Tuesday, February 26, 2008

the tale of the tail

Remember this?

Drinking kitties

Well here's the update:

drinking kitties 2

Padge was bitten through the tail while we were on holidays in Tasmania, something our beloved housesitter dealt with admirably. When we arrived home, about a week after it happened, we were greeted by this:

floppy tailed cat

We were so shocked when we'd got the phonecall about the attack that we'd imagined the worst (the vet had threatened amputation at one point), and were so relieved to find him merely curly that we instantly started putting the family black humour to work...

closeup tail

Poodle Padge
Poodle Padge,
Poodle Padge with his little white vag...
(to the tune of Postman Pat)


Little fat cat with a pug-dog tail... (Extras)

The tail has healed quite well, and we're pretty sure it won't be lopped off, because it has feeling and (slight) movement right up to the tip, but it will never be straight again. It's lost that lovely slinky quality that handsome cat tails have.

Luckily Padge is a cat who says hello with his forehead, butting into your leg/ arm/ head as he approaches. (Pooter, on the other hand, likes to touch you with his tail as he walks past.) Now he butts you to say hello, then jumps on your lap, and as he turns to curl into your legs, his tail wraps around your arm like the hook of an umbrella. It's very sweet.

Pooter, is, of course, very jealous at the amount of attention given to Padge.

jelos poota

But he'd rather have a handsome tail than attention, and he knows that he'll never be mistaken for that fat slob ever again. So there.

sixty seconds of breathing

I've probably said this before, but I hate washing up at night, because all I can see in the window is me, doing the washing up. At least in the daytime you can see out to the (cough) garden, which is an almost pretty bit of wilderness.

So it was lucky tonight that Best Beloved did the washing up, or we would have missed this, spotted out the window:

An odd bit of cloud at the end of our street, white and puffy and joyously fluffy, having a bit of an inner dummy-spit with lashings of lightning. Quite spectacular in a quiet sort of way. Bumblebee enjoyed it (if you turn the sound up you can hear him exclaim at one point). The video doesn't do it justice; the night sky was quite clear and cool, apart from this bubble of activity.

You need to just sit through the sixty seconds of it I shot; it's very soothing :)


The same cloud, the same evening, with better sound effects :)
Possibly the guys from the group house across the road from me...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Take a breath

It's amazing how much can get done on a child-free weekend. I've finished my tax, gone to 2 art openings, done various layout & design tasks, cooked a batch of fresh tomato pasta sauce that BB preserved for Winter in our Vacola, visited Zoe (and she's still in one piece, just), watched a 4-hour Bollywood movie about Emperor Akbar (phwoor!)and his amazing wife, and updated my website a bit.

Maybe after I've settled in my new bookarts comp class tomorrow, I can actually do some decent blog-posting.

As you were.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

nothing much about anything

Two of my favorite ways to drink tea:

Russian Caravan tea, brewed in a pot, served with full cream milk and leatherwood honey.

Orange Pekoe tea, pot or bag, with a dollop of condensed milk and a plate of Ginger Nut biscuits to dunk.

You can tell I've got a sweet tooth.

Amusing things I have found whilst skulking over the last few days:

-- Pavlov's Cat's series of occasional series. Say that a few times over.

-- TimT's Communist Furniture and other terrors.

-- Pretty much anything Lexicon Harlot does.

-- Ms Fits' theory that racists cannot spell, especially on Facebook.

Interesting things I have found whilst skulking:

-- A very good reproduced book about bookbinding, for anyone who wants to know how it's done, and for those who already know but wonder whether they're doing it correctly.

-- A forum of photocopier technicians who helped me track down a drum for the Book Studio's decrepit but beloved copier. Someone called "Mr Spock" told me what to do in a thinly veiled tone of sarcasm, but I was so grateful I hope I melted his wannabe Vulcan heart.

Between skulkings I have been wrangling my very late tax, preparing for the return of students next week, and sewing books. And sewing books. And doing tax. And doing tax. etc etc ad nauseum.

I am trying to photograph Mr Padge's curly recovering tail for you, but it's very tricky, because he is black. The tail will now always curl, and the hair growing back is mostly white, so he will be our ring-tailed possum.

Back to the tax. I hate numbers. So, so much.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Focus on Books IV

This is what the centre of Mackay looked like about a week ago.

Mackay centre

This was Mackay only a couple of days after I got home:

As I got to the airport on Monday to fly home, the dash from the car to the airport door (all of 5 metres) made me so wet that the hems of my trousers were still sodden when I arrived in Canberras 5 hours later.

I guess that's the last time they do the Artists' Book Forum in the wet season! Poor buggers. Thanks, Adele, for letting me know (in the last post's comments) that the Artspace Mackay and Cathy's gallery are alright. Imagine if all the books got wet? My brain reels at the thought of all those wet houses and businesses.


I had a great time in Mackay. The team at Artspace Mackay always put on a good conference, and now that it's every two years (because, let's face it, Australian book artists are a very small pond), they have a lot more time to plan and arrange things.

I turned up on Thursday morning, because I decided to treat myself to a workshop and be a student instead of teaching. I did Glen Skein's Book, Box, Print workshop, which wasn't ground-breaking as far as techniques went, but was great fun for just getting my hands dirty and doing a bit of frivolous making.

On that first day we played with acetate sheets and ink, making monoprints and drypoint etchings onto various papers and christening the brand-new workshop intaglio press.

Glen Skein workshop

There it is, in the back right-hand side of the photo. Brand new! I said 'first person to mark the blankets buys the champagne', but that seemed to scare people off, and everyone was perfectly clean... bummer.

We also sewed a blank bookblock, and started constructing a box.

workshop 2

Everyone worked very hard.

On the second day we used collage and decoupage techniques to cover the book cover and box. Discovering what wonderful things dress patterns and Japanese papers can do was great fun. I'd brought a heap of letterpress offcuts and included them on my box; for the book I used that day's copy of the local newspaper (Best Beloved got me in the habit of reading local newspapers when travelling; you read the funniest things sometimes).

workshop book


workshop box

Unfinished box (needs its inner bits to be inserted). It's a long, squarish box, like something to store paintbrushes in, which is what I might do with it.

Friday night, after the workshop finished, was the opening of the 2008 Libris Awards, which is a biennial artists' book competition and exhibition. The winners were announced by judge Michael Desmond, and we admired the beautifully displayed 100 shortlisted books.

2008 Libris Awards [2]

(My book is in the foreground, the red & blue one next to the gloves.)

2008 Libris Awards

2008 Libris Awards [3]
(this is a bit fuzzy, but I love the shadows)

The conference proper started on Saturday, and the whole day was devoted to the topic of altered books. Speakers were curator Michael Desmond, artist Patrick Pound (who gave, IMO, the best talk of the weekend), artist David Sequiera (true to form, devoting a large part of his talk to Britney Spears), and Artspace Director Michael Wardell, who has a passion for all books altered.

When we emerged that afternoon, full of altered books, the fabulous caterer had laid out a charming high tea for us all:

High tea

That night, after an exhibition-related gallery opening with lashings of heat and beer, was the conference dinner. Again, the caterer and conference team outdid themselves.

red dinner

Everything was red, and glam. This was the foyer of an entertainment centre, which by day is just very functional, but they made it look wonderful. We were greeted at the door with trays of champagne and horses doovers and a lai each made of flowers cut from Mills & Boon pages (Michael couldn't resist asking us all if you enoyed being laid as he introduced the Mayor for a speech later in the night).

The tables had flower arrangements that also used book pages, to form the lilies.

arum pages

We ate a magnificent dinner, then were asked to partake of a parlour game. We all received a small part of a larger image, and had to draw only our part on an A4 page. When we'd finished, they reconstructed the image, and it looked pretty cool.

George drawing

Ace bookbinder and fine printer George wasn't very keen, but he did his duty.

conference drawing

Yeah, blurry, but so was my vision by this time. My photo of the entire construction failed utterly, thanks to a large injection of Verdello.

Did I mention that I stayed at the local backpacker's lodge? Because I'd spent so much money in Tasmania I chose a dorm experience over paying for a room of my own. There were a lot of other fun ladies staying there and going to the conference, and they were wise enough to have a room of one's own. I shared my dorm with some women who were more residents than visitors; one had been there 8 months, and was trying unsuccessfully to get a toehold into one of the 'good' mining jobs and a bit of the money that's flooding into Mackay (no pun intended!).

Let's just say that I didn't get much decent sleep in Mackay. I did, however, read the whole of The Sound of One hand Clapping, which I found in Mackay's excellent secondhand book shop, just up from the hostel.

Day 2 of the conference was a mixture of papers and themes. We had people talking about photography and books, architecture and book structures, collaborative book and paper works and making books as part of postgraduate research.

The final session was 5 x 15min slots, each person getting their 15 minutes of fame :) The speakers were Clyde McGill (winner of the inaugural Libris Award), Dianne Fogwell, Glen Skein, myself and Julie Barrett.

Compared to all the others I felt like a completely emerging artist, so I slanted my talk that way. I gave a basic introduction to Ampersand Duck as a private press for the 21st century, using the underlying meaning of a private press -- a press that prints what it wants, when it wants, without being restricted by commercial concerns -- and extended this to say that I will release whatever work I want to make, whether fine press books, zines, digital work, e-books, etc. and use the umbrella of Ampersand Duck to do so, without boundary or definition. It seemed to go down ok. I got a standing order from the State Library of Queensland out of it, which makes me very happy!

I also took a moment out of my 15 minutes to rap people on the knuckles for not including colophons in their books. I feel so strongly about this that I'm going to go on a personal public education campaign until lots of people know what a colophon is.

I stayed until Monday, and a group of us who had stayed that extra day got a special white-gloved hands-on look at the Artspace Mackay book archive. Yummy. Then I had to make the dash through a wall of water to get to the airport, and it looks like the wall didn't stop for a few days...

I met some terrific people, and made some useful contacts. The Focus on Books series is a worthwhile experience if you're into artists' books.

I drank G&Ts all the way home, and was in a very relaxed state when my boys picked me up at the airport. I also took photos all the way from Sydney to Canberra. I'll leave you with one of them. I love that sensation of being under the sky yet over the sky, inbetween layers of the sky. I also love the shadows of the clouds, which when I'm underneath them make me think of large animals grazing on air.

Poetic enough for you? Heh, back to the tax.


watch this space

Sorry, I'm buried under a pile of tax things, grant acquittals and bookbinding gumph. I'm hoping to blog about Mackay tonight. In the meantime here's what survived of my photos (I take really bad photos -- I think they look great in the camera miniscreen, but when I see them on the computer they reveal themselves to be crap).

Looks like we got out of Mackay just in time. Poor buggers. I hope everyone is ok, especially the gallery :)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The tourist trap

Sarah Island

A few people wanted to know more about my Annoying Tourist Encounters (ATE) in Tasmania.

Annoying tourists are of course not confined to Tasmania. I'm sure they are world-wide. I like to draw a distinction between Travellers, Stupid Tourists and Annoying Tourists.

These tourists travel with curiosity and tact. They tread lightly, take their rubbish with them or at least throw it in a bin, and they are mindful of both the environment they inhabit and the other tourists traveling alongside them. Not content with what they're told to visit, they will actively seek out additional places to visit and pass tips on to fellow tourists. Conversations with fellow tourists can be both entertaining and informative. Sometimes friendships are sparked that can last for anything from just the holiday to a lifetime.

Stupid Tourists
These are your general, run-of-the-mill tourists. They pass through and visit each tourist attraction at least once and spend most of their time there taking endless photos or videos, presumably to defer thinking about what they're looking at until they are sitting back at home on the couch. Often litter-droppers, they worry about not finding enough entertainment. Mostly harmless, conversations with them can be entertaining. They tend to travel either in packs or in odd combinations of generations.

Annoying Tourists
There is at least one of these in every tour group. They will talk over the top of the tour guide and then ask for things to be repeated. When given specific instructions they will do the complete opposite, especially if it involves safety. They are the ones who get lost because they ignored directions, and the ones the boat/bus/group waits for as they lose track of time, even though the hooter/horn/call has gone out.

Hell's Gates

Of course, these are gross generalisations, but I defy anyone to deny they've met any of these three types on holiday. I met a couple of travellers, lots of stupid tourists and just enough Annoying Tourists to keep the holiday entertaining. I'll give you some concrete examples of ATE:

1. Devonport, trying to see baby Little Penguins at a beach reserve.
We were greeted at the gate to the Hide by a ranger who gave us clear and firm instructions: we were about to go onto a boardwalk overlooking the pebbly beach, and it was almost the end of dusk. If we were quiet, moved softly, and did not use torches, flash cameras or mobile phones (because they're noisy and light up), then we would see baby penguins emerging from under the boardwalk and adult penguins coming up from the sea to greet them. The latter would wait in the water until they were sure things were safe; if we made too much noise they would wait in the water for hours waiting for us to go.

All good. The ranger gave those instructions to every single visitor. So ten minutes later there were a good number of people standing quietly on the boardwalk, looking out to sea, and down at our feet, where every now and then a beak would duck out for a second, then pop back in. Then a bunch of people arrived -- a family, I think -- who started walking up and down, talking about whatever they felt like (sounded like they were catching up on family gossip) in normal voices, which in a situation like that sounded like they were shouting. One of the group was a teenage boy who kept pulling his mobile phone out of his pocket, flipping it open so that it lit up, then flipping it shut. Open, shut. Open, shut. Making a flash of light each time, and a clicky noise.

The poor baby penguins kept scuttling out, noticing the group, and scuttling back in again. The group were oblivious to the grumpy stares everyone shot them, and for some bizarre reason the ranger did nothing. So it was a pretty annoying. I think if I'd followed my impulse to grab to phone and chuck it over the bushes to the carpark I would have received a very quick round of fervent fairy claps. Ahem. Dear reader, I resisted. Finally the ATs noticed a baby penguin and shut up, but the damage was done. The baby penguins came out and wandered around, peeping and were pretty gorgeous, but we didn't see any big Little Penguins, because they were obviously biding their time until the dickheads left, and we left before the group, exasperated.

2. Patting the devil, Cradle Mountain

B's devils
Bumblebee loved the baby Devils, who in turn loved trying to bite him through the glass

After a fantastic day of walking around Dove Lake and bits of the Overland Track's boardwalk, we decided to experience a real Tassie Devil. The only proper way to do this apart from stopping to look at a roadkill is to visit a Devil sanctuary/farm. The sanctuaries know this, and charge like a wounded bull, but it is a pretty marvellous experience. They have large enclosures full of Devils of all ages (although they only live to about 5 or 6 years, like most marsupials), and this particular place had a Devil that we could meet, and pat.

Before we could meet this Devil, we were prepped very carefully as a tour group. we were shown a DVD about Devil habits and history, including a very graphic section on the Disfiguring Facial Tumour Syndrome that is annihilating their species. We discussed the fact that Devils are solitary animals who only interact socially to eat and breed. They have no social skills to enable them to get along together, hence the growling and perceived bad-temperness.

Then the guide told us very clearly that this Devil is not trained to like being seen or touched; she is not tame, she has merely been around humans since a very early age, and tolerates the exposure. She is very nervous, and needs to feel that the room is safe so that she can relax and pretend that we are not there, even to the extent of pointedly ignoring our hands on her. There were very clear instructions. Keep movement to an absolute minimum, no noise, no cameras or phones at all.

The group seemed to comply, and the guide left the room and came back with a small ball of black hair that made little growly noises, bundled into his arms. He sat at the end of the room, and told us that we would sit like this for a while, to let her become accustomed to the room and us. Suddenly the man next to BB started shifting in his seat, not once, but over and over. His camera fell on the floor, and instead of leaving it there, he swung around and started trying to retrieve it. His son started chatting to him. The guide asked them to stop and stay still. The Devil got restless and began biting the guide's jacket zip. The man stopped. But as the Devil calmed, he started crossing and uncrossing his legs in an insolent, bored manner. The guide said firmly that if the room was not still, he would take the Devil back outside. The man reluctantly stilled himself.

The Devil balled herself up and buried her head into the guide's armpit. It gave me a heartpang, because it was like a shy child, and it also reminded me of Padge, who sleeps with his head tucked into my armpit. The guide slowly moved around the room, talking calmly of interesting Devil facts, and allowed us to gently stroke the Devil's back, down low near her tail. He told us not to try and touch her on the neck or near the head, as that is where marsupials are attacked by predators, and touching any marsupial there will stress them immeasurably. Also, if we stroked lightly, it allowed her to maintain her pretence that we weren't there, that she was just having a nice cuddle with someone she trusted.

Of course, the AT reached high, at which the guide snapped, 'she's not a cat, mate.' Forced to do the right thing, the AT then proceeded to roughly pat the Devil as you would a big dog. Later on BB and I confessed to each other that we were quite looking forward to the Devil turning and biting this man. That she didn't showed remarkable restraint on the part of the Devil, and I'm sure the rest of the group joined us in admiring her for it. The man's wife looked exponentially more embarrassed as the evening progressed.

The Devil's fur, by the way, was much, much softer than I expected. I only stroked her the once, with deep admiration and respect. It was a moment to treasure, and the memory of her fur and stoic resignation is better than any photograph. I wish researchers the best of luck and skill in keeping the species alive over the next ten years.

There were a few other ATEs along the road, but those two sum up what is either pig ignorance or wilful anti-establishmentarianism when interacting with both fellow travellers and / or nature. At least they weren't putting our lives at risk, which is a category of tourist that I don't even want to think about. The best wish I have for anyone travelling is that they don't encounter any of those!

Best Beloved finds ATEs frustrating at the time, but he delights in recalling them afterwards. He seems to have a drawer in his mental filing cabinet full of idiots he's encountered, and pulls out the files occasionally for purposes of comparison. I don't like to waste my time thinking about them too much, but I think next time I might take a photo of each ATE and construct a little artist's book from them. I'm sure BB will be able to help with the text!

Next batch of available space: Mackay Focus on Books IV!

A slight diversion

cat found

Best Beloved emailed this to me today. The story goes that it was posted by a Japanese student. I lurv it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

He didn't fuck it up.

Firstly, I'd like to say a big juicy and hearty THANK YOU to Brendan Nelson. Kevin Rudd's excellent speech was made ultra-excellent and quite unable to be criticised because Brendan made such a hatchet-job of his own speech. If he'd done the honorable thing and put a red line through his corresponding paragraphs as Kev spoke, and then got up and said 'yeah, me too!', we would have been a tad suspicious. But no, thankfully, he chose to give his own blow-by-blow (I am using this phrase deliberately) historical response, and ended up looking like a fool. I'm sure Big Kev appreciated Brendan's effort. I know I appreciated Kevin's effort.


I took Bumblebee to the Parliament House lawn this morning (that's him, in blue, at the front of the photo). We parked across the lake and walked over Canberra's bridge, and I revelled in the sight of many, many people all walking / riding / heading in the same direction with hope and anticipation in their faces.

walking up

We stood in the morning dew with many others and watched the big screens. We cheered, we clapped, we smiled at everyone around us. Crit was there, Hil was there, Zoe was there, and I'm sure many more.


When Brendan started talking, we were prepared to listen openly. As he warmed to his theme, there were the beginnings of frowns and growls. Then Hil suggested to me that we turn our backs to the screen. I was reluctant, because I was determined to be nice today. But when he started banging on about the sexual abuse statistics -- we all know them? Why push them in the crowd's face? -- I couldn't bear it anymore and barked out a loud 'GET YOUR HAND OFF IT, BRENDAN' and turned my back until it was over, although I kept listening. I think every indigenous person there had turned around long before.

backs turned

Anyhoo, wasn't it great? Laura and Pav and Beth and probably countless others say it better. But Tim made a good point... it was so much better to watch it with others than I imagine it would have been to see or hear it alone. Bumblebee's class watched it on tv. But Bumblebee watched it on-site, and that will stick in his head for a very long time, I hope.

sorry boy

Annoying tourists next. Then Mackay. Stay tuned!



I'm back. I'll write properly soon, I'm busy. I'm sorry.

I'm excited, in a sooky Lefty way, about today. I may be utterly wrong on many levels, but it feels like something is going to tick over, to change.

As i keep saying to Bumblebee, it's not an ending, it's a beginning, even it is a bit sad and tired and overdue.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Remember to breathe

dont click just type

I've just finished writing my 15 minute powerpoint talk for Mackay, and burnt it onto disk and backed it up on my thumby, and made a resolution never to leave powerpoint until the afternoon before I have to travel because it sucks up time more than a blog does. I've mostly finished packing but now I have to do one more round of the house thinking about what I actually need rather than what I think I need which is what I did for Tasmania and I ended up carting a stack of useless clothes around when all I needed was frigging jeans and t-shirts but that's what you get for packing at the last minute. I have to get up at 5am tomorrow because I'm getting a really early plane so that I can make it to a masterclass by 10am and I'll be spending tomorrow as a student, doing linocuts and stuff and now I'm worried that I haven't packed the right gear for the class. I realised when I was almost finished packing in a really minimal way that I was really proud of that I'd be going to at least two openings plus a conference dinner so I actually do need some smart clothes as well as conference lounging clothes so dammit have to rethink the whole thing.


I'm sorry that I haven't come back and done the annoying tourists. I haven't even had time to go over to Zoe's and tell her about the blogmeet which is something I really wanted to do before I left again but that's cats, as BB says. He's in bed right now because he needs his beauty sleep before he drives me to the airport at frigging 5.30.


Anyhoo, this picture is something nice to look at until I can get on line again, which may be tomorrow as my digs have internet but may be when I get back because there will be lots to do.



Monday, February 04, 2008

bad dreams in the night (they hated you, they loved you too)

Just catching up on a few blogposts over lunch and saw this one by Pav's Cat.

I forgot to mention that while shopping for our food for the Maria Island leg, BB got a newsflash on his blackberry about Heath Ledger. It was quite surreal, sitting among the marsupials and knowing that the media was going crazy somewhere out of my reach. of course, it was all still raging when we emerged, and then again when we got back to comparable civilisation.

I was quite sad about his death. I'm a bit of a Heath fan, having followed him through the years. It's the pure Aussie larrikin in him. He's the sort of guy I'd have had a crush on in high school without him ever caring about my name. I'm still a bit wistful about him as I write this. I was looking forward to seeing him ripen over the years.

Did anyone see that article a few days ago -- I forget if it was The Australian or The Age -- about how American men are so soft these days that Hollywood has been turning to Australian men for their heroes? It was a nice little number, and talked a lot about Ten Things I Hate about You which is one of my fav Heath movies (and based on 'The Taming of the Shrew'; anyone who likes Alison Janney from West Wing might have fun watching it too).


Tasmania, the second bit, and a blogmeet

OK, where was I? Ah yes, the Mercury printing museum, on day 11. Lovely little place. Not a big overwhelming and unmanageable thing like the Melbourne Museum of Printing (which has a fabulous on-line presence but hasn't managed to get itself together properly IRL), but just enough of a display to give you a good idea of what type looks like, how it can be set, and the variations in printing technology from early colonial days until now. And it has a tray of CANBERRA font, something I've never seen before.

Anyhoo, I'll get my hand off it and get on with the holiday.

Day 11, cont: on the way home we climbed the Hobart Shot Tower, all 259 steps of it (BB counted, Bumblebee claimed the certificate that congratulated us o getting the number right). Gorgeous views of Hobart and the river from it.

Day 12: Left Hobart and wended our way up the East Coast through Richmond and various other hamlets on the way to Maria Island. MI is a large island of National Park, which means there are no cars and you have to carry all your gear over on the ferry and then again to the cabins or campsite. The boatride over was incredibly rough. To quote from Bumblebee's holiday diary:

"It was awfull [sic]. we were going up and down up and down on really huge waves and we all got wet especially mum."

Indeed. The island, however, was wonderful. More marsupials and birds than you can poke a stick at, not that we tried. We set up camp, went for some walks, then came back and played a hearty round of our game-of-the-holiday, Phase Ten. As we played, this is what came within two metres of us:

-- a line of Cape Barron Geese, looking like Regency gentlemen with their spindly pink-stockinged legs
-- numerous pademelons, which are small fat wallabies
-- a large grey kangaroo, which stayed and delicately nibbled grass beside the tent long after we went to sleep
-- a number of wombats, two of which crashed through the bushes next to us, chasing each other, then stopped and stared at us for a long moment before acting like cats and pretending they'd never been caught in such an undignified situation.
-- various birds, including a large kookaburra that sat nearby and watched our roast chook carcass intently until we bagged it (the chook, of course).

Maria Island also has a long cliff-face full of fossils, mostly shell fossils, but BB remembers finding a fish fossil as a child. It's pretty spectacular.

Day 13: we spent the day wandering our patch of the island. To see the rest of it you really need to bring bicycles over. The rangers encourage this, but unfortunately there's nowhere to hire them. There's a small business idea for someone. The boat ride back was MUCH calmer, and we saw an albatross over the boat. We got to Coles Bay in time to set up the tent before dark.

Day 14: Coles Bay, which has a fabulous camping ground along Richardson's Beach, next to the Frechinet Peninsula. In high demand times these are allotted via a ballot system, but at other times you just need to book. We were there on the Australia Day weekend, and were lucky enough to grab a cancellation spot. Each campsite has its own path down to the beach, and the facilities are excellent. We walked to Wineglass Bay and had a swim, then back around the Hazards to the carpark. This was Bumblebee's longest bushwalk (11kms) and he handled it very well. The secret was letting BB walk ahead at the speed he likes, leaving B to walk with me, and I'm very good at jollying him along without pressure and with lashings of water and chocolate. Then we meet back at the car where BB has been reading the paper and we're all happy :)

Day 15: Australia Day. The site next to us is full of little tents full of P-plate drivers full of beer. They started drinking at 8 in the morning, and the stereo pumps out TripleJ all day at very high volume. By lunchtime the guys are roaring along with their arms around each other and the girls are in small huddles at the toilet block, fixing their hair and coming to the slow but bitter conclusion that they have only been brought along as designated drivers and cushions for drunken heads on the beach. I spend the day reading and sleeping -- I put my foot down, demanding a day of rest, but didn't count on the noisy companions. That night they all stagger down the beach in quest of a pub, my boys go to a Ranger-arranged Aussie Day quiz (and come 2nd), and I walk along the dusky beach looking at the Hazards, three mountains with a constant grey boil of cloud over them from afternoon to the next morning. They clear of clouds each morning, only to get them back later in the day, and there the clouds stay, no matter how windy or sunny it is elsewhere. As I walk I think about being Australian and camping, and how much I like the sound of the birds, and how the campers next to me won't let themselves hear them.

Day 16: packed our tent up and kept going up the coast, past the Bicheno blowhole, where a man was trying to get his daughters, one by one, to walk up next to the blowhole with him and look into it, even though every few random minutes it would explode upwards and outwards dangerously. Another family was walking their kids towards it for a look, not caring that one of the boys was clutching his open gameboy console as they got soaked. Those kinds of tourists are not Annoying, just Stupid. I'll explain about Annoying Tourists in a mo.

We stayed the night in Pyengana, close to the beautiful St Columbia Falls, in a place called the Pub in a Paddock, where they have two beer-drinking pigs. Bumblebee thought feeding pigs with warm bottles of beer was the height of cool fun.

Day 17: Slow drive along the northeast and up to our eventual destination of Bridport. We went through Derby and detoured to visit the most famous lavender farm in Tas. I'll let Bumblebee speak again:

"Then we drove to Derby. We saw a Chines meusem and I got some Phantom comics. then we went to a not so good (crappy) lavandar farm."

The Chinese 'meusem' is a nice little private museum in Derby next to the Tin Museum (which was closed for renovation). He got the comics at a very odd and overpriced secondhand bookshop down the road. The lavender farm had just harvested its crop, so there was no lavender, but that wasn't what made it crappy. It was the absolute lack of signage, or anything of interest other than the giftshop and cafe, which had no signs either. Apparently when there is lavender, you have to pay to got to the farm, and there are tours, but only weeks later it seems like they withdraw everything but still expect you to buy expensive momentos of your visit. I hate mean-spirited tourism.

Bridport is terrific. The Backpacker's Hostel is excellent, and highly recommended. The beaches are clean, clear and delightful to swim at. I'd quite happily spend a week there doing very little.

Day 18: Through the Tamar Valley to Launceston. We visited a large winery and a small one, both of which had their charms. BB wanted to go to Beaconsfield; I was reluctant, because I don't like voyeuristic sightseeing (I was careful at Port Arthur as well). But the Beaconsfield museum was the best one I saw in Tas. It's absolutely brilliant, mainly because it is extremely hands-on for children. Lots of buttons and levers and things to twist and hold and tweak.

Launceston is dead on a Tuesday night. Anyone who criticises Canberra for being lifeless should shove it up their bottoms, because it rawks compared to Lonnie. We did find a terrific little Indian restaurant run by a young family who cook 'only fresh' and we liked it so much we went there for both our nights.

Day 19: Launceston's daytime charms -- monkeys in the park, stuffed things in the museum, a lovely walk through Cataract Gorge and an afternoon swimming and lolling with the papers.

Day 20: Across to Burnie and back to Devonport -- Raspberry farm, cheese farm, Belgium chocolate factory (where their eccentric tree-filled carpark put our first ding in the car, and worse, it was my fault), and a junk shop-cum-museum that amused BB no end. In Burnie we visited the Creative Paper Mill, where they make handmade paper. Bumblebee got to pull some sheets of paper and was very impressed. I made some contacts and am thinking how I can use their famous 'roo-poo' paper in a book some day.

In Devonport we saw a marvellous contemporary art show. I'd like to say more on that later.

We slept on the boat back to Melbourne. I haven't lost my sea-legs since the first boat ride over three weeks ago. Everywhere I walk sways like a moving deck. Even sitting here in front of the computer I can feel the surge and sway.

Day 21: Arriving at 6am meant we had to flake all morning at a friend's house, catching up on sleep. A visit to the zoo in the afternoon, which was ten minutes walk from the house, and we saw remarkable things... an elephant seemingly getting a very involved enema, but upon enquiry turned out to be having a prostate massage to collect sperm. 'Sometimes it only takes a minute, but today he's not in the mood,' explained a young keeper, as the poor fellow doing the 'massage' had to change shifts with someone with a fresher arm. Around the corner was an ape with a huge hard-on, sitting quite relaxed while another ape picked at his fleas. Parents were walking up with their kids, saying 'Oh, look at the mon... err, um, let's go over to THIS monkey!' and shuffling the kids quickly in another direction. Bumblebee was fascinated, as any ten-yo boy would be.

That evening we took Bumblebee to Spamalot! at Her Majesty's Theatre. To temper the tone of the evening, I met up with Michelle de Krester in the bar beforehand and we got to know each other a little in Real Life, which was lovely. We'd only done phone calls and emails throughout the whole process of her book's design!

Spamalot was fun, and peculiarly like going to an English pantomime; everyone there knew almost every line, and was enjoying themselves thoroughly. Bumblebee thought it was fantastic, and is still singing 'I'm not dead yet' around the house. My favorite character from The Holy Grail has always been Herbert, and I wasn't disappointed by his stage presence.

Bumblebee also got a taste of Melbourne public transport, as our tram back tot he house was more than standing room only (barely breathing room, really), with the requisite number of smelly oddballs to add flavour.

Day 22: Blogmeet! O wot fun. I really do prefer picnics to bars, although I regret not bringing a bottle of bubbly with me to celebrate Sophie Cunningham's rise to Meanjin glory. Sitting at the Botanic Gardens with the kids running around us was delightful. The Honour roll was: Lord Sedgwick; Barista; Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony; the Feb-fasting Another Outspoken Female; Sorrow at Sill's Bend, armagnac'd; Lost in a Reverie, Lexicon Harlot, Will Type for Food, and Sophie Cunningham. All brought delightful partners/family/friends and food. It was a lovely get-together and has already borne fruit.

And then yesterday we drove home, almost without stopping, to clap eyes on poor Poodle Padge. I think he'll be ok. Thursday I fly to Mackay for the Book Arts Forum, and in the meantime I have to get moving on a couple of urgent jobs. In other words, back to my usual overworking routine. Ahh well, it was a nice holiday while it lasted...

OH! Annoying tourists. Sorry, that'll have to be tomorrow's post. I've seriously run out of time. Have to get working. Sorry to be such a tease!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Home! There's no place like it!

Gosh, it's good to be home.

Even if you're greeted at the door by a cat that looks like a poodle, with the middle section of his tail shaved off to expose gory healing wounds after something like a dog or a very mean cat bit right through it, 8 days ago. 'Poodle Padge, Poodle Padge, Poodle Padge with his little white vag' is the song of the evening (he has a white patch between his legs). The worst-case scenario is that he has nerve damage and may need a bit of his tail cut off. If that happens he will be Stumpy Padge the Pirate Scrow, Arrrr. But we're not thinking about that right now, because we're home! And the cats are very happy to see us. And we them.

And that's all I've got time for right now. I'm BUGGERED. I'll write more tomorrow, promise. Including Annoying Tourists and Interesting Blogger Encounters.