Australian Ballet Online

ballet-feet-2037861_640

Dance is the hidden language of the soul – Martha Graham

We love the arts in all of its forms. We have spent many enjoyable hours experiencing live performances at the Empire Theatre, listening to music, and visiting art galleries and museums. In our spare time we enjoy dabbling in art and craft activities. There’s something quite therapeutic about doing something with your hands. And as you know well by now, we are avid readers, collecting and devouring books, as well as enjoying the occasional writers festival too. 

The arts play such an important role in the life of a community. It is how we express ourselves, tell our stories, remember our history and look toward the future. The arts can be provocative, challenging long held ideas and values, pushing the boundaries of what some think is appropriate and at times, making us feel uncomfortable. It also inspires joy, laughter and hope. The arts comprise a very large part of our entertainment, leisure and learning.

So the recent cancelling of shows has struck a blow to our hearts. Shows that we were looking forward to, have been cancelled. Writers festivals and author tours have been cancelled. It is disappointing for us, but it is devastating for the arts community. Months of work for artists and performers is just gone. If there is anytime that artists needed our support, it is now.  

Every year Bec and I look forward to the Queensland Ballet regional tour. We have seen quite a few of their performances, including Swan Lake, A Midsummer Nights Dream, La Fille Mal Gardée and Dangerous Liaisons. This year they were going to bring Tutus On Tour. It would have been especially memorable as they are celebrating their 60th anniversary. But thanks to covid 19 this won’t be happening. At least, not yet.

Li Cunxin, Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet says, “Ballet is a gift, and it’s our job to unwrap its many layers.” I think all art is a gift and artists, being an innovative and creative bunch, are finding ways to bring their art and audiences together. With the benefit of technology they are playing, performing, entertaining, and connecting with their audiences. Orchestras have performed from the comfort of their homes. Music festivals and book tours have gone online. But how do you take ballet online?

The Australian Ballet Company, based in Melbourne, are offering a digital season for Australian audiences. They are streaming some of their most popular performances –  for free. Performances started on April 5 with Sleeping Beauty, and two more ballets have been announced, Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet. Each ballet will be available for two weeks.

Last night we sat down to watch Sleeping Beauty from the comfort of our lounge room. “Gleaming with baroque golds and creams, glowing with vivid colour and spilling over with fairies, princes, woodland nymphs and story-book charm,” the costumes were lavish and Tchaikovsky’s score, performed by Orchestra Victoria, soared.  To be clear, a televised or streamed performance is never quite the same as seeing a live performance, however  it was still a delight to watch.  There is a reason that the ballets composed by Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, are the most loved ballets of all time. If you only ever get to see one live ballet in your lifetime, make it Swan Lake – my favourite of all time.

I have never seen Cinderella or Romeo and Juliet performed as a ballet so I am eagerly looking forward to those too. Both were composed by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). Cinderella starts on 17 April and will be followed by Romeo and Juliet. Further performances are likely to be announced as the digital season and the impact of the pandemic progresses.

As the days confined within our own four walls merge into one another and anxiety about the future take holds, we need something to lift our spirits and help us escape the monotony of life in lockdown. We look to the arts.

Ballet is powerful magic. It can draw you out of your lounge room and into forests and castles and starry skies. It can make you forget your worries and feel the freedom and exhilaration of unbridled leaps and lifts. “ (Australian Ballet)

If you have never been to the ballet and are wondering what it’s all about and whether it might be your thing, I encourage you to check out one of the digital performances. You can find out more about them here. Perhaps you too will be captivated by the magic of ballet.

Due to copyright restrictions the free streaming is only available to Australian audiences but Australian Ballet’s full length productions are available via iTunes for international arts lovers.

ballerina-1463126_640

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#BookSnapSunday – The Daughters of Mars

Version 2

In 1915, two spirited Australian sisters join the war effort as nurses, escaping the confines of their father’s dairy farm and carrying a guilty secret with them. Used to tending the sick as they are, nothing could have prepared them for what they confront, first in the Dardanelles, then on the Western Front.

At once vast in scope and extraordinarily intimate, The Daughters of Mars brings the First World War to vivid life from an unusual perspective. A searing and profoundly moving tale, it pays tribute to the men and women who voluntarily risked their lives for peace.

The Daughters of Mars by Tom Keneally was first published in 2012 and was long-listed for the Miles Franklin Award. Keneally has previously won the Miles Franklin for Bring Larks and Heroes and Three Cheers for the Paraclete. He also won the Booker prize in 1982 for his novel titled, Schindler’s Ark, which was consequently made into the film Schindler’s List.

With Anzac Day soon approaching on April 25th I thought this book would be the perfect read, and with luck, I will have it finished by then too. Like Easter, Anzac Day will be very different this year with services being cancelled across the nation, however we will still find ways to mark the commemoration. Brizzy Mays Books and Bruschetta recently wrote about an idea that is circulating, which involves people standing out on their footpath with a lit candle just before 6am and the Last Post will be played over the radio. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The War Memorial here in Toowoomba would have been the perfect backdrop for this book, however I don’t think I would be allowed to count Book Snap as an essential trip into town. Nevertheless The Daughters of Mars is featured with a red backdrop to represent the red poppies that  have been traditionally used to commemorate Remembrance Day and are now also  being used on Anzac Day too. The biscuit tin features the National World War II Memorial and marks the 75th anniversary of WWII. It contains Anzac biscuits and all proceeds go to the RSL. I thought it was a good way of supporting the RSL this year, given the circumstances.

Simpson and his Donkey by Mark Greenwood and Frané Lessac was published in 2008 and was shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia award. It is the “heroic story of one man and a donkey.”

Jack Simpson Kirkpatrick landed at Gallipoli on April 25th 1915 to serve as a stretcher-bearer. He enlisted the help of a donkey and together these unlikely heroes worked tirelessly, carrying wounded soldiers from the battlefront to the beach hospital.

Book Snap Sunday is hosted by Sharon from Gums and Galaxies. If you are looking for something to fill in your time while social distancing and you enjoy reading and photography, feel free to join in.

Happy Reading

 

 

Celebrating A Quiet Easter

cross-2713356_640

2020 will go down as the year we stayed home. After a rocky start to the year with bushfires and then floods, staying at home and social distancing are becoming the way we live life. We are becoming accustomed to working, studying and doing business online. We keep in touch with family and friends via email, phone and social media, and that is okay, until we hit an important family celebration, like Easter. No camping trips. No interstate visits. No getting together with extended family. We are all having a quiet Easter. But that doesn’t mean we need to forego all of our traditions.

IMG_2376

Hot Cross Buns and Easter eggs are of course a long tradition in our house but I refuse to buy hot cross buns until just before Easter. It kind of annoys me when I see hot cross buns in the stores straight after New Year. I really dislike the way cultural and religious traditions are exploited to foster rampant consumerism. We are hardly over one celebration and the stores are gearing up for the next! We love hot cross buns, even the chocolate ones, but they are a special treat just for our Easter celebration. It is the same for Easter eggs – not until Sunday morning!

In the lead up to Easter last year, I was reflecting on the difference between the way we celebrate Christmas and the way we celebrate Easter. At Christmas we seem to go all out with food, decorations and gifts, but when it comes to Easter our celebrations are often much more low key, apart from the chocolate splurges. So I wondered if there were some ancient traditions back in our ancestry that could do with a revival.

We have a mix of German, English and Danish ancestry and after a little bit of research I learned some new words like Grundonnerstag (Maundy Thursday), Karfreitag (Good Friday) and Ostersonntag (Easter Sunday). I found some different kinds of german cakes and breads, but I’m not really much of a baker. I thought the Danish idea of sending fool’s letters (Gaekkebrev) sounded like fun – but how to make them anonymous when the envelopes will be postmarked with Toowoomba?  Interestingly, the danish word for Easter is Paske – I think.  

The tradition which showed the most promise was the German tradition of an Osterstrauss  (Easter tree).  You decorate easter eggs and hang them on a tree – really just some branches in a jar. Since Easter is actually in Spring in Europe, their branches have blossom buds on them. Considering that Easter is in Autumn here, that wasn’t really going to be an option for us. I initially thought we could use some Autumn branches but then I found the perfect thing in Spotlight – an Easter tree. 

Version 2

Decorating easter eggs isn’t something I had ever really done with the kids but we thought we would give it a go. There are lots of very interesting ways of decorating eggs but the one that really caught our eye was marbling eggs with … nail polish. I have done marbling before, but I never thought of using nail polish and it worked really well. You can see the before and after pictures of our eggs below.

And then we hung them on the Osterstrauss, along with some decorative Easter eggs that we had bought as well. At the time I thought it would be nice to make a few decorated ones each year and gradually replace the bought ones. Last year we did six and that was enough. Blowing eggs is somewhat exhausting. I wouldn’t want to be doing too many at one time. 

However, this year, with all the disruption and madness of covid 19 we didn’t get around to decorating any new eggs but Dan was given the job of decorating the Osterstrauss with the eggs from last year. Sadly we lost one of the six eggs we did last year. Seems they don’t really like being accidentally dropped on the floor!

Version 2

This Easter might feel a little strange but perhaps it will give us time to reflect on what is really important and on what Easter means for us. I don’t think there is any one perfect way of celebrating Easter or Christmas or any other festival or celebration. Every family has their own way of celebrating, either with timeworn traditions handed down through the ages or with brand new ones they adopt or create or a blend of the two. 

However you celebrate, I wish you a happy Easter.

#Book Bingo -Friendship, Family and Love

book-bingo-2020-clean copy

This year I am continuing to participate in Book Bingo hosted by Theresa, Ashleigh and Amanda. For the month of April I am checking off the Friendship, Family and Love box with When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald. Published just this year, the book stars a loyal and brave heroine, Zelda, who loves Vikings because they are brave, strong and “stand up for people who can’t defend themselves.” Despite being small, she knows that “what matters is the size of your heart”, “that courage makes a hero” and that “being legendary was about taking all of the power that the gods have given you and making the most out of them.”

Told from the perspective of Zelda, the reader is treated to Zelda’s no nonsense and direct approach to life. Her rules for coming in and out are quite sensible.

  • Take off shoes to stop outside dirt from going all over the apartment.
  • Do not drop bags and things by the door, instead of taking them to the right place in the apartment. 

She also has rules to help her negotiate the trickier parts of life.

  • A smile means ‘thank you for doing something small that I liked’
  • Fist bumps and dabs = respect

Zelda has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and the rules help her to know how to behave appropriately. But Zelda is 21 now and she is tired of everyone else making rules for her. She wants to live her own legend and make her own rules. With some help she gets a job at the library, “a very heroic place to work because librarians help people get stronger brains.”

When We Were Vikings is a heartfelt story about courage and the importance of family and friends. Having FAS, Zelda’s strength and capabilities are often underestimated. Her brother Gert is goodhearted and protective, even if a little scary with his shaved head and tattoos, but he can only see Zelda’s limitations. Although he often makes poor decisions, Zelda is his inspiration for attempting to make a better life for them. After their mother died from cancer and their father never bothered to return to them after a stint in prison, Gert and Zelda are their own tribe. Gert writes…

For her the world is a place where courage and being part of a tribe means more than anything else – where we are all Vikings paddling together; to the beat of the same drum. And that’s the thing – all this time that I’ve been trying to protect Zelda, she’s been the only one in our tribe paddling. It’s time I got in Zelda’s boat and took a turn at the oars.”

Zelda also has her best friend AK47, so named because that’s how she speaks – loud and fast. AK47 is Gert’s ex-girlfriend but is a true friend to Zelda, giving her advice, taking her shopping for clothes for her job interview and risking her life to save her from a dangerous situation. It is a sad fact of our society that there are always those who have no qualms about taking advantage of someone like Zelda. A fact that those of us who have a family member with an intellectual disability know all too well. There are a few times in the book where we get that bad feeling, knowing that Zelda, loyal and courageous as she is, is walking into a dangerous situation.

When We Were Vikings also tackles the controversial issue of disability and sex. Zelda has a boyfriend, Marxy, who is also disabled, and like most young people, they wish to take their relationship to the next level. But most people wouldn’t announce their desire to have sex at the dinner table. Some readers may find this part of the story uncomfortable, but it does show the amount of planning, education and support required to assist young people with disabilities to participate in a life activity that most other people take for granted. Unfortunately for Zelda and Marxy, despite all the preparation, it doesn’t work out so well.

Sensitive readers need to be aware there is bit of choice language, but I really enjoyed When We Were Vikings. Zelda is a gutsy heroine who learns that “sometimes the parts of life that are best…are the things that we cannot put on a list” and proves to others that she is both great and legendary.

52033486._SY475_

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe impacts on the brain and body of individuals prenatally exposed to alcohol. FASD is a lifelong disability. Individuals with FASD will experience some degree of challenges in their daily living, and need support with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, attention, communication, emotional regulation, and social skills to reach their full potential. Each individual with FASD is unique and has areas of both strengths and challenges. (CanFASD)

You can find out more about FAS at NOFASD

Our New Normal

corona-4916954_640

Only a few months ago we were wondering what the new year would bring. At the time Australia was in the middle of an apocalyptic fire season. This was followed by floods. Now we are in the grip of the Corona Virus pandemic that is sweeping across the world, taking lives and dramatically changing the way we live. For the foreseeable future we are….

  • Studying and working online
  • Shopping online
  • Socialising online
  • Accessing medical services online
  • maintaining social distance
  • staying home

This is our new normal.

For the last few weeks Bec and I have been studying from home. USQ is now 100% online. I have studied online before so it is not such a major shift for me. I am quite familiar with listening to recorded lectures, accessing the library online and participating in student forums. The irony is that this semester I had decided to give studying on-campus a go and I was quite enjoying the tutorials with the other students. Well that lasted a total of four weeks, thanks to covid 19.

Studying online for Bec is a bit more of a challenge. She is studying music and one of her courses involved collaborating and playing music together with other students. A bit tricky to do online. 

The major change has been for Dan. Due to the social distancing measures his day program at Yellow Bridge has been put on hold indefinitely. This means he is at home 24/7. Totally bored. Missing his friends. Driving us crazy.

cat-2356021_640

We are trying to establish a routine at home where Dan can do some of his usual activities. On Wednesdays he used to go ten pin bowling. Now we go bowling up the hallway with a set of plastic pins or we go bowling on the Wii. On Tuesdays he used to go bushwalking. We can still go for a walk in our neighbourhood but bush walking is out. And on Thursdays he used to enjoy making pizzas. Well there will be plenty of opportunity to do some cooking at home. He can cook dinner anytime!

On the bright side Yellow Bridge is organising some online activities for their clients using Zoom. At least Dan will be able to see his mates. Perhaps they could even hold an online Disco. Dan would love that!

We are also taking this opportunity to help Dan continue developing his communication skills. We can still have speech therapy sessions, albeit via teleconferencing, and we are looking at all the ways we can incorporate opportunities for Dan to practise using his iPad at home. And there are plenty of other life skills we can work on too.

shopping-4974738_640

So apart from essential trips such as food shopping – although with rations and empty shelves even that is becoming a challenge – we are staying home. Fortunately for us our home here at The Last Stop is on a large block, so we have plenty of opportunity to go outside and get some fresh air. I really feel for people in a small house or apartment. It’s one thing to have to stay away from family and friends, but it’s even harder to be trapped within four close walls as well.

One of the most challenging things is the lack of physical contact with our family and friends. Our extended family either live in other cities and towns or interstate, so we don’t see them as often as we would like.  Now we cannot visit them even if we wanted to. Of course we can still communicate by email and phone. But it is not the same. Just knowing that interstate visits are out of the question drives home the reality of social distancing.

covid-19-4939303_640

We don’t realise how important social engagement is for our relationships and our own physical and mental well-being. We don’t realise how much we take for granted  – a smile in the flesh, the feel of a handshake, a friend’s embracing hug. Just being able to meet for coffee, go out to a movie, have a picnic in the park or a BBQ in the backyard. These are all simple pleasures that are now off limits. And it’s hard. It causes emotional pain.

 If it were just for a short time, a few days, a few weeks, we could probably do it. But these measures will likely be in place for months. We don’t even have an end in sight…yet. I wonder about the longterm impact on our mental, emotional and social health, especially for our elderly, who are being even more socially isolated as nursing homes effectively put lockdown procedures in place.

It seems an ironic thing in many ways, that we, as social beings, are being asked to isolate ourselves, keep our distance from each other, sacrifice our social activities, for the sake of our community. And it is a big sacrifice. It has cost jobs. It is impacting education. It has brought our society almost to a grinding halt.  This virus has cost lives and will continue to do so. And who knows how much this will cost in terms of our mental health and overall wellbeing. 

But it is the right thing to do. It is how we show our love for each other.

stay-home-save-lives-4983843_640

And we are not alone.

We are sharing the pain of this together, even if we cannot physically be together. 

We will endure. Together. This will not last forever. 

 We will come out the other side, together, stronger than we were before, knowing what really matters.

And there is hope. Our brightest minds are working round the clock to develop a vaccine. Frontline workers are an inspiration as they willingly putting their own lives on the line to care for the sick and provide essential services. We are finding ways to connect, think outside the box and work creatively.

 Hope always endures.

Take Care and Stay Safe

quotes-1449691_640

 

#BookSnapSunday – 40th Lifeline Bookfest

Lifeline Booksnap

It has been a few weeks since I have managed to do a book snap. To say the last few weeks have been eventful is an understatement. Now that we are more or less confined to home, book snaps are going to require a fair amount of creativity and thinking outside the box. My reading over the last few weeks has also taken a downward spiral – too much else occupying my mind. But perhaps now that we are starting to settle into our new routine and we are not having so many daily announcements I may be able to get my head into a reading frame of mind.

Anyway, this week’s book snap features some of the books I bought at the recent Lifeline Bookfest in Toowoomba. It was the 40th Lifeline Bookfest held in Toowoomba which I think is a major achievement. Not only does it allow booklovers to add to their collection but it raises a lot of money for Lifeline and the very important services they provide to vulnerable people.  

This year my book browsing was a little more focused. Since I am studying both European and Australian history I decided to have a look in the history section and found some cool books. After having just covered the Black Plague I couldn’t resist this book about Plague, Pox and Pestilene.

133569._SX318_

 I also found some books about the Renaissance which may come in handy but the most surprising find in the history section was this book about dragons. First of all, I love dragons. I think they’re pretty cool. But my eyes really sparkled when I saw that it was by Graeme Base – a definite keeper! In case you are not familiar with Graeme Base, he is also the author and illustrator of Animalia and The Eleventh Hour – his illustrations are beyond beautiful. 

762783

I was also looking for books with an environmental theme that might be suitable for the Gaia Reading challenge and was delighted to find  a copy of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. 

Rarely does a single book alter the course of history, but Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring did exactly that. The outcry that followed its publication in 1962 forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary change in the laws affecting our air, land and water. Carson’s passionate concern for the future of our planet reverberated powerfully throughout the world, and her eloquent book was instrumental in launching the environmental movement. It is without question one of the landmark books of the twentieth century. 

569628

I also found a few other environmental books that sound very interesting and might prove useful for an essay about the Australian Green Movement for Australian History. Hopefully by next week I may have started reading a new book which will inspire a book snap.

IMG_2373

If you love reading, taking photos and feeling a little confined by your four walls, you are welcome to join in with #BookSnapSunday hosted by Sharon at Gums and Galaxies. 

Take Care, Stay Safe and Happy Reading

#BookSnapSunday & Gaia 2020 – The Birdman’s Wife

The Birdman's Wife

Melissa Ashley’s book The Birdman’s Wife has been on my mind for quite a while as a candidate for both Book Snap Sunday and the Gaia Reading challenge. The novel is a fictionalised account of the life of Elizabeth Gould, the wife of taxidermist and naturalist John Gould. While John garnered most of the attention for his beautifully illustrated books of wildlife, it was definitely a partnership with his wife Elizabeth, as Ashley’s book makes abundantly clear. 

The Birdman’s Wife is a love story. Firstly it is the story of a wonderful partnership between two people, John and Elizabeth, who were “compatible in every aspect”. It is also the story of a woman with a great passion for art and nature, and her struggle to balance her life as an artist with her other great love, her children.

Love is like collecting…the care, the attention, the stopping of nothing to attain one’s desire. They have rather more than less in common.” 

Sadly Elizabeth’s life ended shortly after the birth of her last child at the age of 37.  After eight pregnancies Elizabeth tells John “I cannot ever repeat this,” but it is too late. Her life is cut short, exhausted by “the toll that bearing a child exacted.” An all too common fate for women of this time.  

 Artists and nature lovers will appreciate the wonderful detail that Ashley provides both about the specimens and Elizabeth’s painstaking endeavour to depict them as accurately as she can, striving to achieve exactly the right colours and present them in their own natural environment. As Elizabeth reflects, “We had taken its life, so I had best ensure that the exchange was not in vain.”

This conflict between the necessity to take life in order to advance scientific knowledge and record and preserve new species weaves a thread through the narrative. For Elizabeth to sketch and paint wildlife species, they first had to be collected, killed, stuffed and preserved. Most of the live specimens that the Goulds collected in Australia never made it back to England alive, despite their best intentions. 

“was it me…who was more disturbed by the bloodshed of collecting?… I shared the thrill of seeing these creatures in the wild, but I was finding it harder to marry my joy…with acceptance of their fates…destined to join John’s growing collection.” 

“The number of animals whose lives we and others would sacrifice in the service of science was unaccountable…it was we who wielded the power to decide whether a creature…lived or died.”

The Birdman’s Wife is a beautifully presented book. Each chapter is named after one of the birds that Elizabeth illustrated and her iconic illustration of the superb lyrebird, which became the emblem for John and Elizabeth’s book, is featured both on the front cover and opposite the title page. The book is pictured above with a copy of John Gould’s The Birds of Australia which I found in the USQ library, open of course to the page featuring the superb lyrebird. Interestingly, this edition of Gould’s book, published in 1973, contains this quote by John Gould.

“It may be possible–and indeed it is most likely that flocks of Parakeets no longer fly over the houses and chase each other in the streets of Hobart Town and Adelaide, that no longer does the noble Bustard stalk over the flats of the Upper Hunter nor the Emus feed and breed on the Liverpool plains as they did at that time; and if this be so, surely the Australians should at once bestir themselves to render protection to those and many other native birds; otherwise very many of them…will soon become extinct.”

Nothing more to be said really. 

#BookBingo – Set in a Time of War

book-bingo-2020-clean copy

This year I am continuing to participate in Book Bingo hosted by Theresa, Ashleigh and Amanda. Some changes have been made to the Bingo Card, less boxes and a thematic approach, giving readers quite a bit of flexibility. This month I am marking off Set in a Time of War with Regeneration by Pat Barker.

Regeneration  was the focus of a #BookSnap post a few weeks ago when I had just started reading it. Barker leaves no doubt to the sheer horror of the First World War and the psychological trauma suffered by the soldiers. Regeneration  particularly highlights the way shell-shock was viewed by the War Board, treating psychologists and those who experienced it. There are a number of characters, but the heart of the narrative focuses on the relationship between Siegfried Sassoon, poet, soldier and war protester, and …W. H. R. Rivers, a military psychologist, whose job it is to get soldiers back to the front.

In July 1917, Sassoon wrote “Finished with the War: A Soldiers Declaration” in an attempt to bring attention to the truth of the war. He was frustrated and angry at the futile waste of life, while those who made the decisions lived in safety. Ultimately his protest fell on deaf ears and he spent time at Craiglockhart, a psychiatric hospital for the treatment of soldiers. Through his memories and conversations with Rivers, Sassoon reveals the true horror of the war.

He remembered the day before Arras, staggering from the outpost trench to the main trench and back again, carrying boxes of trench mortar bombs, passing the same corpses time after time, until their twisted and blackened shapes began to seem like old friends.

Sassoon is witty and sarcastic, describing the act of going over the trenches in a chilling, matter of fact way that highlights the sheer madness of trench warfare.

You blow the whistle. You climb the ladder. Then you double through a gap in the wire, lie flat, wait…and then you stand up. And you start walking. Not at the double. Normal walking speed…In a straight line. Across open country. In broad daylight. Towards a line of machine-guns…Oh, and of course, you’re being shelled all the way.

Sassoon leads Rivers to reflect and question his own attitude to the war, his duty as military psychologist and the lies that send thousands of young men to their death.

The Great Adventure… crouching in a dugout, waiting to be killed.

Regeneration is at times a difficult but worthwhile read. Barker’s prose is beautifully written, but the truth about war is always brutal and gruesome, even nauseating. The sheer loss of life of those who never returned and the long-lasting trauma of those who did must always remain central when we talk about war.

A society that devours its own young deserves no automatic or unquestioning allegiance.

8718325

Double History

old-letters-1082299_640

After a long summer break Bec and I are back into the world of study and I am beginning this year with double history – two history units at the same time. Up to now I have managed to avoid doing two history units at the same time. Technically, each unit/course at university level should be equal in the amount of work required; however it is my experience that history is a bit more work than the other units I have done. Firstly, there is usually a lot more reading required and that can’t be helped. Sometimes there is a lot of history to cover, especially if you are studying world history. Secondly, the history discipline traditionally requires the use of footnotes in referencing and that is quite time consuming.

My first history course was World History to 1500CE, so that covered everything from the beginning of time up to around 1500CE. As my lecturer said, it was a gallop through history. Racing through that much history does mean a lot gets left out; you can only deal with the broad themes of history. Fortunately assignments offer an opportunity to delve more deeply into a specific time, event or issue that particularly interests you.

Other history units I have completed include World History 1500 – 1918, The Twentieth Century, An Introduction to Australian History, and Race in Australia. A lot of the history courses are only taught every second year so that has required some juggling of the schedule and means that our classes often have a blend of both second and third year students.

War Memorial Singapore

Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore – where thousands of allied servicemen and women who died during World War 2 are buried (public domain – Trove)

 

This semester I am continuing the journey into Australian history with a unit called Contemporary Australia. This unit starts in the middle of the Second World War in 1942 with the fall of Singapore, the treatment of thousands of allied soldiers who became prisoners of war and the changing relationship between Australia and Britain.  Some of the major themes  include war, of course – WWII, the Cold War, Vietnam; race relationships – the White Australia Policy (WAP), the 1967 referendum, immigration; and notable Prime Ministers – Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard. Fortunately it is not all war and politics, as we also look at some of the major social movements as well.

My other history course is called Europe: History of an Idea. This unit looks at the political, social and cultural events that both unified and fragmented Europe and Europeans. We started with one of the most devastating periods of the Middle Ages, The Black Plague and it has been quite fascinating to learn the various ways that people responded to the crisis. Some isolated themselves, a logical response. Some took the approach of eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die – better than doom and gloom I suppose. But the most shocking to me was the refusal to care for and abandonment of family and friends, even one’s own children. I suppose children weren’t exactly in short supply in those days and their life expectancy wasn’t guaranteed in the early years. In the rest of the course we will go on to look at the Renaissance, the Reformation, the persecution of witches, the Enlightenment, as well as the French and Industrial Revolutions. 

dance-of-death-155250_640

The Dance of Death: depicts the universality of death – no matter one’s station in life, the Danse Macabre unites them all (image courtesy of Pixabay)

With two history courses I will need to be very organised this semester and so I have created a study schedule which includes all the readings, assessment tasks and due dates, and what I need to do each week so that hopefully I do not fall behind and leave everything to the last minute. So if things do get a little quiet here from time to time, you will know that I am deep in the study of history.

#BookSnapSunday – When We Were Vikings

Version 2

Sadly I missed last week’s #BookSnap, but this week is featuring When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald. This year I am making a bit more of an effort to read some new releases. Most of my TBR comprises of classics, titles from the 1001 list, prizewinners from previous decades and any other book that has caught my eye. I have never been too worried about reading the “book of the moment” as I figure if it’s a good book, it should stand the test of time and still be a good book when I eventually get around to reading it. But still, I thought it might be a good idea to at least try to read a few titles in the year they were published. The bright orange cover of When We Were Vikings caught my attention, as well as the blurb on the back and Vikings do have a reputation all of their own, after all.

The Vikings originated in Scandinavia (modern Denmark, Norway & Sweden) and raided, traded and pillaged across Europe during the 8th – 11th centuries. Our contemporary fascination about the Vikings is probably based more on legend than on actual historical and archaeological research though. Apparently there is no real evidence that they really did wear horned helmets like Hagar the Horrible, but they look cool anyway. 

Dan and Bec have danish ancestry on their father’s side, which has inspired an interest in Viking history. I often like to joke with Bec about her “Viking ancestry.” When she is going through a tough time, I like to encourage her to find her “Viking Spirit.” Not the lust for pillaging and violence, but a sense of courage and fearlessness.

When We Were Vikings centres around Zelda and she sounds like my kind of girl.

For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:

  1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.”
  2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect.
  3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home.
  4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet.
  5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists.

I haven’t started reading the book yet, but Jane from JaneReads summed it up as “a unique, wonderful read with a lovable, memorable heroine,” so I am looking forward to a positive and uplifting read. The book is pictured above with my DVD collection of ‘The Vikings’ television series – obviously not for everyone, as they are pretty violent but the depiction of the Viking society is very interesting, particularly the role of women – and some danish pastries, of course. Don’t you just love edible props!

Happy Reading!