Moving out of my comfort zone 

Karaoke isn’t such a big deal is it? Most people have tried it when they’re young and feckless. No me. I waited until I was nearly 73 years old, on a yoga retreat in Bali. 

We chose to sing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody because I sort of know the words! Suzie has a good voice and helped me through the tricky bits. The unwanted backing singers (two inebriated men) were given short shrift. This experience was definitely out of my comfort zone 

Second comfort zone experience came completely out of the blue. The morning after the Karaoke we were preparing for yoga practice beside the pool at our hotel. Sitting cross legged, centring myself, I felt the sensation of the earth beneath me gently undulating. “Aha!” I thought, “this is an earthquake!” I spoke the words out loud and sitting next to me, Robyn said, “Yes!” 

Third experience: on the way from Legian to Lovina (Singaraja) we stopped at the hot springs at Lake Batur in the volcano’s caldera. The hot springs were lovely and healing. The drive down from Kintimani – well let’s just say the road is crazy! Driving down the spiralling road to the caldera, in a fairy large bus, dodging motorbikes, dogs, cars, pedestrians and trucks took some skilful manoeuvring by our driver, Putra. Oh yes, there were some washaways and landslips. 

That night in Lovina there was a thunder storm. I was reminded of the storms in Africa. 

Moving out of my comfort zone 

Packing, Bali and Nyepi

I admit, I am not good at packing. I take too many of the wrong things and too few of the clothes I will wear. For some reason I can’t seem to balance; too many tees, not enough skirts. Too many jeans, not enough tees. The essentials I can manage – yoga mat, moleskine, toothbrush, hairbrush, bathers and the like. I often pack a whole heap of makeup and I seldom, if ever, wear anything other than lipstick. Shoes are another area that is fraught. I’ve packed a pair of thongs (slip slops to those of you who are not Aussies) and walking shoes. I’ll wear sandals on the plane and it is likely that I’ll wear those most of the time.

So, I’m off to Bali on another Yoga Retreat run by my good friend and teacher, Michele Hendarwin. We will be there for Balinese New Year (Nyepi) when all of Bali stops for 24 hours. No traffic, no noise, no wandering about, no shopping. Nyepi means no aircraft coming in or going out. It is a time for meditation and reflection. It is a sacred time for the Balinese.

Leading up to Nyepi there are amazing processions with Ogoh Ogoh parades. These huge effigies are mounted on platforms and are carried through the streets by teams of men. Last year, I nearly got hit by the scaffolding holding up one of the Ogoh Ogoh but my friend Corrinda pulled me back out of its path. Truly, once these massive Ogoh Ogoh’s are moving, there is no way they can suddenly stop or turn.

Ogoh Ogoh in the Lovina Parade 2016. Kalibukbuk, Singaraja

According to Wiki, the purpose of the Ogoh Ogoh’s is the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings (especially humans). And, this is particularly relevant now, “The imperceptible potentials of nature cannot be thoroughly explored by anyone. Philosophically, civilized men are required to manage the natural resources without damaging the environment itself.”

Donald Trump’s unpopular bid to purchase huge tracts of sacred land in Bali (to build a golf course and resort) and the Ogoh Ogoh being considered a symbol of modes of nature that form the malicious characters of living beings,  I don’t doubt that there will be many Ogoh Ogoh depicting him in his worst colours. I’ll let you know!



Saturday, 25th Mar – Melasti | Nyepi festivities start, Sacred temple objects are being carried to the sea for blessing and purification
Monday, 27th Mar – Nyepi Eve | Ogoh Ogoh Parades all over the island starting late afternoon, till late at night.
Tuesday, 28th Mar – Nyepi Day – Day of Silence – complete 24h shutdown of the island beginning 6 am, including airport!
Wednesday, 29th Mar – life goes back to (almost) normal, temple ceremonies and celebrations everywhere.



Packing, Bali and Nyepi

Olive Schreiner

“We are a race of women that of old knew no fear and feared no death, and lived great lives and hoped great hopes; and if today some of us have fallen on evil and degenerate times, there moves in us yet the throb of the old blood.” Olive Schreiner

Olive Schreiner

Most people, when they think of Olive Schreiner, remember her classic novel The Story of an African Farm. (Originally published in 1883 under the pseudonym Ralph Iron). I was scratching through my Long Drawer and came across the quotation cited above. According to my notes I originally found the quote in Mary Daly’s Pure Lust.


Olive Schreiner was born in 1855, the twelfth child of missionary parents, with more children to follow. Olive Schreiner’s mother appears to have abused her children, thrashing them for the smallest misdemenour. One such sin that earned five-year-old Olive fifty lashes was hanging on the door handle and saying “Ach!” a Dutch word and speaking Dutch was forbidden in the Schreiner household. It seems the injustice of the many vicious beatings was the main reason Olive, at as an eight year old, rejected the religion of her parents and refused to go to church. Nevertheless, she inherited her mother’s intellect, her ethical fervour and her longing for the infinite. Perhaps, in the shocking abuse of her childhood, Olive subliminally received the secret, ambiguous knowledge of the power of women?

When Olive was nine, her beloved baby sister, Ellie, died. This was seen as punishment for Olive repudiating her parents’ faith. She was devastated and cradled Ellie’s tiny corpse in her arms all day and into the night. After Ellie was buried, she stayed near the grave and talked passionately into the tiny mound of earth. In later years, Schreiner said that the death of her baby sister was the most important event of her childhood: it was to Ellie that she owed her lifelong love for women, her mystic faith in the unity of the cosmos, her pacifism, and her desire to be a doctor (Letters, 29 October 1892).

Her rebellion against Victorian and parental mores saw her become a feminist, a best-selling writer and intellectual, philosopher and a celebrity of her time.

The first time I read anything by Olive Schreiner was in an anthology of South African stories Veld Trails and Pavements given to me by a friend of the family. I was a teenager and didn’t have much understanding. I can’t remember Olive Schreiner’s stories very clearly but I do remember that they haunted me for a long time and I had to return to it again and again. I didn’t know you could write sad stories that did not have a happy ending. I didn’t know you could fit an enormous amount of emotion into a one or two page story. I don’t have the book anymore although I can see it in my mind’s eye and I found this image on the Internet. I don’t remember any of the other stories in the anthology, not even the H. C. Bosman.


Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 2.49.11 pm

I have borrowed quite considerably from Anne McClintock’s paper Olive (Emilie Albertina) Schreiner for this blog post. The original paper can be accessed here.

Reference: *Anne McClintock. “Olive (Emilie Albertina) Schreiner.” British Writers. Ed. George Stade.: Supplement 2: Kingsley Amis to J. R. R. Tolkien. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1992. Literature Resource Center. Web. 4 May 2010.

*Anne McClintock was born in Harare in 1954. She is a writer, feminist scholar and public intellectual who has published widely on issues of sexuality, race, imperialism, and nationalism; popular and visual culture, photography, advertising and cultural theory.

Olive Schreiner

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a delightful story. Robin Hobb calls it, “An extraordinary retelling of a very old tale.”
Terry Brooks calls it, “Haunting and lyrical.”
I call it a wonderful story. If you enjoy fantasy, if you enjoy Robin Hobb, I thoroughly recommend it. the blurb says the The Bear and the Nightingale is perfect for readers of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Naomi Novik’s Uprooted (which I have still to read) and Neil Gaiman.
The tale is a retelling of old Russian fairy tales – mainly the one called Frost. I first read these stories when I was a young child. The story is in Arthur Ransome’s lovely book Old Peter’s Russian Tales. that sits on my desk as I write this review.
The hero is a young woman and it is her growing up and finding her strength in the face of an enormously patriarchal society.
Katherine Arden’s telling of the tale is enchanting and I found it hard to put down, although I knew the ending.

View all my reviews

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Delivering a ‘Paper’

Scratching through my Long Drawer I came across an article I wrote some years ago (think, 20 years ago) about the first academic paper I presented. The article was published in the Murdoch Uni Postgraduate (MUPSA) newsletter, Mupifesto (June 1999, vol 2 no 1).

Some of the hints that I outlined in the article seem reasonable such as, “Practice by reading the paper aloud … many papers look really good written, but flounder miserably when spoken”. I warn against listening to the nightmare stories, adding that I have a few of my own.

My nightmare story was the first time I delivered a paper at a conference. The chairperson did not enforce the 20 minute time limit allocated to each of the three speakers. As a result I had to fit a twenty minute paper into twelve minutes. Apart from being an excellent lesson in humiliation, it was frustrating and made me angry. Add to that, more than half the audience left after the first two papers. When I eventually stood up at the lectern, I proceeded to drop all my overheads on the floor and lost time picking them up and putting them in some sort of order. You don’t know what an ‘overhead’ is? Well, it was the time after writing stuff on a whiteboard and before the dodgy technology difficulties that haunted conferences in the early 2000s. Certainly well before Death-by-PowerPoint.

Very important. If you are given the choice of question time being at the end of each paper or at the end of the session, always choose the end of the session. Some people in the audience like to take question time to present their own views at length. This, of course, eats into the time allocated for the next presenter.

Two good things to come out of an ignominious debut such as mine: however poorly the paper is received you can still add the presentation to your curriculum vitae, and secondly, the experience taught me to be a good chairperson and to stand up for myself.

There is a third good thing. I actually got a publishable paper out of my experiences at that conference that served to change the direction of my Thesis completely.


Delivering a ‘Paper’