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."