Saturday, September 30, 2006


Yeah, as you can tell, I'm having a busy week. More Mary Gilmore layout than you can poke a stick at (and really PAINFUL; she's in a very didactically evangelical stage at the moment, c. 1928), plenty of child drama (Bumblebee's been getting in a few fights at school and his schoolwork's been slipping badly, but it's really hard to get the school to support our attempts to do anything about it), and a desperate need to blog about Patrick White on my part but I have no mental energy and time to do it. The only blogging action I've been getting is random commenting forays onto other blogs in between other tasks.

One good thing I have done since Tuesday is get another haircut. REALLY short, this time. I believe it is called a short crop, a-la Natalie Portman (but without the stunning bone structure).

It probably makes me look a bit scary, but I've given up caring, which I think is probably one of the privileges of maturing. And now I have no hair dye left, which was a major objective. Whatever I do with my hair from hereon in, will be lightly but proudly be flecked with grey.

I am sagging under the weight of all my work commitments (including being told that I may be working every. single. day. of the 06/07 Woodford Folk Festival, teaching bookarts to both adults and children) and can't see any kind of break until early January, not even a full weekend.

BUT! Tomorrow I am declaring a work-free day, complete with sleep-in and picnic in the park. For tomorrow is my birthday, dear readers, and I am damn well going to have a eenie-mini-break. It won't be computer-free, because tomorrow night I will be hosting a friend and her son for a sleepover, and while the kids romp and bicker we are going to brainstorm and tweak a new blog venture called Slow Making with lashings of red wine. If you are a slow maker, or like Ms Maker's concept, get in contact and join in. Or pass the word on about the blog.

I shouldn't complain so much -- BB cooked me a wonderful meal of slow-roasted pork hocks in plums tonight. It was amazing. So I'm tired but extremely well-fed, and I have been desperately trying both to get to the gym and to ride my bike lots so that I don't get sedentary and ill. It seems to be working.

Anyhoo, I'm off to bed; I just thought I'd sneal in a quick whinge while Best Beloved had a quick bath, but he's in bed now making little 'harrumph' noises. He has a point: the sooner I get to sleep, the more I can sleep in.

And saw Tibet: have a good weekend yourselves.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Space Oddities

Zoe and Teejmahal and I had a leddy's wager on the oddest book we could find at the recent Lifeline Book Fair. Personally, I think Teej won, with Zoe's a close second (having glimpsed it at point of purchase, she hasn't blogged it yet), but I'll show you mine because it/they are still lots of fun.

I say it/they because I'm displaying a few oddities, none of which are the sort of thing you squeal over, but each of which deserve a snigger. I couldn't bring it down to just one.

1. Where's Charles and Di?

Chaz & Di

Well, we know exactly where they are now, but back then nobody was really sure. The odd thing is, I'd have thought this was a royal wedding cash-in from 1981, but it was actually printed in 1992, when all was going awry! Very strange timing. Gotta love the banded warning on the top right corner: WARNING! SATIRE/PARODY! THIS IS NOT A WALDO/WALLY BOOK. I don't know why the concern. There's not a rude bit in sight. And no Camillas lurking in the corners as far as I can make out. Shame. She could have been dressed in yellow and black stripes on every page.

2. How to Survive an Attack


Not a crocodile attack, or even a stingray attack, but a (start quaking) spiritual attack. With chapters like 'How to recognise an attack' and 'How to go through an attack', this is one self-inducedhelp book you cannot live without. Best Beloved was very pleased when I brought this home. It will sit on the shelf next to his Chick tracts and books about snake-handlers and babblers-in-tongue.

3. Wake up Australia


Indeed. Off your arses and down a mine! Classic gems of sage advice from the man who chose to marry Rose Porteous Hancock. The introduction says it all:

Are Australians grateful to Lang Hancock? That is a subject of profound indifference to him. He does what he thinks is right. He usually is.

But, true to LH, he has to say more anyway:

The time to cash in on nuclear mining is now when we cn be at the head of the queue and whilst the spoils to the victor are greatest. There is no prize for dragging the chain in this fiercely competitive world.

If we are prepared to jump into the nuclear age immediately, there is no reason why the Pilbara in Western Australia could not become the "Ruhr of Suth-East Asia". With the build-up in economic strength Australia would be strong enough to defend itself. The raw materials are here. What is lacking is leadership, guts and foresight.

That was written in 1979. Could have read it in the Australian last weekend, don't you think? What further proof do you need that the Howard govt is dragging us back twenty-five years? I'd say this book is on a few Liberal Party bookshelves.

Actually, that wasn't much of a snigger, was it? Try this one:

4. Meat. Every Which Way.


Published by the Australian Meat & Livestock Corporation (no date, but I'm pretty sure early 80s), I think this was the precurser to the 'Feed your Man Meat' campaign. From the look of that butcher, he's getting something every which way. I'm sure this is the closest you'd get in visual terms to Cutbush the Grocer from The Vivisector.

With subchapters like 'Beef: Moist Heat Cooking', 'Lamb: Meat with Care', 'Good-looking Cooking' and 'Cooking Economically with Meat Using Appliances', this book* is a weird mix of recipes, advice, drawings from the 1880s and 'fresh' images like this one:


Tell me what you think that boy is thinking. I've got my own ideas, but I'd love to hear yours.

*Which will probably join Zoe's cookbook collection (if she wants it!)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Proud mother moment

Watch my man Bumblebee get down with his homies at lunchtime today in front of the junior school. Watch with pride as his friend uses him as a springboard and feel the awe of the junior school (B etc got the only 'wooor' for the whole dance).

Ignore my giggle. He may dance like a white boy, but he has heart.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Gosh darn it

The title is a nicer version of what BB and I said this morning when we woke to the cold hard fact that we'd forgotten to watch or tape Dr Who last night! We couldn't believe our stupidity! We were even been watching the box over dinner at the right time, but we obviously switched our brains off decided to finish Series 4 of West Wing (we've been working very slowly through it and it suddenly got very exciting) with pizza and beer after a hard afternoon's gardening and Mary Gilmore-ing.


Can anyone lend us a copy on video or DVD which we promise on our honour we'll return?

Friday, September 22, 2006

A day at the fair

There's no way I could sit at home today and work, knowing that less than a km from my desk was a hall full of books going cheep! cheep! cheep!

Mama Duck answered the call.

I give generously to Lifeline twice a year because it's such a good idea. You give money to the charity, and take home books! I'd give money to ANY charity who can do this as well as Lifeline do, but I also think their service is an essential one. Onya Lifeline.

There's a ritual to the Lifeline Fair that has to be maintained:

the line

1. Thou must line up before it starts. If you turn up later in the day, you can just stroll in and all sense of TEH HUNT is lost. You may show that you are seasoned veteran by bringing a stool, a hat, and a thermos of hot beverage. [The arrows above indicate, by their size, the direction of the queue winding its way around the EPIC carpark. I've also indicated a seasoned person, who hasn't yet become a true veteran for she forgot her hat. I am usually in the middle of the queue, but thanks to a few prior commitments had to join the end of it, ten minutes before the doors opened. Phew.]

Eventually you get within view of Xanadu.

2. Thou must bring a book-carrying receptacle. This can be a trolley, a rolling suitcase, or, dear god, a pram carrying a child who is happy to be squashed.

Sorry for the awful quality of the shot. I just pointed and clicked, not wanting to waste good book-scouting time. This next one is clearer but smaller, taken last year on the 2nd or 3rd day:

3. Thou must not run into the hall screeching and drooling. This is very uncool and must be left to the Military History nuts.

4. Thou must fully interact with power games. These include: finding out who of two people on the same side of the table but moving in different directions has to go around whom; who gets to pick up that book if you both reach for it; who can be closest to the person laying out a fresh batch of books.


Some years I notice themes. One year (and I think every year) the place was overrun by Bryce Courtaney. This year, in the Biog section, anyway, there was a plague of Frank McCourt. Look:

Frank holds court

and again, further down on the same table:

Frank holds court here too

There are three types of FMcC books in that second photo. It's like an easy version of Where's Wally.

In the Australian fiction section (there's a few, you have to be canny to find all the good books) I ran into a Friend of the Duck who is an academic at one of Canberra's unis and has a shared love of odd books. Snaps to him for giving me the hardback first edition of The Vivisector on the spot when I drooled at it (my paperback copy has fallen to bits with this rereading). Together we found an entire shelf's worth of hardback Nevil Shute, not first edition, but all with the most glorious dustjackets, $5 each. If he hadn't wanted them I would have taken two or three, but I'm glad he did because it would have been heartbreaking to separate such a beautiful collection:

a trolley of Nevils

Five of the piles on this trolley are Nevils. Sigh.

Speaking of collections, there was a new section of ephemera, and look what I saw:

They were selling someone's entire matchbox collection for $100. And, I suspect, the same person's beer coaster collection:


So, this is what I got today.

-- various Star Wars teen novels, comics and a puzzle book for Bumblebee
-- various other comics for BB, like Mad and Casper, etc.
-- various puzzle/novel books (where you have to work out stuff to get to the next chapter)
-- The photographic storybook of the movie Return to Oz, something I just can't find anymore even on ex-rental video.
-- Winnie in Winter by Korky Paul & Valerie Thomas (love that witch)
-- The Two Old Bachelors by Edward Lear, illustrated by Paul Galdone
-- Witch Week by Diana Wynne-Jones (already had it, but this can be my lending copy)

-- Prints from Blocks, Riva Castleman
-- Japanese Prints, Celia Whitford
-- Charles Blackman, Ray Mathew

Books on Books
-- The Gutenberg Revolution, John Man
-- Pocket Pal, associated pulp & paper mills (this one intrigued me, because it was produced in Melbourne for an American company but all the photos are of Canberra)

This was a goldmine today. These are all hardback unless specified.
-- Southern Steel, Dymphna Cusack
-- Heatwave in Berlin, Dymphna Cusack (already have, but this has gorgeous dustjacket)
-- Grand Days, Frank Moorehouse
-- The Eye of the Storm, Patrick White (1st edn with dustjacket $8)
-- The Vivisector, Patrick White (1st edn, $9)
-- Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
-- Model Wife: My Life with Norman Lindsay, Rose Lindsay
-- Come in Spinner, Dymphna Cusack & Florence James (original, edited version)
-- The Battlers, Kylie Tennant
-- Tell Morning This, Kylie Tennant
-- I can Jump Puddles, Alan Marshall
-- Larger than Life, Xavier Herbert (1st edn with dustjacket, VERY good nick, $7!)
-- Daphne & Chloe, trans & illus. by Jack Lindsay

Very thin selection this time. Bit disappointing. And no sign of She Vomits Like a Lady.
-- Collectd Poems, CP Cavafy
-- woops, forgot to add Australian Poetry 1948, edited by Judith Wright

-- The Penguin Dictionary of Historical Slang
-- One-Upmanship by Stephen Potter

and two dying hardback Georgette Heyers in need of makeovers: Devil's Cub and Spring Muslin. I might start a shelf series!

Enough already. Teej has suggested a competition to see who can buy the weirdest book, but I didn't get the challenge until I'd come home with this lot. So I shall go back on Sunday, when everything is further discounted (!) and all the tasteful books have been kindly removed and taken to good homes by caring people and see what wonders remain. Maybe we should have a Sunday arvo blogmeet at the fair?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Remember to breathe


In. out. in. out. Try to remember the quietness of sunset.

It's been one of those weeks, compounded by the fact that everything I tried to do at bookbinding today went askew and afterwards I walked through the shops and realised that there's nothing I like in fashion this season. Skinny jeans. Dropped waists. Nothing for fat legs and drooped breasts.

And I just have to say that as much as I love our Auntie, today was one of the best JJJ listening experiences I've ever had. All the music and none of the teen surfie-worshipping blokey (yes, even the females) matey Strine I hear the obviously unteenage DJs using that makes my eyelids twitch. There. That's all I have to say on that point.

To finish on a reasonably fun note, check out the lovely people of Tyrrell Partners (an accountancy firm, not the winery) and wonder why they even bothered to put a 'favorite book' section in their staff profile.

Back to Mary Gilmore and trying to get Bumblebee to see the bright side of life (more on that when I can think clearer).

In. out. in. out. in. out.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Book Lover alert

I've just found out that the next LifeLine Book Fair starts on Friday!

Book Lovers, start your engines.

Zoe's fav book

If I see this book AGAIN, I'm going to buy it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Cats on the run

Cat Herding!

This is probably very old to some, but I've only just stumbled upon it (courtesy of Best Beloved) and I just can't get enough of it. If you want to see a bigger version, just type 'cat herding' into Google Movies. Fun!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Pomes for a missed day

Woops! I missed a day or two. No excuse, just a shitload of work piling up and family commitments clashing up against it. Every busy woman's burden.

Setting the scholarly edition of Mary Gilmore vol 2 is taking a lot of time. Lots of tiny fiddlings, lots of tweaking and decision-making about little things like longest lines and spacings of footnotes, etc. You'd think having done it before (with vol 1 and every other Academy Edition in the series) would have sped things up, but no. There's a very tight deadline with this, so I've had to make the decision to miss some AFI screenings in favour of working, which breaks my heart a little bit.

I did make the effort today to see one of the shorter films: Stranded, starring Emma Lung and Emily Browning (you might remember her as the older sister in Lemony Snickett's A Series of Unfortunate Events). Apart from the excellent actors and an appealing storyline (well, for me, anyway: a dark comedy about the emotional impact of suicide upon a family), the main drawcard for me was the original soundtrack by JWalker of Machine Translations, which didn't disappoint in its understated way.

Now. Poetry. Dame Mary Gilmore swings me between interest and frustration, because she wrote SO MUCH and a lot of it was not very exciting, especially when she was just dashing bits and pieces off to fill empty corners of women's magazines at the page proof stage. But the good editors have worked very hard to make this Collected a comprehensive one, and the scary fact that there are almost as many unpublished poems sitting in the vaults as there are published one is something for some other research project to deal with.

I have to admit she came to mind today when I was sent a Pome about Steve Irwin in a chain family email. Check it out (I'm keeping the 'forward' symbols to preserve the ambience):

>> > Endless visions fill my head - this man - as large as life
>> > And instantly my heart mourns for his angels and his wife
>> > Because the way I see Steve Irwin - just put everything aside
>> > It comes back to his family - it comes back to his pride
>> >
>> > His animals inclusive - Crikey - light the place with love!
>> > Shine his star with everything he fought to rise above
>> > The crazy-man of Khaki from the day he left the pouch
>> > Living out his dream and in that classic 'Stevo' crouch
>> >
>> > Exploding forth with character and redefining cheek
>> > It's one thing to be honoured as a champion unique
>> > It's one thing to have microphones and spotlight cameras shoved
>> > It's another to be taken in and genuinely loved
>> >
>> > But that was where he had it right - I guess he always knew
>> > From his fathers' modest reptile park and then Australia Zoo
>> > We cringed at times and shook our heads - but true to natures call
>> > There was something very Irwin in the make up of us all
>> >
>> > Yes the more I care to think of it - the more he had it right
>> > If you're going to make a difference - make it big and make it
>> > Yes - he was a lunatic! Yes - he went head first!
>> > But he made the world feel happy with his energetic burst
>> >
>> > A world so large and loyal that it's hard to comprehend
>> > I doubt we truly count the warmth until life meets an end
>> > To count it now I say a prayer with words of inspiration
>> > May the spotlight shine forever on his dream for conservation
>> >
>> > .My daughter broke the news to me - my six year old in tears
>> > It was like she'd just turned old enough to show her honest fears
>> > I tried to make some sense of it but whilst her Dad was trying
>> > His little girl explained it best.she said "The crocodiles are
>> >
>> > Their best mate's up in heaven now - the crocs up there are smiling!
>> > And as sure as flowers, poems and cards and memories are piling
>> > As sure as we'll continue with the trademarks of his spiel
>> > Of all the tributes worthy - he was rough.but he was real
>> >
>> > As sure as 'Crikey!' fills the sky
>> > I think we'll miss ya Steve.goodbye
>> >

SIGH. The thing is, if Dame Mary were alive and in her prime right now, she’d be writing that sort of stuff. Truly. I’d rather read it the way she would have done it – at least it would have had some proper balladic lilt about it, but she was in many ways a poet for the common people. She would write about issues that people were concerned about, or were nostalgic over. Many of her Pomes (which are, thankfully, outnumbered by her poems) I can imagine people having the same reaction about as my relative with the above poem (I like this very much, it says it all), and clipping them out and sending them to one another. Check this out:*


Oh, Sydney Town is my town;
And I would have you know
You’ll never see such another
Wherever your feet may go.

Oh, Sydney Town is my town;
I see her lapped around
By a shining shimmering ocean
That sings with a silken sound;
The waves run round by Bondi,
And over to Manly far—
Her streets are jewels, binding,
And every lamp a star.

The stars look down on Sydney,
The lamps look up at the stars,
And wherever the night makes darkness
You see the flash of her cars;
A blue flash, or a green flash,
Sharp as a thought that springs,
Quick as the etheric wave brought in
By the tiny spark that sings!

They sang her of old in stilted verse
Measured and cut to rule;
But I would sing her as Freedom sings,
Or a boy just out of school.
I would sing her as lovers sing,
With a strong pulse under the beat,
A song as full as her heart is full
Of the throb of her children's feet.

And I would sing of her proud white breast
That beaches the surfing tide,
Where the black storms lash, and the breakers dash,
And the taunting Southerlies ride;
And I would tell how each darkling night,
The jewels about her heart,
As boat by boat sets out from the Quay,
Like fire-flies spangle and dart.

Oh, Sydney Town, you are my town!
As the sun awakes each morn
And, rising, looks in your thousand eyes
A thousand suns are born;
But a thousand thousand hearts are yours,
And ever more shall be:
City we love! City of pride!
Sydney by the sea!

(Mary Gilmore, from The Passionate Heart, 1918, reproduced in The Collected Verse of Mary Gilmore, ed. by Jennifer Strauss (St Lucia: UQP, 2004)

Yairs. Compare and contrast, in less than 50 words. :)

* I’m sure I could find a cheesier example in the second vol, but I don't want to plunder from it before it's formally published!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

National Poetry Week [3]

Hmm. Sorry for that patch of black ice last night. Thanks for the nice massages, commenters. I did a similar dark bit last year with Jordie Albiston and Derek Walcoff. I've got a thing for poems that make me weep. They're good for clearing the system. I saw Candy recently, and was sobbing in the first five minutes just because they used an exquisite cover of Tim Buckley's 'Song to the Siren', another of my touchstones. Then they played Tim's original version towards the end, and I walked out of the cinema and straight into a music shop. I've been listening to the soundtrack all day in the car, and I think I'm wept out. Where am I going with this? Dunno.*

Ah! I've got a book that I write all my fav weepy poems in, and I've been keeping it for nigh on 20 years now, so it's an interesting selection, because it goes from teenage choices to now, and my taste has shifted quite dramatically. It's the poetic equivalent of moving from B52 cocktails (or whatever horrid sticky drink teenagers like these days) to a really nice subtle red wine. And I didn't write them in in any kind of order, but picked a blank page at random and wrote. So it's a very eclectic mix as you flip through. And the most hilarious pages have the poems I wrote myself. I don't do much of that anymore. I leave that to the experts :)

Dang, I love that book.

Let's have another poem. Something jaunty, and defiant, less morose (and straight from my book, so I haven't got the publication date, although I could look it up. Naa, too tired tonight):


Though the pitcher that goes to the sparkling rill
Too oft gets broken at last,
There are scores of others its place to fill
When its earth to the earth is cast;
Keep that pitcher at home, let it never roam,
But lie like a useless clod,
Yet sooner or later the hour will come
When its chips are thrown to the sod.

Is it wise, then, say, in the waning day,
When the vessel is crackt and old,
To cherish the battered potter's clay,
As though it were virgin gold?
Take care of yourself, dull boorish elf,
Though prudent and safe you seem
Your pitcher will break on the musty shelf
And mine by the dazzling stream.

Adam Lindsay Gordon

* I think I'm back to my point, already mentioned, that songs are poems.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

National Poetry Week [2]

A big thank you to John Tranter, who sent me the link to his piece 'Lost Things in the Garden of Type'. As well as editing the excellent online journal Jacket Magazine, John has done more to promote Australian poets online than anyone else I know, including and especially the resource Australian Poetry Resources Internet Library.

Ok. I just walked out on the AFI screening of Kokoda in favour of coming home, writing this post and then putting in some more Mary Gilmore time. I am sure it had honorable movie intentions, but after 50 minutes, I was bored stiff. Boy to Man. Untrained to battle weary. Mateship. I was picking out the next one to die when I decided that I'd just had enough. I hadn't engaged with any of the characters and there's only so many times you can hear the same sound-effect to signal Teh Japanese Soldiers. It's the sort of movie Howard is probably proud to fund with government money, but it makes awful viewing. So here I am, ready to work, unrepentant that I left them all flailing in the mud.

If you want to see some great poetry sharing, head over to my post at Sarsaparilla. But here's another humble offering, since I'm talking about mud:


Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney, from Selected Poems 1965-1975 (London: Faber & Faber, 1980)

And ay, here's the rub: that poem means something to me not because of it's content, although it's a very good poem, but because it was set for the HSC in 1987, and my brother was writing an essay on it the day he died. The book was open, some words were written on foolscap paper, and then some time afterwards he got up, went to the kitchen and killed himself. We all wonder about that day, and I constantly wonder what, if anything, this means. The last line written in his hand on the book page is 'Justification of him breaking with his roots'. Yes, well, indeed.

Sorry about that sledgehammer. I haven't thought about it for years. Must have been all that Kokoda mud. Sometimes poetry means so much more than the words on the page.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dizzy with poetry

It's National Poetry Week again! To celebrate I thought I'd share the fact that I had dinner sitting between Rosemary Dobson and David Malouf at their poetry reading tonight and it was one of those evenings where you just sit back and soak it all in. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. One of DM's poems had a line a bit like 'I was so happy I forgot to be happy'. Sigh.

To temper this highbrow moment, I also wanted to share that I lost half of today by overmedicating myself for severe woman-bits pain. I had none of my usual pills left, so in desperation I popped 2 Panadol Forte and rode my bike into the art school. An hour later I was lying with my head on the desk groaning, feeling very spaced out and dizzy. The only comparison I can make (and this is from the experience of a very long time ago) is the effects of sucking on a bucket-bong. I couldn't do anything useful, so I just had to wait until I was sure I wouldn't fall back off my bicycle and ride home.

Two good things came out of this experience:

1. it was a glorious day, and I decided that if I was going to feel stoned I might as well embrace the feeling and look around me for a while. A few times on the way home I stopped the bike (or maybe it stopped me) and sat in the sun watching cockatoos or looking at the shadows cast by trees on the bikepath. There's some lovely bits of the inner North.

bike path shadows

2. I did recover, but was still a bit lightheaded when I went to the poetry reading, so I didn't drink, which meant that I was able to give my dinner companions my full attention and didn't turn into a nervous galah.

Last year for NPW I blogged a poem every day, and I think I'll continue that tradition, including the fact that I've started a bit late into the week.

Here's one of Dobson's poems (not read tonight), which I know from tonight's conversation is one of Malouf's favorites. I'd love to post the poem he wrote in response to this (which was read tonight), but I don't have a copy and it won't be published until next year, so I'll have to wait for that pleasure.


Come in at the low-silled window,
Enter by the door through the vine-leaves
Growing over the lintel. I have hung bells at the
Window to be stirred by the breath of your
Coming, which may be at any season.

In winter the snow throws
Light on the ceiling. If you come in winter
There will be a blue shadow before you
Cast on the threshold.

In summer an eddying of white dust
And a brightness falling between the leaves.

When you come I am ready: only, uncertain---
Shall we be leaving at once on another journey?
I would like first to write it all down and leave the pages
On the table weighted with a stone,
Nevertheless I have put in a basket
The coins for the ferry.

Rosemary Dobson, from Collected Poems (Sydney: A&R, 1993)

Beautiful, non? Spring is such a good time for poetry. I lose all interest in cut flowers in Spring. Gone are the days of buying poppies and jonquils at the markets. Who needs them when there are camellias outside my windows and blossoms in the streets?

of course it is


Postscript: I caught that last photo just in time. Today as I rode by the sky was grey and the blossoms were muddied by the new red leaves coming through on the branches.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Out, out, damned Padge

Mary Gilmore is sitting on my desk, staring balefully at me for blogging rather than continuing with her scholarly edition layout, but I just know that if I don't write this post, it will fade away like all the other failed posts I've ever intended to write. I guess there are three pressing things to write about:


This morning the radio news mentioned 'the death of Steve Irwin last week'. In my understanding, the week starts on Monday. Best Beloved disagrees. But if we're following a predominantly judeo-christian (note lowercase there) calendar, isn't Sunday the day of rest at the end of a working week? I could wiki it, but I reckon one of you intelligent readers will be able to give me an explanation.

2. AFI SCREENINGS: down and dirty on the streets

It's the Australian Film Institute Awards judging season again, and as members, we're in the thick of viewing as many films as we can. This year the predominant theme seems to be streetwise and seedy, drawing upon our Australian right to look cool while we break the rules and thumb our noses at authority. It's ok occasionally, but a bit jaded by the third or fourth film in a row. Still, I'm trying very hard to watch each film freshly, to give it a chance. I haven't got time to go into depth, so I'll give you the speedy version of what I've seen so far:

Em 4 Jay: Heroin. Bonny & Clyde. Good pace, some good laughs, old theme. Nothing very cutting-edge or shocking (unless you are offended by nudity and injection scenes) but entertaining in parts. Good lead actors.

Kenny: Very 'The Castle', endearing with fabulous Aussie vernacular. Take your (older) kids for some good poo humour.

Macbeth: Reviewed well on Sarsaparilla. If the intention was to make the play accessible to a modern audience, it worked for me (first time I've watched any form of M without wanting to drift off somewhere internally), although I could have done without the Michael Hutchence treatment of the lead character (half expected him to wrap a belt around his neck at the end). Lady Macbeth fabulous.

The Book of Revelation: A few things grated on me in this but generally powerful, with beautiful visuals and some compellingly twisted sexual issues. Tom Long (always a favorite of mine) looked amazing.

Lots more to see! Lots of babysitter points being racked up.


What is it with cats and desks? The following is an example of my home office working conditions (and as I construct it, Mary Gilmore's manuscript pile is being warmed nicely by Pooter's fluffy arse).

Every time I leave the room, this is what I see when I return. Padge.

arm-rest 1
Pooter sits on my lap, then uses my arm as an armrest. I don't think he realises what bad OH&S practice this is.

arm-rest 2
When he gets bored, he shifts around and lies on my mouse hand.

PEN, not mouse!
As he lies there, he sees things that should be chased, like this naughty nimble pencil.

lampbathing for one
Finally, when my hands are numb, he moves to warmer climes -- lampbathing under my ancient and manky desklamp.

lampbathing for two
Then Padge, having recovered from being ignobly cast from HIS chair, joins Pooter for a gentle lamp-bathe, looking for all the world like two Victorian dowagers in mourning.

dusty whiskers
Padge, being for some reason extra dusty today...

lamp and kitty bathe
...gets a gentle clean from his brother. Meanwhile, I am trying to get to the papers underneath their bums.

Pooter gets the hint, but Padge, as ever, is persistent. Pooter then begins the whole cycle again by trying to jump onto my lap. If I get up to go to the loo, Padge will get onto my chair.

Sigh. I hope Dame Gilmore liked cats.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Wordsworth gets stuffed

This is horribly late in coming, but Tim T from Will Type For Food (the link is to one of my favorite of his posts) sent me a copy of his zine a while ago, and it arrived right in the middle of my horribly busy patch (another version of which starts tonight after dinner (which is going to be Balsamic Lamb Shanks, and I'm really looking forward to it)) so I didn't get to look closely at it until I cleaned my desk up today in anticipation of the aforementioned busy time.

[Takes a breath.]

The zine is called WORDSWORTH CAN GET STUFFED, and it is quite a lot of fun, starting from the actual design: folded and cropped down to about 1/4 of an A4 page, the pages are loose except for a thin paper band that wraps vertically around half of the zine, holding it together, and can be slid from side to side while you read, avoiding the need for staples. My only worry is that the paper band is itself held together with blu tac, which (from an archival point of view) will leave a greasy stain on the paper over time. But that's just me, with my longevity hangups.

Here's the title poem:

WORDSWORTH CAN GET STUFFED, or, The Lake Poet on a Good Day

There is a rock, a little rock,
Its home is by the road;
And ever and anon I pass
Its pebbly abode.

"Sir Rock, good day - good day, Sir Rock!"
I shout as I pass by,
But, being a rock, it does not talk,
And thus makes no reply.

What does it do all day, this rock?
I really would not know:
The rock will never tell me
(I think about it, though);

Perhaps it spends its rocky day
With its sedimentary friends,
While ever and anon men pass
Before turning round the bend.

I must admit, as soon as I opened the envelope and saw the title, I was reminded of a little poem written by an ex-boyfriend back in the halycion days of uni:


I wandered lonely through a crowd,
High on pot and booze and pills,
When all at once I got the urge
To gobble all the daffodils.

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
I wolfed them down in twos and threes.

That's one for the Canberrans. The ex is no longer alive, thanks to teh drugs (he's an ex-ex-boyfriend), so I guess he won't mind me blogging it.

Another of Tim's poems is about the Ampersand, and I wish I'd had it when I did a recent letterpress workshop, and was casting around for text on ampersands:


O Ampersand, o Ampersand,
I'd like to sprinkle you on dampers and
Put you in picnic hampers and
Take you away in the camper van
To toast you with glasses of champers and
Other liquors of a celebratory variety,
O Ampersand.

I very much like his Poetical Summary of The Lord of the Rings, which should be sent to Martin Pearson, who wrote a very funny musical version available on CD.

Tim is giving this zine away for free, so if, like me, you like odd bits of modern ephemera, click on the zine link at the top of this post, get in contact with him and he'll send you one.

Thanks Tim!

Friday, September 08, 2006

life sentences

I just need to push that gif a bit further down the page, don't I? Sigh. I think I'll do this nice book meme:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 4 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don't you dare dig for that "cool" or "intellectual" book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.

I've been LibraryThinging all morning, just to stop myself from turning into a Watery Tart(TM Zoe) so I'm actually surrounded by Penguin Classics and other such books. Cataloguing your books mean they get a dust, and so eventually I'll have dusted all the books in the house, in time to see the first shelves regrow their protective dusty coating.

So I guess if I pluck one from the top of the pile it probably will be quite deep and meaningful. I'm going to close my eyes and pluck:

and the winner of the chook raffle is:

The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan. Congratulations, little missie, let's see what you have to say for yourself:

p. 123.

5th sentence and then the next four:

Thus she demonstrated well the great love which she had for her husband, as Boccaccio himself noted, approving the marriage bond which others want to attack."
"Of all the ladies who have loved their husbands devotedly and who have demonstrated their love in fact, I would like to add, regarding that noble lady Artemesia, queen of Caria, that, just as was said above, insofar as she had followed King Mausolus into so many battles and was stricken and overcome with as much grief as anyone could bear when he died, she showed no less devotion in the end than she had demonstrated during his lifetime. For she performed all the solemn rites which could be administered to a king, in observance of the customs of that time, and during a dignified funeral in the presence of the princes and barons, she had his body cremated. She herself gathered his ashes together, washing them with her tears before she placed them in a gold vessel. Now it struck her that there was no reason why the ashes of the man whom she had so loved should have any other sepulcher than the heart and body where the root of this great love resided, and so for this reason, little by little, over a period of time, she drank these ashes mixed with wine until she had consumed them all.

Wow! I was going to count that heading as a sentence, but that next sentence blew me away so much I just had to keep it there. I must re-read this whole book. It's been years since I read it for Medieval Studies.

(hurr hurr... she said root)

invaders score

Blah. I was going to write a post about how flat and wurty I'm feeling (see? Not always unbearable happy and content) but I couldn't be arsed going through it all. Small space in big workload means tired gremlins can creep through the cracks. Little things start to feel hard to cope with. I've got a child-free weekend this weekend (haven't had one for a month) so hopefully the sun will be sunnier be the end of it.

Just to stop my mind from running in my own loops I took some time out this morning to play with some real loops. I had a play with Fluffy's excellent animated gif instructions. I've been working on a program for the 80s trivia night at Bumblebee's school this weekend, and I used a space invaders cover theme. So here's my rough little incessant gif, as my first burnt offering to the universe, begging it to be kind over the next few days:

invaders score

[I suppose I'd better let you local people know that if you're interested in an 1980s trivia night, also with a silent auction, it's on at Lyneham Primary this saturday night (tomorrow) from 6.30pm. There will be tables of 10, or you can join an orphan's table, I guess. Ring the school on 6205 6511 to book, or there will be limited tickets at the door.]

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


As much as I feel extremely sorry for the Irwin family (especially the kids, who now have the legend of their father to live up to), I feel that there's many animals in the world that are relieved they won't be poked and prodded anymore.

I suspect the stingray wasn't just being looked at, but hey, I could be wrong. Not much of a fan, as you can tell.

Did anyone catch David Bellamy on Radio National this morning? He'd given 22 interviews on Irwin's death before the ABC got to him and he hadn't even met the guy properly. Everything he said was secondhand info, including the statement that conservationists around the world took Irwin seriously: "yes, that's what I've heard."

As for a state funeral, I can think of better things to do with the money, but I guess there's a lot of people who feel strongly about him, including Howard and Bush. Erk.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Tinkle! tinkle!


I've just finished reading chapter two of The Vivisector as part of the Patrick White Readers' Group. Only one chapter to go, and if I can get through that by the weekend, I'm on track. I'd forgotten how damned long his chapters are. Between the massive amount of work on my plate, my addiction to LibraryThing and my family, I'm amazed I've got this far.

But I do love this book, and rereading it in this context is fun. He's such a good writer. Take Chapter one. All the major themes of the book are there: art, genius, vivisection, cats, Hollingrakes, colour, Rhoda... and probably more, but the great thing about having a crap memory is that you get to read things over and over without spoiling it for yourself.

I love the bell-possum in chapter 2.* It's such a great metaphor for difference, for outsiders. Hurtle constantly feels like an outsider, and [SPOILER ALERT] as far as I can remember, it's only when he realises that he's not alone that he is ready to die.[END SPOILER]

Patrick White is someone I've been reading from a very early age; I think I've mentioned before that his short story, 'Dead Roses' (from The Burnt Ones) was one of the first adult things I ever read, jolting me out of my fairy tale/ myths and legends sort of world. There's a fast and constant vascillation between love and hate in his literary vision that keeps me pinned to his writing. On the one hand he tries to make us engage with his characters, and on the other he tries to make them as repugnant as possible. It's a push-me-pull-you action that holds the attention fast. When you read about PW's life, you can see that it isn't just a literary conceit; he lived with this tug-of-war every day. Having been brought up in a fairly 'nice' family, I found his edge of nastiness exotic, and utterly compelling.

I find Hurtle Duffield fascinating, if only for his extreme synaesthesia, which is a condition that merges senses -- people with synaesthesia can hear colour, or taste sound, or any other unusual combination of sensation. I think Hurtle feels colour, and I love PW's exploration of this.

So on I push, loving Hurtle's development as he learns to hone the sharp knife-edge of his observation, beginning to dissect the people around him. In chapter two we have two of the most important moments in his artistic vocabulary: seeing Rhoda naked, and seeing the model? diorama? of a dog being dissected.

Plus the bell-possum. He rocks.

*My edition is Penguin: 1973, and the bell-possum is on p. 109 of my book.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Over for another year

Fathers Day. I'm usually not very good at it. This year, however:

The child's father got his (expensive, with flashing lights and sound effects) card in the mail by Friday (and a phone call this morning) and loved it.

The child's stepfather (BB) got his present (Little Britain boxer shorts and talking pen) and home-made card and loved it.

My father got his present (hand-made book, bought book) and home-made card (by grandson) and loved it.

Cooked a roast pork meal for BB and my parents and all went well. Food delicious and all very jolly.

Phew. It's never this easy, and I feel suspicious.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Georgette gets a makeover (bulk image alert)

Having started to tell the tale of my rebinding of Georgette Heyer's Regency Buck, I'd better finish it, hadn't I?

Now, where were we? Having ripped off her bodice and applying a soothing poultice, we left our heroine recovering, drying in a safe place:

Georgette's face pack

I'm fascinated by the fact that bookbinding, far from being a gentle art, is actually quite a rough, energetic pasttime, and much of the terminology is very physical: we smoothed her down, trimmed her clean, knocked up her shoulder, rounded the headband, padded up her spine, wrestled with the bookcloth, boned her all over, blocked the case, cased her in.

Phew! Let's take that again, slowly, and with visuals:

I put a bit more of the paste on her spine, to soften her up a bit after a week's rest (if I'd done it all in one session I wouldn't have needed to do this), and then wiped it all off and smoothed it down. Then I tipped in the endpapers, which are the pieces of paper that attach to the hardcover on one side and the bookblock on the other. If this was a really swanky job, I would have used something very expensive, or even hand-marbled, but since it is just a bit of fun and my first time, I used pre-printed commercial reproductions of marbled paper. You only glue a strip of about 5mm on the folded side of the endpaper, and then press it firmly on the spine side of the bookblock for a few seconds. They can be oversized, because after this the whole bookblock gets trimmed. You can't see the marbling in this photo, because the paper is folded with the pattern in, so that you see the pattern as you open the book.

tipping in



After this she is taken to the book guillotine, but not to lose her head. Just to be trimmed a few millimetres on three sides, to clean her edges and make her look fresh and young again. Like a skin peel, I suppose. She transforms from a yellowy dirty colour to a fresh milky complexion.

Now comes the exciting bit, where we get to bash her with a hammer! Young leddies like Georgette aren't supposed to sit straight and square, they need rounded shoulders. So Neil (this is his hand) showed me how to use the special hammer (blunt tail, flat head) to whack the spine whilst in a vice, to form the shoulders, thus:

rounding shoulders

None too gently, too. And not so that they're too large and dominant (she's a lady, remember). And thus the bookblock looks like this:

rounded shoulders

Now we start trimming her undergarments. A dainty headband, and aso tailband, to make her look her best at all times. I chose a pale blue and white design. Many of the headbands you can buy today are just thread wrapped around a core of thread, but the ones at my bookbinding class are solider and probably more old-fashioned, thread wrapped around a core of cane. Since I'm used to the floppier version, I just cut some pieces from the reel and stuck then on. But no! I got my knuckles rapped for this, and was shown The Right Way.

bad headband

The WRONG way. Bad headband.

good headband

The RIGHT way. Good headband.

Can you tell the difference? One has been stuck on without care and is flat and lifeless. The other has been zipped across a blade, like when you curl paper, to give it a bit of curl, and sits happily, even jauntily, along the curve of the newly-rounded spine.


And there you are. Head and tail bands, just glued on either end (carefully!). Now for the various paddings and linings, just like any lady's underlayers.


Muslin. So Regency, darling. It's a stiffened muslin, which in bookbinding terms is called 'mull' and in printmaking circles is called 'tarletan'. For years I'd thought mull was something you had to order from specialist suppliers, and then I realised I'd been using it nearly every day at the art school. [digression: Neil (my bookbinding teacher) had no idea why I would snigger every time he said to 'mull up' the spine. Bless him.]

Anyhoo, you place the mull between the ends of the headband. We're trying to build up the level of the spine so that no one will see the headband layers or the spine tapes through the case (or cover). So the headbands are one layer, the mull makes that layer complete, then we'll add a layer of crisp brown paper the same length as the mull but only the width of the spine. The mull will be wider, because it will be part of the bit that attaches the bookblock to the cover.

brown paper

Just that nice thick paper you sometimes get around packages and bulk paper deliveries. Not if it has a waxy or glossy finish, because that will resist the glue. Of course, if I was doing the truly archival thing, I'd be using acid-free card, etc. If I did that here, the cover would last longer than the pages inside it! I used two layers of brown paper this length, and then the last goes all the way along, over the headbands and everything.

naked bookblock

And so here she is, clad in only her undergarments, waiting to be clothed properly. I'd just set the spine text, hence the odd bits of type lying next to her. But I'm getting ahead of myself.


Laura asked the other day what differentiated bookcloth from other cloth. Well, it takes a lot of glue to attach cloth to boards, and ordinary cloth looks dreadful when the glue soaks through it. So bookcloth has a lining on one side, of either coated paper, or just an acrylic coating, so that the glue sits on the layer and stays away from the publicly visible surface. You can make your own bookcloth by laminating it with thin Japanese paper (something I've been meaning to try for ages and I'll let you know when I do it).

In this case (above), I'd been eyeing off a roll of dusty rose-pink cloth with a large weave that made me think of period costumes. When I cut my piece of it, I saw to my dismay that the colour I liked was actually the BACK of the cloth, and the front was a darker, plasticky texture. Yuk. But Neil assured me that I could use this particular cloth in reverse, as long as the outside coating (which would now be the inside) would allow the glue to sit without breaking it up like oil on water.

So I did use it. It was a battle, as I had to get the glue to spread nicely, and the cloth was very thick and had to be very physically wrangled with a bonefolder around the edges of the cardboard, but it worked! See:

cloth-wrangling 1

cloth-wrangling 2
cloth-wrangling 3

Hooray! A quick press in the Nipping Press and all is good. Note that the centre strip is different from the boards. It's just thick paper or very light card, because that's all you really need once the cloth is on. It makes the spine malleable, and easier to open and shut. Also you'll notice that we've marked all the bits in pencil. Thats because the case is custom-made to fit the newly trimmed block, and each side is unique, and well, it all helps. Nobody will see it under the cloth, so why not be good to yourself?

blocking machine

This is where Georgette gets tattooed. This is the blocking machine (can't remember if there's a more technical name). You set up the letterpress, clamp it up in the machine's frame and it sits, upside down, heating up to a certain hot heat.

After a few practice runs and a bit of registration marking, you set the book cover in the right spot and lower the lever for a second or two and...

lining up

Hey presto!

I used gold foil (of course!) but there are many other colours. Here's what the foil looks like (after stamping).

gold foil

Here's the foil afterwards, held up to the light:

gold foil 2

And here's a close-up of the text I designed:

spine letters

Peeling the foil off is a lovely feeling, like peeling off one of those facemasks, or glue off your finger.

Once the cover has been blocked, you can attach it to the bookblock. I'm sure Georgette was grateful to be dressed.

attaching the cover

As you can see, the mull is poking out, and if I hadn't cut off the crappy old tapes, the booktapes would be poking out too, trimmed to the width of the mull. I've put a piece of waste paper between the endpaper sheets, and now I'm about to paste the endpaper, from the centre outwards, then close the book cover tightly and carefully onto the endpaper, give it a quick nip in the press and then flip and do the same to the other endpaper.

VOILA! A rejuvenated Regency Buck, ready to sit in splendour on my book shelf.

Let's have a look at that headbandy goodness yet again. I love this view of a book.

head view

Ahh. Splendid.

If you want to see the whole set together at flickr, follow this link.