Giving Way to Emergency Services

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You see some interesting things walking around the city streets. Discarded shopping trolleys. Motorists running red lights. Pedestrians pummelling the button to make the pedestrian light change sooner. (It doesn’t work!) But occasionally you see something that really makes your blood boil.

I was waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green (and NOT pummelling the button!) when I heard the unmistakeable sound of an ambulance siren. As soon as I heard it, I started looking around – where is it? And then, there it is, coming down Herries Street, siren roaring, lights flashing.

To my utter disbelief, I watch as cars continue through the traffic lights while the ambulance sits, waiting to cross the intersection and be on its way.

Un-believable!

It wasn’t just one vehicle or two, but quite a few that crossed the intersection in full view of an ambulance with blaring siren and flashing lights. Fortunately, some drivers actually had the sense and consideration to stop, be patient and let it through. I could not believe it.

Sadly, it is not the first time I have seen this happen and I expect it won’t be the last, but it is certainly quite appalling.

I don’t know where that ambulance was going but I am pretty certain it was going to somebody’s loved one, somewhere.

One day, an ambulance might be coming to your loved one.

It might even be coming to you.

It’s pretty simple really. It’s called the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If that ambulance had been coming for my loved one – I would want people to give way.

If it was coming for me – I would want people to give way.

Fortunately I have seen plenty of occasions when people have stopped and given way. I have even seen motorists mount a traffic island in an attempt to make way for an ambulance. It cheers the heart to know that there are people who stop to think about others.

When you hear the siren, when you see the flashing lights…It doesn’t matter if the traffic light is green. It doesn’t matter if it is your turn to go.

You stop.

You give way.

And if you need to and can, move out of the way.

The same goes for other emergency vehicles, like the Fire and Emergency service.

This is what it means to show respect for each other.

This is what it means to live in community.

National Bookshop Day 2019

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Across Australia today, readers and book lovers are celebrating the wonderful contribution that the local bookshop makes to communities big and small. It is a magical experience to enter a store specifically designed for the promotion and selling of books. Meandering slowly past rows and rows of shelves stacked with books, their colourful spines facing outward, exposing titles printed in bold black or embossed in sparkling metallic, we look for a new friend to take home. Will it be from the new release display at the front of the store, or the science fiction and fantasy section that has been promoted to the middle, or my favourite, the classics section hidden in the back corner.

In a regional city like Toowoomba, as well as the big cities that dot our coasts, we can often take our local bookshops for granted. We can choose from the big chains like QBD or Dymocks, the occasional independent book store, as well as the book sections located in department stores. However, for many book lovers in rural Australia there is no local bookshop.

Bookshops Need Booklovers

Before Toowoomba, we lived in a small country town out west. For most of that time, there was no local bookshop. However, I do remember the delight when an independent book store opened in the Main Street. It was an exciting event to have our very own bookshop, designated purely to books and so it was greeted with great enthusiasm by the local book lovers. It was thrilling to walk through the doors, browse the books on the shelves, enjoy the quiet or relax in the comfortable book reading furniture. Sadly, it was not to last. Independent bookshops never lasted more than a few months in our town. A rural bookshop needs more than just a handful of book lovers to be viable.

It’s hard for bookstores to be a viable concern in a rural town. Rural residents are often less well off. Books are a luxury they may not be able to afford, especially now when many rural areas are in the grip of severe drought. With a smaller population, there is simply not enough avid readers to support a book store. There is also less access to book related events, like writers festivals or author events, to encourage and promote reading as a worthwhile leisure activity. And rural towns often have a different culture, one focused more on more physical activities like sport. Quiet activities, like reading, are often not as highly valued.

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There were other options for buying books of course. The local newsagent stocked a small range of books, and our one department store in town also stocked a small selection of books, but not always what I liked to read. Often I had to wait for a trip to a larger town or regional city for the opportunity to visit an actual book store and on these occasions, our to-do-list was so jam packed with appointments and essential purchases that there was little time for browsing through a book store.

We did of course have a very good library. It provided a welcoming environment for browsing the shelves, enjoying some quiet reading time and sampling unfamiliar writers. But I never understood why there were no classics. What is a library without Austen or Bronte or Shakespeare? Surely I was not the only reader who loved the classics?

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Fortunately for rural book lovers, we live in the technological age. With limited access to a physical book store we are forced to turn to the online market place. It’s never quite the same as a real bookstore though. We cannot pick the books off the shelf, feel the embossed print, smell the paper, or read the first page. Online book stores are good if you know what you are looking for, but they hold so many titles it’s time-consuming to browse in the way that you can in a real bookstore. On the other hand, there is the anticipation and excitement of the arrival of a package in the post. After all, somebody has to keep Australia Post going!

So whether your local book shop is a physical store devoted to books, a couple of shelves in a department store or a well visited bookmark in your internet browser,  celebrate the joy that books bring to our lives and spare a thought for those living in rural communities where the local bookshop is often just a beautiful dream.

Happy Reading!

Lifeline Bookfest 2019

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Every year thousands of booklovers across Australia count down the days to their local Lifeline Bookfest. For Toowoomba booklovers this is usually the first weekend in March. Early on the Saturday morning a long of line vehicles can be seen crawling down Glenvale Road towards the entry gates of the Toowoomba Showgrounds. Inside the main pavilion sit rows and rows of boxes filled with books just waiting to find a new home. Like many other booklovers, we’ve been looking forward to this day so much it’s been highlighted on the calendar. 

Lifeline is an Australian charity organisation which provides a range of counselling and support services for children, youth and families as well as emergency relief. It was founded in 1963 by Reverend Dr. Sir Alan Walker. Concerned about the often devastating impact of loneliness, isolation and anxiety, he began a crisis line to provide critical support for people in need. Today Lifeline has around 40 centres across Australia, employing around 1,000 staff and attracting 11,000 volunteers who donate their time. The Lifeline book sales help to raise funds to continue this vital service.

 

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This year was the 39th Lifeline Bookfest held in Toowoomba and according to the local paper, it was going to be even bigger than before. There were seven shipping containers filled with books and volunteers worked throughout the week to have everything ready for 8am Saturday morning. The books are organised into a variety of categories including sci fi & fantasy, crime & thrillers, fiction, non-fiction and children’s. And it’s not just books. Pre-loved magazines and toys are on sale too.

Seasoned book-festers usually come prepared. Some bring shopping carts or wheeled suitcases. Some come with a list of desired titles. Others are just content to take home an armful of new books. We didn’t have a formal list of titles that we were looking for, but we did have a few things in mind. Bec was after some Star Wars novels and I was on the look-out for Australian, literary and award-winner titles, plus anything that might be on The List – the 1001 list, that is.

One of the cool things about the Bookfest is that you can hire a shopping trolley for $2. Do you know how many books you can fit in a shopping trolley? Quite a lot.  We weren’t the only ones with a shopping trolley, but we did get a few strange looks because our shopping trolley was pretty full. It also attracted a few comments, all good fun of course, about how much we read and how long the trolley load of books would last. A few weeks one person asked.  

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We were pretty happy with what we managed to find. Bec found some Star Wars books and some Kathy Reichs. I found some Anne Rice, Margaret Atwood, Richard Flanagan and the first ten books of Sookie Stackhouse – just to name a few. The Bookfest is always a bit of a lottery. You never know what treasures you might find. So yes, we did buy a trolley load of books but we also helped to raise money for a very worthy cause. The Toowoomba sale raised $75,000 for Lifeline, while the Bookfest held in Brisbane in January raised $1.4 million. That’s some serious money raised out of second-hand books.  

The only trouble now is to find some space on the bookshelves and more time to read.

 

2019: Looking Forward

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Another year has come and gone. I don’t know where 2018 went. It seems like I had just settled into 2018, remembering to write an 8 instead of a 7, and suddenly it’s the end of the year. How did that happen? The older we get, the faster the years seem to zoom past. It really doesn’t seem quite fair, somehow. But as they say, time waits for no one. As we watch 2018 disappear in the rear vision mirror,  2019 roars into view. What will this new year bring? Will some pleasant surprises come our way? Will unexpected challenges throw a curve ball into our plans? Perhaps you have already started to make some New Year resolutions.

  I am not really one for making New Year resolutions. Despite our best of intentions, very few of us actually manage to keep our New Year resolutions. It’s so easy to get carried away by the buzz of the New Year moment, gazing optimistically into the future through a merry alcohol infused haze and make rash resolutions with almost no forethought and maybe even less foresight.  Resolutions tend to be all or nothing. You either keep them, or you don’t. There’s often no middle ground. When we fail to keep our resolutions – and you can bet that we will, because after all, we’re human – our failure can be compounded with feelings of resignation, hopelessness or even depression. It’s a win or lose situation, and most of the time, we will lose. We get tired or busy or distracted, and before you know it, our good intentions have hit the dust. It’s all over, red rover.

I think goal setting is a much better way of initiating change in our lives, especially change that is important for our health and well being. When we set a goal, we are setting a target to aim for. It’s not something we can achieve overnight, but something that can be achieved slowly, over the course of time. Slow change is often easier to implement and maintain in the long run. Sometimes there will be setbacks. Sometimes it might feel like one step forward and three steps backwards or vice versa, but on the whole, as we look back, hopefully we will see how far we have come.

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Setting goals requires a bit of forethought.  Resolutions often fail because we haven’t thought about why these things are an issue, why we have failed to keep them in the past, what motivates us to change and what are the likely challenges we will face. When we set goals, these are the very questions we need to ask ourselves so that we can map out a plan to strive for our goal. This is where we get down to the nitty-gritty of how we will achieve our goal.

We might break our goal down into a series of steps. This is something I learnt when Dan was very young and we were trying to help him learn basic skills for school and life. If necessary, we can even break down each step into mini-steps – baby steps. Baby steps are so much easier to achieve than giant leaps. And if we get to the end of the year and we haven’t quite met the goal, you know what, it doesn’t matter. The goal is still there. We can see the progress we’ve made. We can just keep going. Besides, sometimes the journey towards the goal can end up being just as important as actually reaching the goal.

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During this last week my inbox has been flooded with posts reviewing the year, celebrating achievements and setting challenges for the next year. And it seems I’m not alone in preferring to think in terms of setting achievable goals rather than making rash resolutions. Beth at Life…Take 2 and Itinerary Planner at Travel Itineraries, just to mention two, also talk about goals rather than resolutions. Funny how we can be on the same page and thinking the same thing at the same time.

Our goals don’t just have to be about achieving things like weight loss or increased fitness or career promotions. While these are all worthy goals, as we head into the new year we might also like to think about more family and community focused goals, like having more family time, showing kindness to strangers and patience to shop assistants, respect to our colleagues and forgiveness to family. Life isn’t always about being faster, stronger, higher but also about being kinder, friendlier, happier….

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2018 has been a year of ups and downs. We lost a dear friend to cancer on Easter Sunday and a family member passed away suddenly barely two months ago. We have had to deal with the stress of moving house and transition to university life. But there has also been the joy of Dan’s life growing to include new opportunities and the satisfaction of achieving numerous small goals.

Standing on the eve of 2019, we continue to look forward to whatever joys and challenges the new year will bring. As we set our goals for the next 12 months, we hope that 2019 is kind to you and that you experience the love, joy and hope of life in abundance.

Happy New Year!

Bowling for Cancer

 

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Sporting achievement is not something that I am known for. When the sporting genes were being dished out, I was at the back of the line and by the time I finally got to the front, well… there was nothing left. I don’t mind watching it, but years of compulsory PE lessons taught me that it was best to keep my lack of coordination and general all-round lack of anything even approaching sporting ability…to myself. So when I was invited to be part of a lawn bowls team for a social fundraising day, I was a bit dubious to begin with.  I had never played lawn bowls in my life and I didn’t know a whole lot about it, except that my grandfather used to play and it involved rolling some balls down a green.  But it was a social event and a fundraiser for cancer research, so hey, why not give it a go!

My husband Paul was our team captain and the only player in our team with any real bowls experience. He even has his own set. A couple of friends, who had played an occasional game before, made up the rest of the team.  So essentially, we were a team of hacks, which didn’t really matter as the first team we played against were also mostly a team of hacks. One of the girls was a complete novice – like me, and the two guys reckoned they had a practice session about five years ago. So it was a very entertaining and sociable round. 

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Throughout the afternoon the club was running a competition for touches. A touch occurs when your ball hits the little white ball, called the kitty. I was using Paul’s set of bowls, which were quite biased so I had to aim for the kitty on the green next to us so that the ball would swing in and actually stay on our green, rather than wandering off somewhere else. As it was my first time, I was just concentrating on keeping my ball on the green without going outside the lines or falling into the gutter, and then … I got a touch! And the prize for getting a touch?  

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  XXXX – an Aussie icon! You can’t get better than that! Considering I am not a beer drinker, this is actually quite funny. Paul later accused me of getting rather possessive about my bottle of beer, but considering it was the first time I had ever won anything for a sporting activity, I thought I was quite entitled to be a little possessive about it.

Our second round was against a team who had a little more bowling experience, however we managed to come out on top. And again, it was another enjoyable and sociable round. I was really impressed by the friendliness of everyone. Experienced bowlers were only too happy to give a few pointers and encouragement to those of us who had no idea what we were doing. This is one of the great things about a social day. Anybody can come along, learn a little bit about lawn bowls, have some fun and be part of a community project that is focused on supporting others in need.

After the two rounds we gathered in the club house for the prizes. Being a hack team we didn’t really expect to win anything, but, surprise, surprise  – we won second prize! I’m not quite sure how that happened. It looked like they were just drawing names out of a hat. I certainly don’t think it was on merit, but the fruit platters looked delicious and were very gratefully received.

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The social bowls day turned out to be so popular, they actually had to turn people away, which is a little sad in one way, but quite encouraging in another. Sometimes we can feel quite overwhelmed by all the bad news that flashes across our tv screens, but it is good to have our faith in humanity restored when we see ordinary people leading by example, coming together to have fun, to make connections and to show their support for others.

And as for lawn bowls? Who knows. Perhaps one day I’ll follow in my grandfather’s footsteps and take it up for real. I might even be lucky enough to win another bottle of beer. Cheers!