The R of Living Imperfectly: The Rigours of Relationships #atozchallenge

Before you admit the attentions of a gentleman who wishes to pay you his addresses, very carefully examine your respective tastes and dispositions; and settle in your own mind what are the most important requisites of happiness in a married state. With this view, you must enter upon the consideration of the subject with a calm and decisive spirit, which will enable you to see where your true happiness lies, and to pursue it with determined resolution – Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.

R Challenge Letter Welcome to the Information Age where education is freely available to all through Google University and the dating pool now extends to the whole world. Dating sites bring the credentials of potential dates to your keyboard and the forum to interact from the safety of your own home. So why does it seem to be harder than ever before to find a partner?

At least that’s how it appears to me.

I have a confession to make. I have never dated in the Information Age. I met the Italian Stallion almost three decades ago, at an age when the closest we came to a computer was through the Casio calculators in our backpacks. That said, I have listened to the laments of many a woman in their thirties and older as to how hard it is to find a good man.

Let me tell you, men. I’m on your side.

I’m on your side, because I think these women are looking for partner perfection. They probably have a better chance of finding a unicorn.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with standards or having high standards. Neither should a woman have to settle. But the attributes and characteristics of this perfectly baked partner seems a little endless and unrealistic. The perfect candidate seems to be:

  • financially stable,
  • knows where he is going,
  • is a gentlemen and a romantic,
  • dresses well and is well presented,
  • carries no baggage,
  • is intelligent, and
  • tells great jokes and is so confident in his own skin he asks for directions.

OK, I made the last one up, but you get the drift.

As a long time married woman who has been let in on the secret that marriage is not easy, takes work and there will be times when either or friendship perfectionboth of you are less than perfect, this list resembles a whole lot of bucket. As a mother of sons it elicits a yikes!

The reality is you create a life together and settling down with one person is not without risk. The above attributes do not guarantee happiness nor a happily ever after.

Just looking at the list, I can’t help thinking that perhaps the notion of commitment is scarier now. Bad relationship bust up stories abound and tend to drown out the successes and perhaps with more women making their own fortunes the financial stakes are higher. Does the list get longer as women’s feet get colder?

Guys tend to be able to get away with not wanting to commitment. On the other hand perfection for many women is being partnered.

Seeking an understanding and authentic partner should be the goal rather than perfection. A relationship where you are accepted as you is about as perfect as it gets. The rest you work through together.

The G of Living Imperfectly: Generations and Guilt #atozchallenge

Whether you’re working from home because your kid is sick, you freelance or you’re still looking for a job, there’s one thing you must do during a conference call: Get your kid to shut up.

Children hate anyone who takes your attention away from them. Like the animals that can sense an impending earth-quake, children can tell when you are about to say something very important to a client. They have a superpower and they use it for evil. You must prepare. – Sh*tty Mum: The Parenting Guide For The Rest Of Us by Laurie Kilmartin, Karen Moline, Alice Ybarbo and Mary Ann Zoellner, Abrams Image 2012

Letter GIf you are a parent who is always perfect in how you deal with your children and have no tolerance for those who are not then you are going to hate this post. I suggest you look away now to avoid the stress and anxiety not to mention beads of sweat that will form above your immaculately presented upper lip once you have delved into my imperfect world. For I am about to jump into that can of worms that is perfection and parenting or as I sometimes call it, perfecting the generations.

I have been a human being for 50 years. I have been a parent for almost 20 of those years. Little did I know that almost 20 years ago, I would be given my pass to the secret code. The Mo Code. Back in 2012, I wrote about the Mo Code in a blog about how to survive a road trips with teenagers. The Mo Code is my term for things that real mothers do and say, rather than what they should say. This is in sharp contrast to the utterances of Stepford mothers or the advice given by parenting manuals and advice columns, highlighting a kind of parenting credibility gap.

From the day I first gave birth, I was thrown into a vortex of expectation, both mine and others’. Everyone wants to be perceived to be the perfect parent, or if not perfect then at least a good one. And so the Mo Code comes into play. How dare we admit that parenting is hard or that little Johnny sometimes wears the same socks for three days straight? Or that we have allowed our children to watch TV for 15 minutes whilst taking a client call? Or that we sometimes feel overwhelmed, ill-equipped, tired and stressed, namely we are not perfect parents? Most of us admit these things only to the closest of confidants and definitely behind the curtain.

And then there’s the guilt. Guilt, parenting and perfection is the great triumvirate of birthing. Those clever ad executives with their baby product clients know this and peddle all three. Everyone’s a winner, right? Well everyone except us parents. Because any satisfaction or that we may have gained from buying into this consumer perfection, quickly evaporates when the next product comes onto the market.

Really, at the end of the day the only legitimate judges of our parenting are our children and ourselves, and even then how success in parenting is defined is highly subjective.

The important thing is that we keep parenting real. We need to talk about the hardships, the pitfalls, the wins and the losses and what really works for us. And we need to do it without guilt and with humour and authenticity. In this way we will be doing a huge service notimagesFEOCU3NX only to ourselves but to future generations of parents who will carry the weight of expectation well beyond the time their baby bump has disappeared.

For this reason, a book such as Sh*tty Mum: The Parenting Guide For The Rest Of Us  is to be welcomed. Not everyone will applaud or understand as the Amazon reviews will attest. However, it brings the real covert behaviour of the Mo Code out into the open and creates a new dialogue from a most refreshing angle. As this post from Essential Kids tells us:

In fact, a recent survey by parenting website BabyCentre in the UK found that lying is widespread among mothers. The pressure on them to be ‘perfect’ led to more than half of those questioned saying they felt the need to lie about their parenting skills to make them seem like better parents to others. Nine out of ten mothers confessed to using television to keep their children quiet, while 71 per cent admitted to lying to their child to make their day easier and a fifth of those questioned said they occasionally replaced a healthy dinner with chocolate and sweets.

These statistics don’t surprise me and I suspect they would be closely replicated in Australia.

It’s a real shame that we feel the need to be pressured by perception. Parenting is a unique journey for all of us and we should be supporting each other rather than treating it and our kids as the trophies of our perfection.

I really hope that one day we can let our parenting authenticity shine though so that we can enjoy it 100% guilt free like these authors.

The D of Living Imperfectly: Dancing and Daring #atozchallenge

Lead the lady through the quadrille ; do not drag her, nor clasp her hand as if it were made of wood, lest she, not unjustly, think you a bear.

You will not, if you are wise, stand up in a quadrille without knowing something of the figure ; and if you are master of a few of the steps, so much the better. But dance quietly ; do not kick and caper about, nor sway your body to and fro; dance only from the hips downwards; and lead the lady as lightly as you would tread a measure with a spirit of gossamer –  Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.

D Challenge LetterIt’s been heartening to see a few comments come through about dancing. Most of us love to dance yet most of us hesitate because we think we are not good enough. I have never danced with a spirit of gossamer, but as a teen and twenty something I loved to dance. I still do, although now I get to do it far less often.

I recently saw a documentary about a dance troupe called the Hip Op-eration Crew. Billed as the word’s oldest hip hop dance group, these spirited men and women are dancing up a storm. The members of the crew aged between 67 and 95 all live on Waiheke Island, near New Zealand and hip hop together. Whilst the majority of the 25 members are women, there are also a few males brave enough to take to the dance floor. 11 members are in their 80s and 90s, with the average age being 78.

Recently the Crew performed at the World Hip Hop Championships in Las Vegas and stole more than a few hearts amongst the hip and famous. Here’s a glimpse of their performance at the Worlds (photo from the Group’s Facebook page).

Hip Operation Perfermance Las vegas

The Crew’s main message is about fighting ageism and promoting respect with youth. They seem to be doing a fantastic job having been picked up by main stream media around the world. The documentary I saw was a two part special on ageing disgracefully and also featured a 79 years young Florence Henderson embracing life beyond Mrs Brady. The story begins with a shot of two senior citizens sipping tea with a comment to the effect that this is what is expected of our elderly. It then unexpectedly morphs with a delightful cascade of colour into a blaze of imperfection.

I am all for fighting ageism and growing old disgracefully. But more importantly, for the purpose of this post, let’s focus on the dance. The dance steps are not perfect. Neither is the co-ordination. None of it seems to matter, for if the Crew had waited for perfection they never would have made it to Vegas.

And this is the point. What opportunities do we deny ourselves by our strive for perfection? Could it even be a spot on the world championship stage?

There are no world championships for perfectionism. And if there were, the chances of earning a perfect score are pretty slim.

And speaking of dancing, I am off to a highland festival tomorrow. My first ever. There will be dancing, there will be kilts, there will be extreme imperfection.

fools dancing

The B of Living Imperfectly: Beauty and Belonging #atozchallenge

As the ladies and gentlemen arrive, each should be shown to a room exclusively provided for their reception; and the gentleman conducts the lady in his charge to the door of the ladies’ dressing-room, while he goes to the gentlemen’s apartment, each to prepare their toilet suitably to entering the reception-room – Martine’s Handbook to Etiquette and Guide to True Politeness, Arthur Martine, Dick & Fitzgerald Publishers, 1866.

B Challenge LetterResearch for this year’s Challenge has led me to find some great reading material. One such treasure has been  Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Let Go Of Who You Think You’re Supposed To Be And Embrace Who You Are. The title says it all, doesn’t it? If a book could be a mirror, this one would be mine right now.

In it, she describes midlife in a nutshell:

People may call what happens at midlife “a crisis”, but it is not. It’s an unravelling – a time when you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want to live, not the one you’re “supposed” to live. The unravelling is a time when you are challenged by the universe to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.”

It truly does feel like an unravelling. And after the unravelling comes the sifting, the sorting and finally the reassembled product. Perhaps it is our discontent with perfectionism that finally brings us to this point. Maybe we discover that we can truly never control perception, because by its very nature it is in the eye of the beholder. And perfection is all about perception, our own and that of others.

Which leads me into today’s topic of beauty and belonging. As Brene Brown so eloquently puts it, belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something bigger than ourselves and we so often try to acquire it by fitting in and seeking approval. However, according to Brown this is a false pretext because:

true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.

Strong words. Strong concept. Holy Guacamole!

To most of us beauty plays a central role in self-acceptance. It is the basis upon which the cosmetic, cosmetic surgery and fashion industries are built all of which sell the outward ideal of perfection. The messages start early and young, especially for women. Being physically beautiful is essential to social success and possibly even success in general. Physical beauty should be a priority, because physical beauty (or lack of) is the first thing people notice about you, it is essential to perception, it is a worthy investment. Beauty is an industry and perfection is its weapon.

Which brings us to the recent phenomenon of the no makeup selfie. You may have seen invitations through Facebook or may have given one Being yourself battleyourself to post a no makeup selfie to raise funds for cancer research. Whether this concept actually raises money is still up for question as is the issue of whether it actually has merit in the eyes of cancer sufferers. Leaving both of these aside,  what I have found extraordinary about  is that posting a no makeup selfie should cause such a level of angst or be seen to be a brave thing by women.  This has been expressed in various ways including some expressing relief that they did not receive an invitation to post. Have we really come to a point where showing your true authentic self without “your face” on is that novel or indeed that newsworthy?

To belong, we need to accept ourselves first. And that means with make up and without.

Sleep, nutrition and self-love are really the only make up we need to put our best face forward. Further, none of these run or smudge.

Today I Give Myself Permission To Appreciate My Achievements #atozchallenge

Letter AIt’s 1 April marking the start of the A to Z April Blogging Challenge. As this post is brought to you by the letter A, it’s time to give a huge thanks to Arlee Bird for conceiving the Challenge and for giving more than 1600 bloggers the impetus to fire up their blogs this month. Arlee is a true blogger and gentlemen and deserves the tag of awesome – another great A word.

Now, onto the Challenge post!

Most of us arrive at middle age wishing we had achieved more. More what exactly is up for grabs, but it’s just more. Whether we have visions of how midlife was for our parents and wanting our own experiences to be different and yes… more or whether we feel we have not met our own expectations, the feeling of something not being enough lurks.

Somehow, somewhere along the way we picture a different midlife scenario, one were we have ticked most, if not all, of the metaphorical boxes that one is supposed to tick off by mid-life. The weight of expectation feels heavy and rather than asking “Are We There Yet?”, we don’t ask at all, because we are afraid of the answer. Either that or we are just too tired to savour what we have done.

About four years ago, I came to realise that every big achievement is made up of many small achievements. The prize of the big achievement can never really be yours until you build a solid  foundation, until you have put tab A into slot B. Putting tab A into slot B requires patience, persistence and postponement of the need for instant gratification, so why shouldn’t it be appreciated? I know a good many people who fail to see that putting tab A into slot B is still an achievement, so focused are they on achieving the bigger goal. This is fine, except that when the bigger goal is not reached fast enough or the focus is solely on how far there still is to reach it, feelings of despondency and failure kick in.

I spent quite some time over the last couple of years castigating myself over what I felt I had not achieved. The film reel in my head was playing but intermission never came, all I felt was a greater sense of urgency to reach the end of the film.  Expectation will do that to you.

So, you’ve reached forty something and feel you have much left to do? You’re right, you do  – there’s the whole second act to live through BUT stop for a minute and savour what you have achieved so far. Chances are you have achieved a great many things from the time you graduated from high school, even if the film reel of how it is supposed to be in your head is not your current reality. Whether its surviving more than a decade of marriage without killing your spouse, becoming a parent and surviving the sleepless nights, building the foundations of a career or business or just being able to greet each day and your fellow citizens with a kind word and a smile you have achieved something. Whether it’s having travelled the world or some part of it, created a home, forged community connections, being a good sibling, maintained a blog for a time you have achieved something.

In his book, Life: A Guide, Adam Fuller describes the years between the ages of 43 to 49 as being in control, but only just as the demands of others tend to take precedence over our own issues. It is time to let our spirits catch up with us otherwise the sacrifice will be to lose the relationship with ourselves and our dreams.

Appreciating all of your achievements to date no matter how small is a great first step to letting your spirit catch up with you.


 Today I give myself permission to appreciate my achievements.

What is the one achievement you truly relish?

I Give Myself Permission To …Reveal My #atozchallenge Theme

If you’re around my vintage, you might remember the television show Welcome Back Kotter.

The show which ran from 1975 through to 1979 brought many memorable characters to our screens and provided more than a few laughs. As a moon struck teenager I used to eagerly wait for the weekly time slot so that I could feast my eyes on one Vincent (Vinnie) Barbarino played by a youthful John Travolta. Apart from his machismo, who could forget Vinnie’s classic retort:

Up Your Nose With A Rubber Hose?

cast-of-welcome-back-kotter-5Vinnie was one of the students in Mr Kotter’s class (played by Gabe Kaplan) and he and his fellow class mates, Arnold Horshack (Ron Palillo), Freddie “Boom-Boom” Washington (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) and Juan Epstein (Robert Hegyes) kept us entertained with great one liners, bravado and compassion. One of the great “non-characters” in the show was Epstein’s mother. Epstein’s mother, who we never saw on air, was a prolific permission note writer. In many an episode, Epstein (the guy in the denim vest in the photo) would miraculously produce a cleverly worded permission/excuse note from his dear old mother when placed in the hot seat. So close were the pair, that when Mr Kotter would read the note aloud, Epstein would mouth the words verbatim. Epstein’s mother certainly sounded like a formidable woman!

The concept of Epstein’s mother and the class permission note has stuck with me over the years. Self-permission has become particularly relevant to me in recent years as I take the journey through midlife. It’s the time for taking stock, for shedding the old skin and charting a solid course to the future. In short, it’s time to say it’s OK and to find the reasons why those dreams can and should be pursued instead of focusing on why they can’t.

Everyone’s midlife journey is different and whilst mine has not been without its challenges, it has, in the main, been a positive time. The potential for happiness is huge, the uncertainty is becoming less and less and the future looks full of promise. I’ve determined to fly rather than crumble as I focus on all the doors that are beginning to open rather than on those that may be closing.

Over the next few weeks of the Challenge, I will be blogging a 26 point permission slip. 26 permissions that we tend to deny ourselves in our lives caring for others and wish I had given myself earlier. I’ve come to the point where I have acknowledged that I am just as worthy as those I care for and deserve to give myself a break.

permission granted

Midlife has its perks. Google “midlife” and you’ll be met with a raft of articles about the midlife crisis or about the Middle Ages. Regrettably, there are very few positive messages about middle age and I’m aiming to change that. Some of my permissions will be funny, others deep. Hopefully you will find more than a few that resonate.

So, in the wonderful tradition of Epstein’s mother I give myself permission to create and commune in April.

Please join me for the A to Z Blogging Challenge Journey.

midlife prayer

The ABC of Reflection Curtain Raising Style #atozchallenge

We have been asked to write a post reflecting on our A to Z April Blogging Challenge experience. This is mine. I have an alphabetical reflection list written out but during writing, this post morphed into something else, so I am going to let it go where it wants.

My blog had been up and running for exactly two weeks before the Challenge started so I was itching to get going. Being the noob that I am to the blogging world, I didn’t really understand all the talk amongst the experienced bloggers of having a theme for the Challenge. I now understand the utility of that – keeping your posts confined in that way gives you focus and simplifies the task somewhat. I’ll be heading into next year’s Challenge with a theme.

The where many highlights of the Challenge for me. Living in Australia, I was one of the first to post on day one which felt awesome! I visited some amazing blogs to see how it’s done, the creative talent out there is incredible! I felt connected in most instances to the Challenge blogs I read simply because the author and I were facing the Challenge together. Visited by some incredible bloggers, I felt very fortunate to also have some of the Challenge convenors swing my way.

The Challenge gave me a wonderful opportunity to build my blog content and to play around a little to see what works and what doesn’t. I am still scratching my head because there doesn’t appear to be any real rhyme or reason as to what an audience will like. Some days you nail it, some days all you do is hit your thumb! Whilst the Challenge was a demanding mistress, it taught me the benefits of a daily blogging discipline and it was comforting to have a daily programme. I admit I often changed my blog topics and I went into the Challenge knowing I would have to wing some of the letters. But inspiration always came and sometimes at the VERY last minute.

I commend the Challenge to all bloggers when it is run next year…

…especially if you are new to blogging!

A suggestion for next year. As a noob, I would have liked to get to know and talk to a few novice bloggers before the Challenge so we could make all our mistakes and grow as bloggers together and support each other. There didn’t appear to be an appropriate Challenge forum to do that or I didn’t know about it. The Facebook page swept up all non convenor posts. Maybe Twitter was the way to go, but I only recently became a member. I would have also appreciated the chance to join a couple of basic blogging workshops  or opportunities for test runs ahead of the Challenge run by some of the experienced bloggers. If the convenors take up this suggestion, then I would be happy to be involved/facilitate because as a noob you are grateful for any advice and attention thrown your way  – at that stage of the game a little bit of cyberkindness goes a looooooooong way.  I realise all it takes is time, which is a scarce commodity for most.

Otherwise a fantastic concept and a great job, well done!

A big thanks to Arlee Bird from Tossing it Out and Tina Downey from Life is Good, two of the convenors who showed me some cyberkindness during the Challenge. It is much appreciated.

X is for XY Chromosome: Missing the Refill/Replace Gene (#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -

I live in a house full of males, in a veritable tsunami of testosterone. Those who are familiar with my blog, know that I have sons. For His own reasons, the dear Lord did not see fit to bestow upon me the gift of daughters and sometimes I can’t help but wonder what life would be like if He had. A whole world of Barbie dolls, pink fairy wings and tulle has passed me by.

Boys are a whole lot of fun. Boys are the gateway to cheeky play, physical nonsense and unrelenting banter. We bond over computers, cars, baseball, soccer, laser tag and we wrestle. I am lucky I have always been something of a tom boy so enjoy all of these types of activities and of course, the bond between mother and son is a rather special one. Male to male bonding is also fascinating to watch. I have observed that the more a male is bonded with another male, the more likely he is to playfully tease said other male. Guys’ currency tends to be mild teasing banter and I can mix it with the best of them. I suppose it’s why I have always had a lot of plutonic male friends.

Life in my house can get rather interesting and at times I do feel like it’s three to one. Me thinks there is a slight conspiracy going on around here. Me versus them in a battle of the chromosomes. The battle is the battle of the refill or replenish and the gladiators are merciless. The battle goes something like this:

    1. One of the drinks of choice for the boys is cordial which is akin to Kool-Aid. Cordial is made up of flavoured sugary syrup diluted in water, about 1 part in 10. As a mother I would of course prefer that my sons drink water or other healthier alternatives, but let’s not turn this into a health debate, because then you’ll miss the point of this post.
    2. The cordial resides in a two litre bottle in the fridge and the boys happily help themselves.
    3. At about the quarter bottle full mark, the boys start pacing themselves with the cordial and carefully watch the reduction in quantity.
    4. They will each take only so much such that there is always some quantity above negligible left in the bottom of the bottle.
    5. The object of course is not to be the last to drink from the bottle to avoid having to refill it and to maximise the chance that I will instead do the job.

This battle is all about precision timing and precision measurement. It’s a game of stealth  and strategy. Who knew that the boys possessed the skills of a scientist without the use of scientific instruments? Skills for life, people…skills for life!

The skills learned in the cordial arena are also applied to kitchen paper towel refill and of course to paper refill in the bathroom. The golden rule seems to be NEVER use the last sheet for he who exposes the cardboard roll will be put to unthinkable effort.  Never mind that there are full rolls within easy reaching distance.

At one point I put up a sign in our kitchen proclaiming “changing the roll will not give you pimples”. It didn’t work.

I’m still changing rolls and making up cordial and have firmly come to the conclusion that the refill/replace gene just does not appear on the XY chromosome. Either that or I have a battle of Darwinian proportions on my hands!

W is for Whiffs Of Warmth and Whimsy: The Nose Knows(#atozchallenge)

photo from flikr -
leo reynolds'

The power of the nose and the sensation of smell. They all pass by us from odious odours to appealing aromas. Today’s post focuses on the latter, those memory triggering whiffs of warmth and whimsy.

When I was a kid, my mother cooked. Mothers did that a lot more in those days – they seemed to be less harried than now, but then again I was probably just oblivious to the frantic paddling of feet going on under my mother’s lake. You know that whole gliding swan phenomenon, looks all smooth and in control on top of the lake with the hard work taking place below the glassy surface. I know it’s a different species, but “just keep on swimming….” seemed to be my working mother’s motto. One of my strongest childhood memories is of my mother frying onions. Most European dishes seem to start with the frying of onions. Every time I smell them, I conjure up memories of home, warmth and family. I love the smell of frying onions which together with the sweet sizzling sound envelop me in their promise.

Here’s a list of my other top sensory whiffs and what they conjure for me:

Baking things – is there anything like it? Baking bread is particularly high on the list – so powerful it can sell real estate. Cake and biscuit (cookie) baking also rate highly. These smells are too good just to be contained in the kitchen! Thankfully, there are no calories in odours, so I can indulge until I’m giddy from inhaling. These smells are full of warmth and whimsy and conjure up images of a jolly, robust bakerwoman in a red and white checkered apron.

Coffee beans – Arabica, Kona, Robusta, I’m not fussy as to type, I’ll take any freshly ground coffee bean. Aromatically sensual and warm this smell says friendship and relaxation like no other.

Frangipani – not only a ten in the smelling stakes, but also right up in there in the best dressed flower category. For those of you hungry for facts, frangipani was the name of an Italian perfume used to scent gloves in the 16th century and named after its creator, the Marquis Frangipani. When the frangipani flower was discovered its natural perfume reminded people of the scented gloves, and so the flower was called frangipani. Conjuring up images of Hawaii, hula girls (and boys!), holidays and summer days, the frangipani  odour is sweet and whimsical. I can never go past a perfectly formed frangipani fallen on the ground without picking it up. They are hardy trees too. We once had a frangipani growing in a pot which survived the death plunge off our second story balcony and lived to flower the tale.

I took this one!


Fresh Strawberries  – if you have ever picked your own strawberries, you’ll know that I mean. When I was young, my family used to travel to the country and pick strawberries from strawberry farms. The smell is sweet but subtle and oh so seductive and brings a promise of sticky juice, sinfully small seeds and yes, whimsy. As a child it was hard to resist not popping the fruit directly into my mouth rather than the picking bucket. Also, being fresh and ripe, no sugar was required. Occasionally I can find that smell in store-bought strawberries, but it’s hit and miss.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of whimsy….

What smells float your nasal boat?

V is for Veterans and Victory: ANZAC Day 2012 (#atozchallenge)

photo from
leo reynolds'

When the letter calendar came out for the A to Z Challenge I was excited to see that the letter V fell on 25 April. Today’s blog topic was the first topic that I slotted into the Challenge because it was an obvious choice.  25 April is the day Australians and New Zealanders celebrate ANZAC Day.

ANZAC Day is akin to Veteran’s Day in North America – it is our national day of remembrance for those who have fallen, those who have served and those who still serve in the defence forces. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and today marks the 97th anniversary of the first military campaign fought by the Australians and the New Zealanders in World War I.

In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ANZACs were to lead the Allied assault on the Peninsula, providing the covering force and landing before dawn at about 4.30am. The British would be landing later that morning and would be covered by the guns of the British Royal Navy.

The Australians were landed from row boats. Most of the troops were still in their boats when the Turkish forces opened fire with many men being killed or wounded in their boats. It became apparent that the Australians had landed about a mile north to the intended beach for reasons that are still unclear today. Despite water-logged uniforms, thick scrub, steep slopes, unfamiliar terrain, confusion and enemy fire the Australians took the first slopes. However, throughout the day, the Turkish forces, led by Col Mustapha Kemal held back or annihilated the Australians. They were later joined and reinforced by members of the New Zealand Division. For the next eight months of the campaign the Allies attempted to expand their toehold in Turkey, the main offensive being the Battle at Lone Pine. The Peninsula was finally evacuated in December 1915 without the objectives of the campaign being met. By that time Australia had more than 28,000 casualties, including 8,700 killed and New Zealand suffered 7,500 casualties with 2,700 killed.

It is traditional for ANZAC Day to begin with a dawn service. During the War, dawn was often the most favoured time for an attack. After the War, returned soldiers sought the quiet and mateship they often felt at dawn and the dawn service became the favoured form of commemoration. Wreaths are laid at war memorials across the country and servicemen or their descendants march in a public show of support.

The Gallipoli campaign could not be considered a victory on any analysis. However, the battle was a victory in terms of Australian patriotism, mateship and the fighting Aussie spirit. It is where the term “digger” originated, a term used in the Aussie vernacular for the ANZACs, but also now a slang term for “close mate or friend”. If someone refers to you as a digger you know that they are loyal and will do anything, including laying down their life for you. This year marked the first year where no surviving diggers remained to take part in the ceremony.

Whether you agree with the concept of war or not, the troops deserve our support and recognition. ANZAC Day is the day to give thanks to the troops and to truly appreciate the freedoms their service has enabled us to experience. Listen to the sounds of our peaceful skies and look at the people gathering in masses to express their opinions. None of this would be possible without the sacrifices of those who serve in our defence forces.

So on this Anzac Day, we say the Ode (which comes from For the Fallen, a poem by the English poet and writer Laurence Binyon):

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.

and give thanks for the liberties of this great land.

Lest we forget.