What is advent and what does it mean? Well, Advent is the period of four Sundays and weeks before Christmas. It literally means ‘Coming’ in Latin. This for Christians, therefore, means the coming of Jesus into the world. Christians use the four Sundays and weeks of Advent to prepare and remember the real meaning of Christmas.
So, I have decided to share a tradition from my home. Each year, we take it in turns to write the messages for our advent calendar, which consists of small boxes like houses, hung individually.
This year the task fell to me. It always takes me a bit to get going and I do not claim that all the ideas came from myself, some were inspired by websites, however, once I did get going and into the Christmas Spirit, it became easier.
So, here are the first four days sayings, which I hope you will enjoy:
THIS CHRISTMAS LET HOPE WARM YOUR HEART, LOVE WARM OUR HOME, AND THE HOLY SPIRIT WARM THE WORLD.
THE BEST CHRISTMAS CAKE RECIPE:
1 PACKET OF LAUGHTER,
2 HANDFULS OF HOPE,
A CUP OF SHARING AND
ANOTHER TO COPE,
A SPOON OF MYSTERY AND
A PINCH OF LOVE MIX IN A LARGE POT AND POUR OVER THE ONE YOU LOVE.
WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS, WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS, WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR – THERE YOU GO, THAT’S YOUR EARWORM FOR THIS YEAR-
FAITH AND HOPE GUIDE US THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, CHRISTMAS BRINGS CERTAINTY AND KNOWLEDGE THAT HE IS HERE.
and an extra one for good measure;
AS CHRISTMAS CAROLS FILL THE AIR AND CHURCH BELLS RING OUT ACROSS THE LAND, WE BOW OUR HEADS IN CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER AS WE AWAIT HIS COMING
Enjoy the build up to this special time of the year folks, and remember always those less fortunate than us.
Polly’s Piralympics series of books are both unique in concept as well as content and format.
READING IS GREAT: The group of authors who gathered at Café La Plume recently. Front: Ashleigh Giannoccaro, Cora Groenewald and Kim Hunter. Back: Silke Kaiser, Gerry Pelser, Evadeen Brickwood and Jann Weeratunga.
JANN Weeratunga who lives in Winchester Hills began writing about 10 years ago with a few pieces of poetry. Since then she has written many children’s books, including the Polly’s Piralympics series, inspired by the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Paralympic Games, and is for readers aged between eight and 12 years old.
Polly’s Piralympics series of books are both unique in concept as well as content and format. They deal with disabilities, bullying and cheating. The books also have a comprehension page at the end of each chapter, where the participants can answer questions and draw their own characters etc.
“I’ve been to many primary schools with my parrots, and the children really relate to them and the stories about Polly,” said Jann.
Recently, her and other authors from around Johannesburg, including Kim Hunter, Gerry Pelser, Silke Kaiser, Cora Groenewald, Ashleigh Giannoccaro and Evadeen Brickwood, met at Café La Plume in Glenanda for a morning of poetry and reading.
“It was a fun time getting together, and we are planning on more mornings in the near future where we can promote reading among children and adults,” said Jann.
Thank you Southern Courier for the support of local Indie authors and to Cafe la Plume for once again hosting us.
As an author, I am always being asked about my life, who I am and why I started writing.
Where was I born? I was born in Perivale Maternity Hospital, Ealing in West London. (Sadly this institution which delivered thousands of babies was flattened and re-designated for housing, as births moved into mainstream hospitals.
Mum would recall how it was the coldest Winter last century and dad arrived, as did many excited fathers, to be greeted by the matron who scolded them, made them take off their overcoats and jump up and down until they had warmed themselves up, before allowing them through to wives and newborns.
I grew up happily in Ealing, went to Wood End Primary School, followed by Woodend Girls school, before someone had the bright idea of changing its name! Then we moved within Ealing to another suburb and I attended North Ealing Primary. In fact, my father and Aunt, Grandmother and Great Aunt had all attended this school, there I blossomed into a long lanky child who was nicknamed ‘Spoon,’ and became a defender of other odd-ball because I was head and shoulders taller than the bullies.
High School consisted of endless happy days. My peers caught up with me height-wise and as an ex-grammar school, (gosh I seemed to be a child whose surrounding formed change of the times,) anyway I loved high school. I played French horn and eventually went to Ealing Tech Saturday Music School, I remember my horn teacher was Lyn Morgan, a Welshman in the air force. the various choirs, orchestras, wind bands and wind ensembles I belonged to became quite good, culminating in two performances at the Albert Hall and one at the Festival Hall – the latter a competition where we came 2nd. I recall my father reading from the Times that had we had a stronger string section we would have come first. I don’t recall we even knew it was a competition, we just thought it was another concert – we performed a lot of concerts!
Anyway, at highschool, I loved sport, but with glasses that never seemed to want to stay on my face I ended up refereeing netball more than playing (actually I was quite good at it and refereed whilst at school for age groups 3 years my senior as well and 3 years my junior.)
But my love of sports and music resulted only in joining dad at the local Wasps rugby matches (I think he had secretly hope for a son first,) though I developed a passion for cricket and rugby that extend even to today.
Life in my late teens through to my early 30’s was filled with Scouting. I devoted countless evenings and weekends to cubs and scout, ending with unarguably the best scout troops in the Greenford District for many years. I had something to prove you see, after ‘uncle Ted’ remarked, “Oh my god it’s a bl**dy woman.” as I entered the Scout HQ. It took less than 3 months for my lads to win their first trophy after I told them about it, and within the year we had won 12/13 trophies which we held for the next 7 years, – that darn swimming trophy always just alluded us, ha, ha, ha.
After marrying and moving to Sri Lanka I was widowed within four years, but determined to give back to a community who had given me so much, so, I remained in the country and helped set up new libraries and English Schools (to develop and promote spoken English.)
Whilst I was still living in Sri Lanka I became an NPO following the Tsunami in 2005. I had been on holiday in the UK visiting my mother, she woke me on the Sunday morning of 23rd December 2005. “Something terrible has happened in Sri Lanka.”
I ran to the lounge to see the results of the Tsunami in my beloved Sri Lanka. I immediately called my nephew Rukshan Jayawardene and asked what I could do? 5 days earlier we had been staying in Yala National Park. I waved to friends as they entered and we left, and that was the last time she saw them, as the wave took their lives. Determined to help, I turned my mother’s lounge and most of her house as well as a neighbour’s double garage into a Tsunami collection point. I had stayed on in the UK for a month after the Tsunami and been helped by mum’s neighbours, golfing acquaintances, sponsors and scout to collect all manner of things needy things for a people who had literally had their homes and lives torn away from them. Everything was packed into a 40ft trailer and sent to Sri Lanka, and then over the next 6 months distributed to the needy in A-bay, with the help of friends foreign and local.
I then spent the next 2 years in Aragum Bay helping villagers where I could. Sewing machine and material to set up small cottage industries. Helping to rebuild a Montessori on higher ground – a place of safety where the children will always run to should another Tsunami ever hit. Providing hundreds of books to set up a new library at the school, and helping to rebuild a small B&B. I chose ‘my Sri Lankanfamily,’ as they were a mixed marriage (Singhalese and Tamil.) and one in war-torn Sri Lanka that no-one else wanted to help.
I dodged mined-lined narrow roads, as I drove between Kandy in the Central Highlands of the Island, and home for nearly 10 years, to Arugam Bay on the Tamil Tiger-held East Coast. Was it dangerous? Yes, probably, but I didn’t think about that at the time. I just did it.
By mid-2006 I was all but burnt out. I had achieved much, helped ‘my family’ build a business that would sustain them into the future, co-rebuild a Montisourri with my friend Tim and help bring books into the village to start a new library. But now it was time to move on.
I spent almost a year in the Middle East (UAE and Bahrain) teaching KG2 graders before moving to South Africa where I started to write, fell in love and remain to this day living in Johannesburg with my four dogs. I believe I have established myself withing the literary Indies community and regularly organise meeting and book fairs for same. But my real passion is taking Polly into schools to talk about bullying, or Toucane to talk about Stranger Danger or Keeping our world clean.
It’s what I have always been good at really – talking to children. My books and puppet are just another way to do this and get the message over. I love my life and what I do and I must be one of the luckiest people I know to be able to follow my passion in this regard.
So, there you have it. A bit about who I am. If you have any questions you would like to ask?
So, what is the difference? The main difference here is the intent.
Trying to get someone in trouble or hurt them
Looking for attention
Done because you want to get your own way
Telling when it is not bullying or important and could be handled by yourself
Telling a parent/teacher/guardian about a situation that is dangerous.
Looking out for your safety (both physical and emotional) of yourself and your peers when severely threatened
Speaking up because something is really wrong; not because you want to get someone into trouble.
when you can’t resolve the problem and need adult intervention
This is often difficult for kids especially as they get older. They often will NOT report something that SHOULD BE reported for fear of retribution from the bully as well as their peers.
My book How Polly Became a Pirate is being used in schools in Johannesburg, South Africa to help younger kids up to 12 years old get around the problem of ‘snitching’. At the end of each chapter, there is an interactive page where they can ‘talk to Polly,’ here they can say if they or anyone they know is being bullied and even draw a picture of what the bully looks like.
So far it has been successful in identifying bullies at schools because students don’t feel they are snitching, but rather chatting to Polly. Parents have also found this useful in identifying problems their children are having which they didn’t even know about. It is almost like writing a diary but to Polly.
We’ve all seen the pictures, haven’t we? You know the ones of poor African kids in the news headlines and probably thought “Another plea another African begging bowl. BUT, when you see it close up and personal it brings on a whole new meaning.
I visited the Laura Vicuna Education Center in Ennerdale (Southern Johannesburg, and part of the Don Bosco Educational Project.) a few months ago, it touched me so much that after driving out of the rubbish laden roads it is situated in and getting across the highway I had to park my car and cry.
Cry for the amazing efforts that Sister Lidia Castro and the Salesian Sister are doing there as well as a handful of staff with little or no resources. In fact, I couldn’t stop crying for quite a while, which is why I went back.
Charmaine Venter of Umtunzi Exhibitions gave a generous donation for books for a school, so I asked her to accompany me to give books to this school personally. I can tell you my second visit was also an emotional roller coaster, as it was for Charmaine. A roller coaster to see the happy faces of the kids and teachers receiving the books, but sad because when we left we knew they needed more.
They need volunteers to read to the children and help to teach them to read. They need the rubbish dumps around the school cleaned and formalized.
When I last visited Sister Lidia was related a story by one of the other sisters about a 6-year-old child who lived near Orange Farm who walked to school half of the way with her mother who then went to work, the child then walked the remainder through the rubbish tips on her own! We live in a country where a child or woman gets raped every 4 minutes! Why does her mother do it – because it is the best education she can get.
Coupled with this there are many children who attend irregularly as they head up their household and have to care for younger siblings as there are no parents – these are not young adults here people but 10, 11, 12-year-olds who run their homes due to the death of parents usually from HIV/AIDS.
Those who do have parents are supported by their parents scouring the rubbish tips, or if they are lucky they work as housemaids or gardeners often for as little as R100 per day, (That is less than a dollar a day) because they are taken advantage of and most do not have papers.
Pretty grim eh? Well we can change this, if you can volunteer to read to the kids once a week, or better still help teach a learner to read for themselves you would be changing a child’s life forever (74% Grade 4’s cannot read in SA = 74% of 11-year-olds cannot read in their mother tongue) classes are often 50/60 learners to a class, which translates to 6/7 minutes per day per child. So come on folks let’s make a difference.
Inspiration is created when like-minds merge, it’s amazing, all the neurons start to fire and ideas bounce around the room. It’s as if you can feel the room come alive with characters dancing about the place.
Well, that’s what happened when I met Tammy a young illustrator and aspiring, very, very different author. And oh boy YA readers does she have something different for you – watch this space.
Here is one of her characters and I am very excited to see what she does with my books. Isn’t he just such a darling?
So I am working on books for younger kids and holding thumbs, crossing finger et al that with the help of Councillor Julie Suddaby my books will reach the correct places.
I’M SO EXCITED!!!!! And it all kicked off just a year ago – Thank you, Deborah Du Plooy at Skoobs Theatre of books, you changed my life.