Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea – Adaminaby 31/5/2016


The Adaminaby Biggest Morning Tea was held next to the big fish, naturally. Some beautiful cupcakes, slices and nibbles with hot coffee and good company.  This little town has plenty of heart. I understand over $900 was raised,  and given that the population of the town is around the 200 mark,  that is awesome.  The members of the CWA did a wonderful job.  I’m so glad I was able to attend.


Adaminaby, NSW 29/5/2016


St John’s Church, Adaminaby.


Long shadows at the end of a crisp autumn day.

The temperature fell to around minus 5 degrees C, last night.  A reminder that winter is almost here.  And after a beautiful day, the clear skies promise another cold night.  Minus 7 is the forecast. I expect that I won’t be wslking first thing in the morning.  The risk of injury from slipping on the ice acts as a deterrent.

Reading and small children

Most Saturday mornings I see a delightful little girl named Samantha.  Samantha likes the Mr Men and Little Miss books,  and every Saturday she selects two more for her collection. Choosing which two isn’t always easy, but once she’s decided she’s happy to move on to her next adventure for the day.  It’s great to see a young child so interested in books.

Then I met a wonderful teacher, trying to find reading material that would appeal to a boy with a limited vocabulary, who really hasn’t yet made a connection with reading.

Reading brings great pleasure to so many of us.  But not to all. For me, the joy of reading was in acquiring new information, and in escaping into different worlds.  How about you? And how can reading be made interesting to those who don’t find it so?

First Bite by Bee Wilson

I really enjoyed reading this book.

First Bite by Bee Wilson

‘How we eat – how we approach food – is what really matters.’

Many of us have a vexed relationship with food.  Some of us eat too much, others not enough, and many of us eat foods that are not good (or good enough) for us.  Why is this so?  We learn to eat as children, but what we learn to eat and how much of it is something that we seem to learn differently.  And those early experiences often still seem to shape our eating decades later.  Some of us are adventurous eaters and others, including me, are quite conservative.  In this book, Ms Wilson explores our dysfunctional relationship with food.

‘My premise in First Bite is that the question of how we learn to eat – both individually and collectively – is the key to how food, for so many people, has gone so badly wrong.’

Ms Wilson draws on research by neuroscientists, neurologists and food psychologists – identifying that the factors that influence our food habits include culture, family, hunger, gender love and memory.  She draws on her own experience as well, to look at the impact siblings can have as well as the use of food as a reward.

‘What makes junk food so dangerous is not that it is unhealthy – though it is.  It’s that it is entwined in our minds with so many other memories that are good and true and pure.’

In this book we meet people who can only eat food of a particular colour, as well as toddlers (and adults) with very restricted dietary choices.  Ms Wilson also looks at how people eat in different parts of the world, and how culture drives what food is seen as acceptable by the parent as well as the child.  How Plumpy’nut (a packaged treatment for severe acute malnutrition) works brilliantly in Africa, but is not acceptable to most in India or Bangladesh.  Ms Wilson touches on some of the factors causing a growing obesity problem in China, and on how Japan came (comparatively recently) to adopt its current healthy diet.

‘A child’s hunger cannot be cancelled by food per se.  It matters very much what the food is.’

Ms Wilson is also candid about her own experiences, of overeating as a teenager, of force-feeding one of her own children.  But, as Ms Wilson makes clear, eating is a learned behaviour – what is learned can be relearned if we are sufficiently interested and motivated.

‘We assume that over time our tastes will gradually blossom of their own accord, like a flower, but with selective eating the pattern is for tastes to get ever more closed.’

I found this book very interesting.  By making us more aware of the factors around how we eat and what we choose to eat and why, Ms Wilson provides an opportunity for insight and, for some, the possibility of change.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

The Godfather: Peter Corris on The Seven Pillars of Wisdom – Newtown Review of Books

Humphrey McQueen once claimed to have been the only person to have read Xavier Herbert’s massive novel Poor Fellow My Country (1975) from start to finish and I’ve never heard him contradicted. Some books are like that. In Woody Allen’s brilliant comedy Zelig (1983), the only regret psychotic chameleon Leonard Zelig has at the end …

Source: The Godfather: Peter Corris on The Seven Pillars of Wisdom – Newtown Review of Books

A day of protest for the #MILLIONSMISSING from ME/CFS: May 25th, 2016

By spreading the word, we raise awareness.


(not my shoes*)

(these are from Wikipedia)


I am being represented in Washington by a pair of my shoes.

Black high heels I used to wear to work, and when giving physics presentations such as the one I gave in the week of November 5, 1989, at the American Physical Society Annual Meeting of the Division of Plasma Physics in Anaheim, California.

I came back from that meeting with a raging fever; my doctor had antibiotics waiting for me, but I never got well again.

I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by an infectious diseases specialist. I was lucky; in those days getting a diagnosis was hit or miss, and the stories of people misdiagnosed for years were rampant even then.

Lucky – in the sense of knowing what was wrong. But the specialist and I looked at each other; he knew he…

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The Wrong Child by Barry Gornell

I found this a powerful and unsettling read.

The Lost Child by Barry Gornell

‘It was the last child’s final morning.’

Once, there were twenty-two children living with their families in a rural village.  But then a disaster claimed the life of twenty-one of those children.  Twenty-one trees have been planted in memory of those children.  The surviving child, known as Dog Evans, wanted to be a tree.

Dog Evans has lived alone since just before he turned sixteen.  His parents, suffering from guilt over the survival of their son, abandoned him.  As the story unfolds, we discover that there are other reasons, too, for their abandonment.  Dog Evans is shunned by the other villagers: he reminds them of their unbearable loss.

The novel opens six years after the disaster, moving between the past before the disaster and the present.  In the present are the bereaved parents and other villagers.  Some relationships have fractured; people have found different ways of dealing with their pain.  In the past, in the world the children still occupy, the story moves towards the disaster.  What happened?  Why did it happen?  Will any of the survivors be able to pick up their lives and move on?  Can Deborah Cutter find life meaningful without the numbing effects of alcohol and sex?  Will she reconcile with her husband John?  And Dog Evans’s parents?  How could they leave him?

The other characters include a particularly ineffectual priest, Father Wittin.  The local postman, Nugget Storrie has a particular role to play in this dark tale of revenge and retribution.

This is an unsettling read. Few of the characters are likeable or admirable.  While they can justify their actions to each other, mostly, most readers will apply different standards.  And yet, is it possible that revenge can be cathartic?

It’s not possible for me to write more about this novel without introducing spoilers, and I don’t want to do that.  Much of the suspense in this novel is learning about what happens as events unfold in the present, or as they are reported in the past.  It’s a novel where concentration is required to keep track of characters and events.  It’s a novel that reminds the reader that events cannot always easily be characterized as good or evil.  It’s also a novel that left me feeling unsettled, and wondering about the impact of love or of its absence.

Note: My thanks to Freight Books and NetGalley for providing me with a free electronic copy of this novel for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

Ice Letters by Susan Errington

Ice Letters by Susan Errington

‘After my brother was killed, I received a letter from his friend Tom Holloway, about how Edgar died.’

In Adelaide, in 1916, Dora Somerville mourns the death of her brother Edgar in the Great War.

‘All my family are dead.  I am alone at twenty-two …’

Before Edgar signed up, Dora was drawn to the pacifist movement, first by curiosity and then by friendship.  She’s pleased that others feel the same way as she does.  After Edgar’s death she starts to question pacifism as a way of stopping the war.  Dora’s lover, Daniel Bone, has his own printing shop.  The couple seem happy together until Daniel, under increasing pressure for not signing up, decides to join an Antarctic expedition. The poetry of Rudyard Kipling is often referred to.  Edgar had won a book of Kipling’s poetry at school, and this book becomes important to Dora.

After Daniel leaves, his anarchist friend Malachy Mara moves into Dora’s home and into her life. As a consequence, Dora becomes caught up in the extremism of the International Society.

‘These are the rules.  A man can die in a rat-infested ditch but a lady must at all times act with propriety.  The oppressive night seems to close in on her.  She wants to do something, even a small act of defiance.’

The story shifts between Daniel, facing his own challenges at the Mawson Base in Antarctica, and Dora, becoming increasingly caught up in the International Society.  They write detailed letters to each other, knowing that the letters will never be delivered.  Each will have to make a choice which will have an impact on others.  Can violence be justified?  Can pacifism work?

‘There are some betrayals, she believed, that cannot be borne even by the worst traitor.’

Dora feels abandoned, but must do something.  Until she realises the consequences.  Daniel longs for peace, but finds that Antarctica is not peaceful. He has to take action, despite the consequences.  War takes a number of forms, and the fact and consequences seems unavoidable.

For me, the best part of the novel relates to Daniel’s experience in Antarctica.  This part of the novel felt more real to me than Dora’s experience in Adelaide.  More real, or perhaps less uncomfortable?  I’m really not sure.  And yet, despite some reservations about the portrayal of Dora, her relationship with Daniel and her inability to shake free of Malachy Mara, there are aspects of the novel that have me thinking.  About life and death.  About relationships and war.  The war ends, and the novel ends with Dora at the dock awaiting Daniel’s return from Antarctica.

Whatever the future holds, the past will be present.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith