Category Archives: Just thinking

who is victor?

I have no doubt the majority of people reading this, certainly in South Africa, have had a letter from ‘my friend Victor’ whose niece is a pharmacologist in Italy, who tells us all how to behave in the second week of lockdown if we aren’t all to die an excruciating death.

Well intentioned advice, possibly accurate. But who is Victor? And who is his niece? On what authority does she speak?

Most important: Why do we believe them?

There has been an abundance of these well-meaning, or maybe not so well-intentioned, epistles doing the rounds, all purporting to be from someone, usually nameless, certainly unidentifiable, who knows something the rest of us does not. They are sometimes given nebulous titles, but as they are nameless, their credentials cannot be checked.

It seems everyone I know accepts them at face value, believes them implicitly, and reacts by immediately forwarding them to everyone they can think of. I have had the ‘Victor’ one 7 times now.

“Enough!” I cry. Time for common sense to prevail.

I am currently reading the book of Acts and having a good giggle at the stir Paul caused all through Asia. Reminded me so much of here – unruly crowds causing huge commotion, the majority having no idea what they are shouting about, but adamant justice should be done. The authorities time and again shrug their shoulders at such shenanigans in those early days after the advent of our Lord.

In amongst those tales, in Chapter 19 vv 13 to 16, we hear about Jewish exorcists taking it upon themselves to call on the name of Jesus to exorcise spirits. Here is what happened:

V15. The evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”

And then proceeded to beat them up.

Even the Devil knows to ask: Who are you? What is your qualification to act in this case? Who are you representing? Where is your evidence?

Here we are, in a crisis of global proportions, and we are running around like headless chickens believing every bit of nonsense that appears on our cell screens, without asking the most obvious of questions: Who is this person? On what authority do they speak? What company or institution do they represent? How can we trust their credentials?

Without knowing these basic facts, how do I trust you?

If there is no answer to any of those questions, you have to figure out that the ‘facts’ they present are dubious, not to be trusted.

In some cases overworked medical personnel are having their time wasted in order to put out the flames caused by these messages, such as the one purporting to be from the Head of Virology at Groote Schuur. That was a corker! A nasty, twisted, ten minutes that should get her a life time sentence for the fear she generated in the hearts of all who heard that message.

Wicked, wicked scare mongering for what purpose? I praise God for a President who has outlawed fake news and look forward to seeing convictions soon.

Another one that is causing a mighty stir, particularly among the residents of our neighbour, Eswatini, from whence I was first sent the clip, is the 5G story. ‘Pastor Jonathan’, again no surname, no way of checking his authenticity, claims there is no Corona virus, only radiation poisoning by 5G. The good people of Eswatini have fallen so hook, line and sinker for this, they have started a petition to prevent the rolling out of 5G.

I am not going to go into that here, but this link will answer every claim made by the unidentifiable Pastor Jonathan:  

https://www.incontextinternational.org/2020/04/02/covid-19-and-5g-biggest-cover-up-in-history-true-or-false/

King David when preparing his son Solomon to take over the reins of power, directed him in Proverbs to seek Wisdom, get Understanding for very good reason.

Proverbs 2, vv 6-9:

For the Lord gives wisdom;

From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;

7. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;

He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;

8. He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.

9. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path.

Saints, do not be fooled. Be wise. Ask simple questions, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and guard against the fear tactics and scare mongering of the world.

Paul writing in 1 Thessalonians, 5 v 21 says: “Test all things; hold fast to what is good.”

The beloved apostle John, in his first letter, 1 John 4 v 1 instructs us:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Continue reading to verse 6.

We need to use this time wisely, to draw into our Lord, learn from Him, be His light to the world, beacons of hope and love, not harbingers of gloom, doom and despair.

There are good sites where you can find accurate information. The World Health Organisation has all the information you need. The South African Government COVID-19 site is a little slow on uploading the latest data, but the information is sound.

Do not be fooled, be wise, keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and use what sense the Father has given you to discern what is true and what is fantasy.

Be blessed, stay safe.

Street walker

It is interesting how sound is magnified by silence.

I live close to a main road and am used to the almost non-stop hum and rumble of traffic. Until it gets stopped. Or drastically curtailed. Now I am astounded as to how one car, not even a truck, can sound louder and more irritating than a blustering dowager demanding tea and scones on a rainy day.

The same goes for voices and footsteps.

I wake up early, as early as 4 am some days. Today was one of them.

Being on lockdown and restricted to a small space I find I have this urgent need to get out onto my stoep at odd moments through the day, and the evening. So, I grabbed the keys and opened the door, although it was still pitch dark. It was wonderfully quiet. I could hear the Robin begin to mutter, the crickets were in full cry, a guinea fowl clucked. There was mist and the lightest of rains gently coating the ground.

Then I heard a strange sound. One that did not belong. Slap, slap, slap. A figure dressed in black outlined in the streetlamp. Hurried footsteps. I recognised the shape. He often power walks around the park my house looks out onto. Ten minutes later, round two. I wanted to call out “I see you”, but  I didn’t. Maybe tomorrow I will.

Why is it that some people consider their need for exercise to be that much more important than anyone else’s? Why should he get to do his power walk when the rest of us find another way to keep fit?

I don’t know the answer. That’s the way it is. Some feel entitled. Others don’t. Some fret. Others chill. He might get away with it, scurrying around the streets at the witching hour, then again, he might not. I’d still like to see his reaction if I call out, and I might just do it for a laugh!

Stay safe all. Don’t let the idiots get to you!

Sticks and stones …

“Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me” is possibly the most fallacious defence mantra taught to children.

Words create life and they bring death, hence the need to warn against their power.

A couple of months ago a young friend, with the best of intentions, confided to me that a faction in an organisation of which I am a part refer to me as “The Bitch”. It cut, and it cut deep. Try as I might ‘The Bitch’ rattled around my psyche taunting me, tainting me. That is its purpose: To demean, to undermine, change my perception of myself, doubt my identity, my intentions, even my purpose.

Silly, you might think. Shrug it off. And you are right.

But it is easier said than done.

Look around you. So much of the anger and aggression we see stems from someone whose identity has been perverted, changed into something unpleasant, unwanted. Race is a good starting point. We call people names, we associate characteristics with people groups, the uglier the better: big nose, fat lips, slit eyes, the list is endless. The laughter that goes with these epithets is cruel and uncaring.

Experiential belief is entrenched and so much of the verbal abuse that manifests as insecurity in later life is handed out when we are children and have no yardstick by which to measure its veracity. We believe what we are told, it becomes a part of our persona.

How then do we deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous words?

Paul adjures in 2 Corinthians 10 v5:

“..Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into the captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

That’s a mouthful but it makes sense because as we take every thought captive unto Christ, His truth washes away the lies and replaces them with truth, His truth based in love and acceptance.

John 10 v 10: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Mathew 11 vv 28, 29: “Come unto Me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

29. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

In the mighty book of Isaiah the voice of the Lord rings loud and clear, over and over again as He reaffirms His love and commitment to us:

Chapter 45 v 3: I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.”

Chapter 49 v 16:    “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands…”

And Chapter 51 v 12: “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid….”

And so on and so on.

Until I curl my woundedness around the foot of the cross of Christ, and listen for that still small voice of comfort, I am at the mercy of darkness, a shallow man tossed to and fro in my unbelief!

It is only at the cross that I can begin to shed that putrid skin of shame and start believing that I am who I am and not who others say I am. I hear the Voice that whispers: ‘Dear Child, know who are, who you are in Me, yes, but far more importantly, know Whose you are!’

And slowly my head comes up, my eyes lighten as I grasp that eternal truth: I am my Father’s daughter, I am a child of the living Christ, and His banner over me is Love, the love that brought Him humbly to this earth as a man, One in whom no sin was found.

And a cry of worship is pulled out of me as I am filled with incomprehensible joy, and I am able to say: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know You!”

As we look to commemorate the birth of this man called Jesus, I pray we can look beyond the piles of shredded paper and carelessly tossed toys to the manger, to the One called Emmanuel, God with us, and allow Him to be the gift He came to be.

Wishing you all a peaceful and joyous Christmas.

Loss

On this day 57 years ago my father died, leaving a void far greater than I have understood for most of my life.

Mark Warburton was a policeman. A good one by all accounts. He had a great sense of humour, was an accomplished actor, a good cricketer, fisherman, loved the bush, and he was my Dad. He was the sun that this moon revolved around for nine years, until one day shortly before Christmas he fell, downed by a massive heart attack at the age of 49.

For many years I refused to believe he really was dead. I comforted myself with the thought that he was MI5, working undercover, that his death was a ruse, and one day I would look up and there he would be. The febrile imagination that is born of wanting a world not of make believe, but of don’t believe.

Recently I attended a counselling course, which presented an interesting take on Family Trees. Out of the blue I returned to that day so long ago and was astonished at the anger I felt. Not at God, not at anyone but my father.

He had been ill, had a heart condition brought on by pleurisy from fighting multiple fires in Mbabane one particularly bad winter, and been told by the cardiologist that he had to take it easy. Did he listen? Oh no! He was a Brit, and Brits don’t give in to anything or anyone. He was about duty, about stiff upper lip and carrying on. He was a product of the war so tough it out was how you did it.

And so he died.

What of us? My Mum and I? How were we supposed to deal with this?

As my thoughts focussed on that time I realised that my emptiness when I looked for him was not so much about the physical loss, but about the sinking feeling that we were not important enough for him to make the effort to live. Ouch! His duty, his pride, his determination to show no weakness mattered more than his wife and daughter.

This man whose memory I loved so much, because I didn’t know him. Most of what I know about my dad is from other people and the odd memory, odd feeling of safety that lingers. How could I have such traitorous thoughts about him? This person who I had enshrined in my heart for so many decades.

I knew I had to deal with this, and fast. I needed to unpeel layers of hurt, of deception, of unforgiveness from my heart.

In Hebrews 12 vv 14,15 Paul writes:

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”

This is to do with forgiveness, allowing the hurt to dissolve into the love that Jesus the Christ offers, and walking forward in freedom. Any root of bitterness, the nascence of which is always in hurt, in blame, in sin, defiles not only you, but those with whom you come into contact, so it is important to check regularly, make sure you have released anyone and anything that might linger in the shadows of your heart, putting you in unholy bondage.

Be blessed this day as you make peace with your past.

Privilege? White, Black, Anyone’s?

People look at me in amazement when I confess that I love Twitter. I do. I love Twitter. I love the freedom of thought, the discussion, and yes, even gasping at some of the insults.

One person who always manages to set Twitter a-tweeting is Helen Zille. Like her or loathe her, she stimulates thought and discussion. That is the best part of living in South Africa as against my home land of Eswatini. The vibrancy of discussion, the controversy, the provocation. You are made to think, to look into yourself and find what your beliefs really are. Almost anything goes.

Helen Zille’s latest foray, initiating an intense argument about white versus black privilege has done that for me. My first thought was, yeah, she has a point. Maybe. Bit of a long shot. Then I read some of the responses from all sides of the divide and began to really think the question through.

Without doubt I grew up in a totally different environment to my Swazi neighbours. I am not sure how different, because there was little fraternisation. I know I loved the food they ate from locusts to sour porridge to imbitfo to lekusha. Lifestyle was simply the way it was. We lived the way we did, ‘they’ lived the way ‘they’ did. There was no overt condemnation, or in retrospect, concern at the distinction. This is the mind-set of privilege.

 It was a no-brainer that I would start school as close to my fifth birthday as possible, while my Swazi peers, who knows? I certainly didn’t. Although I do remember when the first two Swazi children came to St Mark’s Primary School in Mbabane in 1964, or was it ‘63. It was a big deal for all of about five seconds.

I know we did not have electricity, but somehow I was still put into a hot bath. We had a paraffin fridge, a radio, I slept in a comfortable bed. Were those facilities the same in the police houses adjacent to ours? I doubt it, but cannot say for sure.

We had a motor vehicle. I had a bicycle and a horse too.

Are these criteria for white privilege? Or is it only about money, how much one has, regardless of how one came about it?

Is it that simple? Is the divide that neat?

Our forebears are decried for looting and taking land and riches that were not theirs to take, and for this reason we whites must forever bear the shame and blame for the ignominy and cruelty of the apartheid years, for colonial horrors the world over.

Do we deserve this acrimony? Again, I am not sure.

What I do know is that I love history as much as I love Twitter, and so my thoughts, whenever I allow them to chew on a delicate question, tend to trundle back in time. I recently watched Braveheart, a tale of dreadful tyranny and oppression of the Scottish people by the English. I read a book recently that outlined repercussions for many as a result of the Irish troubles, I think of the internecine wars that have inked a bloody trail through Europe’s history, and, incidentally substantially changed the tribal boundaries of that continent.

Oppression and colonialism go back to the dawn of time, across every land, every continent of the world, from Babylonian and Egyptian times to Alexander to the Picts, Angles, Jutes, Huns, Vikings, the list is pretty long and I haven’t left Europe yet!

Against this backdrop, Africa cannot hope to be the exception.

The first settlers to be dropped off at that fair Cape were not in search of domination at that point. They were cast offs, people exported from their own countries to the furthest reaches of the known world for no reason except expediency at the behest of their rulers. Australia was a boot camp for criminals, a life sentence of separation from their native lands and families. Can you imagine what it was like being dumped in a foreign land, totally different to anything you have ever experienced, tropical diseases, an inclement climate, vicious animals you have never heard of let alone seen.

These displaced peoples lived a life of oppression and blow all privilege in Cape Town, and so they set off for pastures greener. They had nothing to lose. At this time, blacks were living free, and believing, I guess, they were privileged if they thought about it at all. They themselves fought their enemies to take possession of land they wanted, raided for cattle and wealth in exactly the same way as there paler brethren to the north had done for centuries.

Then came the gold rush. Why did none of the black tribes rush for the goldfields. Prospect for their share of the metal. As far as I can establish they were not prohibited from doing this. Or were they. Or did it not fit into their idea of wealth, and so they didn’t get caught up in the fever.

I have the same question for the Indians in North America.

There were blacks who benefited in California, although they were in the minority, according to Blacks in Gold Rush California, published by Yale University Press. An interesting and telling excerpt:

On a September day in 1848 a black man was walking near the San Francisco docks, when a white man who had just disembarked from a ship called to him to carry his luggage. The black cast him an indignant glance and walked away. After he had gone a few steps, he turned around and, drawing a small bag from his bosom, he said, “Do you think I’ll lug trunks when I can get that much in one day?” The sack of gold dust that he displayed was estimated by the white man to be worth more than one hundred…

South African History on line, when telling about the discovery of gold in 1886, mentions that “blacks had mined gold hundreds of years earlier.”

Why didn’t you guys go for it in 1886? Did you sit back, thinking you were OK in your tribal customs and ways, and decide the whites were all lunatics in their quest for the gold stones, and leave them to it?

That’s where the problem began in my humble opinion. Way back then you lost out! Not because anyone stole it, or held you hostage while they helped themselves. Your forebears sat back and allowed it to happen!

I can just hear the chorus arising from the twitterati if any should read what I have written! But bear with me a little longer.

Can you imagine if the majority of those claims had landed in the hands of Xhosa and Zulu and Pedi and Tswana and other tribal hands how different the history of this part of Africa would be today?

The impermanence of a life without privilege

Who would have killed who? Which tribe would be in power, and where would they be based? How would the boundaries of Africa have changed, and what might they look like today if only the indigenous residents of the time had the same value system as those sent into exile to this strange and wonderful land?

Regardless of any supposition, however, we are where we are today. I am privileged. So are many other people. Of all colours and races. Many more are not. They live in hovels, eeking out a living in conditions I hesitate to imagine they are so awful.

The real question is what are we going to do about it? Black and white if you have to discriminate.

Jesus said:

“… for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

Mathew 25 vv 35,36

The only question any of us should be asking is: what am I doing to alleviate the suffering of my fellow man, how am I making his load easier to carry?

As important as debate is, action speaks louder than words.

So I ask again: what are you doing?

Beyond Despair

The cardboard mound is eerily pale in the early morning light. It looks sepulchral. It isn’t there by chance. It is the night’s shelter for a young man, a boy really. People ask how old he is. Fifteen. Maybe. It is hard to tell age in Africa, especially for these young ones.

Depravation stunts their growth, so twelve-year-olds look no older than eight. He could be twenty. But he looks mid-teens. He is a sad youngster. Life has robbed him of all joy and bracketed him in despair. Not even the raucous, drug induced hilarity of other street dwellers can make him smile. If he gets a smoke, he draws on it with studied pre-occupation, glaring at it as he inhales deeply.

For the rest he sits on the edge of the pavement, his focus inward. At times he finds bottles and breaks them. He uses the pieces of glass to shave his skin, slowly, deliberately sweeping the chips down first one leg, and then the other. Red stripes appear in places. He strokes through them. His arms are black with the scars of deeper cuts.

Each day I worry that he has died in the night in his coffin of cardboard. Each day I thank God when I catch sight of him. I have spoken to many people, but no one seems able to offer any solution or help for this boy. I know his name, and where he is from. He claims to have forgotten his surname.

I wonder what atrocities were perpetrated on this young soul to bring him to this place of bleak and hideous despair. More than that, I wonder what my role must be, what is the best help for him? I fear putting him into a system that might harm him more, but leaving him to the mercy of the elements seems equally cruel even if it is his choice. Reaching him will take time and patience, and wisdom.

People warn me against getting involved, believing he will attack me. He won’t. I have given him a wrap for the nights, and food. He said ‘Thank you’. I trust that the Lord has put him in my path for a reason, and it is about him, not me. I hear the words of my Saviour reminding me that whatever I do for the least of these, I do for Him.

This past Saturday night for the first time in many weeks, he did not come ‘home’. I worried all through the weekend. I mentioned his absence to an employee on Monday. He said he had seen people talking to him, together with the police. Maybe, just maybe, he has found proper shelter.

Later I saw him walking past. He had a haircut, but his left arm was pressed into his side in an odd manner. Again he slept elsewhere. Yesterday he was back. His dejection seemed more intense.

I went to him. “How are you?” he won’t answer. He doesn’t have to. The depth of misery in his eyes, the imperceptible shake of his head say more than words.

On the pole next to us are two billboards. One says “Fight back!” I think that’s the translation. The other says “Protect our Borders”. We have elections soon. how I wish there was a sign that says “We Care” and then shows that they do.

Shortly after I left him a man walking past began to harangue my boy. I went out but he left before I could stop him. The boy went and hid himself under his pieces of cardboard although the sun was still shining.

The pile has not moved. I am scared. I want to pray that he is still alive, but a little voice says ‘Why? Why would you want this life for anyone?’

God’s People are broke.

Close to 40 years after giving my life to Christ I obviously have many Christian friends, and right now a number of them, including me, are broke. Broker than we can remember ever being! Of course, we understand the principle behind the lack of funds – learn to trust the Lord, and we quote willy-nilly all the platitudinous scriptures; All my needs are met in Christ Jesus I am blessed according to the riches I have in Christ Jesus My Father knows my needs Look at the sparrows, they do not worry about where their next meal is coming from And so on and so on. The fact remains, a number of us are broke. No money. Kute mali. I am good at whining, particularly at the Lord. He is the recipient of all my wisdom and moans, and has to listen to my wails, and then wipe my tears of repentance. My Father God! What an amazing Person He is. As is His son, Jesus. And the Holy Spirit, the comforter, the One who leads us into all truth. So there I was, early the other morning doing what I do best. Drinking coffee and talking to God. Let me amend that. Talking AT God. Reminding Him of the promises He has made over the years, my needs, and in between reminding Him too of what a little goody two shoes I am – all that I have done for Him. MY WORKS! As I paused to draw breath I heard a quiet voice: “Will you dance with me?” “Huh? Pardon?” “Will you dance with Me?” “Well, I suppose so, but…” Slowly the lights came up in my brain. My God, my Heavenly Father, wanted to dance with me, for no other reason than it would be a fun and happy thing to do. He knows my whines, my fears, my needs. He knows my works, every little and big thing I have done for Him. He knows too all the things, big and small that I have not done. What He wants is a loving relationship, special moments spent simply enjoying each other’s company. Because He loves me. There is nothing I can do, or say, to make Him love me more. I’m broke. So what. I have a roof over my head, and clothes to wear. There is food in the larder. Not as much as I would like but as much as I need. I have family and friends to love, and who love me. I feel myself cracking. God’s people are broke, I said. Maybe I should amend that. Possibly, just possibly, if God’s people were broken, taken apart by His love, we would focus more on Him and less on our own worries and concerns. If, our of our brokenness, we would allow Him to put us back together again, the broke would become whole. Slowly I stretch out my arms, I felt the joy beginning deep down, ending as a smile, then a laugh, as I begin to dance with my Father.

Humiliation of Shame

Today I bring forth an argument: To Shame or Not to Shame.

I saw a post which decried sharing acts of abuse in open fora as is the habit of social media. The reason given was that by doing so the shame experienced by the victim is further entrenched. My first reaction was to agree, but as I alloweIMG-20150111-WA0000 (768x1024)d the thought free rein, I began to change my mind.

The shame is there.

It took residence when the person was violated. It was introduced, it has infiltrated and it is resident. There is no degree of shame. Shame is shame. The only measure is the extent to which one goes to hide the wounds, the scarring.

Shame by its very nature is secretive, seeking to skulk in the shadows, its long tentacles intruding deep into the recesses of soul and psyche. It is this need to hide, to cover that allows perpetrators to go free.

I see it lurking, flickering hopelessly in the shadow of an eye, the cut lip that pretends to be a cold sore, the swagger of the fist-bearer, secure in the knowledge of his protection, that cloak of shame that will keep silence no matter the cost.

So I am not sure that it should be kept hidden from public view. I’m not convinced that it is a crime to share acts caught on camera. I tend to the opinion that an opportunity to bring into the light Mr flailing fist, Mr Macho rapist, could be the first step in bleaching that stain of shame. I imagine the relief at a burden shared, the knowledge that now, maybe the hell will end, and then that shame can begin its journey into the oblivion to which it belongs.

What do you think?

 

The Wonderful World of Books

IMG_0976 (1024x768)I love reading. I love books. I love the escapism of tales of love, and mystery, and suspense, and history, my taste is eclectic.

I learnt to read at a very young age, not sure how young, but given I could read by the time I started school, four months beyond my fifth birthday, I guess maybe four.

I was an only child, and for four impressionable years we lived in the village of Piggs Peak in northern Swaziland. Books were my closest companions. I assume, because I have done so much of it, I learnt to speed read, or simply in my lingo, to read fast, always impatient to find out what happens next. I have frequently read through the night, the story compelling me to turn page after page until the last word.

I am sure most people have a favourite ‘go to’ novel, or movie, the place you visit in order to laugh, or cry, or simply to escape for a while. My best is Colleen McCullough’s The Thornbirds. I have had many copies, which somehow disappear, so now I have it firmly ensconced on my Kindle. If I’m needing a good howl the movie Out of Africa does it for me. I spend the entire film in tense anticipation of Fitch’s death, the funeral, the lions on his grave at sunset…wonderful blub stuff!

Strange, because I avoided Percy Fitzpatrick’s Jock of the Bushveld because I couldn’t bear to read about the parts others talked of: the baboon fight, the kudu kick, the putting out to pasture, and his end. I was well into adulthood before I managed to get beyond page two!

The wonder of books is you can go from the heat and dust of the Australian outback to the freezing darkness of an Alaskan winter without leaving your armchair, drawn into multiple worlds of intrigue and love and stoic survival.

I have just put down one such book: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, recommended by a friend in our book club who said she had long since read a book so beautifully written, that gripped her so.

She was right.

Kristin Hannah, through the eyes of Leni, took me on a roller coaster of emotion, from tears to laughter, to teeth clenching cold, to glorious views in a couple of pages. I cried, I got angry, frustrated, terrified the cat as I thumped the arm of the chair, yelling “NO!”, gave up on the idea of sleep until my eyes could no longer focus, drifted off on an Alaskan breeze wondering how I dared call myself a writer, awoke in the pre-dawn warmth to continue reading.

As I devoured page after page, I had to pause as I revisited painful places in my own life, wondered at highs, looked at hints of answers for lessons learnt from lows, floating just beyond where I wanted to go at that moment. I now understand fully, if I want to write good books I have to visit those places, feel those emotions, confront those faults, instead of skipping around them, and causing my characters to do likewise.

That is the craft of a great writer, one who draws her readers in to the pages, making them think, feel, search for their own answers, and at best bring a difference to their lives.

I spend hours trying to fit all I need into the opening pages of the books I attempt to write, trying to come to grips with the technicalities of our craft, constantly chaffed as I make the transition from journalist to author.

Kristin Hannah has no such issues as she effortlessly sets the scene, the time of year, introduces the main characters, establishes the ethos of the story, and has you hooked in three pages. Brilliant. From there the story flows, and did not let go of me until the last work.

If you are looking for a good read to while away the long nights of a southern hemisphere winter, get a copy of The Great Alone – it will keep you company!

Thank you for the best 24 hours I have spent in a long time!