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The Year 12 Formal 2015!

I don't normally go out on Friday nights. It's Shabbat. It's family time. Usually the Year 12 Formal is on a Thursday, sometimes a Wednesday, the last day of exams.

But the school was late in booking and that was what they could get. And I had to say goodbye to my students. There were a lot of my favourite students who graduated this year. Okay, I say that every year - and to be honest, my all-time favourite class graduated last year. But this was a very good class, with only one student who was a bit difficult and even he was only a bit naughty - I use the mild word for a good reason. Naughty, not impossible. And he handed in his work and did some good stuff during Literature Circles.

And there he was, a young man with a beard, a gentle smile and a twinkle in his eyes! That twinkle reminded you of his past, but it had become something positive.

We have our formal (the Senior Prom to my US readers)at what used to be the Hilton on the Park. It sounds swish, especially for a poor school like ours - and certainly the students have to pay quite a lot to dine there, but they're given a chance to pay it off, and on the night, the boys hire suits, the girls dress up stunningly and get their hair done and they arrive in shared stretch limos. We go there because it gives us the best deal - believe me, we have been to other hotels, one of which, a big chain I won't name, but which you'd know if I did, made things difficult for the SRC students who were making the arrangements at the time.

I go to say goodbye to kids I've known since they were in Year 7, and taught in Year 8. It's always just a bit sad for me, though for them it will be exciting - the whole world is about to open to them!

One of the students I hadn't taught, but whom I knew fairly well, through his siblings, was dancing joyously on his own on the dance floor. He didn't think he'd done well in the exam and so I told him that even if he didn't get what he wanted, there was always the next best thing and sometimes you can use that as a back door to what you do want. His family has had a very hard time, so I'm not surprised he was distracted this year, but I have no doubt he did his best.

Another student, who had always had his nose in a book when he was in my class, told me he was still researching and considering his options for next year. I suggested librarianship or at least an Arts degree, which he would handle well. This boy discovered the joys of ebooks when he was in Year 10, so he's still reading, he's just doing it on his Kindle. I remember when his group was doing Dragonkeeper in Literature Circles and the other students asked me if I'd mind asking him to read something else till they caught up with him, as he was way ahead in the novel. He didn't mind a bit! We were in the library and he cheerfully headed for the shelves. Needless to say, this boy is now towering over me.

I saw a young couple who were already an item when I taught them in Year 8, still together and very sweet they were.

I saw some of my most faithful Book Clubbers. I barely recognised them, so grown up!

I will be looking out for what tertiary courses they have been offered, in January. Can't wait!

Answer for question 4544.

What's the best photograph you've ever taken? (Feel free to post it, if you have it online!) What makes it such a great photo -- the subject matter, the event being captured, the beauty or strength of the image itself? What's one place you'd like to go just so you could see and photograph it in person?
The very best photo I ever took was done before I had digital equipment, so I no longer have it, except as a colour photocopy I enlarged to put up in my room as a poster. So I can't show it to you here.

I was attending Aussiecon 3, where I was running the children's program. One evening, it had been raining. I stood in one of the huge windows of the high rise con hotel opposite the Crown Casino. And there I saw the perfect subject for a photo: a rainbow which seemingly ended in the casino! The pot of gold, eh?

It was an amazing photo. I only wish I still had it.

Answer for question 4540.

Do you enjoy winter, or do you prefer other times of the year more? What outdoor winter activities (skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, etc) have you tried -- did you enjoy them, or did you come away from them thinking "never again"? Has your opinion of winter changed from when you were a kid?
I live in Melbourne. We don't have snow. Well, not much. I can remember one winter, many years ago, when it snowed out at Belgrave, near the Dandenongs, and I saw small patches of the stuff melting on the ground on my way to work. Hardly the stuff of ice fishing or snowmobiling!

But I do love curling up with a book and a cup of cocoa or a pot of tea and listening to the rain outside. It's spring here right now, but we've had some winter days anyway, and this morning I woke up to a storm. Lovely! As long as you're snug in bed, anyway. And I was.

It didn't last; by the time I was out shopping the temperatures had risen to steamy level, though it was still drizzling. Sauna time!

But I have been known to take a Saturday morning walk along the beach paths in the middle of a downpour. I remember passing another woman on the bridge across the Elwood Canal and hearing her say, "I'm glad to know I'm not the only one crazy enough to go out in this weather!"

What's nice on those days is taking shelter in a cafe and ordering a pot of tea while the rain continues to fall outside. Pure gold!

Answer for question 4539.

If you were going to ask someone to marry you, how would you do it (or how did you do it if you already have)? Would you plan a Big Special Thing to surprise them, or would you keep it simple?
I must admit, I have a great admiration for those who do the Big Thing. You do have to be fairly sure the beloved will say yes, of course, especially if it's in public.

But I have a favourite memory of watching such a proposal once. It was late at night and I'd been to the theatre. With a bunch of other theatregoers I was standing at the tram stop outside the Melbourne Arts Centre, when one of those open carriages clopped past. I did feel sympathy for the horse, still working that late, but I was fascinated by what I saw in the carriage.

A young man was down on one knee, his open box and engagement ring in hand, about to propose to his dear one. She looked a little embarrassed, but was clearly enjoying it anyway.

I was horrible. I yelled, "Congratulations!" as the carriage went past - and so did the others at the stop when they realised what was happening.

Think of the care and trouble he took, to find the most romantic way of letting her know he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

I'm betting it's a story they will tell their children.

Answer for question 4525.

How does fall/autumn rank in your list of favorite seasons? What things do you enjoy most about it (cooler weather, Halloween, etc)? Do you like the array of pumpkin spice items available this time of year -- what's your favorite?
This is such a northern hemisphere question! Okay, we have autumn even here, Down Under. But Halloween is northern hemisphere and pumpkin spice is so very American!

Autumn is a fair way off here, not until March; we've just started daylight saving. But for me, autumn is cold weather and soggy piles of leaves underfoot, with the occasional Indian summer day. It's when you start to wear warm clothes and the beach is just for a walk, not a swim.

But that's nice too. I like to wrap up and walk along the foreshore and sit with a book on a bench, then go for a pot of tea somewhere. And autumn fruits start to appear in the shops.

Right now, in Melbourne, we're having an early summer, interspersed with winter days when we have to wrap up again. Today there's a bit of both. The forecast is 28'C, but with rain, possibly a storm. I will go out a bit later and if there's a storm take refuge somewhere cosy, with tea, cake and a book...
Originally posted on my book blog for Father's Day

First, happy Father's Day to all the Dads in my family - my nephews David and Mark, my brother-in-law Gary and my brother Maurice.

My own wonderful Dad passed away nearly six years ago and is still terribly missed by all of us. He was the silver surfer who discovered the Internet in his eighties and read the papers online every day, as well as Googling me regularly. He built me a literary shrine that consisted of colour copied book covers of all my books to date, the first page of my first sale and photocopies of every newspaper reference to me. He would come over when I was out, do repairs and leave a note with one of his delightful cartoons of himself smiling broadly at me. He built me three floor to ceiling book cases and transformed an ancient office desk into something people pay $$$$ for.

Literary Dads I'd love to have in my family start with Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. I haven't yet read the second book, I must explain. I do have it, but am making myself wait till I have finished my reread of the first book.

But really, wouldn't you love to have such a wise, wonderful Dad in your family? He is gentle, kind, firm, all at once. He can shoot amazingly when he needs to, but won't otherwise.

If I couldn't have mine, I wouldn't mind having a Dad like Mr Stanton, the hero, Will's, father in Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series. He is also wise and comforting, a person in his own right, not just Dad; usually in children's fiction, parents are missing so the kids can have adventures. He won't stand for racism, among other things. And it can't be easy being the father of so many, very different kids!

Speaking of which, you can't possibly not love Arthur Weasley in the Harry Potter books - he is funny, gentle, wise in his own way, but quirky and over the top. And brave, no question about it! He and Molly make a great couple - and face it, he needs her!

In that same series there is Ted Tonks, a minor character who only appears in the last book, but is one to respect. He's the father of "don't call me Nymphadora" Tonks, and falls foul of the Deatheaters. It's nice that his grandson is named for him.

Do you have any favourite literary Dads?

Answer for question 4519.

Have you ever given someone a handmade present? If so, what was it? How long did you work on it, and did it turn out the way you wanted it to? What did the recipient think of your hard work?
Yes, I've done many handmade gifts over the years. I've mostly done beading projects, from earrings and necklaces to bead loomed belts, though not recently, not because they weren't appreciated - they were only given to people who would appreciate them - but because after a while, how many earrings and necklaces could my friends wear? And bead looming takes a lot of time. I've also given soft toys made from felt and handmade chocolates and honeycomb. Those were enjoyed very much.

Answer for question 4515.

What was the best news you ever received? What happened? Where were you when you got the news -- were you able to celebrate immediately or did you need to "keep it cool" until you got home, etc?
The most exciting news I ever received was when I was phoned at work to be told my novel Wolfborn had been accepted for publication. It was a novel which I had tried to sell for a very long time, had it *nearly* accepted several times, then put away. And then I got an email saying, "I hear you have a finished manuscript, we have a hole in our schedule, can I see it?" from a lady I had met when she was working for a different publisher. I emailed it to her and two days later... Very exciting news! My family and I celebrated with an afternoon tea at the Windsor Hotel.

Answer for question 4513.

What's your favorite dessert? How often do you have it? What's the most decadent dessert item you've ever ordered at a restaurant?
I'm boring with dessert. Even at a Death By Chocolate restaurant I ordered something with strawberries in it. I like my dessert to be either a palate cleanser like gelato or a comfort dessert like warm apple crumble with cream or ice cream(decadent enough when you consider all the calories and cholesterol in the cream!). But Asian restaurants have fried ice cream(basically a donut with ice cream in it) and great layered ice parfaits.

Nose Blocked, Eyes Sore...

I have been sick since last week at this time. :-( As it was the last week of term, I really couldn't take time off from work, apart from a bit of Rosh Hashanah, when I was in bed anyway. And then there was the school concert, to which I committed myself long ago, supervising kids in the green room and producing the program, a major task, involving making sure I got it all correct - in my United Nations of a school, there are a LOT of names to get right. Then, when you've finished, their teachers approach you to say that little Ahmed or Tapuva isn't taking part any more and has been replaced by Mohamed(one m, not two). Or that there are kids missing from the crew list. As someone with an 11 letter surname no one ever got right when I was at school - heck, even my pigeonhole name is spelled wrong at work! - I totally understand. At least the kids try to pronounce and spell my name right, unlike some of their elders.

So Thursday comes and I'm feeling a bit better and go to work, then wish I hadn't. Likewise on Friday. And both says I have to supervise someone else's class while she's on leave.

And now I'm spending the day in the misery of a cold, nose running, as well as blocked, eyes watering and infected.

Not a good way to start my term break!

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