Saturday, 29 December 2012

Wandering in the 'Kingdom of Wonder' #3

My first two days in Cambodia have been a complete sensory overload, and quite overwhelming. The sights, sounds, tastes, smells and textures make every moment one to remember. 32 degree heat greeted us as we walked off the plane and across the tarmac into the Siem Reap terminal, where visa application required you to hand over your passport to have it completely disappear as it is passed down a line of blue-shirted officials who each have to check or stamp or sign something and then you sigh with relief when your name is called out at the other end and you have your passport safely within your possession once again! The first rule of travel: never let your passport out of sight!
We then packed all 11 of us plus our luggage into a minivan, in which people were seated 2 to a seat, on the floor and perched on an esky for the trip to town and our hotel. Road rules here act more as guidelines and it seems to be a free for all system as you weave between people, dogs, scooters, motorcycles, bicycles, tuk tuks, cars and buses. Cutting corners is recommended and street signs are completely disregarded. If I thought being in a car was harrowing, having to cross the road was terrifying! Thankfully there is safety in numbers as we simply launch ourselves into the middle of the mayhem and somehow everything on the road simply swerves around. My nose has been in a first world country for too long and at first I was assaulted by new and pungent odours, however you very quickly become accustomed to the smell of rotting fish, sweat, rubbish, fumes, fruit and dust. The market places are a fluttering rainbow of silk scarves and clothing, with intermittent stalls of silver, carvings and other products (the silk scarves have me mesmerised- I haven't purchased any yet though as I am waiting until I have deposited my 15 kilograms of books for the school library when we get there). I have had my feet eaten by fish in a traditional foot cleansing/massage, which was more torturous than pleasurable as my feet are extremely ticklish! I have eaten delicious Cambodian food (very easy to be vegetarian here as there are lots of vibrantly coloured vegetables to eat in a range of sauces and concoctions).
On our second day, we visited Angkor Wat and two other ancient temples and the biggest challenge of the day was keeping enough sunscreen on (as it kept melting off), ensuring we reapplied mozzie repellant often enough and remaining hydrated. By the end of the day I felt as though I was caked in sunscreen and aeroguard mixed with layers of sweat and a shower was a welcome relief. The temples themselves were magnificent, but words simply cannot do justice to them. I feel like I have so much to write about after only a couple of days, however I have rambled enough for one post, more to come next time I have Internet!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Wandering in the 'Kingdom of Wonder' #2

Finally flying, dinner in Darwin and slumber in Singapore

Day one was an exhausting day of airports and plane seats. After a few hours in Brisbane airport we were finally off to Singapore via Darwin. On both legs of the journey the person behind me had no awareness of how flimsy the seats are and constantly kneed and prodded me in the back! Combine that with vigorous coughing to my left , a rather disturbing '70s cop show on the screen in front of me and some loud whiners a few rows back and I was very glad to land! Darwin airport is quite, simplistic, in its facilities, but I found a cafe that made lovely Chai lattes and a nice sandwich for dinner.
Singapore airport on the other hand has lush gardens, vibrant purple orchids and vast amounts of space (and the baggage trolleys are free!)
Our hotel is quite grand and I am sharing a room on the tops floor with a girl from the team, we have quite a spectacular view over the city and I appreciated a comfortable bed and pillows after a hot shower. We have been forewarned that this is the peak of our accommodation and it is downhill from here- bring on the adventure! Another day of flying today- tonight we will be in Cambodia!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Wandering in the 'Kingdom of Wonder' #1

Cambodia is known as the 'Kingdom of Wonder' (a phrase that I'm sure can be interpreted in many ways!).

Before I head off, I have done some research, so to begin my blog posts of my trip, I have some fast facts about Cambodia.
1. Cambodia is the only country in the world to have a building on it's flag

2. Cambodians are the true masters of fresh spices (especially pepper-their pepper was once exported to France and exclusively used by the top chefs)

3. Sometimes eaten out of necessity, spiders can be served in Cambodia as a local delicacy
I shudder at the prospect and am glad I am vegetarian and so have a legitimate reason to not have to eat unidentifiable meat substances

4. Ankgor Wat literally means 'city temple' (referring to its size and grandeur)

I fully intend to write on my blog while I am away, however do not expect pictures, as I may not have much internet access. I am looking forward to adding to my collection of scarves whilst I am in a country that is known for its silk and textiles as well as learning about the history and culture of a country I really know very little about.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Making Up for Lost Time

My poor blog has been left sadly unattended for so long that I am attempting to make amends by writing two posts in one day!

School holidays are a wonderful invention as a sanity saver for poor teachers (holidays were not made for students, they were made for teachers and I defy you to find any teacher who will not agree with that!).

Now that school has finished for the year, I have been able to start preparing for my next trip away (which I leave for in 5 days). Those of you who have been following my blog for a while may recall a photo somewhat similar to this one about a year ago, when I set of for my northern hemisphere jaunt (if you are new to my blog, look back at my posts from December last year).

I have invested in extra-tough (and very pink) padlocks for my bags and have a few spare padlocks as well as the ever-reliable cable ties (zip-ties) packed away for the inevitable moment when my locks get broken open by over-eager immigration officials (it happens to me every time I travel, even though I buy the proper locks that you are recommended to have because security officials can open them with a skeleton key).


I've also been testing out my camera, practising for playing the tourist again


And of course, it is nearly Christmas, so I've been getting into the spirit of things with some baking
(I think my gingerbread house is a little more architecturally sound than the one I attempted last year!)

Christmas decorating is not complete without just a few bows

And to wrap things up, I unwrapped an early Christmas gift yesterday from a family who are very special to me. Aren't the vibrant colours beautiful?



If I thought I was busy in May.....


If I thought the middle of the year was busy, I had no idea what the end of a school year was like as a teacher!! The last few weeks of school left me with a pile of fossilised mush for a brain, piles of paperwork that would compete with the highest of termite mounds and so much stuff in my room that it became an obstacle course just to crawl into bed (after kicking off more piles of very important paperwork/resources/general parephenalia). However, I am now rewarded with the great satisfaction of being able to say that I have survived my first year of teaching! (They say it gets easier from here on in-all I can say is, it better not be this hard again!)

My secret santa gift on the last day of school was from a colleague who obviously knows me very well-it was a copy of a book I have been wanting for a long time and is providing me with a bit of light holiday reading:

The book is based on the premise that punctuation 'really does matter, even if it is only occasionally a matter of life and death'(sounds perfect for an English teacher).
The blurb on the back of the book reads:
'A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air. "Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
"I'm a panda," he said, at the door. "Look it up."
The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.
'Panda: Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.' (Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves)

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire

Today, I felt like an egg, and after my experiences, I think I'd like to go back to being a human, thank you very much.
I began the day beaten...before I'd even started, I was not optimistic at all about what my day held. My beaten state was then whisked into a flurry and resulted in becoming scrambled as I became increasingly overwhelmed with all I had to do (and I then walked out of the staffroom with another teacher's equipment, only to realise half-way to class and have to backtrack!).
Scrambled egg turned fried after over an hour on the phone; I lost the will to move forward, or to even do anything. By the middle of a very hot day, in a staffroom with a broken air-conditioner, fried egg became boiled, which did not bode well for my temper. To round it all off, there was an attempted poaching this afternoon, as I had a phone call offering me a different job! In one day, I think I have experienced all the states of being of an egg, which has left me rather raw.
Fairy Godmother, whoever you are, please wave your magic wand and turn me human again!

Monday, 26 November 2012

An English school, a coffee shop, and solutions to long term poverty

What does an English school and a coffee shop have to do with long term solutions to poverty in Cambodia? I’m finding out in January on the Milk and Honey Cambodia adventure team! Find out more and support us by grabbing some Christmas gifts at www.milkandhoney.asia/naomi.php

While I am in Cambodia working with Milk and Honey for three weeks, I will be (hopefully) posting regular updates here on my blog, so you can keep updated with what I will be doing!

Monday, 19 November 2012

More to life? Converting the Pessimist #3

There's got to be is more to life than this!

Today was just one of those days....halfway through the day, and I am literally (yes, I do mean literally) hitting my head against my whiteboard, muttering under my breath '9 more days, just 9 more days.'
The heat was oppresive, the classroom stuffy, and filled with 25 teenagers, I'm sure you can imagine the *ahem* aroma! And then it began: 'Miss, what about' 'Miss, where is the,' 'Miss, I need,' and 'Miss, why haven't you'. From all sides I was under attack; I couldn't find my pen, and then the internet wouldn't load, I seem to have misplaced my red whiteboard marker, and my tea went cold. All this, before lunchtime!

After lunch it just got worse and by the end of the day, I ended up back at my desk with my head on my desk wondering what it was all for. Of course, the best therapy for a disillusioned mind is doing more of that which is frustrating us, and so I spun myself into more of a frazzled state of mind by attempting to make sense of more drafts with no success.

At this point, there seemed to be nothing better to do than to check Facebook-my students seem to find solace in it, so there was no harm in my trying their mode of therapy! It worked for me! A friend of mine who is in a place even tougher and hotter than I am had posted about a friend of hers who is in Africa, doing it tough, saying that hearing her friend's struggles gave her a reality check. Well, her reality check gave me a reality check! I was sitting on a chair, at my job, with clean water in my water bottle and enjoying the luxury of air conditioning. Suddenly the frustrations of my day paled in comparison and although I didn't get any more drafts marked, I managed to walk out of work on a much more positive note. Tomorrow I will go back, and yes, there will be frustrations and I may just beat my head against my whiteboard again, but this is only for a time. In less than 2 weeks all the assessment will be submitted and marked, and yes, I will lose sleep over it and probably shed a tear or two, but really, in the grand scheme of things, there is more to life than this!

So, as I scrape myself up from the floor and reassemble my dismembered thoughts, I shall betake myself to bed and wake up tomorrow carrying today's reality check with me.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Spring Showers and Pretty Flowers

A rainy and overcast day shows off the flowers at their best as their colours stand out against the grey skies and the little water droplets from the rain glisten softly on the petals. Pause for a moment and admire some exquisite beauty.


Raindrops on Roses





Thursday, 8 November 2012

To Write

To write is to express all
Of that which is inside
Perhaps something deep
Or just beneath the surface
Yearning to be freed

To write is power;
The ability to communicate
With one's self, and record
The secrets of a mind
And share it with another

To write is ultimate freedom
Complete control of a pen
As it glides across the page
To create beauty from nothing
And make meaning immortal

This is why I write.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

A light in the middle of the tunnel

As the end of the year rapidly approaches and the piles (yes, the plural there is not a typo) of things yet to be done continue to mound up I have gone quote hunting. Yes, it is a definite form of procrastination, but it has proven to be worthwhile as I have found three quotes that I am going to stick up on my pinboard to help me keep some perspective in life over the next few weeks.

Firstly, a reminder to notice the roses and sunsets:
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breaths away." (anonymous)

Secondly, a reminder to live from the heart and not simply the head:
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart." (Helen Keller)

And finally a reminder to relish each moment:
"Live in the moment and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering." (Fanny Crosby)


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

What do women and tea bags have in common?

I recently found this quote and love it!

'A woman is like a tea bag. It's only when she's in hot water that you realise how strong she is.' (Attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt and Carl Sandburg)

Monday, 22 October 2012

A Sorrowful Day for the Scarf Lover

A sad day has arrived....as of this weekend, it is now unbearably hot and thus, the scarves have to be packed away. For a passionate scarf lover like myself (anyone who knows me will attest to that fact!), this is indeed a sad day. No longer will my neck require warming, the lace will now only itch (or become terribly annoying), the silk will not flow, rather it will stick, and the flowery and frilly ones will not ripple, but droop. 'Tis a most tragic occurence and it will be many months before it is again scarf weather. All of my scarves, many of them treasures from my travels afar (from Prague and Berlin in particular) are each cherished for their own particular qualities. Either for the pretty floral pattern, or the gorgeous lace, or beautiful fabric, they all completed an outfit or two! Alas, they are no more (until next year when I can rejoice and drape that simple piece of fabric or lace around my neck once more!)

(Don't get too excited-these are not all my scarves-only half belong to me! This was taken in Prague after my travelling buddy and I had been scarf shopping and we decided to lay out all our scarves and were astonished to discover that they completely covered a bed!)

Friday, 19 October 2012

If only we learned from history....

I'm in a philosophical mood and my mind is prone to wander.
On reflecting on the week gone by, I am reminded of a conversation I had with a few of my students. A student of mine is researching Anne Frank for a presentation and is therefore learning about the Holocaust (allowing me to combine my teaching areas and talk about history in my English class!). As she was reading, she asked me if I thought 'people could ever be that horrible again' (referring to the Holocaust). This was quite a pertinent question, especially as I am currently reading a novel entitled 'Exodus' by Leon Uris which is about the Jews post WWII and their attempts to return to Palestine/Israel. This question sparked a good discussion in my class and we decided that people would always be cruel and horrible to other people and would always attempt to justify it using whatever means they could (one only has to look at recent events in the Middle East, Rwanda, Somalia etc. to see that the human race has not learned from history). This discussion left me rather disillusioned with the human race and feeling rather hopeless and forlorn, but it also reminded me of why I majored in History as well as in English, because it is my job to teach the next generations about the events, successes, acheivements, failures and disasters of the past, and it is my job as a teacher to inspire hope in the next generation (that seems like a big mission!) and on a personal level, to seek out the good in humankind.
Here are some quotes from historical figures that we can learn from. It is here that I will end my philosophical ramble (for now).

History does nothing; it does not possess immense riches, it does not fight battles. It is men, real, living, who do all this
KARL MARX

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
MOHANDAS K. GANDHI

And a piece of advice to end with:
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
DESMOND TUTU

As always, your comments and input are welcome!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Why read the classics?


I recently read an article in doing some lesson preparation about why we should still read the 'classics' as the canonical works of literature are known. The article started of with the scary statistic that "according to a Jenkins Group survey, 42% of college graduates will never read another book."
As an English teacher, this prospect terrifies me! We cannot let the art and science of reading simply die out. And we cannot let the classics simply gather dust on the shelf until they themselves turn into dust. The article then gives 10 very good reasons for why we should read the classics, some of the reasons are obvious, others, a little more obscure.
Here is my summary of the reasons:
Firstly, reading the classics expands your vocabulary, which then sets you apart from the average speaker and allows you to communicate more eloquently. Secondly, your own writing improves by reading the works of some of our greatest authors. This improvment in your writing then improves your speaking because your command of the English language has been expanded. You are also inspired with new, creative ideas and fresh perspectives on issues by reading the ideas of people who lived in a different time from yourself. Fifthly, you gain a historical perspective on events and opinions, rather than solely surrounding yourself with contemporary opinions. Sixthly, it is simply enjoyable and mentally stimulating-you will be entertained. Next, you gain an element of sophistication. If you can quote a line from one of these books, you will in all likelihood win that argument and have the knowledge of a book that will continue to be talked about for years to come.
Three more points to go. Number eight, you become a more selective reader. If you expose yourself to good writing, then you continue to select good writing and don't waste your time on the trash. Ninthly, your own voice as a writer is developed because of the good writing you read. Last, but certainly not least, you learn timeless ideas about themes that will never die. These books are classics because their ideas still resonate with readers today.

So, there you have it-read the classics and you will be a better person for it! If you want advice on a book to start with, I would be more than willing to offer you some friendly advice.

If you would like to read the original aricle, here is the link to it:
http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/improve-your-mind-by-reading-the-classics/

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Magic of Books

This one speaks for itself, and it's brilliance needs no other introduction.


Monday, 15 October 2012

Doorways and Windows

I love doors. There's something about the mystery of not knowing exactly what you will find on the other side, the anticipation of the unknown, the scope for the imagination of what lies behind the door. When I travelled earlier this year (and my travelling buddy will attest to this) I was fascinated by the doors I found in Europe and (rather stalkerishly, I will admit) I took countless photos of doors that I found particularly intruiging for one reason or another. Whether it was their shape, size or colour, here are some of my favourites:
A cute one
A colourful one
A quaint one
A big one
An old one

There is a line in one of my favourite musicals (The Sound of Music) that goes something like 'When God closes a door, he always opens a window' and coincidentally, I also love windows!

I could leave you with some high-handed metaphorical advice here about doors and windows in life and the opportunities we have and the decisions we are faced with....but I won't....at least, not this time!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Moments

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away. (Anonymous)


Saturday, 29 September 2012

A Pictorial Summary of Springtime in the Mountains

A week spent in the Blue Mountains would take more than one blog post to describe, so instead, I will use the adage 'a picture is worth a thousand words' and sum up the glorious beauty of springtime in the mountains in pictures.

1. Jenolan Caves
Although I chickened out and did not go inside a cave, I thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular views as we walked the track above the caves.

2. Local Wildlife
Along with these beautiful parrots, I saw wild rabbits, echidnas, kangaroos, kookaburras, emus, iguanas (and other lizards), other vibrantly coloured birds and a huntsman spider!

3. Mount Wilson
Gardens in full springtime bloom, I have not the words to describe the utter beauty of the flowers




4. The Waterfalls
Family traditions abounded as we explored the familiar waterfalls. Many memories were laughed over and relived as we relished the beauty of the rainforest.

5. Grandma's Garden
Her garden was something that Grandma loved spending time in and it was special to be able to enjoy the beauty of the flowers she had planted and tended, albeit bittersweet to not have her there to share it with.







Monday, 24 September 2012

Meandering through Melbourne #4

Day 2 in Melbourne started off with coffee and a bookshop...where I indulged in my one weakness...books! (I may have purchased just one or two...) we then went walking, and walking, and walking. We walked to the Royal Botanical Gardens, across the Yarra River and through three other gardens. The flowers were beautiful, with many of them just beginning to bloom. I think I took more photos of flowers than anything else!

We found a glorious tearoom in the garden by the lake where we enjoyed lunch and rested our very weary feet after walking down many paths in the gardens. Our adventures continued through the gardens, past Government House and to the Shrine of Remembrance (the war memorial). As a history teacher, I appreciated the opportunity to pay homage to the men and women who have served our country in war. I also picked up a few teaching resources in the shop at the memorial, before we climbed to the top. We found a good vantage point with clear views over the gardens and the city.


By then it was afternoon tea time (yes, we did do a lot of eating on our trip!) and found a lovely cafe within the gardens to have a coffee and piece of cake. By this time we were quite tired, so mounted the free tourist bus to the art gallery, where we wandered around being 'cultured'. There truly have been some talented artists over time! The detail and depth in some of the works was incredible to look at.

Sore-footed, we limped back into the centre of the city, mounted the tram and got back to our hotel to pick up our bags and then it was time to end our adventures and head back to the airport after quite a whirlwind visit!

The adventures were not quite over though. Upon arriving at the airport, we discovered that our flight had been delayed, so, we, being the seasoned travelers we are, calmly sat on the terminal floor and awaited our flight! Eventually our plane arrived and it was off to another city....Sydney for a week next!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Meandering through Melbourne #3

After lunch, we boarded the highly convenient, free tram service and went to the Melbourne Gaol, a somewhat grim place to visit, considering its past purposes, however, still a very interesting place to go. We also added to our pressed pennies collection again and raised our eyebrows at some rather obscure art exhibits within the cells. Thankfully we were not locked up in the gaol and were able to go free to further explore. We did a bit of shopping, made a few purchases and then discovered a heavenly coffee and chocolate shop where we had the most divine cinnamon hot chocolate and mocha with incredible cakes on the side. It was indeed an experience that we will not soon forget. 

It was then time to go and dress up, ready for the main event of the trip. In our pretty dresses, with bows in our hair, we set off for the theatre, adrenalin running high with pent up excitement....this was the moment we had been counting down to, Agatha Christie's 'The Mousetrap'. We were not disappointed by the performance and I was quite pleased with myself in that I guessed 'who dunnit' by the intermission! However, as we are sworn to secrecy I shall not say any more. You will just have to see it for your self someday. 

Melbourne truly is a city that comes to life at night-when we had arrived in the city at 9 in the morning, the city was quiet, however, walking back to our hotel at 10:30 at night, the streets were a hive of activity. For us though, it was time for bed, to dream of gardens, fountains, chocolate and three blind mice. 

Still to come: the adventures of day 2 in Melbourne. 

Meandering through Melbourne #2


Melbourne is a city designed for people like me with no sense of direction-the city is in clearly defined blocks, so if you keep turning the same direction, you will end up back where you started. 

With my trusty little tourist map in hand, we set off from St. Paul's  Cathedral and Flinders Street Station to find the Museum. However, being the highly focused people that we are, we got just a little bit distracted on the way! First we spotted another Cathedral and had to go and see it, so, dodging the Asian tourist camera flashes and trying to avoid being in their photos, we wove our way up to St Patrick's Cathedral. After duly admiring the intricate wood work and stained glass windows, and agreeing that we both appreciate the grandeur of St Paul's more, we again set off for the museum.... Only to be distracted again...this time, by gardens. Who can turn down wandering through gardens that are just coming into bloom! 

The Fitzroy Gardens were beautiful, the trees that had lost their leaves for winter had soft green regrowth on then, flowers were blooming and the grass was a brilliant green. The Conservatory was an absolutely gorgeous burst of vibrant color with brilliant flowers in bloom in every direction.


Just outside was Captain Cook's Cottage, which of course, we had to visit and wander through (we won't be complaining about the size of our bedrooms any time soon!). 



After wandering around the gardens, we again set off for the Museum. Without too much trouble, we found the Carlton Gardens (more pretty flowers to admire and take photos of, and another picturesque little bridge). Of course, located within the Carlton Gardens is the Royal Exhibition Building which made a good backdrop for some photos (we didn't go inside as some sort of car and boat show was being held within this great, historic building). 

Finally, we reached the museum and spent hours revelling in history and nature. My traveling buddy was most excited to see Phar Lap (the famous Australian racing horse) and I enjoyed the exhibits displaying how early Australians lived. I then got attacked by a stuffed flying squirrel (don't ask) and charged at by a live bower bird. On a high note, we saw a beautiful fairy wren in the rainforest gallery (which, unlike the rest of the museum, displays things that are alive!). We then added to our collection of pressed pennies before setting off to find lunch.


Food, glorious food....we were indeed anxious to find some, and so I introduced my traveling buddy to Sushi, yum! We bought our sushi and then did what Melbournians seem to do best, sat in a park and ate our food while resting our poor little feet before setting off for more sightseeing and adventure.

To be continued.....

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Meandering through Melbourne #1


It's school holidays and I'm off for an adventure. I have itchy feet and an unused sense of adventure, making it high time for a trip somewhere! Plus, I need to practice using my oh so accurate sense of (mis)direction. 

I made my escape from everyday life early on the first day of school holidays (as a student you don't realize that the teachers are counting down to the holidays with even more anticipation than you are!). My exclusive personal assistant has now become my traveling buddy and together we set off to explore the great historic and cultured city of Melbourne for a weekend. Day one started well and ended even better :-)

We arrived in Melbourne before the city was properly awake and found our hotel without getting lost once(quite a feat for me). We then set off to firstly find a good cup of coffee, and secondly to see the city. Coffee was quickly procured and then the walking began. St Paul's Cathedral was first, and I wax pleasantly reminded of my time in Europe as I wandered through this city and gazed up at awe-inspiring stained glass windows and marveled at the contrast between the old and new buildings that make up the skyline.

Much to my delight, spring flowers greeted us at every turn, nodding their bright heads as we stopped to admire them

To be continued...

Sunday, 16 September 2012

'The List' (until I read something else!)

As an English teacher, people often ask me what my favourite literary work is, and over this year I have compiled a list of books that rank highly on my list (however, I don't think I can choose just one favourite, as they are each unique and loved for their own qualities). These are the books that I go back to again and again ( I have read most of them more than half a dozen times each, some of them more!). Here is my current (but forever adapting) list, in no particular order:


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
A beautiful, sweet story that tugs on your heartstrings whilst being mentally stimulating due to its unconventional structure that adds to its charm

Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
I'm cheating with this one and putting in a collection of stories that are all brilliantly mystifying

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
An original take on a story that's been told many times before, the fate of humanity during World War II, but in a simple and beautiful way. (A bonus for this one is that one of its driving themes is the power of words and language, the tune to which my English-teacher heart sings!)

To Kill a Mockinbird by Harper Lee
You simply cannot go past this classic tale of childhood against the racist backdrop of a court case in 1930's Alabama (I would also include Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry by Mildred Taylor and Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton here)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
So much wit and literary prowess in such a short novel written by one of the greatest female writers of all time (and with characters like Lizzie and Mr Darcy, you can't go wrong!)

Persuasion by Jane Austen
My personal favourite Austen work, with deep character development, flawed and realistic characters and a love story that keeps me in suspense every time I read it!

Stasiland by Anna Funder
A non-fiction work about East Germany post-WWII, a society in which 'Big Brother' was no laughing matter. (In a similar vein, The Bone Woman by Clea Koff is an anthropological study into some of the worst recent human tragedies)

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Approach this classic work with great expectations and you will not be dissappointed!

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
A beautiful 'period drama romance' woven against the backdrop of social reform and the industrial revolution, painting a picture of interwoven nature of the harshness and beauty of life

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
A tale of intrigue and suspense set during the French Revolution. Once you get past the first chapter, you won't want to put it down!

There you have it, my pending top ten novels. Anyone have any recommendations for me to add to my list?

(I think I may have just compiled my holiday reading list!)





Saturday, 15 September 2012

Koala Spotting

On my way out of school one day this week (yes, we teachers do, on occasion, escape from the school grounds) I spotted this beautiful Australian animal, who compliantly posed for some photos!