London, here I am!

imageI have just lost the post I had written reviewing my recent movie fest, both on the plane and at the Open Air cinema! Agh! Suffice to say, I am not going to write it again as I am getting up to start another day in London. It was a great day yesterday culminating in a beautiful meal, created by Victor,shared with my wonderful family, it is so good to be here with you again. Even you, Richard!

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On my way!

so excited to be going to London to catch with my family and friends there, it will be a quick week! Then off to Peterborough to catch up with Simon and all my Arrowsmith friends! See you all soon!

Thank you for a fabulous, fun filled ,occasionally fraught, time in Sydney, Michael, Emma and my dear friends! It has been lovely and not long until I am back!

Every day has it’s dog, just not today or yesterday!

Canada sep-march 2014 1220Our already quite quiet house is currently even quieter as Rusty has gone up to Pearl Beach to have a holiday with some friends! His favourite place so he will be very happy but it means no enthusiastic greeting, tail wagging faster than it seems possible, so happy to see us dog waiting at the top of the stairs as we come in from the garage! No gleeful morning  greeting either when it is clear it has been such a long night without us and Rusty is delighted we are up and is happily anticipating that I  will be taking him for a walk very soon thereafter. I am reminded of the saying I read on a board outside a church in Peterborough “Be the person your dog thinks you are”! It is so true that we rarely are as a good a person as our dogs think we are!  Perhaps we all love our dogs because they reflect the good in us and are always optimistic and enthusiastic!

Socks, I am sad to say, is a poor substitute for Rusty! She looks so terrible, aged 17 or so, her fur thinning and not as groomed as it used to be. A bit like some old people, she is letting herself go as she waits out her days, lying in the sun on the balcony, peeing in random places!

Here is an old photo of rusty with his favourite person!

Secret Sydney!

I have been walking from Milsons Point by way of the forshore walk to the long staircase that goes up to Lavendar Street every Friday morning for the past few weeks. It was only last week that I noticed the little statues dotted here and there along the way! This beautiful little area is called Art Barton Park and now I have spotted them these statues make me smile as I walk past them. The park is dedicated to Arthur “Art” Barton and I quote “He was born in 1887 and worked as an artist at Luna Park from 1937, the year of the park’s opening until 1970 when fading eyesight obliged him to retire. Arthur’s paintings gave the original park a very Australian character and his “happy face” entrance gate built in 1959 has been used as model for all subsequent Luna Park faces. Arthur Barton died in 1974″. It says then that the park dedicated to him was completed and opened in August 2007. I like the little statue of the “happy face”, I find the big “happy face” at the entrance to Luna Park a little creepy, almost malevolent in it’s happiness.

The stairs lead up to Wendy Whiteleys house, widow of the Australian artist Brett Whiteley, famous for his beautiful paintings inspired by Sydney harbour, as well more radical and challenging paintings. Wendy Whiteley has opened up her garden to the public, there are narrow winding paths leading down the hill into shaded glades, rainforest like, with picnic tables, it has a very peaceful feel, quite unexpected after the bustle and noise of Luna Park.

Two secret places, not really secret just previously unobseved by me, so different but both delightful. I am sure there are so many more for me to discover!

And just in case you are worrying this post is all about me, I have to tell you how delighted and surprised I was when Simon told me yesterday that he was reading in the evenings after dinner at Argyle! I have to admit that this is not something I had ever expected to hear, given his fear of reading. This is a HUGE step for him and one that is so important in helping to cement in the cognitive changes happening in his brain with his work on his Arrowsmith exercises! Go Simon! I am so proud of you! Go Arrowsmith!

Toowoomba!

imageI spent yesterday in Toowoomba, visiting the recently started full time Arrowsmith programme at the Darling Downs Christian school. Theirs is currently the only full time adult programme in Australia. It is early days for them with most students still training in order to do the exercises perfectly, a prerequisite to maximise cognitive improvement. It had the same quiet, determined air as I see each time I go into the West classroom in Peterborough. And again, the dedication of the teachers is palpable, so encouraging and positive. In addition to the adult class there are two classrooms for school aged students and the demand for the Arrowsmith programme is growing. At the recent teacher training programme in Toronto there were teachers from Australia and New Zealand who will all go back to expand the programmes already running in their schools but even as they expand the numbers of students seeking out the Arrowsmith programme is increasing! Barbara’s dream of helping as many students as possible to reach their potential is coming true, though having a programme in every school is still someway away, I am sure that it will happen and sooner rather than later.

Lea-Anne picked me up after my schol visit and we went out to lunch at Wrays, a beautiful organic cafe and shop. The food reminded me of The Food Forest in Peterborough though, as Lea-Anne pointed it, it didn’t have the same cosy atmosphere. She took me on a tour of Toowoomba, a bustling town with beautiful walks from Picnic Point, though we ran out of time to go too far afield. We picked Kayle up from school, whilst she went to a music lesson, we went onto Lea-Anne’s office at the Airport Flyer, which makes travelling back and forth to either Wellcamp or Brisbane airport so easy with their friendly drivers and efficient service, then to meet her sister and her family. We spent the evening chatting and when Col got back from work we continued  reminiscing about our Arrowsmith days, all our special friends, good times and good restaurants! It was really lovely to spend time together, making that special connection instantly only found with good friends. Thanks for a great day Lea-Anne, Col and Kaylee! See you again soon before too long.

Tom Uren – an inspiration and a man of principle

When I first moved to our street, Tom knocked on the door to welcome us. I had no idea that he was a well known politician who had spent many years in politics. Until today I hadn’t really understood what a remarkable man he was – he was, to us, simply a friendly neighbour and step father of Lara’s friend, Ruby. Today I learnt that he was so much more than that! I was privileged to attend his Memorial Service and be among the great and good (and not so good!) in Australian politics, there were three former Prime Ministers amongst us, as well as the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten and his deputy – Tanya Plibersek and I leave you with her words and suggest that we should  keep his legacy alive by helping those more in need than ourselves and by being of service to the community. Vale Tom Uren.

Tom Uren: a champion of Labor and the Left

Opinion

Posted 26 Jan 2015, 4:23pmMon 26 Jan 2015, 4:23pm

Former Whitlam minister Tom Uren has died aged 93. Here, Tanya Plibersek pays tribute to a politician who was always ready to speak out for the voiceless and the dispossessed.

Tom Uren was, to me and so many of my generation in Labor politics, our great inspiration, our elder statesman, and an unstintingly generous and loving mentor and friend.

Among the last veterans of World War II to serve in the House of Representatives, Tom’s wartime experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese left him not with bitterness, but with an unshakable conviction of the importance of mutual support and collective action – of the strong helping the weak, of the well helping the ill, of those who could bear a heavier burden willingly shouldering that load in the interests of all.

It left him with a deep dedication to the cause of peace and, having witnessed the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, an abiding aversion to nuclear weapons. He was the first Labor MP to question Australia’s support for US intervention in Vietnam, in August 1962, and he was a regular and stalwart presence at marches and demonstrations, jailed more than once. He also never ceased to work in the interests of his fellow veterans – from all wars. One of his proudest moments was just recently when, after a long campaign for a payment to surviving prisoners of war, he received a visit at his home from prime minister Julia Gillard to tell him the payment would go ahead.

His wartime experiences left him, too, with a great faith in the power of love versus hate. He had seen the worst of what human beings can do to one another, and his response was to seek the best: to strive, with rigour and determination, to transcend enmity and fear, to replace them with compassion and with empathy.

He would always emphasise to those of us to whom he so willingly gave his time, his wisdom, and his experience that there is no profit in hate, either in personal relationships or in politics.

Loving as he was, he could still be tough: tough in the pursuit of fairness, justice, and peace. And if you disappointed him, or he disagreed with you, he let you know. And yet, as much as we all hated to disappoint him, we never feared to disagree. For such physically imposing man, he was never intimidating. He was tall, tough, a former boxer, yet he took pride in being a gentle man.

He was tough, too, in his battles to protect the Sydney Harbour foreshore for public use and to restore and invigorate the working-class neighbourhoods of inner-Sydney

As Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam Government and beyond, his passionate commitment to our urban environment has left an enduring legacy, in both the preservation of our heritage through such steps as the establishment of the Australian Heritage Commission, the conservation of the Sydney Harbour foreshore, and through his vision for the restoration and invigoration of old working class inner-city areas. I am particularly aware, as Sydney’s representative in our Federal Parliament, of just how much we owe Tom.

The face of our city, and the survival of the working class communities within the inner city areas, is down to Tom. So too is the access all residents and all visitors to Sydney can enjoy to our beautiful harbour. His great vision was that the harbour foreshore should be open to everyone, not the preserve of the rich – that anyone could walk from headland to headland. He worked tirelessly in great battles and in small to make that true.

He strove, too, to make sure that all of us, no matter where we live, have access to the beauty and the enjoyment of open space and parks, through, for example, his position on the board of Parramatta Park Trust.

He lived a long and rich and full life, but the legacy he left Sydney will last forever.

He was one of Labor’s, the Left’s, and Sydney’s great champions, never hesitating to state his beliefs, always ready to speak out for the voiceless, for the dispossessed, for those in need. Born in working-class Balmain, Tom lived through the grinding poverty and struggle of the Depression, and knew first-hand that the difference between prosperity and destitution is all too often simply luck. His compassion towards those grappling with adversity never dimmed, no matter his personal success.

Long after his retirement, he remained an active and committed member of the ALP. There was Tom, well into his nineties, campaigning for Labor at local government, state or federal elections. Loyal, but never unquestioning: he never held back from letting us all know when he thought we’d made a wrong decision or taken a wrong path.

Tom would often quote to us Martin Luther King’s words that “Hate distorts the personality and scars the soul. It is more injurious to the hater than the hated.”

The privations of war, and eventually the effects of age, left their marks upon his body. But despite all that he had endured, Tom’s beautiful soul was unscarred. Unstintingly loving, fierce and gentle, we will miss him.

Tanya Plibersek is the Federal Member for Sydney and Deputy Leader of the Opposition.