Deliberate Acts of Kindness

Meet Chris, Ian and Victoria (the sheep) of Purple Dove Awareness Group and Food is Free.

They welcomed Theo and I to their home with (literally) open arms. We had never met before, but that made no difference. A few text messages and we are friends.

This would be the case with anyone they meet, I’m sure. In fact, complete strangers have benefited from their generosity for many years already. Things don’t always turn out the way you might predict.

We’ve come to The Summit, outside Stanthorpe, today to learn how to weave ghastly grey grocery bags into waterproof sleeping mats for those who are sleeping rough. Along with that skill, we’ve learned of the quite phenomenal work of Chris and Ian. If there is an hour in which they can help someone else, they’re probably already doing that.

Within a year of Chris and Ian’s marriage, Ian was diagnosed with prostate cancer and given 10 months to live. That was 10 years ago. Now, between treatments and surgeries, Ian and Chris run garage sales and market stalls and organise the markets at the Stanthorpe Showgrounds on the fourth Saturday of each month. The funds they raise are all sent to support both prostate cancer and breast cancer.

Not long ago, they set up raised garden beds, a lot of them, on their own property in which they grow a variety of vegetables. These are cared for by them and placed in a stand by the road at the end of their long driveway, not to sell, but as part of “Food is Free”.

“We don’t want people to feel bad if they need help,” said Chris. “When it’s like this, they can come past and take what they need without having to ask for it and perhaps feel like they’re being judged.”

And it’s becoming a cooperative part of the community. Someone left a note and a bag of miniature shampoos and conditioners near the veges the other week. They had a surplus and knew someone else might benefit from it.

There are helpers, too. Sometimes there are 10 or more people weaving bags into mats under the watchful eyes of Victoria, the mower sheep.

“Victoria was Victa,” explained Ian, “Then we turned her over and she’s Victoria. We bought her to be friends with out other sheep, but they don’t like each other, so she’s up here with us.”

Victoria spends her days being loved and fed by visitors – including Theo, mowing – obviously, and being followed by the cat. Wherever you find Victoria, the cat will be there, curled up comfortably on Victoria’s body, enjoying the pre-production, nature’s own, walking blanket!

Like me, you probably think that this is a pretty big undertaking for a couple who are, ostensibly, retired. It didn’t start with these activities and it hasn’t stopped with JUST these, either. Not at all.

In 2015/2016, Chris was part of Walk for Life. With Ian trailing her with their caravan and car, Chris walked around Australia for 12 months! Raising money for both prostate and breast cancer, Chris walked each day. They raised about $40,000! And that seems like it was just the beginning of the philanthropic story. As they travelled and stopped to sleep each night, Chris and Ian met many homeless people and those who were living in their cars; it’s more common than I realised. When they returned home, they decided to do something to help and it grew from there.

During the hour and a half I visited, Ian took two phone calls and this meant they were heading out to pick up a large donation of furniture as soon as we left, before a doctor’s appointment later in the day.

“That happens all the time,” Chris told me, “People know we help so they often ring us to pick up things like that. They also know to call us of they’ve got people who need something. We can usually put something together. Do you want to see the container?”

We walked past more garden beds, and Victoria and the cat in the shade, to unlock a newly purchased, roofed by Ian, container. This now holds all the goods that Chris and Ian can’t house elsewhere until it finds its home with someone in need. Shelves of blankets, toiletries, clothes, towels, appliances, furniture, knitted beanies, items for markets and garage sales and….loads of things, line the walls. All are totally organised so Chris knows she can put together a package with ease, depending on the specific need.

I’m sure there is more that I didn’t ask about or find out about, after all we were only there a short time, but I do know that these ventures need time and support. From what I know, Chris and Ian are unlikely to ask for any assistance, but if you’d like to see a little more of what they’re doing, encourage them, and possibly support their efforts to support others, I expect they’d find a need to fill. You can visit their Facebook pages below.

Thanks again, Chris and Ian, for your welcome, your hospitality and the great work that you are doing every day (and the zucchinis!).

Mind Your Language!

It may not come as any surprise to you that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for words, meaning, phraseology, etymology and all things language. Due to Mummy interference, I expect, my kids learned to read very early on, the latest taught himself. I can validate just about anything; waffle and buzz words are a specialty and my poetic license renews quarterly, but I think this shortest kid, currently 5, is going to outstrip me. The imagination is amazing! I’m actually thrilled! 😚

Tonight’s moment:


Hiss! Scratch!😼

MASTER 5 (M5):

Ow! Aargh! (Genuine fright and real tears follow) 😢

VSC: exits quickly stage right 💨

M5: is gathered up by next youngest brother and mummy for cuddles

Sniffle. Sniffle. (2 minutes maximum)

M5: I want VSC to apologise! 😡

MUMMY: How would you like her to do that, sign language or meowing? Has an ‘I am hilarious’ look on face.

M5: 😠 I just want her to say sorry for hurting my foot and my feelings.

MUMMY: I know, but how can she do that? ‘Meow-ry, M5’?

M5: I have to tell her she’s not being pleasant and when she does that, I feel like she wants all the love and doesn’t want me to have any love.

MUMMY: 🤤😲😨 Pardon? (Apologies, but WTF would seem appropriate here.)

M5: repeats previous statement, with feeling and lip quiver. 😭😢

Where does he get these things?!

Last week we caught up with friends at an indoor play centre. M5 appeared to be immobilised in a very small ball pit by an unknown Miss 3 waving/hitting with a small kids’ book. From 3 metres away, I could see the look of surprise, shock and indignation on M5’s face, “Why would she do that?!

I called to him to move away, a few times actually, before he shook off the apparent petrification and took two steps backwards. Miss 3 followed, book raised. By this time, all five of the mums with me were watching, interested in the stand off. Miss 3’s mum realised what was happening and stepped in to move her daughter.

Noticing all of us watching, M5, totally serious, raised his still tiny forefinger stiffly and intoned with purpose,

“If she does that one more time…


I am thankful that I was sitting on the floor. We all fell about laughing, much to M5’s disgust. He walked away to more mature interactions in the cubby house.

I did feel the need to tell my friends, still laughing, that we don’t teach revenge as a matter of course in our home.

Love the odd little being so much!

🤣 Eski

My Mum the Shearer

It seems that I’ve inherited my mother’s ability to find, be found by and adopt any lost sheep. In some cases, her ability is literal. We adopted a large, lost sheep. We were in Central Australia, the year I turned 9. We’d been travelling for 6 months around the country and now had taken up residence in a single carriage of a converted silver bullet train (something like this). My bed was over the hot water service in the ‘laundry’; Mum and Dad had a fold out bed in the lounge room so my brother and sister could share the double bed in the single bedroom that there was.

When cattle or sheep were rounded up, little ones would often be brought into the community, almost like a toy, and, as toys often are, they’d be discarded and forgotten. This had happened to Sheepy. He had been around the place for a while. He was no longer little and cute, but full grown, fat and fluffy. Well, he would have been had his overgrown wool not resembled a large and fibrous tumbleweed, complete with spinifex grass and felted matting. Sheepy had wandered into our yard one day and, as I mentioned, Mum is genetically predisposed to be unable to resist something or someone in need of assistance. Sheepy became her personal project. She blunted the few pairs of scissors we had, regardless of their original purpose, trying to create a coiff from a conglomerate. The community thought it was hilarious, but I could understand her concerns. Desert days are not cool and Sheepy was lumbered with inches of filthy thermal insulation. Each day, scissors of various sizes and Mum waged war against Sheepy’s many extra layers.

With time and perseverance, Mum won the war against the wool. Sheepy bore his new, attacked by vicious lawn mower, wool cut with lightness and freedom, if not pride. His accepting personality was overcome, layer by layer, with the more realistic taciturn nature of a scruffy, hot male specimen. So Sheepy left his temporary home and ran off to rejoin the community at large. And, not long after, and not shared with the shorter siblings, Sheepy made a guest appearance at a local barbecue. Such is life, I suppose.

We Are Human

We are all human. We are not girls and boys; we are not young and old; we are not black and white; we are human. Created in a womb and buried in the dirt. We are God’s creation. Skin woven together to hold our organs in does not determine our class. We are blood, sweat and tears, made to speak emotions, not to become a job. We are human. We are united by our similarities. We run on the same energy sources and live lives with the same needs. We wake with the sun and sleep by the moon. Because we are human.

We are not homelessness or poor government choices or malnutrition. We are not words on a page, or enemies or friends. We are human. We are not the clothes on our backs or the clips in our hair. We are not the endless race of who is better and who is faster. We are not broken relationships or torn families.

We are the kindness of strangers. We are the random smiles. We are the endless love that fills new parent’s hearts. We are human. We are the species that has a heart so fragile a simple sound can shatter it. We are one but we are many. There is nothing that unites us more than the feeling of love.

There are insects that spend their whole lives trying to eat children’s eyes from the inside out, plants which can kill us with a small touch; mosquitoes that are only 3 millimetres in length which are perpetuators of some of the worst diseases ever seen; bacteria which cannot be seen, yet we watch them take the lives of our loved ones. And yet what a person has between their legs determines if they are worthy of being paid or not. A person’s age determines their apparent ability. The colour of someone’s skin is the difference between having their say in their life, or not.

We still feel that we are a threat to each other and ourselves. We are our own worst enemy; we destroy ourselves so others can’t. We set up organisations, funds and protection programs with which to save us from us. We have created a world so hateful some would rather die than be who they are.

We are human. We smile with joy, showing white teeth and cry for many reasons with clear and salty tears. Children, reproduced humanity, drink white milk regardless of the hue of the breast by which they lie. Blood, spilled, stored or shared, is still red.

When we recognise our humanity, our similarity, and reinstate dignity and equality, we increase our integrity and solidarity. We create and affirm responsibility and let go of long held, closed-minded thoughts of normality.

We are human and the sooner we realise, recognise and remember, the better for us all.

With thanks and acknowledgement to Tahlya Andersen.

Not my story, obviously.

I can see why some people aren’t sure if Sam’s story is real or not. I mean, I’m a 41 year old woman, not a 16 year old boy. I don’t have the requisite parts to have testicular cancer. This is true. And so is Sam’s story.

“Nuts, A Ball and other 4-letter Words.”

He’s a real person. Not his real name for the sake of privacy. This is his journey for a short/horrifically long period of his life so far. This is the story, too, of anyone who has been dealt the punch to the face (knee to the groin?) that cancer is. It’s also the story of winning. Of not spelling cancer with a capital C. Of making it. Of living life anyway, of growth and regrowth. Of sharing instead of hiding. Of kissing and sex. Of separation and belonging. Just Life. It’s the story of family and yet it isn’t.

I spoke to most of Sam’s family while his personal story bubbled in my head and came flowing out in words both his and mine.

I spoke to his big brother who, although uncomfortable in some ways talking to a relative stranger, made his love love for his family, even an annoying younger brother, very clear.

I spoke with his little sister, who thought I was a little crazy and made a rude comment about my shoe choices….fair call, though. The two of us forged a friendship that was close, for a while, and sang the real lyrics to Mumford and Sons’ ‘Little Lion Man’ really, really loudly, just because we could. Now she’s not a ‘little’ sister any more, but a beautiful, engaged young woman with whom a coffee date seems elusive. And I spoke with Mum.

I wondered if she thought I was odd, a teacher and mother of children of my own, befriending her kids. Apparently not, thankfully. And I loved them. Hearing their stories; getting a little into their lives.

Weird, isn’t it, how quickly that depth of feeling can come? And go. Not the feeling, just the actual spending time. It just drifts off sometimes. I don’t really know why. Happens far more often than I’d like, that sort of fading. Anyway, I’m getting morose.

So Mum let me hang out. And talk to her kids. And to her. She told me all of her experiences of Sam’s diagnosis, treatment, surgery and eventual recovery. I think I expected more tears, more drama. But you’ve already read that’s not her style. So it was fact and explanation of both circumstances and emotions.

I always meant to write the whole story. The whole truth for the whole family, but I couldn’t write Mum’s perspective. When I voiced her, my pen stopped. I, who had children of my own and knew how mums felt when their children hurt. I, who could scrawl out the story of a teenager’s masturbation and fantasy, couldn’t find the words to share this mother’s battle for her boy.


I’m sorry that I couldn’t find your voice with my pen. I’m sorry that I couldn’t express your fear, or the knowledge that you just had to do what you had to do. I’m sorry ’cause I wanted to tell of your courage, your love. I wanted to write more. I don’t think I could go there, you know, because it would have been bloody hard. I haven’t looked at my notes in years, but I have one thing that I’ve always remembered.

When mums hug their children, we often put our hands on their heads, ruffle their hair up a bit. And it’s a sign of affection, of casual ‘love ya, mate’ warmth. But for you it became more. Discreetly, under the guise of casual, you’d check your not-so-little boy’s scalp and neck for the telltale heat of fever and bumps of possible infection. I already knew how I felt when I held my ‘babies’ and I think I couldn’t find your voice cause I didn’t want to even imagine having to watch them so closely, so scared. I knew I didn’t know, couldn’t even guess and I didn’t want to do you or your feelings injustice.

So there it is. Honesty. I’ve finally made myself look at it as more than just writer’s block.

If you haven’t read Sam’s story yet, you could start here.


Mandy. 🐛<<

Nuts, a ball and other four-letter words. A young man’s journey with testicular cancer. Part 5.

This is Part 5 in a series. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here.

I admired Sam’s casualness and candour when I asked him to read the fictionalised (my best guess) version of what thinking about sex and masturbation might have been like after going through chemo and trying to come to terms with one testicle. I said that it was really a way of asking him some of the tough questions – had hair grown back? How had sex been? What did he feel like at the time?

He took it in his stride, especially since we were in a food court at our local shopping centre at the time. He gave me some straightforward comments during reading –

“We haven’t. Ever.”

“I only threw up once during chemo.”

“We couldn’t kiss while I was having chemo, my white cell count was too low and I could’ve caught anything.”

“Is this supposed to be me masturbating?”

“Well, yeah.”

“Nah, couldn’t do that either during chemo, all the chemicals going down there and everything.”

So I haven’t changed it, cause apart from those comments, the ideas are right and the fears are very true. Just so you know, this 5th part, then, is fiction, for story sharing and understanding of emotions. Sometimes it’s hard to put words to the exact truth, especially when your general description of emotions is, “Like crying and stuff.”

On his better days, he wanted more than to just hold her. On his better days, his mind was clear enough to let him think at all. Ordinarily this would have been a good thing. Any thing to get out of the cloudy fog of the drug haze he was in much of the time. But right about now the only thing clarity was good for was helping him see what he was missing.

As the hours drifted by and his mind cleared, he could see her face. She was so pretty, all blue eyes and beautiful smile. She was more than pretty and she wanted to be with him! Bit unbelievable sometimes. During the chemo – when he was feeling his worst, he couldn’t think of why that was. Why would she want him? Useless body couldn’t even keep itself together, wasting from these foul chemicals, not much to look at. And that was on the good days. On the worst, he was too weak to hold his own head up while he threw up. Over and over. Hadn’t eaten a damned thing but it didn’t make any difference – he’d vomit til he felt like he was about to turn inside out.

But still, when he returned to school, she was still there, still his. He could barely believe it when she’d let him kiss her; when she’d linked her hand with his and kept it there even as the duty teacher walked by. He’d known they’d been seen; he could see it on the teacher’s face and was torn between jumping up from the bench and shouting that he didn’t need the pity, and closing his eyes and hoping they wouldn’t be reminded of the ‘daylight’ rule. Didn’t want pity, but he didn’t want to let her hand go either. Her hand was so different to his. Long, slim fingers as opposed to his shorter, thicker ones. Beautiful clean nails, beautifully soft skin.

On the bad days he imagined holding her hand even as the needle pierced his skin. It was almost enough to make him forget about the chemicals that would push him over the sick/well border line. On those days, he rested his own hand on the sheet draped over his own thigh, wishing, imagining it was hers. It had to be above the sheet, not only cause it would look suss – not that he could imagine doing that in a shared room; let alone with that damned cannula in the back of his hand. Not only because of what it would look like, but because if he touched his own softness, lack of muscle, lack of hair. Shit, he hoped that grew back! Wasn’t so bad on his head – lots of guys got around skin head and no one cared. Josh was doing it even now and he was getting along ok. No, but most other places, where there was meant to be hair, no one would think that was normal. If he touched his own hairless, smooth skin he could no longer imagine her touching him. Why would she want to? He certainly didn’t. He had. Before. Not that he’d readily admit it.

He’d been home on his own. More out of boredom than real need, he’d tried to imagine her there. He could manage that bit ok, she was easy enough to picture, even though she’d been in her school uniform in his imagination – weird! Oh yeah, he could definitely imagine her there. He’d run it through in his mind a time or two; he’d seen enough to know what it was supposed to be like. In his mind, she put her hand on his and he’d pulled her gently towards him and kissed her. That bit he knew. That bit was true. But in his mind, that wasn’t the end. At home, by himself, he felt her lean over him, push him back on his pillows and stretch out on her side beside him. He closed his eyes and felt her hand (his) run down his chest and onto his stomach. Even as he felt the satin of his boxers, he knew that she wouldn’t have done that, not yet anyway, but hell it was his fantasy, so why not? So he continued, willing himself to believe she was really there. It was easy at first, the satin slid under his hand so easily. He closed his eyes and felt her fingers stroke him. He pressed up and felt himself stiffen against the satin fabric. In a very short time that wasn’t enough. He pressed up again and breathed in hard as he felt skin against skin under his boxers. Just thinking about her hand on him made him harder and his grip tightened. Ah, if only. If only she was here. If only it was her hand on him right now. If only she could be moving against him like this, just like this, and like this…ah.

It was only afterwards, eyes open, frustratedly aware that she wasn’t there and wasn’t going to be any time soon. It was only then, as he washed, that he could see it clearly. He’d heard the expression, “In the cold light of day” but suddenly for him it was, “By the cold dampness of a washcloth.” She’d never be there. Her hand would never hold him like he wanted her to. You needed to be normal for that sort of thing to happen and he wasn’t, not at the moment, not anymore, maybe not ever. He looked down at himself. Friggin’ chemo – meant to kill off the sick cells – killing off his body hair as well. Smooth as a little boy. Smooth and hairless. What the hell would she want with a little boy? Fuck it, she wasn’t going to be holding someone there. If she did, it wasn’t going to be him, smooth and hairless.

It wasn’t that he never got hard at the thought of her again. That did happen and how! But he couldn’t even bring himself pretend it was her, skin on skin – and it wasn’t even easy in the dark, under cover.

Not long after, he’d been back at school and she noticed his flinch when she put her hand on his thigh,
“What? Ticklish?” she laughed, bright eyes lit up as she danced her fingers down his leg. Her pretty fingers walked over the bare skin of his knee. He couldn’t breathe – did she notice? That he was hairless there, too?

“So soft,” she flicked a glance at him, cheeky. She couldn’t know what she was putting him through. Not soft, nuh uh. Don’t say it, he silently begged, don’t ask me if this goes all the way up. Just keep dancing your fingers over me. Don’t say soft. She obliged unknowingly, circling his knee cap with her nails,
“Round and round the garden, like a teddy bear….”
He breathed in slowly, don’t say soft, don’t say I’m soft…
“One step…” Her fingers left his bare knee as she goose stepped them along his thigh and he could breathe out again, for the moment.
“Two step…” She looked up at him as he drew in another breath, her eyes showing a teasing light. His eyes locked on hers, his breath held now. What if she stopped? What if she didn’t?

He knew the exact moment that she remembered where they were – in public, at school – and where her teasing, dancing fingers were headed. He knew exactly where her thoughts went as she laughingly began the next line,
“Tickle you under…oh…”
It was her breath that left in a rush then, her face flushing as she drew her now still fingers up to her mouth. Her eyes squeezed tightly shut and then opened just as quickly as he repeated her last word,
“‘Oh’ Yeah, I reckon.”

Neither of them spoke again for a moment. What was there to say? Too soon the bell sounded, signalling the start of afternoon classes and they were surrounded by classmates. Now what? Some invisible line had been crossed, now there was THAT between them.

She couldn’t believe her own stupidity! Now what? What if he thought she’d meant to say it? What a ridiculous come on would that be? Tickling! Yeah, that was exactly what guys wanted. Actually, how would she know what guys wanted? But she was pretty sure nursery rhymes weren’t high on the list.

Nuts, a ball and other four-letter words. A young man’s journey with testicular cancer. Part 4.

This is Part 4 in a series. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Sick to death of hospitals, specialists and waiting rooms!  Uncomfortable chairs, fake plants and tinny elevator music.  Some rubbish that even Mum doesn’t like.  Miserable looking patients, waiting for their turn to whine to the specialist about how many times they’ve thrown up this month or how they’re still afraid that IT’ll come back. IT being the cancer.  Like it’s some big secret conspiracy.  For me, I’m there cause I have to be – if they’d let me run the interview, it’d go a whole lot faster too – then I could go home and leave behind the pitying stares of the “support people.”  Their silence speaks pretty loudly,
“Oh, he’s young isn’t he?  Poor thing.” And then the tightly drawn, pathetic smile and the pitying downcast eyes as I stroll by, my thongs slapping against the regulation medical lino.

If the specialist would let me run the appointment – much faster and he’d still know what he wanted to.

“Yep, my ball is still missing.”

“Yep, scar’s healing – itchy though.”

“Yep, pickline hurts like hell, but it’s still there.”

“Yep, lost all of my hair now and the chemo still makes me feel like shit.”

“Feel like a druggie and can’t wait to get this over with.”

“What can you do for me? Well, are you a miracle worker?”

“Can you grow back a normal nut and all of my body hair? No?”

“Fine, I’ll take a Coke, ta.”

“Let’s get this scan thing done, ay?  Where?”

“Yeah, I know.  Drop me pants, move dick out of the way; nah I’ll do that bit thanks.  You concentrate lower.”

“Hey, this chemo’s got something going for it after all – can’t get a boner when you’re this drug-fucked.”

“At least I don’t have to be praying against that under my breath the whole time you’re down there.”

“No, thank you, Doctor.”

“That will be all, see you next month.”

See? Done and dusted in minutes.  Gary’s good for this though.  I’ve never called him Dad, and he doesn’t expect me to, but he’s been in these waiting rooms almost as often as Mum and me.  Always the same, brings his mag, but only reads it if my eyes are closed.  Without that horrible pitying look, he’s ready to talk or listen to me if that’s what I want.  He’s copped a fair bit of mouth from me and a fair few tears from Mum.  She doesn’t cry in front of me – not if she thinks I might be listening either.  She’s always like,
“Right, mate.  Let’s do this, hey?”

I haven’t been embarrassed in front of Mum – if ever I have been a bit shy of stripping off, she reminds me that she’s changed more of my nappies than even she can remember and there aren’t any places that I’ve got that she hasn’t kissed better at some time.  I was much younger then though, Mum! So, being Mum, she doesn’t cry to me, just to Gary when she doesn’t think we can hear her.  I’ve only seen her really lose it once this whole time and that was enough to last me a long time – it was awful!