Category: e. FALLING BETWEEN THE CRACKS

The day I became a Masai warrior-in-training

What’s that you say? An author with pronated feet and lower back pain who sits too long at the computer, becoming a Masai warrior? Not quite.

We were on our way the Asia-Pacific Triennial at the Queensland Art Gallery and having the usual conversation:

Me:  We won’t be able to stay too long. I can’t walk far in these sandals.

Ross:  Why didn’t you wear your runners with the orthotics?

Me:  I can’t wear my daggy runners with this nice dress!

Ross:  Why not?

You get the picture? In the end, Ross insists we forget the Art Gallery and use his day off to buy me a pair of ‘nice’ shoes I can wear with a dress. I suspect it is because he has reached his patience limit with my peculiar feet.

Me, thinking to myself:  He has no idea how long this will take and what a hassle it will be!

So we head to the best shoe shops in the city centre that say they cater for people with ‘peculiar’ feet.  Two and a half hours later after limping through several shops, facing exasperated shop-assistants and piles of opened boxes with shoes and tissue paper in an ever-spreading clutter across the floor, we find a shoe shop manager who really does know shoes and feet. She is desperate to help me.

But by then I have had enough. Ross accepts this is one challenge he is not going to win. We give up. Recovering over coffee, I read a leaflet from the shoe shop about the new MBT shoes … Masai Barefoot Technology shoes.

There is a silver-grey and white pair that would go with good shorts and casual dresses, although, sadly, not that très-chic dress hanging in my wardrobe. I’m interested. So back to the shoe shop we go.

The manager insists she and I go for a walk around the Myers Centre (she’s wearing MBTs as well) to get used to them.

No wonder she thinks I need practice! The shoes are nothing like normal shoes – MBTs are curved. Imagine walking, like the Masai apparently do, in a gliding, rocking, smooth movement across the desert sands. I feel like a dill!

Thirty minutes later I walk out with new MBTs, and poorer than if we had gone to the Art Gallery. But Ross insists they make me walk taller. That night, the muscles in my ankles, calves, hips, bum and back all say I had a ‘work-out’, even after twenty minutes.

Some podiatrists say MBTs are ‘snake-oil’ treatment. But if these shoes help build up muscles to support pronation and weak ankles, and maybe even stop my endless replacement of orthotics, I’m willing to try them.

Here’s a link to one Sports Injury bulletin on Masai Barefoot Technology.

Today, I head out in my ‘Masai shoes’. If you see a non-spear carrying, unfit author walking tall down the street, with a look of fierce concentration on her face, she’s not thinking about plot changes or character development – more likely she is trying not to fall off her shoes.

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840 kittens … resurrected

Okay, I know I said this blog was just for writing matters BUT I have to get on my soapbox just one more time in 2008.

So that’s what I posted on Christmas eve in 2008 – the issue is just as important at Christmas 2009.

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa’s calling in on lots of good little boys and girls, but do you think Santa would be so stupid as to leave a cute puppy or kitten under the tree? No way, Jose! That jolly old gentleman has got more brains. Mind you, there are some responsible owners who will do the right thing for their fluffy, furry, hairy little bundle over its life.

In December there’ve been over 840 kittens dumped at Brisbane’s RSPCA centre at Fairfield and they’re still counting. If they can’t find homes, they will be gassed – kaput, arrivederci, farewell and goodbye. In one year the number of cats put down number over 12,500. Add to that number the total dogs and puppies who’ll die as well. Those vets out there at Fairfield must feel like shit sometimes – they’ve trained to save animals not kill them.

The RSPCA is run by donations. Want to help? Donate. Pressure politicians to ensure people spey and neuter their cats and dogs if they’re not prepared to find good homes for the progeny. Encourage people to get their pets from the RSPCA not petshops (sorry, petshop owners, but you are part of the problem). Help out at the animal shelters.

I told you I was getting on my soapbox.  Here’s the site to donate, and you get a cute card with it….  (that particular site isn’t up for this year yet – keep an eye open for it). But here’s the RSPCA link if you want to donate now.

Have a furry good Christmas!

Nothing to do with cats and dogs - just another animal - dermestid beetles eating flesh off python.
Dermestids at work - Qld Museum.
Instead of a cat or dog for Christmas, how about a carton of friendly, useful little dermestid beetles. The world wouldn’t survive without them chewing their way through dead meat.

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Grug – a little miracle worker.

If you were at school or were a teacher between 1979 and 1992 you would know GrugGrug

This hairy, brown and yellow striped character inhabited a series of books written by Australian author, Ted Prior. (Soon to be re-published by Simon & Schuster, Australia from June, 2009).

So, why a miracle worker?

Let me tell you first about Grug. Set in the Australian bush (and city), this small fictional character was formed when the top fell off a burrawang tree (altho it’s looks more of a Native Grasstree to me). Grug is like a strange haystack with large eyes and fat legs.

Doesn’t sound like something that’d appeal to kids, does he? But, oh boy, the kids in my Family Group class of 5 to 9-year-olds at Woodridge North State School in the 1980s adored him.

Was it his funny sense of humour? Or the colourful illustrations? Or those tricky situations Grug continually got himself into? It was all of these, and more.

Some of the 25 titles included:

  • Grug and the big red apple
  • Grug and the green paint
  • Grug learns to swim
  • Grug goes to school

It’s hardly worth telling you what these stories are about – the story lines are simple. But the different expressions on Grug’s face are sublime, and the words perfectly chosen.

I bought my own Grug books to use with the kids in Family Red at Woodridge North State School because we never seemed to have enough resources. There were 4 rooms of Years 1,2,3 in the Junior School and I was a novice teacher.  The books were very small so we made Big Books of our own to use with groups – oh yes, we were well and truly into the Whole Language approach to teaching reading. The kids drew and painted their own interpretations of the story and I printed the words.

Then students began to make up their own booklets with Grug as the hero. The older children in the group wrote the words for the younger ones – a true mentorship program. We explored phonics, comprehension, science, art, geography and language through the genius of  Ted Prior and the magic of Grug.

Rodney was seven, under-developed, and failing to learn to read. He told me trying to read was ‘sticky, like syrup’. I knew Rodney could think well, but he was overcome with the abstract world of the alphabet. He gave up.

So, one day I made a Grug puppet out of brown wool with large, plastic eyes that wobbled. I bribed Rodney – he could look after Grug if he had a go at reading Grug’s stories.  Every day, that child headed straight for the row of Grug books, and the larger Grug’s Word Book.

He drew pictures – something he was very good at – and slowly, surely, Rodney also tried to copy Ted Prior’s words and sentences. He began to read in halting sentences, becoming more fluent. He probably knew the stories off by heart, but that didn’t matter.

Within a couple of months, Rodney ‘got it’. It was like the light had switched on over those abstract letters and he knew he could read.

I put this little miracle down to this small, brown, stripey book creature, Grug.

Here’s a Youtube animation made in 2005 of the first story, Grug.

Enjoy!




840 kittens

Okay, I know I said this blog was just for writing matters BUT I have to get on my soapbox just one more time in 2008.

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa’s calling in on lots of good little boys and girls, but do you think Santa would be so stupid as to leave a cute puppy or kitten under the tree? No way, Jose! That jolly old gentleman has got more brains. Mind you, there are some responsible owners who will do the right thing for their fluffy, furry, hairy little bundle over its life.

In December there’ve been over 840 kittens dumped at Brisbane’s RSPCA centre at Fairfield and they’re still counting. If they can’t find homes, they will be gassed – kaput, arrivederci, farewell and goodbye. In one year the number of cats put down number over 12,500. Add to that number the total dogs and puppies who’ll die as well. Those vets out there at Fairfield must feel like shit sometimes – they’ve trained to save animals not kill them.

The RSPCA is run by donations. Want to help? Donate. Pressure politicians to ensure people spey and neuter their cats and dogs if they’re not prepared to find good homes for the progeny. Encourage people to get their pets from the RSPCA not petshops (sorry, petshop owners, but you are part of the problem). I told you I was getting on my soapbox.  Here’s the site to donate, and you get a cute card with it…. http://rspca.org.au/ecards/giftcardshow.asp?id=8

Have a furry good Christmas!

Nothing to do with cats and dogs - just another animal - dermestid beetles eating flesh off python.

Nothing to do with cats and dogs – just another animal – dermestid beetles eating flesh off python.

A pleasant surprise…

Don’t you love it when you you pick the right movie to see? Especially when you think you’re not in the mood for an intelligent drama. Okay, so it was my turn to choose and the other possibility was Twilight, but the thought of Ross going to sleep in a vampire/romance movie and snoring in the kissy-kissy bits put me off.

So, instead I chose Frost/Nixon, the just-released Ron Howard movie about the legendary battle between Richard Nixon, the disgraced president with a legacy to save, and David Frost, a jet-setting British television personality with a name to make – as the blurb says – in the story of the historic encounter that changed both their lives.

The screenwriter/s should earn Oscars and Tonys for their brilliant script as should the actors – it truly is a great movie.

Even if you didn’t live through those turbulent years as the world watched Richard Nixon escape punishment for his involvement in the Watergate affair, nor will it matter if you’ve never heard of David Frost, you’ll enjoy the drama unfolding. Go see it!