Beginnings and endings – a romance

Some beginnings and endings are full of romance. People who are no longer in the first flush of youth (or even in their prime) enjoy beginnings and endings.

Last weekend, John and I went to Dowerin to take part in the beginning of the end of an era.

Shed at back of house

Shed at back of house

Continue reading

Eric Bogle – folk singer, songwriter

Eric Bogle, AM, is a friend of my brother, Peter Stone. It makes sense that he and my brother would be friends. Both men are ageing with great style. Through their friendship, I had the opportunity to talk with Eric, one of my favourite folk singers. Continue reading

Blogging great-grandmother bursts with pride

 

Alexandra, four hours old (Photo by Bhen Linton)

Alexandra, four hours old
(Photo by Bhen Linton)

This blogging great-grandmother is bursting with pride.  I am truly blessed.

Alexandra's statisticsThe very beautiful Alexandra Margaret Eloise Linton burst into our lives at 10.08 a.m. on Saturday morning, 7 February 2015. She was four weeks early for her appointment with the world. She weighed 2710 grams and she’s healthy.

Congratulations and thanks to Claire-Helen and Bhen, who made this miracle happen. Lucky little Elizabeth, to have a baby sister. The waiting is over! Continue reading

Ted Egan – National Living Treasure

Ted Egan

Ted Egan

Ted Egan, OA, one of Australia’s National Living Treasures, performed at the Perth Town Hall yesterday as part of the Perth Heritage Days program of events held around the city.

Eighty-two year old Ted Egan is definitely an Australian ageing in style. Continue reading

Holiday with a difference

The Dowerin Bed and Breakfast and its guests have been at my mercy for over a week. This old woman has masqueraded as the boss, while my sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Peter, are overseas on holidays. This is a diary of the week.

 The Dowerin bed and breakfast on the Goomalling-Dowerin Road in the Eastern Wheatbelt region of Western Australia

The Dowerin bed and breakfast on the Goomalling-Dowerin Road in the Eastern Wheatbelt region of Western Australia

Dowerin is at the cross roads to a number of important places.

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There are many responsibilities when you live in the country. I had to

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Feed Hannah and her sisters. Which chook is Hannah?

The hens rewarded us with real farm eggs with orange yolks. The guests and my husband, John, and I ate them for breakfast almost every day.

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Admire one of the garden rooms from the outside.

 

 

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Choose my favourite.

 

 

Set the table for one guest for a 6.15 a.m. breakfast. (The next morning there were five  for people for breakfast at 6, and no time for photography!)

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Explore the in the shed at the bottom of the property

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and discover John, hard at work.

DSCF0548Photograph reluctant neighbours.

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Persist until I found some that were more amenable

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Park in the main street, which was never a problem, especially on a Sunday. It is difficult to believe that during the Dowerin Field Days at the end of August space will be at a premium.

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Find this Tin Dog on the edge of a paddock. This is the emblem of the town, about which a whole post could be written,

dowerin bookshop

 

 

and also  a bookshop in the middle of town.

 

 

 

 

Find a sunny spot on a verandah of the main house where I could do a spot of craft work – but  where, sadly, I wrote not one word of my new book for a whole week!

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A full wood box and several stoves

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kept us warm on the odd wintry night

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What more could anyone ask for during a week in the country?

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Lifelong learning

From cradle to grave

Learning from cradle to grave

There’s been a state of chaos à chez nous for the past few weeks. Chaos isn’t usually a state I embrace readily; my mind demands external order, quiet and peace. But this mess has been for the sake of a worthy cause. Believing passionately as I do that lifelong learning is not only a right for everyone, but an obligation, it seems that a dining room in a constant mess in an open plan house is a small price to pay for John’s newest learning venture.

Lifelong learning has been defined as the ‘ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated’[i] pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons or to develop skills as a volunteer. As well as acquiring knowledge and practical skills, a person engaged in lifelong learning also gains resilience and enhances his or her social inclusion, active citizenship, personal development, creativity and self-sustainability.

Adults of all ages who are actively engaged in learning and experimenting can become as engrossed as children at play. They  experience the same enjoyment and sense of achievement when they uncover fresh concepts or demonstrate new skills. Involving oneself in learning is more important than what one learns.

After we married seven years ago, my husband found that the elderly writer with whom he now shared his life was determined to spend time in solitude, tucked out of sight and writing. In defence, he decided he would to learn to paint.

Using books from the library, he learnt as much as he could about acrylics before he committed himself to art. He bought some inexpensive paints, brushes and a couple of canvases and began to play. His books and art supplies were boosted with gifts from family and friends; soon he was painting steadily. Before long, he produced some pleasing artwork that he has had framed and given as gifts. Some of it hangs on our own walls.

         John at his easel

John at his easel

We agreed we each needed our own space. When we moved to our new house,  we decided he would use the upstairs area, which also accommodates the guest room, as his studio. He set up his desk in one corner with his laptop, printer, office supplies, bookshelves and files. We had a sink with running water installed in a corner of the studio, and he put his easel and paints in the middle of the room. I was very happy; my tidy, sunny study with a door that shuts is downstairs. And anyway, I am not too fussed about climbing stairs these days.

In the past few years, John has researched and set up a ‘no-dig’ vegetable garden in the tiny space at the back of the house and now we have an almost constant supply of herbs,  greens, chillies and capsicum. He also volunteered to read at Mass, and has become arguably the best reader on the roster in St Dominic’s Parish.

Six weeks ago, he volunteered to help a relative with some research. When the task was explained, he discovered that he needed more skills. Researching was the easy part, but using the computer in new ways was more difficult.

Not wanting to admit defeat and back down, he set about what was to become a major learning task. I love my husband’s determination that allows him, at 78 years of age. to pursue difficult new learning and practise freshly acquired skills.

He’s had a computer for years, and has used it for receiving and sending emails; banking; booking holidays; searching the internet for information and performing daily ‘brain training’ exercises via an online site. He also reads on an android tablet, and often uses that to check things as well. But he’s never worked in a computer environment and computers have not been topics of general conversation in the circles in which he mixed.

He brought the laptop downstairs.

‘So you don’t have to run up and down the stairs, while you teach me how to do it,’ he explained.

‘Thanks. That’s thoughtful,’ I said as he reorganised the dining room and commandeered the table.

Man at work in dining room

Man at work in dining room

There were a couple of obstacles to his new venture:  he is a one-finger typist (if that’s the word), and no one had ever shown him any of the amazing, simple tasks a computer can perform. In addition, his ancient laptop only had a very basic word-processing program. He’d never needed anything else.

It took us an hour to buy a new laptop, and a little longer to set it up.

At my brother Peter’s suggestion, our father gave me my first computer in 1985, a MicroBee for the technically minded, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Primarily a writer, I’m competent and confident with word processing; I use the internet for research and can manage the social media applications that interest me. But I’m a novice in other areas. Any child over the age of seven could run rings around my general knowledge of computers, and some under seven could show me a thing or two. My older granddaughters (I have fourteen granddaughters and three grandsons) show me new tricks when I need to know.

With John next to me at the computer, though, I shone. I felt like a genius as we talked about cutting and pasting; margins; double and single spaced lines; switching from the internet to his Word page; saving work; and using a USB-drive. He took notes in an old brown notebook, and noticed if I deviated even slightly from something I’d said previously, or took a short cut.

Bit-by-bit, he accumulated the knowledge and skills he needs for the first major task. There will be more things he will want to know about, of course. But he’s well on the way to having an improved base from which to start his further learning  about the world of computers.

I look forward to seeing where his next venture will lead him.

If you would like to comment, or have a story about lifelong learning, your own or another’s I would love to read about it in the comments on my post.

 

[i]Department of Education and Science (2000). Learning for Life: White Paper on Adult Education. Dublin: Stationery Office

Experiencing Ballet

Two lots of ballet within a few days last week might have been overdoing it. But as a writer I know how important it is to keep the creative well topped up with new ideas, sensations and memories and two such completely different aspects of ballet so close together touched chords and left me with much to think about.

John’s inspired gift to celebrate our wedding anniversary was tickets to the Western Australian Ballet  performance of Giselle, with music played by the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra.

I don’t often go to professional ballet performances, although I love it when I do. I’m certainly not in a position to judge a production. But I do know that John and I were spellbound from the second the curtain went up on Giselle, and we enjoyed every movement on stage until the end of many well-deserved curtain-calls.

According to a review in the Sydney Morning Herald following opening night, the production at His Majesty’s Theatre in Perth was very close to perfect. That is certainly how it felt for us.

From Sydney Morning Herald. Brooke Widdison-Jacobs, Matthew Lehmann and dancers of West Australian Ballet in Giselle. Photo: Ashley de Prazer

From Sydney Morning Herald. Brooke Widdison-Jacobs, Matthew Lehmann and dancers of West Australian Ballet in Giselle. Photo: Ashley de Prazer

Act I of this beautiful ballet is set in a village in Germany. A peasant girl, Giselle, falls in love with the disguised Prince Albrecht,  who is engaged to a woman from his own social situation. Hilarion, a local lad who loves Giselle, is suspicious of the prince from the start. When he reveals Albrecht’s  deception during the peasants’ celebration of the harvest, Giselle goes mad and dies of a broken heart.

Act II takes place at her graveside in the forest.

The Wilis (the spirits of women who have died after being rejected by faithless lovers) chase Hilarion away from the grave. The Wilis dance in the moonlight, dressed in their wedding dresses. Out of  revenge, they force any men who come into the forest to dance all night until they collapse and die.

Albrecht pleads with the Wilis to spare him. Photo by Sergey Pevnev (WA Ballet Company)

Albrecht pleads with the Wilis to spare him.
Photo by Sergey Pevnev (WA Ballet Company)

Prince Albrecht, in remorse, brings lilies to Giselle’s grave, and Giselle’s spirit appears to him and forgives him his wrong-doing. However, the Wilis force both men to dance until they reach exhaustion. Hilarion dies, but Giselle’s love helps Albrecht to survive the night. The Wilis fade away as daylight breaks, the lovers make their peace and Giselle returns to her grave in tranquillity, leaving Albrecht alone in his sorrow.

While attending professional ballet may have been outside my usual circle of activities, I am certainly no stranger to other ballet classes and productions.

As a five-year-old over forty years ago, one of my sons insisted on attending ballet classes with a neighbour’s little girl. Many years later, he said that he thought his experience with ballet had been helpful in the development of his considerable skills as an Australian Rules football player.

These days we know that ballet lessons can be useful for football players. Ballet can help to improve their strength, increase flexibility and make them more agile, while providing a mind-body connection and reducing their risk of injury.

While our children attended their classes, my neighbour and I also went to jazz ballet lessons, even though we were in our forties. To the tunes of ABBA, and in particular their ‘Dancing Queen’, a group of mums stretched and flexed our muscles and pushed our bodies beyond what we thought we were capable of. Over a year, we got very fit, even if we weren’t particularly skilful dancers.

My jazz ballet days awoke the latent role of dancer deep inside me, and went some way to fulfil one of my thwarted childhood dreams. I was convinced that my mother, for some reason I never fathomed, did not want me to be a ballerina. As a child, I also longed to write. But that is another story.

Five of my granddaughters have learned ballet, beginning when they were little more than babies and continuing into their high-school years.  One of my granddaughters, Amelia, still ‘does ballet’ and I look forward her end-of-the-year performance.

I’ve loved watching my grandchildren and their classmates in performances when they were tiny tots dancing ballet steps dressed as flowers, gumnut babies, elves, rabbits and little, often chubby, fairies.  It has been a privilege to see these same girls as they grew into graceful ballerinas in a variety of roles.

'Are my feet right?" (Elizabeth on right)

‘Are my feet right?” (Elizabeth on right)

Now a new cycle has begun. My great-granddaughter, Elizabeth, who has just turned three, became fascinated by ballet after she was taken to a production in which her aunt, Amelia (12) performed.

‘I liked the pink ones,’ Elizabeth told me seriously afterwards.

She, too, is now enrolled in ballet classes.

John and I walked to the Scarborough Recreation Centre on Saturday morning, and met up in the audience with Elizabeth’s parents, Claire-Helen and Bhen Linton.

It's fun, anyway!

It’s fun, anyway!

Saturday morning at the ballet

It’s fascinating to watch a class of three-year-olds in pink tutus learning the basic ballet positions and attempting their first simple ballet movements. For some, these are a real challenge, especially when they try to balance on one leg and keep the foot on the floor in the proper position. Some of the children are shy at the beginning, but they all seem to improve each week. Progress from term one to term two has been remarkable as the little girls have gained strength, skills and confidence.

 

'Are you still there?' (Elizabeth second from right)
‘Are you still there?’
(Elizabeth second from right)

 

As part of the class, the young teacher blows bubbles to encourage the children to stretch high and catch them; she provides fairy wands and bunches of tinsel that wave like trees or turn into horses’ tails as the girls move across the hall to ‘gallop’ music. She manages with aplomb when baby brothers and sisters  crawl across the floor.

Mothers and fathers, younger siblings and an occasional grandparent sit in a row of plastic chairs at the back of the hall. From time to time, one of the dancers breaks ranks and runs back for a reassuring cuddle before returning to the class. Sometimes they stop mid-step to hug each other. They all turn around to make sure their parents are still watching.

I imagine that the cast of the WA Ballet Company’s production of Giselle must have begun their careers in a ballet school similar to this one, somewhere in the world. Perhaps one day, one of these tiny, aspiring ballerinas will take her place in the cast of Giselle, too.