What do hippos usually do?

A treat this week on the blog with a new post from Kylie, who has written quite a few pieces here over the years… including this oneand this one.  As she explains she has been doing some new work this year, and it is great to be able to celebrate some of the happy times she has been having there. Thanks so much Kylie for all you do – and particularly for letting us share it! Now over to the story…

I’ve been working as an Early Childhood Teacher this year which has been a satisfying mix of challenge and delight. I’m so grateful to be doing work that I enjoy after a year of study last year. One of my favourite things has been sharing my love of picture books with the three and four year olds I care for and teach. I quickly set up a regular story time which the children seem to love as much as I do. Requests for multiple readings, children ‘reading’ to each other and play incorporating themes from the book shared are common.

Last year my sister gave my niece a gorgeous book for her 4th birthday – Archie, no ordinary sloth by Heath McKenzie. It was one I wanted as soon as I saw it. I finally got around to buying my own copy last week and was excited to share it, though a little apprehensive about whether the children would love it as much as I did.

Hippos 1

It was a huge hit! And what a gorgeous message it contains about being different. The children loved pointing out the giraffe that didn’t have a long neck, the elephant without a trunk and the zebra that didn’t have any stripes. There were giggles when we got to the page with a hippo hanging upside down from a branch. I asked, ‘What do hippos usually do?’

‘Splash in the water’ and ‘play in the mud’ came the speedy replies. Then one little boy with a huge smile on his face called out ‘eat cake!’ I was a little confused at first, unsure if he was being a bit silly. Then it clicked, ‘Yes they do,’ I said, ‘they like to eat cake when they are on the roof.’ Hazel Edwards’ book – There’s a hippopotamus on our roof eating cake – was a favourite with the group a while ago.

Hippos 2.jpg

The delight in sharing stories lasts long after the reading! ‘Archie’ has also raised many questions for the children, ‘Why is Archie fighting the tiger?’, ‘Why are sloths so lazy?’ We have some research to do as well as many more books to share.

And ‘do hippos really eat cake?’


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Beneath the surface

Many years ago, when I worked in Salisbury at a Neighbourhood House, I met a woman called Olga. She used to come to the House for the lunches we held. I can’t remember now where she originally came from – Germany perhaps, or Poland. I think of her as I get closer to the age she was when I met her – she reminds me of myself a bit. She was middle aged, a bit lumpy, and not at all athletic seeming, arthritic. She had a strong accent, and would talk about her life in the past – nothing much was happening for her in the present it seemed. I was pretty young then, and probably judged her to be insignificant in the same way the culture did – you know how invisible middle-aged, ‘frumpy’ women can be. Anyway, I got my comeuppance one day when she came in with some photographs of herself as a young person. Turns out she had worked in a circus as a contortionist, and the photographs were amazing – it was hard to see the incredibly flexible, lithe and leggy girl in the woman before me, but it was a fantastic reminder that people aren’t merely what they seem, and we can’t always tell much from appearances alone.


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Autumn in Auburn

I am in Auburn this weekend, enjoying beautiful autumn weather and hanging out with dad once again. I went for a walk late this afternoon, and there are so many beautiful trees in a flush of colour – I thought I would share a few with you here.

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Little bits of life, arranged

I’ve been on holidays as you might know, and I went to Melbourne for a few days last week – first time for ages. I love to go to the art gallery when I am there, and saw a few fantastic exhibitions. In particular I loved the work of Patrick Pound, who was born in New Zealand and has lived in Melbourne since the late 1980’s. He’s more of a collector than a creator I think (though he makes the collections and shows them in such a careful, creative way). He collects and thinks about and displays all kinds of things, but particularly photographs. The photos come from all over the place – he buys lots of them off of e-bay – and then he arranges them in themes. I found them mesmerising and beautiful – the numbers of images (hundreds of them), the way he noticed what was in each one, the way these anonymous, discarded scraps of paper created something that was special and delicate and unforgettable – hints of life, instants of life, passing glimpses of life.

The pictures I’ve got don’t really do justice to the totality of the exhibition – there was a lot more to it than the photos for one thing, and what is below just gives a little idea, but believe me it was wonderful… I have got some of four of his ‘collections’ – photos that include the shadow of the photographer; pictures that show ‘air’ in some way (this was my favourite, billowing dresses, birthday candles being blown out, flapping ties and hair going everywhere, birds, planes, on and on); pictures of ‘doubles’ of various kinds; and pictures that include lamps.

Patrick Pound 1

The Shadow of the Photographer


Patrick Pound 2

Pictures of air

Patrick Pound 3


Patrick Pound 4

Photos of lamps


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The end of an era…

I’ve had a very odd week this week – I haven’t been to the gym. The sad thing is that my local Curves, which I have been attending very regularly over quite a long time (usually 4 times a week for almost 7 years), has closed. I am really missing it, and took a few shots to commemorate the final week or so. I am not a natural gymnast (!) but I did get into the circuit thing, and in the end really enjoyed going. And I am sure it was good for me. When I started, the place was owned by Helen and Steve, and I was very fortunate to be introduced to the gym by Steve, who did most of the early morning shifts when I would go. He was wonderfully encouraging, and very sensitive to whether people wanted to talk or just get on with it. At the beginning I was pretty unsure about the whole thing, and it was great to have someone like Steve to help me keep going. In more recent times, the sessions have been run almost exclusively by Dana (in the orange/pink singlet above) and Lou (smiling in the grey). They were both terrific – Dana worked at the gym all the way through her uni course (which she has just finished), and ‘specialised’ in the Zumba classes. Lou is fantastically fit and just loves exercise (slightly intimidating for those of us who are a bit more reluctant, but she is so lovely that cancels it out), and specialised in being welcoming, helpful and very enthusiastic…. In the end I went to the gym just under 1400 times. So that feels like a real achievement, and no wonder I am missing it. I also met lots of nice women there and it’s nice to see them down at the beach or at the shops. I am at work often of course, so don’t know that many people where I actually live, and it’s been great for that too. I’m on the hunt for something – a new gym – to replace it. All suggestions welcome!

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The variousness of folk


It’s a bit obvious to say it, but people are complex, with many different facets to themselves. I was reminded of this on the weekend when I was driving back from Auburn, listening to the radio as usual. This American Life was on Radio National; the episode was entitled Ask a Grown-up, and featured stories about how sometimes, at all different ages and stages in our lives, we need and want to turn to people wiser than us for help and advice. One of the stories was about an online magazine aimed at young people, which has a feature where kids can contact the magazine with their questions, worries, concerns and uncertainties, and they will be responded to by various adults – men or women – often performers or musicians. It is common for example for men to answer questions from young women about boys. One of the respondents that they played on the program was this rap group called Run the Jewels, whose music I can barely listen to for more than 30 seconds, but whose responses to the various questions, even when I didn’t entirely agree with them, was mesmerising – warm, respectful and very decent. Isn’t it great that we have so many sides to us, that we can be both rappers and the confidantes of uncertain young folk? What sides do we neglect? How can we move out of our usual roles and try another side of ourselves. I wonder what my inner rapper would be like!

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Ages and stages (plus dad without hat)

There has been another birthday this week – my elder sister Jane turned 60. There was a party and various other celebrations, all very enjoyable, and I was very much put in mind of how in the midst of the generations I am at this very middling time of my own life – dad and Jane’s mother-in-law Hazel (who is a year older than dad and a real gem of a person) on one end of the spectrum, and my great niece and nephew, Emma and Jack (aged 4 and 7 months respectively), down the other. It was terrific to spend time with them all!

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