Beanie’s Book Review 🐾 – The Baggage Handler

Beanie (and I) recently read The Baggage Handler by South Australian author David Rawlings.

I met David at this year’s Omega Writers’ Conference, where he ran a brilliant workshop on managing time while juggling different aspects to writing.

At the conference bookshop, I saw his novel for sale and was intrigued by the cover and the concept of it.

Figuring it was a good time to buy it, I did – and received a signed copy!

On my first night home I began reading the book and then smashed it out in two or three days. As suspected, it was an intriguing and addictive read.

It follows the story of three people who lose their baggage and visit the Baggage Handler. The story touches on some important themes, like not carrying other people’s baggage and the invitation to “unload” one’s own burdens. (The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking – “this needs to be made into a movie”.)

So, as you can guess I do recommend this book (as does Beanie). Beautiful writing and an intriguing storyline. 📖✔️

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After reading, a kip is always good.

A Glass Factory Turned Café… And My Grandma

I sit here today in a thriving café. The good old whirr of the coffee machine, glass cupboards full of little bits and little posies in water on every wooden table.

Meal comes out. The pink rose petals scattered across the usual avo toast suspect matches my pink herbal tea. Succumb to obligatory social media photo.

“Have you tried the coffee here yet?”

“No,”I say, slightly embarrassed. It appears that many people of my home town already have: I am a late goer.

“You’re in for a real treat.”

Usually I’d just go with it. How can I say no to that, the excitement and pride on his face is evident… and yet, I explain that I can only have half strength coffee and that sometimes coffee doesn’t agree with me. They lose interest a bit.

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Gosh, this breaky tastes great. I wish it would go on for a longer time. I try to prolong it – I should have requested two pieces of bread…

Outside are cyclists, looking content in their flock. Admirably practical in their gear and weather friendly accessories; three tables across two tall businessmen discuss budgets and monies over paninis.

But this wasn’t always like this. It’s only been a café for a few years. Before then, it was something else and before that it was a glass factory.

In the more gilded age of manufacturing, it stretched over acres worth of land and would have employed hundreds of people, paying the mortgage of many local families.

This is where my grandma, upon finishing her triple degree of music, education and opera, applied for a job after completion.

The young pianist, also a gifted singer, had fought for her studies. In the 1940s, it was not de rigour for women to gain degrees, and a triple one at that. But Beryl (because grandmas have first names too) was one to achieve her goals.

Music was what she lived and breathed: and it was worthy of travelling on an old train up and back to Melbourne a few times a week. Music, her passion, was worthy of carving out her own path in life. A unique journey to her only handprint. Music, and what it represented, was made to grow better and grow larger yet more refined. Other things were worth this too: like her family to come, and the kindness she gave all she encountered and her love of swimming too.

In an old college boys’ world she’d made an impact as a woman on the swimming team and was competing in state-to-state university competitions.

During her university commutes, she’d met her husband, a soldier from Sydney stationed in Queenscliff, during the train ride.

After graduating, there must have been other things on her mind because she applied for the glass factory job. There must have been an alluring simplicity about it; in contrast to the highs and yet uncertainty of musicianship.

The manager, a very nice man, sat her down and told her something in a kind way: she was too qualified for it.She wouldn’t fit in there.Sorry but no thanks.

The next opportunities were ones which fitted her training, and she began to pursue her dreams with focus and passion. She began to teach in prestigious schools and established a successful home piano school.

Her consistency, certain way of doing things and care of her students still follows her today. Many of her past students are pianists, opera singers, teachers and musicians of all kinds.

“The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.”

Trust the next song to come on in the cafe to be that one: the melancholic harmonica gets under my skin and seems to stay there for a good while.

Musicians who are poets just lift my heart a little higher, and especially on this day as I reflect on my beloved grandma.

She lived her life with love and care and carried her dogged, gentle passions with her all her life. Even in horrific circumstances, they were never snuffed out.

So many people pour their lives out in an honourable story, which lives on for future generations to come… and my grandma was one of one. I love her for it, and the legacy she has left her family, her students and all who knew her.

Today, while I’m in the glass factory-turned-café, I think of her.

Silence Speaks

Reflections on a weekend of silence

As I write this, I am sitting in a café drinking pineapple juice and it feels lovely on my throat. My throat – let me tell you about what happened, and I’ll do my best to make it interesting.

How did I lose my voice?

I couldn’t believe it happened to me but pirates came and took it away from me for a few days; they didn’t even leave a business card.

Okay – I’m terrible at lying so just going to stop there.

No pirates, no losing my voice – I gave it up, voluntarily, for a few days.

I had a sore throat earlier last week and it was improved by a couple of days off work. After going to work it started to hurt again. And then I saw a good friend I hadn’t seen for five years. We had a lot to talk about. Cue to my sore throat throat – it felt like knives sharpening as I swallowed.

So, after more chats and normal voice activities, I took myself off to the doctor. She said that things had actually improved since she had seen me a few days earlier but it was red and raw still; talking was the culprit.

I had no idea that talking could affect it. I had, of course, Googled all the remedies and Facebook-enquired for must-have remedies and saw the next few days involving lots of honey spoonfuls, garlic munching and salt water spitting out. Well, yes it did but the doctor had a new one for me.

“You need to stop talking,” she said. “Just tell your friend you can’t talk for a few days, you can do the listening.”

Inside, I was doing flips. What! My friend, from Norway, here for only three weeks and staying with me: I had so much to tell her. But I needed to also listen to my doctor’s instructions and get better.

First, I used a notepad and a pen to write to my friend. That was interesting. It kind of worked but writing detailed things felt like a lot of effort. It still worked.

That night we went down to Torquay beach, my husband and I took my friend there and we sat and ate fish and chips. It was a strange feeling to be there in a conversation but not be able to be involved more than giving expressive eye contact and basic gestures.

My first experience with a waitress: I found that frustrating to not be able to say “thanks” and especially “thanks” (with a general wave) when I left the venue. It was, however, interesting to see that I could still convey emotions without using words. Using my eyes, hand gestures and what I tried to convey even more – a “vibe”. A vibe that showed all the things I would say – the pleasantries.

woman looking out at ocean
Photo by Josh Adamski on Unsplash

That night, my pen ran out on my notebook. I threw it down in frustration and gave up using pen and paper to communicate with. I am, of course, all for pens and paper and writing but it didn’t match the pace or flow for verbal conversations.

A text-to-speech app became an interesting tool I used for a while. I quickly got the nickname “Robot Annie” but I shrugged that away after a few uses because it was hard to get past the “robotic” voice.

The next day proved interesting. My friend was still here so it was still about spending time with her. I also was hosting a family barbecue! I wasn’t daunted by the second prospect because I figure other people would do all the talking. (They did.)

Going out to cafes I normally go to, a staff member I normally chat with was surprised to see me not talking.

She looked at me with sympathy and apologised: “Sorry, I’m not good at sign language.”

“I’m not either,” I whispered.
“It is hard on Anna because Anna likes to talk.” My friend explained.

Lunch was lovely – my friend did the talking while I asked questions using the “Notes” section on my phone.

“Do u have that in Norway?”

“What happened there”

Other questions quickly typed.

She became very good at interpreting my own gestures and hand movements.

What I was starting to notice from the experience were the range of emotions which came from being silent.

Firstly, there was a feeling of isolation. Feeling “left out”. Feeling like a child in a world of adults. That was hard.

Yet, what was relieving was that, from a social point of view, there was hardly any stress at all.

I used to have a lot more social anxiety than I have now and I’m thankful that has improved, however it’s not unusual for me to feel slightly anxious at the thought of hosting a party with 8+ people.

However I had hardly any anxiety in that sense while I was silent. It felt like I had a social ‘pass’, which I kind of did.

The other thing I learnt is, that while words and speaking is beautiful, it is also beautiful to enjoy some non-verbal moments as well. Eye contact, reaching out to tap an elbow as a sign of comradeship and all the other subtle gestures. It was nice to do that.

I found I would also pray more, being silent.

Another thing I did was go opp shopping. When it came time to pay, I beckoned to the shop volunteer to my throat and my mouth in what I thought said, “sorry can’t talk.”

She thought I was deaf and spoke louder.

The next day at church, I didn’t sing any songs but I found myself swaying and moving to the music more. I watched the deaf community and the interpreter (a friend doing it that day) with interest and, in honesty, newfound interest.

Watching all the signs and picking up some of them: there is beauty and poetry and truth in those gestures. Something within me yearned to learn Auslan, sign language, in the same way I would like to learn French.

I met a guy a few weeks ago working in a kitchen. He spoke sign language and some of his work mates were learning it as well.

During my time of not speaking, I imagined myself back in that day retrospectively, but with the talent of sign language. I could have at least said ‘hey, how are you going?’ in sign.

The barbecue went well. By this stage I was being naughty, whispering a little, as I thought that would not strain my voice as it’s not technically speaking. (How wrong that is – whispering can actually strain the voice more, according to several Google result searches.)

What I noticed that, when I whispered, when I spoke, the person was silent and gave me their full attention. They waited on my words. That was interesting.

In terms of my throat healing, not speaking seemed to be working.

As well as bringing healing, I was also taught me a lot.

It gave me empathy to those who don’t have a voice.

And it made me realise that when people talk, no matter how softly they speak, we should stop and listen. And that includes using a “robot voice” too.

Post Script: I am now adding some basic sign language (Auslan) to my list of languages to learn. What about you, do you know any sign language and have you found it helpful/empowering?

 

My 3 Tips On Writing

Are you wanting to become a writer? You might already be one.

And if you don’t think so, well, you can become one.

I’ve been writing professionally since 2011, before then I was studying it for almost five years. I love it so much – there is always something new to learn, but most importantly write. So whether you’re at university, studying for a 21st century writing career ahead or penning away at a novel squirrelled in your study, post-work, I’ve put together a few tips which may be of service. Continue reading “My 3 Tips On Writing”

Dresses from The Dressmaker Movie

Note: Some posts deserve an excited, 1st person introduction. Please see below:

Hey! If you like beautiful dresses, I know a place where there are lots – but only until the 11th of March this year. I’m talking about the Dressmaker Costume Exhibition, currently on at Barwon Park Mansion in Winchelsea.

Even if you haven’t seen the movie, these intricate costumes – designed by EMMY nominated and AACTA winning costume designer Marion Boyce, – are worth seeing for their beautiful handiwork, vintage references and detailing. Known for her costume design in Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Marion says it was an honour – and certainly not one to take lightly – to be involved in such a film. Continue reading “Dresses from The Dressmaker Movie”

On Being

“Hey friend! Lovely to see you. How’ve you been?”
“Busy. Just really busy.”

“Hi! Haven’t seen for you a while, how are you?”
“Good. Yeah, just busy! Flat out. You?”

“Hey {Insert Name}! How are you? What you have been up to?”
“Good. I do things. All the things. In fact, I’m really busy, busy, busy!!! Zzzzzz!! I’m busier than a bee, seriously… they have it easy. What about you? Gosh I’m busy! Sorry, I don’t have time to chat.”

Ok, so that last conversation may be a slight exaggeration but you get the point.

Continue reading “On Being”

Writing Conferences And The Unknown

Fear Of The Unknown + Writing Conferences = Too Scary Box

“I’m not scared of anything except going to writing conferences!”

Not all that long ago, I could have worn a badge with those words plastered on it… not that I would have wanted to. Continue reading “Writing Conferences And The Unknown”