Tuesday, June 26, 2007

winter sunset

I live in a valley. It's a beautiful valley, but in winter it has some of the worst pollution in Australia. In fact we frequently break through the 'healthy air' barrier into 'excessive pollution' zones when the dip in the land fills with wood heater smoke that chuffs out of multiple chimneys on chilly, windless days.

The government tried to get rid of the problem by offering a $500 rebate to everyone who removed their wood heater and replaced it with an alternative source of heating. But this is Tasmania, a land of tradition, a land built on saw milling and wood - winter just isn't winter without it's wood heater. The council then introduced smoke police who issue warnings and fines to those silly enough to let their chimney smoke. Television advertisements have taught us how to manage fire places to avoid excessive smoke. But who watches their fire that closely all day and night?

So when it's very cold like it has been the last week or so, the valley fills with smoke like a blanket folded and stuffed into a small space and anyone with asthma or chronic lung disease feels miserable as their chest tightens up and each breath becomes a struggle. The rest of us curl our nostrils at the acridic smell and wonder why anyone would consider plonking a pulp mill in the middle of that smoke.

So it sucks living here in winter. When I visited Kazakhstan for 10 weeks I remember being appalled by the smog. It was so thick you could have cut through it with a knife. I don't have asthma, but even I was struggling to breathe at times. This morning I looked out the hospital window and realised it was just like Kazakhstan - I could have cut through that smoke with a knife.

Winge, winge, moan, moan. There are some good things about this smoke.

In dull light it looks like beautiful mist adding a mystical feel to the atmosphere. And then there are the sunsets!

Tonight the whole sky was pink and orange on blue. The mountains stood firm while the sky lights danced around them. Deep, deep blue with an overlay of fluffy pinks and peach stretching out in stripes across the canopy.

Delightful. Delicious. Soul food. Sigh. (But could we have a strong wind to blow the smoke away for a while please)

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new post at 'pulp mill chatter'

Our venerable Mayor might think we're all misled (although he has recently announced plans to visit pulp mills around the world at my expense, so it would appear he's starting to consider the wishes of his constituents), the state government might be blinded by potential profit, and the federal government might be passing the decision making buck, all combining to leave us abandoned while we try and make ourselves heard... but finally somebody is listening!


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Monday, June 25, 2007

serious chocaholic issues

I can't stop eating chocolate. We're not talking small amounts. If the average Australian eats 10 kilograms of chocolate a year (and according to Cadbury we do), then I eat at least twice the average. Maybe three times.

So yesterday I declared a chocolate free day. It was painful, I tell you. The previous night I had asked Frank to keep me accountable, so every time I wanted chocolate I asked Frank if he would mind. Of course he did mind, and he went to great pains to remind me of my chocolate free decision.

What was I think suggesting a whole day free of chocolate? Madness. I confess (and please don't tell Frank this), that I cooked him a cake with 90g of dark chocolate in it. As I broke the chocolate up into smaller pieces ready for melting, there were some small slivers not worth adding to the larger quantity. So I snuck them into my mouth. But they were so small I don't think they really count. Do they?

Anyway, after my almost success of yesterday, I've decided to attempt an up and down chocolate diet - one day I eat as much as I can, the next I eat none. Thanks to Paige for the idea.

So today I ate chocolate (in fact I'm going to go and eat more now since I am not allowed any tomorrow)... and tomorrow I won't. I'll have this chocaholism licked before you know it!


Sunday, June 24, 2007

ugly betty speaks. again.

You know you have to deal with an issue when Ugly Betty speaks. Yes, it's getting trashier and trashier, but somehow Ugly Betty still speaks t me. (And besides that, Marc makes it all worth watching)

Daniel's mother, Claire, realising that by killing Fey Sommers she killed her family and possibly herself, is attempting to escape overseas. Betty has been trying to pretend she doesn't love Henry by asking out an eager alternative date. They're sitting on the couch together attempting to come to terms with reality when Betty says, "We have to stop running. We need to face up to our lives and be brave enough to deal with them as they are" or something like that.


Stop running Cecily. Face up to your life and deal with it. It is killing you.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

another quality blog to read

One day when I was feeling totally nerdy I started reading a book about blogging. They were trying to estimate how many blogs the world might contain - 60 million? 20 million? 100 million? Impossible to say, they decided. I personally opted for 20 million, because then my miniscule readership seemed slightly less miniscule in proportion to the total population of bloggers.

Now I've decided that there probably are 100 million blogs... but only 20 million bloggers. It's called multiple blogs. I mean... if I have 5 blogs, how many do other people have? Lots. I've visited many blogs that are just one in a plethora of individual blogs. I only write regularly on a couple of mine though, so maybe I should say I have 3 blogs.

Make that four, because I've just started another one. It's called pulp mill chatter and is specifically designed to save you from endless reporting of my pulp mill campaigning. But rest assured, I'm still working to see this mill stopped even if you don't read about it here... just go there if you do want to read about it.

So happy blogging, bloggers - who really cares how many blogs there are in the world anyway! It's all about being heard. The more blogs I have, the more likely it is that someone, somewhere will listen to me!

Go the multiple blog I say.


a curious event

I don't have the best eyes in the world.

When I was a kid I thought glasses were very cool but sadly didn't need them. At university I started getting headaches. Hypochondriac student nurse that I was, I decided that either I was about to have a stroke or I had a brain tumour.

It turned out I just needed glasses (too many forbidden books under the bedsheets I imagine). I should have felt happy about this (remember, glasses are cool) but instead I felt betrayed. Betrayed by my eyes as my body started its slow slide into disintegration. Not that it's been too steep a descent - most people struggle to pick my age.

Lately however I've noticed my eyes getting significantly worse. There is a blurry, floaty bit in the centre of my left eye that is very annoying when trying to read in certain lights. I also have trouble confirming the identity of people at distance. Which is why I didn't think there was anything odd about a man I walked past yesterday.

Until I walked past him that is. Then I noticed something rather strange.

From a distance he looked like any normal dad, out walking the dog while he pushed his child in a pusher. From a distance I thought "ah, isn't that nice?!" From a distance I couldn't see the child, but it's always heartwarming to see a dad bonding with his child. My hands were freezing but inside I was filled with a warm glow.

The dog was lovely too. Even from a distance I could tell it was a beautiful dalmatian. The dog kept getting distracted and sniffing plants and fences along the way.

As we moved closer to each other details were filled in. The man had brown hair, blue eyes (oh, OK, I wasn't paying that much attention)... and the pusher was empty.

There he was, walking along with his dog - and an empty pusher! What?!

"Heel, heel" he said a couple of times.

Now here's the question - was he training the dog? Because if he wasn't, it looks ominously like he abandoned his child in the nearby park. Did he just say 'heel, heel' to put my off the scent?

When I got to the park, there was no lose child hanging about... so maybe he was training the dog.

Or... oh yeah... there's a child care centre there! Maybe he just dropped off the kid and was walking home afterwards. Ah, now that is heartwarming after all!


Monday, June 18, 2007

images of dissent

Some pictures from the local paper for you...

Yes, I'm in that one - look carefully in the top left and you can see half a banner right on the edge of the crowd line (actually the crowd went back a long way further)... I was standing right in front of that sign. Exciting huh?!

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It's suddenly very cold here. While May was a month of above average temperatures, June is fast becoming a month of chilly, below average temperatures. It's scarf, gloves and (almost) hat weather. Crunchy grass and frosty windscreen season. Winter.

And the delight in all this shiveringness?

That moment when the sliding doors of the hospital open wide and swallow me. Enveloped by comfort, cheeks brushed with warmth. Hmmmm. Let the deliciousness seep into your bones.

Almost makes it worth going to work each day!


inner rumblings

We know there is some connection between prayer and silence, but if we think about silence in our lives, it seems that it isn't always peaceful - silence can also be frightening.
Henri Nouwen With Open Hands
Phhhhhheeew! There's been a lot going on in my life lately - hardly a chance to catch my breath really. Between decrying the pulp mill, anguishing over dental examinations, earning money and playing church I've paused once or twice here and there, but only for a moment.

Deep in my soul has not been a place of rest either. Rethinking my theology of Jesus and the church (don't worry - it's nothing too heretical!), composing letters to politicians, composing blogs, facing down my workplace demons, considering different counselling approaches... between analysing this and pondering that I'm feeling slightly off balance, as if I'm a cargo ship whose inner containers are slipping, dragging me perilously close to tipping over the edge.

There's good and bad in that. I'm certainly not in a place of complacency or lethargy! My mind is busy, pushing its limits, testing its boundaries. I like that. I'm growing. Of course, the bad side of this is that I never stop. There is no space in which I can examine my heart or tentatively feel around my body to ensure I'm intact. It would seem that at the same time as I'm growing - I'm running.

Running from journalling, running from silence. Running from pain. For the sad truth is that I'm not intact. There is a broken part inside of me that I do not wish to expose to myself, to God, to the light of day. So I run to escape from it. But the brokenness tags along with me. So I run faster, harder. And still it's there, staring at me, pleading to be explored. I hiccough as the pain starts to leak out and over the edge of my self control. And then I suck in quickly, drawing the pain back within myself, hands grasping and reaching around the cracks and crevices of the brokenness in an attempt to hold myself together. And off I run again, hoping that by sheer effect of movement, the pieces stay intact.

Well you can run, but you can't hide. Sooner or later it catches up with you! Tonight it caught up with me as I sat with my spiritual director. Somehow we started talking about silence and as I admitted to avoiding silence the tears began to fall. Why? Because I'm afraid. Afraid of the pain.

It's here that I see God's perfect timing, as if he's been preparing me for this. All that soul searching, cataclysmic adjustment of well established thought patterns, facing down my fears has set me moving. And now that I am moving, I can't stop. I have to face the pain and brokenness - in silence I believe.
Dear God,
Speak gently in my silence.
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings
and the loud inner noises of my fears
keep pulling me away from you,
help me to trust that you are still there
even when I am unable to hear you.
Give me ears to listen to your small, soft voice saying:
"Come to me, you who are overburdened,
and I will give you rest...
for I am gentle and humble of heart."
Let that loving voice be my guide.
Henri Nouwen With Open Hands

I hope in God's gentleness. I can't do this otherwise.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

a little more balance...

When I hung up my typing fingers last night I was determined not to blog about teeth or the pulp mill for... I don't know... maybe a few days, but I'm sorry, I just can't do it!

I found a newspaper report that was less biased than the local news. I can only presume that this is because it's a national paper and more immune to manipulation and bribery than local news sources!

So if you want to read a more moderate view, check it out at The Australian.

I'll try really, really, really hard not to post about this for a while. I mean... it's not like this is all that's happening in my life or anything. There's sheep, nursing, teeth, sleep, food, church... man! Outside of the pulp mill, my life is just plain boring!

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

charged up

As I write, my brand new electric toothbrush is charging up.

It's not the only thing charging up!

I don't quite know what's gotten into me. While you have been observing blogging silence, I have been anything but silent. In fact, I just can't shut up. OK, so maybe that's nothing new, but the flurry of letters flying down the phone line is unprecedented in the life of little Cecily.

I say 'little Cecily' because I feel quite powerless at present. Before my very eyes, Gunns is moving forward with their plans for a pulp mill. While we are being assured that approval will only be given for the mill to go ahead if the environmental 'assessment process' is passed, Gunns have already been given permission to start work on site on September 1. Does this smell like a rat? Does it ever! But the little people who don't want this pulp mill in their backyard have little say. We do not have the money or the power to exert any influence over the decision.

We thought we had it in the bag today - over 10,000 of us got together in the middle of the city and shouted 'no pulp mill' to anyone and everyone. It was heartwarming - 10,000 people rallying together, waving banners, donating money, stopping traffic to support the fight. Even more heartwarming was the feeling that together we could make a difference - on our own our voices are small. Together we produced a roar. It was an incredible experience.

Incredible until I watched the news this evening. There the media managed to twist our voice into the squawks of mindless masses manipulated by the lies and misinformation of environmental groups. They showed footage of interviews with politicians who claim that the pulp mill would go ahead despite our protests. No matter that fifteen percent of the city's population came out in force - in the news our voices vanished into thin air.

I was furious. Recent media coverage has been surprisingly positive towards the anti-pulp mill view, so I was looking forward to another positive report. But no. 10,000 people may as well have been a mirage for all the credit they were given. One station reported 12,000 protesters, as if by over estimating our numbers they might cancel out their woeful bias towards the government and Gunns. It smells to me as if Gunns has been leaning on the news stations in order to gain more positive coverage for themselves.

Well, if they can do it - so can I! I immediately jumped on the phone and - hey presto - spoke to the man who filed the report. He assured me that he had tried to present a balanced report. I conceded he was in a difficult position - but didn't back down. He minimised the incredible phenomenon of 10,000 people giving up their Saturday to have a say and I wanted him to know I was not amused.

Then I emailed the next station and voiced my concern:

"It is unfortunate that the media chose to muzzle our voice by minimising our message and reducing us to a group of quivering fools too easily taken in by scaremongering."

And now I'm quivering here in my chair. Will somebody please listen?! WE DON'T WANT THIS PULP MILL! No amount of corporate profit is enough to justify this travesty upon our beautiful state.

I finish with a word of advice - I am firing on all engines at present, all charged up! (Reminds me of a high school teacher's nickname for me, which was a play on my surname: Nuclear Arms) So tread carefully. Unless of course you agree with me - then come voice your opinion with me loud and clear.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

d-d-d-d-dentist day

It's 10pm on a day that will be forever coloured by that trip to the dentist.

Actually the colouring started before today - last night was a night of fitful sleep and wild, disjointed dreams broken only by the coming of dawn. The morning was busy, but not even shopping allayed the dread anxiety that steadily crept up my spine. I flossed my teeth (twice), performed an energetic Listerine mouthwash or two and declined lunch. Nothing but the freshest of breath here!

Faining nonchalance, I strolled into the dental surgery and set about waiting calmly. Not that my pinched expression gave away my fear or anything. Or the sharp snap of my book closing as I read the same line ten times.

Finally - "Cecily?" Why do dental nurses dress in ridiculous smocks decorated with dancing molars? It is not cool. It is, however, mildly distracting when your mind is working feverishly to produce a good excuse for not visiting a dentist in almost ten years.

Not that the dentist was taken in by any of my excuses. Or the fresh breath. Instead he asked disgustedly why I'd chosen to burden him with ten years worth of dental work in one brief checkup. I think he was joking. In case he wasn't, I begged him to be nice.

In the end he was nice and didn't find too much beneath the fresh breath to complain about. Only two fillings required, one crack that isn't worth fixing at present, no need for a clean as (funnily enough) those pegs were sparkling, and no, I do not have rampant gum disease. I just need to swap to an electric toothbrush. Unfortunately the excessive tooth brushing damage is done and I will always have recessive gums. That's the price you pay for clean teeth I guess.

Oh. the. relief. I almost collapsed at the counter as I made my follow up appointment. In fact I almost cried all over the secretary! Can you believe it? My teeth won't need replacing with dentures in the next year or two! No need for root canals! No excavations of previous fillings to drill out more rot! No ripping out of my wisdom teeth? No rap over the knuckles?!

After all that stress and build up, it was a truly delightful trip to the dentist. One of the best I've ever had.

If this surprises you, you need to know my long history with dentists in order to understand why two fillings is good news. Dentists and me? We go a long way back together, and it isn't pretty. In fact we go back to the dim, dark days of the eighties when, instead of listening to pop music, I was reclining in a dentist's chair...

My first memory of visiting the dentist was as a nine year old visiting the small dental caravan parked in the school grounds of Coonabarabran. There I was convinced the dentist was a Christian. (She said "Thank God for that" after all!) I don't remember what she did to my teeth, but I remember she was less than impressed that I was not allowed to rinse my mouth with brain stunting fluoride alongside the other students each week. I didn't care - they all hated it I was top of the class.

Somewhere around the same time I started being called 'buck tooth beaver'. There were just way too many enormous teeth for my little mouth, so at the age of ten out a few came. At twelve, out came a few more. (Though not enough, according to today's dentist. My mouth is still too crowded)

In true collector style, I kept some of these teeth and stuck them in my journal. In even truer collector style, I kept the journal and tonight was able to dig out the teeth and present you with this prize photo. Note the decay... as I say, I have a long, long history of dental caries and dentists.

From there it has been a down hill slide, with more and more fillings of dizzyingly scary proportions. At the age of 22, as a superbly good looking dentist turned his back, I foolishly let my tongue explore the hole he'd just drilled in my molar. More than half the tooth was gone. Since then I've been beset by visions of toothless gumminess that crept into my dreams and troubled my daytime thoughts.

If you would like to know the pros and cons of needles over gas - I'm your woman. If you need advice on how not to make a fool of yourself in front of dishy dentists - I'm also your woman. (Hint: don't open your numb lips to speak without first wiping away any potential dribble that may run down your chin leaving you mortified) I still wince at the memory of that drilling pain and any kind of suctioning sound sends a chill down my spine. Such is my knowledge and obsession with decaying teeth and dental chairs that in high school I took to writing copious journal entries about them:

With this wealth of dental history behind me, I find myself not even a little surprised at the depths of my terror today. There was great potential for calamity. That it was not calamitous has lifted one giant weight off my shoulders. It's also convinced me that ten years breaks between check ups are not advisable. Though of course, if my teeth are this healthy after ten years, I probably don't need to go for another five...

So the moral of the story is... most of what we face in life is not as bad as we imagine it will be. So stop stressing and live! (And be thankful for the availability of dentists to keep your teeth in shape!)

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

a chilling message

I'm the kind of person who loves getting messages of any kind. Cards, letters, email, blog comments, phone calls, text messages. If it's for me, I'll take it with glee.*

Generally my mail consists of nice, heart warming messages, unless it's a bill... but every now and then a freak message sneaks through and shocks me.

Like the messages left on my voice mail when I lived in London. A strange man with a deep European accent kept asking to meet me. Somehow he found my number, mistook me for a hooker and wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. It was a little disconcerting. Was he staking out my flat? Following me around the city? Tracking my movements? Was it a prank by a friend? After my third desperate attempt to convince him I really was not a hooker and definitely did not want to meet him, he apologetically retreated and didn't call again. I can only surmise that somehow my phone number made its way onto one of those delightful escort advertising cards, famous in London phone booths! Wonder what 'my' picture looked like?!

Anyway, all this came flooding back the other day when I received a text message that sent chills down my spine. And not because they got my name wrong:

Hi Cecil
Just reminding you of your appt on Tues at 1:45pm Braeside Dental

Oh my. It's really happening. After ten years I'm really going to the dentist. And they've reminded me, so I can't even claim I forgot. There's no escaping it. I have to go. My teeth are chattering just thinking about it.

This is far, far worse than being mistaken for a hooker.

*OK, so I'm not so great at sending cards, letters, email, blog comments, and text messages. Or making phone calls. I apologise if you are one of those who has experienced my neglect.

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

sit, walk, stand

I think that's the name of a book.

"Sit, walk, stand" by Watchman Nee.

The title always grabbed me, though I never read the book - just liked reading its spine every time I walked past the shelf! And the author's name is interesting too. Watchman Nee. What does that mean?

I'm talking out of my nose here, but I think "Sit, walk, stand" provides insights into Ephesians, describing a process for gaining spiritual maturity. (Which probably means I should sit down right now and do nothing else until I have read, digested, and incorporated every word into my life. Meh)

Anyway, the point of this post has nothing to do with that book. It's really about my journey as an environmental activist. Actually that's probably too generous a description... this post is really about my journey as a would-be environmental activist who is scared stupid by the potential ramifications of sticking her neck out too far, so she makes timid forays into the world of activism and waits expectantly, longingly for an approving pat on the head by big time activists.

Ah well. We're all on a journey I suppose. At this stage my journey does not include dreadlocks, recycled corduroy jeans or anything involving chains and large machinery. It does however, include finding my voice and maturing in my stance against the proposed pulp mill. Tracing my growth so far I see that I have learned to sit (at the computer, in a chair, reading information for and against the mill), walk (slapping the pavement in the delivery of pamphlets) and stand (on a stall in the mall). This is progress. I am feeling stronger in the fight to prevent this mill from ever seeing the light of day.

It's a funny thing this taking action. I'm finding myself all knotted up inside with a multitude of thoughts and emotions. Pride, courage, audacity. Fear, apology, cringe factor. Fury, determination, will power. Shyness, uncertainty, disbelief. I can't quite believe I'm doing this.

On the one hand the dull 'plop' of each pamphlet dropping into a letterbox fills me with an incredible sense of pride and achievement - I'm doing something to try and stop this monstrosity while others sit back and let it happen. On the other hand I feel bashful - I'm not really an activist, please don't think of me as a wild reactionary refusing to see the benefit of any form of development. I'm just delivering pamphlets for the exercise!

As I stood in the mall with the wind whipping through every last shred of clothing (think street-converted-to-pedestrian-precinct malls here, not covered shopping-centre-away-from-the-elements malls) I held my head high, happy to endure the cold for the cause of good. (It was so cold that after three hours I could actually feel my thought processes slowing down) Yet as the business men walked past with derisive looks I wanted to call out, "Hey, don't judge me. Maybe I'm wrong, but can we at least talk about it instead of this posturing and casting looks askance?" And when the mother repeatedly told her seven year old that what I was saying was all a load of crap I don't know what I felt. Mostly sad for the boy, who looked kind of curious, and a bit cross with the mother for passing on such terrible interpersonal skills to her son.

Anyway, I'm rambling. This has been an interesting experience... is an interesting experience even, because I'm not done yet! I'm examining my beliefs, testing out my boundaries and growing all the time. I recommend it - nothing like getting out of the comfort zone for stretching who you are!

So, sit, walk, stand. That's me on my environmental journey. I think I've made it to the equivalent of being a toddler now! Next it's the gianormous street rally and march - bring on adolescence I say.

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Friday, June 01, 2007

may I recommend... (or 'redeeming the cultural void')

Life in my childhood home consisted of silence, intermittently broken by arguments. Or was it arguments intermittently broken by silence? I'm not exactly sure now. Whichever it was, there wasn't much in the way of music to be heard in our house.

What music there was was only heard after careful censoring by the parental watchdog. (Think Kid's Praise. I can probably still sing every song in the purple book word for word if you asked me nicely!) The music censoring went hand in hand with careful censoring of any book I borrowed from the library. Of course they only saw the books I thought they'd approve - the rest stayed well and truly hidden under the blankets!

So while other kids were into... um... heck, I don't even know what they were into! Aside from big fringes (and let's not go there), my teenage years were a cultural wasteland that left me blushingly ignorant of anything typically eighties or nineties. Heaven forbid that a secular song should vibrate across my eardrums and pollute my soul.

Maybe I didn't miss much (how will I ever know?!), but I feel the loss now in the deep void that passes for the sound of my childhood. Each generation has a trademark sound, but mine is forevermore unknown to me - even if I bought every eighties compilation CD available to humankind it would make no difference. That era has passed and cannot be inculcated into my social history at this late stage.

Which all goes a long way to explaining why I like classical music. (That intro turned into something bigger than Ben Hur - am I carrying a chip on my shoulder here?!) Not at the expense of all other music of course. I have fairly eclectic taste extending from Country to Trance to International, but if my soul is in pain, nothing soothes it better than a piece of achingly beautiful classical music.

And now I'm delighted to report another soul-soothing addition to my classical CD collection: Wild Swans by Elena Kats-Chernin, performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Jane Sheldon.

I'm not a huge fan of contemporary classical music, but this CD is wonderful, all Australian and, delightfully, I found out about it by accident! When I joined the TSO mailing list they sent me an email boasting about the success of their CD in the UK Classical Charts. One track has recently been used in a Lloyds Bank advertisement and the whole country seems to have fallen in love with Elena Kats-Chernin. I hurried off to iTunes to have a listen and fell in love myself.

What an absolutely beautiful CD! I'm no great writer of reviews, but the music lifts my soul to another place with its soaring, wordless soprano. Light, uplifting music that utilises every section of the orchestra is mixed with rich chord progressions, and the contrasting darkness of some pieces makes for the perfect telling of a musical fairy tale. When I listen to this music I smile.

And who made my purchase possible? My mum! She gave me an ABC Shop gift voucher for Christmas and this is what I bought.

There's a nice symmetry contained here don't you think? At the hands of my parents I experienced a teenage cultural void, and now my mum contributes to the redeeming of my past by enabling the purchase of delightful music that soothes my mind, feeds my soul, and creates a new cultural space in my life. And to be perfectly honest, this beats eighties music hands down!

Thanks Mum.

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global warming eat your heart out...

The first, most beautiful frost of the season.

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