Penny Mitchell – Communications that Matter

Wills and Deceased Estates, Talks and Tuition on Technology for Seniors, Custom Stories for Special Needs Children, Special Occasion Poetry, Editing, Letter Writing

Out of breath by Penny M


It is a long while since posting here, but life hasn’t been normal. Amidst family visits to Australia and packing to move home, communication has been mostly one way – others to me.

Now I sit at a bedside where a member of my family is breathing his last and has lost the powers of communication completely. How fortunate I am to still have mine. Although one way, me to Dad, the importance of using words while I still can banishes all bucket list items to a pile of fruitless endeavours.

Now is the time to communicate the positives. Leave your emotional spring cleaning for another day. Forget the buts, what-ifs, protocols, correctness, moods, sensitivities or schedules. Stop the rushing clock before it gets stopped for you. clock-1392328_1280Pull out the gratitude, the gifts and treasures of memory. Don’t wait for Valentine’s Day to say, “I love you,” and why. Who knows, you might save on the ‘if-onlys’ and the spring cleaning.

Voices that Matter – what I did with my 67 minutes and more on Mandela Day

Craters appear in the sands as we drag out our heads to observe the view, listen to voices which shout in silence above the roar of chanting seas.  The pace of deprivation accelerates.  Crimes formerly closeted by morality are exposed and even flaunted on manifestos and deceitful lips.  It is time to draw a line before humanity destroys itself.

Well done, Zimbabwean Pastor, Evan Mawarire for your courage in calling for an end to the country’s economic woes.

In a BBC Hard Talk interview today (18 July 2016), Venezuelan opposition leader, Maria Corina Machado faced accusatory questions.  This brave woman cries out for her people who are starving and children who are dying without food, milk or medical supplies.  If she is to be believed and I believe she should be, criminal elements purported to be in cahoots with the governmental regime have milked the oil rich country and refused to allow aid from the Catholic Church to help its people.

The news can no longer be ignored now that social media substantiates reports.  Governments may be able to smother or distort bad news, but they cannot effectively suffocate mobile reporters.

For years now, selected scenes have crossed our screens; wreckage and carnage of warfare, explosions, child victims, shootings, child victims, beheadings, brutality, child victims, starvation, trafficking, and child victims.  Oh, and did I mention child victims?

Evil stalks the streets and takes to the airways 24/7.

Our reaction?  Horror, despair, revulsion, outrage and prayer.  How can we protect our children?  How can we protect our grandchildren?  Who can we trust with our livelihood, our offspring, and our world?  The answer will not be found in the sand.

I watched TV and social media coverage of the mass murder in Nice on Bastille Day, Dallas police forces under attack a few days prior, aimed it appears against white people (hello South Africa).  Then the coup in Turkey which I later heard may have been staged to further entrench a President/dictator.  It didn’t stop there, more shootings, more anguish, and more death; in France, Gavin Long, ex-marine took out 3 police officers on his own mission.

Division is prolific yet, despite claims to the contrary, we are all human, created by the same God, no matter our outward differences and choices.

In an article dated 15 July 2016 by Dan Johnson of BBC News, entitled Nice Attack: why France is struggling to cope with the terror attack, we read that France has to learn to live with terrorism – “The French people are being warned they are going to have to live with terrorism for a long time to come.  ‘Liberte’ – freedom – is one of France’s founding principles…  Now it is under threat and must be redefined to meet the challenge of an age of insecurity.”

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO if living with means tolerate or get on with life as if history never happened.  That means ignore FEAR!  Or does it mean feed FEAR?

I am ashamed to say that, for the first time in my life I actually read the 30 Articles of the UN Universal declaration of Human Rights. Here I found the following:

Preamble to the article:

“… Human rights are based on the principle of respect for the individual. Their fundamental assumption is that each person is a moral and rational being who deserves to be treated with dignity.”

Well, excuse me, that’s an awful lot of assuming if you don’t believe we were created that way, viz. born with a moral conscience.  What’s more, Article 1 of the declaration states, “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

According to Article 3, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”  By everyone, I take it that means Black or White policemen who didn’t perpetrate violence or kill people other than in defence of life.

In a society where the family nucleus is eroded or dysfunctional, it would be good to remember part 3 of Article 16.

The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”

Think of children when you read Article 29 of the declaration quoted below:

“1. Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.

  1. In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society…”

Or section 28 (1) (f) of the South African Bill of Rights:

“28. (1) Every child has the right—… (f) not to be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that … (ii) place at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development;”

Why did Oscar Pistorius accidentally kill his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp?

FEAR!  Why fear?  Because he had been a victim of crime from his youth, estranged from his father, lost his mother at a young age, was at a physical disadvantage.  On top of all that, the fight or flight pathway in his brain was well worn by the news of the day.  It took seconds for fear to travel from suspicion past conviction to action.  Anyone who has lived in South Africa for any length of time has experienced first or second hand crime and can identify with this at least.  He was also convinced he was protecting his girlfriend.  She had a right to be protected.

Judge Thokozile Matilda Masipa, I commend you for daring to show compassion and justice to the child victim within.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

It is a human tragedy when generations of children are, of necessity, raised to be suspicious and untrusting.  After all, who can they trust; an indifferent parent or one who puts addiction before quality time, a relative who gains sexual gratification at their emotional and psychological expense, a politician who fills his pockets with the wealth of the people or makes promises that are never honoured, a teacher who teaches immoral principles sanctioned by education authorities, a religion that spawns terrorist acts for a fictitious prize, a cultural group who offers human remains on the altar of sacrifice, a preacher without a living faith or a friend who steals innocence for power? Remember that all of these untrustworthy representatives started life as somebody’s child.

Children should be brought up to love, not hate.  What kind of parent brings up a warrior?  And yet there are those that do and call it honourable.

At the same time, schools are empowered to fill parental gaps with new sex education curriculums designed to ‘anaesthetise’ children from the age of 5 years, granting them sanction to make unnatural choices long before their body clocks have adjusted to natural development.  Does this not place at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development,” mentioned in the S A Bill of Rights?

According to psychiatrist, Chamseddine Hamouda, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the salsa dancing, wife-beating perpetrator of the Nice attack, was his patient 12 years ago.  He demonstrated psychotic behaviour and extreme anger towards his family.  There was a child in there somewhere.

Could this murderer-in-training have been prevented from his heinous acts if he had experienced the tender love and nurturing every child should be given by his biological parents?  Then he might not have felt the need to seek acceptance and recognition by giving up his life and taking the lives of 84 or more others for the illusions of a heaven full of virgins.  Who is God of that heaven?  Not my God for sure, but an impersonator we know as evil.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines moral law as follows:

“: a general rule of right living; especially : such a rule or group of rules conceived as universal and unchanging and as having the sanction of God’s will, of conscience, of man’s moral nature, or of natural justice as revealed to human reason <the basic protection of rights is the moral law based on man’s dignity — …”

Yes, sadly we have to live with the consequences of terrorism in a world that is fast becoming hell on earth.  The terrorists of today were innocent at birth.  Somebody stole or donated their innocence in exchange for the love of self.

We don’t have to breed little terrors.  Let us speak out for our children and add to the list of human rights.  Perhaps something like, “A child has a right to be loved and mentored with good morals.  Children have a right to protection from making or pursuing immoral, unnatural or unhealthy choices until they graduate to adulthood (age of legal majority or eighteen years whichever is the later) when they have the right to choose for themselves.”

Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), an African-American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman said, “It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.”

Let’s not bury our heads, but love and protect our children whose voices matter.

Love never fails – it can heal our world.



Articles of the UN Universal Declaration, International Law: United for Human Rights


Moral Law | Definition of Moral Law by Merriam-Webster


Words for this Time – July 2016

When we see what is transpiring in the world today, words fail.  I wrote this poem in 2009.  It expresses something of my heart to those who have lost their loved ones in these recently much darker days.

Words for this Time

There are words that some will say

When sadly others can’t

Some things that can be changed

When others simply can’t

Peace within a disturbing place

When we cannot understand

Answers that are hidden

Within the Father’s hand

Of one thing I am sure

God’s love is always there

His comfort free to all of us

His presence at your prayer

So take time now to let Him hug

And hold you tight in Grace

Until you’re ready to move on

To future life embrace


©Penny Mitchell

Bee in my Bonnet – Telkom

by Penny M When I was a fledgling in need of a pocket money boost, I got myself a summer job for Marks and Spencer (UK).  Every day for six weeks, I would catch the train to Newport, on the coast o…

Source: Bee in my Bonnet – Telkom

Great Expectations not by Dickens, but … by Penny M

In keeping with tasteful tones of past and present, the regular venue for Melbourne Lit Group is housed beneath the sandstone levels of Federation Square, in and bordering the historic Federation Wharf vaults. The restaurant overlooks the banks of the Yarra River, around which the city of Melbourne has grown.

(Click the following link for more information and atmosphere –

Federation Square - Melbourne 3

Melbourne Lit is one of many writers’ groups advertised on the Melbourne Meet Up website ( which site boasts 990 writer members in all at the time of writing. An old, Qwerty-keyed typewriter features centre stage of their web page, bearing a notice, ‘Every Saturday and Every Wednesday at 3 p.m.’ Text and details further reiterate this information.

‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘this group must be something. A meeting twice weekly means it’s popular and buzzing.’ Susan Roberts, one of my writing buddies ( and I were accustomed to meeting only once a month at the South African Writers’ Circle in Westville, South Africa ( This was before she immigrated to Australia and I arrived for a visit.

Thank goodness that Sue reads like she writes – prolifically with perfection, every jot and tittle. I might have missed it. In small print beneath the article is an update: The group is meeting fortnightly on Saturdays at the moment guys and not as indicated. Thanks!

Sue pre-booked us a spot at the table of eight guests for Saturday 21 November, 2015. She was assured that it could be found in the back corner of Riverland Bar and Café ( referred to on the website as café and on Riverland’s web site as bar), by the ATM. After a few attempts to locate this particular haunt of supposed fame (the table that is), and several discussions with confused waitrons, we discovered that the ATM had been moved; exactly how long ago remains a mystery that nobody wrote about.

Slightly perturbed by the lack of patronage at the hesitantly indicated table, especially as we were on time, we hovered on bar stools, conscious that we were the only females between the ancient stone back of the room and the water’s edge. A waitress brought a jug of water and eight glasses. We supped like two wallflowers with nothing better to do on a cool, spring afternoon, in the heart of what is renowned as the world’s most liveable city. Its social artery, the river, was hidden from view by a glut of rowdy imbibers. We wondered if beer was the only drink on the menu, a slight concern for Sue who, probably swayed by the term café, was anticipating her customary pot of tea.

After about twenty minutes, another lady joined us. She was a little flustered from trekking around Melbourne in a misdirected haze of equally faulty though more disturbing directions. The group facilitator, Steve, arrived just before three-thirty with an effusive rush of words to explain that the meeting was not intended to start until that time. ‘The website,’ he said, ‘stated three to accommodate everyone who tended to have trouble finding their way there on time.’ Sue will correct me if I have misquoted this – I think there might have been a gap between what I actually heard and what I understood. Steve had lost himself in a book shop on route. I stifled a chuckle.

A fifth person arrived just as our facilitator excused himself to get a beer. We ordered tea and hot chocolate (it was on the menu) and prepared to bury ourselves in a promised manuscript for critique. There was still plenty of space for the three no-shows. It was disconcerting. I consoled myself with the thought that, if nothing else, the experience would make a comic blog post (or an ‘Agatha Christie’ type plot).

There we sat; an organiser, three pleasantly maturing women and a sweet lady who told us she writes horror. Go figure. Our great expectations swaddled for another time, we prepared to settle in for a peculiar afternoon.

Well, what the dickens! Charles Dickens himself would have been equally surprised – shells (not duck) opened and ‘swans’ came forth with plenty of ‘Pip’s’ potential.

Imagine my excitement to discover that the lost-and-found lady, who introduced herself as Anita Trevi, was an acclaimed twentieth century artist who had brought her catalogue of artwork and poetry with her. At humble invitation, we read and commented on some of her verses and I, for one, realised we were in the presence of greatness as we paged through photographs of artworks akin to surrealist icon, Salvador Dali.

Unlike the famous painter, Anita is Italian, very much alive and hardly known online. There is a one page display of some of her artwork with a photograph of her as a younger reflection of the vibrant enthusiast she still is ( It was placed there by a friend.  There is so much untapped scope to market her paintings online, if there are any left.

Salvador was accomplished at self-promotion ( I doubt he considered online marketing in his day, and yet the Spanish artist who died during the inception of the worldwide web has ‘reams’ of web space dedicated to him.

Anita’s face was pregnant with story and it was a pity we didn’t have more time to explore the palette behind her life as an artist.

Helen, the horror writer, was also intriguing although I shy away from a genre that has the ability to reduce me to a jellyfish in tights, no matter how well written. The only horror story she told us was about the cost to edit a work she was paid $20 (AUD) for. I wonder if her editor will be a main character in her next thriller.

Such are the challenges of aspiring writers. Anita’s catalogue must have cost a small fortune in Italian lira, but she has sold most of her paintings and has turned to writing. So far, Sue and I seem to have done most of our work without losing too many South African Rands to the pockets of professional proof readers and style editors. Editing seems such a lucrative profession that I am seriously considering a career change. I think there could be a good market for it in Australia, starting with a web page or two and a few horror stories, at half the price of course.

Like Anita, Steve, whose own bio must be fascinating, had also brought work for critique.

From my experience at the hands of sharp judges, I am conscious of the need to be sensitive and encouraging when it comes to evaluating the creative work of others. Steve’s overview of group activities, born out by a snippet from the group page, viz., “Our group is friendly and loves gentle critique, discussion about publishing and anything that we can find to make us better writers,” reminded us of the eggshell nature of our task.

We discussed Steve’s manuscript which was well organised and shows passion and promise for the future. We wished him every success with the second draft of his novel. The rest of our time was free for socialising and getting to know each other. Steve departed in search of another book shop, leaving us with renewed expectations, new friends and lots more to write about.


P.S. Of course, communications that matter ( are never far from my thoughts. To the three no-shows and the other 982 writers in Melbourne – you missed out!

Try and get to the next Saturday meeting (5th December at time of blog), starting at 3.30 p.m. You will find a designated table in a small room (on the way to the toilets), nowhere near the ATM. The Riverland Bar (and Café) is beneath the Yarra side of Federation Square. Go down the steps to the walkway, turn left and then do a U-turn to take you down the ramp to the river. You literally have to walk through the Riverland Bar to get to the designated room on your right.



Communication – The Broken Telephone

The Scribbling Scribes

by Penny Mitchell – Communications that Matter

Broken Telephone is a party game we played in my youth. The purpose is to whisper a message person to person until it is spoken aloud by the last in line. The game makes fun of poor listening and language skills. For it to be effective, the final version of an original sentence should bear some resemblance in structure, but mean something hysterically different.

Invariably the outcome fails to inspire a belly-aching response, because people don’t get the point or follow the rules. Often a smart-alec mucks up the game by inserting a different mBroken telephone - freedigitalimages.netessage or hi-jacking the original completely. Others think the challenge is to speak so that the receiver cannot get the message.

As the self-conscious perfectionist and English lover I was in those days (now less of the former), with sensitive hearing and good diction, I found the game…

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It’s Time to Write What We’ve Time to Read

by Penny MitchellCommunications that Matter – Co-author of Going Global – Technology made Simple

One of the most difficult books to sell online is the one I have written with my friend and fellow author, Sue Trollip, Going Global – Technology made SimpleGoing Global. And yet it is one of the most needed books for those unfortunate readers who don’t know how to get onto their computer let alone surf the internet. It’s a short read.

Gone are the days when we had the luxury of sitting down on a weekend to read a novel. An hour or two with a short story, or a couple of nights to read a skinny-back, are far more practical and equally satisfying. Fatter novels are holiday books for those fortunate enough to take weeks of people-free time now and then. The rest of us take tweeks.

In this world of instant media, long reads and wafflers gather dust for retirement with in-between naps, or die in the wake of visual media and the internet. Blogs, tweets, Facebook, instant messages, etcetera keep us up to date with what or who is important to us. Google, Podcasts, YouTube and the like are much faster than a weekly trip to the local library. And you can even read or watch on your phone.

Why do more people watch TV series, movies and DVDs for leisure than read newspapers, magazines and books?

Simple – you can get an elephant-sized story into unforgettable bite-sized episodes, or a movie.

We bemoan the fact that many students either don’t read or don’t learn to read properly, but seriously, do they have the time?

Don’t get me wrong – I love a good read. After all, I’m a writer. I’m also a Kindle fan, but there are hazards.

Just about anybody can publish a book online. Authors who have been around since pre-internet days are now publishing through online bookstores such as Amazon.

Readers beware! Some writers are simply dumping stuff online that was written years ago and isn’t selling, or is so badly written that nobody would publish it. They are capitalising on the fact that consumers don’t have time to pick the book up in a bookstore, flip through and walk out without buying. Ancient rule of thumb – a book has to be a certain number of pages to be worthy of the title and the price you pay for it.

One of the key techniques a writer learns is how to hook the reader in the first few lines and then the first few chapters. So those samples you can download can be misleading.

I have just finished reading a Kindle edition of a non-fiction book, first written twenty eight years ago by a faith teacher. After a great first chapter, I spent hours digging through a whole lot of waffle to find nuggets of helpful truth. This man wrote better with his tongue than he did in his books. A good editor would have reduced the whole book to one chapter, but of course it wouldn’t have been long enough to fetch the asking price.

In short, fellow writers, it’s time to write what we’ve time to read and make each chapter worth every precious moment.


The Power of Story

Technology – when communication fails by Penny M

I recently gave a presentation on technology to a group of gracious pensioners. My topic was Technology for Bank Pensioners – It’s a Cruise. Unfortunately, I was the one who ended up at sea and heading for a bottle when the sound equipment let me down.

Shoe story

I kid you not!

Imagine a room full of people checking our hearing aids or gaping with astonishment at a moving picture, the like of which hasn’t been experienced since the silent film era.

I had tested the whole show countless times, honed slide transitions, animations, videos and sound clips to precision. I was totally prepared with my laptop, wireless mouse (which unfortunately couldn’t be accommodated on the little table provided), books and order forms. I had left my amplifier at home, never for one moment thinking that the hotel sound equipment might malfunction at a critical point.
The show was audible and perfect until after we docked to complete a live demo of the Bank Pensioners Society website(

We were sailing towards my pièce de la résistance, intended to encourage all to ‘give technology a go’ by buying our book, Going Global – Technology made Simple by Penny Mitchell and Sue Trollip, when suddenly I was working ‘unplugged’.

I desperately needed my mouse. My laptop touch pad had gone for a smoke break; at least this is what I thought until it appeared to have gone into full cardiac arrest. My heart was beating enough to keep a room full of pacemakers going, but everything else seemed disconnected.

The slide I was particularly proud of (perhaps that was my undoing) was timed perfectly to the backing of Walt Disney’s Jungle Book hit, The Bare Necessities. Video, thought and speech bubbles advanced relentlessly to a deafening silence. My message was shipwrecked with titanic consequences and there was nobody to rescue me, not even my mouse.

The lesson?

Technology can be a cruise. You don’t have to be an expert to go global. Start with the bare necessities, but if you want others to follow you, make sure your sound is under your control and nobody can hijack your mouse. Oh, and contact me with any queries before you need rescuing. Not that I smoke, but a bit of cheese…