This is an extract from an article called Words Of The Wise, which I wrote for the Central Coast Seniors Newspaper – Over 50s Lifestyle – back when I was Kathryn Andersen.
Several years ago, I had the privilege of facilitating Writing For Fun workshops for school students during the holidays, on behalf of Gosford Fellowship Of Australian Writers. What follows is my account of how the day unfolded…
Anticipation was high. Thirty-one children between the ages of seven and eleven piled into the Spike Milligan Room at Woy Woy Library.
Four senior women were there to greet them. They had already arranged furniture and organised treats for their young guests. They had also spent weeks organising the event.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it is worth it,” one of them said.
It was difficult to tell who was the most excited, and in some cases, anxious.
Names were marked off, parents took their leave, and young bodies settled at tables with unfamiliar companions.
One of the women welcomed the newcomers and introduced me as the tutor for Writing For Fun, a free workshop organised by the Gosford branch of the Fellowship Of Australian Writers (FAW).
“We want to encourage young people who enjoy writing,” Bridget Sharp said.
Bridget and fellow-FAW members, Sheila Drakeley, Helen Luidens and Joan-Marion Ben, handed out writing paper and colourful pencils to the children, distributed cordial and biscuits, and were on hand to assist me and the children on their writing journey.
The women mingled amongst the aspiring writers, giving them guidance and support. Some of them even worked side by side with the children, to complete the writing exercises themselves.
Children who thought they had no ideas found they had several and were soon putting them on paper. Others, who had thought they could get ideas but not put them to use, were soon developing poems and stories.
The morning passed in a flurry of word associations, Ezra Pound Couplets, Dylan Thomas Portraits, character profiles and the antics of clowns.
Then, as quickly as they came, the children were gone; bearing packets of chips, their pencils, the fruits of their labour, and colourful certificates.
This was round one for the FAW women. Fresh mugs and more biscuits laid out and the room again readied, they grabbed a quick bite before the arrival of eighteen more writing enthusiasts aged between eleven and fourteen years.
This time, writing pens were issued with the paper, ideas became more ideas and then titles to be drawn from a box and written about. First lines were explored, much work shared, and questions about getting published were answered and discussed.
The FAW representatives distributed information about suitable competitions. “Enter your work in competitions and try to get your writing published,” the children were told.
Both groups of students were asked to share previous writing successes. There were many, among them a proud Astrid Worboys told of winning a prize in the ‘Spike Fest’, run by the Bouddi Society last October, with the limerick she had written at the previous FAW children’s workshop. Her prize was a parcel of poetry books and the opportunity to recite the winning limerick at the cavalcade of prize-winners towards the end of the festival. Nine-year-old Astrid’s limerick was included in a book of winning entries published by Gosford Council, and she also read it on Central Coast Community Radio.
“I’d say that was another successful day,” Bridget Sharp commented as five Over 50s (tutor included!) watched the last of the happy participants scurry from the room.
Fair comment indeed, as it was Bridget who taught the limerick session at the children’s workshops the previous year!
This is no ordinary Christmas cake. It is a cake baked with love by one beautiful woman (my sister Jen) in honour of another wonderful woman (our mother) and given to a very grateful woman (me). But this is just a fraction of the story…
My mother cooked a special cake every year – and in earlier days, Christmas puddings with silver threepences and sixpences sprinkled throughout for good luck. The tradition of coins in the puddings ended with the advent of decimal currency in 1966, when cupronickel replaced silver alloy and the coins turned green if cooked, but Mum’s delicious Christmas cakes continued until her death in 1991.
Then Jen set herself the challenge of baking Mum’s cake for each of her siblings every year. With four surviving siblings besides Jen, scattered far and wide down the east coast of Australia, this undertaking also involved packaging for safe posting among Christmas mail.
Twenty-six years later, my 2017 gift from Jen arrived last week, solidly steady in the centre of a post box tightly packed in foil and surrounded by bubble wrap… as it has been each year.
Jen gradually added others to her list of recipients of this generous offering. Last Christmas, she made twenty Christmas cakes – for her siblings, her partner’s siblings, adopted siblings, friends, and a couple of extra cakes to keep on hand for visitors and herself.
That’s a lot of Christmas cakes in just over a quarter of a century!
Jen still uses Mum’s unique recipe and has also adapted it for those in the family who must be totally gluten free. Regardless of which version of the recipe Jen uses, the cakes are delicious… superb… and loved by all.
My gratitude goes to Jen for her thoughtfulness and generosity, and above all for establishing and continuing this tradition in honour of our mother.