Monday, February 24, 2014

Another Great Obit

I have said that "everyone deserves an obit" - and I do enjoy reading one that is out of the ordinary.

Clearly, I did not know this man, but I have learned about him today.  Apparently Peter Scott who died at 82 years of age was an interesting man - a "highly accomplished cat burglar" listed amongst his claims to fame.  He was indeed by all accounts a crook - but his story in The Telegraph is well worth a read.

I might also look for the movie about him.

The movie was made in 1965 - with of course a much young than we know her now, Judy Dench.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Books, Movies and Newspapers

In the past few weeks I have attended movies which were based on real life stories - two of the latest were Philomena and The Railway Man.  Books were written and eventually movies.  You can read more about them here.  I will at some stage endeavour to get the books so I can read the stories, but there is a link from that blog to the real story about Philomena.

I am a great reader of Obituaries in newspapers too and for some time was comparing the numbers of male or female obits - clearly there is more written about men.  I don't know the reason for this - other than in some circles it is thought that the men had more interesting lives.  I guess if they were community leaders or similar, it could be seen that only these apparent "important" people are worth writing about after their deaths.

I was pleased to read two stories in the Courier Mail on Saturday (15th February) - one of the stories was a double death event - the husband who was a World War II Veteran died just on two weeks after his wife passed away.  The story said that hey had been inseparable for 66 years, and were both in their 90's.

As it turns out there was another story - there are usually two obits on a Saturday, and this one was about a lady who had been a nurse, and when I read the story I recalled that I knew her.  She was a Stomaltherapist and attended the World Stomaltherapy Conference in Perth in 1986, at the then Sheraton Hotel.  There is more of that story here.

I certainly love reading about their lives - though wishing too, that I would have had the opportunity to meet them.

Monday, February 3, 2014

When You are Gone ..... The Obituary

I know some folk think I have a morbid interest in "death" - which I would dispute.  I have seen many people die - I have been with them in their last moments, and liken it to being at a birth.  So many people after witnessing a birth - be it an animal or a baby, are often overwhelmed by the experience.

As a nurse, I was initially afraid of death - perhaps feeling that we (doctors, nurses) etc had failed - but if one stands back a little, and sees that death is only one part of life, it is a lot more comforting.  No one, even with all our marvellous medical and scientific research has been able to get anywhere close to finding how one can live for ever - and indeed, who would want to???  I had some amazing experiences as I sat with folk who were dying, and were prepared to talk and say goodbye as it all happened.

We should indeed do everything we can to prolong a life which will be a quality life - I don't see the point of spending a huge amount of resources keeping someone alive well beyond their use-by date.  Ooops, I am digressing, but since I am on the topic, just think about how long Mandela was kept alive in what we believe to be in a vegetative state.  Recently there have been other press stories about similar events.  I don't really see the point in it - and I certainly don't wish to be kept "alive" in a comatosed state for any length of time - having nurses and carers doing for me what I no longer can do for myself.

This post wasn't really going to be about what I have said above - but darn, I have done it.  I've had a rant on a topic that is one close to my heart.

What I really wanted to talk about is the story that you leave behind.  The Obituary perhaps.

There's quite a history of Obituary writing - and anyone inclined to find out more can read about the history in Dr Nigel Starck's book "The Art of Obituary".  I did some research recently and found that most obituaries (certainly in our state's main newspaper were predominately about men.  In fact in one month there were 21 obituaries of men, and 6 of women.

I concluded that not many women (unless they are hugely famous or well known) have their story written.  In fact I am quite sure if I extended my "research" to other newspapers,  I would find that similar statistics.  In speaking with women, they tend to by a little shy and consider their lives too "ordinary" and not worthy of documentation, in the way that many men see their stories.

We have such amazing resources these days, that we should all be recording our history - and I know from experience that it is a tremendous adventure. 

I will be working this year to encourage more folk to write their own life story... which of course can be the basis for their obituary when the time comes.


Friday, January 31, 2014

Ultimate Blog Challenge Last Day

I promised in an earlier post to make available my Word Document with clues on questions to ask, etc when one is writing their own or some one else's story.  I have created a .pdf document, and as it is about 8 pages long, I think the only way to get it to folk is to ask you to leave a message in the comments with your email address and I will email it to you.

As my comments are all moderated I won't publish those with your contact details, so your email address will be used to send the document and then will be deleted, and I will ask that you delete my email address too.  I am not interested in playing card games, joining any mailing lists or doing any business, but if you have important information for you can always send a message via the comments section.

I set up this blog just to do the Ultimate Blog Challenge - 31 days of posts and action.  I have enjoyed the experience though I know I have not done all that was suggested, but I have posted about my blog and also visited many other blogs to read and comment.   It has been an awesome experience.

I have written a 1500 word story about my life - but as I have been going through the process of this blog I have been remembered some more things in my life story and will have to update at some time, but I am glad that I have done it.

One of the key points that I would like to make is that you start writing your story.  You can add to/edit what you have done, but if there are no words about your life - then that's it.  Zero, nothing.  Even if it is in note form, or paragraphs of information, you can one day find it and "fix it up", or someone else can.  If you have photos with details, certificates or other ephemera someone can piece together something of your life. 

Find a box and add to it as you think of things.  I have found doing this blog, and tidying up my boxes of "stuff" that my memory has been jogged and I have to continually add to my story - or at least my notes.

Is there a "memoir" waiting to be written?  I have yet to publish my tome on my life as an English Teacher in China and South Korea. I have written most of it but one day I will sift through the entries in that blog to determine if there are any more stories to add.

Everyone's story is unique and there are millions of people who enjoy reading about the lives of others - it is a huge market, so there may be a best seller amongst us - but if nothing else your descendants can read about you.  And learn what life was like.....

Make a point to read biographies, autobiographies and memoirs and it will give you ideas on how to format your story.

Enjoy the process, and have fun!

Reminder:  If you do want my cheat sheet/ideas for writing a biography, leave a comment below with your email address and I will send it to you.

I will update from time to time - but am glad I don't have to do a daily post now. 

A BIG THANK YOU to all those who visited this blog during the Challenge, and especially those that commented.  It was much appreciated. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Don't Forget the Music

Almost everyone has a story about Music in their lives.  It may be that your subject learned/played an instrument, sang, or had some other connection with music.  It may be a key part of your subject's story.


My family laugh at my efforts at music, especially singing - but with three talented singers in the family there was just not enough singing-genes to go around, so my talents lie elsewhere.
But I do have some stories about Music and Me. 
  1. One that came to mind when I accidentally found the above video on YouTube.  When I was nursing in Mount Gambier in South Australia in the early 1960's, Miss Winifred Atwell played at the Odeon Theatre - and I was one of the enthralled members of the audience.
  2. In 2008 in China on International Women's Day we had a full day of tours, speeches, and performances and much later a wonderful banquet, but the last performance was a group of Chinese dancers who invited members of the audience to join them in their dance at the end.  No one would do it.  I certainly didn't want to - as I was not dressed for dancing - jeans, heavy coat, sneakers etc, but in the end, as no one else would, I did so.  I couldn't manage the steps so "invented" my own - much to the amusement of all present, and huge embarrassment for me.  However, the best was to come!  Apparently it appeared on television that night!!  And the MC -a Chinese government official who I was later to meet on a regular basis for a short time, always wrote to me "Dear Blonde Disco Dancer......."
  3. In 2010 for International Women's Day, and again in China one of my friends and I were invited to perform. How funny - we made it to the stage and sang "I am Australian".
I love classical music and jazz.  Oh, how I love Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and many more.  I still have my collection of LP's from the 60's!!!
I am including a list of 5 - 10 of my favourite pieces of music in my story - and hope that if there is a memorial service for me that some of them will be played.

So, when you are writing about someone, don't forget the music.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Food, Recipes, Stories.

When writing someone's story - don't forget food.  Food plays a great role in the lives of many people in some way.  It might be a migrant who continues to create the dishes of their home country, it might be that someone has created a family story about some food.  These are often an important part of someone's story.

Here are a few of my food stories.....

Story One

Years ago when I was little, we had a wonderful garden and my parents grew fruit trees, vegetables, berries and lots more.  This was in the 1950's (ok, now you know I am a senior!) and post war it was not uncommon for folk to grow much of their own food.  This story relates to a day when my mother was "preserving" rhubarb in the oven.  The rhubarb was in glass jars with lids, but for some reason, when mother took them from the oven, several exploded not only cutting her badly on the face, but rhubarb and broken glass covered every wall, cupboard, bench etc in the kitchen with a red gooey messy sludge.  Luckily my father was home, so he took charge and sent my sister and I outside of the house.  I may have been about 8 years old, and my sister was 4 years younger.  We wandered to neighbours and told them the story, and my sister kept crying that maybe mother would be dead.  I tried to console her, but what I said was reported back to our parents.  Apparently I said "Don't worry, if mummy dies, daddy will get married again and we might get a better mummy."  Luckily mother survived, and dad eventually remove the sludge from the walls, ceilings etc and repainted the kitchen.

Story Two

When I brought a young man home to meet my parents (we were later married), my mother put on a special dinner for us - my parents, my boyfriend and me.  She cooked a special spicy dish which three of us enjoyed without any trouble, but the boyfriend was not used to chili and soon became red faced and breathless.  We managed to "save" him - but it has always been a funny story as we claim mother was trying to get rid of him.  (Shame, I was married to him for a long time - but then left him)

Story Three

My daughter has never been particularly interested in food and cooking and even now we tease her as her skills are mediocre  at best, although, to be fair, in recent years she has had poor cooking facilities, but a new oven is making a difference.

On this occasion she was in her early teens, and I was very ill in bed.  When she came home after school she decided to bake a cake, using one of my treasured recipe books.  I heard the mixmaster whirring briefly, then screaming, and I leapt from my sick bed and rushed to the kitchen as best I could, to be greeted with a daughter and every square inch of my kitchen covered with flour!!!  Her face and clothes were all white - and when she opened her eyes she looked like some strange ghost!  She had the mixmaster running while she "added the flour" which with the power of the beaters was scattered in every direction, making it look like a major snow storm in the kitchen.

Story Four

I was fortunate in that my mother, despite a couple of memorable events (see Story Two)  taught me to preserve fruit and other foods.  In summer school holidays, the apricots, peaches, plums, and nearly every other fruit in our garden was harvested and preserved.  She had quite a collection preserved items.  All sorts of preserves and jams.  That is where I learned to preserve and later on I was an enthusiastic jam maker, though I am not a great eater of it.  I was for a number of years the Convenor of the Jam and Pickle Stall at the annual school fete.

I have also made Lilly Pilly Jam - the Lilly Pilly is a fruit native to Australia and some parts of Asia and for the most part the fruit falls to the ground (if the possums and bats don't get them) and go to waste. 

An idea - why not create a book with your mother/grandmother/aunt's story along with her favourite recipes.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Make a Book

Why not create a book about your parents' life?  Or the life of someone special.  Technology has changed printing so much that it is possible to create a hard copy book with text and colour photos for little cost.

There are so many organisations now that will do it - and you should be able to purchase a small number at reasonable price.

Have a look at the various online options.  There are many - but I suggest that first of all you create the text you want and choose a range of photos.   I am familiar with Blurb - but confess I have not done one yet.  I actually have one almost ready to print.   Snapfish is another program that you can use.  Have a look and check the costs.

This is an ideal way to create that special book for a anniversary or special event.  

You can use text, photos, artwork - whatever you wish.