Bunch of Fives newsletter NUMBER EIGHT! And you are still with us! Thanks so much to everyone who has subscribed (and hasn’t unsubscribed yet), we love sharing our useless and trivial knowledge with you! Please let a friend or 2 know about us and send them the link to this page, we would be ever so grateful. Hope you enjoy this fortnight's newsletter.
I just want to apologise for my sombre entries this fortnight but it has been a tough couple of weeks. I’ve been reflecting on my own life and those of others who have come and gone but left their mark on me; and those who stuck around and helped to shape me into who I am today as I bumble through this crazy trip called Life. So here’s your heads up - sorry in advance. A x
From My Bookshelf:
I am a bit of a magazine slut as a lot of you would know (from dodging the teetering towers of magazines balancing all over the tables and floors of my house) and Flow isn’t your usual mag. Its all about paper. Literally, its just full of beautiful papers, cards, tags, stickers and gift wrap. When I was a little girl, my favourite shop was the newsagents. All those pens and papers, cards and stickers...this was in the days before Smiggle too. So this big fat Dutch paper lovers magazine is pure indulgence for my 9 year old self. Its not out all the time and its an investment when the big one full of goodies comes out but well worth it. I got the cutest birthday party invitations out of it for Clems 5th birthday party last year. Adorable.
The Memory Tree - Britta Teckentrup
I bought The Memory Tree a couple of years ago purely because it’s a beautiful tale that introduces the subject of loss to children in a really gentle way. Although it’s a story about death (i.e. it’s sad) the author handles the passing of ‘Fox’ in a heart-warming manner that has provoked some very thoughtful, interesting and ongoing discussions with my children. They love the idea that Fox’s memory is kept alive through the treasured moments his friends share with one another after his death; the more joyful memories they tell of time spent with their friend, the bigger the memory tree grows until eventually it provides shelter for them all. (Kind of circle of life-ish in that respect, too). Whilst death is, and always will be, extremely sad, The Memory Tree helps us to show our children that it can also be a celebration of an individual who has lived a wonderful life and made many friends along the way. The language is simple, the illustrations are beautiful and it’s the perfect entry level on the subject for young inquisitive minds old enough to consider it - and it doesn’t promote any particular belief either, another huge tick in my proverbial book.
My mother used to plant trees when members of our family passed away and I always loved this sentimental ritual. We even spoke to the trees as if they were the actual people they represented; it was comforting, our way of keeping them nearby. (I'm sure a few of you are probably thinking you could use another word to describe our behaviour, but each to their own). When my grandfather died I chose the tree to plant in his memory; a liquidambar. It was a stubborn tree that grew very slowly and then, as if he knew we were leaving him behind, it died almost overnight in the last weeks before handover. It was sad to leave them all behind once the family farm was sold but it is a lovely tradition that I endeavour to carry on with my own family WAAAAY down the track.
(If you’re looking for a film version that depicts a similar topic, check out ‘Coco’. I wrote about it in newsletter #4. So good)
I have collected a couple of these over the years because I have always been drawn to the shiny sparkly things in life. Now that doesn’t mean I am poring over the diamond cabinet down at Michael Hill Jeweller, no. Diamonds are nice, but how cool are diamantes (or rhinestones as the Americans say)? My mum was always wearing them in photos of her and Dad all frocked up for a ball, they always seemed so glamorous but cheap and cheerful at the same time. I loved digging through Mums drawers as a kid looking for the brightly coloured necklaces and brooches, and eventually started finding some of my own. They had a bit of a moment when I was at uni, when all the arty kids wore them with their t shirts and cardigans and converse. You could buy them really cheaply at this dance costume shop in the city that all the dance mums and drag queens would visit. My mother in law gave me some of her old pieces and I have worn them to many a Quandialla ball or cocktail party. Fancy lady!
When I went off to boarding school I used to exchange letters with my grandfather, some of which I have kept because he really had a way with words. (He certainly came out with a fair bit of unwanted advice too). In one letter he addresses the ‘change’ in my attitude after a weekend visit home, where clearly I was not up to so much as even saying ‘hello’ and he asks:-
“…is it because you think you have stopped growing tall and you're going to grow too much sideways? If that is the trouble get in that swimming pool and put in a lot of laps- don’t starve yourself because it is not the answer. Reaching for the pool end stretches the body…”
I'm sure he was only trying to find an amusing way to somehow bridge that HUGE chasm that exists between moody teenagers and their elders, but this hormonal body-morphing lump of adolescence was mortified. Was I starting to grow ‘sideways’? And if I had, he was hardly putting my mind at ease as I muddled and mutated my way through the wonders of puberty.
When I was about 14 we had a bet with one another that I would go sans makeup until I turned 16 and, should I fulfil this contract, he would buy me my first car- a Ford Laser. We scratched out a contract on the bonnet of his car, signed it and shook hands. Each time I ventured home he would ask me if I’d been keeping up my end of the bargain and I could honestly, hand on heart, answer that I had been. You see, I didn’t discover make up until I was in my twenties and even then it was only a lick of mascara. The real war paint came in my thirties after children and age started catching up with me. I just wasn’t into it and I had this bet in the bag. But then he dropped a clanger on me…I had to go bare faced until I was 17! The fact that I had to go another year without makeup was of no concern to me; we teens back in the late 80’s /early 90’s weren’t about cosmetics and intensive personal grooming like today’s youth. (Oh no, we were all about a good drop-waisted liberty-appliqued skirt, Laura Ashley blouses and anything with the words Country Road emblazoned across our chests/bags/wallets etc. We were teenagers who dressed like middle aged women and believed ourselves to be on trend, or ‘trendy’ as we used to say). Nope, it was the fact that he had changed the terms and conditions SO close to my certain victory that drove a Ford Laser sized wedge between us for a while there.
Luckily my grandfather and I had a very special bond and it didn’t take long to mend the friendship and I am so grateful to still have some of these little treasures to remember him by. Letter writing is so old fashioned now and I always vow that I am going to bring it back but I haven’t yet and, realistically, probably never will. I use to love buying new stationery in the school holidays and writing to friends on scented paper with floral patterns and matching envelopes; it was such a thrill to get something in the mail from friends and read about all the boys they’d met and all the parties people were throwing. I still have a big pile of letters Sarah wrote to me when we were in high school bundled together with an old liberty scrunchie –yet another gem to add to our 80’s fashion canon. They're all such a wonderful reminder of my youth and how simple things really were when I was young. I thank my lucky stars we had no smart phones to text each other or any form of social media back then…I have a feeling it would not have been good. Not good at all…
This account @lovemerino belongs to Pip Smith from Wellington NSW who along with her husband Norm, run a merino stud that produces the wool for these incredible garments. Being sheep farmers, and stud owners ourselves, I feel very strongly about people who produce clothing from their own farm. I am too much of a dumdum to do something like this so I just buy their stuff! Winter is coming and if you are considering a new scarf or poncho, go to these guys. The sheep are unmulesed, and the wool is the best quality you can get from a happy, paddock raised sheep. It helps that they are two of the kindest and coolest folk about. Wear wool this winter and help a sheep farmer!
I’m going to raise the tone momentarily (sorry) with a happy little clip I watched on Instagram this morning that really made me giggle. It’s a wonderful notion to think that there is a female police officer somewhere out there conducting her Sobriety Tests in this manner and I just love how into it the guy gets. So click on this link DUI Stop- Dancing Cowboy to watch it on youtube because I am such a philistine when it comes to technology I can’t work out how to share it any other way.
High Five Playlist at Richmond this fortnight:
- America – Simon & Garfunkel
- My Old Man – Mac de Marco
- Rivers – The Tallest Man on Earth
- Red Clay Halo – Gillian Welch
- Catch of The Day – Sally Seltmann
Here’s my short, sweet High Five inspired by recent events and a touch of nostalgia.
- Stay Alive – Jose Gonzalez
- In My View - Young Fathers
- Say Something - JT and Chris Stapleton
- Wild Horses – Rolling Stones
- Pretty Pimpin - Kurt Vile
OK, just a little rant about family portraits. Don’t really like them. I reckon 98% of family shots are pretty awful and by awful, I mean the cheesy ones where everyone wears a white shirt. Or sits on the familys new tractor. Bring back the old fake forest backdrop shots, they’re funny at least! Until I can afford or manage to get @therealdeal_photography to take some snaps of my family, I am pretty pleased as hell that the wonderful @brigidarnottphotography took this pic of us a couple of years ago for Country Style magazine. Apart from my fresh from the hairdressers ‘do, its pretty natural and happy. Just the way I like us.
I write this random piece with a very heavy heart. Recently, I had the absolute displeasure of having to solemnly celebrate the life of yet another friend, gone far too soon. Throughout the past few years I have lost too many friends to the effects of depression, more than I can count on one hand, and it is just not OK. On the weekend I said goodbye to a young woman who had once been the life of the party; confident, quick witted, attractive…but inside she had fought demons that no one but her could see or hear and eventually they won.
I googled the rising rates and causes of mental health issues and suicide rates in Australia but all I got were a bunch of numbers. They're not reasons or answers, they're just statistics, and these poor souls aren’t ‘just’ statistics; they're sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, lovers. It can’t just be me who thinks that this is happening far too often, can it? As someone who has suffered from depression personally I know how important it is to talk about the stuff that’s eating away at you, but I also know how hard it is to get to the point of being able to open up about it as well.
There is such a stigma surrounding depression and I myself have felt the effects of society’s reaction toward someone suffering from mental illness. This can sometimes be tougher to deal with than having had the courage to accept that something just isn’t right, and lay yourself bare to what (seriously) feels like a whole world that’s going to judge you. I’ve had friendships end because I was too negative to be around and I appreciate that some folk only want to surround themselves with people that make them feel good, but life can’t just be glitter and sparkles all the time. Sometimes this is all it takes for the cycle to begin; you think no one wants to hear about how you're feeling, so you slowly withdraw from everyone and everything you used to find joy in (HUGE red flags!) or you're slowly phased out. You bottle it all up because you feel that if you can’t talk to your friends about it, well, who can you talk to? For some, it sadly becomes too much to carry alone.
I was lucky; I had the support of my family and good friends behind me and a doctor who listened. The moment I addressed my state of mind and lack of interest in almost everything that was going on in my life, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Please believe me when I say there is nothing truer than the old adage “a problem shared is a problem halved”- I almost instantly felt better for just being able to admit and give voice to the things I felt I wasn’t coping with, which was motherhood mostly, since I am being completely honest with you. It was a tough time. It truly felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel because when you are in the midst of all that darkness it just feels so black, and you cannot see or feel anything but the gloom trying to steal your every breath. Of course there is a way out for most of us but it takes time and patience on everyone’s behalf as hard or frustrating or sad as it may be.
We are told time and again that the simplest exchange- a ‘hello’ or even just a smile- can change the outcome of someone’s day, perhaps even their life. Never dismiss someone’s feelings; have empathy, listen…you could honestly be saving a life. What is that saying that always seems to pop up on social media? Something about ‘everyone you know is fighting their own battle [and to] just be kind’? Just. Be. Kind.
If this has triggered anything in any readers or if you know someone that you feel may be trying to reach out there are LOTS of places and friendly faces you can approach if you need to talk to someone. It’s the first step toward feeling better about stuff. Click on any of the links below for help. Just be assured you're never alone.