“People will forget what you did, people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”    Maya Angelou

Some people are naturally happy. I’m fortunate to be one of those individuals who is generally optimistic and happy. For others, it’s more difficult and that’s where small gestures can make a huge difference and, most importantly, we can all play a part in making our world a happier place. AAAhappy-2015-2

Friday 20th March is the International Day of Happiness and in the lead up I’m participating in a program to actively focus on creating happiness each and every day in some small way.

Happiness is a state of being and research shows that it is related to our connections with other people. It doesn’t mean having heaps of friends and being popular rather we are talking about authenticity. Check out the 10 keys to happier living.

Simple things that make me happy are hearing from my kids, chatting to my parents, exchanging news with my sister and brother and a gossip with old friends.  Out in the Blogosphere there are heaps of great posts that bring a smile to my face. Sharing posts, giving and receiving feedback and compliments all add to my happiness equation. Today I’ve enjoyed reading Weekend Edition by @suddenlyjamie – brought a smile to my face and a couple of EdwinasEpisodes which are always good for a giggle. I also love visiting Storyshucker by Stuart M Perkins.

Let’s all make a big effort, especially this week, to perform a simple gesture, give a smile or a utter a few words that will contribute to the happiness of those with whom we share our world.


The joys of a real letter

Views as I approach and leave the  post office. Ecija, Andalucia

My definition of a real letter is one that’s handwritten, popped in an envelope and finished off with a paper postage stamp featuring something eyecatching and unique to the country of origin.

Here in Ecija it’s not possible for me to buy a supply of stamps for Australia and just wack them on a letter to toss in the post box. I can get them for Europe but no futher.  I have to physically visit the post office, hand the letter over the counter where they smack an ugly rubber stamp on to show I’ve paid and eventually my letter will arrive in my parents letter box in Queensland.

Memories of days at boarding school, long school breaks at home and the angst of waiting for the post to bring news from friends and family, exotic stamps from far away lands and the flutter of anticipation as I pulled the carefully folded sheets from their envelope all came flooding back to me as I meandered down the cobbled streets.

I usually knew who a letter was from simply by glancing at the handwriting. If a letter was from someone special I used to wait until I could find a private spot before carefully opening the envelope to savour the contents. Many letters I would read and re-read. Some I would rush to answer and then hot foot it to the post office to catch the next mail.

There is an authenticity to handwritten correspondence as it’s seldom to re-write a letter (unless it’s one of those rare job applications that demand a handwritten letter).  Thoughts are allowed to tumble across the page pretty much as they form in our minds. It’s this element which makes the handwritten item so personal and special. With a typed letter is all too easy to delete, replace, spell-check and more.

Handwritten letters are very revealing and I don’t mean in the sense of a formal evaluation. The mood of the writer is evident; rushed or relaxed; happy or sad; irritated or euphoric. Lots of scribbles in the margins and PS’s meant they had more to say after they’d finished. Watermarks (tears or perspiration drops), coffee stains, ink blotches (if you used fountain pen), crossing outs and the occasional food splats also appeared on letters between very close family and friends. I think of letters as having personality.

My English grandmother instilled in me that a proper letter should be written on Basildon Bond stationery. I always wrote my thank you letters after a weekend with friends but since I moved to Australia so many years ago, there haven’t been those occasions. Instead we send emails to each other or make a phone call.

I still have a small stash of special letters tucked away. They are part of my history, testament to special relationships and friendships that an email or typed letter can never hope to compete with. A real letter lasts a lifetime and beyond.

I used to be known as a very good letter writer, but since the advent of emails these have dropped more and more by the wayside. I write to my parents, my niece and a few old friends who don’t have emails.  I’m resolving to write more real letters over the coming months even if the electronic versions are faster and cheaper.


Appreciating the English language

As a reader and a writer from way back, I’ve always enjoyed the richness of the largeEnglish language. Words paints a vivid picture for the reader and the text just seems to effortlessly flow when the author hits upon the right combination. In contrast the wrong choices of structure and vocabulary, cause even the most interesting material to become cumbersome.

Whilst I’ve always appreciated the wide selection of vocabulary available, I’ve never really given it a great deal of through until recently. To be more precise, it’s been my move into the world of teaching English to speakers of other languages that has caused me to pause and think on the vagaries, complexities and challenges that English provides.

You might like to check out this blog which is updated each Saturday with the word of the day. It comes with a short story using that particular word. It often introduces me to new vocabulary and the stories are interesting reads.

As I grow older I appreciate how very fortunate I am to have grown up as a native English speaker, but more so to have met people from so many different countries who also speak English as their first language albeit, with varying accents and expressions.  It’s this wide international experience, coupled with my formal training that has helped me become a more effective teacher. There are so many different ways to say the same thing that it’s no wonder people studying English get confused!


International Women’s Day 2015

This is thhttp://www.internationalwomensday.come first year, in a very long time, that I have not attended any International Women’s Day (IWD) events as none, as far as I am aware, are being held where I currently live. My contribution this year to IWD has been to include the day as part of my English language lessons, providing a reading piece, vocabulary list and encouraging discussion as it falls in line with the our ESL topics.

The class discussions, where the majority of students have been women in their early to mid-twenties, have been interesting and thought provoking because, although some had heard of IWD, none of them were aware of the history or knew much about why this day is so significant.

In 1910 women from a number of different countries were attending a conference on Copenhagen, Denmark at which Carla Zetkin, a German delegate, made the suggestion that an annual day should be set to mark the struggle for women’s rights. Obviously other attendees thought this was a great idea and so IWD was born.

Why the 8th March? Well, this was the day of the very first protest March was held in New York in 1857 to demonstrate against the horrific conditions faced by those women who worked in the garment and textile industry.

Over the ensuing years IWD has grown to become a movement that has highlighted so many concerns that affect women. Issues have included gender equality, women’s health issues, violence against women, disarmament and education to name but a few. Check our further details here on the UN page for 2015 as there’s some great reading there.

I’ve been fortunate to attend a number of IWD events ranging from breakfasts, lunches, dinners and public marches. I’ve always learnt something each time I listened to a speaker at the each of the events and been grateful for the wisdom they have shared. A collaboration of women is a most powerful thing.

Clearly the key to improving the world in which we live comes down to education, not just for women but for everyone, because it is only through education (both formal and informal) that we can begin to understand that there is more than just our own little world. Through education the world is opened up, we become aware of alternate ways of living and thinking. We learn about collaboration, we learn about respect and we learn about those who have gone before us, often making sacrifices, to pave the way for future generations.

We should never underestimate the power of the individual to make a difference and women joining together are indeed a force to be reckoned with.


Making friends

How and where we make friends is something we’ve been discussing as part of the English course I teach. On a personal level, as part of my online blogging activities, I’ve also been meeting my electronic neighbours so I thought it timely to share this link to a blog I wrote last year on the topic of friends.

If you decide to take the time to read the old post I’d love to hear your thoughts on the magic of friendship.


Reflecting on my blog

I’ve been reviewing my blog title and, although I chose this title four years ago (13 June 2011) I have decided that it accurately reflects what I want to portray. The tag line “sharing news, views and ideas” is exactly what I’m doing on this blog. If you’re a newer follower you can read my very first post here to learn why I decided to blog.

I’ve considered seperating the blog, especially the travel section, but then decided to just keep it all in the one place as it represents me as does the title of my blog.

Blogging is a wonderful way to way to keep in touch with a large amount of people and one of the unexpected bonuses that I’ve experienced is the connection with other bloggers.