Posted by: shortkay | June 10, 2016

Rationing my writing

Why is it that when I start to write, I don’t want to stop?

My mind fills with words jostling for space on the page, and the ideas flow, but then I must stop because it’s time to shut the chooks away for the night, feed the horses, stock up the fire and muster up something for tea.

Yet those words and ideas continue to batter at me, even while potato peel falls into the scrap bucket and as I shrug on my jacket to leave the warm house to tend my animals.

I feel suspended between two worlds – the world of writing and the world of my reality, of what I want to do and what I must do.

Words and ideas finally ease back into the keyboard, and tuck themselves away into the corners of my mind. They haven’t gone away. They’ll be there next time I dare to sit down and release them into sentences and paragraphs and pages and chapters.

Time to check dinner.

Posted by: shortkay | June 30, 2016

In the car

I am getting through a lot of good reading on my journey to work, 3 days per week.

By car, my trip averages 45-60 minutes each way. Audio books are a great way to pass the time at traffic lights, although sometimes I have to re-run a segment if traffic conditions distract me from my listening.  (Joking).

Last week I listened to ‘The Secret River’ by Australian author Kate Grenville. What a tragic story of people transported to New South Wales in the early 1800s. What a beautifully crafted book. Is it a novel? Is it based on real people? There can be no doubt that everything depicted actually happened, and the main protagonist Will Blackwood is an authentic, vulnerable, fallible, optimistic human character.

The book I’d listened to immediately before was ‘Salt Creek’ by South Aussie Lucy Treloar. Quite by accident I listened to two books on the same theme – early white settlement and the interface with indigenous occupants.  Both were wonderfully written.  Treloar’s depiction of the Coorong and parts of South Australia were of course most familiar to me.

Making it even more poignant for was Treloar’s characters were based on her Quaker ancestors, particularly John Barton Hack (JB Hack).  Hack had employed my great-great-grandfather Henry Hampton as a bullock-driver and probably a gardener at Hack’s Echunga property, in the Adelaide Hills, prior to Hack’s financial ruin.

Treloar’s book echoed stories from within the extended Hack family, combining many into the Finch family who found themselves eking out a meagre living on the Coorong. Pioneers.

But these books made for a heavy heart and I am now whizzing through a jolly MC Beaton “Agatha Raisin” murder-mystery.  There must be something about the Cotswolds in England that attracts murderers, or at least writers of murder-mysteries.  First we had Midsomer Murders (loosely set in the Gloucestershire area) and now we have Agatha Raisin finding bodies everywhere. I’d avoid Carsley. Just as well it’s fictional.

MC Beaton is better known for her Hamish McBeath novels (also murder-mysteries) set in Scotland.

I prefer the Agatha Raising stories, possibly because they are so wonderfully well read by Penelope Keith. The Scottish-accented readers of the Hamish McBeath books are sometimes difficult to understand.

I’m off to bed now, and will read a little before turning out the light. It will be an article or two from that excellent English magazine “25 Beautiful Homes”. It’s top of the pile of books on my bedside table.


On February 29, 2016 Tonja Carter, the estate lawyer and trustee for Harper Lee who replaced Alice Lee after her death in 2014, asked, through the legal firm representing her, an Alabama court to s…

Source: Harper Lee: A Different Angle on the Long-Term Effects of Dementia

Posted by: shortkay | January 9, 2016

Bad C-foods

It’s taken me a long time to admit this, but I undermine my efforts to lose weight (and keep it off) because of my liking of ‘C’ foods.  These are those naughty-but-nice foods and drinks that start with the letter ‘C’.

Cake, Chips, Crisps, Chocolate, Champagne, carbs, Cheese, Caffeine, Cream biscuits (in fact, all biscuits – well, there’s a ‘c’ in the word), etc. I’m sure you will tell me if there are more.

Of course, there are ‘good’ C-foods:  Carrots, capsicum, chilli, cucumber. My body, unfortunately, rejects these as much as it, fortunately, rejects that other famous C-food:  Cream (and it’s delectable cousin Ice-cream).

My weight-to-height ratio (BMI) is in the obese range. I don’t feel obese and most people would be delighted to weigh only 69kgs, and so would I if I were taller. Much taller.  As the saying goes, I am short for my weight. In fact, I am short, and weight gain is too easy.

There’s little wrong with my exercise:  the problem lies in the other C-word – Chewing.

Many years ago, my GP Steve S said the formula to lose weight was simple: exercise the top [mouth, ie eating] less, and the bottom [feet, ie exercise] more.  It’s so true.

But as much as my head knows I shouldn’t be eating that C-food, something else in me says, “That little bit won’t matter,” and “Just this time.”

So, now I am going to think about those C-foods in general as Calorie-foods. No longer may I think of these as ‘naughty-but-nice’. They are unhealthy, unnatural, unnecessary, unkind.

C-foods are Calories.

Wish me luck!


PS:  I just had bacon with an omelette and salad for tea. Although it contains a ‘C’, Bacon is NOT – yet – a C-food.

Time to control technology!

Going Gentle Into That Good Night

Technology can have devastating effects on the brainIn my book review of The End of Absence by Michael Harris, we see how an increasingly constant interaction with, reliance on, and addiction to technology is creating devastating effects on us neurologically.

Among these effects are dementia-like symptoms: loss of short-term memory, easy distraction, lack of focus, loss of critical thinking skills, and loss of executive functions.

These effects are happening to people all around us just like you and me. The effects don’t discriminate: even the very young are affected just as profoundly as others of varying ages.

In Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, a book everybody should read, the discussion centers on the neurological effects of 24/7 technology connection in the actual composition of the brain.

The research and the science is sobering, especially in light of how it points to the emergence of another lifestyle dementia that is already…

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Going Gentle Into That Good Night

verbal and behavior communication hand grenades dementia Alzheimer's Disease human relationshipsIn “Eliminate Behavioral and Verbal Hand Grenades in Our Relationships with Our Loved Ones with Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease – Part 1,” we looked at the first six of the 12 verbal and behavioral hand grenades that psychoanalyst Trevor Mumby has identified that hamper and inhibit communication with our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease.

As I stated in the first post, these 12 verbal and behavioral hand grenades should be eliminated from all our communication with all humans, because although our loved ones with dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease will visibly and negatively react to each of these hand grenades while non-neurologically-impaired people may not, we still damage and destroy relationships when we use them.

The last six verbal and behavioral hand grenades of communication that Dr. Mumby has identified follow below.

verbal behavior hand grenadeUndermining.

Slowly and insidiously tearing people down from the foundational level with regard to their abilities, their intelligence…

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Posted by: shortkay | April 2, 2014

Henry’s Crooked Little Fingers

In 2010 my article on my gg-grandfather Henry Hampton was published in the Sussex Family Historian. What’s more, the magazine featured his portrait photograph, taken in the 1890s, on its front cover.

Although I didn’t get much response to the article, it must have caught the imagination of the ‘Historian’ editors because the article was reprinted in their 40th anniversary magazine, published in March 2013 (yes, a year ago, but some things mustn’t be rushed).  I was totally chuffed that my article had been selected to be included with this august collection.

The Sussex Family Historian editor, Sharon Paskins, wrote, “This quarter we have turned the clock back mixing the reprinting of some classic articles with the history of various aspects and projects within the group.”

“… classic articles…”

I like that.

Again, there was little response to the article in terms of people being able to help me solve the mystery of Henry Hampton’s background, but I continue to beaver away at finishing the Australian “leg” of his story.

After all, with 21 children and 85 grandchildren, there are a lot of people around who carry his crooked little fingers, and I’m one of them. We don’t know who his parent were, but we sure know who are his descendants.

The reprinted article is attached. Crooked little fingers_0001

Posted by: shortkay | October 11, 2013


Poor Chookie is gone.

She was a hatchling after the Great Chook Massacre of 2004.  Only two hens survived out of our flock of ten, including four large Isa Brown hens and one rooster.

One of the surviving hens was a black bantam, sitting in a dark nest inside the chook shed (a converted cubby house) on a clutch of eggs.  Four chickens were hatched three days later, Chookie being one.  She had fluffy feet, inherited from a Silkie bantam ancestor, and her body was a beautiful orange-gold. Chookie glowed.

Chooks come and go and our flock numbered four when we moved house in 2009.

There was raucous rooster, Charlie, another survivor.  A suburban rooster, his shrill yodelling had generated complaints about the noise, so he was headed for the chop when we instead offered him refuge.  The refuge was more like chook heaven for him as he became lord over our small flock of hens.

Charlie was a magnificent grey Silkie. He looked after his hens like all good roosters and yodelled his head off from 4am.

Two of the hens did not survive much beyond the move.  One simply disappeared about a week after moving day.  I found her, dead, a few days later, tangled in weeds where she had gone to make a nest but couldn’t get out.

A few weeks later, the other one looked sick.  I picked her up and she literally died in my hands, full of some infection from an injury we hadn’t noticed among her fluffy feathers.

So our flock was reduced to Charlie and Chookie and we let them free-range around the vegetable garden during the day.

One day we returned home from work and there was no sign of Charlie.

Instead, there were signs of a fight to the death.  Silky grey feathers were scattered across an area of more than 10 metres square.  He had fought valiantly, but his murderer’s paw prints were huge.  It was a big dog who had killed him.  My heart filled with sadness for Charlie.

Chookie was in her shed and she tilted her head at me when I found her.

For several months, she was our only chook, and occasionally gave us small, rich Silkie eggs in return for bed and board.

I don’t like to see solitary animals, so we bought two Buff Colombian Wyandotts from a local breeder. These two hens were a little bigger than Chookie and soon ran the place.

We took a long holiday and upon returning I did the usual rounds of checking garden and animals.  When I entered the orchard I called out “Chook, chook, chook” as one does.  The next minute I was greeted by Chookie hurtling across the yard in half-flight, as fast as her fluffy bantam legs could carry her.  She stopped at my feet and cocked her head at me, clucking a return greeting.

I’d just been welcomed home by a chook, as warm a welcome as I’d ever received from any living creature and a lot warmer than the reception I received at the office the following day.

Chookie and the Buffs were joined by a pair of purebred Silkies, one white and one black.  The seller was sure they were both hens, but the white one proved to be a rooster.  We now had a flock of five.

We let a couple of clutches hatch, including one proudly mothered by Chookie (pictured below). Our flock grew to 13, the latest clutch resulting in three roosters and one hen.  The roosters were disposed of when they started to grow aggressive. They were knocked in the head to render them unconscious and their heads chopped off. We added them to the compost.

We still had too many chooks, but I am a softie and can’t bring myself to bump off hens, so our neighbours and family share in the excess eggs.

Lately I had noticed Chookie was having problems getting down from her perch, and realised she was nearing the end of her run, at nine years old.

This morning, I was home after a few days’ work and noticed Chookie sitting alone, feathers slightly ruffled.  I gave her water and extra grain, and then saw she was distressed by flies.

She had been injured, possibly by one of the bigger thugs of hens, or perhaps her vent had been clogged.  In the neglectful busy-ness of our lives, we hadn’t noticed anything wrong until too late.

It was not feasible to try to treat her injuries, which were nasty and irreparable.  I don’t believe in letting animals suffer so it was with heavy heart – and more than a few tears – that we put her to sleep and added her to the garden.

Poor Chookie.


Posted by: shortkay | July 26, 2013

I want my dad

He’s still here, but bits of his mind are going into hiding.

It’s early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, so his specialist says. He’s lucky, says the specialist. “Ninety is not a bad age.”

Dad’s hands are clean and the skin is getting papery. Grandpa Milton’s hands looked the same, just before he passed away, aged 93. Dad’s father. No memory loss for him. Just a stocky, pugnacious man whose mind outlived his body.

Dad is the next generation’s Grandpa Milton. Frailty is settling into his joints, his loss of sight, hearing loss. Does the loss of these cause memory loss, Alzheimer’s?

So many unanswered questions. Life’s journey continues, but there’s a kink in this road now. 

Dad is still there. He eats his dinner and enjoys his cuppa. He frets over the broken door handle we’ve already discussed. Twice. At least he remembers it.

Papery hands carefully feel across the table for the cup he cannot see properly. Familiar hands. Strong hands that would still be capable of doing anything. A builder’s hands. Bowler’s hands. A father’s kind hands.

I see him sitting on the edge of the old school house he helped us restore. Drinking a cuppa, and thinking carefully about the next re-roofing stage. Then back to work.

He’s still with us, but the memory of that house, and that roof, are lost to him. He might marvel at the photos I took, if only he could see.

On that clear day, we watched skydivers floating down towards the airstrip at Lower Light and drank cups of tea while pondering the next sheet of iron.

He’s still here. It’s our job to do the remembering for him, and to be kind.Image


Posted by: shortkay | June 23, 2013

Someone else’s movie

A child’s blue-white face catches my eye. He stares at my car as I drive past, heater at full blast on the year’s coldest day.

The child – too small to be walking – is bare-headed. His eyes are dark, wide pools. He looks sad.

Rain is all around, but not here, not where the child is held captive within the crook of a man’s right arm. I am guessing the man is the child’s father. Perhaps I am wrong.

The man is driving a ride-on mower. His left arm is swinging the mower’s steering wheel from side to side as he slashes grass along the roadside. Like the child, the man is not wearing a hat. I can’t tell if either are wearing ear plugs.

I want to stop the car and snatch the child away from the mower and its spinning blades, the man’s bifurcating hold, the noise, the chill.

Instead, I keep driving.

I realise I am seeing only a single image in someone else’s movie. To understand it, I need to watch more of the film. I don’t want to. I can’t. I mustn’t.

Instead, I drive home, to where I’m warm, cocooned, safe.  

I make a batch of french fries for tea. The gas cooker warms the room even more. 

The image of that white face continues to flicker in my mind.

After all, it was probably just a bit of fun with dad on the mower. In the cold. With a blue-white face.

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