to have a dear friend is to be wealthy

It was a grand day. Wonderful friends, delicious food, two bottles of bubbly, and a renewal of our authentic selves. I am sure it was better therapy that a year in therapy!

We were five to lunch. Four that appear to have become the stable centre, and then one who lives a more fragile life and so is an infrequent addition. Sadly, I hardly recognised her, as she no longer cares for herself, is drowning in depression and the cares of a heroin addicted adult daughter and the guardianship of their small grandson.  The entire family lives on welfare. There was never a glimpse of the brightness of her girlhood.

We tried to offer her support, and to make her day a happy one. I know that I returned home with a sore throat from the talking and the laughter, for that is what we do when we are together, we share and we laugh.

Problems are not just for those struggling with life. Another friend is setting off on the grey nomad adventure in a custom built caravan (such additional features as their own washing machine, solar panels, sheer luxury) yet friend and her husband are beset with worries, many of their own mindset. Her husband is convinced that he is going to die next year, when he will reach the same age (56) as his father was when he died of a heart attack. He has undergone all types of tests and has been given the all clear, has no history of health issues, and his mother, whose genes he shares naturally, is alive and well. Yet his fear persists. Friend doesn’t cope well with stress and has suffered from her own depression (I suspect being married to him might be one!) and so despite their wealth and comfort, have constructed a life under fear.

Both these women grew up in dysfunctional families, with hard, cold, alcoholic fathers. Love wasn’t shown to them, they were viewed as an extra worker on family farms. Another friend from the same background, who is single by choice after divorce, has rebuilt her life and now owns her own business, though she did suffer a stroke two years ago (now recovered).

Her way of coping is to build on the truth. She was a teacher aide, but she tells it as though she was actually a teacher. “Oh when I used to teach…” The truth is never enough, she feels a need to embroider added details. In her mind apparently, she is never enough. Yet in other ways she is brutally honest, and every time we meet she thanks me again for giving her money or sharing my own lunch during our days at high school, when she had no food at home.

I do love them all dearly. We all have our foibles and frailties. (Well, I don’t as you know, but I can’t intimate them too much!) The days that we come together I anticipate with great joy. For many years we did not communicate except for Christmas and birthday cards as we built our own lives, but I gathered my courage a couple of years ago and organised a lunch. Seven of us came together after decades apart, and the years just dropped. I have reaped rewards each and every time we have met since.

This week I told my graduating class to make an effort to stay in touch with those they care about at school, for no one knows you like the people you live your life with through your teenage years as you grown into the people you will be. They probably thought Mrs FD was being a silly crazy woman but if just one remembers and makes the effort, I know that she will be the richest woman in the world.

I am so pleased with myself too. I managed to avoid the sugar laden dessert menu and settled for a lovely bowl of fruit salad. No sugar in my coffee, and from the two bottles of bubbly I only had a half glass from each as I was driving. My main course was blue vein truffled fettuccine that was so delicious I wanted to lick the bowl (but restrained myself, I am Flamingo Dancer after all!).

Little things in life do mean the most.

On Hometown gossip, there was a bar room murder at the local hotel the night before. Further detail was that the hotel/pub was until very recently owned by a bikie gang who were using it to launder money. A prison has been built just outside of town, and though the government has spent money  on infrastructure for the town, it has led to a lowering of the quality of people’s lives. It is not the town that I grew up in, which is sad. It has lost its spirit. Progress? It doesn’t seem so right now.



Thy name is differentiate

I had one of those classes, where two students, decided that they didn’t want to follow the rules, didn’t want to work, and in fact just wanted to disrupt all and sundry. I told them they were pathetically rude and disrespectful not only to me, but to their class mates in particular, as their behaviour disrupted the exam preparation of their classmates who are facing their final exams next week.

It happens frequently in all schools, and we are luckier at Fanny and Maude’s School for Fine Young Ladies, in that we have fewer incidents than other schools. And admittedly, the level of misbehaviour is never life threatening, though I did have one student last year who gave me every impression from the expression on her face that she was seriously considering socking me in the face. No knives, no thrown furniture.

The two students involved were both of the “academically challenged” stream and so their level of motivation is low at the best of times. With three weeks of their final year left, it is lower than nonexistent. They think they are beyond reprimand.

One of the buzz words in education is differentiation. We need to differentiate in our classrooms to suit each of the individual needs of our students. So, in this class, I have the two darlings already mentioned, as well as four international students from areas such as Hong Kong andSouth Korea. Obviously, English is their second language, and the cultural differences are enormous. It is close to impossible to get them to speak in class. Group activities are just too confronting in many instances, though we try. They won’t tell you they don’t understand, nor will they ask questions.

Then there are the Aboriginal students, who are living far from home, and regular attendance at school, and all the expectations that go along with that, are just too overwhelming for many. Often my instructions are just met with a wide smile, and it is obvious to both me and the student, that they are not going to take in one thing I am saying. Deadlines? They don’t exist. They learnt long ago that few people have any expectations, so if they just avoid long enough people go away. Last year, one particular student, just wanted to sing in class, every class, and the example of the student wanting to punch me out came from this group as well. Why not, when violence is often all many of these girls know?

There is the student who suffers from such debilitating migraines, that she has not been to school in some time. I have been teaching for four weeks and have yet to meet her. I communicate with her via email. Somehow she still manages to achieve A standard work. I have the depressed student, who is up one day and so down the next that it casts a pallor over the entire room. I have one self harmer. Another suffers from epileptic fits.  One is ultra Christian and worried herself senseless about studying The Crucible because witchcraft was mentioned. Yesterday, I found out that one has a crazy alcoholic mother and is deposited regularly by police at the home of a classmate for her own safety. Not to mention the usual range of A to D students in every classroom and their assortment of what passes as a “family” these days.

This is no exception. Most teachers face this very scenario or something very similar. every day of the school year.

So now, the powers that be, implementing the new Australian curriculum are all about differentiation. Apparently they are oblivious to the fact that we already create and support multiple pathways for students. Additionally, we try and heal the wrongs that their families and society inflict upon these children and we try to help the students who have decided to be their own worst enemy, or have been left behind along the way.

When do we not differentiate?

relishing the home moments

I have enjoyed a very domestic time.

Our black Russian tomato , one single plant in fact, gave us a bumper crop of tomatoes and so I made tomato relish.

From this …to this…

2 kilograms of tomatoes made 7 jars of relish. And it is so delicious. The recipe said to peel the tomatoes, but I found with the black Russian tomato being a heritage variety that its skin is very soft. It hasn’t been bred for transportation like tomatoes for the supermarket. So, I just cut the tomatoes up, skin and all, and when I was bottling the relish I didn’t see any skin residue at all. No one should have a long thin tomato skin caught in their throat.

Then I did a couple of hours gardening. I have gone to the nursery earlier and bought  trays of cuphea  in purple and white. I wanted some punch for a shady area.

I did a lot of pruning too. Things look a little bare right now, but by Christmas (which is only two months away now),  it should all be looking very happy and inviting.  As will I!

Tomato Relish

 1 kg ripe tomatoes

1/2kg onions

2 cups sugar

2 cups white vinegar

1 tbsp curry powder

1 tblsp cornflour

1 tblsp mustard powder

1 dessertspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

  1. Slice onions into thin slices.
  2. Place onions in a large saucepan and pour vinegar over .
  3. Bring to the boil and boil until soft
  4. Add chopped and peeled  tomatoes.
  5. Bring back to the boil and boil until tender.
  6. Mix dry ingredients together with enough water to make a thick paste.
  7. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved,
  8. Thicken with paste mix.

Allow to cool slightly before bottling. Keep in refrigerator, if possible, otherwise a cool place.

Where the wild things swim

Overseas news reports are full of shark stories now that one white American male has been sadly taken by a shark off the coast of Western Australian. They are in raptures that they might be hunting down the “killer shark” in revenge.

Well, I am sure that in the whole Indian Ocean that they will, with absolute certainty, find the exact shark that took the poor man. Aren’t you? I mean the shark must be swimming around with a big target on its back just to make it easier to find.

It is not like we humans invaded its natural habitat, swimming up and down in front of it, communicating, look at me, look at me. Right?

We don’t usually hunt down the “killer shark” these days, as most people recognise that the shark is just doing what it does naturally. It feeds. If we are silly enough to take the risk of going into its hunting grounds then we can expect to be on the menu. The shark doesn’t know we are a superior species, with sense enough to stay out of its habitat.

Plus, it is making Americans look like hysterics again. No doubt the big show of hunting the shark is just to calm the nerves of all those tourists who want adventure, without actual adventure!

I am sorry for the victim, and his family and friends, but surely no one can blame the shark for being a prime example of survival of the fittest.

off the wagon

I feel off the wagon, last night. I know, it is shameful. I am weak. weak, weak.

I ate ice-cream. Vanilla. Three scoops.

Sugar, Sugar, SUGAR! Tormentor thy name is Sugar!

I can just see where this will lead me. Flamingo Tubby Tummy Waddler, homeless, sniffing through garbage bins to lick empty sugar sachets, screaming “my kingdom for a cup of sugar!” into the cold dark night. Woe is me.

It was very nice, though…well worthy of the guilt and self loathing. I hid the rest of the  ice cream at the back of the freezer, so that no one can see it.

Except I know where it is …

we are not amused

Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith, will be in Brisbane today.

No one asked me if she could share my turf, and we are amused. We as in me.

It is bad enough having to allow the plebs to run around willy nilly, now I have to allow some old usurper from away yonder to wander about scooping up all the attention, as well as the flowers.

No contest of course, as I am THE Flamingo Dancer, adored by all, across the earth. She just better be out of town by sundown… I don’t care if she is old, she is going down.