Ripple of Kindness

I know I’m overtired when I lose my compassion. I see pictures of pain and agony on the TV, hear the pain of people’s anguish through the radio waves … and sense my invisible internal wall building up to protect me. I can’t face the despair of the world because I know I can’t do anything much about it, and I feel I can’t make it through my own day, let alone empathise with the plight of strangers – so exhausted am I by my own personal challenges. So I protect myself with my own little wall and hide behind it and try to rest.

I fall into the arms of my dear friends, who support me through my emotional ups and downs. I know I can relax in their safety net because they have proven their friendship through many years. It strikes me that they catch me in their safety net just as I have provided my safety net for others, so the image of a ripple of safety nets comes to my mind, each person in the chain holding out their arms to catch the person in front of them, while simultaneously falling backwards into another pair of open arms. It’s like the paper figures which make a chain of joined arms when unfolded, except that instead of holding hands these paper people have safety nets protecting any fall. Or a lotus flower or rose, with layers of petals folding out, protected by the layer beneath them.

That is what unconditional love is: being there for each other no matter what. I am so grateful to my close friends, my dear friends – you know who you are – who support me no matter what. Truly, I am grateful that I have friends who back me up, that I can call on and that I know will support me, time and time again, without fail! I thank you for your love … you lighten my load and help me be the best I can be.

Reflective Times

Part 3 of The House Fire

Eye – Fire Reflection by Purpl3S0ul on DeviantArt

At a time of crisis much mental energy can be spent in asking the unanswerable What-ifs …

Following on from the previous two posts, some further reflections about this intense time.


I have never been in a position of looking for a rental property on the open market. Due to living in smaller country towns, my work having housing available with the position, then becoming a home-owner, I have never attended open-house inspections systematically … until now, helping out our three young people.

Peculiar to these Covid times (additional to providing name and number to the estate agents showing people through) was the knowledge that personal details would be used in the event that contact-tracing was necessary (something people the world over are getting used to, for many public-space situations); and the limit of people allowed at any one time, necessitating longer waits than usual. The crisp, sunny, autumnal weather was perfect for standing outside and I nodded to other people waiting as we waited.

The fact that we were all giving our names and numbers gave a feeling of collegiality, strengthened by the way we were all going to the same listings at the same time on the same day. By the fourth house I found myself looking out for the Persian couple, the pregnant Caucasian couple and the Vietnamese family … just to make sure they didn’t miss out! I realised this was a strange reaction as we were, in actuality, in competition with each other for who would get the house (for after all, only one combination could fit each property); and I knew I wouldn’t see these people again (except for maybe on another day of house inspections in the same location and price-range), so they were all peripheral to my life. Yet the synchronised movement of us all felt like a dance, and these other contenders in the rhythm of life were my dance-partners. (I did manage to resist my first reaction of including them in our coffee orders, collected as we waited outside for our turn to view the interior; this could have been a construed as a bit too lunatic forward.)

This new experience reinforced two things about me: how unaccustomed I am to doing such an activity as this, and my modus operandi of inclusivity and positivity.


Between furniture-runs and other admin jobs we did some runs to the local shopping mall for food and shopping. The food court had its tables taped off with danger tape, preventing people sitting down in these Covid-cautious times. This did little to prevent us from inadvertently mingling with others, however, as it was impossible to stay 1.5 metres distant from the other shoppers: the waiting area for food was simply not big enough, and the central shop stands in the “corridors” of the mall made it impossible to pass oncoming people with enough space, even in single file. (Maybe it would work if these passages were made one-way, even though it would be less convenient for shoppers. Even then it would only work if everyone walked at the same speed.)

Many more people wear face-masks in the city compared to what I’ve observed in the country, yet I’m not convinced the virus isn’t spreading in an environment such as a closed-in shopping mall. Factor in our visits to the Marketplace, the distances we travelled, the 3 suburbs and 1 country town we got out in (none of which were in the “danger zones” with confirmed cases) … are our actions a prelude to an upcoming post?


A 3-tonne truck is the largest vehicle that can be driven with an ordinary car licence in Victoria: I, for one, would not want to drive it without having had some trucking experience! It may be smaller than the fire trucks I’ve driven in the past (for which I hold a Medium Rigid licence), but it’s been at least 5 years since I’ve driven a truck. However, the tips and trucks of truck driving are the same, and my previous training and experience kicked in when I sat in the driver’s seat of the vehicle substantially larger than my car.

My confidence in driving has increased from this experience: driving a truck makes me a better car-driver. My confidence in estimation of space (which I traditionally think is not in my skills base) and packing ability has also increased: it makes me wonder about myself … if I can actually do these things, yet I don’t because I think I can’t … what else am I hesitating in, not attempting from lack of confidence, that I would actually succeed in?


My son and his house-mates now have all their belongings at their new place. It’s a compact house, complete with a welcoming outdoor area fenced in with shade cloth, opening onto a large back yard with 3 established fruit trees and a vegetable garden planted by the previous tenants. With less than a week of residence the real estate agent and landlord have already proved responsive.

The large pile of stuff in the carport is slowly getting arranged into the house – except for the fridge which won’t fit through their narrow doors, so it’s currently in the lovely outdoor patio area. They are enjoying setting up their new space and we get texts from our boy to update us on what’s where. There will be further admin and tasks to come for a while, I’m aware of that, but the crisis time is over.

I can now close the lid on my mental and emotional overload: I’ve contributed my part and done it well, aware that without my efforts some aspects of this situation would have been much harder for our young people. I know our local situation pales into significance against many others, like wartime and natural disasters, and I’m not comparing our stress to that experienced by people in these situations. Nevertheless the response has been the same, albeit at a much smaller scale: our family community (inclusive of our friends) has banded together and worked hard to help our people in need, with positive results. I’m grateful that I not only have the skills that can help in a situation like this, but also the opportunity. Equally, I’m grateful that I not only have the opportunity to help in a situation like this, but also beneficial skills.

Now I get to sit back and enjoy watching our impressive young adults move on with purpose, once more empowered in themselves to move on from a crisis situation and into the bounty of what’s to come.

My Role in the Recovery

Part 2 of The House Fire

As noted in last fortnight’s post, this post continues the story of the house fire. I’ve found this experience surprisingly emotional (even though it wasn’t my house that burnt down) and acknowledge some of my reactions in this post.


My first visit to the burnt-out house, six days after the fire, was on the occasion of clearing out the shed: everything salvageable – that is, not irrevocably burnt, melted, smoke-damaged or water-damaged (from the fire trucks) – had already been put in the shed. To get the bond back everything needed to be cleared from the property, so we – parents and our children – were standing at the house in the middle of piles of *stuff* that required sorting.

I was taken aback at how difficult this job was, emotionally … and it wasn’t even my stuff! To see school graduation certificates and university mortarboards assailed me somewhat, knowing the investment my son had put into his (not always trouble-free) education, having shared the highs and lows of his schooling, and the enormous achievement it was for him to succeed – as it is for everyone, taking as it does such a monumental part of a young adult’s life, and being such a transition period of development and maturing: graduation is a right-of-passage for many, and something to be justly proud of.

Surrounded by soot and grime, with soggy clumps of insulation (which, with the age of the house, may well have had asbestos in it) stuck to everything, it was difficult to know where to start. Different people chose different little jobs, every now and then taking a breather, a little sit, a necessary pause to regain some mental strength with which to look at the next pile. The first job my son and I undertook was to sort clothes and books into wet and dry: it was surprisingly difficult to decide for some of them, the coating of ash having such a slick feel that it was hard to determine if it was wet, or just dirty.

After five or so hours two trailer loads had been taken into storage, yet not everything had been moved. With mobile phone torches in hand we surveyed what was left and called it a day. (It hadn’t helped that we were attempting this big clean-up on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, having only started around lunchtime.) My car was filled with smoke-filled and wet clothes and books, all of which I drove home to deal with later.


I arrived home with my carload of affected belongings and stumbled in the door. My husband took one look at my face and said, “Tell me where you want everything” before proceeding to systematically wash and air the smoke-filled clothes and air the many books on a washing line. He could see how emotionally and physically exhausted I was and did my usual evening chores, allowing me to rest and regather myself somewhat. Thank you, honey! I’m so glad you read me so well and know when I need nurturing, and that I can depend on you.

The next week I processed the washing basket full of clothes in need of dry cleaning: although it was days later I must have still looked affected, judging from the concern on the faces of the staff at the dry cleaners. I hope I looked a bit brighter when I picked the clothes up two weeks later, especially when I was able to tell them a new house had been secured. Compassion from unexpected sources such as this has helped me make sense of this intense situation … and I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this.


This is my biggest single contribution to this situation: driving my car to Melbourne, driving a 3-tonne moving truck from the new house to the two Melbourne-based places of storage (the temporary abode and the storage locker), loading the furniture there and offloading it at the new house (not alone, I collected the target young people along the way to help with the lifting); driving the truck home to the country with my son as passenger, loading up our donations of furniture as well as the processed clothes and books; then driving it all back to the new house in Melbourne. Phew!

All that while narrowly avoiding suddenly-increased restrictions due to heightened Covid-19 cases, to which the Victorian Government responded by locking down its entire capital city … again. (We actually would still have been able to move, it just would have taken many hours and a conversation with the police longer – which no doubt would have increased the truck hire cost because we would have been overtime.)

The statistics speak for themselves:

*all that driving took us over the generous 300-kilometre allowance by 39 kilometres;

*we used around half a tank of fuel, which cost just under $60 to fill up;

*we made it back within the 24-hour limit with 15 minutes to spare, and thankfully were not charged for the 10 minutes past our time it took to unload;

*we booked the truck 3 days in advance, and avoided the new Melbourne lockdown by 12 hours;

*we all discovered the many latent muscles we hadn’t used for a very long time … me less than the young people, who at half my age should be equally fit, if not fitter, but who don’t exercise every day like I do. That made me smile!

I’m proud that we were able to achieve all that moving and that long drive within the 24-hour hire period, even though it meant leaving Melbourne at 7:30 pm (the full truck drive home was consequently in the dark) because the loading and unloading the initial two locations took far longer than usual. I hadn’t seen the full storage locker and was a little perturbed at the sheer amount of stuff in it until I slipped into Director Mode and packed that truck’s interior like a Tetris expert: “Pass me that box there, I’ve got a spare square foot here; now that pink bag which will fill in this hole under the table; that plastic sword can go in the drawer of that cabinet,” and so on and so forth until it was all packed. I was so tired out at one stage that I was speaking gibberish: my son handed me my water bottle and told me to take a breather, which energised me sufficiently to give the next lot of instructions more intelligibly.

I was also struck by how smoky everything in the storage locker smelled: when we were loading the trailers and the first truck it seemed like we were leaving all the smoky stuff behind. So I realise that my comparison was out: the stuff we stored was not as smoky as the damaged goods we left at the house for the hard rubbish, but it was definitely not fresh like … well, everything that hasn’t been through a house fire …

The truck company I booked was not the cheapest, but it was the most inclusive in terms of its conditions and their representative delivered the truck to the house. When I first turned up I saw that the rep was ready to go in his little car and I assumed that a second person who had come with him, one driver per vehicle, had already gone. I was pleasantly surprised to see how he did it when he picked the truck up again: he simply drove his car into the belly of the truck, secured it with ratcheted straps and drove the truck away. Such a simple solution this Australian-owned company created!

The Crisis

Part 1 of The House Fire

Our son’s house burnt down. The four occupants (three house-mates and one guest on that particular night) and two cats got out; the house was razed within minutes.

We received a phone call mid-morning, our son in shock, standing in the driveway in his dressing gown (faring slightly better than his house-mate who was only in underwear until he was given some firefighters’ coveralls). Our son’s voice was shaking as he tried to tell us what had happened, the fire sirens audible over the phone. It was alarming, to say the least!

What followed was, on one hand, particularly impressive; yet on the other hand absolutely expected and normal. This is the series of fortunate events during the crisis-aftermath (and I’m sure I’m inadvertently omitting some):

First of all, the house guest on that night – the one who first saw the fire and alerted the house-mates, thereby preventing them from being trapped inside – was in a position to put up all five newly-homeless (three humans and two felines) together: he volunteers as a mentor for young people transitioning from such places as juvenile detention to wider society (a government-sanctioned halfway-house situation). Due to Covid-19 lockdowns he did not have any other residents in his house at that time, and was permitted to take in these new people in need. This allowed the household to stay together, further allowing them to divvy up1 the enormous amount of administrative jobs required after a sudden crisis event such as this. It also enabled them to process the emotional impact together, .

Secondly, all three house-mates have supportive families which swung into action over the following weeks: despite all living 150 kilometres away (our children had been attracted by the bright lights and were loving their city experience after their country childhoods), we drove down on multiple occasions to offer immediate assistance on the day of the fire, drive them to house inspections2, help salvage, sort and move stuff into storage (towing trailers and driving the 3 tonne moving truck supplied free by the self-storage company), then out of storage a week or so later … that was a huge 36 hours!3

Strong contenders for this family support was the third ripple outwards: close and extended friends and relatives of the house-mates and their parents. On the day it happened a “care hamper” arrived at the temporary abode, then the friends who had sent it arrived in the evening to help consume its contents … thus providing much-needed time for debriefing. Our son said it took four nights before he was able to sleep through the night without waking, reliving the trauma. After seeing more photos (on the first day we only received one) and realising the extent of the devastation, I also did not sleep through the night for many nights, waking in a cold sweat with my heart in my throat and thoughts racing, “That fire destroyed that house in minutes … our boy is so lucky, as are all of them!” It’s frightening to have that sense of mortality thrust upon us unexpectedly! It gave me more insight into the tragedy of people who must contend with deaths from fires (house, bush, car …) although I know the outcome of our experience is happier than many … I am eternally grateful to the cosmic forces that helped our people get out of there!

Their Melbourne-based friends chauffered the newly-homeless to inspections, allowing the country-based parents to return home in between visits. Part of this included the surface-trivial yet not-to-be-underrated coffee- and food-runs, to nourish the mental stamina necessary to process and sort the multiple inspections and work their way in orderly manner through the lists.

The voluminous offers of furniture meant that there was enough to set up two 3-bedroom houses, and that essential white goods (fridge and washing machine) were covered. One of my friend’s furniture donation with a deadline for his own move necessitated other friends of mine picking it up with a trailer and driving it halfway across Melbourne to the temporary abode, then delivering the borrowed trailer back to the northern suburbs before heading home again … I am so grateful that I have friends who back me up, that I can call on and that I know will support me, time and time again, without fail!4

Then there’s the financial assistance which eased the pressure of closing off the old place and setting up the new place. The workplace donation of a Mastercard funded by one of the house-mates colleagues’ donations allowed the purchase of “start-up household items” which perished in the fire: all the things that are bought once only and then never consciously thought about again, they’re just there every time a little job needs doing … the brooms, mops, rubbish bins, basic cookware and cutlery that help to make a house feel like a home. Add to that the supply of money in bulk from a loving grandmother to cover bond and the world starts to look that little bit brighter in a time of darkness.

My son remarked, “Statistically, people go through only one house fire in their lives. So I guess I’m done.” Wry humour aside, I’m impressed with the way our young folk have handled this crisis: each person has taken responsibility for different aspects which, when combined, means it’s all come together. There have been times when things didn’t go to plan, so – with a minimum of hissy fits5 – new plans were simply put in place and the process could keep moving forward.

It’s said that it takes a community to raise a child: in this experience, the community has bonded together to protect our children and help them get started again … and I am extremely grateful for our good fortune, that we have such people to draw on, who can help us out, when we are helping others out, in their time of need.


1 divvy up: Australian English for divide up
2 despite all the house-mates being country kids in their mid-twenties, none of them had their drivers' licences. You can take the millenial out of the country ... and they’ll make excellent use of public transport – which I applaud. Clearly a drivers’ licence is expendable for the millennial population, an optional extra which is not needed … until it is …
3 revealed in next fortnight's post
4 more on this in a month and a half
5 hissy fit: Australian English for hysterical fit, ie. chucking a tanty (translation from Aussie English having a tantrum), especially about something beyond control

Reedsy Review #5

It was a privilege to read Alex James’ Buried Alive: A story of hate and acceptance. To be given permission to enter someone’s deepest, darkest times is to be trusted with their fundamental core, the inner layers that make that person who they are today.

It does not escape me that I am responding to Alex James in the same way that many people respond to me when they read my book … and that is fair, because my poems and artworks are also deeply personal, exposing the ugly side of troubled times. It is only from having experienced such Dark that the profound value of the Light is recognised. (Nevertheless I continue to be genuinely taken aback at the realisation that some readers are moved to the extent that they are.)

I know what it is like to be on the receiving end of such authentic praise, and if Alex is like me he would be surprised at the impact of his book … which he shouldn’t be, as it’s a worthy addition to the world’s collection of survivors’ stories … so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised when people praise my book, as I have praised his … because it is a privilege to be let in to someone’s soul.

James’ book will hold its rightful place on the bookshelves of survivors and the wider public: it will add to the world’s healing journey and hopefully inspire others to talk about their experiences (which is James’ stated wish), as I have found audiences at my presentations open up about their experiences of sexual abuse and depression. Such literature is an important catalyst to large-scale healing, even if it’s slow, step-by-step, and its progress is not always evident.

Find my review of this commendable book here:

This review may seem more about me than about Alex James and his book. However, it is because his book resonated so much with me, and his responses and reactions reminded me of mine … like him, I published my experiences and exposed my soul … and would like to think that, in my own small way, I am adding to the collective healing journey through helping people on a personal level.


Australian Multicultural Writing Project have accepted my artwork for publication! This is a validating experience for me as I still consider myself to be an emerging author-artist.

I thank the AMWP for accepting my piece for Issue 4 – their first issue with art – and give a huge shout-out to Nadia Niaz, the editor, for the absolute care she has taken with my submission: editing my description to better fit the publication’s context, and checking it with me multiple times prior to publication. Such diligence has ensured that what is published reflects me as an artist, and my work as a unique piece. I know that she will have taken equal care with other contributors and treated each of us with the same kindness and professionalism. A tribute to her work!

I am impressed with the AMWP publication, which I have only recently discovered. (I have subscribed to their newsletter so as not to miss any more of this treat.) One piece of background information required, to support my submission, was an audio description for their visually-impaired readers. The whole ethos of this online publication is inclusive and inviting.

I am also, for the first time, joining the privileged ranks of people who are paid for their passion: thanks to the Australia Council for the Arts every published contributor to AMWP is remunerated! Again, identifying as an emerging artist I am not used to this – a delightful experience! My previous exposure to ACA has been as a consumer, reading books which have been funded by their writing projects. I am pleased to now be involved as a recipient, a contributor to public art that others may then enjoy – and (hopefully) be inspired by, as I have been inspired by ACA works in the past.

See my entry (number 12) here, alongside all the other wonderful entries:

Read AMWP’s Facebook page, which has special features:

…and read their tweets at Twitter (@MultilingualOz)…


Artist Profile: Michael Waugh

Michael’s albums: perfect for a relaxed evening around a campfire, catching up with friends … or for any other time of the day or night, when a mellow mood is sought.

We first met Michael Waugh three years ago, when he was our designated muso to billet for our local Folkie. An established teacher of media and drama, in 2017 he was embarking on his own musical career (as opposed to his students’), playing the songs from his first album.

Two years later he returned to our Folkie (not as our billet that year). Delighted to see him on the program I channelled my inner groupie and timetabled my Festival so as to catch his shows. While he was performing inside the hall, his wife Narelle was outside in the cold fresh air: perched around an upended wine cask which served as a table she was managing CD sales. After the show Michael did what all gracious musicians do, talking with his audience and signing CDs on request. What struck me was the warmth with which he responded to each and every person who approached him, and his genuine delight (almost surprise) in response to the many compliments flooding his way. The world is made brighter, humanity made more humane, for unpretentious souls like Michael!

So who is Michael Waugh? And does he deserve my accolades?

Michael greets people with a handshake and, if you’re lucky to have met him more than once, a big hug that sends warmth through your entire body. His everpresent smile brightens everyone’s day, even if you’re seeing him from afar. And he is easy to spot in a crowd, in his trademark red flanelette shirt.

His quiet, down-to-earth persona and (there’s that word again!) warmth are woven into his heartfelt tunes. In true troubadour style, this singer-songwriter captures an audience with the power of his acoustic guitar and his voice alone. The more recent addition of select back-up musicians strengthen the texture of the magical notes he weaves. His songs, in traditional singer-songwriter style, reflect his life and the things he holds dear. The Australian English he uses brings a smile to my face, so quintessentially does he capture the Aussie spirit. Being around my age he also portrays many of my childhood and adolescent memories, which are lovely to relive.

Michael’s music provides home comfort, which is always welcome in this increasingly monocultural global world which moves ever faster and less humanely, heightening its bland conformity. His ballads strike my heart and speak to me from a place of vulnerability: they invite me to enter the spaces within me where it’s okay to be a bit broken because, to paraphrase Leonard Cohen, everyone has cracks, it’s how the light gets in. I am deeply moved, and a couple of tears have been known to roll down my cheek under cover of the darkened hall.

During the Covid shutdown Michael has participated in local concerts streamed online with live performances to the virtual audiences. Like many artists he has continued to make and play music, performing in Covid-acceptable ways.

So yes, he is deserving of my accolades: I listen to his music and I come out changed. We are all entitled to pause life and take a moment to get back in touch with our inner self, to reposition ourselves and come out stronger. Michael Waugh’s music is the perfect vehicle for this soul-healing.

His website is

and his Facebook page is

Do yourself a favour and check out this hand sown, home grown* musician!

*Hand Sown, Home Grown is borrowed from the title of Linda Rondstadt’s first album, released in 1969. Michael was not born when it was released… and yet its title sums him up!

Reedsy Review #4

Stories of hope. The ripple effect. The empowerment to make a difference, within your skills set. Inspiring.

This book is a treasure. Do yourself a favour and remind yourself anew that hope still exists. Read it.


See what happened next!

Congratulations Annabel!
You’ve been reviewing books on Discovery every month for the past 2 months! Here’s a new badge for your hall of fame

(Not meaning to steal your thunder, Brad, but it’s my first Reedsy reward!)

Thanks to all those indie writers who seek reviews on Reedsy!

Walking lightly on the earth


Found in the shed:

a big box of shoes I didn’t remember.

Grroooaaaannnnn ……


They are dirty, covered in cobwebs and – even worse –

have been chewed by rodents.

Those innards coming out definitely have rat-sized teeth-marks around them.


Who’s going to want to wear them now?

Clearly not the people who put them in the shed in the first place!

Even more clearly, nobody else!


Luckily I have recently learned about


and shoe recycling which diverts such items from




for creating playgrounds and weaving textiles …

which means I can use my trash for treasure,

thereby reducing my carbon footprint


walking more lightly on the Earth.

👣 🌏 🦶


Notes from the author:

1. Hopefully the reader will have realised that the “Free to Good Home” sign was not put up for the derelict shoes! Many moons ago our lemon tree was highly productive, so we placed the box outside our house so that passersby could indeed “share our bounty”.

2. May the shed clear-out continue to continue!

Reedsy Review #3

Follow this link to my third review for Reedsy:

While this book was not my cup o’ tea – largely because of the need for large-scale editing to remove the deplorable number of errors – it reminded me of the surprise-find pearl which still graces my bookshelf, more than two decades after its unexpected entry to our household.


This gem, like Making a Stylish Edit, revolves around fashion, and is immersed in a cracker story with well-developed characters which had me laughing out loud: the sleeping bags the main character made for her shoes is particularly memorable. (Unfortunately, I know some people who would think sleeping bags for shoes are the second best invention after the wheel, and not just a funny image from a novel, so devoted are they to their footwear collection…or should that read, I know some unfortunate people who would covet the protagonist’s inventiveness, in caring for her shoes?) And who isn’t fabulous in their own head sometimes, even if they are a nobody?

Coming from a time when publishing was neither cheap nor cheapened, this Aussie author’s book is a delight to read!