A Single Story…

I had the enormous privilege of seeing Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie speak about her latest novel last week. I knew nothing about her except that she was Nigerian and that she had written a book I’d loved (Americanah 2014 #29 in The Book Nook). I left the event 90 minutes later inspired and wanting to know more.

Today I watched Chimimanda’s TED talk, The Danger of a Single StoryThroughout she talks about how limiting and how damaging a single story or viewpoint about a person can be, that it creates stereotypes that while not necessarily incorrect, are more often than not incomplete. That a single story creates presumption rather than openness, a potential wall of prejudice in our relationships with one another as human beings. She told of her own single stories, blown apart by having the opportunity to see things from a different perspective and also of the single stories about herself, experienced through the eyes of others.

It made me think more about single stories and one of the most extreme and damaging of all time – the Nazi ‘story’ about the Jews. Scary stuff.

It also made me think about the single stories about me: each twist of my kaleidescope reveals a potential single story – laconic Aussie, 40-something woman, single lady, career woman, Dutch pragmatist just to name a few. Even so, the whole is so much more than just the sum of all of these.

Then there are my single stories about others and I began thinking about how this starts with our parents. We see them as Mum and Dad and then they become ‘people’ as we get more and more perspective about them. How my Dad went from the person I thought was my biggest critic to someone who was more proud of me than I ever knew. How my Mum continues to be one of the strongest and most inspiring women I know, rising to every challenge and finding strength of purpose again and again in making a difference. 

I was even thinking beyond people to my original single story about London and how every discovery I make about it both enriches my experience of living here and deepens my love for this amazing city. 

It made me think about my reading of Americanah as my first dip into ‘Nigeria’ and how much I loved it and took the story to heart. And how this was my single story until I saw Chimimanda speak both on Thursday night and today on her TED talk. 

And as I only read it three weeks ago, it made me think (not for the first time) that life has the ability to transform when you read.

So that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.


Here we are at the first day of September. Summer has ended (although it’s rather sunshine-y at Gidday HQ today) and Autumn will start its annual pilgrimage across the northern hemisphere, creeping in with nippy mornings and shorter days. The leaves will…

…hang on. Stop right there. This is not meant to be a post about Autumn!

Take 2:

Here we are at the first day of September. And today is Father’s Day in Australia.

So in honour of celebrating the man that is my Dad and warm the cockles of your hearts, I though it was time to do a little roasting….Gidday-style.

Let’s start at…well, the start.  Here’s where it all began for us…

There’s an ‘okay now what do I do with this?’ look here.

But soon he got into the swing of things…blowing out candles (an important life skill even today)…

…and giving fatherly advice (while I practise my ‘whatever’ look).

The decades flashed by and a few years ago, Dad swapped the city for a life roaming around the countryside.

This was taken in New Zealand but I have seen many a similar picture of Dad-and-Stepmum in Down Under’s very own great outdoors.

His days now consist of travelling to outback properties and national parks around Australia, ‘homestead-sitting’, painting, mending fences – generally lending a hand wherever needed – and visiting family and friends, whether they may be other itinerants or those of more fixed abode. Dad even put his new-found construction skills to work at Christmas, stepping up to the challenge of making this for our Christmas Day host…

…and seemed rather pleased to consider some liquid refreshment after the big unveiling.

Dad’s also become quite the photographer and newsletters are often filled with amazing pictures of the local flora and fauna he finds on their travels. But it’s a dangerous job you know – not at all for the faint-hearted…
And nor has it been to have two rather independent and opinionated daughters living a few hours flight away for most of our lives. Which is why our recent frolicking about in old Melbourne Town last December was such a great testament to the passing of the years and the changes in our relationship…
…because growing up, I would never have credited Dad with photobombing! (By the way, that’s me on the left with Lil Chicky and the old man.)

So there’s only one thing left to do and that is to say Happy Father’s Day to my old man.

May you keep finding ways to surprise us all.

Father’s Days…Or Should That Be Daze?

Today we will be taking a little break from my recent travels to explore the concept of Father’s Day.

It’s been prompted by the fact that the UK and the US (and a lot of other countries apparently) celebrate today yet we Aussies wait until the first Sunday in September to pay tribute to the Old Man

It doesn’t even align with Mother’s Day, which we celebrate on the second Sunday in May (same as the US) almost 2 months later than here in the UK. It’s mighty confusing. And in pondering this very issue out loud with my hairdresser yesterday, I made a pledge (she did have scissors in her hand at the time) that getting to the bottom of this sticky question would be my priority for the remainder of the weekend.

Father’s Day is a relative newcomer to the ‘holiday’ calendar (although who gets a holiday?) first appearing in the USA 102 years ago when, following a sermon in Spokane in 1909, a young parishioner, who had lost her mother in 1898, asked for a way to honour her father. Originally suggesting her father’s birthday, the 5th June, the eventual date was set for 19th June 1910. And whilst Father’s Day was born, it took until 1972 for it to take hold when Lyndon Baynes-Johnson declared the third Sunday in June a national holiday.

The third Sunday in June is the Father’s Day of choice for many countries – USA, UK, India, Canada, China, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Switzerland and Turkey. But other countries choose different dates to honour fatherhood. Russia celebrated on 23rd February this year and Thailand will take its turn on the 5th December. Spain, Belgium and Italy celebrated on the 19th March, Germany on May 17th (always on Ascension Day the Thursday forty days after Easter) and Sweden will on the second Sunday in November. South Korea had Parent’s Day on the 8th of May (so one day for all parents instead of two separate days) and Brazil will celebrate the day of fathers on the second Sunday in August.

You can see why expat life can be very confusing.

For the record, Australia and New Zealand pay tribute honour make an effort on the first Sunday in September. I have googled and googled and there is nothing that tells me why this is – which makes for a rather uninteresting and pointless post. So I decided to look at what else happened on the 2nd September in the vain hope of finding something.  No cigar but here are a few of the more interesting things I found:

In 44BC Pharaoh Cleopatra VII of Egypt declared her son co-ruler as Ptolemy XV Caesarion.
In 911 Viking-monarch Oleg of Kiev-Russia signed a treaty with Byzantines
In 1666 the Great Fire of London began in Pudding Lane
In 1859 gas lighting was introduced to Hawaii
In 1929 Unilever was formed by merger of Margarine Union & Lever Bros
In 1945 Japan formally surrendered to the Allies, bringing an end to World War II
In 1969 the first ATM to be installed in America started dispensing cash at Chemical Bank in New York City.
In 1993 South Africa celebrated its Day of Peace

In 2003 it was happy 100th birthday to the Harley-Davidson motorcycle
And in 2011 Apple won in court in Dusseldorf banning the sale of the Samsung Galaxy Tablet in Germany   

And what about 2012?  Well, Venice (the one in Italy) will stage their annual regata storica parade as prelude to the regatta, Vietnam will celebrate its national day, the inaugural Poptronik Festival will take place in Sitges, Spain and the annual Butter Trail Run will be held at Tatamagouche, California.

In the UK, the Christchurch Medieval Festival in Co. Dorset happens over first weekend in September, the 22nd Stormin’ the Castle at Witton Castle, Co Durham will be winding down, while England and South Africa will play cricket at Lords and Olly Murs will play Chelmsford.

And at Gidday HQ, I’ll be wishing my Dad a Happy Father’s Day…again.

So to my old man, hope you have had a brilliant Father’s Day (in-waiting).