Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

I never wanted a dog. The kids begged for years but I held firm.

Dogs were too needy, too smelly, too sheddy. They were shameless about bodily functions in public. And had an unrealistic optimism about how much others enjoyed having their crotches sniffed, faces licked and legs dry-humped.

It took an intruder in my house, in my eleven-year-old daughter’s bedroom at midnight, to change my mind.

Then I wanted a dog. I wanted Cerberus, the three-headed monster that guarded the gates of Hell. I wanted a killer that would defend our children with his life, strike fear into the heart of any would-be intruder, then rip off his arms and legs, disembowel him, and eat the evidence.

That’s the dog we needed.

This is the dog we got…

Something so fearsome we named him Huggy.

Something so brave he lived in fear of the cat.

Something that smelled so bad (even for a dog), that I eventually asked the vet if there was something wrong with him. (Delicacy prevents me from going into his anal gland problem, but considering that his Daddy is a gastroenterologist, he was one faulty unit).

Yet he won me over. Greeting each day with unbridled enthusiasm. Pushing me aside to clean up the cat vomit (I’d scream in disgust, then point out if he’d missed a bit). Making me laugh a hundred times a day.

His antics inspired the character of Hercules in my novel Intruder (the best dog character ever if I don’t say so myself).

For ten years he slept on our front verandah and his ballsy baritone bark could be heard in Biloela if anyone dared to open the front gate.

Two years ago, I moved him inside at night, gave him a bed in my office (or should I say our office, because he had a fulltime job that he took very seriously – staring at me 24/7.

I got him for the kids, but it was my bed he’d jump onto every morning (but only on Daddy’s side, because they both tended to shed). We’d lie in companionable silence, then go for a morning walk, have breakfast and retire to the office and our respective jobs.

I didn’t want a dog. But for the last twelve-and-a-half years, I’ve had the best dog ever. And I’ve always felt sorry for my former clueless dogless self.

Then a week ago, Huggy refused to go for a walk. He wouldn’t take a treat. And when he lost interest in bacon, I knew.

The vet hospital said his liver was failing, and we would have to make a hard decision if he got any worse.

Instead Huggy took that decision out of our hands.

Yesterday, he took a walk in the garden. Lay on the grass, climbed the front steps, and got onto his bed. A few minutes later his big beautiful heart stopped pumping.

He spared us the pain of a slow dreadful decline. But there’s pain in spades now that our beautiful boy is gone.

We are all so grateful for all that he has given us. And to Wilston Vet for granting him precious extra time with us after his thyroid failed four-and-a-half years ago.

Our Huggy Bear died at home, surrounded by all that he loved. And he really was the best boy, right up till the end.

Bored of, bored with, whatever

Posted: May 20, 2021 in Writing

Christine Bongers

Where Creativity Starts

I try not to flinch every time someone says they are ‘bored of’ something.

Half my brain screams ‘Bored with: it’s tired of; bored with!’ while the other half calmly reasons that language evolves. If young people unanimously decide to go with bored of, who am I to swim against the linguistic tide in my old-fashioned neck-to-knees swimsuit and flowered bathing cap?

And so I gamely dog-paddle on, chin up, through a rising tide of complaints, kids bored of this, bored of that, and try to focus on the real issue…

And that is the belief that being bored is somehow a bad thing.Something to be avoided at all costs. Or fended off with scheduled activities or screen time courtesy of the ubiquitous array of electronic boredom busters.

Lordy me, when did boredom become such a threat? Once upon a time, anyone with the temerity (or lack of imagination) to be…

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An Open Letter to Karen Andrews the new Minister for Home Affairs

Dear Minister Andrews

I was born and bred in Biloela, and still have my Mum, brothers, nephews and nieces living in the area, so I know the challenges of carving out a life far from the comforts and conveniences of city and coastal living.

The heat melts your thongs in summer. The kitchen tap coughs up ice in winter. The nearest bookstore is more than an hour’s drive away. The picture theatre closed in the early seventies. The drive-in followed suit a decade later.

But this town of only 5,500 people offers two things in abundance:
– the opportunity to work hard (at one of the state’s biggest meatworks or in jobs servicing the local power station, mining and agricultural industries); and
– a deep and abiding sense of community.

For almost a century this has attracted successive waves of refugees to Biloela, starting with the Russians in the 1920s, and continuing after World War Two with Greek, Italian and Dutch immigrants including my own father.

Like Priya and Nades, they all came to Biloela in search of a better life, and those who demonstrated hard work and decency earned the respect of this small tight-knit community.

These are the people that Australia needs, and that the Biloela community desperately wants to keep.

I don’t see a queue of people lining up to move to our small inland communities. Priya and Nades and their Australian-born daughters want to make Biloela their permanent home. Please let them. Let them come home.

Show Australia that your government is capable of compassion for a hard-working and well-loved family who have already endured more than a thousand days in detention. Join the chorus of ordinary Australians who believe Biloela’s Tamil family have earned their right to stay.


Yours sincerely,
Christine Bongers

Reading is my secret power

Posted: August 21, 2019 in Writing

Christine Bongers

As a kid, I loved reading Zane Grey westerns and Jack London adventures

I’d ride horses bareback and fight boys with sticks, then retire to my room with my uber-Barbie (the one with the swivel waist and the bendable knees).

I devoured Jane Eyre, Ann of Green Gables and Little Women with the same avid obsession as Reach for the Sky, the true story of Douglas Bader, the legless World War II fighter pilot.

In my dreams I was Black Canary from the Justice League of America comics, but it was Green Lantern’s motto that I would chant when alone:

In brightest day and blackest night

No evil Shall escape my sight

For those who worship evil’s might

Beware the power of Green Lantern’s light!

My childhood idols included Catwoman, the Lone Ranger, Emma Peel (for her lethal elegance) and Jane Russell (for her smart mouth).

I grew up to…

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Riverbend Books

Big shout out to bookstores everywhere, especially the independent stores that do so much to promote and support local authors, literacy and life as we know it.

Yes, I am talking to you Riverbend Books and Avid Reader.

Thank you for your tireless championing of all things literary, stocking ALL the best books, ALL the time, and ALWAYS giving the best advice on what to buy.

Exactly 2For instance, I would NEVER have thought of buying a book called Exactly: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World … but yes, hubba hubby loooooved it.

Who would have thunk?

So, if you haven’t already done so, get yourselves down to a bookstore now, buy Dad that Father’s Day present (and a little cheeky something for yourself).

And have yourselves a happy Love Your Bookstore Day!

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Here’s wishing a happy, heavenly birthday to a fallen hero of mine, the actor, producer and playwright, Bille Brown.

A decade older and long gone from Biloela State High by the time I got there, Bille was already treading the boards at the Royal Shakespeare Company by the time I finished high school.

But for kids like me from the bush, he was an inspiration. He opened up an endless world of possibility beyond the farm, the town, the obscure little corner of Queensland into which we had been born.

P1010198He allowed us all to dream big dreams and dare to believe that if we worked hard enough, we could make them come true.

He made one of mine come true when he launched my first novel Dust – a kindness I will never forget.

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The Big Director’s Chair – a memorial to actor/producer/playwright – Bille Brown AM.

I think of him, still, six years after his death. When I go home to Biloela, the town where we both grew up. And when I’m in Brisbane, my home for many decades now.

In Bilo, I often drive past the giant director’s chair dedicated to him in Lion’s Park.

If you bother to stop, you’ll find these words, so typical of the man, on the plaque:

“It should not just be a monument to me but an encouragement to others to pursue what they are good at and love doing.”

Bless. It is and does.

In Brisbane, I often drive past Queensland’s beautiful new Bille Brown Theatre. Next time you’re there, look for Row F Seat 34.

It’s a much smaller chair, but one also dedicated to Bille Brown’s memory.

From me to you, Bille. Happy Birthday.

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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, with 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.

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.

Qld treasures CBCA Shortlist announcement.jpgAlong 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

 

 

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