We learnt about the Finnish concept of Sisu – a mental toughness that kicks in when all else is exhausted – on a walking tour of Helsinki, icy winds and snow whipping around my hubby’s unprotected ears.

(He wasn’t listening when I told him to pack a beanie and gloves, so the blizzard on arrival was a shock to his system. He’d joked on the plane ride over that it would be a balmy 24 degrees. And it was – on the Fahrenheit scale.)

While I was doing a fair impression of the Michelin Man in puffer, gortex jacket and four layers of clothes, hardy locals were showing we Aussies just how soft we really are – by stripping down to their budgie smugglers for a quick dip in the ice-trapped local pool.  

Respect, my Finnish friends. Man, you are tough. But I guess that comes with the territory when you live in a country where the mercury rarely pushes above 15 degrees. Where only five million people became legendary throughout the world for standing alone in the Winter War against overwhelming Russian forces – and surviving. That’s sisu.

No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang

Now that I’m home again, home again, jiggety jig, I’m grateful for all that I’ve learned and experienced while away.


Time with loved ones is more precious when travelling, the juxtaposition of familiar and unfamiliar giving each day a special edge.

No wonder the Dalai Lama exhorts us to step away from the everyday: ‘Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.’

This year, it was Helsinki. Where I am glad to have discovered a new word to live by.

For when the going gets tough. Sisu.

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Find Your Treasure 2018 CBCA Shortlist Announcement

Find Your Treasure: CBCA 2018

Lovers of children’s literature, don’t miss this star-studded event: the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s short list announcement for the 2018 Book of the Year Awards.

I’ll be there, along with a treasure chest of local authors and illustrators who’ve featured on CBCA Book of the Year Award short lists over the years.

Along with Michael Gerard Bauer and Lucia Masciullo, I’ll be sharing what being short listed has meant to my life and career.

And I’ll hanging out to hear the official announcement of the 2018 CBCA Book of the Year Short List by local literary luminaries Nick Earls, Isobelle Carmody, Gary Crew, Tania Cox, Jill Morris and Caroline Magerl.

To register, please click the following link and I’ll see you there!

Official CBCA Book of the Year Awards Short List Announcement 2018 Registration, Tue, 27/03/2018 at 10:00 am | Eventbrite

 

 

Johnny and Chrissy.jpg

Dancing with Uncle John on my big day

Hubby and I had a couple of dancing lessions in the lead-up to our wedding 23 years ago.

But on the big day, the band played the wedding waltz in 4/4 time, we tapped out and swore a marital pact: he didn’t have to dance in public again and I didn’t have to camp.

For more than two decades we stayed true to those vows.

Then a friend roped us in for a bit of fun at the local bowls club. She’d found a Brazilian dance teacher called Tarcisio who could show us some moves …

Fast-forward two years and we are official dance tragics: no longer trapped at home with young kids; kicking up our heels at West End’s Rio Rhythmics on most days ending in a ‘y’.

Aaron Veryard of asvphotographics photographs  White Magic charity event for Rio Rythmics

ASV Photographics: Rio Rhythmics White Magic

Our gorgeous instructors say we’ve come a long way (from an admittedly low base).

But we’re not in a hurry. We have the rest of our lives. And we’re having so much fun along the way. Making new friends. Listening to great music. And dancing, always dancing. Salsa. Bolero. Samba de Gaffeira. Bachata. Forro. Tango.

Our now-adult children have chronicled our adventures, entertaining their friends on snapchat with our dance journey.

Andy and chris
International Samba Day

Hiding round corners to video our faltering beginnings, staggering progress (two steps forward, one step back), and occasional matching outfits.

They pass round photos of us dressed as tropical bananas (for a recent performance at City Hall for the 65 Roses Masquerade Ball).

‘Don’t worry, you’ll just be part of the Carnivale parade,’ Tarcisio had assured us. ‘Cathy will tell you what to do.’

And she did. ‘You bananas, go up on stage and stand in front of the band.’

In front of the band? On stage? In front of 500 people? And do what?

‘Just dance,’ she said.

City Hall Carnevale Ball 2017 (2)

I’d like to say I’m the one on the far right (but I’m the one standing next to her….)

And we did. Salsa. In front of 500 people. On stage at City Hall.

So much fun, we just had to do it again.

We joined Rio Rhythmic’s flash mob for International Samba Day at Kangaroo Point cliffs … and the Brazilian Forro group performing at Woodford Folk Festival on 29th December.

Then came the real test ….

‘Who’s camping?’ asks Cathy. ‘We need to book tent sites for Woodford.’

white magic 2017Camping? What! No way. Some of us take our vows seriously.

I don’t camp.

But dancing …

Now that’s a whole different story!

(For more dance stories from the fabulous Rio Rhythmics community click here and scroll down)

Redlands library 2
Please join me @ Redlands, if only for an hour – would love to see you there!
coming up with ideas

Back-handing the beagle at Story Arts Festival Ipswich (photos courtesy of Aspire Photographics)

It’s been more jam-packed than Proust’s rememberances. Bigger than Rapunzel’s shampoo bill. Longer than Pinocchio’s nose if they’d ever made lying an Olympic sport.

Yes, it’s been Book Week. Man, I love it, but each year it just keeps getting bigger.

Ostensibly a 7-day celebration of children’s literature in August, CBCA’s Book Week has grown like Topsy into the busiest term of the year for writers, illustrators and those unsung heroes of all things literary, the wonderful teachers and librarians who tirelessly promote reading and writing in our schools.

Group with casperI started Author Visits for Book Week back in July and just finished my last one yesterday – that’s a couple of dozen schools and a couple of thousand kids who’ve met me, my books and my dog in the last couple of months.

(Yes, Huggy usually manages to put in an appearance on power point; he is, after all, a most inspiring character!)

And that’s what it’s all about: getting kids enthused about reading and writing. Putting books in their hands that open their minds, spark their imaginations and make them think.

It’s a fun gig, one I’m

HHH on trial in the Old Courthouse SAFI
HHH on trial at the Old Courthouse Ipswich, Story Arts Festival ’17  

 lucky to have.

But now it’s time to rest the voice, plant the birkis firmly on the floor under the desk and get back to finishing my next book (which will give me something new to talk about next year!)

 

Reading Centre Book Week launch 2017

The Reading Centre, Book Week launch 2017

to-do-2Forget New Year resolutions, February is when it gets real, people.

School is back, Uni beckons, the heat is unrelenting, but the holidays are definitely over.

I’ve finally found the courage to peek at the scales through a gap in my fingers (damn you trifle!) and have nancy-ganzed my loins for some big jobs ahead.

Two months away from the work-in-progress has allowed me to see it with fresh eyes. I’ve fixed the most glaring flaws and am back in the rhythm with a writing schedule that will see the manuscript done and dusted by the end of the month – go me!

romancing-the-stars-gold-coastFebruary is also when school visits and book events kickstart – first cab off the rank is Romancing the Stars at the Gold Coast on Friday 17 February.

You can take a shot at speed-dating a roomful of authors and illustrators – it’s seriously fun, so please come along if you can to support Book Links (Qld) – the Centre for Children’s Literature.

Click here to check out the lineup of talent and book your slot on the night. Would love to see you there!

Nawwww, who’s a good boy?

Posted: February 3, 2017 in Writing
8th-bday

It’s my birthday – I’m 8 today!

Dear Dog Park humans,

I may only understand about fifteen spoken words, but I know what you’ve been saying about me:

That Huggy is fat. And lazy. And probably depressed.

Well, I have news for you people: I HAVE A THYROID CONDITION.

Yes, that’s right. I am officially one sick puppy.

And I had to all but expire and break out in lesions before anyone figured it out.

Sheesh.

Lucky my mummy disobeyed the pool boy (she lets him sleep in her bed, but in the things that matter, she’s the boss).

He said don’t waste your money on any expensive blood tests. But she said that I’m worth it (and I am).

happy-huggy

Me on drugs – thank you thyroxine!

After only two weeks of twice-daily vegemite licks (with some tiny pellet in it that I can’t be bothered spitting out), I’m a new beagle.

I’ve dropped two kilos and five years! I can do backflips again when Mummy puts on her togs.

Even the pool boy is happy. He says we can amortise the cost of the vet fees and drugs over the extra five years I’ve been granted. (A month ago he thought I wouldn’t make eight, but today I proved him wrong – Happy Birthday to me!)

He also says that I’m a good boy, a very good boy – and yes I am.

[If you want to see just how much my humans have always loved me – click on this link Confessions of a dog owner | Christine Bongers]