A night with Jackie French was the first event for adults during the Festival. The event was put on at Ipswich Central Library in conjunction with Friends of Ipswich Library.
Jackie started by teaching us to speak wombat, and had us all vocalising like wombats. I can’t figure out how to spell the sounds we made, but it was funny to hear all the adults making such raucous sounds. Jackie translated the sounds with phrases such as “wake up and give me carrots”. She also demonstrated the sounds you hear from wombats at night, including the sounds of Mothball the wombat climbing the stairs to her bedroom, then of Mothball falling down the stairs.
Jackie explained that when she and her husband were renovating a segment of the house had to be moved to accommodate Mothball’s home. Jackie continued to share all manner of information about wombats including that it takes them 46 seconds to process a sound, which is why they often die from car accidents.
When it came to talking about gardening, Jackie admitted that when she was younger she really hated gardening. This seemed to change when Jackie was forced to learn how to grow avocados, and then save the avocados from root rot. After learning a whole new set of skills, Jackie wanted to be a farmer so she could live in the bush. But it turns out that farming is not so financially rewarding.
One day Jackie was desperately poor and had to register her car. Someone suggested that she sell some writing. She had always wanted to be an author, but had been discouraged by family and friends. Jackie persevered, writing on an old typewriter that the resident wombat used as a toilet so often that the ‘e’ key disintegrated into a squishy mess. Thank goodness she did it, she discovered that writing can pay, and now we have an amazing collection of books from her, thanks Jackie.
Jackie gave some interesting statistics that showed more people were employed as producers of the written word than in mining, and that more income was generated from the written word. This was based on figures from 2011.
Jackie and her husband have 272 different types of fruit on their property. From custard apples to bush tucker. Jackie is very interested in how things grow, not in farming as a commercial venture. She recounted a journey she took to Cape York where she gathered a large collection of seeds. Planting them, and discovering the plants’ triggers for growth and blooming fascinate Jackie. Stories about the correlation between performance of plants and weather phenomena featured, and Jackie pointed out that she will not discover many as it takes generations to figure out such correlations.
History is another passion of Jackie’s, and she enjoys teaching children about the life of children in different eras. “Teaching children about history helps children to understand today and create tomorrow and have a vision of what it would be like”, she stated, a noble sentiment. Jackie told us that teaching children about history allows them to see how far the human race has come.
Jackie had the audience entirely captivated, speaking on a range of topics far wider than I can cover in this post. She is such an innovative and energetic speaker that her every word needs to be recorded and re-read over and over again, thank goodness she is an author. She has visionary ideals, and a scientific attention to detail, in the fields of gardening, wildlife protection and the education of children. This woman is to be treasured by all those who share Jackie’s interests . Thank you Jackie for being so inspiring. If you want to find out more about Jackie French, check out her website HERE.