Monday, November 29, 2010

Story of Love, Loss and Redemption Set in the Karoo

I've recently been sent some information about a newly published book called Karoo Plainsong, which is written by Barbara Mutch, who lived in South Africa for almost 40 years until she moved to the United Kingdom. It sounds like a great read.
Karoo Plainsong is the story of Ada, an illegitimate, unschooled but brilliant pianist, who grows up in service to a family of Irish immigrants. Set against a backdrop of apartheid, the novel tells of Ada’s seduction into an illegal relationship as a result of which she bears a mixed race child.
Forced to flee from the only home she knows, Ada must carve a life for herself, her daughter and her music in the bleak township that squats on the edge of the Karoo.
Torn between love for her surrogate family and outrage at apartheid’s sins, she embarks on a dangerous double life as friend – and potential foe – of both black and white.
Written by Barbara Mutch, the granddaughter of Irish immigrants who settled in the Karoo in the early 1900s, Karoo Plainsong is a powerful tale of love, loss and redemption, and a journey into the soul of a fractured nation. It illustrates two simultaneous but contrasting views of South Africa under apartheid – seen through the eyes of a remarkable black woman who holds on for the miracle.
The personal tale of a woman’s survival in a time of turmoil will be enjoyed by fans of romance, fiction and history.
Says Barbara: “Growing up in South Africa has been the most profound experience of my life. It is a deeply seductive – and conflicted – place. I wanted to write a novel that shone a light on this; that showed both its brilliance and its shadows.”
Having lived in South Africa for almost 40 years before moving to England, Barbara began writing about the country of her birth only once she’d left its shores. “It was as if being away gave me the ability to see it more clearly. My husband’s expat assignment to London marked the start of my writing career, and London turned out to be the perfect place in which to nurture this new venture. The children love it, and so did I, for different reasons: The quality newspapers, the variety of television and theatre, the vibrant literary scene. Just the spur to get me going; and sufficient distance from the land of my birth to give me fresh perspective.”
Barbara says that the theme of Karoo Plainsong had been in her head since childhood. “It began as a seed sown by my Irish grandmother when she taught me to play the piano. Sitting by her side on the piano stool, I learnt more than the names of the notes and where to put my fingers to make a tune. I learnt about her long engagement to my grandfather while she was in Ireland, and he in South Africa. I listened as she told me about her eventual arrival in the country in the 1900s, and her excitement – and fear – as they journeyed for several days by train through the Karoo.
“The heat seared her Irish skin, the dust of the Karoo caught in her throat, the fiery sunsets were like nothing she’d ever seen before. And the world she was entering proved very different from what she’d imagined. For all the warm welcome she received, there were aspects of her adopted country that she found troubling. She was unprepared for the issues of racial inequality that were soon apparent, although they were not as yet enshrined in law. When teaching at the local white school, she couldn’t help asking why black pupils were not admitted; when she befriended the young black woman who was hired to clean her new home, she felt the quiet disapproval of neighbours.”
Fifty years later, Barbara says that she was playing in her garden with a black child, who is the daughter of her parents’ housemaid. “I begin to realise that copying my grandmother’s early attempts to build bridges is, for my generation, impossible: Apartheid is now law. There can be no lasting relationship between black and white such as she tried to forge. My little friend and I can play together today, but tomorrow we will go our separate ways.”
Karoo Plainsong is a work of fiction inspired by Barbara’s and her grandmother’s experience. However, it is a tale of two imagined journeys: The first being the migration of an Irish family to a remote part of Africa and their attempt to build a new life there.
The second, and the major theme of the book, is the story of Ada, their black maid, who must fight to survive in a world that judges her by the colour of her skin.
Says Barbara: “Ada has other disadvantages, too: She is illegitimate, and she has never been to school. Despite these handicaps, she learns to play the piano and finds, in music, the belonging that is denied her elsewhere.”
She concludes: “Karoo Plainsong is a story of love, loss and redemption. It will make you laugh, and it will make you cry. It took me on a journey into my past, and then offered me the chance of a new beginning. It will take you on your own journey, too: Into the soul of a fractured nation, and into the heart of a remarkable woman who holds on for the miracle.”
For more information see

Sunday, November 28, 2010

We're on a Buzz

Well, it seems like we are all on such a buzz at the moment. Rushing around getting ready to go to South Africa for six weeks, leaving in nine sleeps, moving sometime after we return, and then fitting in all sorts of things that are happening at the moment. There is so much excitement in our family about all the things that are happening, and I've had some 'very proud Mom' moments!

This week Slade was invested as a Cub Scout. He started as a Joey Scout earlier this year, and really enjoys his weekly meetings. He also did a Joey camp earlier in the year, which was great fun for him. During the investiture ceremony he had to walk on stilts (with some assistance!) to the Cub leader Rikki. He said his promise, and had to remove his Joey shirt, to reveal his Cub shirt underneath,and then receive his badges. All this while still on the stilts!!
Slade's investiture at Cubs
On Saturday morning Slade attended The Ashes cricket at The Gabba, and went on to the field during the lunch break as part of his participation in the Milo In2Cricket program. Although a little nervous, he had the most wonderful time. They ran out through a banner and then split up into groups. Their group played in front of the member's stand so Phillip and I were racing around the outside of the stadium to get as close as possible to be able to take some photographs.
Slade's group from Macgregor Cricket Club making their entrance at The Gabba


A very proud moment seeing my son playing at The Gabba!
There were also some activities outside the stadium to keep the kids entertained. I found this one amusing!

Dunk A Pom!
Kai attended a Guide camp over the weekend. Phillip took her out to a wonderful campsite in Redland Bay (before rushing back to get to the cricket!) where they set up tents and had a really fun-filled weekend of activities.

She thoroughly enjoyed herself, and I was very proud of my daughter when all three Guide leaders said what a pleasure she was on camp, how she had got involved and handled herself very well.

After helping back up the tent, it was time for Kai's Promise Ceremony, which was at this wonderful setting alongside a dam (in which the girls had gone canoeing earlier in the day). The camp had a Christmas theme, and the three girls were dubbed The Three Wise Women, and the ceremony had a star theme. It was a very special time, and Kai's enthusiasm was especially evident when she read the Guide Promise over and over again in the car all the way back to the Guide Hut afterwards!

Kai saying her Guide Promise
She also got some badges before the camp officially closed. As there is no more Guides this year, it may be the last time that she attends an Algester Guide meeting, but it's really great that she got the opportunity to go on her first camp with this wonderful group of girls and leaders. It depends on when we move next year, but if we're still living in Calamvale for a few Monday's after school starts then she'll be able to attend a few more of their meetings.
Kai getting more Guide badges
Perhaps it's because we are newcomers in Australia, but we were the only ones who got really excited at the sight of wallabies in the parklands around the campsite while we were finishing off. Slade rushed off to get photographs of the one that was grazing fairly near to the group of guides. Then he and Phillip spotted another group of wallabies further away, including one with a joey. How wonderful to see them in the wild.
What a cute little Joey!
Wallaby in the campsite grounds -- Picture by Slade

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I've put up a post on my Kids in Queensland blog about the cricket program that Slade is participating in, and absolutely loving!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Busy, Busy

There is so much going on in our household at the moment. In fact, the other evening Slade was counting some of the big things there are happening in our lives at the moment (well, some of the things are especially important to him), and got up to nearly 10 quite major happenings!

1. We're off to South Africa for a whole six weeks leaving in less than four weeks! I can't believe how the time is racing  by and we're all super excited. It's a long time to be away, but we're fortunate to be able to go away for that long. Phillip's work is pretty quiet during that time anyway, although he's putting in lots of extra hours now to make up for the time away. We're going to be in Howick/Pietermaritzburg for about three weeks staying with family and catching up with friends in Hillcrest.
Then just after Christmas we're driving through to Port Elizabeth and will visit with Phillip's family. We're glad to be staying in a wonderful little cottage there -- we've stayed at the facility previously -- and we have the use of a pool and braai area so we're really looking forward to some relaxing time with all of his family there.
We're back in Howick for just one night and then it's off to Kruger and we just can't wait to get back there and to spend some time in the African bush. Then it's just one night back and it's time to get back on the plane to fly home. It's going to be an awesome holiday!

2. We're moving sometime after we get back from South Africa to Victoria Point, which is just over half an hour from where we are now. The suburb is on Moreton Bay -- not sure how close we'll be to the water, but in the general vicinity at least! We're still looking for rentals and as many of the ones that are being advertised now are available now or in the next two weeks or so, we might only find somewhere when we return from South Africa. We have to be out of our current rental by the end of Feb so we do have a bit of time at least.

3. The kids are starting at a new school Sheldon College. It's been a big decision for us as it's an independent school, and it means moving them after not being at Calamvale for very long. But we love the area near the bay and Phillip and I were both really happy with the school when we looked around. It's also well regarded generally. Kai has been quite happy about the move since we mentioned it, but Slade got quite anxious about it and was concerned about having to make friends again. Well, on Friday they spent the day at the school just to meet a few kids and check it out, and they both absolutely loved it. They can't wait to start! So we're kitted out with uniforms. I'll have to get stationery in a week or two, and we're nearly ready to roll!

Will roll a few other happenings into one...The kids are doing swimming classes through the school, and have a series of about 10 days where they head off each day in a bus to local swimming schools where they do the lessons. Slade's birthday is coming up, and he's having a rock climbing party. You can read about the rock climbing on my Kids in Queensland blog. Kai has a one night camp for Guides, and they're also going to be doing some canoeing. She's a bit nervous about that, but it's the first camp for quite a few of them, and I think that it'll be a wonderful environment for her to have the night away. Slade also had to do a performance -- a little skit with a group of boys -- at Cubs on Tuesday night so that was also something quite daunting for him. He did so well though -- spoke clearly and handled having a microphone very well!

Wow, what a busy time, and that doesn't even factor in Christmas!

Friday, November 5, 2010

From the Local Newspaper

Having reported on crime extensively in South Africa, I was quite interested to read an article in my local newspaper this week.
The front page headline read...
Bullet won't stop the presses
NOTHING will stop the presses of the Chinese newspaper
Epoch Times -- not even a drive-by shooting. "If anything
we might expand," says the defiant manager after the
Sunnybank newspaper was targeted.

Shew, I thought, bullets flying. That's quite something to happen in a local neighbourhood.
I duly turned to page 3 to read the story...

I had to read to the third paragraph to come across the following:
"A projectile, which police said may have come from an air rifle or BB gun, was fired at the Epoch Times' Mains Rd office, splintering a window only metres from where staff were meeting inside."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Back to School

We had a good end to the holidays -- we spent last Friday at the Queensland Museum in South Bank. We've been there several times before, but they have different activities and events during the holidays. During this visit we watched a science show and we went to the Sciencentre, which we hadn't done previously. The centre has lots of interactive science-based exhibits that enable to the children to 'play' and experiment with all sorts of things. It was especially great as it meant that the kids could run around as we've had rain almost every day during the holidays so they've been pretty cooped up!
The kids also got to make a few things. The one table had different coloured sheets of paper, white card, coloured pipe cleaners, split pins and a few other bits and pieces and the children were encouraged to make whatever they liked. It was great to see Slade and Kai being really creative and making a few different things after coming up with the ideas themselves -- in fact, I had to persuade them to leave and we even had to take the goodies back to the car as we couldn't have carried them around with us during the rest of our time in the museum!
On Saturday Slade started playing cricket -- it is a 10 week program that is essentially an introduction to the game. He really enjoyed himself and described it as "awesome" when we got into the car. Kai also thoroughly enjoyed herself as there is a great play area on the side of the cricket field and she made a friend!
On Monday it was back to school -- both the kids were keen to have a longer holiday, but had good days back.
It's a busy start to the week with Kai having gymnastics on Monday after school, and then guides starting in the early evening, and Slade has Scouts, which is temporarily on Tuesday evenings, but will be going back to Thursday soon. The kids really enjoy their respective activities and it's great for them to have the opportunity to meet children who aren't in their school, and to do things that they might not do otherwise.
I've kept busy with a couple of meetings, doing some networking and also doing some admin work for Phillip. I'm enjoying not having a pressured and very time-consuming job, and today the kids and I even went through some old photographs artwork done by the kids over the years, school reports and other bits and pieces. Everything is currently half unpacked and on the dining room table, but it's great to think that I may even get around to sorting some of it at least during the week.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fun Day

We had a great day today driving out north west of Brisbane to Samford Village, and then through Mt Glorious, Mt Nebo, and back via Mt Coot-tha. Lots of windy roads, but wonderful scenery, and rainforests.
We went for a walk in the rainforest -- the trees are so amazing.
I thought I would share the pictures that we took today.

Sign in Samford Village that gave us a laugh -- No Horses Allowed (that is, in the car parking area!)
 Awesome play area in Samford Village
 Family Snaps in the rainforest
 Amazing trees in the rainforest
 Family Snaps!
 Phillip with another of the amazing trees in the background
 Slade was fascinated by the palm from this angle so he took this picture!
 Scrub turkey
 Flower in Mt Coot-tha garden
 Phillip and the kids looking at the view from Mt Coot-tha (the highest spot in Brisbane)
 Phillip and I (now married for 11 years and 1 day!!)

Friday, September 24, 2010

School Holidays

We're having a great time this school holidays. For me, it's meant much more time to relax than I have had in the passed!
Usually I'm trying to squeeze fun things in with the kids, and squeeze in work as well. And when I was doing one thing, I was thinking about the other!
This week I've had some time to sort out things at home -- fortunately there's still another week for that as I've got more to get through. I went through some boxes that are stored in our garage and made sure that they're packed for the next move (we'll be moving house early next year).
Phillip says that it's great to come home and find me more relaxed!
The kids have enjoyed mostly pottering around this week. We've been somewhat lazy, especially as it's rained on and off almost the entire week.
We went to the movies on Tuesday -- watched Despicable Me, which Kai first called Speckle Me! Got DVDs for a week on Cheap Tuesday (when they're only a dollar a DVD!), and have done some baking.
The kids also went to a cookery class on Wednesday, which they really enjoyed. Made pizzas (including the dough), cookies and a dessert with mousse, biscuits and jelly.
The kids have also just had time to play on the computer, play lego and other games. They mostly play pretty well together. Earlier in the week they were playing Agents (inspired by Lego secret agents!) and had swords and other gadgets that they made from boxes.
It's really great to listen to them playing and getting on so well (of course, there are the arguments occasionally too).
I was especially proud when at one stage Kai suggested doing something as part of the game, but Slade said that it would take too long. Kai replied: "Well, perhaps if we work as a team, we'll get it done quickly."

 Baking Biscuits!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Being Grateful

Well, it's been a tough week and a bit. My work with SAbona came to an abrupt end last Friday. It was unexpected at the time as I was in the middle of getting our next issue finalised, although in retrospect I should have seen it coming.
They're looking at restructuring as the costs of printing and distributing a magazine are high, and the income was just not covering the expenses. As my payment was the biggest expense, and the income to pay me came from the magazine revenue, stopping the printed magazine meant that I no longer have a job.
I felt pretty devastated -- having put so much into it since I first started working for them two months after I arrived in Australia (from writing and editing to selling advertising, getting distributors, organising the subscriber list and more). It's also been the only work that I've done since I arrived in Australia, apart from a couple of other articles, and just a short while ago I turned down some other work to focus on the magazine. It's been pretty consuming as there have always been deadlines to meet and being a small team there it wasn't a matter of delegating to anyone else.
But during the last week, I've been thinking about the things that I have to be grateful for...
1. Phillip's work is going really well at the moment.
2. I have the opportunity to help Phillip with his work, which means that we saves the money that he was going to be paying someone else.
3. The income that we received from SAbona sustained us in many ways when things were really tough financially.
4. I am under less pressure, which is great for my stress levels!
5. I have more time to spend with Slade and Kai while they are on their two week holiday, which started today.
6. I was offered the work with SAbona without even having to start looking for work (which was a scary prospect knowing that I was in a new country). And now I am looking for work at a time when I've made contacts in Australia and am more familiar with things (it's still a little scary, but not quite as much).
7. I have more time to get things done around the house -- so there's some decluttering going on at the moment -- as well as other things that I enjoy doing that I haven't had much time for recently.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Identity Crisis!

We were really chuffed recently to find boerewors in our local Woolworths supermarket. It was rather amusing though to discover that it has something of an identity crisis! Uniquely AUSTRALIAN, made by the BRITISH Sausage Co, but it tasted truly South African! Yum!

Identity Crisis?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kai's Birthday in July

Writing for SAbona has been keeping me very busy -- writing a few different newsletters, and some website copy each week, a printed magazine every two months, and then other bits and pieces too (I've even been selling some advertising recently!).
So this blog has really ended up at the bottom of the list of things to do.
But I really wanted to share some beautiful pictures of Kai's birthday. She turned six and after thinking of ideas of what party we could have in a relatively small space at home, we decided on a makeover party.
It was especially thanks to Princess Tiana who created a most wonderful party that the girls absolutely loved!
Kai invited seven friends and Flower Princess Tiana did their hair, some make up and they had their nails painted.

They also made flower crowns. She also gave them pictures to colour in, and there was a prize for the best. And they had a pass the parcel that she organised.

The most exciting part was once the girls were done up, Tiana had beautiful princess dresses and shoes that they could wear while having a photo shoot. It was so cute -- the girls all looked like they felt very grown up! A few days after the party Tiana sent us a CD containing all the pictures.

Apart from sorting out the food and chatting to parents, there wasn't much for me to do at all!!
I had a fun time with the food -- did these cute 'ladies' with ice cream cones, and made strawberry milkshakes (of course, we had to have something pink to drink) with real strawberries! And we had a fairy cake.

Most of the mom's stayed so that they could see their girls being made up, and it was a really nice atmosphere.
Finally, here is proof of what kids can do when asked to decorate plain brown paper for wrapping presents. Entirely on his own, this is what Slade did for his sister...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tax Refunds in Brisbane

There's a great story in the news today about how the tax office works here.
When I see the way some things happen here, I really appreciate them. Simple things like being able to travel on a bus or train into the city. Phillip was waiting to catch a bus soon after he arrived here and the person next to him complained that the bus was a few minutes late -- We just really appreciate the fact that we have access to public transport.
Well I had a laugh when I read this headline Tempers as taxman takes time. What does it mean to 'take time', I wondered?
Last year we couldn't believe when Phillip had his tax refund cheque arrive in the post box literally days after our accountant had sent the return. Incredible!
Well there is frustration that tax returns have taken up to four months to process. Doesn't sound too long, but it's certainly well in excess of the normal 14-business-day turnaround. The delay is due to the implementation of a new processing system.
The tax commissioner even said that taxpayers who were owed a refund and had to wait more than 30 days for their assessment notice would be paid interest!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The School Dilemma

I have recently written a blog on the SAbona website about some issues relating to schooling in Australia especially as a new arrival from Southern Africa.
It's been the catalyst for quite a lot of debate and discussion about choosing a school for your children and may be useful if you're moving to Australia or looking for schools for your kids.
You can read it here.
Please comment on that site if you have some experience that could help others, or ask questions if you're looking for more info.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What we've been eating!

I've found some interesting tropical fruits in a local fruit and veg shop and a nearby market recently so we've been trying out some different fruit that's grown nearby. It's been lots of fun!

Not pictured, but probably one of the tastiest that we've had is the pluot, which is a hybrid of plun and apricot -- about 70% plum and 30% apricot. The variety that we had looked much like an apple but really does taste like a plum, with a bit of apricot in it! They are sometimes sold by the name dinosaur egg!

Then there is the achacha (on the left in the picture below), which is apparently a traditional New Year fruit in the tropical Amazon Basin of Bolivia. The ones that we got are grown in North Queensland. You cut the skin with a knife around the middle and then pop the fruit out. They are a bit like a lychee.

We've also had mangosteens (pictured at the top), which have quite a lemony tang. Then there are the rambutons, or hairy lychees, which are also similar to lychees and are quite sweet.

We've also had these dragon fruit or pitaya. The kids quite like them -- I'm sure the name adds to the attraction. Apparently the pitaya plant is a cacti that originated in South America, but was taken to Vietnam from where it spread.

I've yet to find the Black Sapote, which is also called the chocolate pudding fruit. I saw it on TV recently during a Queensland travel program. It apparently tastes really great mixed into a milkshake with some ice-cream! Yummy!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Funny Sign and Notice

We spotted this sign while walking along the Bay at Wynnum.

We found this notice in an old school building in the Caboolture Historical Village just north of Brisbane.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kai's First Day at Big School

The kids started school today and it was Kai's first day at big school! She looked really grown up in her uniform. She had a great day though and really enjoyed herself. There are a few kids in her class who were in kindi with her, and she's in the class that Slade was in last year so she's also familiar with the teachers.

Slade also had a good day. He's gone into Year 2, but has some of his classmates with him again this year.

Such a nice idea that I wanted to share: Kai's teacher gave out a wonderful little ziploc bag containing a tea bag, cottonwool ball and tissue and this note: Here is a little gift for you as you leave your precious one with us on the first day of school. As you hold this cotton ball in your hand, the softness will help you to remember the gentle spirit of your child. After you've gone home and dried your tears, make yourself a hot cup of tea. Put up your feet and relax. Remember that together we will work for your child to be the best they can be.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My Special Treat

Having not written for ages (again), I have so much to share. I'm starting small though because I want to write about my special treat last week.

Phillip decided that he wanted to take me away for a night, leaving the kids with my mom, as my birthday present, and also partly a little celebration for our 10 year anniversary which we celebrated with a family dinner in September!

He didn't tell me where he was taking me to, but spent lots of time on the internet looking at places. Anyway we headed off on Thursday morning for the Gold Coast, with Phillip mentioning that we weren't actually going to be staying near the beach! We had an hour or so to relax and get some lunch. We considered swimming, but it was seriously hot, and we had to be somewhere by 2pm or so, and then we could be somewhere at 1pm, which was earlier than expected! All a little confusing.

Well we headed up into the mountains, and soon I realised that we were heading for Tamborine Mountain. We duly arrived at Witches Falls Cottage. I didn't take any pictures so please look at their website -- and let me tell you it is as wonderful as it appears in the pictures.

The cottages are really private. The bathrooms, with a spa bath, have a glass wall with a door leading out into a little courtyard that's full of ferns. The cottages have one room with a couple of stairs leading up the bed, a couch and a small kitchenette and diningroom table. There's also a little courtyard and patio out another door that's very private too. We ate our breakfast out there in the morning looking into and smelling the roses and lavender!

Just as we were settling in there was a knock at the door, and here was Rachel with another treat for me. Rachel works for Ripple day spa. They provide mobile services in your home, or wherever you happen to be staying! Witches Falls Cottages promote them quite extensively and that's how Phillip came to hear about them. They brought along all their stuff and I had four hours of massage, exfoliation, face packs, etc. It was absolutely wonderful. So relaxing, and the best part was that when it was all over I just put on a bath robe (provided by Witches Falls Cottages) and relaxed. Phillip had popped out to get some biscuits, cheese, wine for supper so we really didn't have to go anywhere!

For breakfast in the morning we had a basket delivered to our door, and we sat on the patio eating the most delicious fresh homemade bread with ham, cheese, jams etc. There was also cereals, yoghurt and fruit. Really yummy.

After checking out of the cottages we spent a couple of hours wondering around the shops in Tamborine. It really was a wonderful time, and I must say a huge thank you to Phillip (I love you, babe), and also thanks to my mom for looking after the kids while we were away.