366 unusual things: days 219-223

6th August – Currently watching the documentary Shoah by Claude Lanzmann, all 9 hours of it, for an hour and a half each night.  Each night I’m also learning German online.

7th August – This morning I woke when it was dark and looked at my clock’s glow-in-the-dark hands:  6 o’clock.  After a long time waiting for the sun to rise, I looked at the clock again:  2 o’clock.  The clock hands, the first time, must have actually said 12.30 am.

8th August – Through my window I watched a man arrive in a black car wearing a black suit and very black glasses. He had a quiet conversation with two guys in hoodies, then opened his car door and invited them to get in, gently touching one on the back, a reluctant passenger.  The car moved away slowly.

9th August – A Superb Fairy-wren just landed on my windowsill.  Never seen this in the 15 years I’ve been here.  It’s female and looks like a fat flying mouse with a vertical tail.

10th August – Heard a story on the news about a Dalmatian breeder who also owns a newborn Dorper lamb which has black spots on a white-based coat (normally they have a black head on a white body).  The lamb’s mother has rejected it, but a female Dalmatian has adopted it, licking it every now and then.  The lamb has tried to nuzzle up to her udder.

Julie Bolton's dalmation has taken on the mothering duties of this lamb that was born with black spots

366 unusual things: days 214-218

1st August – Two people in my house eat apples every day.  One likes Pink Lady, the other likes Gala.  Whichever type is in the fridge, someone’s not happy.  If I buy Fuji or Red Delicious, no one eats them.

2nd August – The mother who wanted to get her daughter ‘moving forward’ (see my unusual thing of 27th July) forgot to send her daughter to me for her first lesson.  She was flat out, she said, and simply forgot.  Too busy moving forward.

3rd August – Some new face cream I bought says it ‘Prolongs youthful appearance with age-defying AHA’s’.  Aha!

4th August – At the local café there are two widescreen TVs on the walls of a small space, both set to a sporting match, not the same one, and loudish rock music plays through the sound system.

5th August – Watched The Diary of Anne Frank. (I’ve never been able to get through the book.)  I learnt that she wrote prolifically in her diary because she wanted to be a writer.  Indeed, she unwittingly became one.

366 unusual things: days 209-213

27th July – A new student’s mother, a public servant, asked me to help get her daughter ‘moving forward’.

28th July – Today I submitted two pretty colour photos (rather than black and white) and got more ‘likes’ in one day than ever before.  Clearly, more people prefer sweetness and light.

29th July – On the online German language course, I’ve been taught to say Orangen haben Fleisch – oranges have meat!  I’ve been laughing at this, but today my son bought a blood orange, tore it open and showed me its red flesh and red juice, the colour of blood.  The colour of meat.

30th July – Our local government has banned free plastic bags.  In the bakery today, I was asked to pay 20c for a huge brown paper bag.

31st July – Two weeks’ ago, I heard fifth-hand news that a guy in the Housing flats was torturing someone and was going to be taken away.  He’s still there.  Today, I heard fifth-hand news that he’s a victim of crime and the police are moving him to a safer address.  He’s still there.  I heard all this from a woman who heard it from a woman who heard it from a woman who heard it from the woman who works at the checkout at the local shop, who apparently heard it from the guy himself.

366 unusual things: days 204-208

22nd July – Began reading The Brothers Karamazov.  The three brothers are 20, 23 and 27, about the same ages as my three sons.

23rd July – One of my students had an alarm set for 5.17pm, the exact time of today’s sunset, the exact time she would be able to eat (Ramadan).  This is new to me.

24th July – Tonight I glimpsed an unfamiliar light, warm and yellow, in the gap between the curtain and the window. I went closer and found a horizontal crescent moon, like a Cheshire Cat smile.

25th July – Learnt that the three people who work in the local café are all expectant parents. Something in the coffee?

26th July – Heard an old guy telling a young woman that he was “pretty full-on as a child”. “I was reading before I was two,” he slurred, holding his six-pack tightly in the crook of his arm.

366 unusual things: days 199-203

17th July – Tried to sew four borders onto a quilt, two long pieces and two short.  I got two of them wrong.  That has to be unusual.

18th July – A friend told me about Cloud computing which I knew nothing about.  A line from Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now came into my head and stuck:  I really don’t know clouds at all.

19th July – My husband read my translation draft.

20th July – In a sports shoe store with my son who is at the end of a flu bout, I saw his skin had a sickly green tint and I worried, until other people came in and turned green.  It was the intense lighting, which was also giving the African-Australian shop assistant an intense headache (but not a green tint).

21st July – A bottle of truffle-infused olive oil tells us that “Over 80% of women describe the odour of truffle oil as very sensual.” “Close your eyes, inhale the aroma,” it instructs. I’ve inhaled it twice and found I belong to the other 20%.

366 unusual things: days 194 – 198

12th July – Every young guy who enters the Housing flat opposite me pulls a hood up over his head before entering, even if he’s already wearing a cap.  What are they hiding from?

13th July – One of my students just got engaged to a man she met 2 weeks before.  It’s an arranged marriage which she is accepting because she’s ‘very lonely’.  For me, this is unusual and scary.

14th July – In a café, a sign told me their coffee can be DeLITEful.  Why not write it correctly, since the pun still works?  DeLIGHTful.

15th July – Made Spaghetti Bolognese without mince.  Instead I added 3 Italian sausages and 2 rashers of bacon.  So good!

16th July – My son just married a girl who looks beautiful in every facial expression in every wedding photo.  How is that possible?  So joyous!

366 unusual things: days 184-188

2nd July – In an online German course, I’m learning how to say “The salt is bad”, “The man drinks oil”.  I looked at the equivalent French course where I learnt “My wheat is black”, “We eat butter”.

3rd July – On the other hand, the French course teaches:  “She has a black dress” and “I love you”;  the German, “You are a man and I am a woman”.

4th July – A Chinese student thanked me with a packet of tea from China.  I scooped some into my teapot, drank the tea, inhaled its fragrance, then tried to empty the tealeaves out.  They had morphed into life-size green leaves, like leaf-litter in the bottom of the pot.

5th July – Eating at a table beside the lake when a seagull (lake gull?) landed and walked up to my plate.  It had a black and white polka-dot tail,which is actually the white tips of black edges of white wings.

6th July – A friend told me that her husband cut her hair in the shower this morning.



On Saturday I posted a drawing of Millie, a little girl I’ve been tutoring for a few years.  Millie has dyslexia and has gone to Sydney for a while to learn how to read.  Her Dad, the artist behind the pencil and brush, also had dyslexia as a child.

Today, Millie’s Mum, Jackie, wrote the following piece about the learning disability, dyslexia, and about Millie’s time so far at the learning centre in Sydney.  If you’d like to contact Jackie, please click on ‘Contact Me’ at the top of the screen and I’ll pass your message on.

My daughter and dyslexia

Dyslexia is a language based disorder of neurological origin. It is completely independent of IQ. People with dyslexia have difficulties with the use and processing of linguistic and symbolic codes, alphabetic letters representing speech sounds, and numerics representing numbers or quantities. Dyslexics do not respond well to conventional instruction. It is estimated that up to 10 percent of the population have dyslexia. The impact of dyslexia on an individual’s self-esteem can be devastating – with dyslexic teens 20 times more likely to commit suicide than their non-dyslexic peers. My daughter, Millie, is 8 years old and has severe/ profound dyslexia.

As a mother, my heart aches for Millie every day. She is a sweet, compassionate, and social little girl with an IQ of 105. Unfortunately, it is often very difficult for her to demonstrate her true intelligence, due to the fact that intelligence is too often measured by the ability to read and write. As a consequence, Millie is convinced she is stupid. I believe Millie to be both smart and courageous. Can you imagine walking into a classroom every single day not understanding something and knowing that you are different to everyone else? To do that day in and day out and come home depressed, and then get up, put the boots back on and go back into that environment shows a tremendous amount of courage to me.

I guess our journey with dyslexia began some 2 years ago and it has been one filled with frustration, sadness, desperation and hopelessness. So, when I found a study which resulted in the growth of grey-matter in the left-hemisphere of the brain after 8 weeks intensive instruction at a learning centre in Sydney, I thought it was probably worth a shot.

We have been here for 2 weeks now, and progress has been solid but not remarkable. She tries so hard, but retaining the rules/exceptions of the English language has never been one of her strengths. This program is definitely not a magic bullet, but I’m hoping it gets things moving. There is no cure for dyslexia.

To date, she has learned the concept of the ‘bossy-e’ and is now familiar with ‘ea’ ‘ai’ ‘aw’ ‘ee’ ‘oo’ ‘oi’ sounds. I know that to most of you this probably sounds pretty basic and insignificant. Rules you were perhaps taught once or twice at school and were able to retain and apply. But for Millie – this is really quite an impressive step. She is still reversing her b/d’s but the learning centre expect that to stop within a week or two. I am very proud of her efforts and I have been told that she has made 4 months progress in 2 weeks??? Fingers crossed……

We are meeting up with the Director and Producer of an American documentary called “Dislecksia the Movie” either this week or next. They are in Australia at the moment, having a holiday, and are keen to meet Millie. Both of them are dyslexic and would like to share their own personal experiences with dyslexia with Millie.

Ailsa's Travel photo challenge: Art

Ailsa from http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/06/29/travel-theme-art/ proposed this week’s theme.  Thanks Ailsa!

This is Millie.  I’ve been tutoring her once a week for a few years and now she has travelled to Sydney to take part in a special program to learn to read.

Millie and I have something in common:  our Dads both like to draw and paint.  This week, instead of showing you my father’s art, I want to draw attention to Stewart McDonald’s art.

He draws like this:

Stewart McDonald, “Millie”, graphite on Arches paper

And he paints like this:

Stewart McDonald, “UntitledF”, ink on Fabriano paper

You can see more, and perhaps even buy originals or prints of his works, here:


366 unusual things: days 169-173

17th June – A church sermon was illustrated with a Renaissance sculpture of the devil tempting Christ:  the devil is bent-nosed and bald;  Christ is straight-nosed, long-haired and bearded.  They are both white.

18th June – Out for a walk, I passed a flock of ground-feeding sulphur-crested cockatoos.  One took off and flew close to my ear, squawking.  Almost deafening.

19th June – A man and his 10 year-old daughter went past on a bike – him riding and her standing on the bag rack, her hands resting on his shoulders.

20th June – At a closing-down sale of a large store, I was sold a cardigan by a fifty-something saleswoman.
“Are you a member?” she asked.
“Would you like to become a member?”
“Ah, no….”
She shrugged.  “We have to say it.”

21st June – On this winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, it’s very cold and blowing a gale, yet a few women are outdoors in strappy tops.