THIS WEEKS FEATURE ARTICLES
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Where there’s smoke...
As the weather cools down it’s a good time to remind each other about the issue of air quality in the Valley during winter.
Tasmania has regulations that are aimed at improving air quality by placing controls on backyard burning and smoke emitted from domestic wood heaters.
Smoke reduces the quality of the air we breathe. Prolonged exposure to domestic wood smoke in Tasmania is a real problem for those who have chronic illnesses like asthma or heart conditions. Poor air quality is more common in many neighbourhoods during the colder months of winter when the air is calm and wood smoke builds up over several days.
Smoke from your chimney means that your wood heater is wasting fuel by not burning efficiently. Wasted fuel equals wasted money. It's also an offence to pollute the environment with an excessively smoky chimney.
State legislation bans backyard burning in the open or using an incinerator on blocks less than 2,000 square metres in area.
The legislation does not prevent fire hazard reduction burn-off on large properties but does prohibit the burning of rubbish, plastics and other hazardous substances.
Council officers are authorised under the legislation to issue infringement notices (or on-the-spot-fines) to a person who commits an offence under the regulations.
There are other alternative garden waste disposal options which include: private waste removal contractors; home composting; domestic worm farms; compost bins and waste mulching and chipping contractors.
Smoke from a domestic wood heater is considered to be in breach of the legislation if the smoke is visible 10 metres or more from the chimney for at least 30 seconds at a time, as well as being generally visible for at least 10 minutes. Excessive smoke from wood heaters can be a major contributor to air pollution. Smoke can be a nuisance to your neighbours and contains pollutants that are known health hazards.
There are products on the market that help make wood heaters burn more efficiently and reduce the amount of pollution emitted. Having your flue swept annually will also ensure your flue is in good working order and free from build-up. Operating your wood heater correctly is the key to clean and efficient heating.
Smoke from poorly operated wood heaters can be reduced as much as 80% by following a few simple steps. These include: always burn with a flame; never let the fire smoulder; only use well-seasoned, dry fire wood; don't shut your fire right down when you go to bed; burning the fire on high for 20 minutes after adding wood; checking your heater complies with relevant Australian Standards and always keep the air vents open enough to keep some kind of flame.
More information about effective wood heater operation can be found at http://epa.tas.gov.au/Pages/Improving-Wood-Heater-Use.aspx on the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) website.
The Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has more information on the potential health impacts of wood smoke exposure at
The DHHS also provides public health alerts for air quality at sites around Tasmania using real
Alternatively, you can contact the council's Environmental Health Department on 6430 5700.
Huon Valley Council
The yoga movement: what’s all the hype about?
Kids' yoga seems to be everywhere. In our schools, in our town halls, even in early learning centres. Why? Have you ever thought about the benefits that yoga could bring to you and
Yoga for kids is not your average 'om's and silence. Children’s yoga is about having fun and becoming aware of our bodies, how our bodies feel, how we feel when we focus on breath. It's about connecting in a safe way. There is touch, massage, quiet time, or noisy time if that’s where everyone is at. Also, respect, love and finding a way to move through each moment.
There are many different ways to practice yoga. When I practice yoga myself, it’s a way for me to connect with me. Yoga is a different experience for everyone. Sometimes I put my favourite music on, get on the mat and see what happens. Usually something good. I always feel better after my practice, even if what I could do easily yesterday is challenging today.
I have taken the things that yoga has taught me and applied them to everyday life. My life is definitely easier and flows better than it used to. I get on my mat and practice gratitude, favourite poses or breathing most days, even if it’s just for five minutes. Our lives as adults are crazy busy and if I don’t make time for me, I lose myself.
I’m not saying everyone get on a mat and do ten breaths in down dog till you hurt (even though it's supposed to be a resting pose!). For me, yoga is the thing that helps me in the stresses and challenges of everyday life. I have no idea what it would be like to grow up in the world as it today, especially with social media and screens a real threat to a natural way of being. But what I do know is that children, pre-teens, teens and young adults are having a hard time figuring that out. I think we all need some more mindfulness in our lives. Stopping everything and having a think, then letting that thinking go. Be where you’re at today. Stop giving yourself a hard time about yesterday or worrying about the thousand things you have to do tomorrow. Take time to make time.
Finding some quiet and being mindful on the mat, or anywhere for that matter, is more important today than it ever has been. The rise in anxiety and depression in children and young teens is alarming. I know connection with self, real connection with others, exercise and some self-love go a long way. Recognising, without judgment, that we are all different and no one is perfect will counter this rise. If you’re interested in talking yoga or your children would like to have a go and see what all the fuss is about, give kids' yoga a try. Love and many backbends!
A special time, a special place
To get the place right was not too difficult. To get the timing right proved more difficult, but who would have known? Portugal is an enticing destination, a bit of a ‘flavour of the month’ apparently. However, it wasn’t until we had booked our flights and some accommodation and were making plans to leave that we accidentally discovered we would arrive slap-bang in the middle of some major celebrations. One hundred years ago to the date of our arrival, three children experienced apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima. Fatima is a day trip from Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, and the site of the apparitions has become a major pilgrimage site for Christians and Catholics, none more major than this, the centenary. We learned that Pope Francis would be attending, arriving the same day as us. From the government travel site came the advice that extra security precautions would be in place for the four days surrounding the celebrations. Progress through airports and seaports would be slow and delays could be expected. Travellers were advised to remain alert, although no special security warnings were in place. Fortunately, the Pope’s arrival was to be at a military airbase, not far away, but not Lisbon where we would arrive. And, fortunately, we had booked accommodation. It looked as though places might have become scarce!
A century ago
“The life of Lucia, Francesco and Jacinta, little shepherds of Fatima, is a history of grace and mercy.” The story of the three children, all aged less than ten years, is told online in preparation for the centenary celebrations: “In these children we see in action the same paradoxical force which marks and acts in the whole history of salvation: the infinite disproportion between the history of the proud and powerful, with their schemes, strategies and conflicts, and the history of the humble who, in the truth of their existence are invited by God to be a leaven of transformation of humanity.” The symbolism of the shepherds, their poverty, the messages they were given, resonates with me, and I see their simple lives, the witness they will give – as reflecting those of the disciples chosen in the early days of Christianity. Most religions have beliefs that are hard for others to fathom, may even dismiss as ridiculous, and for many Christianity, although a mainstream religion, is based on some pretty incredible maxims. But even with a religion faith can only be stretched so far. So for many the story of Fatima is just that, a story. For others, however, it’s an absolute truth and a huge impetus to faith and belief. For myself, a ‘practising’ Catholic, in that very Catholic sense of practising, I range myself along with Thomas the Doubter. I am always sceptical, but ready to be convinced. I’m also catholic, in the universal meaning of the word, and sympathetic to all who find neither rhyme nor reason in apparitions, visions, miracles and other unexplained phenomena. Someone tried to convince me to be at Fatima for the centenary celebrations, but this would be my last choice of a time to visit the pilgrimage site. While acknowledging the fascination of relics held in European cathedrals such as St Catherine of Siena’s finger, or the chains that bound St Peter in prison, the crowds, the overwhelming fervour, that would be part of the Fatima celebrations are not my scene.
An ongoing story
The apparitions had continued for seven months, always on the same date, and the crowds grew. In 1917 on October 13th it’s estimated 70,000 people gathered to witness the last apparition. But the story continues. Francisco and Jacinta died from illness within a couple of years, aged ten and nine. Three messages given by the Virgin to the children were revealed slowly over the years, although the third was delayed for many years and surrounded by speculation and mystery. Lucia lived a long life, described as “an intense spiritual journey”, as a religious sister in the Carmelite order in the Portuguese village of Coimbra and died in 2005 aged 98. For ten years her cause was progressed through the Church’s process of canonisation and with Pope Francis paying special attention to the cause and the Fatima centenary, much was anticipated this year.
Leaving Lisbon we had time to reflect on a week shared with the Fatima experience. There can be no doubt about the devotion practiced by many – posters on walls, pictures, statues, books, snow domes, even a bedspread, for sale with the image of the original apparitions on them. After a few days we realised we had cause to be thankful, short term, for the pope’s presence. His Holiness proved a godsend (pun intended) in keeping the crowds away from the city. Once he left, that half-one million visitors expected descended on Lisbon and chaos ensued. The endless queues, the ‘wrong bus’ experience one more time took, as one tourist put it, ‘the gloss off’. Lisbon has become a favourite destination, seen as safe after events in other European capitals. We spent time with friends whose apartment has doubled in value in two short years and airbnb is thriving. We can only hope they catch up quickly with the logistical nightmare an overcrowded, under organised city can become, for the sake of all who live there and those who love to visit.
“Nobody’s entertaining me...”
Personal responsibility – being responsible for our own actions – is something most of us were taught as children. Hopefully, we have passed that principle on to our own children, including in the area of having fun. The idea of being responsible for our own actions may be at cross-purposes with the current criticism of the so-called 'nanny state'. There are rules and regulations for everything. So much so, that initiative seems to be in short supply. That even applies to play. For children of the 50's, play was something that involved an instruction: “Go outside and play, but be home in time for tea.” A few years later the instruction was “Go outside and play, but be home in time to do your jobs (chores) before tea.” We then graduated to: “Go outside and play, but be home in time to do your homework and chores before tea.” Going outside to play always involved getting a bit dirty or untidy, but our parents didn’t mind, so long as we weren’t injured or got our clothes ripped, say, from falling out of a tree or something similar. Play for children in the last few decades has centred on indoor equipment, like television, play stations and computers, which can act as babysitters. To counteract that passivity and inactivity, extra (usually supervised) activities are offered, to the extent that children are always amused as well as kept busy. Amusement is an expectation. It should also be about learning, and no longer allowed to be spontaneous, apparently. Parents and those in charge supervise everything.
On a long haul flight back from the UK a few years ago, I spoke to a woman on the plane who told me she had asked her young nephew why he was looking downcast. “What’s wrong Jayden?” The sulky little boy was at a loss for what to do. His complaint: “Nobody’s entertaining me...” Unbelievable, but it isn’t necessarily the fault of the child. If kids are expected to be either passive (quietly watching something) or pliable (easily supervised) then their creativity and imagination is thwarted. If all activity is either indoors, or in specially designated places, where’s the spontaneity? Now that the 'outdoors' has been re-discovered, it is again included in the overall 'learning experience'. This is where oldies show their age, by saying something arch like: “...it used to be called school in my day,” although that response takes away the fact that we have always learned from everything we do, no matter what time of the day the action, or entertainment, occurred.
Outdoor Classroom Day
In the Western Australian wheat-belt, where I grew up, we loved it when it was too hot to do school work indoors, and we moved our classroom outside. That was in the days before air-conditioners were issued to schools. Although the first modern air-conditioning system was invented in 1902 by 25-year-old engineer named Willis Carrier from New York, our application of evaporative cooling was still to sit outside under a tree. We hoped that the movement of the breeze through the leaves would give sufficient relief that we would not fall asleep to the sound of our teacher droning on. We really loved those hot days, when the temperature climbed to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (or just under 38 degrees Celsius) in the shade. Then we could go home, where we rapidly recovered from heat stress and went outside to play. I was chuffed to note that a movement from WA has developed that looks like fun, and could be “go outside and play”, but with a curriculum attached. I’m not saying that is a bad thing, but I was fairly amused when I saw Outdoor Classroom Day mentioned on an education site. 'Nature Play WA – getting our kids outdoors' is committed to the educational benefits of learning in the outdoors. The movement is not restricted to Western Australia. Outdoor Classroom Day is a global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play. The date is Thursday September 7, when schools can join Nature Play and thousands of schools around Australia by taking lessons outside and prioritising playtime. See more at: http://www.natureplaywa.org.au/outdoor-classroom-day. I note that one of the sponsors is a cleaning company, so I don’t suppose dirty hands will be allowed, but it should be fun.
Missives from the seas
In an occasional series of missives from a cruise to the UK,
Marian Hearn jumps off the boat in Romney Marsh
My first encounter with Romney Marsh was as a primary school child when we went on a camp. Imagine leaving the suburbs of London soon after WW2, where there was barely a tree, and staying in what seemed the depths of the country. All around were marshes, grass and sheep – that’s about all I can remember of it.
Some years ago, Eric and I revisited the area which had been a favourite of his for years. Oh, how it had changed. The miniature but commercial railway was still running, and at the end at Dungeness was a nuclear power station, which seemed so incongruous.
Now I will visit again for a family reunion when all four of my remaining siblings will meet up, something which has not happened for many years.
Eric’s fascination with the area was enhanced by the reading of the ‘Dr Syn’ books by Russell Thorndike first published in 1959. There is now even a website devoted to the books, their background, the legends and history of the era – http://www.drsyn.net/Home.htm.
Set in the troubled times of the 18th century, the main character, Rev. Dr Christopher Syn, is sometime parson, and often smuggler. It is said that “Assuming the masked identity of the Scarecrow, Syn led the smugglers in a series of adventures that rival those of Robin Hood, D’Artagnan and his companions, or El Zorro in their daring and their success.”
With its marshlands, reclaimed land and shingle, Romney Marsh is situated in Kent in the South East corner of England. Being very near to mainland Europe; it has been in the front line of invasion from Vikings, Saxons and Normans; as well as, in more recent times, under threat from both Napoleon and then Hitler. The land lies below sea level, with a giant wall the only defence from channel storms. There have been many shipwrecks along the coast. The locals knew their way along the many drainage channels (dykes) and where to hide their bounty.
Does the following sound familiar? In a UK government report: “In relation to nuclear power, the conclusion of the Government’s 2002 energy review was that: The immediate priorities of energy policy are likely to be most cost-effectively served by promoting energy efficiency and expanding the role of renewables. However, the options of new investment in nuclear power and in clean coal (through carbon sequestration) need to be kept open, and practical measures taken to do this.”
In 2013, Tim Yeo, chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, stated that the government reaching an agreement over nuclear power expansion was a “matter of great urgency”, and warned that Britain could run out of energy if negotiations were not concluded quickly.
On 26 January 2017, the UK notified Euratom of “its intention to withdraw, following on from its decision to withdraw from the European Union. Leaving will have wide ranging implications for Britain’s nuclear industry”.
One of the attractions of the area is still ‘The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway’. This railway boasts of running trains for over 90 years and operates with one third of a full-size steam locomotive, running on tracks just 15 inches apart. The train runs on a regular service for 13½ miles across the picturesque Romney Marsh from the Cinque Port town of Hythe to Dungeness, one of the largest expanses of shingle in the world and designated as a National Nature Reserve. It is still a thrill to ride the train especially when they have steam engines running. Ours was the ‘Winston Churchill’.
I think poet John Betjeman was writing of times before nuclear power stations when he wrote:
“Romney Marsh, on the Sussex border of Kent and close to
Romney Marsh, where the roads wind like streams through pasture and the sky is always three-quarters of the landscape.
The sounds I associate with Romney Marsh are the bleating of innumerable sheep and the whistle of the sea wind in old willow trees.
The sea has given a colour to this district: it has spotted with silver the oak posts and rails; it gives the grass and the rushes a grey salty look and turns the red bricks and tiles of Fairfield Church a
Artist talks: why give them? why go along?
Ever wanted to know what it’s like to be an artist, or what motivates such a career path? Curious about a specific technique or want to know more about the subject or ideas behind a work? Go to an artist talk.
Usually free and held in conjunction with an artist’s exhibition at the same venue, the artist and audience are able to refer directly to the work on display. The best talks are held in a relaxed informal atmosphere where what starts as a talk by the artist develops as a conversation between the artist and audience.
There is often the opportunity to ask the artist questions, which is valuable not only for that person receiving the answer but opens up ideas for thought and discussion that others in the audience, and even the artist, may not
For the artist it is an important means to find out how people are responding to their work. Are they communicating successfully through that work? Because whatever the subject, whatever the technique, all art is about something – each work is unique in that it is that particular artist’s response to that something.
Many public, independent and commercial galleries hold artist talks. MAC (Moonah Arts Centre) and SAC (Salamanca Arts Centre) in Hobart both actively encourage their artists to participate – they form a regular component of their annual
As a practicing artist myself I have been both the subject and in the audience of these talks. I vastly prefer the latter, but have always found hearing the feedback from audiences to my work beneficial. It has thrown new light on the work or subject matter and given me new ideas. Or, let’s be honest, any positive feedback encourages you to keep going – an artist’s life has to be self sustained and self motivated, and that’s not easy.
So go along to an artist talk and listen, you don’t have to ask a question, but if you do be kind to the artist, they are likely to be as nervous about public speaking as you are.
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