A Four Year Old’s Christmas

Dear Velvet,
It’s Christmas Eve. You’ll spend your day thinking about a visit from Father Christmas, or as you have come to call him in your prematurely wise way of finding compromise, ‘Santa Christmas.’   stocksnap_a3gogu0bwf

Tomorrow Cadence and I will share lunch with you, Mummy and Daddy, your Adelaide uncles and, later in the afternoon, other friends and family. We’ll watch as you open your presents, refuse to taste the prawns Cadence will offer you, enjoy ice cream at the end of the meal and devour the after-dinner chocolates. It all sounds rather ordinary, doesn’t it, much like the Christmas I enjoyed sixty years ago, when I was four years old.

There will be differences though. You’ll talk to your Grandpa, Uncle and Aunts in Perth via Skype or Facetime, something I could never have imagined in 1956. The love your family feel for you will beam across Australia and through Daddy or Nannie’s devices. This will show you that families use any means possible to connect with each other, no matter the distance and circumstances.

I think, Velvet, that the Christmas you have when you’re four years old may well be your best Christmas; when you’re three the noise, the bright wrapping paper and so many unexpected gifts can be overwhelming. When you’re a savvy five year old, expectations can be heightened which could lead to the first of many small Christmastime disappointments that gather as the years pass. So, enjoy this special Christmas my darling, but there is something I think you need to know, maybe not this year or even the next, something important about tomorrow and how other little boys and girls across the world might spend their day.

Many children, who are as smart and as kind as you, won’t have a very happy time tomorrow. Some of them, like you, know about Father Christmas but he won’t leave them any presents. Others might find lots of presents under the Christmas tree but their parents will leave their children in a corner and expect them to be quiet and grateful while the grown-ups drink too much wine and end the day screaming at each other and the children, frightening the little ones so much they will grow up to hate Christmas.

There are other little children just like you who don’t know anything about Santa Claus but they do have a Mummy and Daddy and grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins who love them as much as we love you. All families want their children to enjoy a happy, peaceful day tomorrow and everyday, but some of those mummies and daddies will have to use their bodies to shelter their children from bombs and bullets. There will be other children, too many children, who will spend tomorrow hungry and tired and scared. Too many children will spend tomorrow alone because their parents have disappeared and too many children may not see tomorrow’s sunset.

8299680591_5061d4e91f_oI am grateful, Velvet, that you will not spend your tomorrow worrying about this. I pray your innocence will continue for another year or two more but I am also concerned, as are a lot of adults, about what 2017 may bring. It is sad to think that you may learn too soon how people can do terrible things to each other and you will be perplexed and maybe a little afraid. That’s why tomorrow is so special; your family will show you how important love and compassion is. We will teach you how to be tolerant towards every one you meet, we will help you understand that lots of people in the world think being kind and compassionate to each other is better than being mean and cruel.

There are many people who work hard everyday to change our world. Those people are good at imagining what it feels like to be another person. Here’s a game you can play one day to help you do this: pretend you are walking around in another person’s shoes; pretend you are that person; pretend their fears, their dreams and their memories, are yours. If you can do that you will understand everyone else, and yourself, better.

This, then, is my Christmas wish for you; on that terrible day when you learn other children suffer while you prosper, you won’t ignore their suffering. When you learn other children play with different toys and enjoy different celebrations than you, you won’t laugh at their games or beliefs. When you discover other children wear different clothes and don’t look like you, you won’t judge them and ridicule them, but respect and learn from them, you will play with them and, if they need it, or when they ask for it, you will help them whenever you can.

But that is a wish for your future, dear Velvet. It is not your task, this Christmas Eve, to wonder how the world can become a better place. You can leave that to the grownups. When it is your turn, I know your compassion and resilience, your resourcefulness and your magnificent imagination will help you create a world where all children feel as safe and as cherished as you feel today.
Love always,

Do you remember your fourth Christmas? What important lessons did you learn around the table at Christmastime?

Finally, my dear readers, wherever you are and whatever you are doing on the 25th December I hope you will be with your loved ones, that you feel safe and cherished, and may peace sit lightly at your shoulder.

The Chairman

Photo: Caleb George

Everyone hoped he’d make some changes, do the right thing because Jacinta was one of the 30%: tall, attractive, well-educated and highly motivated.

‘Jacinta handled her promotion exceptionally well,’ he said finally.  ‘She did exactly what we asked. Pruned the  inefficient members of her team without too big a stir. Shifted three more staff into different departments and dealt competently with the complaints. The new work practices she introduced are spot on. I thought them unusual at the time but productivity has certainly improved.

Photo: Jeffrey Betts

I’m going to ask her to run an in-house seminar. Outline her methods, give the department heads an idea of what’s possible. She can help them implement her ideas. Her people skills are excellent. Her entire staff attended her wedding last month, as did I. Great food and an excellent band. Yes, Jacinta Freeman, now Mrs Jacinta Walton, has served this company well.’

Photo Mary Whitney

The board held its collective breath. ‘So I’m positive Jacinta will understand; it’s Geoff Hardcastle’s turn, despite his recent troubles.  When your wife gives birth to twins, that makes things … difficult. But the twins are, what? A year old now? Mia Hardcastle was at Jacinta’s wedding, she was beaming, coping,  she said, really well.’ He didn’t add that Mia looked great in that low-cut dress now her figure was back, or that she told anyone who’d listen she’s looking forward to returning to work. Made a point of including him in her smile, almost winking at him. Of course, there was that unaccountable little incident when Geoff danced with the new girl from sales, but only a few people saw it. Jacinta whisked Mia off, made sure she had another coffee and extra cake and everything was fine again with no one the wiser. And Geoff? He’s solid, a good man in a scrum.

‘Yes,’ said the Chairman, ‘Geoff is on track again and deserves a break.’ And again he didn’t say what he was thinking, that Jacinta is married, probably a mother herself soon; he saw her cooing over photographs of the twins on Mia’s mobile. ‘I’m giving it to Hardcastle,’ he told the waiting board. ‘Hardcastle’s the man for the job.’

Walk, Look, Listen

I spent part of last week’s trip to Melbourne roaming the city streets alone. I was not lonely; I enjoyed the solitude. I felt, as I walked, solid, curious and aware.


Melbourne was practice for next year’s trip to Europe. Dare I walk the streets of Paris alone? Dare I broach Rome? Time will tell.

The anxiety I have lately suffered dissolved, for a time, in Melbourne. I was obliged by my lack of acquaintance with the city to draw on my strength and renew my frayed resilience. People say that will happen when you step outside your comfort zone, but I wasn’t really that far out of it. I was where the populace spoke my language; the traffic codes, the food, the images were all culturally familiar.

Did I feel strong because I had only myself to depend on, because I had no one else to consider, because the only needs I had to meet were my own?

When my companion joined me I saw Melbourne from another person’s perspective. I walked now familiar streets overlaid with stories of his past. I listened and I enjoyed, but there were moments when I regretted my lost solitude.

Strength is found when you walk, look, listen and when you share.

November is Done, Hello Melbourne

November has come and gone and not much of it was spent blogging; that’s what happens while working on a novel. I relished my first NaNoWriMo; I hit 50,000 words on the 28th, validated my novel and yesterday set out for Melbourne, Australia’s second largest city and an  eighty minute flight east of Adelaide, for my reward.

The plan was to fly to Melbourne and explore the city while my partner attended a conference but because he was offered last minute work I had to fly in on my own. I woke at dawn yesterday and arrived in Melbourne before nine: the entire day was mine to enjoy.

The Yarra River, looking back to the South Bank

I first visited Melbourne in the 1970s but on that occasion, and every visit since, had no time to look around. This time I have (or had) four days. Situated on the banks of the Yarra River, Melbourne is sometimes the butt of jokes about its capricious weather. As Raili over at Soul Gifts has recorded in a recent blog, the weather was indeed the cause of much distress recently. Despite this, I love Melbourne. So after checking in to the hotel and wandering over to Federation Square

Federation Square

I headed to the National Gallery of Victoria.

Foyer of the National Gallery

Five hours later I was replete. The first exhibition I saw was David Hockney’s ‘Current’. Hockney, at seventy nine, has embraced hand held devices as an artistic medium. His images are reproduced  on numerous iPhones and iPads throughout the exhibition, but also as larger images, such as the one below:

David Hockey from The Arrival of spring in Woldgate

Hockney’s exhibition included eighty two portraits and one still life; all in all I believe the exhibition featured 1200 different images.

After a break I saw Transformations: The Art of Fashion According to Victor and Rolf, a fascinating pair who merge fashion, art, rebellion and technical skill, making as they go, perceptive and critical statements about modern life and the fashion industry.

The final exhibition I visited was Italian Jewels Bulgari Style, which was also quite exquisite but somehow a little gaudy and avaristic after the first two exhibitions.

In the evening I saw ‘Burning Doors‘, the most compelling and profound piece of theatre I have ever seen. But more on that in my next post, once I have managed to think it all through a little more.

After a drink with friends to talk over what we had witnessed, I went back to the hotel where, just before midnight my partner joined me. When his conference is finished we plan to share more Melbourne adventures together.

I’ve written this blog in the State Library of Victoria, which has been a somewhat frustrating process. (I miss my computer, obviously my skills with an iPad are not commensurate with David Hockney’s). It’s time to take a break and visit the reading room, maybe take a few photographs and then venture back to Federation Square where there is food and entertainment on offer.

Melbourne, you have more than delivered, I am grateful you are my reward.

(This blog was edited on 8th December 2016)