Victorian Fires

Sirens – wave upon wave, scream past. Must be fire. Big. And close.  I’m giving thirsty plants a drink.  40 degrees again. I take in the washing and moments later when I open the door to go out again – SMOKE. Thick and so much. My husband has hooked up two hoses at the ready. He looks up the emergency website. There have been two warnings for our estate. Two fires  nearby. 22 appliances sent to one.  Both are controlled quickly. The cool change sweeps in, collects up heat and smoke and clears them away over the next fifteen to thirty minutes.

That was yesterday 9/2/14 in the suburbs. Our community was lucky. Not so,  many others. (I truly weep for them)  Numerous houses, buildings, much vegetation – gone.  So hard and the memories of Black Saturday still so haunting.  And then, the poor creatures, domestic and wild. Horrible and terrifying for them. Cruel.

The fire fighters are amazing. We can’t be grateful enough to these dedicated people and the organisation must be excellent. So many fires – some huge – but no lives lost.

This relentlessly hot and dry Summer has left us all vulnerable. Our experience yesterday turned out to minor. But it’s message has hit home. Great work by the emergency services. We were lucky.

Gaytana Adorna

Sicilian Delight

Earlier this year I had my first European trip. I went to Sicily and fell in love. Swallows described their joy in the Spring sky. Wildflowers bloomed lavishly in fields, beside roads and in any available spot. No self-indulgent romance this. I fell in love with the natural beauty, the baroque towns, heritage, culture – food to live for – and the wonderful people.

I went with my best friend C and her octogenarian (young at heart) mother, to see my late father’s homeland. I went with C because, besides being a great person, she’s superbly, utterly fluently bi-lingual. I’ve only ever had a smattering of Italian. (We spoke English at home.)

C and her mother were going to visit extended family, which I don’t really have in Sicily.  My uncles and aunts emigrated. My grandparents are long dead. BUT, I couldn’t have begged, prayed or hoped for a better experience of Sicily. C’s extended family embraced me and treated me as their own. As did friends of her family. Such warmth, kindness, generosity!

We were taken to so many beautiful towns – Ibla – the old part of Ragusa, Modica, Scicli, Noto, Caltogirone – all part of the UNESCO World Heritage listed circle of Baroque towns. All are lovely and each has its own particular baroque character and qualities and its arts and crafts. We went to Syracusa and the Santa Lucia church, where you can see original pillars from the temple of Diana! The history and heritage is amazing.

Sicilians love their country and want to share that love of heritage and culture – without arrogance, but with enthusiasm. And then there’s the FOOD. From the simplest – absolutely the BEST ricotta you will ever taste – through the luscious regional specialties – delicious seafood in coastal towns, special pasta sauces, dolce,  to the resfreshing, reviving spremuta of blood orange. Feeling a bit tired from all the walking and looking at historic sites? Have a freshly squeezed blood orange juice and be reinvigrated.  Family meals were a particluar delight.

And yes, I had to speak Italian. I wanted to learn and I did, although C often had to translate for me. But because I tried to speak Italian, even haltingly,  Sicilians were appreciative and supportive. By the end of the fortnight I was speaking Italian, I would say, like  a four year old Sicilian – una ragazza. Although intelligent four year olds were more fluent and had a larger vocabulary. I’m still studying and learning.

We also went to where they film that great Inspector Montalbano series. We saw the Commissario’s house and other locations. Sicilians love Montalbano – justifiably. Some years ago, I found Montalbano via the films on SBS (Australia) then went in search of the novels by Andrea Camilleri superbly translated by Stephen Sartarelli.

I returned home, with a great love of things Sicilian and of the wonderful people. I’m so grateful to my best friend and her family and friends.  I’m a member of the newly formed Sicilian Association of Australia. The love affair continues.


I prepare and present a radio programme – Best Medicine – on Southern FM Melbourne. After returning from Sicily I had the opportunity to interview Stephen Sartarelli (who was visiting Australia). If you want you can hear that interview. It’s available as a podcast.

Go to then go to podcasts and go to Best Medicine and select the Sartarelli podcast

Radio Pleasures (2)

Radio Pleasures – Some More

It’s always a delight to talk with Robert Rabbin. He walks the ‘high wire’ net free. In any sentence he can range from playful through ironic/self-deprecating to thoughtful and earnest. No bull, no mask. The man lives what he teaches: he is authentic, open, vulnerable and passionate about many things, including helping others to free themselves to live and be truly, joyously, who they are.

In March 2009 I interviewed him about his E-book Sound Bites From Silence (downloadable from his website The hour sped by and I read a Sound Bite (a brief prose poem about/invocation to enter Silence/Meditation). Robert asked me to turn the work into an audiobook. Yes, I was remunerated for my professional work; but that’s not why I’m writing about him or the book.

I worked with a friend – Kenny Layhe, sound engineer extraordinaire, brilliant collaborator, delightful colleague to work with and much more. When we had a version ready for Robert to listen to and critique I contacted him. Robert said he would accept what we gave him – version unheard! An honour, humbling and scary.  Kenny and I had various people listen and give us feedback, before delivering the final version.

Then because Sound Bites From Silence is so important to him, Robert made the audiobook a free download for the first few months. It’s now $9.95 from his website. He’s just not doing it for the money.  Good man.

Robert, Kenny, my dear friend Shirley Randles (Write Now 88.3FM Thursdays 7-8pm)  and I discussed the making of the audiobook on my programme The Best Medicine (88.3FM Tuesdays 11am-noon, also streaming on in December ’09. I’ll be replaying the programme soon.

You can find out more about Robert, his books, many articles, work and much more at:

Kenny Layhe can be contacted at:

Happy New Year and may it be a good, healthful, productive and happy one for you.