Monthly Archives: June 2016

In celebration of the older women

In celebration of the older women

I loved this post that was shared by a friend. It is written by Dorothe Nors. Her  words ring true for many baby boomers.

I loved the quote ..’Because there are so many of us, and because it quite often feels as if we’re not really here.’ It is an excellent piece, although the author has overlooked one group of women, who through choice or need are separated from their children, by place and or obligation. So although in reality, they have children, they don’t. A conundrum. An empty hole that is difficult to fill. To all of us, invisible middle-aged and older women embrace Jenny Joseph’s words and refuse to be invisible. For now, I am an older ‘…woman, I will wear purple . With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me. And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter…’ and refuse to disappear into the background.

She speaks to the heart of what it is to be middle-aged  or older, a woman and invisible to the rest of society, in this consumer, disposable age.  There were times when I felt it was the grey hair or not so lithe body that made me invisible.  The hair-dresser and the gym benefited, however, my visibility to the general  ebb and flow of the public did not.

I have been known to wave my hand in front of a sales person and say. ‘ I am here, I am not invisible. I have cash to spend  look at me.’  Only to be admonished with, ‘can’t  Madam see I am busy.’

Well no actually you are not,  you are discussing last night’s Big Mac with another sales representative.  How could I be so miserable to interrupt such a heightened conversation? How misinformed was I to think my custom may be important enough to persuade you to serve me?

Now, I simply walk away and take my custom elsewhere.  I have decided life is too important to waste time with myopic individuals who cannot see past the end of their noses and think that older people are worthless.

I am on the negative side of 50  but  life has never been so full or challenging .  I may be grey and  less than slim but, I am not defined by those things.  My brain is agile and my desire for life and living is as strong and vibrant as it ever was.

I can see the beauty of a lamb at play, the spiders web sparkling with diamonds of dew in the early morning light. I watch the mist wrap the majestic mountains in cotton wool clouds and see the grey pink light explode around them. I enjoy the beautiful symphonies of Bach and Beethoven  and the equally beautiful symphony of the birds at dawn and dusk. I notice the fragile spider on the rose petal  and marvel at the birth of each day .

Do I long for the days of travel with briefcase and carry-on luggage, taxis and plane tickets? Not really.  Do I miss the stress of executive meetings, and papers to be read?  Not really.  Do I envy the younger women now slaves to commerce and deadlines and family obligations? No, I don’t.

I continue to  have deadlines and papers to read and present. I  have family obligations. I enjoy travel when the money allows. The difference being now, I choose to do these things they are not my ‘raison d’être’.   I have the time and the knowledge to consider more carefully those things I wish to embrace in my life. I choose with greater care those with whom I wish to share my life.  I understand there are things I cannot change, no matter how I rail against them.  I have learnt to choose my battles and use my accumulated knowledge and understanding of my world to its best advantage.

Is it perfect? No.  Do I want more ? Of course

The difference is now, I know I am not invisible, I know who I am and do not need validation of others. I appreciate that the journey is more important than the destination.

Image  Mouse vole sleeping in the iris, Moscow oblast, Russia (



Growing up – I’m older now

Growing up – I’m older now

I was reminded today of how old I am and the times I have lived through. I was born in 1950 at the turn of the half century. Some call us the lucky generation.

My grandfather and grand uncles fought in WW1 – I listened to their stories. My father, uncles, and grand uncles fought in WW11. My father in law was a POW in Changi and Sandakan. Many years later he died as a direct result of the beatings and deprivation he had suffered at that time. Some did not return home. One grand uncle was beheaded at the Tol Plantation Massacre another tortured and massacred at the Battle of Parit Sulong.

My best friends when I was growing up were the daughter of Hungarian  immigrants and the daughter of German immigrants who arrived in Australia in the late 1940s. Carmen’s father had served in the German Army.  Veruca’sfamily had fled from the germans. We were good friends.

My father had friends who fought in Korea and the Malayan Emergency. I had friends who fought and died in the Six Day War in Israel.

I heard them talk and learned compassion for the shattered mind in the normal looking body. I have heard the stories first hand. I have witnessed the results of the anger and the fear.

Then as I grew into my teens, conscription was introduced and friends were inducted into the services and sent to Vietnam to fight yet another useless war. My boyfriend who became my fiancé and my first husband was in the RAAF. As a young married person, I met and spoke with veterans of all theaters of war.

Where is this all leading? Today I read a post about the problems facing Europe and the EU and the plans for a super Europe. It was an interesting post well written but it sends shivers down my spine. The coup de grace was then delivered by someone obviously much younger than myself who had read the post and was commenting authoritatively on its content. The comment commenced with “I studied the causes of WW1 and social change of that time which then led up to the causes of WW2 and the aftermath including the rebuilding of Germany and the way Europe was divided into the East and West at degree level.”

I realised that much of what I have learned and experienced and understood from first-hand accounts is now relegated to the depths of history and it is inferred that what really matters is that you need to study these things to understand them.

I had many friends who fought in Vietnam. They were never the same. The brain can only deal with so much trauma until it shuts down and the scale of these horrors must never be underestimated.

I lived through some of these times and lived closely with others who had experienced the Great Depression, two World Wars and the Korean and Vietnam involvements.

Today I realised how old I really am and that my views are drawn from hearsay and people’s unreliable personal experiences.  But I have a question, who wrote the history that is now so assiduously studied?

I believe we now live in very dangerous times.



46 years ago today
I became the luckiest woman
I remember the day as if it were yesterday
Where has the time flown

The first time I held you I cried
I remember your first smile
The first words you spoke
The first time you said I love you Mum

I’ve wished your days away
I couldn’t wait for you to sit up
To crawl and laugh and play
The years have marched on and on

I rocked you when you were ill
I kissed you when you were sweet
The day you climbed into the truck to go to Kindy
Is one I will never forget

You started shool
Off you went in the mists of the Canberra winter
Then to Raymond Terrace and Penang
You never complained and started making friends again

Time is relentless in its passing
Now you are a Mum yourself
You have always made me proud
It has been a privilege to be your Mum
To watch you grow into the wonderful person you have become



25 WORDS OR LESS  – tell a story. A group of 7 friends submitted their 25 words using the photo as a starting point and from this grew this piece of microfiction.

He had never been so frightened in his life.  He stood, alone and shaking in the silent room.  His parents had dropped him at the presbytery hours earlier. He is here to stay for first communion preparation. Scary. Six nights left.

Whispers drifted in the window like ghosts; the air crawled thick with memories…once a home where monsters roamed, their kingdom had long been silent.  The memories crawled out of the cracks and crevices of his mind where he had kept them hidden.

The voice echoed in his head, ‘This is her world, her room. Twenty-three years of isolation and torment as bitter and twisted as the darkness that shades the heart of her captor.

Why had he thought embracing the faith, would comfort him?  The act of reconciliation with his parents was a juvenile attempt to reclaim his tortured soul.

Stripping off his clothing, he completed his nightly ritual of self-degradation.  The pain cleansed his mind but for a brief moment. The flagellation raised welts and opened old scars, the blood trickled down his back.

He reached for his pyjamas, wincing as the fabric enclosed his tortured body. Slowly he moved toward the bed. Once a bed, he huddled in close, the warmth of his blankets almost smothering him as though he were wrapped in his mother’s arms.

‘They won’t come tonight,’ was his last thought as he drifted into the abyss of sleep.

Quiet as a whisper, she opened the door.   The floorboards shifted and creaked beneath her, she grasped the knife. Nothing would protect him on this night, not even the cross. She studied the scene: Religious iconography reminiscent of Goya’s Third of May; the defiant open armed saviour.  She remembered the blast, the sound, and the pain. She tasted the cordite that lingered – the fear.

Raising her arms above her head like a tortured Christ, she thrust downward with all her strength. Suffer the little children.  Smiling ,the deed completed, she left as quietly  as she had entered.

The entire community attended his funeral. She wept silently in the corner as families came and went like years; none would stay- none could stay for her death, it was the last part of the puzzle. Now she would rest.

VOICES ON THE COAST-volunteering

VOICES ON THE COAST-volunteering

Wow.. I  have spent the last two days working as a volunteer for the 13th VOICES ON THE COAST- a youth literature festival held at USC. I had a great time…tired but a fantastic time.  I feel privileged to have been part of such a dynamic festival and to have the opportunity to hear such enthusiastic speakers.  I met and spoke with authors of the caliber of Leigh Hobbs, Christine Bongers, Dean Jacobs, James Phelan, Brian Faulkner, and many others. It was fantastic to see primary school children as well as Seniors interact and engage with these Australian authors.  I am also grateful to USC for the opportunity to be involved in events of this type.  We have some truly  wonderful and talented writers  for Children and YoungAdults in this country.

Voices on the coast 2016

The inaugural 2016 Sunshine Coast International Readers Writers Festival


‘The inaugural 2016 Sunshine Coast International Readers Writers Festival celebrates our Sunshine Coast region’s rich Aboriginal heritage and our acclaimed surfing culture layered over our rich literary (and musical) talent. The festival will bring together Australian and international writers (including journalists, photographers, poets, performers, and musicians) on a world stage – creating a space for conversation and connection across cultural and geographic divides.’

I love it not when technology won’t comply.   So 2nd post.  It is through the generosity of the Sunshine Coast Readers and Writers International Festival – the inaugural event to be held this year, that I am going to the Festival in Ubud.  The Sunshine Coast Regional Arts and Development Fund  has also made this possible

The Regional Arts Development Fund (RADF) is a partnership between the Queensland Government and Sunshine Coast Council to support local arts and culture in regional Queensland.

RADF funds are aimed at the development of emerging and professional artists and creative arts workers.

The RADF program is open year-round. You must contact the RADF Liaison Officer to apply. Contact council’s grants team on (07) 5420 8616 and ask for the RADF Liaison Officer. The RADF program is subject to annual budget allocations.Slide6





This will evolve into a pictorial diary of my journey and experiences of the Ubud Writers and Readers  Festival 2016.

I have been extremely fortunate to be the recipient of one of four Bursaries offered  to attend and present at the Festival.  Am I excited?  That would be an understatement!

I am very grateful to the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, The Sunshine Coast Sunshine Coast International Readers Writers Festival, the University of the Sunshine Coast and the Regional Arts Development  Fund Sunshine Coast  for this wonderful  opportunity.  Council.

‘Held annually in Ubud, Bali’s artistic and cultural heartland, the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival has become Southeast Asia’s largest and most renowned cultural and literary event.

The mission of Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is to create a world class festival that celebrates extraordinary stories and amplifies brave voices; tackles global issues and big ideas.

We are proud of our continuing success in bringing Indonesian and international writers together on a world stage and creating a space for conversation and connection across cultural divides.

The 13th UWRF will be held 26 – 30 October, 2016,  celebrating the theme Tvat Tvam Asi or ‘I am you, you are me’. This powerful ideology is crucial to the collective identity of Indonesia – uniting people from incredibly diverse religious, ethnic, cultural and historical backgrounds to share common respect and understanding.

The Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is the major annual project of the not-for-profit foundation, the Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati. It was first conceived of by Janet DeNeefe, co-founder of the Foundation, as a healing project in response to the first Bali bombing.’







Michael Shelford on Fredrick Deeming


My month of writing in gaol

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Michael Shelford
Photo of a hallway with stone ornate walls and lighting coming from an opening in the roof
Old Melbourne Gaol

In 1892 “criminal of the century” Frederick Deeming arrived at the gates of Old Melbourne Gaol. His steamship journey from Western Australia to prison had been followed closely by the media and was met at various points by flotillas of boats and sensation-hungry crowds. Once he had been settled into his cell, the serial killer commenced writing an autobiography stating that it would “contain revelations which would shock the world”.

My arrival at Old Melbourne Gaol received a lot less public interest, (I think an elderly person may have gawked at me through a bus window), and my stay was also somewhat less traumatic – mostly on account of not facing the prospect of termination at the end of a rope. I did have a feeling of impending doom however, as I was led through the front door and up the stairs to what would be my daytime home for the next four weeks.

The bluestone floor seemed to have a gravity that dragged at the very muscles in my legs, a heaviness that stayed with me during the entire period of my voluntary incarceration. Unlike Deeming, I was not a condemned man. I’d come of my own free will. I didn’t have wardens who watched my every move but museum staff were more than happy to share their knowledge. They even took me on impromptu, personalised tours of the gaol.

I had just spent a couple of years researching old Melbourne crime, (1900–1920), and had leafed through wads of court files and hundreds of dusty old boxes of police correspondence. Other historical writers would understand the compulsion to over-research a subject. There are countless interesting diversions one can take along the way and the line has to be drawn somewhere. The duty I set myself within Old Melbourne Gaol was to actually begin writing the book and also to get an idea of what life was like for the characters I’m writing about.

My cell was on the third level and a lot more spacious than those below. Historically, the purpose of the larger top level cells had been to house the convicts imprisoned for what were considered lesser crimes. Though still quite small, they had contained up to six persons and, for this reason, were often used to test an inmate’s readiness to interact with the outside world before their release. I had the luxury of a carpeted floor, desk and an ergonomic chair. I also quite liked being able to leave my cell to make use of the public amenities located adjacent to the gallows. I preferred this to having a bucket replaced once per day. More importantly I didn’t have to wear a hood or go out and break stones in the midday sun.

Aside from the 100 odd pages I came away with at the end of my four-week residency, I think the most amazing thing that I took from my experience writing in Old Melbourne Gaol was the intense memories of the space as a whole. Ten months later they are still as vivid as the day I left. Even though I couldn’t wait to get out of there at 4.30 every afternoon, I felt very sad when I was walking away for the last time. Strangely, now when I travel past Old Melbourne Gaol I still feel like it’s my place – I feel like I should be able to just walk in whenever I want.

The jury listened well
To the story I’d to tell
And they send me off to hell

(Frederick Arthur Deeming, Old Melbourne Gaol, 1892)

About Michael Shelford

Michael Shelford is a Melbourne based writer, musician and historian. He is a freelance contributor to various publications including The Guardian newspaper. He plays guitar in the punk band ThundaBox. He is currently writing a non-fiction book about Melbourne’s criminal underground, covering the years 1900-1920.

This article was originally published in The Victorian Writer magazine.

You can find more information about the Cells for Writers studios at Old Melbourne Gaol on this website

This is from     viewed 3/06/2016. It is related to a story I am writing about  Deeming .