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- New Zealand Calm: Wordless Wednesday February 20, 2019
- Abundant Nature in the Upper Reaches of the Nile: Nature: Lens-Artists Challenge February 18, 2019
- The Choke: A Book Review February 18, 2019
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- Weddings in Egypt: Travel Thoughts 7 February 14, 2019
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I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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On a tour of ancient Egypt it was an unexpected delight to have the opportunity to go bird watching in the upper reaches of the Nile. In earlier days the Nile periodically flooded but since the building of the first dam at Aswan and then the large dam that goes for miles and wiped out the home of the Nubian people flooding is now a thing of the past – it doesn’t happen very often these days. I imagine the tyre is evidence of a water level of the past. The Rock doves, a precursor to the modern pigeon, have taken advantage of the boulder to roost.
Virtually every sitting surface in the Nile at this point had something resting or wading. The pied kingfisher was immediately recognisable as a kingfisher but I doubt he laughs like our kookaburras.
Common gulls and ducks mix together in the shallows.
The common teal duck is not so common to me.
A colony of ducks (not sure of the type) take advantage of a sandy island in the river.
When the birds were too far away to identify the surrounding scenery was spectacular.
Sadly rubbish sits where the Grey heron and other birds search for food.
Another heron sits on a boat.
Are they homes or archaelogical digs?
The desert meets the water. Donkeys graze on the small amount of greenery beside the river. A delightful sight.
A quick wander through the botanical gardens.
Trees I’ve never seen such as the floss silky tree from Argentina.
and a flowers I didn’t have the sense to record their names.
Out to dry.
Some beautifully coloured birds . Does anyone know what they are?
An egret. So many birds in such a short space of river. Wonderful nature.
In response to Patti’s prompt for the lens-artist challenge
Often when I read an award winning novel I wonder why did the judges choose this novel, what did they see in it that I didn’t. I had no such thoughts with Sofie Laguna’s novel The Choke, which won the 2018 Indie Book Award for Fiction. Her previous novel The Eye of the Sheep won the Miles Franklin Literary Award – I’ll look forward to reading it.
The Choke is set in rural Victoria on the Murray River. All the adult characters are dysfunctional but we meet them through the eyes of a child, ten year old Justine, who is, if we were classifying her, a neglected child child growing up on her Pop’s three acres, and she loves all the adults in her life, seeing only good in them. Through her voice we learn why the adults are the way they are – Pop a survivor of the Burma railway in WWII, Ray – her father- who lost his goodness when he saw his own mother die, Ray’s sister Rita – a lesbian that is shunned by the rest of the family, the cousins living a gypsy style of life and ex wives of Ray.
Laguna’s description of place puts you in it. ” Soon we came to the trees, their trunks as wide as bulbs. You could see the roots above the ground, trying to cover every direction. The branches moved slowly. Their bark red and pink and cream, peeling back, showing the bones. Their leaves silver-green in the grey light.” Laguna’s mental descriptions put you in that head space as expertly as her descriptions of place. We know and feel how the characters feel.
From the beginning we know something bad is going to happen. The tension builds. Justine is made to sit with a disabled boy and they form a friendship which is to teach Justine the value of friendship and that there is the possibility of a different type of life. The disabled boy’s family are like the light in the story where Justine’s family is the dark side of life. When the family leaves town to move to Sydney for their son’s education my heart sank as I thought all hope for Justine had just left town. In a way it did.
Through a horrendous set of circumstances something that would normally fill us with misgivings gives both Justine and us hope for the future. An uplifting ending. I have to admit I would like to know what the outcome is ten years on for Justine but at the end – definitely hope.
This was a book that dealt with many issues – dyslexia and homosexuality being only two of them – I’m not saying more because I think that gives too much away. Would I recommend you reading it – YES. This is another book that I think should be on the school reading list and indeed everyone’s reading list. When I started reading I couldn’t put it down. I had to know what happened and although I had surmised a number of scenarios I was wrong on each count. A good book to get a feeling of Australia but the issues I believe will resonate with everyone no matter where they live. Definitely worth a read.
Every night we were on land in Egypt we experienced a wedding. It made us interested to know what the traditions are in Egypt regarding weddings as the couple above arrived at the reception venue a long time before the guests. The ceremony itself is a simple affair and only a few people are in attendance. For a wedding under Islamic law often it is just the groom, the bride’s father and an iman from the mosque. The bride’s father speaks for the bride. For Coptic Christians a church service is held.
After the ceremony family and friends gather to celebrate the marriage. For the wealthy they often have receptions in large motels.
The guests would gather. The married couple would then arrive to someone making a blood curdling chant as heard in the video below.
All the brides looked happy bar the one we saw in Alexandria. I took no photos there because it didn’t appear to be a happy occasion. On the way back to Cairo we asked our guide about marriage and he told us about his which is common to most Egyptians.
Dating does not happen in Egypt. For the wealthy children may meet at university or other social outlets but for most they meet their betrothed as a result of parental planning. Most these days can agree to the parents choice of partner or not but for some it is still arranged soley by the parents. This is what I thought may have been the case in Alexandria. For our guide he met his wife to be at university but it was not a given that her parents would agree to the match, He had to present himself with his financial prospects and sell himself. He managed to do this. He owned property which most men strive to do as soon as possible. It was suggested that this is why there are so many unfinished appartments in Cairo – they have been bought by men but won’t be finished until a bride has been found.
When the time came the flat would be finished with the bride furnishing and finishing the kitchen and bedroom and the groom the remainder of the house.
After having received parental consent our guide and his bride to be met on a couple of occasions, always with a chaperone. When they married they had never kissed.
Of huge importance on the wedding night is ascertaining whether the bride is a virgin. In many homes the guests wait outside the bridal suite for the bloodied hankerchief to be shown as proof of virginity. In our guides case his mother kept ringing to ask only to be told that the marriage had not yet been consumated. The celebrations had gone on to long and the bride was tired and shy and our guide was a novice and a little worried as to what he was supposed to do. Finally after two days and many frantic phone calls he was able to say that his bride was indeed a virgin.
For those girls found not to be so life was not so happy. They could immediately be divorced and ostracised from the family. I imagine a terrifying time for some and perhaps the fear of this was the problem in Alexandria. I will never know but it was fascinating to have just a small peak into traditions different from our own.