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Life. Be in it

"Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced."

Soren Kierkegaard

I came across this lovely photo of my two little boys, now middle-aged family men, the other day. It seemed to me to encapsulate so beautifully the logo of the Life. Be in it campaign on the T-shirts they are wearing .

I also thought how relevant that particular logo is to the times we live in.

Do you remember that campaign - back in the 70s? Wikipedia says it began in Victoria in 1975, the brainchild of Brian Dixon, Minister for Youth, Sport and Recreation and a former AFL player. But it must have lasted for some time, for the younger of my two was born in 1975 and he is certainly more than a newborn in this picture - 2 or even maybe 3? Indeed I think it went on well into the 21st century, although rather more low key than in its initial manifestation. Technically speaking I think it still exists, although I suspect it is just in a holding pattern. A name that can be reused.

The campaign was squarely aimed at getting people to get off their couches and go and play a sport of some kind. The central cartoon character of the campaign was a fat slob called Norm - the cartoons and the character being the joint brainchild of Phillip Adams and Alex Stitt. It was extremely successful in that it was highly recognised everywhere and spread out from Victoria to the rest of Australia, and the world, but whether it got people playing sport I don't know. Judging by our current obesity problem, sadly one would have to say no.

Interestingly I would say that by contrast, our current dire circumstance of lockup, has meant that more people are out exercising than ever before. To be fair, I guess, this may be because all of the gym junkies and team sports enthusiasts, indeed sports enthusiasts of any kind, are unable to pursue their usual activities and so are going out walking, jogging or cycling instead. I'm not sure though as most of the people I encounter on my walks around town do not look to me to be sporty. They are mostly couples or even families out with their dog and their bikes or scooters. So maybe it takes a disaster to make people go outside. They might see somebody other than themselves. And it's one of the few ways they are actually allowed to go out.

This morning was my book group which is of relevance to this topic in two ways. The book itself - Tracy Chevalier's A Single Thread, because amongst the many things it presented, were the difficulties of life as a single woman in the nineteen thirties. The answer to the problem being, in general, to join in - to get out there and meet people, learn a new skill, participate. And there we also were - a group of 'old ladies' enjoying an hour or so of community and the sharing of ideas. And again, in these difficult times, perhaps people are communicating on a bigger scale than they might do in ordinary life. Handicapped of course, by not being in the physical presence of those other people, and by a time limit, but that in itself heightens the level of discourse perhaps. And people are reaching out to others via Facebook et al., by email, by old-fashioned phone even with people with whom they do not communicate in 'ordinary' times. I for one have reconnected with my English cousin, have met, virtually, a previously unknown relative of my husbands, and spoken and emailed to friends overseas and remote from Eltham, more frequently than I would otherwise do.

As to food and 'Life. be in it' - well that's where life is is it not? Without food we are dead. Literally. Food is life. And in these troubled times it seems that people are turning to food. Not always in a good way I guess. When despair hits one often turns to food for consolation - chocolate, chips, cakes and biscuits. Alcohol too of course. But it seems people are cooking more - that's what the supermarket statistics show - and they are cooking with their children and husbands. The whole family is involved. Which has to be a good thing doesn't it?

They even say that in future houses will be designed differently with the kitchen as focus. Well the kitchen has really always been the focus albeit a more cramped one. We have built a few houses in our time and each time we have tried to set up an area for the children to play. And where do they play? In the kitchen - or next to it if there is space. In my youth I went to a few parties, and the kitchen was always the most packed place. Because where the kitchen is there is food - and drink and at home there is mum - nowadays dad too. It's where people gather. Jane Grigson was aware of this back in 1971 when she wrote her wonderful book Good Things.

Her introduction is prefaced by this lovely drawing by M.J. Mott - perhaps her own kitchen and in the Introduction you will find this passage:

"kitchens should be thought of as the centre of the house. They need above all space for talking, playing, bringing up children, sewing, having a meal, reading, sitting and thinking. One may have to walk about a bit, but where's the harm in that? Everything will not be ship-shape, galley-fashion, but it's in this kind of place that good food has flourished. It's from this secret retreat that the exploration of man's curious and close relationship with food, beyond the point of nourishment can start." Jane Grigson - Good Things

Life, in fact. The occupations listed may now be different - no sewing, and lots of computer space required, but the principle still holds.

So perhaps a little ironically, because the Life. Be in it, campaign was aimed at getting you to play sport and not at sitting on the couch eating chips and drinking beer, I am saying that Life, with a capital L, can be found in your kitchen. Well some of it, no lots of it. Yes, you should get out there too, if only for a walk. But mainly - you should join in. You should do stuff, not just play sudoku, which I sometimes pathetically do, or shut yourself in your room and feel sorry for yourself.

I found some quotes - of course.

"There'll be two dates on your tombstone and all your friends will read 'em but all that's gonna matter is that little dash between 'em." Kevin Welch

"When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me'." Erma Bombeck

"Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you're alive, it isn't." Richard Bach

"May you live all the days of your life."

Jonathan Swift

Together - that's the important thing. These are the children of those two little boys at the top of the page. Embarking on the journey like their happy dads before them.


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