The Blogjune is over

Another Blogjune draws to a close. It’s time to do that one final post and reflect on the month.

I’ve had a fun time even though it was hard to keep on task every single day. I really enjoyed doing the QandA and I think that was the thing that made it easier to write. I particularly liked to be challenged to think about things, no matter how small.

The song challenge was a bit different in that the prolific answerer was also challenging me to work out the cryptic names he responded with. I didn’t always get it but it was fun to see the connections.

Thank you all for sticking with me for another Blogjune and I’ll see you all again in June next year! I’ll try to blog again between now and then but I make no promises.

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Let your blog flow

This is the last question I got through my call out for QandA. This leads us nicely to the last day of #blogjune tomorrow.

Q: What was your favourite part about today? (Sarah on Twitter)

Photo from 2017

A: Well, it was an odd day because the Queensland Premier just announced a 3-day lockdown. I’m a bit disappointed because I was to attend an ordination this evening. It’s such a beautiful thing to be a part of. I’ve been lucky enough to attend a few ordinations to the priesthood over the years (as well as diaconate ordinations and other milestones for seminarians). This one was rescheduled to a time that made it impossible for me to attend.

So that’s what DIDN’T happen but what would probably have been my favourite part of my day. But what ACTUALLY was? Probably sitting down to a nice dinner prepared by my husband. We were child-free tonight because we’d been planning to be at the ordination and Snugglepot was spending the night with her godparents. So, yeah, I’d say a nice meal and a companionable evening with the love of my life.

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Send in the blogs

Getting down to the last few Q and A questions now and I’m getting a bit worn out so this is a short (backdated) one today.

Q: When was the last time you laughed simply for the joy of being alive? (Trish on Twitter)

A: I laugh often. I think I actually laugh most days. I laugh when I shouldn’t and when there’s often no reason to. I think that would count as “for the joy of being alive”. Why not!

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Everyday I blog the June

My Q and A questions are now dwindling but I’ve still got one or two left. Today’s one is another meaty one and deserves to have the entire post for itself. It’s backdated because I’ve been too busy to post each day.

Photo by Stas Knop from Pexels

Q: Can audio books really be counted as ‘reading’? (Trish on Twitter)

A: This is such an interesting question and a real stumper! I’ve actually tried to answer this a few times but I keep going around in circles on my thinking.

My gut says “no”. Audio books are not reading. This all hinges on what we understand as “reading”. If it is simply to “look at and comprehend the meaning of (written or printed matter) by interpreting the characters or symbols of which it is composed”…to use the Oxford Dictionary definition, then absolutely not. But if it is to “discover (information) by reading it in a written or printed source”…to use the Oxford Dictionary definition, then it absolutely is.

Audio books are definitely a part of the literacy landscape. I believe the promote literacy in general and bring literature to people who might not otherwise be able to engage with it. I’m a prime example of this. In fact, I’m actually writing this (backdated) post exactly one year after I borrowed my first eAudiobook from my local public library. I know I’m a little late to the party but I’m glad I came!

I used to be an avid reader but becoming a librarian actually had the effect of ruining reading for me. I spent so long reading, analysing and critiquing academic/medical articles that I found it difficult to switch to reading something from beginning to end. I would find myself skimming and wanting to skip to the methodology or conclusions as you would in a journal article but that doesn’t work when you’re reading a novel!

After the stroke, my hand was not strong enough to hold a book and I didn’t have sufficient fine motor skills to turn a page. Fortunately, that has improved now…most days. I also felt that my vision had been affected. It turns out that it wasn’t my vision itself that was damaged but rather that I couldn’t keep my eyelid open enough to read text clearly. Audio books were the only books I could engage with.

The issue of accessibility is huge when it comes to audio books. Audio books make books accessible but not just for disabled people but also people who would be otherwise illiterate. They open up the world of literature to practically everybody. They might even be a useful tool to promote reading literacy. People might be listening to the audio book and also read along with the text.

So can audio books be counted as “reading”? Yes and No and I’m ok with that.

Oh and before I go, here’s a shameless plug for one of my designs on Redbubble which seems to fit in with this post.

You can buy it here.

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Give me a blog among the June

Yeah, I know this is another backdated post but I’m just glad I did it. I’m posting this QandA for 26th because it relates to 26th January.

Q: Should we celebrate Australia Day on January 26? (Karen on FB)

A: Short answer – no.

Long answer – noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

But seriously….

What is Australia Day anyway? We aren’t a republic. Our head of state is a foreign monarch so I’d argue that we aren’t truly independent either. The point of the day would be to celebrate our nationhood. January 26th absolutely does not do that. The day that most represents that is the date of federation – 1st January 1901. Cynics would argue that Australians would not support that as being Australia Day because it would rob us of a public holiday and, frankly, that is about the level of regard the average Australian would have for “Australia Day”. The AVERAGE person doesn’t whoop and holler for Australia on Australia Day. It’s nothing more than a day off work in the summer.

So, who cares about Australia Day? There is a group who really care and that is Indigenous Australians. Australia Day on January 26th is literally adding insult to injury…generations, centuries of injury.

I don’t think I need to elaborate on why it is such a hurtful day because so many have done it before me and done it better. I want to look at ways to move forward.

Many people are confused by the date. They conflate facts and opinion and muddy the already turbulent waters. January 26th is recognised as the date that the First Fleet landed at Sydney Cove. Anywhere between 18th January and 7th February could have been eligible to be Australia Day. The selection of the day is entirely arbitrary.

I’d like to see us become an independent republic and this would give us a real reason to celebrate nationhood. Until then, we would need to look at some other dates of significance. The bottom line for me at least would be to find a date that didn’t offend any particular group and I have every belief that such a day could be identified.

Jokingly, May 8 (Maaaate) had been suggested as an alternative and it’s not as bad as it might seem, jokes aside. Given that the first Federal Parliament was opened on 9th May, this could be a good choice.

Another date that might be ok is the day that the Constitution was accepted (9th July). I’m not so keen on this because there are some weirdly dodgy parts of that document. It’s not inclusive of all Australians and that wouldn’t meet the criteria for not offending.

My favourite suggestion that has been offered by those who debate these things is Wattle Day (1st September). The wattle is the floral emblem of Australia and the colours are green and gold. That gets us away from the shadow of imperialism as represented by anything red, white and blue.

That’s another thing…we should ditch the current flag and anthem. They are, at best, unrepresentative of this country and at worst, highly offensive. Those are topics for another post when I feel brave enough to take it on.

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Blog is a place on June

The song title game is still going and, if we were playing for points, there’s a clear front runner. But there are no points, just the fun. So get involved before the month runs out!

Now, on to the meat of the matter.

Location. Location. Location.

Q and A time…and it’s all about places.

Q: Where is your dream holiday vacation spot? (Brooke on FB)

A: I find this one difficult to answer. Any time I have wanted to travel anywhere it’s usually to visit friends and family in Ireland. So that is typically my go-to answer. But if I were on holiday to relax and let go of the cares of the world it might be to a place I’ve never been. There are so many parts of the world that I really want to see and I don’t think I ever will. I’d like to see more of continental Europe. I’d also really love to visit every continent and I’m yet to complete that.

Q: Which place recharges you? (Trish on Twitter)

A: This is one of those questions that should be easy but it’s actually quite difficult. I’m not sure I have a place that does that for me any more. I used to like sitting by the beach and just listening to the water. I also still very much like sitting in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. I have recently found that my newly accessible backyard has restorative powers.

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I gotta right to blog the June

Today’s Q and A theme is music.

Q: What would be your dream musical composition? (Brooke on FB)

A: I’m pretty pleased that I composed a full Mass setting but I’d like to add to it with the Our Father. I also want to do version of the same setting that can be used with the Children’s Eucharistic Prayer.

My dream would be to compose accompaniments for all the psalms from the lectionary for all cycles. But I’d like to publish them and have them in use in parishes everywhere. I try to write really simple, singable music so that even a beginner singer can manage it. (Getting an income from it would be pretty nice, too!)

(If you want to hear my Mass setting or any of my psalm compositions, go to the St Benedict’s Catholic Parish YouTube channel and watch any of the Masses which have music…Christmas and after.)

Q: If you could compose with one famous person (alive or dead) who and why? (Brooke on FB)

Playing the organ in New Zealand in 2013

A: I’m not sure who I’d like to compose with. I often enlist my husband as co-composer as his musical theory knowledge is greater than mine. I’d probably like to compose with Richard Connolly purely because he’s an Australian church music composer who a) is still alive; b) has written a plethora of Catholic music; and c) wrote the theme song for Play School when he was working at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC). He’d bring gravitas to my work.

I could play around with the idea of people like Tchaikovsky or Delibes or Bizet but I know that I couldn’t shoehorn my style to gel with theirs…even though I love their music. Perhaps I need to go back further in time. Maybe Jacques Arcadelt, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Gregorio Allegri or good old Thomas Tallis! Frankly, I’m not sure I’d really co-write with anyone other than Sean.

Q: What is your favourite music to sing? (Molly on Twitter)

A: These questions are tough!! I love songs with heart. Songs that comes from deep within, from your very soul….the blues, crooners, those sorts of things. Hymns absolutely fall into this category for me. I’ve often wondered why I sing hymns better than I sing nearly anything else and I think this is the reason. I can connect inwardly with a hymn in a way that I can’t with a secular piece. I really need to FEEL it.

I even like singing old country songs even though I’m not a fan of country. Anything heartfelt is my jam. This probably explains why my love of traditional Irish songs goes beyond basic patriotism. I tend to favour the rebel songs that talk of war and uprising more so than the “come-all-ye” types. Think Fields of Athenry or Boolavogue and not I’ll Tell Me Ma but I do have a soft spot for Quare Bungle Rye.

Q: What’s the most unusual language you have sung in? (Molly on Twitter)

A: I love this question. I have certainly sung in quite a few languages. English is the most common one for me, of course, but Latin is a pretty close second and Irish would be probably tied for second. German, French and Italian are next in the mix. (I rediscovered this old video of me signing in French and uploaded it for your listening pleasure or amusement).

Singing and playing in my home parish in 2014

As for unusual, that would probably be Tagalog. I have started a few choirs over the years. The first of these was in Dublin. I was working at the Mater Hospital Library and I used to stay late to do shelving. The library was located in the same building as the nurses’ quarters. I’d keep the library open so that the Filipino nurses could come down and use the internet to email home…this was around 2000 and we didn’t have the internet in our pockets! I’d sing as I was shelving and I usually would sing hymns absentmindedly. Some of the Filipino nurses would join in and from that I had the idea to start a church choir which was mostly made up of nurses. The hospital admin got wind of this and they asked me to bring my choir along for a liturgy in the hospital chapel. They particularly wanted something “in Filipino”. We chose a song – Narito Ako. We all learned the chorus and I selected my best male singer to do the verse. At the last minute he got stage-fright! Despite there being 12 other people who were competent singers and fluent in Tagalog they all chickened out, leaving me (a mono-lingual Irish Australian) to sing the solo! I’ve since sung this same Tagalog hymn in my church with other Filipino singers.

Q: What advice would you give people who want to get better at singing? (Molly on Twitter)

A: Breathe. I’m a firm believer that the key to singing well is to control your breath. The other steps to good singing all rely on this one. When I am teaching singing we spend about half the time on the warm-up. The first few exercises are very physical and all to do with expanding the diaphram. The key is to be open and loose.

If you want to see/hear more of my singing (brace yourself), feel free to follow my music channel on YouTube. I also have a non-singing channel which you are most welcome to check out as well.

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The Blog June of Indifference

It’s QandA time!! I try very hard to keep my social media free of vulgarity. I’m less fastidious in real life. However, this story cannot be told without dropping a few F-bombs. You have been warned.

Q: What’s the most sensible thing you’ve heard someone say? (Ashleigh on FB)

A: I’m not sure if it’s technically the most sensible but it certainly was the most helpful at the time and has stuck with me as good advice ever since. To give it even greater significance in my life, it was said by my father…

F*ck ’em!

I had been struggling with fitting in with a group of people who should have embraced me. These people had promised to care for me and accept me yet, when I was at my most vulnerable and least capable, they told me I was not wanted and left me to fend for myself. I told my father all of this. He listened and let me pour my heart out to him. I told him everything. That two word sentence was the first thing he said. He was not a man who would swear in front of me. I’m not sure if that was because I was a woman or because I was a child. (I wasn’t a child when he said it on this occasion.) For him to say this was a shock to my system. It told me that he was upset on my behalf and he would have leapt to my aid had he been in a position to do so.

There was more to the conversation but those words were the crux of it. This advice has seen me through some of the worst parts of my life. It’s so very freeing to stop giving a f*ck. It’s a philosophy that allows you to put yourself if not first then definitely in the mix. It’s not a reason to go and disregard the needs of others or to not consider the impact and consequences of your actions but rather to assess that in line with your own needs.

Here’s an example of what I mean… When I first met my husband, I met a man who was free to be himself, a man who was comfortable in his own skin. We went into a shop and he sang along with the music that was playing. He may have even danced a little. Rather than sharing his joy or even just letting him have this moment, I rushed to quiet him. I tried to get him to act like everyone else in the shop. Conform to the societal expectation. Do what everyone else was doing. Be quiet. No singing. No dancing. Conversations minimal and only at a whisper volume.

Why? Who would be offended by someone enjoying music? Why couldn’t he sing or dance if the music moved him? Who was I to put a stop to that?

I am ashamed that I ever did that to him. I’ve reflected on that moment countless times. I know that my motivation at the time was because “what would people think?” Then the words of my father play in my head. “F*ck ’em.” What does it matter what strangers in a shop think of a random guy who is just enjoying a moment.

The two most important men in my life have given me the blueprint for something pretty close to happiness. I’m not going to labour the point here in this post. I’ll just finish by saying this:

Don’t conform to the norm and if anyone is hassling you about stuff like that, F*CK ‘EM!

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Pour some blog on me

I’m loving these questions that have come through via Facebook and Twitter. Keep ’em coming!

I’m trying to group them in to rough themes. Today is all about food.

Q: Is apricot chicken the food of the devil? (Trish on Twitter)

A: Apricot chicken takes me firmly back to the 1980s. It’s one of those dishes that people served when they were trying to be adventurous or exotic.

But Trish asked if it was the food of the devil. I’m not sure I’d go that far. It’s certainly demonic. I’m not a fan of fruit in savoury dishes. I could perhaps tolerate lemon chicken and I do like pineapple on pizza. However, apricots are a fruit that should be enjoyed on their own merits and not as an accompaniment to anything.

Now, to draw me out into declaring what the devil had a hand in, it would be putting rockmelon with a chicken satay. Whoever did that and served it up to me in a restaurant in Brisbane was clearly possessed by Satan himself.

Q: Is red or green jelly better? (Trish on Twitter)

A: This is not a simple question. In isolation, I’d have to say green…but who eats jelly without anything else (e.g. ice cream, custard, fruits, etc)? My mother makes a sherry trifle every Christmas and she uses both port wine and lime jellies.

Also, when you say “red”, do you mean raspberry, strawberry or port wine? Strawberry jelly is a travesty. Raspberry is quite acceptable but can be a little too sweet at times.

I don’t think I can really answer this one properly and I also think this is likely to keep me awake for some nights to come.

Q: Peas in mac ‘n’ cheese or no? (Penny on FB)

A: I’m a fan of peas in most things. I love peas. That said, I would not put peas in mac ‘n’ cheese. It would be a waste of peas. I hate mac ‘n’ cheese. I’ve tried to like it. I’ve had a variety of interpretations made by different people but I just can’t be doing with it. It must be genetic because my mother is exactly the same. There are only two things in this world that my mother will not eat and mac ‘n’ cheese is one of them. I tried giving mac ‘n’ cheese to my daughter when she was about 4 years old. It’s an easy meal and a good one to have in your bag of tricks. It seems that she’s followed in mine and my mother’s footsteps. She took one mouthful and spat it out. Frankly, I didn’t blame her.

Q: Relative merits of Tim tams and mint slice? (Penny on FB)

A: These delicious biscuits are absolute icons of the biscuit world. It would be un-Australian to disrespect the Tim Tam. I’m a Tim Tam purist. I do not like the varieties which have sprung into existence over recent years. You can’t improve on perfection. Don’t try.

As much as I support the concept of Tim Tams, I find that as I get older I’m less inclined to want such a sweet treat. Mint slice is less iconic but provides a much better flavour profile for me these days. I like to each the chocolate off the edges first, then prise the chocolate from the minty bit with delicate deployment of tongue and teeth, then orally acquire the chocolate from the base of the biscuit. With all the chocolate meticulously removed, I then lick the mint and finish off with the remaining now denuded biscuit.

Q: Is the distribution of orange gummi snakes in a packet random or not… chi square analysis optional. (Penny on FB)

A: That’s what “they” want you to think. I’d talk more about it but according to the anonymous deposit I’ve just noticed in my bank account, I have nothing more to say on the matter.

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You don’t blog me

I’ve had some really interesting and some quirky questions put to me as writing prompts. It’s all very random and I think that should make for a bit of fun. So let’s just dive in!

Q: How should we acknowledge the winter solstice? (Debbie on FB)

A: I thought this was an odd question until I looked at the calendar. I typically don’t mark the solstices or equinoxes other than to do a little mental note. Today, I celebrated with a shot…in the arm with a dose of Pfizer COVID vaccine.

Q: What were your senior high school electives and what would you do over? (Ashleigh on FB)

A: During primary school if someone has asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have said, “Teacher”. By the time I was finishing primary school and beginning high school there was a fair amount of uncertainty for teachers and their job prospects. I recall strikes and very unhappy graduates complaining about the job market. Around that time, I had travelled to Ireland and met my cousins who had taken the route of becoming solicitors, barristers and others in banking or commerce. This had a massive impact on me and I decided on doing Commerce/Law at uni.

(This is a long answer and I haven’t even got to my electives yet!) In junior I did typing, history, and book-keeping. I think there was a 4th elective but I can’t remember. We all had to do science and I was actually equally good in book-keeping as I was in science and I nearly changed my plans at that point. However, I needed a better maths grade…a sound achievement in Advanced Maths wasn’t good enough to compete. So I dropped all sciences and downgraded my advanced maths to Maths in Society (which I absolutely aced). My senior electives were modern history, accounting, information processing and technology and secretarial studies.

I sometimes wish I’d done science because I might have enjoyed that. Nevertheless, I got good marks across the subjects I chose (high or very high achievement in everything) and I ended up with a pretty good OP. We were the first year to have the OP system and they printed the percentiles in the newspaper. I was in the top 17% of the state which I’m still quietly proud of. Most of my friends scored even higher (3 of them were in the top 2%) and I was just happy to be in their good company.

That’s all for today. I’ll continue to answer more questions each day so keep them coming!

And don’t forget to have a go at the hidden song.

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