Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Second-hand Bookshops

             I don’t know about you, but one of the small joys in life that gives a disproportionate amount of pleasure is finding a book that is pure gold, by an author I’ve not read before. In fact, one of my favourite pastimes is shuffling around second-hand bookshops leafing through dusty tomes that were published before I was born. These days, you can also flick through pages on the internet to do the same thing, but I still love the feel of paper beneath my fingers.
             In these bookshops you find little gems, mysteries that were published in the 1930s that use language you’d never use yourself these days, but still take hold of your imagination, still make you turn the page to find out what happens next. And in these bookshops you also come across old books from your childhood – the stories you read when you first began to get interested in books. You might not read them again, but they briefly take you back to those innocent times when books were a new discovery.
             And second-hand bookshops are cheap too; they allow you to get a book for a few dollars and are sometimes willing give you some of that money back if you later want to exchange your book for another one. You can’t lose in these places; you can only find yet more treasures or memories. If you are like me, you lose track of time and miss appointments because you are lost between the dusty shelves, sitting cross-legged on the floor with a smile on your face, head bowed over a book.
             Time slows down in here – you are in another world where reality has lost its grip and fantasy is in control. Long- live second-hand bookshops!

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Small Win

Forget the big mega lottery wins, which often bring stress and anxiety, it’s the small wins that provide moments of pure happiness.
When you’ve bought your scratch-and-win game and the numbers come up that signify you have won five or ten, or even 100 dollars, you feel elated. Similarly when you put your lottery ticket in the machine and it comes up with Congratulations – Winner you know that some money is coming your way.  Most of the time it’s only twenty dollars or so, but it means that you can buy a bottle of wine, have an extra cup of coffee or tea at a café, or it can go into the jar marked ‘Holiday Spending Money’ that will go towards making your next vacation more enjoyable. You might even use it to put into somebody’s birthday card as a gift, or buy a bunch of flowefs for somebody who is feeling down. You can do something useful with this win either for yourself or somebody else.
Then there is the fun in sitting down with your lottery ticket and checking it against the winning numbers. As you go through and you realise you’ve achieved a win, your evening is made. Fortune has smiled on you and it feels good! A totally random bonus.  
It’s these little wins that come along with surprising regularity that help make the days brighter and happier.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Night Sky

The Night Sky

When the night draws back the curtains to reveal the universe within which we live, I find myself gazing upwards in wonder. Light is reaching us over unimaginable distances, distances that would blow your mind. And that light has taken thousands of years to get here. What we actually see is what once was, not what now is. We are looking directly into the past. Wow! A colleague of mine once told me that Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years - well he said absolutely everybody would come to see it. And I think he's right.
Those distant twinkling points of light, the blues, reds, whites, greens and oranges (if you ever get a chance to see The Jewel Box formation, you'll see all of these colours - it's magnificent) might even harbour life. How amazing is that? Are there planets circling those far off stars? If you can escape the city lights you’ll see the Milky Way, our home galaxy, stretching across above you – vast gas clouds obscuring some of the stars, the centre a dense, if distant, white mist of light full of countless stars, and perhaps even a large black hole.
 And if you look hard enough, or are fortunate enough to have a telescope, you might even see distant galaxies, collections of billions of stars slowly spinning tens of thousands of light years away, maybe even further. We are in a big, big universe and every night we get to see it, to gaze up and see our home. It’s awesome.
To cap it off you may be lucky enough to see a shooting star tear across the sky, a brilliant ephemeral streak of light that sparkles into obscurity. Once or twice I fancy I heard them – a faint ripping sound. When I worked in the Kimberly I made a rule that I would see five before I went to sleep each night, and I was rarely disappointed. I was looking for diamonds, but the only ones I saw were in the sky – but they outshone everything else.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Bunch of Flowers

There is something special about a bunch of flowers. I’ve been in so many dull rooms that have been hugely lifted by the simple act of placing flowers in them. The dullest of small apartments can feel ‘happy’ with such a small addition.  If you get a good florist, and at this point I’ll plug my local florist Evergreen Florist in Dianella, Perth who do awesome colour arrangements, then you can bring vibrancy to wherever you live and also wherever you work.  So many offices lack any colour or soul and yet it’s so simple to remedy this.
You can also give a bunch of flowers to brighten up someone’s day. I don’t know anybody who would not be uplifted by this gesture. It may be a cliché to send your partner some flowers but, like most clichés, there is reason that it is so popular. The scent  and colour of a bunch of roses can take the sting out of most disasters. A bunch of flowers says that you care and you’re thinking of somebody.
When I was recently in London there was a florist, The London Flower Shop on Long Lane, just down from where we were staying. It was selling single stems rather than bunches and I wondered why. Perhaps because there were so many small flats nearby and people might not be able to afford a big bunch. But even a single flower carefully placed in a room brings happiness and light. The young lady in this shop fussed over us and put us together a small bunch that brightened up our apartment.  She also made sure that we got flowers that hadn’t fully opened so they lasted longer - and we were able to pass them on to my aunt after a week. When we left England two weeks later that same bunch of flowers was brightening up another small apartment and still going strong.
It’s just one of the many small things often overlooked or taken for granted that makes a real difference and can lift people up.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Your Bed

 Your bed ...what more do I really have to say? We all know and love our beds; they are our best friends. After you've have had a busy day, be it good or bad, sinking into your bed is pure joy.
 When your muscles are fatigued, your brain is fried, or you're simply just partied out, your bed welcomes you into its warm embrace. Your pillow gently cradles your head and you begin to drift into that period of semi-consciousness. For a few moments you can feel your body becoming pleasantly heavy under the weight of the blankets. Your think hazy half-coordinated thoughts as you fade out. You never remember going to sleep - how could you?  But you sleep the best deep sleep imaginable.
 Then you wake up the next morning feeling refreshed and relaxed, a nice tingle courses through your muscles as you stretch under the covers. You're just happy to lie there for a while as light infiltrates the room telling you that another day has arrived.  You cling to the pillow, reluctant to move from this moment of absolute bliss, but your sleep has energised you and soon you are up and about, motivated and ready for anything.
Your bed is one of those small things that make life grand! Treasure your relationship with it.

Monday, August 20, 2012


When I thought about the list of small things that make life great, sunrise was up there staight away. The beginning of a new day is always special - if you see it it means that you are still alive, and that has to be good. It's also the start of a new adventure...what is going to happen? If you are awake when the sun rises then take some time to watch it without distraction wherever you may be. Use all your senses.
I spent a good 6 months in the Kimberley region living out of a swag and sleeping under the stars back in the early 90s and sunrise was the most magical time of day - it was serene. I have used this extract from a novel that I am writing (that may never be finished, but still, I enjoy writing it).
Sunrise in the Australian bush is of one the most beautiful experiences. If this is not something you have seen, please let me describe it for you in some more detail. Imagine that you have just opened your eyes…
It is cool, even cold.
The sun still rests below the horizon but the sky is already a soft blue colour infused with white.
It is perfectly still; faded green leaves hang limp.
There is a sweet smell in the air, a cool damp aroma that comes from the vegetation. It’s as if someone has doused the country with air freshener. Condensation clings to leaves and the makes the soil moist underfoot; it also carries the smell into your nose. The chorus of birdcalls that greeted the first light of dawn some half an hour ago has ceased.
There is only silence.
This is as peaceful as it gets anywhere in the world, as serene as you can be.  Soon the sun’s rays will hit your swag and make any further rest unbearable, just as they had this morning, and you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to experience this again. So drink it all in and feel your muscles and mind relax. Just feel the serenity...

That Place You Used To Go

As a teenager living in Stafford, in England, I would sometimes go on an evening run after eight o’clock to try to escape the slightly claustrophobic feeling that comes with close living in the suburbs. My route would take me along Sidmouth Avenue, across the Yelverton playing fields, through to Torrington or Falmouth Avenues, and then onto Porlock Avenue. On warm summer evenings (to all those Australians reading I promise they do exist in England) there were times when I went up the old bridle path that snuck between two houses and led through to the fields beyond. This marked the edge of the town.
Where the path came to the farmland there was a fence and stile that provided a secluded and quiet seat. From here I could gaze out to the east over rolling hills covered with golden fields of cereal, or the green forests of Cannock Chase. On a still day, I might see the columns of steam from Rugeley Power Station soaring up like solid pillars supporting the sky. I would shut out the houses behind me, the road, and Walton High School to my right, and just concentrate on the rolling hills that glowed in the soft evening light.
The gentle evening breeze would agitate the crops, each stalk waving at me from across the hill that curved away to the east. The gentle puffs of this wind extracted tension with the ease of the hands of a well-practiced masseuse. Sitting with my back to the houses, fully hidden from view at my vantage point behind high fences, this was a little sanctuary of peace only five or ten minutes from home. I might continue the run from here, five-miles in total, or if I was feeling suitably relaxed I might just amble slowly home.
This was in the late 1980s, and that view unfortunately no longer exists as I remember it; the powers that be have plonked houses by the road below. Such is life. However, that was my little piece of open space, and ever since then I have been able to find such places wherever I have lived. Just a little bit of patience is all it takes to find yourself a personal space where you can escape. I can still go there every day if I want to, despite it being 12000 miles away. The memories of these places are one of the little things that bring a moment of happiness to any day.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

That Song...

I could just dribble for a while as a sort of introduction, but I will resist the temptation and jump straight into the small things that bring joy to life.

That Song…

 There is a moment that happens out of the blue. It usually happens when you are in the middle of cleaning the bathroom, the kitchen, or the oven (well perhaps not the oven. I might happen when you are in the middle of dealing with a pile of paperwork, bills etc. It might even happen when you are cooking a meal, writing a book, washing the car, or maybe even just reading the paper top catch up on the latest disasters and incompetence of politicians.
Then you hear the first bars of a song on the radio. This is a song that takes you back to a great time in your life. It might be to do with a great time of your youth - your first crush at high school for instance, a great event at university, a personal achievement that made you feel on top of the world. Before you know it your foot starts tapping and your fingers follow along; your head begins to bob to the beat and you find yourself mouthing the words to yourself. Your knee then starts flexing,  encouraging your hips to move to the rhythm. Arm movements follow and then suddenly you are down on your knees air-guitaring  the guitar solo or dancing like a maniac around the room, the garden, or the office, singing in your toneless voice.
This is a priceless moment (and not just for those lucky enough to see you making a twat of yourself)  that lifts you up for the whole day. You can’t help but feel better for it – the mundane reality has been pushed to one side, washed away by a moment of pure uninhibited joy. It’s the little things…