Empty promises, empty cradles

Sorry for the bit of dead-air of late, it’s been a flat out couple of weeks. I’ve filled out about a billion forms for the kids, been trained at work to within an inch of my life, and been scanned and squished and prodded by sonographers.

But today I’ve a bit of a chance to catch my breath, settle in at home and reflect a little on the film I saw on Sunday.

As it happens, it’s taken me a few days to get my head around Oranges and SunshineBased on the book of the same name (it was previously called Empty Cradles and you’ll still find it under this title as well) by Margaret Humphreys, this film is both perturbing and heart-breaking.

The film is Margaret’s story, and tells of how she and her husband became instrumental in the exposer of Britian’s little known-about child migration schemes. Margaret not only brought this scandalous policy to the notice of the British and Australian public, but also worked tirelessly to provide the individuals moved from Britain to Australia with information about themselves and their families.

Many of these people were moved to homes and institutions in Australia without birth certificates or records of any type, and as such weren’t sure of their name, where they were born or even their date of birth. Many children were moved under false pretences, being told they were orphans, and that they’d be going to a better life. On the flip-side, many mothers were informed that their children had been adopted by a caring family (one who could better care for them) when in fact their children had been placed in state care, orphanages or on farms. Margaret’s work throughout the 1980s located parents that were thought to be dead, transforming ‘orphans’ overnight, and allowing for the most amazing reconciliations.

Emily Watson plays Margaret Humphreys, and does the most amazing job. She is smart, dedicated and incredibly strong. Her anguish is palpable, and her sacrifices obvious. The story itself focuses largely on two main characters – Jack, played by Hugo Weaving and Len, played by David Wenham. The lives of Jack and Len are changed by Margaret’s work, and they become her loyal friends and protectors. This is the most interesting role I’ve seen Weaving in for awhile, his intensity is gut-wrenching and incredibly genuine – your heart breaks with him. Wenham is his usual quirky self, a perfect fit for the character of Len who’s stand-offish, but tender. His trust is hard to win, but well worth winning.

Photo: Child Migrants Trust

I’m a bit unaccustomed to this kind of film, and don’t often offer an opinion on issues of ethics or politics, but this film really put a bit of fire in my belly. I’m still trying to work out how this type of government intervention was allowed to happen. I know that many people put forward defences such as – ‘It was a different time’, ‘different morals, different values’, or ‘it was in the childrens’ best interest’ but to me, in light of the damages caused by these schemes, they seem pretty hollow. The same kinds of defences have been offered to explain away the unforgivable harm done to Australia’s Stolen Generation – most of us now know that there is simply no justification for this kind of treatment of people.

What do you guys think? Is it enough to say we didn’t know any better at the time? How can we avoid the same types of things happening in our own day and age?

‘My First Monster Movie’

Ok, so Super 8 isn’t exactly my first monster movie, but I think it’s a fair hint as to the target audience for this particular film.

Matt and I went to see this film a couple of weeks ago, not quite sure whether we were going to see an adult film or a kids’ film. The cast were mostly teenagers, but the storyline seemed to be potentially quite gruesome.

As it turns out, it’s a bit of something of both, and it seemed to me to be a really nice introduction to the monster movie genre for a new generation, a real ‘My First Monster Movie’ experience.

Super 8 is the story of Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) a likeable young kid who’s in the process of dealing with the death of his mother. He finds company and comfort from his friends, a motley gang of young teenagers obsessed with film-making, busily creating a zombie film for an upcoming short-film competition. Their passion for film-making gives vehicle to some great amateur schlock-horror (my favourite kind!) and gives the kids reason to be out in the middle of the night. It’s during this midnight filming that they’re witness to the most spectacular train wreck ever…

I’ll pause here to say that in my opinion, this train wreck is the best thing about this film. I’d go so far as to say that this is the best wreck I’ve ever seen in a film…just the right amount of chaos, pyrotechnics, and carnage. It is perfectly timed, and incredibly believable. After it had finished, I wanted to go back and watch it over again.

As it turns out, the crash marks the beginning of a not very subtle military cover-up. The kids, and Joe’s father Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) find themselves squarely in the middle of some pretty serious monster madness.

Super 8 is a really fun film, and wonderfully reminiscent of films like The Goonies and Stand By Me, two personal favs.

I’m still in two minds as to whether Evan, who’s 10, is old enough for this film. There are two scenes that might be a little too much for him just yet. I think it’d be pretty right for 12 – 13 years olds though, especially if they’ve seen a few films in their time. In saying all that, in time I will most probably cave and let Evan watch it, with a little bit of censoring perhap. It really does seem to have been put together as a great introduction to the genre.

This film made for a perfect date night for hubby and I, and I’m sure it’ll get a run a few times through at home once it’s out on DVD. I’d recommend a look if you like monster films, a bit of alien action, and a fun boys-own-adventure storyline.

Have you got a date night coming up? What’s the plan?

A first with Faust

This opera thing looks like becoming a bit of a habit. I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing, and it certainly does seem to be a very cultured thing to do – I must becoming a bit more civilised in my old age. Further, there seems to be no shortage of performances in my neck of the woods, so I guess it’s all good.

Gounod’s Faust, by Melbourne Opera did seem to be a good first experience with a more traditional opera. You may remember that my first (and only other) opera experience was Victorian Opera’s How to Kill Your Husband – lots of fun, but I’d assume not exactly traditional. Faust on the other hand is a classic, a great traditional opera with a rich history of performance in Australia. This particular production was in fact performed to commemorate 150 years since the birth of Dame Nellie Melba, one of the greatest Marguerites of all time.

My good friend Roxy kindly made the arrangements for the evening, as part of her prolonged and delightful birthday celebrations. We began the evening with pleasant introductions to new friends and a quick drink and nibble at Collins Quarter, after which we eagerly made our way to the Athenaeum Theatre.

The storyline to Faust is dark, essentially involving a pact with the devil and compromised virtue. I’d imagine the opera could be interpreted very heavily. In this instance though, I wouldn’t say that the treatment was overly somber. In fact, in the earlier scenes it came across at times as quite operetta-like, most particularly when the chorus became involved. The stage was small, and full with costumed characters and colourful performances.

The second half of the show, scenes four and five became decidedly less frivolous, as the story moved away from romance and focused more squarely on corruption. It was a shame that there was a small technical issue, specifically, an organ malfunction (of all things) that took a little away from the intensity, but the actors picked the scene back up and regathered the audience quickly and without too much damage having been done. We all had a little giggle in the meantime.

Snuck a peak at the pit

The performances by David Rogers-Smith (Faust), Danielle Calder (Marguerite), Steven Gallop (Mephistopholes) and Phillip Calcagno (Valentin) were without exception impressive. I was particularly taken with Valentin (Calcagno) who, despite only making a couple of short appearances, came across as intensely passionate in his protection of his sister. His voice was spectacular. Mephistopholes (Gallop) was appropriately maniacal, his voice and his portrayal menacing, with just the right amount of charm to beguile. Margueritte (Calder) was endearing and her soprano quite superb (to my untrained ear at least).

Somewhat surprisingly, there were moments of humour in this opera, and it was entertaining throughout. Because I’m such a know-nothing about these things (at this stage anyway) I’m interested to see this production again, by another company, to see if it is always interpreted similarly or whether at times it is produced more dramatically by others.

Once again, a great night out (many thanks Roxy). If you’re interested, Faust is running until 26 June, and you can find details at Melbourne Opera’s website.

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Happy Birthday Eric Carle

I’ve been working this week with My Little Bookcase to help celebrate the birthday of a very special children’s author, Eric Carle.

By Eric Carle

Carle’s work is amazingly timeless, I loved The Very Hungry Caterpillar when I was a kid. My eldest son was given a beautiful copy of …Caterpillar about 10 years ago accompanied by a toy that I’d have loved when I was little, and which really brought the story to life for him. And now I continue to enjoy Eric’s stories with Oscar. Decades of enjoyment. Thanks Eric…


To help mark the occasion, you’ll find my review of Slowly, Slowly, Slowly said the Sloth on My Little Bookcase’s wonderful website here…

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A harmless obsession (?)

We all have our obsessions, our quirky little habits. I’m a list-tragic, I can’t do without them. For other people, it’s keeping their kitchen spotless, or triple-checking that the front door is locked before going out. These are the things that compel us and to at least a small degree dictate our day-to-day behaviour.

For Grace Lisa Vandenburg, her obsession is counting. She lives her life counting, measuring, and timing everything. For her, counting is both a compulsion and a means of controlling her environment. In many ways her obsession both constrains her and liberates her.

, by Toni Jordan is Grace’s story. It is a matter-of-fact exploration of someone who lives their life a little bit differently, a chance for us to get to know a bit more about an obsessive-compulsive and exceptionally intelligent individual. Grace is bright, and very funny, and through a series of chance meetings, in love. It is this romance; impulsive, passionate and quite out of character, that calls into question how Grace has come to live her life:


“…I looked in your fridge last Sunday morning. What’s with all the plastic bags full of stuff? I’ve never seen a fridge where nothing – I mean nothing – is in its original packaging. A fridge full of bags of onions and beans and God knows what else all in little individual zip-lock bags. Yoghurt, even. And all your drinking glasses have lines drawn across them, like glasses in wine bars.”

Seamus Joseph O’Reilly (a 19, like Grace) is attracted to Grace, but perturbed. He’s not quite sure how big of a problem this counting is, but he seems to be intuitively aware of a sadness in Grace. Predictably, Seamus is compelled to try and ‘help’ Grace:

“‘There’s a whole world out there, you know Grace. A school recital really shouldn’t be the best thing you’ve done in ages.’

‘It’s complicated.’

‘It’s not really. Prisoners in minimum security have more freedom than you. You deserve more from life that this.'”

His intentions are pure, his heart in the right place, but as you might imagine, not all goes quite to plan. Rarely are these things that simple.

This novel is quite beautiful, it’s compelling and pleasant to read. It is witty, but earnest, treating Grace’s uniqueness with the seriousness and respect that it deserves. Despite the humour used throughout the story, Grace is not trivialised. Likewise, Grace’s relationships – with her mother, her sister, her niece and Seamus are well developed and evolve throughout the novel. Interestingly, Grace is not the only one to change, far from it.

Jordan makes many local references, using familiar Melbourne suburbs and recognisable streets. Sometimes I feel a little culture-cringe when writers do this, but I didn’t get this sense at all whilst reading Addition. Rather, it really endeared me to the story and the characters. I could easily imagine Grace doing yard-duty at our local primary school, and having her morning orange cake at a coffee shop just up the road from me.

I found this novel a really quick read, it is straight forward in its language and narrative, without being flipant. The romance is lovely, and Grace is really likeable. I would recommend this as a great week-end read…best served with tea and a little peace and quiet.

Addition is Toni Jordan’s debut novel, released in 2008. She has since published Fall Girl, which is now on my reading list. You can find out more about Toni at her website here…

If you’re interested in reading this novel, pop into Kidna Books: 422 Hampton Street, Hampton or give Linda a call on 9521 8272, she’ll be able to fix you up with a copy.

Drumroll please…

Thanks so much everyone for sharing your favourite things this month! I loved all your suggestions, and particularly the fact that so many of your favourite things centred around simple pleasures…family, friends, and just hanging out with those you love in places you enjoy.

I’m pleased to announce, that Shauna M is the winner of That Book You Like’s June give-away.  Shauna, a lovely kikki.K 365 Diary will be finding its way to you!  Thanks to all for joining in and stay tuned for more little prizes throughout the year.

If you’d like to hear more about why the 365 Diary is one of my favourite things, you can read about it here…

Also, don’t forget to follow my blog around on Facebook  and  Twitter.

In the really-real world

I had a wonderful time last night at the opening of My 10 Crushes: An Exhibition of Oodlies. The work by Joi is so much fun, it’s bright and edgy and it was really special to be able to hear a little from Joi (in all her introverted glory) on how this unique show has come together.

The ten pieces that make up the exhibition have all been inspired by twitter-mates that Joi has come across over time, and proceeded to stalk. As such, the works are all unique, personal and narrative. In their own surreal way, they have a most endearing real-life personality at their core. To add to this, all the pieces have an accompanying interview (which you can find on the Oodlies site), so that you can find out more about why Sam has mouse ears, all about the carnival romance of Mirjam’s parents and Joi’s fascination with Bambi’s name.

Many of the ‘crushes’ were present and accounted for…interesting character each and every one, I can see why Joi was drawn to them (pun intended).

An absolute highlight of the evening was getting to meet a lot of people I have up until now only know by their Twitter handles and their faces by thumbnail. It was a treat to chat to them in real life and I look forward to following them closely through the twittersphere.

I really loved the ‘Munny‘ collection, lovely little creatures, and a bonus item that tickled my fancy were the Mooodlies cushions (created in collaboration with designer Mirjam Spronk)…I have a terrible feeling these would look amazing in my house.

The exhibition is on now, until 26 June 2011 at Gasworks Arts Park Cnr Graham & Pickles St Albert Park, VIC.

All aboard for Swing City

I was quite thrilled a few weeks ago when I discovered that my three-year old Oscar liked jazz music. I’m no aficionado, but I like a little jazz, and it most certainly makes a nice break from listening to kids shows, dinosaurs and super heros in the background, during the sometimes longish days at home with little Osc.

So, when I came across the link to Play School’s Big Jazz Adventure on Little Melbourne’s site, the timing could not have been more perfect. I bought tickets and this Sunday just gone, Oscar and I took ourselves off into the city for a Mum and Bub big day out.

As well as being a mini-jazz fan, Oscar absolutely loves Play School. This is a fixation I wholeheartedly support, as it’s much more age appropriate than the Ben 10, Star Wars and Harry Potter that he’s often obsessed with (the joys of having both a 3 year old and 10 year old in the house). Before the show, he let me know that he was particularly excited about seeing Humpty Dumpty and his Dad had asked him to say a big hello to Big Ted for him. Much to his delight, both Humpty and Ted put in an appearance, as did old favourites like Jemima and Morris.

Oscar was so engrossed, so enamoured with the whole production (the music and a stage set-up quite obviously Play School-ey) that he didn’t even move for the first couple of songs. He sat there, wide-eyed, mouth agape…it was, simply put, one of the best things I’ve ever seen. As a Mum, there is nothing quite like getting to see first hand, your child really enjoying something, really taking it all in. I was happy to see that I’d gotten it pretty right with this gig.

After a little while, and a few pokes from me, he started to dance and sing along with Teo and Rachel. The show itself was a really fun mix of nursery rhymes and more jazzy numbers, and both Teo and Rachel managed the songs beautifully. Oscar and I had made a bit of a list of songs that we thought we might hear, and many of them made it into the show. And, there was most definitely no shortage of animal noises and tea-pot actions for the kids to have fun with.

To top of the day, Oscar convinced his push-over Mum that a Humpty Dumpty toy (a big one, a big one mum!) would be just the ticket to round off this jazz adventure. It is now his new favourite thing, they’re quite inseparable.

I’ve got to admit too that playing with Humpty Dumpty on the train home made me very nostalgic…Humpty really hasn’t changed all that much since I was a kid. A bit of trivia for those playing along at home, Play School turns 45 years old this year. They must be doing something right.

In short, I can’t think of a better way to have spent my Sunday – thanks Mr. Oscar for a wonderful day out in swing city.

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Care for a cuppa?

I’m happy to say it’s very nearly the weekend, and a lovely long one at that. Perfect for reading, and cooking soups in my slow-cooker, and day-trips. It’s chilly and a nice big breakfast and a cup of tea might be in order tomorrow, and Sunday and Monday (or dear, sorry waistline.)

If you are lucky enough to be able to wander off to regional Vic, or if you’re close by to the ‘Rat on an average day, you might like to check out this most beautiful Ballarat cafe…

Cake Bakeshop

I’m an absolute sucker for a nice looking store and this cafe absolutely fits the bill. I’m told it’s an absolute dream for those with kids, very kid-friendly with a play and drawing area. They also stock a few really lovely crafty items like twine (oh I love twine), and cute paper cups.

The clincher for me is their huge range of tea. You might remember that I’m off the coffee, and that I get bored, bored, bored with ordinary tea.  Cake has the most incredible range of T2 teas, so you’ll be spoilt for choice. Plus I’m told they have CHOC-CHIP CHAI LATTES…oh. my. god.

Photo: A. Corden for Cake

I’ve fallen in love with Cake from afar, and will be visiting their blog regularly. Rest assured, next time I’m in Ballarat I’ll be dropping by for a tea, or two, or three.

You can find Cake Bakeshop at 30 Main Rd, Ballarat, Victoria, Ph: 03 5333 3384.

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Wine, chocolate, books, devine…

Last night I attended my very first book club meeting, and I’m excited and inspired. It was a perfect night for it, cold, blustery, wintery…I can’t think of a better way to spend a night like that than cosied up at a friend’s house sharing a glass of wine, a bowl of chocolates and a love of books.

After a quick chat about dates, venues and kid-wrangling, we got onto the important business of choosing which books to read. My god, there’s so much to choose from! Not an easy task narrowing it down to half a dozen – talk about being spoilt for choice.

After a little discussion, we decided that for this month we’ll read Room, by Emma Donoghue. I’m bracing myself – it looks a little heartbreaking. Donoghue’s novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year and is by many accounts a book to be read in one sitting (we’ll see about that). The blurb is enticing:

It’s Jack’s birthday, and he’s excited about turning five. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measure 11 feet by 11 feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there’s a world outside…

I am really interested to hear what the group thinks about it, it seems like a dark read, but I’ve also heard that Donoghue’s choice to write from Jack’s perspective allows her to avoid it being all doom. I can’t quite imagine how a story like this could be anything but devastating, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how Donoghue has handled the subject matter.

I’ll report back on this novel in a month, after our next meeting.

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