Tag Archives: nano memoir

After the Excessive, the Nano of course



Christmas Day is full of memories and memoirs lost and found.  It’s a perfect time for nano memoirs of every kind.  Whatever may occur to you, write it down, make a few notes, and have a little think about Christmases past. 

I have a friend who can recall her history word for word, scene by scene, and keep her audiences entertained for hours with stories.  Not everyone is so blessed, or cursed, depending on how you prefer to see it. 

Sometimes it’s a good thing, or a neutral thing, or it means exactly nothing to have no memory whatsoever of particular symbolic days like Christmas.  For instance, I have very sketchy memories of Christmas as a teenager, and none at all of Christmas as a child.  I should have made some notes in that five-year lockable diary I never used because I was too busy reading Donald Duck comics and blowing up soldiers and (old, not the new) Matchbox cars under the house with my brother.

So, in honour of this Christmas Day, may I invite you to write a couple of nano memoirs of your day as gifts to yourself.  I guarantee they’ll suggest so much more to you. 

For example, a couple of mine go something like this:

Trifle: The trifle only happens on Christmas Day, and I can’t remember when it began, sometime within the last decade and a half.  Trifle has nothing to do with my mother – she wasn’t big on desserts, although her sister, my Aunty Ag made a mean pavlova.  It has to do with a woman, Mrs Paterson, who was a friend of our extended family.  She was famous for her trifles, and she always came to visit not on Christmas but on New Year’s Day. 

Her trifles were legendary and, although I ate them every year for years on end, I couldn’t tell you exactly what was in them because Mrs Paterson had a few secrets to preserve relating to her trifle.  Secrets are how people retain a little power, and how they remain unique and valued by their tribe, how they’re invited back, year upon year.  Which reminds me of Uncle Arnie’s ham glaze and The Year of the Cockroach, but that’s a nano for another time.

Oh, the trifle recipe, or receipt, as Jennifer Paterson (no relation to my Mrs Paterson) would say: layer a bowl (I always use Mum’s crystal salad bowl) with pieces of jam roll or other sponge and splash some cream sherry around (preferably on the jam roll).  Add a layer of Aeroplane Port Wine jelly and peach slices (in natural juice, not that sugary syrup) and pour custard over the top.  Start again with a layer of jam roll and a splash of sherry, then more peaches and jelly and custard.  Refrigerate. 

When serving, scoop into individual bowls (if you can resist the temptation to eat the whole thing yourself before the guests arrive) and squirt some whipped cream on top (from one of those spray can varieties, already ready to go and slam your left ventricle firmly shut).  Enjoy.

Beijing:  A long time ago, longer than I care to remember, and certainly before 700,000 cars were revving onto the streets of that great city every year, I went for a holiday to Beijing with a couple of friends.  The only thing I want to note about that trip in this nano memoir is that on Christmas Day we went out as usual – we went out every day on a tour or a trip or shopping or eating – and completely forgot what day it was until later in the evening when we arrived back at our hotel. 

We went straight to the bar for a beer – Beijing beer in those days was delicious, not sure what it’s like now – and there in the corner was a Christmas tree, erected especially for the Western tourists because in China, not a Christian country, of course, Christmas Day was just another work day. 

I don’t remember where we went that day, but I remember that we forgot it was Christmas.  Without the benefit of cultural and social reminders, we lost the day.  It fell clean out of our heads, all three of us, and it was quite liberating.  The burdens of significance and ritual were gone, just for once.

As you can see, nano memoirs can suggest everything.  You can decide where to take them, and how to shape them.  They’ll lead to other nanos without a doubt.

In the meantime, as a friend said to me the other day – and I didn’t forget (forgive the phonetic spelling):

Mala kaleeki maka, or in the old money: Merry Christmas to you.

Dilly Bag #1 – Declutter, Discover, Create – Dilly it Your Way, Because You Matter


Welcome to your virtual Dilly Bag

What’s a Dilly Bag, I hear you ask?  Good question.  The original Dilly Bag is a small or medium sized bag or basket used by indigenous Australians to carry food, tools or artefacts, or other items of personal value.  Or all of the above.  (Check our the Dilly Bag page under Regular Columns for a fuller description, and pictures).

In other words, the Dilly Bag is a carryall for useful, often indispensible stuff.  Think about what’s in your backpack, handbag, satchel, tote.  Useful things, things you love, comforting things, handy spare change.

So, why exactly do you need The Memoir Detective’s virtual Dilly Bag?  Because when you have your own Dilly, real or virtual, you decide what goes in and what stays out, what inspires and what provokes.  Who knows what may transpire when you have a Dilly friend to rely on?

The Memoir Detective’s virtual Dilly Bag is an ever-changing collection of inspiration, provocation, and demonstrations to encourage your memoir detective to come out and play.

Most of all, the MD’s vDB is for you, to help you declutter, discover, and createTake whatever you like from it and put it in your own Dilly.  Over time, you’ll accumulate a handy resource that takes up very little room but which may be a gentle catalyst for the changes you want to make in your life.

So, what’s in Dilly Bag Number One?

Today, a nano memoir, the meaning of life, and a novel beginning.


  • A sentence a day keeps the madness away, and the memoir a-okay, so why not sentence yourself to a nano memoir, right now?  What’s a nano memoir?  It’s one word that means something very specific and clear to you.  It may remind you of an event, or a person you love (or dare I say it, don’t love), an object, or a place.  It may even provoke something less concrete but still specific and clear: a set of thoughts around an idea, for instance, embodied in a word.
  • Whatever it is, it’s something that you’ll never forget, something you can write an entire story around – with the help of one important word.
  • Are there special words that have accompanied you through your life?  Is there a word that’s coming into your mind now?


  • One of my lifelong words is cumquat – you heard me, cumquat.  The humble cumquat will forever and instantly take me to my grandmother’s house and yard where she grew cumquat trees, from which she plucked the juiciest, tartest fruit to make us jars of cumquat jam (rather than apple, or choko, strangely enough), which we took home to slather on our toast and scones (and eat by the spoonful when no-one was watching).
  • I’ll be writing more about the nano memoir in future posts.


… may have been captured in a remark by the fabulous actor, Cary Grant (1904-1986), when he explained: My formula for living is quite simple.  I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night.  In between I occupy myself as best I can.

  • Today’s the day to occupy yourself as best you can: practically, truthfully, creatively (if you’re a shift-worker, of course, you’ll be doing all of this in reverse – keep a torch handy!).
  • Declutter a drawer somewhere in your house – it’ll only take a minute, and even if it’s several, I guarantee you’ll feel better – small investment, big return – SPACE.
  • Tell yourself, in the privacy of your own mind, a simple truth that applies to you: you’re kind, you never forget to pat your pets when you see them; you belong to the universe and you always will.
  • Write a line of prose, or poetry, or several – it’s up to you.  Create a moment now – check out Veranda Life if you’re after some inspiration.  I get most of my creative now moments for Veranda Life’s 999 Verandakus when I’m out walking.


In the waters of these islands, there is a certain fish whose eyes, like the eyes of the chameleon, are able to look in opposite directions at the same time.  This is the opening sentence of Beachmasters, a novel by award-winning author, Thea Astley, one of Australia’s and the world’s finest writers.

  • Personally, I prefer my human, binocular vision, but I’m sure you know people who approximate that fish in the way they see life – multiple focal points.  They can be invaluable on occasion, but equally invaluable is the ability to focus on one thing at a time and see it through.
  • Today, say Multi-tasking, schmulti-tasking – for half an hour, I’m a one bit wonder: one thing, and one thing only. 
  • What might it be for you, sweet one bit wonder? 
  • Meditation?  Mindful walking?  Focussed reading of one, and only one text?

It’s all up to you – so don’t forget to Dilly it Your Way, Because You Matter.

Remember: Memoir = Life = Now