Like any mum, I wanted to introduce my anklebiters to the written word. Never mind reading eats up only ten short but oh so cherished minutes (20, if we do it “again”). When at the library and bookshops, I was a bit dismayed to see the paucity of books covering the idea of the urban. It’s not actually a surprise when you look at best/cherished book lists (here or here). They are out there, I know, amidst the hatted cats and the moonlit rooms. I found this list and thought, now we are on to something. But I thought I’d do a public service on this blog and showcase children’s books that introduce the urban to the lil folk. So without further ado, I’ll start with the first book we bought: The Minister for Traffic Lights by Tony Wilson and Andrew McLean. Honestly, we bought it for Ian (to read to the bubs). It begins “My father is the Minister for Traffic Lights…” How can you not have dad read the book.
With the parking lot that is Punt Road serving as muse, it is a very ‘Stralian book. Told from the son’s point of view, this story shares one father’s enthusiasm with traffic lights. He breathes and sings red, amber and green. For example, at the local traffic school (a place where children learn the rules of the road on their bicycles), the son cringes at the sight of his father trying to get the bicyclists to sing about traffic lights. However, the son’s admiration for his father come to light (absolutely a pun) when the Minister dreams up a whimsical solution for “the thousands of people around the city who are leaning out of car windows and screaming.” The book focuses on negative aspects of the urban (unrelenting traffic and subsequent road rage) and suggests a traffic calming solution David Engwicht would be proud of “every hour on the hour.” I won’t completely spoil it for you but the solution does involve hugging. While I would have adored a book called “The Minister for Active Transport” (because really, we need to plan for people, not cars), it is a sweet ode to fatherhood, dreams and hugs.
Remember when we used to take notes on paper? Back during my MURP days, I took a leadership seminar and had the fortune to witness Carl St Clair speak and doodle on my notes (arrows, musical notes, positive negative chart and the word DREAM). He spoke about leadership through the lens of emotion. While other speakers mentioned the importance of drive and spirit, St Clair manifested passion and inspiration. What imprinted in my mind were the following words: “Be the socket of positivity.” The ‘pay it forward’ if you will of everyday living. That’s the kind of thinking that transforms neighbourhoods into communities, spaces into places. I’ve tried to emulate that mantra in my life and I hope my friends and colleagues can attest. Sometimes, however, you just can’t always be the ONE. On days when I need a little recharge, I plug into the stories and actions of others.
There are 7.3 billion people and counting. An infinite number of stories and actions that can inspire the urban imagined. For example, I’ve had Katie Sokoler’s chalk walk hanging out in my bookmark folder. Colourful footprints always brighten my day and I suspect many others who stumble upon them. Thank you Katie for listening to the boy who wanted you to make more. Simple, random act with illuminating effects.
This will be a reoccurring series as there are kindred spirits all around doing their everyday thing. Be on the lookout. You may very well be featured.
The Economists Intelligence Unit once again published its Global Liveability Ranking 2015. Thirty indicators are used to assess 140 cities across five categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. Based on this benchmarking system, Melbourne, Australia retains the position as the world’s most liveable city. Perfect rankings for healthcare, infrastructure and education. Irrespective of your four seasons in one day, I concur.
I like this picture. It says, “Here we are.” It manifests the possibility for discovery, connection and growth. Most importantly, it captures such occurrences outside in the sun(shade). It inspires me to write.
This endeavour is a work in progress. It is a reflection of my inner most; my imagined. The potential for great urban spaces and places exist and I am set to discover and recover them. Join me and imagine your own urban however realised.