When is it okay to hunker down and look after yourself?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) stated in June 2016 that ‘at the end of 2015 there were 65.3 million refugees; that is, one out of every 113 people on earth and that was an increase of 5.8 million on the previous year. This is mainly driven by the Syrian war and other protracted conflicts.’  http://www.unhcr.org/emergencies

An article by Reuters in December 2015 estimates:

  • 2 million refugees fleeing wars and persecution
  • Almost 2.5 million asylum seekers with requests pending in Germany, Russia and the United States
  • An estimated 34 million people were internally displaced – with Yemen reporting the highest number of newly uprooted people at 933,500 – after civil war erupted in March 2015
  • Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Somalia and South Sudan; as well as Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Congo and Iraq – have all lost people through displacement, due to violence.
  • Many refugees will remain in exile for many years. The chance that a refugee will make it back home (today) are lower than at any time in the last 30 years.

These figures are only those for refugees brought about through the violence of war and fighting.

This week the news is about 90% destruction in parts of Haiti through the passage of Hurricane Matthew. The numbers of dead are high, but it is the number of people who are displaced and have nothing – estimated 300,000 that is worrying. This is a country that hasn’t recovered from the earthquake of 2010.

Historically Haitians escape to the US, due to poor lifestyle and corrupt government, but are routinely returned to Haiti because it is decided the refugees ‘do not suffer reprisals when they are returned’. However, anecdotal stories would suggest this is incorrect

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* * * *

I’ve barely touched the tip of the refugee iceberg with the above notes. Let me tell you though that I worry about a world where so many people are displaced, unhappy, persecuted – with nowhere to feel safe. They need somewhere to belong and while some countries have opened their arms – such as Germany and Italy – they do so at the risk of their countrymen rebelling and at the risk of losing their own cultural identity.

Losing cultural identity doesn’t sound too bad – does it? Globalisation is the holy grail in this modern age – globalisation equals loss of cultural identity. However, I believe that there is a genuine and healthy need to nurture cultural identity – and that is for both the country that has accepted these refugees and for the refugees , within their new country.

I’d suggest that the healthiest and happiest people are those who celebrate their cultural uniqueness. They know who they are, their people, their history and where they belong.

Those who are ‘lost’, who haven’t been nurtured in the wealth of their heritage; perhaps they have moved around a lot and don’t have a sense of community. These people ‘suffer’ in their lack of identity.

* * * *

I sit here in ‘comfort’; that is, I’ve a roof over my head, food on the table, clean water. There is money for movies and a book and too much takeaway. Financially, we are in ‘start-up’ mode again, due to a recent relocation, so we feel poor. However, we have prospects and as long as we work hard and continue to have some luck, we’ll be okay; because life in Australia is safe.

Yet, I continue to despair at the plight of refugees. Previously I have written about my disgust at the way our Australian government handles our domestic refugee intake and how government and media encourage us to fear refugees. The media certainly encourages us to fear people based on religious beliefs or ethnicity.

The question remains – How do we help these people in dire need while keeping our own freedom, culture and security intact? And I still don’t know the answer.

I feel “How dare we be comfortable” when so very many people are suffering. At the same time, I’m not willing to give up my freedoms or comfortable life; so, stalemate.

Murder & Mayhem Part 2 – and the Winners are!

Not me! Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

Oh well – I had high hopes. I was so excited to see my ‘name in lights’ after entering my first ever writing competition – however small the competition was.

Why did I think I had a hope in hell of winning, or running up or shortlisting? Who knows? It comes to mind, that this is somewhat how the contestants in X Factor or Pop Idol, Australia’s Got Talent and so forth, feel. Somebody has told them they’re great singers, dancers, comedians, etc and they believed it. They’re good! More than good; they’re sensational! 🙂

And while I didn’t necessarily have a posse of arse-lickers telling me how wonderful my fiction writing was – I was happily confident that they were great! 😀

Anyhoo (as my daughter would say) I didn’t make the short-list and upon reading the winning entries, I can see why. I write plain.

And coincidentally, in the last few days I’d been thinking that already – I dream in full technicolour, with fantastical story lines and characters, and movement between worlds and bigger than life adventures. Yes, they generally present in logical order too; which isn’t the case for everyone, as I understand it.

However, when I write – I write as my personality is; plain, straightforward, logical and pedantic (?). Yes, the stories make sense; yes they have a beginning, middle and end and spelling is excellent and the characters believable. But is there ‘life’ to the stories? Are they too much ‘in the box’ and not ‘outside the square’?

I can see upon re-reading of my two short stories where I lacked. And number 1 was that I wrote them and sent them off, without editing/rewriting! 🙂

So, congratulations to the two winners! See the link below to read the winning stories and the 10 shortlisted items also and see which ones you liked the best. I enjoyed the 2nd winner AND the story about the engineer and the swimming pool tickled my quirky bone! 😀

http://www.writerscentre.com.au/top-10-crime-thriller-comp-winners-and-notables/

Remember the rules were: Character of your own creation, using the words umbrella, softly and birthday with fewer than 149 words. And crime themed; the character had to have committed some sort of crime (big or small). Read my previous article Murder & Mayhem, to read my entries.

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Loving FREEWRITE

 

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Freewrite – pride of place on my Writing Desk

Shall I write my first blog out of my Freewrite? Well, yes, I shall. smily-thumbs-up

It is SO exciting. Ordered back in May 2015, I missed out on the first round of orders and therefore it meant a wait of more than a year. And luckily I’m a patient girl (and trusting) because when you spend several hundred dollars on an item and you don’t get your hot little hands on it for many months, it does cross your mind “Hmm, is this is a scam?” It wasn’t!

The idea of the Freewrite is that you write – without social media-type distractions, write without editing (computers allow you to edit as you go and therefore can derail you from the ‘actual’ writing). This is a modern-day ‘word processing’ tool; solely for writing.

The keyboard; ah, delight! It has those large, deep keys of olden day electronic typewriters, that tangible sensation of keying in words and the ‘click-clack’ soundtrack. Heavenly!

It sounds romantic (and actually I feel it is romantic) to say that writing on a typewriter is so much better than on a modern keyboard, with a soulless screen in front of you. There’s a sensuousness; a connection that you don’t get in front of a computer.

The Freewrite is a weighty machine for its size, but that appears to be a positive as with a rugged aluminum body, it doesn’t feel fragile.

Oh and the Freewrite has an e-ink screen (like a Kindle) so you can use in bright light – sit outside under a tree or alfresco at your favourite cafe – and clearly see what you’re writing; oh, and it is portable. Doesn’t have a carry‑case, but has a handle and off you go!

The Freewrite saves as you go – first to its own memory storage and then when you switch on the Wi-Fi – to the cloud. Freewrite uses Postbox and you can then sync your writing to any other cloud service you may be using – such as Evernote, Dropbox or Google Drive. You can be offline to write and then switch back to online to upload your work.

As I mentioned previously, this ‘writing’ tool discourages you from wasting time editing an ongoing piece of work – because you can’t edit. You can back space – but there isn’t a delete key.  There are no cursor keys, so you can’t navigate back to a mistype, spelling mistake or a sentence or paragraph you’d like to retype! You can do that later – and so your synced writing can then be downloaded to a standard word processing program and prettied up – editing and adding photos, if required.

So when the finished version of this short article is uploaded to my WordPress blog – there will be a photo of my Freewrite sitting on my writer’s desk. Right now, of course, I can only contribute the words.

It is so exciting; I can’t believe how exciting it is. I have a deadline for the coursework I’m completing at the moment – and I need to be finished in time for National Novel Writing Month #nanowrimo in November – but NO! I want to play with my new toy; I mean write!

Out go my old IBM electronic typewriters – this compact unit replaces them. Not their romanticism, but their heft, reliance on accessories (ribbons, golf balls) electricity and space – and their lack of portability. You have been replaced, my dears! smily-pink

Come National Novel Writing Month this November – my next 80,000 words will be written on this gorgeous machine.

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I’ll let you know further down the track how I’m going with it – and if the love affair continues.

Hasta pronto! Trish

 

 

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MICRO-AGGRESSION – Charade or Truth

A year later and this is still a burning issue with our son and his girlfriend (specifically that we have a history of racism and manipulation).
We want to welcome his girlfriend with open arms to our family – and we’ve been trying to do this. She is a beautiful and intelligent girl. When they’re ready to make babies – they will be so cute! 😛
However, today my husband and I are going to a counselling session. I’m not sure whether it is to work out strategies about how to deal with this situation – or teach us that we’re wrong. But it is at the request of this couple.
They haven’t yet answered my request for specific examples of what we’ve said or the way we’ve acted that has made them uncomfortable, to help us identify areas for discussion with the counsellor. Anyway! 😦
It means that in our discussion with the Counsellor, it will be all from our side and therefore unbalanced and if she only hears our side of things, she’s not going to fix us! 😀
Please don’t come back and rant at them – they’re young and trying to find their way (I guess). 😀 xx

RANDOM THOUGHTS by Trish

Hello again! Well, I’ve been on an up and down emotional roller coaster since early August 2015, when my beloved youngest son and his girlfriend thought to take offense at a comment I made on my Facebook page.

I was in a new town, having relocated from country Western Australia to NSW and was looking for a beauty therapist. Now there seem to be a large number of salons offering beauty treatments and massages here run by ‘Asian’ ladies and this was new to me. They seem to be particularly Thai in cultural background and one day I walked into a salon looking for someone to do a manicure and pedicure.

I entered the premises, to find several women and some children seated on the floor and sharing a meal or snacks. There was no sign of the typical beauty salon paraphernalia – you know what I mean? Products, seating…

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Bendigo Writers Festival 2016 – Eurocrime

Image for Tickets and refund information

 

I have just had the most fantastic weekend, visiting Bendigo and the 2016 Writers Festival, which, according to WIN Bendigo, had approximately 15,000 attendees. 😀

When my husband and I moved to the eastern states in 2015, one of the main reasons was so that we could enjoy these type of events (not on offer in country WA) and sure, I had to travel approximately 300km to attend – but it was worth it.

Books are my passion and right behind that is my aspiration to be a writer myself. To spend a weekend with like-minded people, listening to authors – mostly successful already, but also some newbies – surrounded by excitement and bustle and books was inspirational. 😀

Opening night was supposed to feature Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild – but she had illness in her family and had to postpone. With a theme of Brave Enough, the session was to discuss:

There are physical limits, and there are mental limits, both of which can stand in the way of creativity and our capacity to make the most of life.

Do you need to take risks to unlock creativity? Climb a mountain? Trek a trail? Or just force yourself to sit and think and keep your nose to that grindstone until it happens.”

The panel comprised a lighthearted crew of Ita Buttrose, Benjamin Law, David Astle and Graeme Simsion – and they were great.

Gsimsion-square-thumbnailraeme – author of the Rosie Project and Rosie Effect – and from an IT background – was funny, albeit sensible and practical.

 

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Benjamin – author of Family Law and now a successful TV show – is hilarious, very articulate and relaxed.

 

ITA

David-Astle

Ita – the Australian icon – came across as warm and generous; and then David – the word nerd – was quite normal! 🙂

 

So, I couldn’t persuade any fellow writers to come to Bendigo with me – I did ask in a couple of my writer groups on Facebook. It would be interesting to know if any fellow ‘nano writers’ were among the enthusiasts at the Festival.

The very first session with Liam Pieper and Victor del Arbol entitled Eurocrime was interesting and coincidentally Victor is Spanish and needed an interpreter – I’d attended my first Spanish class the night before and it seemed serendipitous that one of the first author’s I listened to was Spanish. A charming, funny and handsome Spaniard too, I must say! Even though we didn’t understand what he was saying – we were spellbound!

The ToymakerThe Heart Tastes Bitter

I’ve purchased the two books they were touting – The Toymaker (Liam Pieper) and The Heart Tastes Bitter (Victor).

Liam says his book is about ‘a Russian doctor, imprisoned by the Nazi and sent to Auschwitz and forced to work with Josef Mengle in order to survive; but how can he help perpetuate evil and continue life after war as a good man?

Victor’s three main characters face ‘the one thing that we as humans can’t experience – only face – death. They all lose someone and as a result do terrible things; can they find redemption? Victor believes that ‘self-redemption lies in not denying your own actions or mistakes. He also says that an American author would have (in this instance) all the characters forgiven by the end of the book, but he is Spanish; they have a more tragic sense of life.’

I read The Toymaker over the weekend – and it is a good read – it’s a ‘literary’ read; but I wouldn’t have called it a crime novel (at least in my interpretation of what I enjoy as a crime novel. War crimes are more political / historical concepts.

Over the next few days I’ll write up some of the other sessions – and I hope you’ll enjoy them. If you get the opportunity to visit Writers Festivals around you, go for it! There’s a lot to be learned and enjoyed; if you’re a booklover, simply being surrounded by fellow weirdos makes a nice change!

I’ve got Write about the Murray to look forward to here in Albury – coming soon! 😀

 

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Australia has gun control? Tell me another one!

I began writing this post before I noticed that it was 20 years since the Port Arthur massacre and then we had a few weeks of follow-up stories and remembering that terrible day; so I held off finishing this gun control article.

The news about guns still remains scary, so I’ll continue where I left off.

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It is often heard around the world – and President Obama has mentioned this several times – that Australia has achieved the impossible (as far as America is concerned). We have legally controlled use and ownership of guns.

And of course this means (ideally) that we have fewer random shootings, homicides and massacres. Yes, we don’t have mass gun deaths along the lines of those suffered by the USA and frustrating the hell out of Mr Obama.

Every day now though it is reported in the news, online or TV and in print media; another Australian gun death.

In this last week, a gunman shot and killed a ‘well known underworld figure’ and an innocent mother – drinking coffee nearby – was injured in a shopping centre in Bankstown, outside Sydney.

Remember the days, fellow Australians, when this was unheard of? I definitely remember one day suddenly (about the 80s) noticing that police were carrying guns and going “WOAH, when did that happen?”

And (after living in WA for the last 30 years) only noticing in the last five to 10 years that there was a more than occasional gun crime news report.

What I would like to know is – where are the guns coming from, if we have successful gun control laws in Australia?

After the Port Arthur massacre where 35 people were killed and 23 wounded – John Howard stood up and made it clear that this was intolerable and Australia backed him. National laws were created that banned certain automatic and semi-automatic weapons and required license applicants to have genuine reasons for owning guns. And he raised a tax to pay for a ‘buyback’ initiative to get as many guns off the streets and out of households as possible.

Gun crime and deaths did decrease after this initiative – and there is debate about whether this was going to happen anyway (as there was somewhat of a worldwide trend) or if it was a direct result of the new gun laws.

In any case, we don’t experience gun-related massacres on the scale that the US does, which is a blessing and kudos to John Howard and his government of the day.

Here is a demonstrative graph, borrowed from a Business Insider article online (http://www.businessinsider.com.au/australia-gun-control-shootings-2015-10)

Gun deaths in Australia

In red, before 1996 gun law enacted – 20 years ago this month that Port Arthur massacre occurred – and in blue after gun law introduced. Can’t be all coincidence, surely?

You can clearly see that there are still gun deaths, but apparently ‘mass’ shootings or ‘massacres’ technically mean four or more deaths in one event.

How then do we explain the regular occurrences of gun crimes reported in Australia every day? It worries me.

My husband and I have spent all of our married life in country Western Australia. I could see from news stories that gun crime occurred and was saddened that this seemed more of a regular occurrence than I remember it had ever been.

I felt safe in country WA though – from being randomly killed!

Now we are living on the NSW/Victoria border and the number of gun crimes I hear reported every day is scary! It does feel that I’m in more danger of accidentally being killed because of where I live. Just by moving interstate, I’m living dangerously.

I have even found myself in a coffee shop and looking around for the exits and wondering where I could hide, if a gunman walked in and resigning myself to the fact that under the table doesn’t work!

Sound like a drama queen, hey? Feel like a drama queen 🙂 The reality is that there are gun-death stories every day – and I don’t believe that should be right.

The link below is to an online article written in March 2016. It discusses the apparent rising trend in Australian gun crime

http://www.news.com.au/national/crime/scary-trend-in-australian-gun-crime-with-more-than-200-shooting-deaths-a-year/news-story/374b4e55fdbb1718079c36979245d50c

Violent crime; yes. We are human and humans are violent and that is damning enough. Why do guns come into it? They should only come into the picture for the following citizens:

  • Defense forces and nowadays, the police force; to do their job.
  • Farmers, perhaps. They occasionally need to knock off wildlife – destroying crops, carrying away chickens and sheep, etc. Sometimes, they need to put down an animal. City folk take the creature to a vet.
  • Recreational shooters; because yes. It is actually a hobby/sport and in Australia these recreational shooters have to go through very vigorous legislated steps before being allowed to own and shoot a weapon.

Who else NEEDS a gun?

In Australia, it would be pretty useful to have a gun for self-defense or to keep marauders away, but only in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse.

However, in America everyone NEEDS a gun and more to the point have THE RIGHT to own a gun. Due to some wording in their REALLY OLD constitution, that talks about the ‘right to bear arms’, which was highly relevant in a time when there were no regulated protection forces and citizens were often expected to form militia units to protect themselves, or fight for their government.

If you own a gun there is a higher chance that you are going to be involved in a gun related incident.

If a police officer approaches a criminal and has his gun out, there is a greater opportunity for a) the criminal to be shot b) the criminal to pull out their gun and shoot the officer and c) for the gun to be taken from the officer, and either he is shot or the gun is used somewhere else.

And it does seem to be that more people are killed by police officers, because the gun is available. If in doubt, shoot the perp; would be a natural instinct (whatever their guidelines might advise) particularly in countries like America were gun ownership is high and therefore the chances of coming upon an armed criminal are higher.

Just having the gun is upping the odds of a gun related incident. In the day-to-day duties of a policeman and ‘walking the beat’ wearing a gun is asking for trouble.Sorry police-people. I have great respect for you and don’t have to do your job!

Special police squads that typically carry; yes, I agree with that. Called on in particular circumstances. Or every officer having gun availability at the station, under lock and key. Okay, yes. If a major event occurs – such as said Zombie Apocalypse – then easier access to weaponry can be justified. Especially in Australia, where there must be a much lower expectation that you are going to come upon a gun-wielding criminal.

In Australia, at the moment, most gun deaths are suicides (see article link above) but the occurrence of gun-related crime is definitely increasing; as I said, I see it in the news everyday.

WE ARE STILL NOT COMPARABLE to gun deaths in America yet.

We don’t want to get there. It is not something to aspire to.

However, on a rather cynical note, our government has plenty enough to worry about. Like not changing over Prime Minister again, in a hurry! 😛

Growlers – and a Modest Woman

Lucky Bay Brewery

Do you know what a Growler is? Well, I thought I did – and it was embarrassing for this ‘modest conservative lady’ to think about.

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Growler 😀

In Australia, colloquially a ‘Growler’ is a very hairy bush. And if you still don’t know what I’m talking about – a very hairy bush on a lady! Got it now? No? Hmmm – lady parts, that are very hairy! I will go no further ….

A friend of ours has dreamed big and made his dream come true by opening his own Brewery in Esperance, Western Australia – Lucky Bay Brewery. You have to be impressed with this fellow – one day it was a dream and (seemingly) the next it was reality – simple beer from local barley. And it seems to be really ticking along – and is well supported by the locals – want to have a look? Go to https://www.facebook.com/luckybaybrewing/timeline

Anyway, there are many types of beers (says I, ‘guru’ that I am not!) and different ways of drinking and carLucky Bay Brewery Growlersrying it – glass, bottle, keg and growlers.

I heard about these ‘beer’ growlers from my lovely husband who has taken to buying these 2L steel canisters to give as gifts – particularly to clients that he is saying goodbye to, as we have recently moved from Esperance, WA to NSW.

Anyway, one day he’s talking on the phone to me and suddenly he keeps saying ‘growlers’! I’m sure that I’m mishearing him. And I’m giggling … like a girl! Like, hee hee! What are you saying? 😀

Eventually, I get it, but I’m not comfortable. I’m home alone (as he’s in WA) but I’m blushing anyway. And in all future conversations, I can only refer to them as ’growlies’ 😛

As I said, modest! And clearly, adolescent. It’s okay; I can take it!

Where did the name ‘Growler’ come from?
Well, I’ve stolen the following words from the article The Growler: Beer-to-Go! on the website The Beer Advocate, for some background. (See: http://www.beeradvocate.com).

  • In the late 1800s and early 1900s, fresh beer was carried from the local pub to one’s home by means of a small-galvanized pail. Rumor has it that when the beer sloshed around the pail, it created a rumbling sound as the CO2 escaped through the lid, thus the term “growler” was coined.
  • OR
  • George Bulvas III, brewmaster at Water Street Lake County Brewery, WI, suggests that growlers are named for the buckets of beer once given to factory workers before their stomachs began to “growl” from hunger.

So, I guess my husband will continue to buy Lucky Bay Brewery growlers – and eventually one might find its way home. They do seem a great idea and look very spick. And how does the beer taste? Well, next time you’re Esperance way – go and try for yourself.

Lucky Bay Brewery at Esperance Stonehenge