Thursday, February 26, 2009


I received an extraordinary gift today, handmade by Laura and her beautiful daughter Ellie.

Dear Ellie,
Your castle is FABULOUS, thank you so much. I have copied it onto my computer desktop so that I will see it every time I open my computer.

Dear Laura,
I thought and thought about a way to tell you how much this castle means to shall I thank Laura?.......

So here is a little poem for you and Ellie,
with love.


A princess needs a castle,
As does a prince,
A king,
And queen.

But royal families’
Bricks and mortar,
Though so lovely,
Are unseen.

“Tell me,”
Said the knight in armour,
As he looked straight through the walls,
“If a better spot for duelling
Can be found in all the world?”

“Tell me,”
Said the knight in armour,
As he stood deep in the moat,
“Is there a better spot for viewing
The many hilltops where I’ve fought?”

And all this time,
So quiet,
Little Ellie watched him,

“Silly knight to come this far,
And not even notice where you are.”
She waved her arms and whistled loud,
But knight just stood there silent,

She sang “Yoohoo”
And “Hello down there,”
But the knight heard nothing
As he stood and stared.

She would have whistled
Or thrown a paper plane,
Or tapped very loudly
On the windowpane,

But mama came in
And said “You gave me a scare,”
And “That’s only the wind,”
And “There’s no-one down there.”

Mama said “Time for tea,
And a storybook,”
And out of the window
She never did look.

As Mama cooked dinner
She said to Ellie “Go play,”
And she gave her lots of yellow,
And a little pink,

Ellie knew what to make,
And she built it fast.
A bright yellow
pink flagged castle
With a deep moat of glass.

Mama smiled and said,
“That’s a beautiful sight,”
And Ellie whispered,
“I made it for that silly old knight.”

“I made it so bright
So that he’d look up and see
That the castle is real
And in it

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The circle widens

Oh my goodness.

Just when I thought blogging couldn't get any better....two new comments arrived at my box and led me to discover that two new women have joined the circle in the forest.

Stop everything and go check out these two wonderful bloggers! Soft Rock Mama has a gentle and honest voice, and photos of a mountained magic which she calls home. Go on...go visit her and be swept away by the peaceful honesty of her nature. Anne is an artist who was born in Sweden and has been living for the last decade in London. Heelllooo...... does this blogging thing get any better???!!! She responds to comments in both Swedish and English and her illustrations...her illustrations will intrigue and amuse you and then you'll revisit them and they will stay with you forever.

So everyone scrunch over and make room for two more women in the circle.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Orchard

The Hebrew word for ‘orchard’ is ‘pardes’. The word ‘pardes’ immediately brings to my mind the orchard which my grandparents cultivated beside their house in Israel. It was a real orchard, with neat lines of mature orange, grapefruit and pomelo trees. I clearly remember visiting them, as a little girl, and going out to the orchard with a long, metal contraption which had a hook at the end so as to reach the fruit.

The ‘pardes’ is often used in Biblical study as an acronym. ‘P’ is for ‘pshat’ – this refers to the simple/literal reading of a text. ‘R’ is for ‘remez’ – the first hint discovered by a reader that the text has another level of meaning. ‘D’ is for ‘drash’ – the next level of interpretation of the text as an allegory or extended metaphor. Finally, ‘S’ is ‘sod’ – the secret, this is the secret truth which lies beyond and behind any metaphor, always shrouded in mystery. Jewish Mysticism and the study of all literature both concern themselves with the journey towards this ‘sod’.

I first learnt of the ‘pardes’ acronym when I was studying the short stories of S.Y. Agnon in University. S.Y. stands for this Hebrew writer’s first names Shmuel Yosef, and in Hebrew he is known as ‘Shai’ Agnon (pronounced like shy). ‘Shai’ in Hebrew means ‘a gift,’ a fitting name for the man who was to become the first Hebrew writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (1966). I have been thinking quite a bit about Agnon lately because two of his houses were destroyed by fire, and this is something which is on the mind of all Australians at the moment. The burning of his personal library containing his manuscripts and his collection of rare and valuable Hebrew books was to become a recurring theme in many of his works.

This last week I have been walking through a personal orchard not unlike Esti’s forbidding magical forest, and I have felt fearful and lost. My grandfather is unwell and my mother has travelled to New York to care for him until the end. I am left here in my grandfather’s library, pacing, pacing, and occasionally choosing a book to take down from the shelf. It seems that I am searching for that elusive ‘sod,’ for things are never what they seem, and words are never just ‘pshat.’ In my anger at my grandfather’s mortality, in a moment of terrible bitterness, I felt that if only I had a match I would set each and every book alight. The texts in my library can never take me back to that first orchard of my childhood, that ‘pardes’ which I visited with my grandparents.

But then I remembered.

Esti’s magical forest eventually reveals a circle of women in its midst, and it is to this circle that I return yet again, dear readers. A few days ago I read Frogdancer’s post about a young man whose beloved library was destroyed by the bushfires. I found some comfort in the fact that this young man was rebuilding his library with the help of our mysterious women’s circle of the magical forest. I wonder what Agnon would have felt if, following the destruction of his library, he had received a hundred packages in the mail, each with a book from a stranger -a hundred presents to help him replant his orchard? I wonder what my grandfather would feel if he were to truly realise how many lives he has touched with his wit and poetry and books?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

For BabelBabe

BabelBabe just published a wonderful post entitled "There is a world of difference between domesticity and domestication." She describes the beauty and magic of Persephone Books, and this immediately reminded me of my own Persephonies and the joy they have brought me.

In honour of BabelBabe's beautiful post here is a photo of the books that are not in my grandfather's library, but in my bedroom:

And here, dear BabelBabe, is the very first Persephone I bought:

Here is its inside cover. I knew you'd like that!

I was visiting my parents in was probably around the year 1999. Miss Commentbox was about 8 and Master C was about 4 years old. I fell into my mother's arms, handed the two of them over to her, and then I spent a week trying to remember who I was and what I was doing and whether anything outside the domestic world really and truly existed.

I think I came across "The Homemaker" at Daunt's Bookshop. My mother sent me there like a doctor prescribes medication: "Go to Daunt's, go there twice a day for three days and come back if you don't start feeling better."

I started to feel better.

Once I returned home to Sydney my mother sent me Persephone Books as they were published, like mail-order medicine. She and my father went to the first Persephone shop one rainy Sunday afternoon and found Nicola Beauman there trying to hang a framed picture (I think it might have been a map) above her desk. She let them into the shop even though it wasn't officially open yet, and my father helped her hang the picture.

Dear BabelBabe,
How I wish that I could invite you over to my house and lend you a Persephone or two. But this post is the best I can do for the moment. Thanks for reminding me of those silvery beauties, and thanks for such a wonderful post.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I'm not really in the mood for writing this morning. It has been a terrible weekend, bushfires raging through entire towns. I find it almost impossible to comprehend how so many people could have died. My morning paper reads "84 dead, 750 homes destroyed". I simply can't comprehend.

I have been worrying about the Melbourne bloggers, I think they are all safe. I received an email from Suse to say that they are fine, but it's close...

This tragedy has jolted me out of my petty everyday worries and reminded me of how precious and fragile life is.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Let the bake-off begin!!

Do you remember my delight at discovering that my local florist was changing into....a German bakery??!

Well, looky looky looky what just opened:

There was a long line of people waiting in front of me. If everyone looks like they have just come from a dip in the pool or the ocean...then that's because they probably have. You see, today is so damn hot that the mere idea of a bakery oven makes me feel sick. Not that the heat could EVER stop me from purchasing my German jewels.

There were about 10 people serving behind that never-ending counter, and each one spoke with the most darling little German accent. Can you see the two men holding the trays above their heads? Those trays were carrying freshly baked goodness, straight from the oven. The woman in front of me already had her money out, and she was beginning to sigh and tap her right foot impatiently while staring with annoyance at the 10 people still in front of her in the queue.

Each pastry had a label in German, with English translation. Here is the Cailler gipfel. Sigh. The young woman serving me said that each croissant is geffulte mit an entire Cailler chocolate bar.

Here are the zimtschnecke and apfelstrudel, but look..... the schoko vanille plunder is GONE people, SOLD OUT.

Here is the Commentbox Family Selection of German Goodness.

This morning, we had fruhstuck..........Eurolush style!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Domestic Dance

Domestic duties are so tedious and dull, and they repeat endlessly. "Needle on the record and here we go again," I thought to myself this morning (Sunday) as I started yet another load of laundry.

The only way to fight this dreadful domestic dilemma is to trick oneself into thinking something wonderfully exciting and intriguing is ACTUALLY happening. It may LOOK like I am folding underwear, but I am in fact the Lady of the Ring sitting in her sister's small red car and rolling along the road to destination.....unknown.

But the Lady of the Ring needs music - a soundtrack, or perhaps a personal musical theme. Easy. So I listened to this little gem this afternoon while ironing, and it made all the difference to my attitude.

I think this may become a regular post...."Helpful Hints For The Domestic Imagination."