Psychic space and an unusual recipe for mitigating a cold

August 7, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Posted in Books, creativity, health, Living creatively, writers' habits | Leave a comment
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When I was chosen to be a blogger in residence at the ACT Writers Centre I planned to supplement those once a month blogs with more frequent postings on this personal blog. But I’m going to have surgery soon (nothing serious) and I’ve been psyching myself up for that and doing all the things I wanted to do before being incapacitated for six weeks, and the weekly blogs I’d planned – even though I had a million ideas for them – just didn’t get written!

My interior life is rich and tumultuous, and I felt happy. For a writer it’s a matter of always learning – through both absorbing other people’s art and/or practising one’s own, and I’ve just been in a phase of drenching my brain with other people’s work while not doing much of my own, merely living in the present and appreciating the joy of others’ creative efforts and of nature – wet and wild as it’s been in this Canberra winter. My submitted novel MS went up a rung of the ladder towards acceptance to a place I was told very few MSS get to, so here’s hoping. Continue Reading Psychic space and an unusual recipe for mitigating a cold…

John Tesarsch – sophisticated and uplifting

March 3, 2016 at 12:17 am | Posted in Australian novels, Books, Writing | 1 Comment
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John Tesarsch's brilliant novel

John Tesarsch’s brilliant novel

John Tesarsch’s The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffmann (Affirm Press, 2014) is a masterpiece. I’ve reviewed a lot of books in the past twenty plus years, (in local magazines and 85 for The Canberra Times, and more recently in this blog) but I have never described a novel like that. This one deserves it. I simply could not put it down and I am in awe of the author’s mastery of the form.

The novel deals with the theme of death as a catalyst for examining life – the past life, in this case with its extraordinary secrets, and life in the present for the survivors, who include the three children of Henry Hoffmann. When Henry unexpectedly dies they must deal with his idiosyncratic will.

The eldest of Henry’s progeny, Eleanor, very bright like her father, is teaching at a boys’ school and trying to find the time to do her PhD. Sarah used to be a concert pianist and now simply immerses herself in her music, after suffering debilitating stage fright. Robbie is the black sheep whose real estate deals and secrecy have led him into financial woes and made his wife Carla very unhappy.

Tesarsch’s first novel The Philanthropist (Sleepers, 2010), also a story of family secrets, was very readable and competent but this second one is lifted to another level. With its engaging and increasingly compelling plot The Last Will and Testament of Henry Hoffmann moves through the settings of Melbourne and to its north during the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, to Vienna during World War II and to contemporary San Francisco. The plot moves at a fast pace while simultaneously we gain a deeper knowledge of the characters.

Continue Reading John Tesarsch – sophisticated and uplifting…

My Little Brother Typewriter and Andrea Goldsmith’s Not Nostalgia

January 19, 2016 at 11:30 pm | Posted in Andrea Goldsmith, Books, Writing, Writing - tools of the trade | 1 Comment

Continue Reading My Little Brother Typewriter and Andrea Goldsmith’s Not Nostalgia…

NOT NOSTALGIA

January 19, 2016 at 11:00 pm | Posted in Books, creativity, digital technology, Writing | Leave a comment

Andrea Goldsmith

A little over a century ago, E.M. Forster wrote ‘The Machine Stops’, a short story that depicts human civilisation some time in the future. I expect Forster was projecting into the far-distant future – millennia not centuries – but in certain respects the world of his story bears a remarkable resemblance to human society today. In Forster’s story people live by themselves in their own room (children are raised in special nurseries). Within these rooms everything necessary for life is available at the push of a button. When you are hungry you press a button and food appears, when thirsty, another button produces a drink. When you want to sleep you push a button and a bed materialises, when you wish to wash, the right button will conjure a bath. If you are feeling ill, a thermometer, stethoscope and other diagnostic tools will appear to test and diagnose, following which…

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Eating real food: a quick comparison of cookbooks

January 4, 2016 at 2:12 am | Posted in Books, Cook books, food, health, nutrition, recipes, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

‘Gosh it’s easy to write a cookbook. Well, it’s easy if your primary role is “quality control”, and all the actual work is done by seasoned professionals and my slave-driven wife,’

writes David Gillespie in the Acknowledgements of his The Sweet Poison Quit Plan Cookbook (Melbourne, Viking, 2013, p. 199). He states that he ‘did practically nothing (other than eat pudding on a regular basis)’.

photo(2) copy

Having your (sugar-free) cake: two of David Gillespie’s books

David Gillespie presents the facts about serious and complex subjects (how sugar makes us fat and exhausted and gives us chronic diseases like diabetes Type 2 and certain cancers) simply and clearly. Equally clear are his reasons why we should avoid vegetable oils. The facetious self-deprecating humour in his Acknowledgements quoted above is typical of his style, and at other times the mental dexterity with which he expresses himself is highly amusing.

The highly unamusing fact is that food manufacturers well know how addictive (and cheap) sugar is, which means ever-escalating profits for them, so they are putting sugar in virtually everything on the supermarket shelves. It’s not just sweet things you need to avoid; it’s all the savoury things too. This means that if you do what Gillespie advises in his Eat Real Food (Viking, 2014), you will be okay. This book is written as simply and compellingly as all his others. The sugar-free recipes work well and taste good.

The David Gillespie recipes in all his books – see www.howmuchsugar.com – are more consistently better than the ones in Sarah Wilson’s books, which you can see on. www.sarahwilson.com Many of Sarah Wilson’s recipes taste good but some are dodgy. While they look good in the photographs the taste and texture don’t always live up to their food-styled, gorgeously photographed visual aesthetics. I have a hunch about this.

David Gillespie and his wife test their recipes under the severe conditions of catering for their six children, (a domestic kitchen in Brisbane catering for the palates of childhood, adolescence and the adults) while Sarah Wilson and her hip young Sydney-siders I Quit Sugar team, I’m willing to bet, have more money and more time and are more interested in creating quantity than quality so perhaps some recipes get a tick when they shouldn’t. That said, the Sarah Wilson ones that work (e.g., almond butter bark, I Quit Sugar, p.175) are wonderful, and it is of course a subjective thing, as you see with the positive and negative comments on her website about the same recipe.

David Permutter’s Grain Brain (NY, Little, Brown and Co., 2013, p. 291) contends that gluten is also a cause of today’s escalating rate of chronic disease. Haven’t we been eating grains for thousands of years? Yes, but the food manufacturers have engineered the grains to contain a much higher concentration of gluten than previously, to give their products longer shelf life. Permutter maintains that today’s low fat, high grain and other carbohydrate diet is the origin of headaches, insomnia, anxiety, autism, depression, epilepsy, schizophrenia, ADHA, inflammatory diseases like arthritis, and dementia.

Grain Brain: The surprising truth about wheat, carbs, and sugar – your brain’s silent killers contains evidence, recipes and case studies. You can get access to his latest research and recipes etc at www.DrPerlmutter.com

This book is a controversial best-seller. Many disagree with his theories. His research is not expressed nearly as clearly as David Gillespie’s. The website quackwatch.com disagrees with his findings and Alan Levinovitz ( www.nymag.com/scienceofus.2015.06problems-with-the-grain-brain-doctor.html presents a detailed critique of his research. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that sugar (the fructose half) is the worst thing that has happened to our health in the last two or three generations.

An award-winning website about food and flavours is www.bizzylizzysgoodthings.com and it features Lizzy’s beautiful photography as well. She is an engaging writer and her recipes are well and truly tested, and they do work consistently well. Her recipes are not necessarily sugar-free or wheat-free, and neither are Jules Clancy’s – thestonesoup.com – but they are both healthy overall and quick, easy and reliable. My copy of Jules Clancy’s 5 Ingredients, 10 Minutes: Delicious, healthy recipes for tired and hungry cooks (Michael Joseph, 2013) is ingredient-spattered and book-marked all the way through – I use it when I’m tired and hungry or not – it really does take ten minutes and every recipe I’ve made is a winner.

 

Cheerfulness is an achievement: favourite books of 2015

December 28, 2015 at 9:48 pm | Posted in art, Books, capitalism, creativity, health | 2 Comments

The Guardian Weekly ‘Books of the Year’ (18-31 December this year) is where writers and critics present their favourite reads of the past year and it is a reliable guide to some great reading. You can also hear authors speak about their work on theguardian.com/books/series/books

Popular choices of ‘Books of the Year’ were Ali Smith’s short story collection Public Library, Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet and Colm Toibin’s Nora Webster. Kate Mosse recommends selected essays by women under thirty entitled I Call Myself A Feminist (Virago, 2015).

The uplifting website www.brainpickings.org also lists favourite books of the past year. The first is the late Oliver Sacks’ On the Move: A Life.

If The Guardian were to ask me, I’d recommend Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go (Sphere, 2014). The plot leaps into action from page one, gripping the reader until the end. After a tragedy, protagonist Jenna Gray leaves everything and moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast. The novel is written from the perspectives of several characters, in first, third and even second person. I don’t usually read crime novels except for the psychological thrillers of Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell’s nom de plume for her novels in that genre) but, like the Barbara Vine novels, I Let You Go has much more insight and psychological depth than your average crime novel.

Continue Reading Cheerfulness is an achievement: favourite books of 2015…

Meeting the sunlight: taking time to think

December 21, 2015 at 5:38 am | Posted in Books, digital technology, Quotations, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The picturesque town of Mallaig is on the west coast of the Scottish Highlands. I was waiting for a coffee at the Mallaig Tea Rooms when I saw a framed scroll on the wall above the little coal fire. It read:

‘These are times of more convenience but less time, more knowledge but less judgement, fast foods but slow digestion, tall men but short character, steep profits but shallow relationships.

‘It is a time when there is much in the window but nothing in the room.’

The Dalai Lama.
It was when I was travelling for six weeks between writing the text of Inspiring Australians and organising the book’s photographs. The quotation put me in mind of my book because a Churchill Fellowship enables the opportunity for time and expansion of thought, for slowly unfolding realisations and deepening rapports with overseas peers. Many Churchill Fellows told me that one thing they really treasured was the luxury of time to think. In the daily work world of back-to-back meetings and multi-tasking to meet competing deadlines there is little time to think.

Time to think shouldn’t be a luxury. Time to think is a necessity.

In the time since publication of my book, I have treasured my own time to think (about topics unrelated to my book). I’ve been cycling to the local library and coming away with an enormous pile of books to put in my basket, then riding home and devouring them. In one, Daniel Levitikin’s The Organized Mind: Thinking straight in an age of information overload (Viking, 2015) the author tells us that the brain is not wired to multitask and doing so increases our levels of cortisol and adrenaline. This overstimulates the ‘wrong’ parts of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, and causes foggy thinking, and sometimes aggressive and impulsive behaviour. If students watch TV while doing homework, the schoolwork information goes into the stratium, a region specialised for storing new procedures and skills, not facts and ideas. Without the distraction of TV, the information goes into the hippocampus, where it is organised and categorised in ways that make it easier to retrieve.

Focusing on one thing reduces the brain’s need for glucose. Multitasking chews up glucose, causing ‘the brain to burn through its fuel so quickly that we feel exhausted and disoriented after even a short time. We’ve literally depleted the nutrients in our brain. This leads to compromises in both cognitive and physical performance.’ (The Guardian Weekly Feb. 2015, p. 27)

Writer Norbet Platt said, ‘The act of putting pen to paper encourages pause for thought, this in turn makes us think more deeply about life, which helps us regain our equilibrium.’ Of course the act of putting fingertips to keyboard, though not as pleasantly alliterative, does the same thing. So those of us who write blogs or journals or columns etc are doing the right thing in these times of having no time for reflection. It is our job to reflect. We must think in order to do our job properly. (And must try to in spite of those competing deadlines.)

American writer Pat Conroy thinks that ‘blog’ is the ugliest word in the English language. But he has a blog (www.patconroy.com) and he uses it ‘as a way to sneak back to his writing without being noticed’.

I thought that blog was the abbreviated combination of ‘biography’ and ‘log’ like a ship’s log but for a life (even if not aboard a ship). But no, apparently it is short for weblog. I hadn’t read Pat Conroy (Prince of Tides) in years, then my friend Bernadette recommended his memoir, My Reading Life (Random House, 2010), which is enjoyable, funny and rewarding. All Conroy’s life, books have been for him the portal to a wider world. He writes:

‘I have always taken a child’s joy in the painterly loveliness of the English language…. What richer way to meet the sunlight than bathing each day of my life in my island-born language, the one that Shakespeare breathed on, Milton wrestled with, Jane Austen tamed, and Churchill rallied the squadrons of England with?’ (p. 300-301)

Winston Churchill was steeped in these writers, as well as Gibbon and the King James Bible, and he loved the English language as much as Pat Conroy does. Unfortunately, most Reports of Churchill Fellows for the last 15 or so years are not written in language found in books like these but in the corporate jargon we are so familiar with now. Churchill would blanch if he could read what is being done to his beloved language. Exceptions include Rifaat Shoukrallah on road safety, virtuoso recorder player Genevieve Lacey and Courtney Page-Allen (digitising 1,535 portraits of Australian soldiers of World War I). All Reports can be viewed on the Trust’s website: www.churchilltrust.org.au

‘If you don’t breathe through writing,’ wrote French writer Anais Nin, ‘if you don’t cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write, because our culture has no use for it.’ Times have changed. Now our culture has plenty of use for the leaden and deceptive obfuscations of managerial language. But although it is everywhere, most people don’t want to waste time on this unreadable bilge so popular with politicians, bureaucrats and bankers. They want to read people who do what William Wordsworth long ago advised: ‘Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart’. That is what we should all be doing, in fiction or blogs, letters or reports, articles or cook books. (Look at Nigella Lawson’s books – a delight to read them.) If you write in plain English with an open heart like she does, and like her compatriots George Orwell and Winston Churchill did, you won’t go wrong.

Inspiring Australians – deepening the heart (and sharpening the brain!)

October 26, 2015 at 1:04 am | Posted in Books, Winston Churchill | Leave a comment
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churchill 

The Irish have a saying, ‘A good story deepens the heart.’ I borrowed it for the blurb of my new book, Inspiring Australians: The first fifty years of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (Australian Scholarly Publishers, October 2015.) Finishing it was, as I’d suspected it might be, like doing a PhD in one year. But more fun. (Even though intellectually a tall order. But it’s good to have the opportunity to sharpen the brain by organizing a vast quantity of information into something readable and entertaining.) It took about a year full-time – before that I was writing it on the side of a four-day a week job so took longer than a year but was very part-time before I resigned from the day job. And now I’m back, beginning again on my long-neglected blog and happy to be here.

‘We all love stories. We’re born for them. Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories. It can cross the barriers of time, past, present and future, and allow us to experience the similarities between ourselves and through others, real and imagined.’ (Carmine Gallo, Talk Like TED Macmillan, 2014, p. 52)

Connecting through stories is the basis of my blog, where I can share with others my love of language and ideas, literature, film and the arts in general. No wonder there are so many blogs – they present the opportunity to connect with people, to be creative and to express oneself. All these are very good things!

One of the Churchill Fellows I interviewed last year for the book was Richard Fidler, whose ABC radio program ‘Conversations’ is the most downloaded podcast of the ABC. It’s not surprising because Richard’s ‘Conversations’ with ordinary people reveal the most extraordinary stories.

Google www.abc.net.au/local/sites/conversations/ and you’ll find the podcasts and lists of guests over many years. The most recent conversation that had me dropping my jaw with amazement and also had me laughing was with an Irish guy who lives now in Australia, called Martin McKenna. He ran away from home and lived with street dogs and he knows things about dogs that most people don’t, and has, in spite of his tough life – or perhaps because of it – an idiosyncratic wisdom and an uplifting story to tell. He has written a few books too, which I can’t wait to read.

A previous conversation that Richard Fidler recommended once was with Wendy James, who experienced the World War II bombing of Darwin and Cyclone Tracy there in 1974. You should look her up too – remarkable woman. The one I have laughed at loudest is Greg Fleet, an ex-heroin addict and comedian. And how could you miss the wonderful, engaging writer Iain McCalman on his most recent book on the Great Barrier Reef and about other fascinating things? You can go through the Recent Guests or look them up alphabetically by their name and there you have at your fingertips free access to wondrous stories of the lives of people like you and me who have weathered some storms and lived to tell the tale.

I listen to a Richard Fidler Conversation nearly every day. If a good story deepens the heart then my heart must be deep indeed – and it is, what with those stories combined with a probable average of two books a week since I was little, and I learnt to read at four. (My favourite book at five was R. M. Ballantyne’s Martin Rattler, which I identified with immediately when I read the first sentence: ‘Martin Rattler was a very bad boy.’ Ballantyne’s more famous The Coral Island influenced Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, another much-loved book. I loved my older brother’s books about boys’ adventures and became a Tomboy, in isolated East Gippsland and later when we moved to Sydney.)

I grew up to have my own adventures travelling and meeting amazing people, and as a free-lance writer I’m happy to say the adventures continue. Hearing the stories of the Churchill Fellows for the book Inspiring Australians – and also the Board and Committee members, volunteers and other workers connected with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust – was fascinating and, like the people on Richard Fidler’s ‘Conversations’ they are optimistic and uplifting because they are resourceful people who put their energy into interesting, worthwhile activities.

The Churchill Fellows whose stories I tell in the book are the tip of an iceberg, to coin a cliché, because otherwise there would have to be about fifteen volumes to cover fifty years’ worth of Churchill Fellows. But every Churchill Fellow’s name is in the book, listed alphabetically at the back, and if they looked at the cover (a collage of hundreds of Fellows’ tiny portraits making up a portrait of Churchill) through a magnifying glass perhaps they could spot their photo. One Fellow I hadn’t had the space to mention in the text laughed at that and said at the Sydney book launch, clutching his book, ‘Don’t worry – I’m going to do exactly that when I get home!’

They say that busy-work comes from your To Do list but good work comes from your heart. Yes, I’ve been busy writing this book but it came from my heart because I was so fascinated with the Churchill Fellows whose stories I was telling in the book. Writing Inspiring Australians was an honour and a joy because of the stories that unfolded and I got to meet smart, entertaining, adventurous people like Philip Green, eco-educator, and David Goldie, film maker, and Helen Lochhead, vibrant, visionary architect and so much more, and because I share the ideals of the Churchill Trust. For those ideals and more plus a way to buy the book if you don’t want to wait for the Canberra book launch (6.00 p.m., 30 November, National Library of Australia) look up www.churchilltrust.com.au/shop

Technological ineptitude but all things seem possible

December 28, 2013 at 12:41 am | Posted in Books, Quotations | Leave a comment

First, an apology. I was taught how to blog by a not very good teacher who has gone on to something else and can’t be contacted. I didn’t realise until just the other day that in order to edit one’s blog, presumably one doesn’t have to press ‘Publish’ and then press the Edit to make changes but that there is a ‘Save’ and if I press that and then ‘Edit’ I get a chance to correct mistakes before I ‘Publish’. All this is guess work. I’ve just realised that it’s my more or less 1st drafts that must fly into followers’ in-boxes when I press ‘Publish’; and the version of two minutes later, edited, with corrected typos and the small changes that make a big difference are saved for posterity but that is not the version that followers receive! So sorry. It won’t happen again.

(It is just arbitrary; the above seems to have worked but now I don’t have any scope to fill in the Categories or tags. Sigh.)

People sometimes ask me how I come up with such fascinating books to read. Apart from having a BA (Hons) in English Literature (ANU, 1985) behind me plus 20 odd years of book reviewing, I rely a lot on the reviews in the New Yorker, the Literary Review and the Guardian Weekly. But the best one is the Guardian Weekly’s section just before Christmas where about 40 famous writers in English recommend their top few for the year and are given a paragraph to say why. You usually find some particular titles turning up on several lists and these are the ones that will usually be riveting.

This year’s section has Roddy Doyle, Philip Pullman, Michael Palin, Hilary Mantel, Lionel Shriver, Bill Bryson and Colm Toíbin and many others. As you probably know, The Luminaries won the Booker prize this year, and it is 830 pages long. Robert McFarlane writes ‘I read Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries three times in my capacity as Man Booker judge and each time round it yielded new riches. It is a vastly complex novel about investment and return, gift and theft, value and worth …’ (Guardian Wkly 20 December 2013, p. 50)

Someone gave it to me for Christmas and I’m really looking forward to reading it. But 830 pages – phew! Maybe I should postpone it until after my commissioned book deadline. My own favourite for this year? The one that really stands out for me is Andrea Goldsmith’s The Memory Trap. I loved it for the beauty of the language, the fascinating theme and the un-put-down-able plot. I actually tried to stretch it out so I wouldn’t have to finish it – and yet I also longed to read it as fast as I could! It’s about love, memory, relationships and more. I also loved Andrea Goldsmith’s previous novel, Reunion, which I thought was stunning, and it’s a mystery to me why such a great writer is not being feted and adored the world over. You will think about the ending of Reunion for a very long time.

A book I keep returning to is Michael Dirda’s Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life. You can dip into it anywhere and find treasure. There are wonderful quotations – to choose three at random, two of which happen to be relevant for this Australian holiday season. The first is not I hope relevant to anyone reading this. Franz Kafka wrote in his diary: ‘Sunday July 19, slept, awoke, slept, awoke, miserable life.’ William Gerhardie says, ‘We refilled our glasses with cognac, after which all things seemed possible.’ And Albert Camus said, ‘No one who lives in the sunlight makes a failure of his life.’

I don’t think he was thinking of the scorching Australian sun. I don’t understand what exactly he means but I love it. I don’t know the context but I imagine he is using sunlight as a metaphor for hope and optimism and focusing on the positive in life. Well that’s me for sure, so I won’t be a failure, even if I never get another novel published. (I know, I know, we can publish our own now. No time at the moment; I barely have time to submit it to publishers, and I want to try them first, the few who still accept “unagented” novel submissions. And no, no agent because it’s harder to get an agent now than it used to be to get a publisher.)

Now before I ‘Publish’ this I’ll do it in ‘Save’ and see if my deliberate typo (is that an oxymoron?) appears. I have hope and optimism and all things seem possible, even without a cognac!

Lost in the corridors of time

December 22, 2013 at 2:03 am | Posted in arthritis, Books, health | Comments Off on Lost in the corridors of time
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I’m back. Because finally I sent in my draft of Chapter 2 of the Churchill Trust book. I’d been working on it for ages, getting up at 5.00 am and writing before work and it was a hard one plus had been very busy at my other job, my real job, and the day I finished the chapter I was so tired that I came home from work and slept 14 hours in a row.

Now I am half-way through This Is Not the End of the Book (London, Vintage, 2012) which is a conversation between Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière. I’m not a big fan of Eco but I love Carrière, who is a really good screenwriter and writer. He writes about our loss of being in the present moment, a theme I often raise in these blogs – he travels a lot (and gets in different time zones) and gets ‘lost in the corridors of time’ – just in conversation poetic phrases run off his tongue. I love it so much I will borrow it for my title.

Titles are hard. That’s why so many people borrow them from other works, like the film Days of Wine and Roses – what a great title! Great film too, about alcoholism, with Lee Remmick and Jack Lemmon. The title comes from a not very good poem by Ernest Dowson that includes the very good line:

‘They are not long, the days of wine and roses’

Poignant. The feeling I get is of deep nostalgia. So sad. Nostalgia is not something I’ve had much experience with, luckily. I’ve known some people to be virtually crippled by it. I can barely imagine. (Just Googled Dowson and learnt that he died of alcoholism at 32!)

Carrière quotes a Bavarian comedian Karl Valentin: ‘In the past, even the future was better.’

Ha! He also says that the worst criticism of Jesus that Mani, a Christian heretic who founded Manichaeism, made was that Jesus didn’t write anything down.
And Eco says, ‘He did once, in the sand.’

And I thought: How does anyone know that? Maybe that scene is in the Bible, written by an eye-witness, an Apostle who saw Him writing some profundity in the sand. I also thought: Maybe writing was really hard for Jesus; maybe He was dyslexic.

Possibly a blasphemous thought. Ha.

Before I talk myself into more hot water, let me tell you what else made me so tired I slept for 14 hours straight: osteoarthritis. It’s exhausting. The Chinese say that the legs are the second heart. I interpret that to mean: pretty damn essential. Now I know the truth of this more than I ever wanted to know. To continue a conversation about that, to which previous blogs have been devoted, I’ve come to the end of my year of the A to Z of alternative therapies for it. Of all these, I wouldn’t say that any did no good. They all worked to some extent and all were good for other things and health in general. But I have three favourites: Acupuncture, the Infrared sauna, and Hanna Somatics (similar to the Feldenkrais method, which is also very, very good).

Acupuncture takes away the pain. But not immediately. After several weeks of weekly sessions it does, and does so for several months. Then you have to go back and do more weeks of weekly sessions. And it does nothing for flexibility.

The Sunlighten Infrared sauna is very effective too. Someone told me that Sunlighten is the best brand. I bought a solo one and this is also the cheapest. Sunlighten salesperson Peter Reynolds was knowledgeable about infrared saunas and very helpful over the phone and by email. When it was delivered, I used it for a fortnight or so once a day and felt improved. Then I went away for a fortnight and towards the end of the first week I was really in pain. When I got back I leapt into it immediately and did two 30 minute sessions a day and after a few days it got a lot better. From my experience it’s worth the investment. It’s good for pain relief and promotes healing and flexibility was a bit better too. Go to http://www.sunlighten.com.au or you can ring for free: 1800 786 544.

There is a great book by Martha Peterson called Move without Pain, about Hanna Somatics. It’s about muscle memory and full of easy exercises that straighten out our bodies. It’s wonderful, (and so is yoga of course). Move without Pain can be ordered from America, it’s not available in Australia. (New York, Sterling, 2011) The exercises in it are quick and easy and painless and will make very fast improvement in your life – since most of us sit too much, which is the cause of a lot of problems – I think I can make that generalisation safely. Peterson’s writing is a pleasure to read too, she has an appealing casual and clear style, which makes you feel she is with you, taking you through the exercises and that you are in good hands.

Now, have a great break, a peaceful Christmas and happy New Year. Have some days of wine and roses and enjoy them while they last.

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