Things I’ve been reading: October 2016

Racism, Asylum Seekers, Australia

As one of the many Australians who want to see our country’s treatment of asylum seekers be more reflective of humane, human rights-affirming, healing action, it can be a source of constant despair to read about our nation’s treatment of people who are fleeing wars. It seems that the vocal majority are opposed to assisting asylum seekers.


Video: Emerging Christianity

This quote grabbed my attention (transcribed by me as well as I could from this video, around the 18-19 minute mark): “We are this unique period of history that has benefited from this marvellous gift called the written word. We’ve got to know that that has not been true for most of history. And we’re just a little window of time. And we fell in love with it. Even though we were the religion of the Word that became flesh, we returned the compliment, we said, ‘we prefer the word.’ … At the heart of what we’re calling emerging Christianity is this rediscovery of orthopraxy … over merely five hundred more years of argumentation about verbal orthodoxy.”


EDIT: (17 December 2015): Unfortunately due to the fact that these video links are derived from external sources, I can’t guarantee that they will remain available after I’ve shared them. However, I hope the Fr Richard Rohr quote I transcribed from the video will still be helpful to readers.

Currently Reading


Here are the books currently taking up space in my reading pile. The top three are from the library and I’m yet to make any real progress in them. On the bottom, I’m borrowing a friend’s copy of Surprised By Hope. I bought Human Universe by Professor Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen just recently and so far it’s incredible. Tales from the Dead of Night: Thirteen Classic Ghost Stories, selected by Cecily Gayford, was my birthday present to myself last year and it is fantastic. It includes ghost stories by such authors as E. Nesbit, Ruth Rendell and Rudyard Kipling. This is my third time reading through the collection, many of which come from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. There is just something about the way late 19th Century writers composed their tales that really draws me in. Without having intended it, I have found that roughly half of my most-favourite books come from Europe in the 19th Century, usually Russia and England, but some from other countries, too.

Hence the fact I picked up the 1830s and 1840s short story collection by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (or, if you prefer the Ukrainian translation of his name, Mykola Vasyliovych Hohol). Now, I won’t enter into the debate of his ethnicity or nationality, as those discussions are beyond me. Because my husband is part-Ukrainian I find it interesting learning about Eastern Slavic history, and have found that these old Russian novels are a really interesting insight into the culture. I particularly love the writings of Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov are novels that were life-changing for me.

So far I haven’t read much of Gogol’s works. I have read some of Dead Souls though I’m fairly certain I never finished that. I have also watched two different film adaptations of his story Viy (Вий), a somewhat terrifying horror story. The 1967 film is said to be quite faithful to the original story, which I haven’t yet read. I also saw the 2014 version at a Russian film festival held at ACMI in Melbourne, Australia. I must’ve been one of five non-Slavic people in the whole audience (the others being a handful of our Anglo-Celt and Anglo-Asian friends – I love our multicultural city!). The 2014 film had rather steam punk vibes about it, and plot-wise had some similarities with the 1967 film, but only loosely so, and was a mix of Russian, Ukrainian and English elements. It also, in my mind, inspired moustache goals that I have since insisted the Husband fulfil. He’s not convinced.

The other two books on the pile, The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the lost world of the Celts by Graham Robb is, as far as I can see, a history of Ancient Gaul and Druidry and the spread of Christianity through ancient Europe. Where Song Began: Australia’s birds and how they changed the world by Tim Low is an evolutionary history of the unique and diverse birdlife of our continent. I look forward to delving into these books.


Cox, B. and Cohen, A. (2015). Human Universe. London: WilliamCollins.

Gayford, C. (2013). Tales from the dead of night: thirteen classic ghost stories. London: Profile Books.

Gogol, N. (translation from 2014). Petersburg tales. Richmond, UK: Alma Classics.

Low, T. (2014). Where song began: Australia’s birds and how they changed the world. Melbourne, Australia: Penguin.

Robb, G. (2013). The discovery of Middle Earth: mapping the lost world of the Celts. New York: WW Norton & Company.

Wright, T. (2007). Surprised by hope. London: SPCK.

Genealogy Bits and Pieces

My younger sister and I have both had a long held interest in genealogy and history. Why, I can’t explain, but we both studied history at university and we have both attempted to trace the family tree. However, in this case most credit ought to go to my sister because she’s the one who’s done the most work.

Both sides of our families have done a good job handing down the stories of our family through the generations. We have a strong picture of where our family came from and how it got here, to Australia. Our ethnic heritage would be best described as Anglo-Celtic. That is, a lot of our ancestors are English, and the rest are a mix of Welsh, Irish, Scottish and French. Our grandmother once told me that some of her ancient ancestors were Spanish people who somehow came to Scotland (something to do with the Spanish Armada in the 16th Century, apparently).

I’ve been assured that there are early representatives of our family mentioned somewhere in the Domesday Book,[1] which was a survey of England published in AD 1086[2]. But I haven’t worked out who or where they are and my understanding is that at some point there was a shift in the spelling – apparently the name is a variant on Solomon.

A member of our family was in the employ of Captain Cook[3] when he sailed to Australia and another member of that same family, my direct ancestor, later turned up on Australian soil as a convict and squatter[4].

On another branch of my ancestry are early English settlers in Melbourne, Australia, and I have been to a few of the family reunions to meet distant cousins who were also descended from that line.[5]

One of the more interesting revelations (to me) in our explorations of our ancestry was my sister’s recent (October 2014) uncovering of a direct line to English royalty – King Henry I of England,[6] son of King William the Conqueror. Somehow my sister has managed to plot out our paternal ancestry in a direct line to them. That is, King William is my grandfather x30 generations[7] (I guess this makes Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II[8] my really, really, really distant cousin… unfortunately too distant for me to be included in any royal inheritance, bummer[9],[10]). One of the things that really surprised me was to discover that Grandad Conqueror – as I now think of him, obviously – was also a Viking.[11],[12] Suddenly I’ve uncovered this branch of Norsemen in my ancestry that I’d kind of hoped were there as a convenient means of explaining my otherwise inexplicable intense fascination with Norse mythology and Viking metal music and Beowulf and all that. What I wasn’t expecting was that at some point my family would be able to trace a name-by-name line to English and Norwegian Viking royalty. So, it’s pretty cool for my sister and I to see where our ancestors fit into history.

Apparently it’s not that unusual for English people to have King William appear in their genealogies but still, I think it’s kind of fun to trace the path our family has taken as it weaves through history. I guess next step would be to find some of the great Celtic warriors somewhere in there.


William the Conqueror

References / Further Reading (all links here accessed 20 October 2014)

[1] http://www.royal.gov.uk/HistoryoftheMonarchy/KingsandQueensofEngland/TheNormans/TheNormans.aspx

[2] http://www.domesdaybook.co.uk/

[3] http://www.captaincooksociety.com/home/detail/ralph-jackson-s-diary-part-5-richard-pickersgill

[4] http://friendsofchurchillisland.org.au/xoops/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=05

[5] http://www.headfamilyau.org/

[6] http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/normans_3.htm

[7] http://www.britroyals.com/kings.asp?id=william1

[8] http://www.history.com/news/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-queen-elizabeth-ii

[9] http://www.royal.gov.uk/ThecurrentRoyalFamily/Successionandprecedence/Overview.aspx

[10] http://www.britroyals.com/succession.htm

[11] http://mymedievalgenealogy.blogspot.com.au/2009/04/viking-ancestry-of-william-conqueror.html

[12] http://www.englishmonarchs.co.uk/dukes_of_normandy.htm