National Simultaneous Storytime

NSS 2017 Web page banner_0Splat!

Don’t we all love that sound? In fact, anything onomatopoeic, combined with a melodramatic dose of disaster, is enough to have kids and the rest of us cracking up like nobody’s business.

Wednesday, 24th May was the Australian Libraries’ rippingly fun (and nonsensically simple) kids’ event – National Simultaneous Storytime. Eek. I love a great children’s story. Even more so, I love reading stories aloud. Call me ever so slightly embarrassing, but I’m known to do it alone in the privacy of my own backyard. Solo. By myself. With no one listening. Except me…and the characters, of course. And maybe an occasional gecko.

This year’s story is by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Laura Wood. There’s more than enough “splatting” in The Cow Tripped Over the Moon for a whole school’s worth of audience to get a laugh. So it’s a good thing the whole school was brought in to enjoy this ‘behind the scenes’ gawk at a classic nursery rhyme. Along with children in schools and libraries all over Australia, at 11am one autumn morning, National Simultaneous Storytime went off.

St Cecilia’s Catholic Primary School loved this cow. Hope you do too.

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Extraordinary Community

Welcome to Hedland self
Hi-vis MC duties

On the first chilly Friday night in May, Port Hedland invites the whole town along to celebrate something rather special.


In honour of this remote dichotomy of fit in or fly off, last night I fitted into a bit of my favourite high heels and high fashion meets high-vis and hosted “Welcome to Hedland” for the Town. I hope I did Alannah Hill proud. Not to mention this particular Pilbara place that I fell in love with seven years ago.

I adore this annual event for its spirit, its open heart and its simple message: Strangers knock and someone always runs to open the door. There’s a  joke in the north west that you don’t need to wait 25 years to be considered a local. It’s more like two weeks. And that’s stretching the truth. All you really need to do – which I forced my shyness to defy – is to accept the phone number of the local ___ (read soccer club, gardening group, art association) rep. who happens to invite you out for coffee the next day, around the corner, up the street or at one of Port Hedland’s five coffee shops. And, voila! You’re home. It’s not for everyone, but it is for so many tenuous arrivals I’ve lost count. Some people have been here a week, some more than 40,000 years. And it’s all in the choosing.

Welcome to Country
Welcome to Kariyarra Country!
Home Hardware’s Gloria Jacob stands tall and proud.

Funny thing is, by saying yes to human connection, I think I’ve had more coffees in my life in Port Hedland than anywhere else. Local friends will note the irony. Yes, it’s true they cost a dollar more, but they are made with a wink and a smile.

Welcome to Hedland, 2017 saw more than 70 stallholders spruik clubs, associations and connective activities beneath a stunning autumn night sky. Perhaps I’m just excited because I felt that rippling chill on my shoulders at about 8pm for the first time in nine months. Oh, and then the goosebumps really came because I knew it meant winter was on its way. And then I was thrilled to remember that this means the days will soon only reach 27 degrees Celcius – and I can wear boots. Boots!

When I’m not in my thongs.

If you’re new to Port Hedland, welcome! If you’ve never been, do it like I did: Have the question posed – “Should we move to that hot, red, dusty mining town, Port Hedland?” Answer in expletive horror. And do it anyway.

Niki and Elise
Num num Dim Sum with Niki White


Someone will open the door and tug on your heartstrings.


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Cheers to the Mother’s Day Classic, 2017

outfitIt’s more than a privilege being asked to host the Mother’s Day Classic on the second Sunday morning of May each year. It hits me in my core, beneath my two breasts where mum only had one.

Today in Port Hedland, this remote coastal town yet again proved what love, passion and compassion there is in the community by thinking pink and hitting the track to run rings around breast cancer.

My own mum, beautiful Beth, was diagnosed at 39 and had a single mastectomy. For me, this means I am on borrowed time and grateful every day for my health and the increasing percentage of those with five year survival. Early on in her journey, Beth began a steadfast relationship with cancer; she’d call it her friend. Friend.

Might as well work with it, than against it, she reasoned.

I was blessed to have my mum around for a further 20 years following this initial diagnosis, after which she and her friend joined the sky. I’m sure Mum’s up there doing Meet and Greet at the Pearly Gates, and taking newcomers to town to visit Heaven’s version of “The Dangenongs”, as was her wont throughout our Melbourne years.

IMG_5611The Mother’s Day Classic in Australia has been running for many years and Port Hedland, in WA’s Pilbara, is now done and dusted with its eighth. The National Breast Cancer Foundation continues to thrive with its medical research into prevention, treatment and cure for a cancer that affects one in eight in our country. Perhaps our Pilbara event is not as remote as that held in Antarctica, but today’s drew in a colourful crowd of more than 500 good, pink folk, a colourful bunch of flowers and an even more colourful troupe of Australian Army soldiers cranking out their hike with 25kg packs. Nice work, fellas; you’re free to fan yourselves now!

Thanks to the Town of Port Hedland for having me.

Happy Mother’s Day. #MDC2017

Here’s cheers!

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When (If) I grow up

IMG_9672When I grow up, I would like to write scripts. Last year I began with a script for a ballet school’s production called, “Something about a girl who goes into a dream and she wakes up and discovers her true self”. Aka The Music Box by JaBaT Dance. It was utterly liberating, thanks to principal teacher Janine Felt.

You see, as a person attached to a pen for most of my life, I am still finding my love of words in myriad genres, yet still not through one in particular. Through this script, however, I discovered that I rather like the format of a script: Its simplicity in structure contains onomatopoeic, wild abandonment. Its formal sensibility is protective. The potential for chaos within abounds. All built around steadfast, sturdy symbolism, fugue-like, figurative and fanciful all at once. Or at best. brevity and the hint of transcendence. Making hard look easy. Like a Torvill and Dean Bolero. And I continue to dream.

So, having put it off for weeks, due to more than a smidge of confounding anxiety, I meshed together a simple musical today…this afternoon. It’s not rocket science, but it filled the nooks and abandoned crannies of my creative self. And now I believe I have the seed of a starting point of not-quite-exactly or anywhere near my hero Tim Minchin. but a…thing.


So let’s see what happens when I take it to a school.

My school.

And see.

Mug courtesy Roald Dahl…


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My story

I buy diaries. Journals. Empty books. I buy paper with lines. If you have ever been, or are someone who does this, I’m with you. Stood in front of the stationery aisles of countless newsagents and smelt the…smelt the…smelt the ‘illusion of solidity’.

Australian writer, bitter-brained and brilliant, Patrick White coined this too true phrase.

For surely, if I write words, from the unbridled and elusive parts of my self, I will, in essence, ‘be’. Like some quantification, some permission given, that one’s stamp is authentic. Precious. And, somewhat like Schrödinger’s cat*, both alive and dead at once, the moment one shows one has written, one proves that one need not have written for an audience in the first place. That one is, in fact, the writing. As I always was. As we are.

And so here is my journal. Again. Again, again. Again, again, again. And that I have actually realised that, much again like quantum irony, in writing for an audience, I am released to write for myself.

So, read or not. I am here to leave a mark, if only for myself. My story.

* This is my cat; his name is Schrödinger.

Schroedinger, cat

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Andy Warhol – Ai Weiwei at the NGV

Melburnians, and those visiting this hub of whirlwind culture and weather, have an incandescent kick up the pants in store if they visit the National Gallery of Victoria right now. Andy Warhol’s in da house with Chinese photographer Ai Weiwei and it’s something else.

IMG_3085Now, by ‘else’, I mean different things for different participants. To tell you the truth, I’ve never necessarily been a Warhol fan myself. Lots of garish Monroes, Elvises or Campbell’s soup cans have never truly floated my boat. I figured anyone, even the sketchingly sketchy moi, could pull off four quarters of garish colouring in a year 3 art lesson. But over the two hours plus I meandered through the hallowed pop art halls, a couple of realisations dawned.

  1. Warhol’s existence, philosophy of self and the universe, was channelled through art, though artistic reflection. Not so much did he seem, to my eyes, a conduit or shaman through which masterpieces evolved; rather, he could only be, or understand his being, as it was art. In this light, I was particularly taken with his massive self portrait head-shots. These were at once his “art” and his “self”. Moreso,  Warhol wasn’t necessarily creating them to be artistic, but in order, in fact, simply “to be”. And in its most personal, intrinsic expression of being by a notoriously shy man, how ironic a two metre square selfie is, indeed!
  2. Irony itself seemed at the heart of much of Andy Warhol’s work. Crass, monotonous or lurid reflections of culture and society were ultimately reflections on its crass, monotonous or lurid reality. From the short film, “Blow Job”, to the eight hour footage of the Empire State Building, from a humdrum soup can to an artistic series of monstrous Chairman Maos, irony propelled his work into an unsuspecting culture. And we gobble it up.

IMG_2931I did love wafting about with the shiny, levitating birds and silver pillow clouds. I wasn’t the only adult in the hallways lightly tapping these strange helium creatures, commenting on how therapeutic it felt to move with the push and drift about us.

Ai Weiwei’s capturing of the human in communist China and New York is stunning. Like Warhol’s work, that which is ironic and testing cultural norms pervades Ai’s. Yet as the child of artists in the time of Mao’s cultural revolution, his art, as with his father’s, is the ultimate in political defiance. Video footage sharing Ai Weiwei’s fears for his safety as the government watches his every move is a brittle truth. And the photo of his wife flashing her knickers in front of Mao’s giant statue, crowds oblivious, is a gesture to the obscenity of self expression through art as criminality.

IMG_3047What else? Well, who else? I brought my kids along for the ride. Maybe I thought they’d dig the flashy colours or believe anything is possible if you can be world famous having painted soup cans. Alas, neither option convinced them. But they absolutely loved the children’s exhibition set up specifically to showcase Ai Weiwei and Andy Warhol at an interactive level. So we jostled, giggled and pulled ridiculous faces in the Warhol montage photo booth. We made pet cat videos to email out to random, unsuspecting friends (apparently Ai Weiwei has 20 in his studio. Cats, that is, not random friends). And, above all else, we immersed ourselves in the nature of art.

And that’s what it was about. And that’s what thrilled and challenged me: thinking about art.

IMG_3098That, and the fact that, having stared at Ai Weiwei’s metres high collage of flower arrangements in a bicycle basket, I still failed to see the actual bicycle sitting right in front of me the whole time until my sister pointed it out. Top marks, Elise.

See, always something to discover.