Swimming, dancing, writing – or What I Did on My Summer Holiday

March 27, 2018 at 4:49 am | Posted in Argentine tango, arts and health, creativity, social capital, writers' health | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,


Swimming every morning in the clear turquoise water, surrounded by trees – oaks, chestnuts, London planes and gums, with swallows and parrots flying about and ten ducklings following their parents across the grass – plus coffee on the deck afterwards with a group of convivial co-swimmers: is it any wonder it’s been a long time since I posted a blog? It didn’t take all day but it did consume some morning writing time and I wouldn’t have traded talking and laughing with simpatico people for any number of blogs written.

My local swimming pool – see www.dicksonaquaticcentre.com.au – has a Lap Legends club where you write down the number of laps you do, aiming to get above 77 kilometres by the end of the season. That is the figure beyond which you’re in the running for some great prizes.

No, I didn’t win a prize (and I wasn’t really on holiday – it just felt like one) but I got up to 123 kilometres, the maximum I’ve ever done from October to March. It gave me a sense of achievement, the loss of some kilos and a heap of other health benefits.

One of the people at the pool invited me on the ‘Light to Light walk’ and it was fantastic (and we swam in the sea and a river). It was guided by a knowledgeable person with a sense of humour and we ate Broadwater oysters and other delectable gourmet food that someone else had prepared and we slept in luxury tents someone else had put up. You can do it too – just go to



Plus I kept tango dancing – see http://www.tengotango.com.au/ a few times a week. Great for strength, flexibility and balance, plus the sensuous joy of communicating at a high level with someone while moving our bodies to music. Not to mention the sheer fun of it.

It was at those classes that I met the person who started Moondance Tango and like my main teachers, he is also a fantastic teacher. I’m an inner north person, so to someone who usually cycles everywhere, sadly his classes are at the end of the earth, but that might be the ideal location for you. See www.moondancetango.com

Also Erika Mordek at www.tangocanberra.asn.au/tango-teachers.html and Karen Rutherford at www.kmotiondance.com.au are excellent teachers.

Writer Zadie Smith connects dancing with writing, and dancer Martha Graham also saw parallels between them:

‘there is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action.’

The ideas of both creative women on this topic are explored in the latest Brainpickings blog – www.brainpickings.org – where Zadie Smith asks:

‘What can an art of words take from the art that needs none? Yet I often think I’ve learned as much from watching dancers as I have from reading. Dance lessons for writers: lessons of position, attitude, rhythm and style, some of them obvious, some indirect.’

Writing and painting

As well as all this dancing and swimming, in the day time I’ve been researching and writing some brief biographies of high-calibre people for some freelance work. Plus doing an art class and preparation for those classes. You can see some of the innovative teacher’s work at her website: www.Shagsyshags.com.au plus some of mine above. Canberra’s Belconnen Arts Centre runs some great classes and this was one. Other classes (including dance) can be found at: www.belconnenartscentre.com.au


And I continued reading some fantastic, thought-provoking books, some of which I list below. Each one deserves its own blog but time and space prevent this.

On the Ossie by Nic Haygarth (Forty South Publishing, 2017)

In clear, accessible prose and with fabulous photographs the author tells the intriguing story of Tasmanian osmiridium, an incredibly hard and expensive mineral, and the vital role it played in the fountain pen industry.

For more of the author’s fascinating and beautifully illustrated books see his website – http://nichaygarth.com/index.php/portfolio/

Curing Affluenza by Richard Denniss (Black Inc, 2017)

What’s affluenza? – You know, ‘that strange desire we feel to spend money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need to impress people we don’t know.’ After defining his term, the author goes on to discuss implications and solutions in his beautifully logical, simple, clear style with his characteristic laid-back wit.

Dancing Home by Paul Collis (UQP, 2017)

This novel tells the story of a young Indigenous man on a road trip, plotting revenge against the policeman who unjustly put him in prison. His cousin Dot ‘knew that he’d either get tough or die from the way he was living. It seemed that no one, or nothing, could settle him down to live a quiet and peaceful life.’ (p. 128) The novel’s tone of ineffable longing and loss will stay with you long after you finish it.

If I Could Tell You Just One Thing … by Richard Reed (Canongate, 2016)

The title is self-explanatory. Comedian Ruby Wax says that it would be that depression is a basic human foible that affects one in four. Take comfort, she says, from those numbers. You’re not alone. Get through it without feeling bad about feeling bad!

Dame Judy Dench suggests looking for the pluses in life because being negative erodes everything. Simon Colwell’s best advice is to listen: ‘listen rather than talk. I was never bright in school, but I was a very good listener, and I still am. I have a better life because of it.’ (p. 43, 4)

Shami Chakrabarti was declared ‘Britain’s Most Dangerous Woman’ by England’s Sun newspaper. So she must be doing something right. Chakrabarti offers this timely suggestion:

‘Powerful elites in the world always succeed by divide and rule, using tools like fear and racism. But solidarity, the basic human connection we can all have with one another, is stronger. It is the magic weapon to achieve change. If we remember that your human rights are the same as my human rights, even if we don’t look the same, and if we support one another we all benefit, we all become stronger. Ultimately, we are each other’s security.’ (p. 49)

Sir David Attenborough advises: never lose your sense of wonder. Which conveniently brings us to the next book.

A New Map of Wonders: A journey in search of modern marvels by Caspar Henderson (Granta, 2017)

Henderson claims that ‘there is no hard and fast line between maps and dreams because maps, however objective they seem, are only interpretations. A map is always a way of groping through the unknown.’ (p. 229) He cites abundant evidence that certain animals like dolphins, whales and elephants are smarter than humans in the ways that matter most.

It’s impossible to summarise this uniquely captivating book with its scientific evidence of the importance of sustainability and for saving the planet combined with a plea for a long neglected feeling:

‘Wonder … has the potential to be a political emotion. Allowing it to be a bigger part of our lives, and charged with its luminous calm and serenity, we are more able to expand our sense of the moment … to manage our anxieties and fears, and to move beyond anger into rationality and generosity of spirit. In times when fear and rage dominate public life, the askesis, or practice, of wonder has never been more important.’ (p. 326)

What Should We Be Worried About? Real Scenarios that keep scientists up at night by John Brockman (ed.) (Harper Perennial, 2014)

David Gelernter worries about ‘internet drivel’ – how the internet’s ‘insatiable demand for words causes global deflation in the value of words’; Arianna Huffington worries about stress wreaking havoc on our relationships, careers, happiness and health; and Scott Sampson worries about the chasm between humanity and nature.

The editor John Brockman publishes Edge.org which The Guardian calls ‘the world’s smartest website’. There are some extraordinarily smart ideas in this riveting book and my only complaint with it is the usual one: at a rough count the people Brockman asked to participate were made up of 114 men and only 22 women.

I won’t write another paragraph about this constant problem – to save space I will just heave an exasperated sigh. – And then end on the creative, original and life-affirming Sarah Sentilles:

Draw Your Weapons by Sarah Sentilles (Text, 2017)

Sentilles thinks that civilisation will perish if we continue to rely on war. ‘Killing is a sickness all over the earth,’ says one person in her book, ‘All killing has to stop.’ (p. 163) The book explores art, violence, war and survival in a collage of ideas and encounters that reminded me a little of W. G. Sebald’s works.

Another book almost impossible to summarise, I’m going to take a shortcut and quote Nick Flynn’s review that says Sentilles ‘shows us the world we’ve broken, and she shows us how soldiers, prisoners, artists, thinkers – all of us – are, piece by piece, repairing it … [her book] pulses with energy and is full of insights, dark yet ultimately hopeful.’

Richard Fidler recently interviewed Sarah Sentilles on Conversations, ABC radio: www.abc.net.au/Podcasts/Conversations




Leave a Comment »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: