, you know. They took us to an orphanage one day and we got to play with the orphans.”

“Oh, yes! Fanne told us about that,” said Fick. “She loved it, didn’t you Fanne?”

“I thought they were sweet,” said Fanne. “I wanted to take them all home with me!”

The friends laughed. “Oh yes, Fanne,” said Foolian. “I could see you as a jolly matron of some orphanage somewhere. You’d be fat and cuddly and feed the children too much cake!”

Fanne laughed and reached for another boiled egg. “I would love it!” she cried and the friends all laughed.

When they had finished their lunch, they returned to their spot under the tree. “So,” said Foolian. “When shall we go to the island?”

“Today!” cried Fanne, Fick and Forge all together.

“Hm. Are you sure it’s all right for us to go there early, Forge?”

“Of course. It’s my island, isn’t it?” she scoffed.

“Well, if we’re going to go today, we’ll have to get supplies.” Foolian stood up. “Come on, everyone. We’re going to Challenge Island!”

The others all cheered and clapped their hands and then the friends went off to get ready.



“How was I supposed to know the shop wouldn’t be open today?” grumbled Forge. The friends would not be going anywhere today. Mr Godwin, the shopkeeper, had taken his cat to the vet and closed the shop early.

“Nevermind, Forge,” said Fanne. “We can go tomorrow. It will give us more time to pack our things.”

Forge sighed. “You’re right, Fanne. But it’s still jolly disappointing.”

The next day the four friends walked down to the boat landing laden with rucksacks bulging with tinned tongue, boiled eggs, sardines, bread, sausages, tinned peaches and lashings of ginger beer. They carried them down to the edge of the water and loaded them into Forge’s sturdy little rowing boat.

“Come on, Roger!” Forge called out. Roger, who was saying hello to the Pekingese that belonged to old Mrs Foster, looked up, barked at the Pekingese and ran down to the boat. “In you go, Roger,” said Forge.

Roger clambered into the boat. “Here, watch out!” said Fick. “You nearly knocked over my Brainies you silly old dog!”

Forge stared at Fick. “Your what?”

“Brainies,” said Fick. “We made them at school in our Home Economics class. They’re a brownie that looks like a piece of brain.”

“Why would you make those?” Forge asked.

“It’s in case of an attack of zombies,” Foolian explained. “You can throw them a Brainie and while they’re eating it – thinking it’s a bit of brain – you can escape.”

Forge stared at both Foolian and Fick. Then she shook her head and climbed into the boat. “You know,” she said. “I’m glad I don’t go to a boys’ boarding school. How peculiar.”

Soon they were on their way across the water to Challenge Island.



The little rowing boat with the four friends and a dog was about halfway across the bay to the island when suddenly the wind picked up. Fanne shivered. “Oooh,” she said. “Do you feel that? It’s like a winter wind blowing! Mackintoshes everyone!” They all pulled their mackintoshes out of the rucksacks and put them on. Roger was hiding in the bottom of the boat.

“It’s all right, Roger,” said Forge. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to turn into a storm. We’ll be on the island soon and we’ll get a jolly warm fire going.”

“Do you think there will be anyone there, Forge?” asked Foolian.

“It’s hard to say,” she said. “They’ve been told before not to go to the island but they still do it. I’m sure it won’t be as many, though,” she added as she saw her friends’ disappointed faces.

With Forge and Foolian on the oars, the boat sped across the choppy waves. “Here, hold on a bit!” cried Fick. “We’re getting near the landing.” The two rowers held their oars and the boat bobbed into the wooden landing on the island shore. As it bumped against the timber, Fick jumped out and tied the painter around one of the posts. Fanne was out next with Foolian close behind her.

Forge passed up the rucksacks, tents and other supplies and they piled them on the landing. “Come on, Roger. Out you get,” said Forge. With a giant leap and a bark, Roger was on the landing and sniffing at the pile of belongings.

Forge laughed. “All right, old boy. Let’s get a fire going first and then I’ll give you that big juicy bone you can smell.”

The friends picked up their supplies and hurried up to the campsite at the top of the island.


The four friends and their dog went on to have a very exciting adventure that involved bad people, not-so-bad people and a policeman who said “‘Ere! I fought I tol’ you kids to clear orf! Are you fick?” to which Fick replied “Yes, I am. Who are you?” and got into a lot of trouble.


This was a response to the Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge. The challenge was to write a post over five days and incorporate the following:

  • Day One: start your post.
  • Day Two: add a quote from a conversation you had with someone today (an email, instant message, or text conversation is fine, too).
  • Day Three: add something related to what your childhood self wanted to be when you grew up, or a dream you have for your future.
  • Day Four: add a reference to something currently in your refrigerator.
  • Day Five: add something inspired by a song you heard today. If you didn’t hear any music, use something you read (and turn on the radio!).

I’ll leave it to you to work out what was what but you can find a recipe for Brainies here.

(Book cover image sourced from exhibitions.sevenstories.org.uk. Defacement by me.)



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Grief and Story

Grief and Story

A dear friend of mine died the other day. He was an irascible old bugger but one of the biggest supporters of my writing.

I once wrote a short story for his wife (another of my biggest supporters) as a thankyou for a theatre piece I was involved in with the theatre company started by them both. He was a tad jealous, I think. He wrote to me soon after and said how much he had enjoyed the story and so he thought he would write a sequel to it.  This he duly did and emailed it to me. In response, I emailed back a continuance of what he had started.

And thus a back-and-forth formation of a story developed. That is, until the day he asked if he could make some minor alterations to the last bit I had sent him. I agreed but when he sent back my bit with his next bit added, only about 300 words of my more than 800 word contribution remained. I then suggested that perhaps he should drive the story home as he obviously had more invested in how it should end than I.

He hadn’t thought he’d done anything wrong. When his wife pointed out how hurtful and inappropriate his action had been, he was mortified. Such a frustratingly endearing man.

I had thought we were just having a bit of fun with the story and so in one of my additions, I moved the action to Peru. There might have been a bit of political intrigue in there. When you’re just writing for fun, it’s no holds barred so why not be ludicrous?

Unbeknownst to me, my lovely writing partner was actually formulating a plan to present the story as a radio script at a performance opportunity.


It went ahead. I was slightly embarrassed. Particularly as I had to sit through each performance as sound and lighting technician.

Fortunately, the local theatre critic was complimentary if not effusive. At least he wasn’t abusive.

For his 80th birthday I wrote my dear friend a story of his own. I left it open-ended so he could add to it if he wished. Which he did and we had a minor back and forth but life had changed for both him and me and it never quite took flight as the other did.

In honour of Dennis and in his memory, I give you the original story I wrote just for him.

The Old House

He stood on the other side of the street, trying to suppress his disappointment. It had been more than fifty years, he reminded himself. He had tried to prepare himself. Of course, it will have changed. It will be a different colour. Maybe even have been built onto. In the cloud of his misery, he had to admit he had not been prepared for this.

The house had gone. Completely. Not even the large beech tree in the front yard, at the top of which he had hidden on more than one naughty occasion, remained. The new house was a monstrosity, creeping right to the front boundary, edge to edge, no room for grass, trees or the freesias that used to pop up every spring, even though no one could remember ever planting them.

He noticed a curtain twitch and looked away, studying the map in his hand as if looking for something. Out of the corner of his eye, he tried to make out a face, but there seemed to be no one there. Perhaps he had imagined it.

Never go back. That had been his brother’s advice. Never go back. It will only hurt you. But he had to go back; had to see the old place just one more time. This would be his last trip back to the old country. He was getting too old for trans-continental travel.

Scanning the windows for movement, he crossed the street. Standing in front of the house, he peered down the side, hoping against hope that perhaps the old magnolia tree was still there. It had been his mother’s favourite tree. He had hated it as a child, having to pick up the dead flowers as they dropped in their multitude all through the late spring. Of course, it had been nothing but trouble. Temperamental as an old maiden aunt, it had driven his mother to distraction. His father had threatened to pull it out one year, but Mother had insisted it would improve. As if to snub his father, the next season it was at its most glorious. The following year, it refused to flower at all, but Mother had made her point.

As he was craning his neck to see down to the back fence, the front door opened. A woman emerged and stared at him curiously. Embarrassed, he stepped away, for a moment considering the option of walking away quickly as if he had not been staring pertinently into another person’s backyard. This is ridiculous, he thought.

“I used to live here,” he said. “Well, in the house that used to be here.”

The woman, small and dark-haired, nodded and smiled. “Would you like to come in?” she asked.

He stared at her, uncertain if she meant it. Then he ducked his head and nodded. “If it’s not too much trouble,” he mumbled.

She led the way through the door and into the front passage. The house seemed even bigger inside. It was all gleaming white marble and pristine ivory walls. Nothing like the dark and cramped childhood home he remembered. He caught a glimpse of large plate windows at the back of the house, open to the view, and tried to spot anything recognisable, but there almost seemed to be no backyard at all.

“My name is Annie. My husband is in the study. He’d be very interested to meet you,” the woman said as she ushered him down a shining corridor. Coming to a large white door, she knocked and entered.

“Peter, this is… I’m sorry, what was your name?”

“Martin.” He followed her into the study. Seated at a large oak desk was a man who seemed twice the size of his tiny wife. He rose and reached out a massive hand.

“He used to live here,” Annie said as the two men shook hands.

“Ah. Well, then, I’m very pleased to meet you, Martin. I have quite an interest in the old house.”

Martin pushed aside the thought Then why did you pull it down?, just nodded politely and sat in the chair Peter was indicating. Annie slipped out of the room, hardly noticed.

“Can I get you a drink?” asked Peter.

“Just soda water, please.”

As Peter walked over to a sideboard and poured two drinks, Martin took the time to glance around the room. It was only then he noticed the pictures on the wall. They were all of the old house. Not quite as he remembered it; it was in a pretty poor state and someone at some point had painted it orange. But there was the old beech tree and, he gasped, the magnolia in full flower, even amongst the ruin of weeds and long grass of the backyard.

Peter handed him his drink and looked up at the photos. “It was in a bad way when we bought it. Irredeemable, according to our builder. We had no option but to demolish.” He said this last line softly, his eyes on Martin.

Martin nodded and swallowed hard. “Even the magnolia?” he asked.

“It had to be moved. I guess it had spent too long in the one place; it didn’t survive.”

The two men sat quietly for a moment. Then Peter said brightly, “But as you can see, we took as many photos as possible of the house. We figured its history was linked to the new house in some way.”

“How long have you lived here?” Martin asked, trying to match Peter’s bright tone.

“About 15 years.”

“Do you have a family?”

“Two boys, both away at college now. Yourself?”

Martin shook his head. “I was married, once. It didn’t work out. Always just found it easier to be on my own after that.”

After a moment of uncomfortable silence, Peter drained his glass and stood up. “Would you like to see around the house?” he asked.

Martin nodded, rose and followed him out of the study.

As Peter took him through the house, Martin found himself trying to superimpose the locations of each room of the old house. Here, was the good sitting room where nobody ever sat, except when Great Aunt Gemma came to visit. He remembered it as a place of stuffy discomfort, forced to sit for hours in his best clothes – always too tight – but never allowed to speak. When Great Aunt Gemma finally died, the sitting room was never used again.

There, would have been the bedroom he shared with his three brothers. Crammed into a room barely bigger than the pantry in this new house, the boys had fought and played. Martin remembered, as the youngest, he always seemed to get the worst of it. He hardly saw his two oldest brothers now, one living in South Africa, the other in the United States. The siblings had been flung all over the globe. He and his next oldest brother, Jerry, were the closest, both based in Melbourne, Australia. His sister Prudence was in Brazil, while the baby of the family, Millicent, was a truck driver in the West Australian mines.

He remembered the boys had always been jealous of the girls. The two of them shared a room bigger than their own, an unforgivable injustice. Their parents had excused the inequity by pointing out the boys’ room was the furthest from the front of the house and thus from the attention of the neighbours. Enough aware of their raucous behaviour, the boys had no answer to this logic.

As Peter ushered him from room to room, Martin had the disquieting feeling that it was his home, but not. The view out the windows was much the same. Some trees were taller, some had gone altogether. Some of the old houses remained, some, like his own, had disappeared from the landscape to live only in the memories of old men.

They were standing at the back of the house, in front of the enormous windows, when Peter asked “Sorry, Martin, did you say what your surname was?”

“No, no I didn’t. It’s Randler.”

Peter nodded and returned to his contemplation of the view. Suddenly he turned to Martin and said, “You’re not related to Henry Randler, are you? He was a teacher.”

“He was my father. Why? Did you know him?”

Peter laughed. “He was my father’s history teacher. The old man talked about him all the time. Apparently he used to do these crazy stunts. Once, they dressed up as knights and held a tournament in the gymnasium. Another time he had them building a pyramid on the oval using hay bales he got some farmer to ship in. Dad was always keen on history and credited your father with giving him that passion.”

He looked at Martin and shook his head. “Imagine if Dad were still here and I could tell him I had Henry Randler’s son in my house. That I lived where Henry Randler lived. He’d be tickled pink.” He smiled. “Dad said your father used to go digging out in the farmlands somewhere. He’d come into class with his latest find. Arrowheads, potshards, that sort of thing. Although, Dad did say he once came in with gold. It was a misshapen lump but your father claimed it was probably a crown. Never told anyone where he got it, of course.”

“I remember that,” said Martin. “He used to get into a fearful row with my mother because he’d clean them in the kitchen sink and she was forever scrubbing mud and muck out of it. We always wanted to go out with him, but he’d never take us. Top secret, he said.”

The two men laughed. Then, Martin, a memory churning in the back of his mind, asked “Is the old brick kiln still here? The one in the back corner of the yard?” Even as he said it he was scanning the garden below, but could not see the distinctive red brick walls of the kiln and his heart sank, even before Peter replied.

“The walls were pretty unstable. We had to knock it down.” He glanced at Martin. “We still have the bricks, though. Down the side of the house.”

Martin looked up at him and grinned. “Feel like going brick-hunting?” he said.

Peter looked at him quizzically, shrugged and said “Why not? How much stranger can today get?”

Peter took Martin out a side door and down the far side of the house. The bricks were stacked neatly along the fence line, their reddish hue just as Martin remembered them. He scanned along the bricks.

“What are we looking for, then?” asked Peter.

“There should be one with a sort of purple stripe through the middle of it,” replied Martin.

The two men searched along the pile, but, to Peter at least, the bricks all looked much the same. As they reached the end of the pile, Martin slumped. “I guess it was a bit much to expect it to still be here,” he said.

“I’m pretty sure we put all the bricks here,” said Peter. “It should be here somewhere.”

They moved back along the pile, more slowly this time. Just before they got to the end, Martin felt his shoe scuff something in the grass. He looked down. Half buried in the grass was a brick that had obviously fallen from the pile some time ago. He dug it out and picked it up. Turning it over in his hands, he smiled as he picked out the distinctive purple discolouring along one side of the brick.

With Peter eyeing it expectantly, Martin took his keys from his pocket and used one to scrape along the edge of one side of the brick. Then, using it as a lever, he slowly removed a small panel.

“How did you know about that?” Peter asked breathlessly.

“I watched him once when he’d been out on one of his digging adventures. I saw him hide something in one of the bricks. I managed to find the brick but I couldn’t get the panel open. I forgot about it after a while. I didn’t think it would be anything important anyway.”

Peter stared at him. Martin shrugged. “I was a kid. My father was always doing something odd. We didn’t pay that much attention.”

He stuck his finger into the exposed cavity. Wriggling and twisting, he eventually pulled free a yellowing, torn piece of paper. As Martin carefully unfolded it, they moved their heads closer to peer at the tiny diagram.

Martin looked up at his new friend and grinned. “Well, what do you make of that?”




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A Moose and Three Giraffes

A Moose & Three Giraffes

I’ve been challenged to write my origin story to explain how I came to write my origin story.

Well, it all began when my parents died when I was a baby. I was sent from the orphanage to live with a woman who had eight children, including three sets of twins. She worked me hard and I was miserable. All I had to keep me going was my vivid imagination…. Hang on. Oh. No, that was Anne. Sorry.

That’s right, it was when I had to live with my family in a tiny room at the top of a house. We weren’t allowed to go out or to go to school and we had to be very quiet all the time. The only thing I could do was write in my diary…. Oh. No, that was Anne. A different one.

I loved to write. I would write plays for my sisters to put on for our mother. We didn’t have a lot of money and father was away at the war so it was my way of keeping everyone happy…. Oh. Nope. Jo.

Why does the phrase “origin story” automatically make you think of someone overcoming adversity to become who they are? Loss of parents (Batman), a long journey away from home (Superman), a mysterious upbringing (Spongebob Squarepants).

I had a happy childhood. I still have both my parents. We weren’t wealthy but we weren’t living on Struggle Street. So what’s my origin story as a writer?

I was shy. And quiet. And the written word was so much easier to use to express myself than a spoken one. It still is. (Oh, Lord, we thank Thee for the creation of email.) I read voraciously which fed an already active imagination. L. M. Montgomery, Arthur Ransome, C. S. Lewis, Gerald Durrell, Lewis Carroll, Enid Blyton. (But I was only interested in sailing and owning my own island. Never understood the attraction of climbing a magic tree to talk to a man with a saucepan on his head.)

Having inherited some of my mother’s childhood books and having three children of my own, there are now three generations of inspiration on my bookshelves.

The signs were there early. In the words of my Grade 1 teacher, “Excellent understanding of words, as shown in her creative ability”.

I found one of my earliest compositions:

An Earliest Story

“Once there was a moose taking a walk. When he met a beaver he said to the beaver that he better go tell his rabbit friend that there was a lizard after him. There were three giraffes having a nice lunch when a lion sprang out from the grass. He went to catch one of the giraffes, but they ran away. The lion went back to his wife and told her how the giraffes were too smart to catch for their lunch so his wife went to catch their lunch. After a while, she saw a rhino. She ran to get it for their lunch. But it ran away and bumped into a monkey and it landed in a tree. He couldn’t get down because there was a cobra snake down on the ground so he became an ants nest. The End.”

I must have been writing for the Daily Post Writing Challenge: ‘Name as many animals as you can in one story’.

But why do I continue to write? Maybe because it’s fun? I’m not sure why you’d do it if it wasn’t.

“Writing is the most fun you can have by yourself.” – Terry Pratchett

Writing lets me get things straight in my head, gives some order to the million and one ideas and thoughts swirling around in my brain and it makes me think I can change the world, one word at a time.

Do I feel a burning desire to be published? I used to, but thanks in part to this blog, it’s become less of an issue and I write to please myself. I write when I feel inspired, when I’m bored, when I have something to say, when I have nothing in particular to say.

I write because I always have and I always will.

This post was written in response to the Daily Post Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections



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How Eleanor Roosevelt saved me from embarrassment

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote 1

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Well, when you’ve been posting every couple of days in the first flush of blog-love, a four day delay counts as a while. Sometimes life gets in the way. Real life, that is. As opposed to blog life.

And also this:

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I awoke to a wave of embarrassment washing over me. Actually, it didn’t so much wash over me as dump me. Hard. As anyone who has ever been dumped by an ocean wave knows, it hurts.

Why the embarrassment? This. The blog. I woke up thinking about it and was suddenly overcome by embarrassment. I can’t even tell you why. It was one of those ‘what was I thinking?’ moments that can strike when your confidence defences are down.

I pushed the feeling aside and went back to sleep. But I was bruised and bruises take time to heal. So recent days have held a running commentary in my head:

“Why are you embarrassed?”

“I don’t know. What if I’m making a fool of myself?”

“Does it matter? I mean, really, what impact would it have on your life?”

“But it’s so public. Someone out there could be thinking I’m an idiot.”

“Ha! Like that would be a first!”

“Well, that’s a bit mean.”

“It’s true, though. It’s not like it’s the first time you’ve done something stupid, is it?”

“Say something nice.”

“Get a grip and I might.”

“Sigh. You’re right. I’m being ridiculous.”

“Yes, you are. It’s your blog, do what makes you happy and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.”

“Okay. Yes. You’re absolutely right.”

“Of course I’m right. I’m you.”

And then I discovered Eleanor Roosevelt and her wisdom. (Well, obviously, I’d heard of her, I knew who she was, but I didn’t know much about her.) I haven’t read about her in depth, so I make no judgement on her personal history but from the numerous quotes I’ve found, she was certainly a wise lady.

Someone shared the quote at the beginning of this post just as I was struggling with my self-doubt (I know, I do that a lot) and it helped me push on in my exploration of boundaries unknown. Only through doing what we think we can’t do can there be real growth. It’s worth also noting the following quote from Pablo Picasso: “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

On researching other quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt, I discovered more wise words which I’d also like to share.

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote 2

How apt in light of my early hours tsunami of humiliation.

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote 3

This I fully intend to do. I’ve often described myself as having a short attention span, as I do have a tendency to want to know what comes next and to try new things. I like Eleanor’s reasoning. I intend to live life to the utmost and fill it with new and exciting experiences whenever possible. And not to feel embarrassed about it, because…

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote 4

Thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt.



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If a blog posts…

“If a blog posts in the internet and there is no one there to read it, does it make a difference?”

– Me (with apologies to philosophers everywhere)

It’s  a strange thing, writing a blog. You spend time gathering your thoughts, formulating your words, finding just the right phrasing and then you send it out into the ether. You hope people will read it. You hope they laugh/cry/think/do depending on the topic of your post. But what if nobody reads it? Does it really exist?

(Let’s get metaphysical, metaphysical, I wanna get metaphysical…)

Ultimately, I don’t blog just to be read. I blog as an opportunity to express myself and as a discipline to write something. Therefore, yes, it does exist because it is real to me.

While the above statement is true, it would be disingenuous of me not to admit that I get a little thrill when I see that people have read a post. Double thrills if they comment on it because it means they’ve actually read it and not just clicked through to the page and gone “naah…”. I’m only human. We all like a pat on the back and a ‘well done’ when we’ve done something.

So maybe a blog read by others is more ‘real’? Perhaps the more its existence is acknowledged by Likes, Comments and Follows, the more real it becomes?

We’re drifting into quantum theory territory here so I’ll stop while we still know the cat is alive and the moon exists.

In the end:

“Blogito ergo sum gauisus.”

– Me (with apologies to Descartes)

Translation: I blog, therefore I am happy.

Blogger Me

Blogger Me



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