The Week: 9th -15th January

canberra-australia-sunny-afternoon-summer-pink-flowers-12th-jannuary-2016-sonya-heaney-blue-sky-hot-day-garden-nature

The only surviving flowers around here, after our heatwave. It was a gorgeous, sunny week.

What a ridiculously hot few days! Every day went into the mid-30s to 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit), and it always feels so much hotter here inland, where it’s still and you don’t get a sea breeze – or much in the way of rain.

julian-calendar-new-year-is-celebrated-in-parts-of-eastern-europe-from-13-14-january-this-is-a-2003-ukrainian-new-year-stamp

2003 stamp for Ukrainian New Year

Happy Old New Year (14th January). Saturday was the day for New Year until the new calendar was brought in, and Ukrainians still recognise it.

40-of-65-killed-in-europeas-extreme-winter-weather-are-in-ukraine

Speaking of Europe, 40 of the 65 people killed in Europe’s extreme winter weather are Ukrainian. And yet I’ve not heard the word “Ukraine” mentioned once on any news story here…

It’s like Europe’s biggest country doesn’t even exist…

Here is the baby magpie I call “Sticks” (because he is still tiny and skinny after months!). This week, and like his other family members, he was so hot he couldn’t close his beak. I fill up bowls of water, front and back, for them every day.

sonyaheaney40-degrees-in-canberra-baby-magpie-too-hot-to-close-its-beak-summer-australiananimals-australia-nature-birds-cbr

It’s going to be a big shock in a few weeks, when we go to Europe, where there’s record snow… EVERYWHERE.

sonyaheaney-cloudy-and-hot-canberra-summer-ontheroad-australia-queanbeyan-cbr

Driving home from Ukrainian New Year drinks (I wasn’t driving!) on Friday afternoon, just before the freak storm hit. You can see how weird the sky already was.

Following the worst of the heat, we were hit by a brief, freak windstorm that brought down trees all over the city, including at Australian Parliament. We’d only just arrived home when it happened – thank goodness we weren’t on the road. This news story about it shows a trampoline go flying through a suburb, and someone’s roof blown off!

a-tree-has-hit-a-car-on-northbourne-avenue-during-a-sudden-windstorm

canberra-windstorm-fells-trees-causes-havoc-across-city-emergency-services-inundated

That’s Federal Parliament in the background!

In other news, I found this story pretty shocking this week:

Pennsylvania school set maths homework on sex abuse of girl.

a-us-school-has-apologised-after-setting-a-maths-questions-that-asked-students-about-a-girl-being-sexually-abused-by-family-members

I’m not even going to start on Trump’s latest acts of stupidity (because, UGH – gross), or the latest nonsense the Kremlin has been on about…

My review of Ruby (Landry #1) by V.C. Andrews

ruby-landry-1-by-v-c-andrews

My review of Slow Dance with the Best Man by Sophie Pembroke

slow-dance-with-the-best-man-by-sophie-pembroke

My review of One Grand Season (A Willowbrook Manor Romance Book 2) by Sarita Leone

one-grand-season-a-willowbrook-manor-romance-book-2-by-sarita-leone

If you want your book reviewed…

Old book bindings at the Merton College library.Old_book_bindings BOOKS

The Golden Globes

claire-foy-at-an-event-for-the-74th-golden-globe-awards-2017

Goodbye, 2016.

Good stuff first, because when I get to thinking back on the year I realise I was sick or injured for much of 2016 (more of that near the end), and unfortunately Putin and Trump still exist!

One good thing: I did quite a lot of travel this year, both nationally and internationally.

IMG_20160607_173230

One of the houses we rented in Southern Italy. Having breakfast and then evening swims there, on a massive property just for us…? A definite highlight of my travels in recent years. Especially after two months of being sick and injured!

Cool things happened, like the fact we accidentally ended up in Spello in Italy during one of the country’s most famous festivals – the Infiorate, where they decorate the entire town with flower petal designs, and well over a hundred-thousand people attend. And we were there by accident, staying in a building that is actually a tourist attraction and part of the event (we didn’t know that when we booked, either!). So odd to be eating breakfast and having tourists coming in with their cameras!

IMG_20160424_173606

Beautiful Lviv, Ukraine. What a pity I was extremely sick for this whole visit!

regular-ssoldiers-lviv-ukraine-sonya-heaney-2016

Hanging out with soldiers in Lviv. They were on a few days’ leave from the war for Easter, and then heading straight back to the warzone. It’s Ukrainian Easter, as you can see by the giant Easter egg in front of the Opera House!

IMG_20160514_131630

Memorials to Ukrainians killed by pro-Russian and actual Russian snipers in the 2013-2014 revolution in Kyiv. The snipers were above the big clock on the ground, and near those trees, and they shot dozens of unarmed civilians.

Building the memorial to the Ukrainians killed by pro-russian and russian dsnipers in Kyiv. Sonya Heaney OKsana. 2016.

More memorials to the dead (it is just being set up in this picture; the Canadian Prime Minister visited soon after). There were also snipers in the hotel on the right of the picture. The brown, wooden, traditional Ukrainian church at the back of the picture is new – part of the memorial – and they had a collection for the war.

vKmLZIug

Plus, Ukraine shocked everyone and won Eurovision while I was in Kyiv – which means Moscow is VERY upset and threatening a boycott for 2017. The winner is a Crimean Tatar who absolutely considers herself Ukrainian.

And literal cool stuff happened: Europe had a shocking summer, which meant we got snow both in our month in Ukraine AND in our month in Italy. It was an interesting “summer” trip!

Rex

Gorgeous, SOFT Rex. I miss him very much!

As I seem to every year now, I had some unexpected animal experiences. Rex and Trixie, two gorgeous cats, moved in next door to be looked after by our neighbours for a year, and for months there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t wake up with Rex sleeping on top of me (the strangest one was being sound asleep and dreaming about something weird and heavy on my stomach, only to lift the covers and find someone else’s cat sound asleep there!).

Rex Burmese Cat Cute

You can literally SEE how soft he is!

I’ve spent the past few years looking after stray cats – and now these cats – but I’m still yet to have a cat of my own. It would be irresponsible when we travel so much.

sonyaheaneyhungry-magpie-visitor-magpie-canberra-australiananimals-bird-australia-spring-funny-cute-cbr-9th-september-2016

Of course, there were also all our crazy native, wild birds who adopt us every spring and summer. Australian magpies (not the same birds as magpies overseas) live for two to three decades, and they think we are part of their family. If I leave my bedroom curtains open they stand there and stare and sing and bash their beaks on the window at me from about 5:30am, to try and get me up to give them a snack.

And – despite all the racism and anti-immigration sentiment in the world at the moment – my cousin’s Turkish fiancé was granted his Australian residency, which meant they could finally marry.

Sonya Heaney Oksana Heaney Mia Jacyshyn Nadia's Wedding. Sydney Australia 6th August 2016.

Hanging out after the wedding on Sydney Harbour (duh!). Me, my mother, and one of my aunts.

Even if most elections in the world (USA, Brexit, and Australia’s federal election, for example) all took a sharp turn to the extremist, far-right, at least here in Canberra we voted for sanity and progression. There don’t seem to be many places left in the world where that is the case. It’s the 1930s again, with the fascist attitudes just before the Second World War on the rise again, and nobody seeming to care.

act-canberra-election-labor-party-victory-abc-news-15th-october-2016

Me being excited and taking a BAD picture of the TV on Canberra’s election night.

Here, the “Liberal” Party is actually our right-wing, conservative party. Our country is weird. And we spell it “Labor” instead of Labour because more than a century ago some US politician came here and told us we have to use American English if we want to be progressive. And so we did…

Andrew Barr is one of the few openly gay political leaders… well, anywhere, as far as I know. I am proud to be from Canberra when most of Australia is so fascist these days.

I AM thoroughly tired of voting, however. It is compulsory here, and so I have been voting, or been spammed by politics, all year. Even on our trip to Italy they were campaigning for the local elections, and I got caught up in it!

Now, the BAD stuff…

People have called 2016 “the worst year ever”, but I’m not sure that’s accurate. It was a terrible year for people in English-speaking countries who aren’t fans of fascism, but for the people really suffering in the world at the moment, it all began long before this year. The war in Syria has been going a long time. Russia invaded Ukraine 2.5 years ago, and there were already millions of refugees (including in my own family) long before the year began. It’s old news now, but people never care until it is all about THEM, and 2016 was the year bad stuff touched the countries people consider to “matter”.

3rd-debate-putin-and-trump-together

However, what a frightening year! I’m thoroughly sick of the whole topic of Trump, Putin and all their cronies. People are becoming more misogynistic, bigoted, and racist. People are becoming more selfish, and care nothing at all for anybody beyond their own countries’ borders.

But hey – I’ve been saying that for years!

Norcia Italy Sonya Oksana Heaney June 2016

norcia-earthquake-destruction-30th-october-2016

Poor Norcia, before and after earthquakes. It is one of my favourite places in the world, and now it is destroyed (the top picture is mine, from June this year.)

What makes me sad about 2016 is the destruction. The natural disasters. I am starting to think I’m a curse on famous landmarks around the world. I was in Christchurch in New Zealand right before the city was destroyed in an earthquake. Before that, (though this one isn’t a natural disaster), I was living in Korea right before a madman burnt down their most famous landmark, the Namdaemun gate, a place I visited about every second weekend.

And now? All those earthquakes that destroyed the centre of Italy happened in all the places I visited this year.

2016 wasn’t all bad, but it seems as though my months in Ukraine and Italy happened years ago, not months ago. My family in Ukraine is suffering very badly, and the older ladies in the family are sick or have just died. The Russian invasion continues.

The more I think about it, the more I remember I was badly sick and/or injured for almost the whole year, from a dislocated knee in Sydney, to a broken hand in Italy, to a ruptured eardrum that left me deaf for the whole month I was in Ukraine, to a terrible disease (the Kremlin is importing illnesses into Ukraine as part of their warfare), where I literally could not speak AT ALL for weeks – that made meeting strangers fun (and at a few points it was incredibly embarrassing)! Plus, I had some painful eye problems (my eyesight is so weak, and my contact lens prescription so strong, that optometrists just about have a heart attack every time I go to a new person). Then on top of all of that I’ve started eating a gluten-free diet because I was becoming nauseous and faint from eating like a regular person. I miss all my favourite foods and drinks!

What a mess! I sound like a drama queen…

I guess the best word to describe 2016 is “dramatic”. Or maybe even “melodramatic”. I think we all learnt a few upsetting, hard truths about our fellow humans. From the neo-Nazi murdering Jo Cox – and it still not having any influence over the Brexit result, to the Russian football hooligans who went on violent and murderous rampages in France, to the terror attacks pretty much everywhere, to the fact so many millions of Americans who disrespect women so much they voted for “grab her by the pussy”, this year we learnt that the average human being isn’t as decent as we’d hoped they were.

I’d like to say 2017 will be better, but I’m not so sure about that… I do wonder where all these monsters are, however. Because, from the people I see regularly at my favourite cafés and bars, to the American tourists I met in Italy who are ashamed of Trump (including those from Republican states), I seem to mostly meet decent people. Where is this silent majority ruining it for the rest of us??

Christmas Bird!

Tomorrow will be one year since we were doing our Christmas baking, and one of our friendly magpies spent the entire afternoon standing at our back door and listening to the ballet music from The Nutcracker. I’ve never before seen a bird do such a stupid pose! I only have a short video here. I wish I’d taken a longer one, but I was too busy.