‘I had written him a letter’.

Here I am, walking up and down (exam supervision), no other possibility than to draw entertainment from my own mind. I can’t sit down for very long, have to keep moving around the students, and can only jot down occasional words and reminders.

‘Get petrol’ features heavily at the moment.

So…Clancy Of The Overflow it is. My grandfather loved AB Paterson’s poems, and I went on to study them in Australian Literature. As with many aspects of reading and absorbing, I found that excessive analysis sometimes soured the enjoyment. A couple of decades later, however, that analysis has mellowed to an innate understanding of the writer’s background, and an appreciation of the times and circumstances in which they wrote. It’s much better this way.

‘He was shearing when I knew him’…

Someone needs a script book. But Clancy remains poised in the mid 1800s, a figure of our pioneering past, steadily being overtaken by Paterson’s city based workplace.

‘Get more hand sanitiser’. This is cold and flu season, and the exam halls are a soup of coughs and sneezes.

‘…we don’t know where he are.’

‘in my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy gone a-droving down the Cooper…drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.’

It’s a chant now, and all is quiet except the shuffling of papers and steady brush of pens and pencils. What subject is it? Engineering-Information Technology-Immunology. I am sure there is ‘poetry’ of a sort in any of those.

And in my fancy, I can see the ‘vision splendid’ and recall many nights seeing stars in cool air on the edges of suburbia. Those ‘everlasting stars’ propel me through another two turns of the room.

Paterson’s stuck in the city like I’m marooned (entirely voluntarily) in this big barn of a place, and you can feel his sadness and see the half light as it ‘struggles feebly’ between the buildings.

He doesn’t like the people – ‘eager eyes and greedy’.

He doesn’t like the noise – ‘fiendish rattle, Of the tramways and the buses’.

He doesn’t like the bustle and busyness – ‘as they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste’.

Do I need more lemonade? I think so.

Poor ‘Banjo’ Paterson…there is nothing like being in the middle of nowhere and having the ‘seasons come and go’. But at the same time, there is nothing like finding a patch of loveliness – an oasis – in the middle of a big city, and finding your own people to share it with. Both have their charms and detractions.

And I somehow fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy, Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go, While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal – But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of “The Overflow”.’

And with that, the ten minute warning announcement is delivered. The timing, and the final verse, are both perfect.

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Oases can be found anywhere – and everywhere


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Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Buildings – the perfect backdrop, and a thousand stories in its own right

As I type, I’m sitting here with at least three different varieties of writing to complete.

I have to:

  • Provide captions of up to 100 words for a range of historical photos
  • Write an article about a family of cheese makers
  • Complete a report about business activities.

In between, I am also researching a long lost soldier for an article due in about three weeks’ time, as well as drafting an article about a knitting charity, and researching some other ideas for future articles. I have a newsletter to redraft for an accommodation business, and the prospect of a big spell checking job by the end of April.

Sometimes, when your work depends on words, you can feel that there’s just not enough out there. But there is usually more than you think. Make a list of your interests and abilities, and pursue assignments along those lines. I can spell, have extensive qualifications in historical research, and know how to edit effectively on a small scale. I am also good at creating slightly quirky articles, and specialise in sports and military history, as well as craft enterprises. It’s an odd mix, but at least it gives me some avenues to pursue, as well as confidence in my abilities.

I can also adapt my activities around finding other topics for articles, and adding to the list for possible future subjects. For example, I went to Melbourne’s Flower & Garden Show – based in the Royal Exhibition Buildings and surrounding gardens – a few days ago. As well as being a lovely excursion, it was a scouting trip. I picked up brochures, took notes and had ideas generating even as I walked around; small businesses, interesting profiles, amazing products – all are now in the mix for future pursuit and consideration. I often have a ‘research day’, on which I follow up topics, checking websites and other sources such as local newspapers, and I now have at least a dozen ‘possibles’ to add for consideration.

It just goes to show that sometimes, when your work depends on words, there are more ideas out there than you can imagine!


Well, Christmas was – surely – a month ago, not two weeks as the new calendar indicates.

It is a wonderfully busy time of year, but I also welcome the opportunity that comes with the post-Christmas lull to be sitting and collecting thoughts and plans for the days and months ahead.

As well as shortly starting on my Simple Things challenge, I am splitting the days between writing, research and craft work.

Research is probably the most important thing for me in the long term. I thoroughly enjoy finding stories to turn into writing pieces. My favourite stories are those of historical nature, or those which reveal people learning and achieving with dedication to their chosen field.

At the moment, I am delving into artisan food producers, which is extremely rewarding and interesting. There are people out there with huge amounts of energy and enthusiasm, putting long hours and resources into building up a small business.

My other pursuit – and here comes a tip – is undertaking craft work. I primarily crochet, both first thing in the morning and during the evening. Not only does this help with producing gifts and small saleable items to keep my budget ticking over (Resolution 1A.32, vol. 64 – market stall), but it provides another rich vein of possible stories.

More importantly, perhaps, my craft work gives me a quick tangible boost in the pursuit of larger goals. Making something material gives my brain a chance to tick over with other matters (more so if it’s an easy pattern in progress), and I receive an ‘I can do it!’ zing once a project is finished. So, if you are like me and working in a largely intangible field – or if you’re muddling around with something new and scary in general – here is my tip.

Make sure you have something tangible to keep you going. If you cook, take time out to create something special. If you garden, get out there and plant or prune. Photography (another of my brain break activities), woodwork, sewing, painting – whatever it may be, keep it going, use it as encouragement, and don’t get bogged down in the larger, more imposing WORK that hits you in the face every morning. If I woke up and tried to head straight into full on research, I’d fade pretty rapidly. Tangible achievements help me to keep the energy going on the intangibles and unknowns.

I look forward to sharing both the tangibles and intangibles with you in 2016!

Everything's coming up roses in 2016
Everything’s coming up roses in 2016


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The middle of the MCG – a brilliant scene from any angle

Yesterday, I had the chance to head to one of my favourite places; the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). For anyone who doesn’t know the MCG, it is essentially a huge sporting stadium about ten minutes’ walk to the east of the centre of Melbourne.

But – more than just a sports venue – it is the platform for stories…stories of triumph, tragedy, celebration, achievement and connecting the Melbourne of over 150 years ago with now. There have been concerts, Olympic and Commonwealth Games, religious gatherings and so much more in this space. It is the main home for Australian Rules football in the winter, and cricket in the summer. It has had – and continues to have – sports of many varieties connected to it.  It even served as military accommodation during the Second World War, and holds tight to its memories while still being a beacon of modernity.

The MCG…it is awe inspiring but comfortable, a place where the maze gives way to your personal viewing post. You typically share this space with your ‘tribe’ and it helps, in turn, to create your own traditions.

On its large scale, the MCG is a great example of a place where looking beneath the surface helps to uncover myriad stories and spark researching and writing motivation. Like so many other buildings and venues in a big city, the MCG holds a multitude of memories behind its stadium walls. It is in turn complemented by the residences in the quiet streets beyond, most of which have dates on their facades, and distinctive styles that have held true over many generations.

From such landmarks, we can then move beyond to our own lives and the buildings that create the stage for us. What sort of scene do they set? Who has been here before us, and how did they make a difference? The building is the platform, and we are the detectives and story tellers in what is one of the most rewarding forms of research and writing; looking into the world around us, and becoming acquainted with the people and stories who are part of our own continuum.


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Sunsets are never ordinary, and always inspiringly full of stories

It is most fitting that I am writing this as we mark LM Montgomery’s 141st birthday. Montgomery, for those who do not know, was the author of wonderfully timeless books (primarily) for girls, focusing mainly on ‘Anne’, ‘Emily’ and ‘Pat’.

I’ve always loved these books, although I became slightly cynical about them in my late teens, before delving back in once I read the author’s biography in my twenties. Maud Montgomery was not a sunshine and roses personality – not all the time, anyway – and her work ethic leaves me feeling lethargic. She persevered, and she got places.

This is more than enough cause for admiration. I don’t know if I would have liked her all that much in person; but I like her in inspiration. You see, her spark for writing Anne of Green Gables is akin to my method of finding interesting stories and deriving something extra from the everyday world. She actually found a newspaper snippet about an elderly couple who adopted an orphan boy. By mistake, a girl was sent to them. From this small tweak of humanity, the stage was set for a story telling phenomenon. Anne – the fictional echo of that orphan girl – has since become the ‘kindred spirit’ of readers the world over.

I was reminded of the way in which quirky, seemingly small stories can capture our hearts and minds by a photograph which was reposted on the State Library of Victoria’s Instagram account recently. A visitor to the Library (the magic of the Domed Reading Room!) found a note to a late grandfather hidden deep in the pages of a book. It read – in part – ‘I will now bury this note to you deep in words inside this book. I love you grandpa. Your words are buried deep in me.’

Time and place stood still for a second when I saw the image of the book with the note inside it, and read those words. Such a story, transcending place and time in its appeal; and yet, we all have those stories as part of our own lives. We may not recognise them, scurrying about our routines and obligations, but our everyday and our place in the world is what makes everything brilliant. Our mundane is someone else’s amazing; our seemingly quiet lives the sparks for inspiration throughout time.

We all have our small stories.  But, as I find, tell and shape them, I know they are not so small at all.  They are all of us.