If everyone in the world did this…

As I am walking round my neighbourhood, I am always dismayed to see so much litter everywhere. Fast food wrappers, household refuse, the odd shoe, socks or even underpants (yes, seen this very morning in a lane way); whole bags of garbage, dumped by the side of the road, remaining there sometimes for weeks.

This is the sort of thing I see in the streets everywhere. You might not want to pick this up...

This is the sort of thing I see in the streets everywhere. You might not want to pick this up…

...But you might be able to bring yourself to pick this up. It's a crumpled bit of paper, in among the leaves and grass.

…But you might be able to bring yourself to pick this up. It’s a crumpled bit of paper, in among the leaves and grass.

The other morning, a shopping trolley full of rubbish had been abandoned near our local train station. It was still there, days later.

In public bathrooms, people scatter paper on the floor, instead of placing it in bins provided.

On the trains, passengers leave drink bottles, remnants of their lunch, or worse.

One day, at the university where I work, I saw a group of students sitting in a circle, where they had been eating lunch. They got up and walked away, leaving all their rubbish on the ground behind them.

At the central train station, Flinders St, in the Melbourne CBD one day, I saw a child aged about four throw away the wrapper to his snack, which his mother clearly saw but did nothing about.

Litter is polluting our waterways and killing marine life, making our streets dirty and hazardous, and hampering efforts to recycle as much as possible.

In the 1970s and 1980s there were campaigns against littering. “Don’t be a litter bug”, I seem to remember one going. We should revive these campaigns, because people have obviously forgotten.

I never litter. However, when I see litter on the street, do I pick it up? Sometimes, but usually not. It’s time for me to change.

And while I’m doing that, I’d like to start a trend. Wouldn’t it be good if every one of us, no matter where we lived, picked up one piece of litter from the street each day and put it in a bin? Think how much less trash there would be in the world then. It’s something that we can do with a minimum of effort and time, it doesn’t cost us any money, and collectively, we’d be doing the world a favour.

This is one of the rules I would make for the world if I could. This is my humble dream to promote peace. In a clean world, you can see and think more clearly, so a cleaner world is a more peaceful world.  I really believe that, which is why I have written this post for Kozo’s October B4Peace challenge at Everyday Gurus, which you can read about here. Another post I really liked this month, for its simplicity and honesty, was Claudia’s, in which she implores people just to be kind to one another. You can read her post here.

So wake up and smell the roses, like this one poking through a fence on my street...

So wake up and smell the roses, like this one poking through a fence on my street…

...and this one, a bit too high to smell, but adding its beauty to the street where I live.

…and this one, a bit too high to smell, but adding its beauty to the street where I live.

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Spooky little Monday morning

All year, I’ve been promising myself that one Monday, I would lie in bed until lunchtime, reading a book and thumbing my nose at the workaday world that normally rules my life.

Today, I did just that.

In an instant, my cat Lucy Locket—a main-chancer as all her species are—was up on the bed and ready for a daytime nap. Even the flash of the camera didn’t dissuade her. She was staying put for the morning too! I laughed when I saw this picture with the ghostly eyes—my spooky little cat was born on Halloween, so it’s her seventh birthday on Thursday.

Halloween birthday girl-to-be Lucy Locket gets spooky on Monday morning.  Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann

Halloween birthday girl-to-be Lucy Locket gets spooky on Monday morning.
Picture by Caron Eastgate Dann

And I did read away the rest of the morning. I’ve always loved lying on my bed and reading, since I was a small child. There’s something enormously decadent about it—yet you feel smug that you’re not wasting time, because you’re engaged with literature, after all.

What I’m reading though—oh my! It’s the wonderful novel The Luminaries, which has just won the Man Booker Prize for its 28-year-old writer, my compatriot Eleanor Catton. (I will write more on The Luminaries in a separate post when I’ve finished it).

For now, I am lost in this story set in and around the goldfields of New Zealand’s South Island in the 1860s.

While I’m reading, and the rain is falling gently outside, and the cat snuggles closer, the rest of the world has slipped away.

Odd Things I Own #1

My home is a sanctuary: when I close the door, I’m in my own private and safe world, shared with my husband and cat. I have all my books around me, plus a lot of quirky mementos, souvenirs and collectables. More than quirky, some of them are patently odd, but that’s why I like them. Here are a few of them:

Osbourne dolls

You’ve had a quick glimpse of my Ozzy talking-head doll before; now meet the whole family: Ozzy, wife Sharon, and children Kelly and Jack. These were sent to me by  a TV network to promote the reality show The Osbournes in 2002. They talk—or did. The batteries on three have worn down and I suppose I should get them replaced. Sharon still says “Shut the —- up and go to bed”, “The wicked witch has nothing on me”, and “Did anyone feed the dogs?”

Osbournes talking-head dolls

Lucky leprechauns

When I was a girl, my paternal grandmother gave me three little Wade Irish Porcelain leprechauns, which she said were lucky, but only if you had all three. They had red, yellow and blue hats. I took these leprechauns everywhere with me, through various countries, many houses and flats. Then, in 2000, a cleaner broke one of them, knocked the head clean off the red one, and the head had just disappeared. A short while later, I happened to look into the window of an antique shop, and there I saw a little red-capped leprechaun. He was sitting on a small dish, but no matter, I had to have him, and my set was complete again.

photo 2

Lou and Andy from Little Britain

If you’ve seen the British comedy show Little Britain, you’ll already be laughing at these plush toys of two of the most popular characters: Lou (right) in his fake-leather jacket and gold chain, carer to Andy, who’s only pretending to be in a wheelchair. If you squeeze Andy’s hand, he says some of his famous lines: “I don’t like it—I want that one”, “Yeah, I know”, and “MONSTER TRUCKS!”. And not to forget carer Lou’s “What a kerfuffle”. My husband bought me these two because he knew how much I enjoyed the show.

photo 1

Mini shopping trolley

This was sent to me by a PR company about 10 years ago to promote a shopping centre. It’s a perfect working model in every way. At the moment, I use it to house a mermaid doll or two (that’s a story for another day), but I always thought it would make a great alternative fruit holder in the kitchen.

photo 5

Coral and Lucy Locket

My cat, Lucy Locket, puts up with my odd possessions and knows which toys in the house are hers and which are mine. She’s not that fond of Coral the witch, but I love her. Coral is a handcrafted witch doll from Wellington, New Zealand, who was given to me by my lifelong friend, the New Zealand actor Yvette Parsons. Have a look at this clip of Yvette talking early this year about one of her current touring productions, Dolly Mixture, which features a strange lady of a certain age who loves collecting dolls…

As for Lucy Locket, she’s in this post because, by her very species, she is decidedly odd.  Someone who perfectly describes the oddness of cats is fellow blogger Goldfish from Fish of Gold. In a guest post on Merbear’s blog Knocked Over By A Feather, Goldfish said, “…all cats are whack-a-doodle. Every single one of them is weird as all get out. They may be insane in different ways, but all cats are completely deranged, and when you get down to it, it’s totally bonkers that we allow them in our homes.”  You can read more of her post about the weirdness of cats here.

LucyCoral

Shower cap cat

A present from my mother that is…well, just odd. But there’s something about it that I really like—its madness, I suppose.

photo 4

Plenty more where they came from. Watch this space…

I Feel Like Letting My Freak Flag Fly*

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, doesn’t it? Mystery novelist and academic Margot Kinberg reflects on how we change when we are away from home.

Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...

Living Other LivesIf you pay attention in Las Vegas casinos, restaurants, shops and so on, you see an interesting phenomenon: lots of people dress and act in ways that they probably wouldn’t at home. I’ve seen Elvis impersonators, people walking around wearing balloon hats, people dressed in costumes, and people wearing scanty, spangled clothes that I doubt very much they’d wear to work. Nobody seems to mind very much; after all, as I’ve been told more than once, ‘It’s Vegas.’

For many people, visiting places such as Los Vegas gives them an opportunity to live out fantasies in ways they can’t do in their regular lives. I don’t mean just sexual fantasies although of course, that happens too. Rather, I mean adopting a persona that one can’t ‘wear’ at home. Not being a psychologist, I don’t know exactly why people sometimes feel the need to do that, but it seems to be…

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How do you interview a hitman?

The news that one of Australia’s most notorious underworld figures, Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read, 58, died of liver cancer today, has prompted me to reflect on a series of interviews I did with him 10 years ago.

At the time, and then known as Caron James,  I was Melbourne Editor of Woman’s Day magazine. The story was to be about his wedding to childhood sweetheart Margaret.

At first, I was reluctant to do the interview. My editor asked me if I would like a body guard! I declined, saying it wasn’t that I was in any way scared, just that I had problems with the ethics of doing such a story.

Anyway, I did do it. I met Read and Margaret at his favourite pub in the Melbourne suburb of Collingwood.  He was personable and insisted on buying me a gin and tonic. Carefully, I called him “Mark”.

My interview with Mark Brandon "Chopper Read' and his wife, Margaret, in 2003.

My interview with Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read and his wife, Margaret (centre), in 2003.

“Aww, call me Chopper,” he said, “Everyone else does.”

I turned to his wife and said, “Margaret, do you call him Chopper?”

“Of course not,” she replied. “I call him Mark.” So Mark it was.

This was a true love story. Margaret had met Mark in a fish and chip shop when they were teenagers, before he turned to crime. They went out for a while, but separated. But she always loved him. She waited for him for decades, never marrying anyone else or having children. Margaret lived a blameless life, working hard and buying a little house for herself. But she never forgot her first love.

Finally, in her 40s, they got back together again, after he had married (then divorced) another woman in Tasmania and had a child, Charlie. Mark and Margaret had their own baby, Roy, in 2003 when she was 43.

After the Collingwood pub interview, I met them several more times, attending the launch of one of his books and even going to their house to see their baby. I witnessed Mark as a tender father and loving husband, and it was hard to reconcile that image with the more commonly known one, the violent criminal who spent 23 years in jail, during which he cut off his own ears.

His life of crime was covered in the 2000 movie Chopper, starring the excellent Eric Bana, which in turn helped take Bana from Australian comedian to big-ticket Hollywood movie star.

I guess, at the end of the day, you have to give Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read credit for being rehabilitated, for joining society as a writer, artist, performer. Cynics would have a lot of criticisms.

Tonight, though, I feel sorry for Margaret, who has lost a man, a husband, the father of her only child, rather than the mediatised “former hitman” and later “colourful character” as the media depicts him.

Nintendo president reveals why he doesn’t believe in staff cuts

I wish more businesses would take the Nintendo approach. Thanks to RocketNews 24 for this post.

SoraNews24

NES-controllerDuring a Q&A session at The 73rd Annual General Meeting of Shareholders, Nintendo President, Satoru Iwata, announced that he doesn’t believe in staff layoffs or downsizing during periods of economic difficulty. Particularly outside of Japan, it is not unusual for employees in the game industry to be faced with redundancies as part of business restructuring. However, while there are many possible reasons why a company may need to shed some weight, Mr. Iwata emphasised that he is strongly against such an approach.

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Roses are red, my love

A strange thing happened at my place today.

We have a fully enclosed courtyard at the back of our house, with table, chairs and barbecue. It backs on to a lane way, but there is a high roll-a-door which is the only access. We are the middle of a block of three, with a fence and lattice top on each side.

So, this morning, just near the back of the table and chair set, I found on the ground a fresh bunch of roses, still in its cellophane and not in the least bit wilted.

Rose 1From the angle they are in, it doesn’t look like they could have been tossed over the roll-a-door from the lane way. Now I’m wondering which of our neighbours threw them there and why.

In my mind, I have a whole film scenario playing out: the Bad Partner has bought the roses for the Hurt Partner, to say sorry. But the Hurt Partner says this is not good enough, and the Bad Partner cannot be forgiven. In fact, it’s over.

The mind boggles. I can understand how, in anger and sorrow, you might toss the gift away, over the roll-a-door and into the laneway behind the house. But I still can’t fathom why you would pop them over the fence to the neighbours.

Oh well. Now I am left with a perfect bunch of red roses. Do I knock on the neighbours’ doors and ask if they have “lost” some flowers? Or do I take off the cellophane, put them in a vase and enjoy them?

Or…is it one of those Candid Camera type TV shows, filming me to see if I keep what’s not mine? Or perhaps secret agents have mistakenly targeted me and planted listening devices in the blooms…

rose2

John Lennon —- conspiracy theories, a new photo and an imagined audition

What if John Lennon auditioned for The Voice? It’s true, these shows do foster a rather conventional idea of what a popular singer should be, a bit like saying that the only valid art is realism.

Bryan Patterson's Faithworks

John-Lennon-2297592

JOHN Winston Ono Lennon’s 73rd birthday today coincides with the publication in Britain of a rare Lennon and McCartney picture (above) taken a year before they hit the big time. The two were photographed in the summer of 1961, a year before the Beatles scored a record deal and became, well, rock and roll history.

MEANWHILE

A new US poll reveals that 12 per cent of American voters believe the government was engaged in the assassination of Lennon.

This supports the theory that you can get 12 percent of people to agree to just about anything.

MEANWHILE

Some smart cookie imagines what would happen if a young Lennon auditioned for The Voice.

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The letter you don’t want…but know you need

I got a letter today. My name and address were hand written (slightly erroneously, but no matter) and it felt like there was a card inside: perhaps an invitation to something interesting?

Eagerly, I tore open the envelope and found… a reminder from my dentist to say it’s six months since my last appointment. Boo!

dentistOn the bright side though, it’s not really six months. It’s a trick I played on myself. I asked my dentist’s receptionist to send me the reminder two months early because a) It takes me that long to force myself to make an appointment and b) I really should go three times a year, for the health of my gums. If I go before the end of the year, I will have been three times this year.

BUT. I. AM. NOT. GOING. IN. OCTOBER!

Position vacant: journalist. (Journalists need not apply)

I came across a job advertised online this week in which a website for sports fans was seeking a journalist to write for it. Read on, though, and you are told the successful candidate “WON’T have any professional journalism experience or qualifications” (my emphasis).

Yet, in another paragraph, it says the successful candidate is  probably already doing this journalism in their “free time”. If you get the job, you will “Write articles, generate discussion, host forums and use the…platform to grow your online following and generate copious amounts of discussion around a topic we all love. SPORT.”

To me, all those things constitute journalism in some of its many and varied forms today. What they really mean is that you must never have been paid to write. Pity if you’ve had to make a living in the meantime—but I digress.

The great irony is that this job pays—not much, but $10,000-$20,000 a year “OTE” (which, as I’ve discovered after seeing it in several job ads, means “on target earnings”, traditionally used for sales positions as a guide for what the company thinks you might be able to make).

Given that you’re never to have been paid for any journalism, wouldn’t the first story you wrote for the sports website actually then preclude you from continuing with the job? Anyway, it would disqualify you from getting another such job, since you are now a professional journalist.

I agree that in the digital world, you don’t necessarily have to have trained and been paid as a journalist or to have formal qualifications in journalism to practise journalism. There are many great aspects of citizen journalism that I like—and certainly, it cannot be ignored.

But I wonder what it is about journalists or people who have studied journalism that this company so dreads? They have a very old fashioned idea of what a journalist is or is not: these days, the term “journalist” has a very broad application, and can’t be easily delineated.

And what is “professional journalism”? For example, if you write a blog and you get free tickets to a concert, or a free book or meal for review, technically, you are being paid for writing. Does that mean a blogger who has accepted one freebie couldn’t apply for the aforementioned job?

What nonsense.

Journalists are among the most adaptable people I know. If the job requires them to write like a fan, they’ll write like a fan. You CAN be a sports fan…and one of those dratted  journalists, too, amazingly.