Taking Stock: February ’16

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Happy February 29! Have you enjoyed this extra day in the year? Have you made the most of it or just let it drift by like any other day? I thought I would celebrate the day by taking stock of where I am now.

Making: coloured pasta beads for a toddler play date tomorrow

Eating: home made choc chip cookies

Drinking: English breakfast tea

Cooking: balsamic lamb for dinner

Feeling: full after balsamic lamb and choc chip cookies

Wearing: red nail polish

Reading: All the Light We Cannot See

Hearing: chirruping birds

Watching: MKR but only whilst they’re doing the instant restaurants. After that I get a bit bored with it!

Loving: that everyone is now back at school and uni

Coveting: quiet space in my home

Hoping: the possums will find someone else’s plants to feed upon

Wondering: where to go for my birthday lunch!

Marvelling: at the setting sun

Paying: for tickets to New York. Exciting!!

Thinking: I should read Craft for the Soul again

Wondering: who to see at the Comedy Festival. Do we go an old favourite or try someone new?

I hope you have had a lovely day. How are things in your life?  Are you chilled?  Do tell!

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Have you read…? Hope Farm by Peggy Frew

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Stella-nominated Hope Farm is the second novel by Peggy Frew. Narrated, for the most part by the mature aged Silver, it is a reflection upon the time she lived with her mother, Ishtar, in a commune, the eponymous Hope Farm, in country Victoria. At various points throughout the novel, we also hear Ishtar’s story in her own words.

In the early 1970s, Ishtar (her adopted name) falls pregnant to her predatory, married neighbour. Her deeply conservative and religious mother sends her away for her confinement to a home for unmarried mothers with the intention that the baby will be given up for adoption. Ishtar desperately wants to keep her child and one day, when she is out walking in the gardens near the home, she encounters a group of people from an ashram. Drawn in by their colour and compassion, she seeks their assistance to shelter her and her baby upon its birth. Thus begins her life, and Silver’s, of moving from ashram to commune as her relationships wax and wain. As Silver describes it

Men were usually involved, in both the endings and the beginnings. Boyfriends, lovers, partners – whatever they were in the varied and loose lexicon of the circles in which she moved…I have no memory of any actual break-ups…She simply withdrew and allowed things to collapse.

When Ishtar meets the charismatic, but unhinged, Miller, Silver is uprooted again as she and Ishtar depart their native Queensland to live with him on the commune at Hope Farm. Silver grows resentful of Miller and the way in which he occupies Ishtar’s life – they have been mother-daughter at one moment, about to embark on world adventures, but then, at the next, Silver is left in the wake of Ishtar’s new love interest. In this home life of fluctuating emotions and affections, Silver’s resentment towards Ishtar also grows. As Silver describes it, at one point:

Why didn’t we just leave, Ishtar and me? Why did she always treat me like this, never protecting me from anything and then when I tried to enter her world, to ask about things like I just had, slamming down a shutter?

Against the backdrop of this triangular relationship, it is at Hope Farm that Silver encounters characters who live on the fringes of society: those who want to drop out from the world or those who feel they need to prove something to themselves or others in adopting a self-sufficient lifestyle. She meets her sensitive, creative, gay friend, Ian, who must contend with constant bullying from schoolmates. And all the while, she is contending with her own maturing, her need for friendship and love and stability, her need for a parent’s guidance, as she navigates adolescence. She develops her first crush on the kind and considerate Dan, who provides her with some of the affection she craves, only to come to understand that he is romantically drawn to her mother.

This is a book that has lingered with me. It has made me think about what it is to be an outsider, either due to rejection or not being comfortable with societal expectations or norms. It has made me think about the sometimes brittle nature of parental bonds and the damage that a parent’s rejection can do to a child. It has made me think about the frustration of not being able to understand a person’s behaviour and how the shutting down of communication deadens relationships. Hope Farm is a beautifully written novel. Highly recommended.

Have you read Hope Farm? Or Peggy Frew’s debut novel House of Sticks? What did you think?

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So what’s been happening?

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Howdy! How are we all? I feel like I’ve been away from the blog  world for a little bit. I’m not quite sure why. My girl is back at school, my boy has been away on holidays so I must have had HEAPS of time by my lonesome to compose a post. I guess I’ve just been puddling around catching up on some of the people and places I haven’t caught up with for a few months or checking out new things to do. So here, for the record, are some of the things which have kept me from tapping away at the keyboard.

Spotlight: I went to see this with my movie buddy and it was excellent. Have you heard of it? It’s about the investigative journalism team at The Boston Globe who uncovered the extent of sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church in Boston. Not exactly cheery but the focus was not so much on covering the abuse but rather how the team went about its investigation. Compelling performances by a great ensemble cast, including Mark Ruffalo and Stanley Tucci. Such genuine actors. Love them!

Andy Warhol and Ai Wei Wei: Emily made the train trip from Ballarat to ‘the big smoke’ and we went to see this excellent exhibition at the NGV. It was HUGE and I think we were a little overcome by it all! We were both marvelling at the sheer volume of work that Ai Wei Wei has produced.

TV: we’ve been watching the third season of The Bridge which has been excellent, as always. A bit retro watching just one episode weekly because we are so used to binge watching whole seasons at a time! We’ve also been catching up on season two of The Americans. Yep, we are a bit behind! Kept forgetting it was on pay TV after it disappeared from free-to-air.

Podcasts:  SerialChat 10 Looks 3this chat  between Wil Anderson and Julia Zemiro, and Iz and Ez discussing booky, watchy things

Crocheting: I made another one of these giraffes for the daughter of a friend of my mum who is awaiting a tiny arrival and I’ve started on these maybelle squares (well, I’ll turn them into squares!) in the ongoing endeavour to work through my wool stash! I’m going to join them up to make a blanket, I think. Can you guess what inspired my colour choice?!

Books: I enjoyed reading Hope Farm, which my lovely girl gave me for Christmas. It’s been nominated for the Stella Prize, and deservedly so.  Isabel lent me Still Writing by Dani Shapiro, a gem of a book on writing, creativity and life. Current read? All the Light We Cannot See

Friends: coffees with lovely friends. It’s really important to nurture our relationships, isn’t it? I try to make sure I don’t leave it too long between friend catch ups because in all the busy-ness of people’s lives (yep, I hate saying that – let’s remember we don’t have to fill every second of every day for our lives to be valid), relationships can easily slide. And that’s a great pity.

Stuff: you know, the ordinary things. Domestic goddess duties, new school year adjustments, the admin of life. Not very exciting, but we all have to do it, don’t we?

How about you? Have you been out and about doing nice things? Or have you been enjoying some quiet, reflective time?

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Have you read…? Mothers Grimm by Danielle Wood

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This one was a goody! Danielle Wood’s Mothers Grimm is an inventively clever take on four fairytales by the Brothers Grimm: Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty and The Goose Girl. Do not pick up the book and expect a retelling of the tales.  Instead, each story echoes the premise of the original tale. They challenge our perception of what it is to be a ‘bad mother’. Could it ever be understandable that you would give up your child for leafy greens, leave them in the woods, shut her away, attempt to mould her life? They are an exploration of the real life world of modern mothering -expectations versus reality, financial pressures, adolescent rebellion.

I am hesitant to say anything further because I wouldn’t wish to spoil how each story unfolds. After reading them, you may reconsider the old fairytales and wonder who were the ‘good mothers’ and were the ‘bad mothers’ really so evil?  And where do we fit on the ‘good mother/bad mother spectrum’?

Have your read this book? Did you enjoy it too?