Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Bulldog Breed

I didn’t watch the game last Friday. I was double booked. Our son recorded it and while we were out we checked our phones throughout the game. Our hearts were racing as if we were at the game itself. As we checked for the final time our hands were shaking and we could hardly believe it was true – we’d won, we’d beaten the juggernaut that is Hawthorn. As the theatre we were seated in cleared out we were the last two sitting there, still staring at our phones, in shock and disbelief as jubilation spread through our very being. My husband had worn his Bulldogs scarf. As we eventually made our way out we enjoyed the cheers, and ‘Go Bulldogs’ from others; mostly Cats fans since we were in Geelong heartland. They were almost as excited as us to see the Hawks defeated.
When we got home we watched the replay – it was 3am before we got to bed.  On Sunday channel 7 replayed the game and then again on Monday. It’s now Wednesday and I have the game on again as I write this. I’m trying to photograph moments as I write about them, straight off my tv screen! High tech blogging this.
Bulldogs fans are daring to dream, but in such a cautious way. Many of us have been here before, and had our hearts broken. We loathe Adelaide with every ounce of our being. The loss in the 97 prelim is like an open, gaping wound that we can’t talk about without choking up. 98 was disappointing too, but doesn’t fester in the memory bank like 97.  Close again in 08, 09 and 10. Would we ever see a Premiership, or even a Grand Final appearance? We still wonder. We wonder with hope in 2016 but we don’t get ahead of ourselves. No-one is talking about next week, no one. We’ve become superstitious – thinking beyond Saturday will jinx everything. So we do everything we can to get a ticket to the game in Sydney on Saturday – it involves travel, it involves battling the archaic Ticketmaster ticketing system, it involves booking the car in for a service, finding a dogsitter and/or a house sitter – making sure the kids who aren’t coming with us are looked after. Finding accommodation – do we take the camper? Organising a day off work for my husband so we can leave Friday. There are mini hurdles every step of the way but we wouldn't give up the opportunity for the world!
As I watched the replay for the 3rd time on Monday I started to notice the fans in the crowd and I saw myself. It has prompted me to write this. All footy fans love their footy but I really feel like we’re a special breed; we share the joys and the disappointments and long for that elusive premiership..

Last year before the elimination final against our nemesis Adelaide, a huge crowd of fans marched to the 'G, and so it would happen again. I watch those fans and feel the joy in their hearts, the spring in their step as they make their way to the home of football. They believe, we believe and we hope. We feel the connection of a common love and a common need to see our team succeed.

Easton Wood lets out a deep sigh as anthem starts.... we all do.

Now he's revving up the team, we're fist pumping and gritting our teeth with him, willing them to "stick it up 'em" to use the famous Teddy Whitten parlance.

Hearts are racing as Tory gets a free then misses goal – it’s still early, but Tory?? He's our dead eye dick.

1st goal – captain’s goal. Relief. 

That lady with red arms – that’s me – I’m euphoric. The captain has kicked our first goal. Thank goodness.

These boys clapping a Jake Stringer smother – clapping hard, excited, pumped. I'm them too.

The goal review after Hodge supposedly touched the ball sends the Bulldogs crowd into meltdown. It's confusing and seems to go against the whole goal review system of footage needing to be conclusive. Hodge gets booed for the remainder of the game, seemingly for that incident.

Finally the ump pulls up the Hawks for shepherding the player on the mark but the fans are confused.  They don't know why the ump is bringing it back but on tv we see that it's because of the shepherd. Sometimes you have no idea what is going on – I’m these people? What just happened? The crowd is confused. Hands in the air guy? I'm him too.

Can you hear the crowd? Can you hear the calls of "Ball"? That’s me, though usually I’m yelling "Caught" – don’t ask me why… It’s kind of a misheard lyric from my childhood that I can’t shake. 

The oohs and aahhhs. The run, run, run, run, kick it. Woohooo… YES!  Hard, hard clapping. I’m making all those noises. How good is Picken?

The moment of the game – the absolute moment of the game! How good was it? Hodge bouncing off Bont as Bont marks it. That kid is awesome - he's young enough to be my son so I can call him a kid but truly he's a man - he stands tall in this game and in this team.

Half way through the 2nd quarter they were double our score, 46 to 23… If I'd been watching live my stomach would be churning, worried, a little afraid. Random stats come up on the screen: Spoils 16 to 10 – It’s the little things – Hunter this time. So awesome.

Point, point…we keep kicking points and then they go coast to coast for a goal,  but miss.  Phew... and then Dunkley kicks a goal – there's a shot of Lin Jong in crowd and we're reminded that some players who should be out there are missing.

Smith goal and again, Smith goal – woohoo.

Crowd shot of famous fans – we’re all in this together. We’re all Tim Cahill, we're all the bloke who grew up in Barkly St, the Nana who sits with her knitted red, white and blue blanket, the kid decked out in face paint.

1:20 on the clock – I can hear the “Bulldogs” clap clap clap “Bulldogs” clap clap clap chant in the background – I’d be joining in.

Another chance for Tory – he has the yips and then there’s a blue. I’d be on my feet here. My hands would be clutched as I hoped no-one got hurt.

Half time - only one point to difference... (Flashback to me in the theatre checking my phone - the last time I'd checked we'd been 23 down, and now my son has sent a message to say 1 point down. I look at my husband, he looks at me, we say nothing but in both of us is silent hope, a silent 'maybe')
The third quarter starts... there's a second goal review and from what I can see, a second inconclusive decision overturning a goal but it squares things up.

Stringer goals to put us in front. I'd be absolutely bouncing out of my seat by now. Jordan Roughead has a couple of chances in front of goal. That guy with the beard - that's me, that girl clutching her drink - she's me too. I'm excited, I'm nervous, I'm hopeful.  He goals! The crowd are on their feet - I'm on my feet.

Now Toby Mclean goals and there is serious fist pumping. Yes, Yes, Yes. We have a 14 point lead. We're daring to dream.  As Stringer throws the ball on his boot you see it sail through the goals and you see the bulldogs' crowd rise as one. I think we're in a trance. It feels so unbelievable. There is disbelief on the faces in the crowd. We so want this to happen and it is.

The chant 'Let's go Bulldogs' starts to ring around the ground. We're clapping hard, we're yelling the chant, we're so excited we might burst. Bont goals. That girl with her hands going up to her mouth - that's me. Oh.My.God, we're winning, we're dominating, we're taking down the reigning premiers.

Jump, Jump, Jump. We're 26 points up at 3/4 time. We're on our feet. We're optimistically cautious. 97 is still in our memory bank - we were up by a similar margin at 3/4 time and this is Hawthorn...

The final quarter - can we do it?
Bont intercepts in front of Hodge, passes to Dickson and goals. There is determined clapping in the stands - if I clap harder we run faster, we goal more, we will just do better. My clapping will get us over the line - I clap with all my might.

The commentator Cameron Ling suggests that the fans believe now. We're bulldogs fans - we love our boys but we never feel a game is won this early in the final quarter. We believe but mostly we hope...

The crowd is seriously invested in every moment of the game - every mark is greeted with an enormous cheer.

Picken goals and high fives some fans on the fence - he's euphoric and so are we - we're reaching our hands out, we are with him with every stride he takes, every tackle, every moment of desperate determination. We're bouncing in our seats.

Then Picken goals again. His goals are scrambling, desperate goals and this one is the sealer. You see it in the celebrations with his team mates - they know they've got this and I think we all let out a long held breath.

In the crowd a Hawthorn fan holds up 3 fingers to jeering, excited Bulldogs faithful. He's letting them know his team has won 3 in a row. We know, oh how we know, but we also know that there wont be a fourth - we will deny the Fourthorn, the 4peat... 

I see a girl in the crowd with her hands over her face and she makes me tear up - I'm her. I'm so hopeful and optimistic and in shock; feeling joy and excitement and a tiny smidge of confidence. We long for success, for a chance for our team to see victory, to break the decades long drought.

Hawthorn keeps coming. Bruce and Denis seem to think they're still a chance, and in days gone by they may have been but we're composed. We wind the clock down. Caleb is awarded a free and there's a shot of our President and Vice President in the players race; hands in the air - jubilant. They love their doggies as much we we do, we've all got our hands in the air. 

The players on the interchange bench are arm in arm. We all feel this jubilation.

And as the final siren sounds and Caleb slots a final goal there is much fist pumping.

There are shots of Bevo and the coaches box, our injured captain Bob; the heart of our club, club legends like Bubba Smith, Chris Grant, Gia - all still very much a part of this club. Joy beams off faces; players, fans, officials. It is just pure joy. 

The players share their excitement. They run around the fence line high-fiving the fans - joy is being passed from player to fan to player. 

They go down the race - the fans are reaching desperately to touch their heroes and they're reaching back - there's this connection - this is for all of us. 

The rooms are packed - so many want to share in this moment. The 100 or so people represent the 40,000 of us not in there.

Around the country, as our banner had suggested, 24 million people are smiling. Hawthorn, you were amazing for 3+ years, but now it's our turn...
"...You can't beat the boys of the bulldog breed, we're the team of the mighty west."

And just in case you're curious, it was Rockwiz that I was at during the game...and here's a little snippet from Ella Hooper... "It's a fine line between pleasure and pain, you've done it once you can do it again... Whatever you do don't try to explain, it's a fine fine line between pleasure and pain..."


Monday, May 25, 2015

An Open Letter to Ron D Moore

Hi Ron & Maril,

Thanks for taking on the 'Outlander' project.
Thanks for bringing my favourite book/s to life.
Thanks for some awesome casting choices.
Thanks for allowing me to introduce my husband and other friends / family to the wonderful world created by Diana Gabaldon.
Thanks for involving the incredibly talented Terry Dresbach in costuming. She rocks.
Thanks for engaging Bear McCreary. His musical contributions are perfect.
Thanks for exploring a wider view of the novels; beyond Claire's view.
Thanks for daring to go where others never have...that we have never seen breastfeeding on television before Outlander is incredible.

Basically, thanks.
Keep on creating a wonderful, thoughtful television series that honours an incredible literary series.
Oh, and if anyone else writes to you suggesting they speak for me or other book fans, they don't.


Edited to include co executive producer, and generous interactor with fans, Maril Davis, and apologies for not including her originally despite knowing she is instrumental in this production.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Perfect Christmas gifts...

On Christmas Eve I received an absolutely perfect gift. It was so unexpected and so perfect. We had Christmas drinks with friends. These friends live in the general direction that my parents live in and since we were heading down there we made arrangements to head to our friends' place first. It was lovely. It made us realise we should try to catch up with our friends more often... life, you know... It gets busy.
So we're sipping champagne and suddenly T says she has something for me. As she brings it toward me I instantly know what it is. It's a Claire cowl. A what? I don't expect everybody to know what I mean by that so let me go grab a Sony pic from Outlander to show you what it is.
See that neck scarf? That's what in Outlander fandom is now known as a Claire cowl...and I have one! My gorgeous friend T made me one. My eyes started to well up when I saw it. I was madly blinking away trying to stop myself getting emotional over a scarf, but it was just so perfect, and the tears flowed. T is the friend I referred to in this post (link) who introduced me to Outlander (aka Cross Stitch) but when we were chatting on Christmas Eve she said she thought I introduced her! I'm still pretty confident it was the other way around but both of us associate the other with our early introduction to the series. What a gift. Seriously it felt just perfect!

Later that night my husband was very mysterious as he hid in my parents' laundry wrapping gifts, and writing cards. On Christmas morning I discovered what he'd been wrapping. It was a vintage milk can. He'd researched all the history of their use and thought it would look great in our kitchen (and it will). The poignant part of the gift, and his note however was the circumstances of him buying it. On Monday I had to drop him at the auto electrician to pick up his car. Our 11 year old daughter was with me and after we dropped him off we decided to stop at this quirky little store that I'd driven past dozens of times but never been in. I didn't even know what sort of shop it was. It turned out it stocked a bunch of secondhand stuff, some antiques, but lots of stuff that you find in a regular op shop. Miss11 found a few pig things (pigs being her latest obsession) but we left without making a purchase.

Little did I know, but my husband had noticed my car and decided to see what we were looking at. He parked around the corner and walked into the store to find out what we had found, but as he came around the corner, we drove off. He decided to go in anyway and he asked the shop assistant what we had been looking at...realising he sounded a little stalkerish he explained that he was my husband and he was looking for a Christmas gift for me. She mentioned the pigs! lol! But she wasn't sure what else I'd been looking at. He had a bit of a look, found the milk can and decided to buy that! The antique milk can is lovely, but the story behind it means so much more to me....and the two page letter he wrote to accompany it with the detailed history of it and the means by which he tried to find a gift I might like.

The other REALLY awesome gift we received this year...which unfortunately I knew about and spoiled my daughter's surprise, was a Soda Stream. You know, one of those machines that carbonates water, and then you add syrup and hey presto you have home made fizzy drinks. The reason this was one of my favourite gifts was because my 15 year old daughter bought it for the rest of our family (her brother, sister and parents) using money from her first ever pay from her first ever part time job. My heart swelled with pride when I saw that she had bought it and her intention to gift it to the family. Sure, she'll get benefit from it too, but it was such an awesome thing for her to do. We've been so proud of her working at her part time job, earning and saving, and then making such a lovely gesture with some of her new found wealth.

And finally, one more gift that I just loved this year was the book 'Love your Sister' by Connie and Samuel Johnson. I was keen to get a copy anyway, but I love that my own sister bought it for me. I look forward to getting stuck into it.

It's been a lovely Christmas and these few gifts were some of my highlights. Overall, I am overjoyed to be thought of by my family and friends, and to spend some quality time with them. Did you receive something extra special?

Friday, October 10, 2014

There's no trade week for fans

I've blogged about a variety of topics here but not football, that I can recall. A blog post is usually triggered by something that affects me emotionally...something that causes words and thoughts to float around in my head, desperate to get out and yesterday football triggered that. It's a bit romantic, and I know football is big business now and I'm a little naive to all the machinations...but here it is.

[Note: I wrote this before Brendan McCartney, the coach, resigned]

I was home with my sick son. We were watching a movie and I was scrolling through twitter on my phone, when a bombshell tweet in the @afl feed rocked my socks.

The very fact that it was on the AFL twitter account was enough to cause concern as it gave it authenticity. I gasped and my son nervously asked, "What?.....What?" I could barely bring myself to say the words. He has No.16 on his football jumper. "Griff wants a trade". He joined me in shock. Just days earlier we heard speculation that Adam Cooney, our Brownlow medallist, was being considered for a trade and prior to that Shaun Higgins and Liam Jones. Football is pretty brutal when it comes to player movements but some players are at the core of the club, well, I thought they were. Gone are the days when being a one club player was almost the pinnacle, behind being a premiership player I guess. It just feels so.... brutal. I was reminded today of the 20c that a young fan sent to Chris Grant to lure him to stay a Bulldog.  He's considered a legend these days.

I'm a footy chick. I always have been. I've followed Australia Rules Football since I was a tween. I would draw up team lists and listen on the radio or watch the replay (they used to do that - show a replay on Saturday night of one of the Saturday afternoon games...when ALL the games were played on a Saturday afternoon). While I watched (or listened) I'd mark the goals and behinds against the relevant player. I'd cut articles from newspapers and sticky tape them into scrapbooks.

My husband and I would go to Footscray games in the early to mid 90s and we'd take his elderly Dad with his thermos and packed lunch. My husband tells a story of being at the Western Oval (now Whitten Oval) when the club was on its knees being forced to merge with Fitzroy back in 1989. He saw his pensioner Dad open his wallet, and moths flew out, but he threw some dollars in the collection tin to help save his beloved Doggies. Up until his death, my father in law had a framed news article on his mantle. It said "There are 3 certainties in life: Death, Taxes and The Doggies in the Wet", alongside this was a framed picture of Tony Liberatore; his favourite modern day player. He loved the Dogs, and that love had been passed to his son, and now it has been passed to our children.

Footscray became the Western Bulldogs in an effort to appeal to a wider fan base and we accepted that change. We were signed up members from about 1996, and in 1997 saw the club on the brink of success. It was an incredibly exciting time. The club had only ever won one premiership, in 1954 and its only other Grand Final appearance was in 1961. The Dogs were not a powerhouse. There was no cabinet full of silverware, but the fans were devoted and loyal...they still are. In 1997 we could almost taste success. We were at the infamous preliminary final that year. It is such a vivid memory. The excitement at three quarter time when we began to believe we might see our team in a Grand Final... How would we get tickets? Then the cruel unravelling, as Adelaide powered home and we suffered the most painful of losses, by only 2 points. We wept real tears that day. We were stunned, and to this day the Adelaide theme song haunts us.

I have tons of football memories. I have pictures of players holding my children as babies, and my kids attending clinics on Whitten Oval, or standing with their paraphernalia at games, and school footy days. We didn't really give them a choice about football. We signed them up as Bulldogs members and dragged them along; kitting them out in red, white and blue. We live in Geelong. It's a tough gig to not support the Cats when you live here. People don't understand how we can live here and not support the local team and its hard to explain, but we feel we have red, white and blue running through our veins. The kids have seen some success, but not the ultimate success. A few years ago we planned our September school holidays around the likelihood of the team being in the finals, but the current team is rebuilding and struggling. It can be demoralising being at games when your team isn't doing well but we hang in there. We've stayed members all through this. The club labels us Bulldogs for Life, as they deduct payments from our account each month. With all the various commitments that a young family has we don't get to many games, but still we do it. The membership feels like a donation, but still we do it. I don't have regular employment at the moment, but still we do it.

This post has turned into a family history about the Bulldogs and that wasn't my intention. I guess I'm giving some background to our family commitment to the Dogs. We love them. We've been through thick and thin, and we're still here. 

There's no trade week for fans. We don't have a two week period at the end of the season when we consider the membership options of rival clubs. Where can we get a better financial deal? Which club has the most appealing package?  Where will the games be played? We don't have a look at the teams in the Premiership window and consider jumping on board to taste success. We stick. We're true. Coaches, players, administrators come and go. We stick. We're here for the long ride through all the turmoil; as a player we love, a player who has captained our team, endeared himself to our kids, announces he wants out. And we're entitled to be angry, and sad, and tearful. We may even threaten to tear up our membership in the heat of all that emotion...but we don't. We stick. We have no real power. The club needs us, and we need them. Our frustration leads some to rant on Facebook or Twitter...or to write a long rambling blog post with no real purpose except to be a small voice for the fans.

Fans are the backbone of clubs, and I know the Western Bulldogs fan base does not compare to teams like Collingwood and Hawthorn in number, but in passion, we rival any team. We love our club and we hate to hear that there are tensions, or issues that can't be resolved. What can we do? It feels like the only time we have power is when the club needs money. Without the fans, there would have been no Footscray, no Western Bulldogs after 1989... But otherwise, we watch from the sidelines, Bulldogs through and through, as coaches are sacked, or resign, players walk, or get dumped, new players come along, new hopes are ignited and we endeavour to #bemorebulldog, even though we're SO Bulldog it's a wonder we don't bark.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Thus, Outlanderaholic denotes a person addicted to Outlander...and that is me.

I'm trying to remember the last time I seriously watched a TV series requiring a weekly commitment, and never missing an episode. I dabbled with Offspring in the early years, but didn't stay the course. I was a regular watcher of Miss Fisher in season one, but being on on a Friday night meant I occasionally missed an episode, and for one reason or another I missed almost all of season 2 but have it on DVD, still in its shrink wrap. I'll watch it someday. I do watch TV, it's frequently on. I like seeing Mediawatch and Q & A on a Monday. The Project is often on during dinner time, but nothing is a must watch for me. My kids watch a lot of the realty shows, so I could tell you some sketchy details about a girl called Dee annoying everyone on The Block, or that there is a magician on Big Brother, but that's about it.

You may have read this post here about my anticipation for Outlander, and my chance to see episode 1 at a preview screening. The build up had been enormous and I wasn't disappointed. My only real problem was that I don't have Foxtel and that was how you had to watch it...legally. I'm not a fan of piracy. I have friends who work in the movie industry and feel like it could impact on their livelihood if I supported that sort of activity. Fortunately a friend, who also loves the book, has Foxtel. I kind of told her, rather than asked, that I would be visiting every Thursday to watch with her! Luckily for me she was up for that. She was also my plus one for the preview screening. We're on this journey together. 

So, every Thursday, sometime before 8.30, I rock up to her place with a bottle of red or a pack of mint slices and we settle on the couch to watch our hour of television. We sigh and we gasp, and for the most part there is a stupid grin affixed to our face as we see our favourite book come to life with actors performing their roles just oh so convincingly. As book fans we notice little details that non book fans might miss... things like Jamie rubbing the back of his neck when Claire falls on him during her aborted escape attempt, and when he drums his fingers... The attention to detail is phenomenal. We're so hooked it's not funny.

I mentioned to my husband that it feels like I'm having an affair. I slip out of the house, go see my show (and my friend) and then slip back in. We don't spend hours together, just a little over an hour and then we're done for another week. Recently, we realised that I would be away for a holiday with my extended family for episode 6 and 7, and she would be away for episode 8. Six was pivotal. Having read the books, I knew approximately what it was going to feature, but also, I had read reviews from critics saying that it was a key episode, especially for the non book readers who were viewing the series without any prior knowledge of what was coming.

Fortunately my Dad was able to get this episode to play on his computer, so I lay on a bed in a hotel room with his laptop resting on my chest, desperately trying to block out the noise from other parts of the hotel and watched this amazing episode, with details so gruesome only centimetres from my eyes. The whole front of my body was burning from the heat generated by the laptop and my retinas burned from the awesome special effects used to convey flogging scenes that tore skin from the back of the main character. It wasn't ideal, but it meant I hadn't missed out.

The next episode was The Wedding. I should say THE Wedding. Every Outlander book fan the world over was anticipating this episode and the thought that I wouldn't see it was *mildly annoying. (*mildly annoying is drastically understating it) My cousin heard me lamenting the fact that I wouldn't see it and said that perhaps he could get his Foxtel Go app to play it. He checked, and yes, SOHO was one of the channels. I made plans to watch on his phone in a nearby pub, so I could use their wifi.  Thursday approached. I'd been loosely checking in on Facebook and Twitter and had seen excitement from the US fans about the episode. We were out for dinner on Thursday. My cousin encouraged me to download the app from Foxtel on my ipad so I could watch it on there. I had to hotspot into my iphone, which was already in data trouble since I'd been away from wifi for a week, but the app downloaded and it looked like all would work perfectly. My cousin detached his phone from the app and reverted it to my ipad. He could claim it back in 30 days. (What a debt I owe him!) 

We set off for the pub for the free wifi. My family were laughing at me and my need to see this TV show. I rode it out. Their good natured teasing wasn't going to put me off. When we got to the pub and asked for the wifi code they told us we couldn't have it unless we were staying there! We'd cut it fine, it was about 8.25 and I went into a panic. My sister came to the rescue and said I could hotspot to her phone. I didn't know how much data I would use but she had about 1.5gb. I bought her a cocktail, and then I moved myself aside from everyone and got it playing.

The pub was too loud. There was music, and people talking. I tried the verandah...still too loud. Can't they see I am trying to watch...and listen to my TV show?? I had to get out of there. I marched past my family. Sister's phone in one hand, ipad in the other. I headed back to our hotel and sat in the foyer. I had the keys to our room (which also allowed entry to the hotel) and knew my husband and kids would need me to let them in so I sat in sight of the front door. It was a deserted foyer. The reception desk was closed.

Occasionally someone would walk through from the street to the lifts but for the most part I had the space to myself. Thank goodness you can rewind and pause Foxtel. So I settled in to watch. I smiled like a cheshire cat the entire hour. I had to pause, and reduce volume on a couple of occasions when someone walked by....some scenes were quite sexy. But, I saw the episode. It was lovely, just lovely. In the middle my family came back and I was tempted to go upstairs with them but ended up staying in my isolated spot, away from their ribbing.

When I returned to everyone I gave my sister her phone back. She checked. I'd used .9 (point nine) of a gb. Woah! Fortunately her data was refreshing in a few days.

I'm back home now. I was able to watch the episode again, with earphones in and no distractions whatsoever. I smiled again. It truly was lovely. 

As for this week's episode I think I can wait until Saturday when my friend returns and we can watch episode 6,7 and 8 as a marathon...or.... I still have the Foxtel app, so maybe I can watch on the ipad on Thursday night.... 

As for episodes 9 through 16...that wait is until April 2015! I'm going to have to satisfy myself with re-reading the books, and hopefully getting the series on DVD for Christmas. So, yes, I guess I am an Outlanderaholic... I went to great lengths to ensure I didn't miss an episode and I still love the books, the TV series and the fact that there is more to come. I probably owe a few people a drink, or ten and a note of a thanks for feeding my addiction.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

10 books - Go!

In much the same way as the Art Meme circulated on Facebook (that I wrote about here), I recently saw a Book Meme that, as a book lover, really appealed to me. Essentially, the instructions were to list 10 books that had stuck with you. You weren't required to think too deeply, just off the top of your head. I mentally started coming up with my 10 books and thought I'd expand a little on them here.

So, in no particular order, and certainly not a highfaluting list, I present the books that came to mind:

Are you there God? It's me, Margaret. by Judy Blume

I first read this as a 10 or 11 year old and feel like it is almost a right of passage type book that young girls should read as they enter that strange pre-teen adolescent stage - where lots is happening with your body and hormones come into play. Friendships are important and you are sorting through feelings and emotions. When my eldest daughter was approaching puberty I bought it for her and will soon introduce it to my youngest daughter.
A little while ago I found Judy Blume on Twitter, and of course started following her. So many of her books were a part of my youth. It was wonderful to know she was still writing. I love the little tagline she has on her Twitter account as a nod to this book:

Kane & Abel by Jeffrey Archer

I always think of this book as the first grown up 'big' book that I ever read. Google helps me to know that it was 592 pages long, but I probably would have guessed more. It seemed huge at the time, when I was a youngish teen. At the time I read it I had no idea that Cain and Abel were biblical characters (no religious upbringing for me) so didn't make that connection to the title as most would do. The story of rich man and poor man and their intersecting and warring lives, set against the history of the early 20th century, captured my attention, and I know I went on to read the sequel, The Prodigal Daughter, too.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

A very dear friend, who is a dog lover recommended this book to me. We had not long adopted our own golden retriever and she thought I might enjoy the book. What an understatement. I loved it. A unique, told through the eyes of the dog, story that had me enthralled throughout the journey of joys and sorrows. I looked at my own dog differently after reading it. And I don't think Enzo was a golden retriever necessarily, but the cover picture certainly looks like he is.

Outlander / Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon

I've already gushed quite a bit about this book in a separate post here but had to include it in this list. I think of it as Outlander now but when I first read it, it was Cross Stitch. This is a book, and a series, that stays with you. I find myself thinking about the characters frequently. It is such a powerful series, with such rich characters. There is so much history cleverly interwoven. I read recently that Diana Gabaldon wanted to write about characters who have a 50 year relationship and that spoke to me. How lovely, to think that  a series is built around the lives of two key characters who celebrate a long marriage and ongoing love and passion. It will take an amazing book to knock this one off as my 'All time favourite book'.

Tandia by Bryce Courtenay

I knew I had to include a Bryce Courtenay book in this list. For many years he would release a book a year, usually in time for Christmas and I would receive it as a gift. I was a total fan, writing to him and gushing all over the letter about how much I loved his books. When I went to a literary dinner to hear him talk and then meet him to have my book signed, he inscribed one 'From your man, Bryce Courtenay' which was a play on the fact that my husband always referred to him as 'Your man'. So when I sat down to think about which book I would include in this list, it came down to two, Tandia, which I've chosen, and April Fool's Day, which was a really wonderful book, and educated me so much about AIDS and the way those with it were treated, back when there was so much fear and innuendo. I chose Tandia though, which is the sequel to The Power of One. I distinctly remember reading it  when I was commuting on the train and crying unabashedly through some of the brutal and heartbreaking scenes. I just couldn't stop reading, tears or not, this story written against the backdrop of South African apartheid.

My Brother Jack by George Johnston

Seems so odd to think a book I HAD TO read is on this list. This was my year 12 English text and I really enjoyed it. I still have my copy with all of the annotations I made throughout it. I must re-read it again. I remember it as an important piece of writing about 20th century Australian history, and relationships, and the way Australians view themselves. I don't remember it as a chore to study this book and my HSC results for English were quite good so I suspect I did okay responding to essay questions about it.


Oh! the places you'll go by Dr Seuss

It wasn't that long ago that I learned that this was the last book written by Dr Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) and what a gift he left as his final piece of work. I love it as a book of hope and inspiration, filled with lines of whimsical wisdom. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...” When I completed my studies to be a primary school teacher recently we had a last day gathering of our cohort. I had collected $10 from everyone as a contribution toward a secret gift for themselves. At the appointed time I sat at the front of the room and read this book to our group of new teachers. "Congratulations. Today is your day"..."You'll get mixed up, of course, as you already know"  It realistic suggests that it might not be perfect smooth sailing but you can make it happen... "Today is your day... Your mountain is waiting" I then gave everyone a copy of the book and we signed messages to each other in the books. The message I wrote to my peers was "100 years from now, it won't matter how much money you had, what your house was like, or what kind of car you drove, but the world will be a better place because you made a difference in the life of a child."

Uncle Bert's Diary by Herbert F.G. Lefevre

This one is totally biased and nepotistic. I've spent a huge amount of time these past few years, and especially these past few months, typing out my Great Uncle Bert's world war 1 diary. You can read it here. I first read this diary in 1989 when I was studying a a subject at uni called 'Australians at War'. I then wrote an essay about 'mateship', which, as a word has modern origins. Back in the first world war they referred to each other as 'pals' rather than 'mates', but word usage evolves I guess. My lecturer gave me a 'First' for the essay, which I think these days is a High Distinction. But enough about me. This diary is remarkable. It is a detailed, daily account of Bert's war experience, from enlistment, through training, travel across the seas, time in Egypt, Italy and England and then on the front line in France. His writing is awesome and as his great niece I am incredibly proud, and now honoured, to be bringing it to a wider audience. I hope to shortly be finished typing so I can send it to print. If you want the link to the start of the diary, you can click here. If you'd like to buy a copy of the printed version message me here.

The Wave by Morton Rhue

Another book from my school years that I HAD TO read for English, or perhaps for Social Studies. This book absolutely fascinated me and I recently read it again. It is such a thought provoking book and as a fictionalisation of a real class experiment it demonstrates how people can become indoctrinated. It has powerful messages of bullying, leadership, peer pressure, family and individual vs community. This is a book that really makes you think and reflect. The fact that so few of the students were able to see the dangers of what was occurring in the school is quite frighteningly symbolic of the larger narrative that the author is trying to demonstrate about how The Nazi's were able to rise to power in the 1930s.

The Scrapbook: a novel of friendship and love by Peggy B Baker

This is my easy read book for the list. For ten years I was a Creative Memories consultant. Creative Memories has gone by the wayside now, but during the early 2000s it was at the forefront of the scrapbooking industry and introduced many, many people, mostly women, to scrapbooking. From the minute I was introduced to scrapbooking I knew it was for me. I love photos, I love stories, I love craft. For me, being able to integrate all three in one hobby was a dream come true. I was immersed in it. I made dozens of albums for my family and as gifts for special people in my life. A US friend met this author and had her sign her book and sent it to me as a gift. This book truly is about friendship and love. It's simply told, with scrapbooking as a backdrop to the story. I purchased several copies of the book to gift to friends and family, who, like me, love reading and scrapbooking. As the back blurb states, "Scrapbooks tell the stories about our girlsfriends, our children, our parents, our boyfriends, and our husbands. This novel celebrates the art of scrapbooking and our memories of those who have touched our lives."

So, there you have it. My list of 10 books. Please share yours. I love a good book recommendation and I'm curious about the story behind people's book choices. Since I started writing this post I've come up with more books I could have included, so, I suspect if I did it again, my list might be different, but here it is for this moment in time.