Ode to Olly Alexander

Well, nothing’s gonna hurt me with my eyes shut

I can see through them
I can see through them
I am drawing pictures I’m evading
I will not use them
I will not use them
Again

 

Vocalist Olly Alexander, of the British electronica trio, Years and Years, has described his song ‘ Eyes Shut’  as “a personal torch song.”

“It came out of a very depressing time. I didn’t intend for it to be on the album, but we started doing it live with just me on the piano and people seem to respond to it.”

I respond to this song. It is musical perfection for me, compliments the life stage I find myself entering.

Over the last 6 months, I have attended events of significance. The passing of time marked by a school reunion, a milestone birthday.

At both events, I found myself in tears. Sobbing on the way home from one celebration, public display of emotions at another.

I was never one to show emotion. I kept so much in for so long. But I welcome this change.

Everything used to hurt as I strained to keep my eyes open, fearful that night terrors would be more painful than  the reality of drawn out days.

It was a Saturday night’s milestone birthday  I ‘ think’ I heard through the laughter, tears and general revelry, the voice of an angel, Olly Alexander.

What I think I heard, lead me to return to the band Years and Years music yesterday at work.

This continued at home, song after song warmed up the winter chills that cloaked Sydney.

‘Cause I wanna be bigger than life
For you
For you

‘Cause I wanna be bigger than life
For you
For you

Yet on Saturday night, as this splendid voice pierced the party atmosphere, my tears flowed.

Upon reflection, familiar faces at school reunions and milestone birthdays  have a tendency to bring the past cascading back. Such events remind me of the heaviness I carried around for decades that consumed my ability to see with clarity the possibilities in front of me.

Nights such as school reunions and milestone birthdays also help to reinforce that whilst confronting the past has and will continue to be painful, I am travelling in a new direction.

The tears will continue to flow – I can’t stop them – and I don’t want too.

But eyes shut, eyes open – I have arrived in the here and now.

Would Justin Timberlake’s Brittany Spears break-up inspired number ‘ Cry me a River’ have been a more appropriate song to pen these self revelations too?

No, Olly Alexander and his Years & Years comrades are just what I needed to delve a little deeper into the never-ending process of self discovery.

Voice of an angel, thank you xxx

Resilience Personified

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For a number of years I have steered clear of the Sydney Writers Festival ( SWF)

But for some reason, this year, I glanced over the program. I’m not an avid reader, I write blog posts from time to time but I love story telling, and listening to accounts of lives well lived.

The 2017 SWF seemed a good a place as any to stumble across autobiographical accounts of unique life perspectives.

And so I found myself in the audience last Sunday morning at Walsh Bay, surrounded by other curious souls, for a one hour panel conversation with Ms Turia Pitt.

For those unaware of Turia’s celebrity, in 2011, whilst completing an ultra marathon in Western Australia, she was caught in a grass fire, suffering burns to 65% of her body. The sheer grit, determination and resilience this young women has shown, to get her life back on track, on her terms………..word fail me.

Last Sunday’s audience laughed, cried and sighed in unison, as Turia walked us through her life story. She made it easy for the audience to digest the pain, suffering and trauma experienced in the 2011 grass fire and continuing recovery, by her unwavering sense of humour.

I was captivated by her spirit from the moment she walked onto the stage, till the conclusion of the hour-long interview, when she graciously accepted offer from the audience to go for a surf and to drink a beer at the local pub with another.

Resilience personified.

When it was over, and our clapping serenaded her off stage, I left the auditorium and wandered aimlessly for about 10 minutes. It was an attempt to process all I had just heard.Surrounded by Writers Festival patrons, I remained inward in thought.

On Wednesday Turia Pitt featured on Charlie Pickering’s show ‘ The Weekly’ on the ABC. I happened to watch the interview. Again, I was mesmerised.

And yesterday, I got the chance to chat with my Mum- about the Writers Festival and the Weekly interview. My Mum has seen Wednesday nights interview and in a three words she nailed it ‘ Turia upstaged him ( Charlie)’

Yes, that was exactly it – Turia upstaged Charlie Pickering on the Weekly, and she certainly upstaged the interviewer on Sundays panel at the SWF.

She had upstaged us all….been through the unimaginable, refusing to give in to the pain and trauma that to this day, has capacity to consume her.

It was inspiring to listen to her first hand account of what it takes to live a life, not one defined by an event, gender or occupation, but by hope, strength, determination and love.

Turia has chosen the harder option, and as a result we are graced with the gift of her tenacious spirit and insight.

She is resilience personified.

Ode to Harry Styles

Those you know me well know my questionable taste in music.

Though I continue to age, the musical soundtrack that serenades me on my way has of late, gotten stuck, fixated on youth, beauty and a strong set of vocal chords ( height and killer check bones having sealed the deal)

And so it is that on high rotation I find myself listening to Mr Harry Styles. Song of choice ‘ Sweet Creature’. Also fond of ‘ Sign of the Times’ , and ‘ Two Ghosts’ and….whatever, you get the picture!

And I had to admit this fixation in public recently. I was at the gym, and my trainer, knowing my preference to work out to music by  artists who passed away in 2016- think George Michael, Prince, Bowie. offered to change the music.

‘ No, please don’t!’I whimpered.

‘ But you have good taste in music’ remarked my trainer

‘ Yes, but I do like Harry’

Then in an attempt to cover up this admission, I started over compensating with endless chatter, disclosing that Mr Styles’ album was to be the soundtrack to a June road trip , when a girlfriend and I would drive from Brisbane to Toowoomba and back again, with only Harry on the airwaves. I disclosed that my girlfriend, a mother to four beautiful children, and I decided that Harry would rock our world for the 4 day road trip, at the completion of which, the album would be gifted to her eldest: Ms Eleven.

And to you dear reader, I admit now that I lied.

I will keep the album , all to my greedy little self.

The grown adult in me needs to be reminded of youthful beauty, height, high cheek bones and a good set of vocal chords. That beautiful ‘ Sweet Creatures’, the Harry Styles of this world, do actually exist.

 

 

 

Ode to Hannah Gadsby

Last Friday night I travelled from Sydney to Wollongong for a night out. A comedy act that I had long admired was in town for one night only. I booked my solo ticket and caught the train South, smiling ear to ear.

A couple of years ago, I would have never have imagined it possible,  that a comedy show, in the Spiegeltent no less, would grace the Coal Coast. Culture, class and top-notch entertainment finally in the ‘Gong, some 15 years after I left…in search of just that.

Upon hearing of the Spiegeltent’s one month seaside residency, I made a pact with myself that I would support the event whole heartedly. I told any one who would listen that the tent was in town, and with reasonably priced tickets for world-class comedy and musical acts, it was a win win situation.

Perhaps in my heart of hearts, the advocacy work I did spruiking the event, was my way of making peace with my 22-year-old self, who had turned her back on the Gong for the UK in 2001, Who, upon return had lasted but a year before another move to Sydney. Always searching, finger on the pulse for the next comedy show, the next musical, the next music act.

But in 2017 – the Gong, Wollongong, proved that good things come to those who wait. Fifteen years of searching behind me, I was happy to be home turf.

It was the best night out. My Father, who had NEVER been to a comedy show in his life decided to join me. Hannah Gadsby was headlining.

It. was. amazing.

Did the show start with Ms Gadsby stating she was retiring from the comedy circuit? For good? I don’t recall when this remark was made, but I knew very early on that this was going to be unlike any comedy show I had seen before. My Dad….he was in for a ride!

Hannah’s voice controlled, measured and her delivery on point. She did not waver from a common theme thread though-out the hour-long performance. She was retiring after 10 years at the top of her game,  no longer prepared to withhold the personal truths erased from all accounts of her comedy shows, no longer willing to shield her audience.

But not last Friday – with conviction she barely stopped to breathe as she recounted story upon story that revealed deep suffering. From the audience, there was little laughter, her decision to retire was final and we would be free to make what we like of her daring, bold, often confronting stories.

Of course Hannah made us laugh, some cried, her brave account, her honestly, her smile and her generous insight was beautifully refreshing, enlightening, moving, above all, raw.

As we left the Speigeltent that night, John Farnham’s classic played loud and clear ‘ You’re the Voice’. Never had Farnsie seemed so fitting –  Hannah had come full circle, to an understanding of the power of voice, an acceptance of story, and a burning desire to for truth and accountability.

I thought about this show for days after, my Dad did too.

‘ Not all comedy shows are like that’ I told him on the car ride home.

But given the importance of what we had witnessed, the bar has now been set so high that Ms Gadsby, I believe it will be the first and only comedy show my Father attends whilst on earth. Perhaps too my search is over for the perfect comedy act. I’ve seen it – it was hard-hitting, it was Hannah Gadsby. It was in Wollongong, 2017.

So thank you Hannah – an ode to you. In your show you mentioned you have a soft spot for Nanna’s. One of my Nan’s favourite sayings, which my Mother recited at her eulogy in 2014 ‘ Thank you for being you’

Hannah Gadsby ‘ Thank you for being you’ – we need people like you to make up stop and think. And then have a nap.

Lest We Forget

Four years ago, I heard for the first time the story below, as told by my Grandfather, one of his experiences of World War 2. It was a story he would often revert to until his death in February 2015. In his final years he became very teary, almost childlike and he became stuck on certain themes…the war was one of them.

Both my Nan and Grandfather have now passed on but one of my proudest Anzac Day memories was accompanying my Nan along George Street in the March in 2007. I held back tears – Nan was legally blind and managing crippling pain for a bone disease with endone, yet one foot in front of the other – we marched in time, hand in hand, bag pipe music serenading us down the street. So proud.

And my Grandfather, the private man, who held so much in, told me the story below on the 25th April, 2013.

 

Catch Up With A Mate

 

My Grandparents- Bruce and Joan Gibson- True Anzacs xx

My Grandparents- True Anzacs

Anzac Day, 25th of April, 2013

My Grandfather told me a story about his war-time experience that I hazard a guess he had never told anyone. It made for a very special day, I felt honoured and privileged that he opened up to me and told me a tale that for 68 years had never had an audience….

‘ His name was Alton Neil Robinson….but we all called him Bill. He was a few years older than me at school and very intelligent. He completed his leaving certificate at Mudgee High School ( 5 years of High School). I only did three years of secondary school’

‘ In Bills civilian life, he was a very talented cyclist. He also had a passion for languages’

‘ How many languages did he know?’ I asked but I did not…

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Shaping Young Lives into ‘ Perfect Storms’

Any one who knows me is aware of my vivid imagination – I have a tendency to run off with it at times. Yesterday was no exception.

The end of another student internship program. Farewelling bright, bubbly twenty somethings, with hopes, dreams and burning desires to bring about change in their chosen professions.

I listened to Kelly Clarkson’s song ‘ Invincible’ on repeat as I churned through the days administration tasks. It was a busy but in between the emails, phone calls and filing I chatted to students as they submitted their internship time sheets, dropped of bags for storage, prepared for final exams.

Beat down on me, beat down like a waterfall cause I can take on so much more than I had ever dreamed

The noticeable shift in the student interns demeanour – a quiet confidence oozing from every pore, a new found belief and mastery of their unique skill sets, their gifts.  

I was hiding from the world, I felt so afraid I felt so unsure. Now I am invincible , I’m the perfect storm.  

The students recounting the challenges they had faced in the workplace and how they had overcome them. How the highs and lows had shaped them and provided moments of clarity.

Cause it’s being weak then strong. And the truth I’ve found, I have courage now, gonna shout it out. 

Teacher I feel the dots connecting

The mentors who had guided them for 12 weeks, the connections they had built and the skills honed. Many students told me of job offers, remote work projects they would continue upon returning home. I wanted to hug one student whose entire career path has shifted gears, who detailed plans to keep the momentum going upon returning home.

Yesterday was a most rewarding day. As with my imagination, I have glossed over the prickly bits of the 12 week program…. of course they were there. 

But I focused on the ‘ perfect storms’ I helped to shape –  future disruptors of industry, innovators and change agents. Students whose self belief has been injected with invincibility magic dust.

Thinking Out Loud

 

I have never been a fan of Ed Sheeran – maybe due to jealously. His song writing ability, musical talent and voice appear too perfect.

But today I have fallen head over heals in love with the song ‘Thinking Out Loud’- yes, that hit from 2 years ago, that has been played to death on commercial radio and racked up 1 billion views on youtube.

Prior to today, I loathed this tune!

But my work as a connector of students interns to Sydney businesses, lead to a working relationship with a music therapy organisation called ‘A Sound Life’. I have two young American boys bringing respite to the sick, the aged, the homeless, the addicted through music. It has been a pure joy to be part of their e journey – and it is only week two.

And so their site supervisor sent a video clip my way, of these two dashing young men, singing the infamous Ed Sheeran tune at the Sydney Children’s hospital today.

It made my day, my week, my working year ( well just about)

There is nothing more special that seeing a person engaged and connected with their unique talents & gifts, and for that to then be shared with others. It is inspiring, the joy contagious!

That is what I saw today….and as a result I am now an Ed Sheeran fan – never did I think I would see the day!!

 

Warning Sign

For me, one of the most attractive qualities in a person is vulnerability.

When they let down their guard, allowing feelings to bubble over – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Not a sign of weakness but strength. No longer is a person prepared to mask their sadness, loneliness, confusion – to go it alone in stoic silence.

For many a year, I stood in silence, unable to articulate myself in a world I found overwhelming and confusing. I flinched at the touch of loved ones, and remained tight-lipped even when surrounded by lifelong friends. I was a closed book. I felt misunderstood, and I was for I never revealed anything about my inner world.

In 2005 a colleague sensing my unease asked me point-blank ‘ You have never really shown your vulnerable side to anyone, have you?’ .We were out at Friday night drinks. I did not respond, I just ordered a double gin and gulped it down.

That was 11 years ago, I still recall that confronting question for at the time, it was true.

August 2016, and I am commuting to work in Sydney from the South Coast. On the train journey, I listen to my Mothers iPod to pass the time… And when I feel inspired, I write.

I have reacquainted myself with the band Coldplay, in particular the album ‘ Rush of Blood to the Head’ song eight’ Warning Sign’. I have been listening to this song on high rotation. Lead singer Chris Martin sings from the heart, lays it all bear for the world to know he is missing his lover. It is an achingly beautiful song, sung by a man who is clearly suffering loss and hoping that through song things can be mended.

It struck a chord.

Vulnerability in song form – it is ever so moving, ever so relatable. One connects with the honest tone of voice, the emotional turmoil evident in the lyrics.

It is an enabling song, about connection between people.

And that is what being vulnerable promotes – human connection.

No wonder I was so god damm lonely!! Why oh why Mr Martin did your song fail to break me in two, let the flood gate of tears unfold. How did I miss the bleeding obvious’ Warning Sign’?

Put simply, I  wasn’t ready to acknowledge my own vulnerability and was scared witless by this quality in others.

But now, different story. I have perfected the recipe for human connection – trust, familiarity, love, honesty & a desire to be present.

Ode to Alanis Morisette

‘ Jagged Little Pill ‘

I was listening to Classic FM Radio recently, and over the airways the broadcaster announced that 2016 was the 20th anniversary of the album ‘Jagged Little Pill’ by Canadian Artist – Alanis Morrisette.

20 years….It cannot be! Really?

After this announcement the song ‘You learn ‘ filled the airways and I sang– word for word.

I was 17 years old when the album was released and it changed my tiny world.

I played this cd on high rotation in my bedroom in Austinmer, expressing my repressed teenage angst – a mixture of joy, despair, anxiety and elation – through song form.

I was a complex teenager – a quiet girl, whose inner world was bleak but outwardly I shone bright, smiled and laughed often.

In Alanis I found respite – she was angry, she was despairing, bitter and twisted.

And oh was she was just wise – her lyrics profound! (keep in mind I was just 17!!)

And then there was THAT concert…..Alani’s first time in Australia, and she played to a sold out audience of teenage girls at the Horden Pavilion.

It was May, 1996 and you could smell the oestrogen in the air.

The voices of 20,000 off pitch voices overpowering our hero –the female voice of children of the 90’s.

She did not sing of happy ending and white knight rescues – she was angry, she had been betrayed by love and she wanted more from life.

I don’t know who came to that concert with me – I just remember it was an empowering night – I finally felt understood for the briefest of moments and it was liberating.

20 years on….I have found my voice. Some might say I am even more expressive that Alanis was back in the day!

At 17, I would never had dared open my mouth to say what I felt, to let alone discuss ‘my feelings’ ….but then I had Alanis as an outlet.

20 years on I remain fond of the angst filled Canadian Rocker who started me on this path all those years ago.

Ode to Ben Quilty


There is so much thanks to bestow upon Australian Archibald prize winner & Official war artist Mr Ben Quilty.

A recent guest on ABC television show, Home Delivery with Julia Zemiro- Ben came across as a great artistic talent, intellect and humanitarian- wearing his heart on his sleeve, sensitivity ozzing from every pore.

My Mum commented post show, in one of our almost dayly phone catch ups that she felt ‘ He looked tired’. She attributed this tiredness to Ben’s friendship with Bali Nine prisoner, Myuran Sukumaran and the suffering he endured whilst campaigning to save his life, grief experienced upon his execution.

According to my Mum, the loss of his mate had ‘Aged him’. I agreed. I felt that Ben had as an artist, more importantly, as human being, had suffered deeply for his art, his beliefs, his values. His genuineness, personable nature & belief in the inherit goodness in other making him susceptible to highest of highs, the lowest of lows.

Ah Mr Quilty there is so much to thank you for. Not only do I say thank you for highlighting the injustices of the prison systems, the redemptive quality of the Arts, shining a light on the suffering endured by military personal, physical & mental, and of the importance for positive role models for young people, especially young men.

But what I want to thank you for is for shining the spotlight on a book I believe every person that calls Australia home should read. The Secret River, by Kate Grenville. Well into my eighth year of employment at the University of Sydney, and this book had sat in abundance in my office since I could remember.

Hundreds & hundreds of copies, the official book gifted to all first year University students. The concept had failed to take off, hence an over supply of the novel, countless copies strewn in every corner of our student resource library. I had often glanced at the book, but it bleak front cover of misty grays and murky whites did not excite me.

But by chance a friend and I attended a literary event in Marrickville in late 2014. Arriving early, or so we thought, we headed to the pub for a quick snack pre show. We arrived back at the venue to be told we had nearly missed the entire event- only one panelist remained- Mr Quilty.

The panel was reciting a letter to a person they wanted to thank. Someone who had challenged their thoughts & ideals, or shaped heir childhood, directing and guiding them. Mr Quilty was thanking Kate Grenville for writing the award winning novel’ The Secret River’ …..my ears pricked up, time stood still..I was finally ready to listen to each & every word about this book-

” Thank you Kate Grenville for writing a version of White Australian history never before documented in a way that induced tears, shame and rage. A true account of white settlement. Thank you for not shying away from the blood shed, brutality, disease inflicted upon the indigenous people & decimation of their culture at the hands of the Imperialist. This is the story that is not accounted for in our school systems- glossed over, as if this land and it people, it’s stories are but 200 years old. Thank you Kate Grenville for giving a voice to our countries dark past, to a culture & a people, with stories & traditions some 40,000 years old”

I left the Marrickville Theatre knowing what I had to do. The next day at work, I scooped up 3 copies of ‘ The Secret River’, blowing dust of the covers as I placed the books into my bag. My secret treasure- I was finally enlightened & ready to delve into this novel.

My holiday reading had been decided- and I devoured the book in two days. It was a hard read, a book my Mum told me, she had not been able to complete due to the graphic description of the fate dealt to this countries first people.

But I share Mr Quitly’s opinion…and wish the University of Sydney’s vision that this book be a MUST read to all undergrads had been successful. The Secret River, provides a version of white settlement that deserves a platform. A big platform, all school syllabus’s a small step in the right direction.

That you Ben Quilty for your insistence I read this book. You are a visionary and agent for change on so many levels. You suffer for your art and I hope my thanks helps to make it just that tiny bit worth it.

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