Julie Boulton

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My lovely children have spent the past month making presents. Some are great. Some are not so great. Some are wacky. Some are, in fact, so wacky that it is proving challenging to wrap them. But the kids are committed, very committed – in a concerningly angry way – to wrapping their wacky presents and placing them underneath a collection of fake twigs that are supposed to resemble a Finnish Silver Birch and that we bought in an attempt to inject some Scandinavian cool into our lives. I’ve got a problem with the wrapping though (not the fake twigs) because, as any of you would know, if you are genuinely trying to go green then you have a definite dislike of wrapping paper. 

Luckily, I have a wrapping box at home. My mum had one of these. It was a cardboard box in which she would store half used rolls of Christmas wrapping, scraps of other wrapping collected during the year and rolls of tape that you could never find the beginning of. She kept it in the junk cupboard in the hallway and, more often than not, the vacuum cleaner had been thrown on top of the box which meant that, when you finally located the wrapping paper, it was an almost un-useable squashed mess. Growing up, I had visions that I would own a house that would contain a beautiful, stylish wrapping basket which would contain only the finest wrapping paper, twine washi tape. This triumph of interior design would sit casually underneath a wooden desk in the corner of the room which is where I would sit (dressed in an apron) to lovingly wrap presents for my clean, well-mannered children. If I could time travel back to my younger self who thought this was a valid aspiration, I would, most likely, pinch myself. Very hard.  

Like my Mum, my wrapping box lives in the cupboard in the kitchen, surrounded (crushed) by all sorts of other useful things. In it, I keep wrapping paper and gift bags salvaged from presents the kids receive precisely so that we can refuse to buy new. We wrap from that stash and hope that the wrap gets re-used again and again and again. Should we ever run out (which is happening right now as the kids keep making more and more gifts) we resort to newspaper, brown paper lunch bags, home decorated paper from sketch books, re-useable fabric and, when desperate, no wrapping at all (a ribbon tied straight onto the gift can still be a successful wrap I say). Utilising any of these options surely means that you can keep your green credentials. 

As the kids continue wrapping right now, it seems also apt for me to wrap up this newsletter for 2018. Half of me thinks that it might be time to wrap up this newsletter for good. Husband would like that very much as he hates my Tuesday late nights and my Wednesday 4am starts, not so much because I am awake at those times and, therefore, so is he, but because I am just a little stressed at these times every week as I edit (and re-edit) the contents of this newsletter. But, the other half of me loves the fact that this newsletter is already one and-a- half years old and I’m intrigued to see where it could go, (taking it outside of my bedroom would be a good start). Options could include shifting it from a weekly missive to a monthly edition or perhaps turning it into a podcast, something that could be a reality now that I am working from home and have only myself for company. 

An advantage of a podcast is that I could turn it into a mini radio show, and could then intersperse content with the song that I am currently obsessed with. I think I have written before that I have a habit when writing of listening obsessively to one song over and over again. It is something to do with background repetitive music encouraging or facilitating work flow (and it is scientifically proven to be a thing). So, if I “podded”, I could introduce you to my song of the moment. Given that the right song at the right time is a powerful emotive force which, when used correctly, like at your child’s Grade 6 Graduation last week, will move you to tears, (somewhat embarrassing, especially when your graduating child is not crying and you are not so much crying but sobbing), playing just the right song could amplify the message of my newsletter in ways that punctuation never could. 

The incredible power that music wields was on my mind when I started creating this week’s newsletter. Because this will be the last newsletter for the year, (or possibly forever), I had already intended that this week would be a recap all of the topics I have covered. But, given the Grade 6 graduation video was fresh in my mind – where the teacher had cleverly matched the year in pictures to The Script’s ‘Hall of Fame’ so as to really ram home the point that our kids are moving on – I thought I would try to also be clever and match this year’s newsletter topics to songs.

My middle child has got into song writing this year (and I love it – and her). One masterpiece from her was a song about a potato. The potato became friends with a carrot and a tomato and the song explains how the potato tries to roll off the table to avoid being eaten. I like this song. However, if all I told you was that the song was called Vegetable Party you wouldn’t understand that the song was about saving the potato. You need the lyrics to really understand the broader message (for Vegetable Party it is that my daughter really loves potatoes). The same goes for the Hall of Fame song, the soundtrack to the Grade 6 graduation video montage. The add on top of that the images of our kids while listening to the song’s lyrics (which remind me slightly of Dr Seuss) and you could not help but cry.   

You can be the best. You can move a mountain. Dedicate yourself and you can find yourself. Do it for your people. Do it for your pride. How you ever gonna know if you never even try? Be believers. Be leaders. Be astronauts. Be champions. Be truth seekers.

Because this newsletter is more about words than images, (I did think about filming myself doing interpretive dance for you but then decided that wiuld be slighty creepy), I decided that, in order to really pull at your heart strings, I needed to include some of the lyrics from the songs I have chosen, along with my interpretations of those lyrics, to ensure that you comprehend what it is that I am trying to convey. And, because, I want to make you cry. Actually I don’t really, I just want to encourage a moment or two of reflection. Here goes. (Note that food waste, composting and eco-friendly wines have not been included here. I tried hard but could not find any appropriate songs to match these issues,)

Newsletter topics: recycling, making people recycle and National Recycling Week

Song 1: Regurgitator, I like your old stuff better than your new stuff 

  • Please become what you were before (recycle people, recycle)

  • I like your old stuff better than your new stuff (don’t buy)

  • My whole world’s cheap and phony (new, cheap, stuff generally is)

  • Dear hearts get lost and lonely (purchasing won’t help improve your mood)

Song 2: Peking Duk, Fake Magic 

  • I see you, you got all this stuff (we’re all too focused on consumption)

  • I feel you cause it never looks like enough (at some point it has to be?)

  • So give me it, I’ll throw it away (but I will first or consider re-using, repairing or recycling)

Newsletter topics: single use plastic, plogging, a dead whale, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and a guilt trip

Song: Whitney Houston, I will always love you 

  • If I should stay, I would only be in your way (This is the plastic telling us that it doesn’t want to leave but it knows that its time is almost up)

  • So I’ll go, but I know I’ll think of you every step of the way (This is the plastic saying it will leave but it will really still be with all of us forever because we have not yet worked out how to rid ourselves of the evil stuff

BTW: This song choice is not because I sang this with some work friends last Thursday night when I finally found a karaoke bar in Canberra. Michelle and Christine - I’m back baby!! 

Newsletter topic: failing my 2018 New Year’s Resolution to not buy clothes 

Song 1: Madonna, Nobody’s Perfect

  • What I did wasn’t right (I shopped – that was bad)

  • I feel so bad (because I shopped)

  • Nobody’s perfect (clearly, I am not)

  • What did you expect (if you were Husband, you always expected that I would fail) 

  • I’m doing my best (I really did. Until August anyway. Yes, I could do better).

Song 2: Gang of Youths, Let Me Down Easy

  • You want someone who wants you for who you are (I hope you all like the newsletter as it is really me who writes it and not a robot)

  • So look at me and tell me what I already know. That I tried and I failed and it’s good to let it go (Yes, I know I failed but let’s all let it go. I’ve got a new NYR for 2019 and I’m going to try to last at least until past August with this one)

  • Sometimes life sucks, everything is lame. Not everything’s as easy as making lemonade (no translation required)

Newsletter topics: Hong Kong, New York and being a possibility tourist 

Song: Anna Kendrick, The cup song 

  • I’ve got my ticket for the long way ‘round (if only I did)

  • The one with the prettiest of views (the world has the prettiest of views)

  • It’s got mountains, it’s got rivers, it’s got sights to give you shivers (the world – again, the world has everything we need and it’s our job to make sure it stays that way)

  • But it sure would be prettier with you (you being all of the animals, people, plants and life. We want to keep all of it so that we can experience the beauty for years to come)

Newsletter topics: great companies and inspirational people 

Song: David Bowie, We can be heroes 

  • And the shame, was on the other side (the other side being all the businesses and people that are not behaving well)

  • Oh, we can beat them, forever and ever (if we, including businesses, do the right thing then we can save the world)

  • Then we could be heroes just for one day (in fact, we could be heroes for longer than a day because we will have a planet left to live on)

Newsletter topic: being green is not a competition

Song: White Stripes, We’re going to be friends

  • Tonight I’ll dream while in my bed (yes, I will. I’m really tired and perhaps slightly delirious)

  • When silly thoughts go through my head (like who is greener than who – that is such a stupid thought, right)

  • About the bugs and alphabet (it’s one world, with loads of great bugs to save so can’t we all work together)

  • And when I wake tomorrow I’ll bet (that the kid will wake me really early and the excitement about the coming of Christmas and the holidays will be greater than it was today at 5am)

  • That you and I will walk together again (if we all work together, we will be so much better off)

  • I can tell that we are going to be friends (please)

  • I can tell that we are going to be friends (ditto)

Newsletter topic:  circular economy  

Song: The wheels on the bus go round and round

  • The wheels on the bus go round and round (self-explanatory because round and round is what we want in a circular economy!)

Newsletter topic: mass extinction  

Song 1: The Animals, We’ve got to get out of this place 

  • Now my girl you’re so young and pretty (substitute girl for animals)

  • And one thing I know is true (that if we don’t do something soon the unthinkable will happen)

  • You’ll be dead before your time is due (mass extinction)

Song 2: Rhianna, Stay 

  • Something in the way you move (you being all of the amazing species that we have on this planet)

  • Makes me feel like I can’t live without you (we can’t – we need animals)

  • It takes me all the way (to a happy place)

  • I want you to stay, stay (please don’t become extinct)

Newsletter topic: The future (kids rising up against fighting for action to be taken to stop our climate changing)

Song 1: David Bowie, Changes

  • And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re goin’ through (These lines need no translation because David Bowie was a genius)

Song 2: Ruby Fields, Dinosaurs (This is an amazing song that I have listened to it at least 1000 times since last week (slight exaggeration but I would have if I did not have to sleep and if my kids would allow me to have it playing on repeat))

  • I used to love dinosaurs when I was a kid. I wasn’t afraid. I was brave and courageous with everything that I did (Translation: May our kids stay that way and really change the world for the better because the adults are not doing such a great job at the moment)

Finally, while not linked directly to a weekly newsletter this year, my pick for this year’s Triple J Hottest 100 is ‘Treat You Better’ by Rufus du Sol. I feel it encapsulates all that my weekly newsletter sets out to talk about: treating the world we all live on in a better – much better – way. Read the lyrics, with the world as the object of the song, then watch the video clip that transports you to either deep space or deep water and exhale. 2019 is going to be OK. 

“Stay here. I spent the best days of my life with you. Watching clouds form in the distance. I watch the sun setting on the beach with you. It’s not over yet. I want your love. And I want it bad. I just wanna treat you better. I just wanna treat you better. I want your love. And I want it bad. I just wanna treat you better. I just wanna treat you better. Let’s begin again. Let’s get back to where we started. When there was talk of getting older. I’ve been waiting by the water. Let’s start over.”

So that’s a wrap, without having bought any new wrapping paper, for 2018. 

Be green.