Interesting Women: Arts and Letters Report


By Jennifer Ann Davies

NCWQ Arts and Letters Adviser

Catharina Ingel-Sundberg is a stunning Swedish Woman; a former journalist and marine archaeologist, who now works full-time as an author!

Catharina has woven her individual appeal into an unusual range of genres, infusing them all with a wonderful depth of insight, a grand sense of humour and an entertaining sense of surprise!

“The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules” defies today’s harsh rationalism, and re-defines boundaries, rules, traditions and social mores!

This novel, which deplores the “…harsh savings on elderly care…” and celebrates “…the older people (who) have built today’s society….and made it possible for many….to have a good life….” IS full of humour and nonsense – yet it is also a strong protest against a society that has forgotten human values.

Interest in, and sales of, the novel, suggest thematic universality!!!

Translated from the Swedish by Rod Bradbury, this quirky, humorous and warm-hearted story about growing old disgracefully, is simply an Adventure in itself!

79-year old Martha Andersson dreams of escaping her care home….She and her friends decide to rebel against the regulations imposed on them…

A warm and wonderful Adventure! – Pan Books: 2012 – This novel has a wide range of titles, as diverse as ourselves and our cultures…

Swedish:          Kaffe med Ran = Coffee and Robbery            Icelandic:         Kaffi og Ran

German:          Wir Fangen Gerade Erst An = We’ve Only Started Now

Italian:             La Banda Degli Insoliti Ottantenni = You Cannot Trust the 80 year Olds!

Norwegian:     Svindel Og Multelikor = Crookery and Cloudberry Liquer

Spanish:           La Bolsa o la Vida = The Money or Your Life

Dutch:              Je Geld of Je Leven !!!

Q: What do you hope the readers will take away from reading about Martha and the gang?

Catharina Ingelman-Sundberg:

“I want them to take care of the old, take care of each other, to remember human values, and most of all to enjoy life…”


The 2014 St John’s Greek Festival was bigger and better than any I have seen since my return to the Far North!

The Cypriot Dance Group from Brisbane joined local performers, to enhance the Entertainment programme.

With exotic, beautiful strains and flavours of Zorba, fetta, Belly dancing and olives, the evolution of this Festival parallels the evolution of multiculturalism in the Region!

…Pardon! – haven’t yet had my Souvlakia!…


I had written of Paulo Coelho in my last Report, then his name caught my eye, yet again, in a very brief promotion of Robin Sharma’s “Life Lessons from the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari”…

In addition to potent, yet simple guidelines to staying strong, to simplifying our lives; beating procrastination and living a “…truly rich life…” – this dynamic author, leadership coach, husband and dad, weaves his text together with succinct quotes from the world’s great writers. Harper Collins, London, 2013.

Sharma, like many other observers of and thinkers about contemporary Life, mourns….   “…we live in a time when human beings have never been less connected. We have lost touch with our humanity….we have lost sight of the things that matter the most…” p.1

The profound impact of this relatively simple writing, is in the exquisitely effective, apt extracts, quotes or words of grand females and males, who have spoken, over time, from their own humanity!

Aldous Huxley, on his deathbed – “Let us be kinder to one another…” p.4 – Aristotle taught ‘learning by doing’… p.9 ; Mother Theresa, with whom my wonderful friend, Anja van Hooydonk worked – “…there should be less talk…what do you do then? Take a broom and clean someone’s house. THAT says enough!…” p.13

A small treasury of thinkers and writers abounds, deliciously apt, relevant, timeless….Euripides, Herodotus, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Aurelius, Henry David Thoreau, Chuang-Tzu, James Allen, Hazrat Inayat Khan, Mark Twain, Leo Rosten, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, Woodrow Wilson, William Wordsworth, Rainer Maria Rilke, Julia Cameron, Blaise Pascal, Plato….etc and etc and etc!!

The abundance, however, does not obscure the wisdom, relevance or simplicity of the ‘Life Lessons’. There exists a delightful symbiosis between the ‘borrowed’ words from great writers and thinkers and the gift and usefulness offered in the book.

Endorsing the simplicity, usefulness and livingness of the text, Emma Goldman once noted: “…I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my neck…” p.148; whilst L.F. Phelan said: “…Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul…” p.194. H.G. Wells endorsed the underpinnings of Phelan’s writing, when he wrote: “…Man must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind him to the fact that each moment….is a miracle and a mystery…”p.197.    Enjoy!

Thematic ‘swells’ in Literature, Live Theatre, Visual Art and Music and Song!

In our world of Arts and Letters, there seems to be a huge ‘swell’ of action, commentary and visual symbology, shouting out for more kindness, for a common humanity, for a retrieval of historically traditional social mores. There is also a stronger-than-ever ‘swell’ embracing multiculturalism, in very practical, everyday ways; eliminating the cruel racism and bias of the times in which many of us grew up! This thematic ‘swell’ in the Arts is hugely generated by Women, one notes, and may, perhaps, be attributed to the fact that many of us have lived longer than our mothers and grandmothers, and have available to us, more freedoms, different modes of transmitting information, traditions, personal and/or generational histories.

Additionally, many of us have allowed ourselves to become bolder, in voicing our own humanity; in condemning those who do not demonstrate this humanity; in performing, live, the joys and the pain; the everyday realities of so many, and in celebrating the very, very ordinary in the visual arts – a fallen leaf, a lonely tea-cup, a small child’s tear-drop, a very old diary……

I love this ‘swell’! – I also wish to comment, right here and right now, that I am very proud to be part of the National Women’s Council and I love exploring, observing and writing my Reports. I have taken some long service leave from my school for this term, and will be in Europe through August and will not return until AFTER the AGM. My apologies in advance.

Still ‘tracing’ this theme, in literature, I am currently reading “An exceptional collection of personal stories on the meaning of ‘home’…….” In this poignant and heartfelt collection, several Australian writers explore the meaning of ‘home’, which inevitably leads to an examination of self and identity – of the dichotomies between contentions that ‘home’ can be nurturing or full of quiet pain…..fleeting…places…or eternal anchors….

Rosaleen Love writes of the Irish experience, with its hardship and its beauty… She cites histories of Connemara, boycotts, romanticised songs, legends and stories; emigration and pre-Vatican 11 Catholicism! Love sees ‘Home Sweet Home’ as a ‘song of exile’…., yet she weaves her historicity with that of Sydney, Australian-ness, and the 1950’s when our country was “…a quiet homogeneous place…” p.31 ; when something Chinesey was an exciting purchase from the Double Dragon restaurant, and when The Argonauts Club was announced by an ABC radio announcer, who always sounded like an Englishman!

What infuses Love’s essay, however, is the warmth, the connected-ness to a birthplace, ancestors’ cottage, family histories and music and song. It is the music and song that Love sees as solace….She writes: “…such is the power of music that it moves into the place of profound emptiness, allows for the experience of loss…..then ultimately, grants solace…” p.26

It is precisely at this point of connection that one senses the strongest humanity, the deepest caring, the ultimate connectedness….. and…the ‘swell’ that embraces multiculturalism, generating…..

Gabrielle Lord’s essay is also profound, written in Jerusalem and infused with strains of the powerful hymn, which my own mother used to sing in public – The Holy City (Jerusalem) – composed by Michael Maybrick, 1844-1913).

Lord’s essay is exceptionally interesting, for, as a very young child of a medical doctor, she was sent away to boarding school – sent away from home…and she remembered that her hero was Peter Pan, whose mother nailed shut the window one night when he flew away into the night….. Lord felt angry, sad, alienated, rejected and very, very lost because of her boarding-school experiences….These feelings were in direct contrast to those experienced on her return ‘home’ for school holidays!

For Lord, an Australian resident, staying for a time in Jerusalem, the strains of the aged hymn: “…the gates were open wide…/ …and all who would might enter, and no one was denied…” p.58, meant “…that everyone, even me, was welcome…..(this) …is an exhilarating example of generosity, acceptance and redemption. For me, home is anchored in a sense of unquestioned belonging – of acceptance. A deep sense of everything being understood, accepted and forgiven. Within and without….”

For readers, “Home Truth”, edited by Carmel Bird conveys, beautifully, in variegated ways, the quintessence of our common humanity, which includes ‘belonging’. Harper Collins Publishers Australia: 2010.


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