After yesterday’s post about being busy, I scanned the diary to check what else has been happening this last month. I was struck with the number of “nice” things I have been involved with recently. A couple of these are due to my good friend Jay. Many of you will have met her from the travel posts when we went to Europe together in 2013 (which seems like yesterday).
One of the events was a trivia night to raise money for CareWays Community. By contrast, the second was to raise money for an order of Orthodox sisters from Minsk, Belarus, who look to the needs of handicapped children there. It was hosted by the local Serbian Church. One of the nuns had travelled to Australia, and, in amazingly good English, shyly talked to us of their work. She had a tiny market stall filled with hand-made folk items and the nesting matryoshka dolls. We also watched a film of the hospital, now a care home. It was recorded in Russian and voiced-over in Serbian, so we mostly looked at the vision – although I once was able to speak the language, after a fashion. Her visit prompted me to dig out my old scrapbook of a tour to the USSR in 1978. I clearly remember arriving in Minsk to find the place in preparation for a visit from Brezhnev. The second photo is the Mound of Glory memorial to Soviet Soldiers of WWII. I have other photos taken as we walked up to it, and up, and up, and finally – in a “where are they now?” moment, there is a group shot of my travel companions standing underneath it. All the photos have discoloured with age . . .
It was also Jay who brought to my attention that the local TAFE (Technical and Further Education) college offers hair and beauty treatments at next-to-nothing cost. My hair grows so fast it is always in need of cutting, and I am between hairdressers at the moment, so I put myself into the hands of a first-year apprentice. She did a good job, and I came back a fortnight later so she could see how it had settled down, and to give it another trim. TAFE goes into recess now until February, but I may seek out the salon she works at, and let her have another follow-up cut. I understand it helps lift the trainee’s confidence to have a regular model.
Talking about how to lift young people’s confidence, one of our grand daughters will be entering Year 11 next year, for her final two years in High School. She’s sending out signals that she is not looking forward to the transition. Without going into too much detail, Bill and I also visited her deputy principal this week, together with her mother, to discuss how best we can support her fulfil her potential, and help her enjoy these last days of formal school. I suspect a few academic “wins” would give her a big boost. She is already doing well with peer group activities. It was a positive discussion, and time will tell if it bears fruit.
One of my sadder activities was to attend the court case related to a young 36 year old woman whose life ended in tragic circumstances. Our lives intersected in her final two weeks, and while I did not meet her face-to-face, I was deeply affected by her death. Although not the cause, domestic violence was involved, and her partner was pleading self-defence. The magistrate did not agree, but she also took into consideration the highly-charged situation when bringing down the sentence. The only people in the courtroom were the respective parents and the legal personnel. Her parents, with whom I had not had prior contact, thanked me for attending. I can imagine in times like this, it is comforting to know that an outsider cared about your child.
It was writing my memoir (I Belong to No One) that drew me back into the world of domestic violence, although I am sitting way out on the periphery, and would prefer to keep it that way. It has led to me having the phone number of a co-ordinator attached to our local Women’s Refuge. It is difficult for the refuge to re-house the women and children. Britain may have retained its council housing system, but Australia’s has been run down significantly, and competition for private rental properties is strong. Landlords prefer more established tenants. Typically when a placement is found, it is unfurnished. This month I had the good fortune to buy a new dining suite that is smaller and better suited to our apartment. I tried for a month to sell my existing one on e-Bay, but not many people buy second-hand furniture these days, so when the ad expired I donated the old suite directly to the refuge. I prefer to by-pass donating to a charity store, which sells to the public, as this way I know it is going straight to the people who are in dire need . . . food for thought if you are in the same prosperous position of having surplus.
The attention my memoir drew in relation to domestic violence took me by surprise, as my focus was on the adoption story. The Post Adoption Resource Centre (PARC), a counselling service for those affected by adoption, established when NSW opened its previously secret files, celebrated its 25th Anniversary by releasing a video on their service, and I attended its launch. It is always consoling to attend these events and mingle with people who understand the trauma of adoption. And there is trauma, regardless of whether adoption has been the best solution in the circumstances. One of the hardest things for adoptees is to be told that they should be grateful, and that enquiring about their first family is a betrayal of the parents who have raised them, as if there is some limit on the amount of connection a person can feel. The statistics are that one in fifteen people in Australia are affected in some way by the practices that have come to be known as the Forced Adoption Era, so chances are, you know someone in this situation. Here is PARC’s latest video, a short five minute insight told from the three sides of the adoption triangle.
To round out a month of reaching out to the community, last Saturday I participated in a nursing home crawl with the Con Community Choir, part of the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music. Under the capable direction of our fabulously talented teacher Rachel Bate, we performed at three nursing homes, with transport from one to the other provided by the IRT community bus.
We sang a medley of Christmas carols, plus the Beatles Let It Be, the Joan Baez classic union song Joe Hill, and, just in case anyone was drifting off to sleep, we buzzed it up with a mash-up of two of Adele’s songs: Rumour Has It and Someone Like You. Here we are with our version of The Irish Blessing.
One final thing. We also fitted in voting in a local by-election. Took us 30 minutes, maximum, including buying cake from the little girl manning the bake stall, a breakfast of a bacon and egg roll from the big boys on the barbecue, and chatting to neighbours. Compulsory voting in Australia. That’s all I’m saying . . . well, and one more final word . . . my schedule included a one hour Skype call with my girlfriend in Texas USA who, ever since the US presidential election, has cornered the market in brandy – and is taking it in great quantities for medicinal purposes.