Wednesday, October 28, 2009

silly me

Never, ever say it out loud. It's asking for trouble.

Just the other day I was saying to BB how lucky I was that I hadn't been ill for much of the year.

This was me at 9.30 this morning:

And this was me by mid-afternoon:

(courtesy of this place; I didn't really want to show you a photo of my rapid descent!)

It's a cold. Or flu. I can never tell the difference. I think I got it from Jethro on the weekend -- and I tell you Zoe, if this is how he felt, no wonder he moaned all night! I'm so ready to crawl into bed.

I did manage to get to Studio Duck to meet up with Lucas from Big Fag Press and his good lady, and I'm so glad I did. They are very enthusiastic people, and by the end of the visit we were making plans for an Australian printers' wayzgoose some time -- maybe next year? Fun!

But... now I'm home, and the screen is starting to hurt my eyes, so I will drag myself off to bed. My sinuses feel like they're about to explode, and my head is throbbing. I think the pills I took at lunchtime to get me through the day are wearing off. Ciao.

Monday, October 26, 2009


There's a reason why I never got around to travelling the world like most of my friends: there's too much to see between pages. With books you don't have to buy a souvenir of a good journey, because the book is the keepsake.

I love finding things worth remembering in texts while I read them, but I'm absolutely useless at remembering them, and where they were. I've tried a lot of things: over the years I've keep a book of quotes -- long lost now -- and I've written excerpts in diaries that are stashed in dark corners of cupboards, soon to be burned at my next drunken bonfire. I've even started index cards, in a box, but where is the box when you're reading a book under a tree? (Or in a bath, but you didn't see me type that.)

Then there are more radical physical interventions: writing notes in the margins is a common one, but rediscovering most of the notes I wrote as a high-school student has put me off that. Firstly, they were written in coloured pen that has bled and spread to make garishly sodden words, and secondly, they were completely inane. I'm worried that if I make marginalia -- in pencil, the most conservation-friendly implement yet invented -- they will one day be laughed at heartily the way BB and I laugh at one of his texts, Freud's Moses & Monotheism, where the reader wrote in the margin in tones of great scandal: Freud is NOT a Christian!!!!

I'm at the point now, and have been ever since I saw Charlie Sofo's Dog Ears book, where I generally dog-ear (i.e., fold a corner over) a page when I find something I want to remember, and leave the finding of the passage to myself again at a future point. If I really want to remember it, I'll re-write it, in my iphone, on a scrap of paper and stick it to the wall in front of me, or here on the blog, but if it's just a bit that jumps out at me, I'll dog-ear the page and put the book back on the shelf. I know that dog-ears damage the book, but I don't buy reading books for their value (and, actually, I don't dog-ear very valuable books, which aren't usually things I want to fondle/reread a lot) and I don't trust the long-term effects of acidic bookmarks or post-it notes. That having been said, I do leave a lot of ephemera through my books: gallery invitations, shopping lists, love letters, post-it notes... but these are usually accidental, like most ephemeral remainders.

Knowing that I dog-ear makes me browse my shelves again regularly. I'll cruise through a shelf, plucking out books, looking for the dog-ears. It works; I find myself whisked all sorts of places, and refreshes my outlook a bit.

I have a fundamental problem with audiobooks and ebooks: you can't dog-ear them. And others agree, especially India Ink, who puts a great case forward for the physical book and talks about

the near impossibility of thumbing back a few pages’ worth to find something I’d already read. Stanza offers much better wayfinding aids than Kindle, showing your relative position within each chapter (that thin two-tone line along the very bottom of the two Stanza screenshots), and not just within the whole book. But there was still no substitute for that visual aspect of reading, which lets one narrow down a search: “The sentence I’m half-remembering was on a verso page, about five lines from the top,” so you can then scan quickly backward, looking only at that part of each page spread, until you find it.

You can search an e-book, yes, and that’s a big selling point, but it’s not helpful when it’s just a dumb text search. Searching an e-book (assuming the software lets you—the Kindle app, as far as I can tell, does not) is not like searching with The Google, where putting in the wrong terms can still get you to the same place if enough other people have used those terms to link to the page. Nor is it like a good index, which cross-references guinea pig to cavy and back; if I search an e-book of The Three Musketeers for lackey I don’t get all mentions of Mousqueton or vice versa, whereas in a properly indexed edition of the book, I would.

Is this a deal-breaker? Obviously not, since blind people successfully read and retain information from books every day. And I certainly absorbed some information and enjoyment from these less-than-ideal reading experiences. If printed books—all of them—were to disappear today, replaced by electronic ones, I trust that I’d adjust. Somehow.

I trust that I would, too. But the point is, I don't want to have to adjust, and hopefully I'm of an age where I won't have to. But my son? Well, that will be his story to tell.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Country stuff

The Country Show opening was great: lots of yummy things, lots of fun activities.

I'm just trying to herd the cats into a box to get them down to the parental farm for the weekend -- parentals are in WA -- but Padge hasn't shown, and I'm afraid our departure may be delayed until he can be found!

So I haven't got time to write more, other than that BB won second prize in the cake comp for his Quince & Nut Cake and Bumblebee won second prize in the chook raffle, so I now have a very annoying rubber chicken squawking at me whenever he's home.

Photos next week, when I can get some from the gallery. I was -- ahem -- selling raffle tickets at a table, so missed out on a lot of the action. The drawing of the raffle was very fair though: we sold hundreds of tickets, and Bumblebee only had four in the mix. it was drawn by the child an artist not in the show!

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Fairy floss, sausage sizzle, cake competition, chook raffle (chooky art, not a frozen chicken, so vegan-friendly), the Toffee-apple Lady, and much much more...

You don't have to be an artist or even interested in art! Just come!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Uncommon press

A few months ago I watched a remarkable television show: Stephen Fry and the Gutenberg Press. Maybe you watched it too; because I'm a letterpress printer, I've had a lot of people ask me if I saw it. I did: it was part investigation into the way Gutenberg had earned his reputation as the Father of Letterpress, and part documentary about the recreation by a group of British press enthusiasts of a wooden hand press similar to Gutenberg's.

If you did watch the show, you'd remember that Gutenberg didn't actual invent the press itself, as hand presses had been used for printing woodblocks before his time. No, he is the Father of Letterpress for inventing a process to easily cast individual metal letters for the purposes of printing. It was much more of a jeweller/blacksmithery type of invention, really, and of course it revolutionised information technology as the world knew it.

While I was watching the show I remember thinking that, in my limited experience of Australian letterpress, and in my broader virtual observances of overseas letterpress, there seems to be two kinds of letterpress enthusiasts: those who live for the print, and those who love the machines. I've only known one person who combined elements of both, and he produced beautiful work.

Myself, I'm a print person, someone who loves what the process does rather than the process itself. I'm not particularly interested in the machines, and when something goes wrong with a press I'm working with, I’ll try to fix it intuitively, but if that doesn’t work I’m not afraid to look girlie and call people who are much handier with a spanner and screwdriver than I.

Canberra has a Museum of Printing quite close by in Queanbeyan; it's full of machines of different vintages, and that use different technologies, from iron presses to platen presses to cylinder presses and a working linotype machine. It was set up from the remnants of the Queanbeyan Age newspaper, and the people who run it (all volunteers, many of whom worked on the newspaper) love their machines. They get them working, they maintain them lovingly, and they print off the odd souvenir flyer to show the public what the machines can do. I don’t think there's a lot of print production happening there, and because I don’t worship the machines, I don't go there very often, which is quite remiss of me.

I bet all the QPM volunteers watched the Stephen Fry/Gutenberg show, and marvelled over the building of the wooden press; I bet they don't know, like I didn't, that a similar labour of love was happening just down the highway a bit. In Australia? Where most of our presses have been scrapped? Where it’s impossible to buy new metal type? Where the once quite healthy private press movement is now almost completely non-existent? Really?

Yes, really.

Let’s start with a little bit of printing history, a bit of context. I listed some printing presses above, but you probably don't know what I mean. Forgive me if I make a mistake here, I'm not a print history expert, I've just absorbed a few things in the time I've been involved with letterpress.

So, this is a press very similar to the one used by Gutenberg.

It is a wooden hand press, with most of the parts being wooden, and only some of the moveable parts of it made from metal, because it was very expensive to use metal at the time, as you can imagine. In fact, this press technology was the dominant form of print production for centuries, until the industrial revolution allowed metal casting to be a lot cheaper and large cast shapes were made possible. This allowed people to produce much more durable designs and you start getting presses that looked like this:

These are called iron hand presses. Similar concept to the hand press, in that you lay the type flat and press the paper onto it. Anyway, with all that marvellous industrial production capacity, from this point on press development went gangbusters, like everything else in the modern world, and presses changed shape rapidly over two centuries:

(That one is very similar to Miss Kitty, my beloved press.)

(Snaps to the marvellous Five Roses Press site for most of these images, a marvellous place to learn about letterpress.)

That first, wooden press is called the Common Press, because while there were many variants and slight improvements (and, I’d say, complete wackinesses) to its design over the centuries of its dominance, commonly they were all wooden with metal screws.

I'm pretty certain that, up to now, we haven't had a Common press in Australia, as we were colonised around the time of the Iron Press. Did you know that the First Fleet had a press on board? I read somewhere that there was no-one able to use it, so it festered in a hut for many years before being hauled out and put into use. One day I'll find that fact again and actually write down the details.

I received a hand-addressed letter a month or so ago, in gorgeous penmanship of a kind I haven’t seen in years. I had only seen the sender once in the last fifteen years, and that was only a few months before the letter arrived. He's one of those wonderful eccentric Australian people that set themselves up in the bush and do whatever the hell they want and the rest of the world can be buggered. When you get talking to them, they've had an interesting life, and are usually very well educated. This man, Richard Jermyn, is no exception.

I don't know a lot about Richard Jermyn. I've been told various stories, such as he is an ex-Navy man; he was an architect, so forth. I don't really know what is true and what apocryphal from the various stories. What I do know for certain is that he has a strong interest in letterpress and printing, and used to have a private press in the bush near Bemboka, NSW called the Indian Head Press, named for a nearby peak in the Bega Valley. He lived near my parents, who have a lot of respect for him, and they took me to meet him when I first started showing an interest in type and printing. I lost contact with him; he sold his Bemboka property and moved further south. Apparently he gave a lot of his equipment to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, and only kept the basics, and that’s the last I heard for a long time.

Then earlier this year I taught a bookarts workshop in Bega, and he popped in to say hello. I had a couple of my fine press books with me, and I was delighted when he looked through them seriously, with care and attention to detail, and then looked at me soberly and said 'good pressmanship' with the same sense of approval that the farmer says 'good pig' to Babe at the end of the movie, and I felt so happy I thought I would burst. I have had the pleasure of having my books admired by good people, but when an experienced pressman praises, it really means something.

So, the letter. It was only a computer-generated and photocopied invitation, but the content was very exciting.

Of course I went, how could I not? I took my mother, a local historian who could also appreciate the importance of the occasion. It was a most enchanting experience: driving down the highway to the furthermost eastern corner of the state, turning into a rough narrow dirt road just off the main road to discover a large green Colourbond shed surrounded by the usual scrap and detritus that is common to most farm barns, plus a rugged vegie patch and a rudimentary washing line full of simple clothes: shirts, worker's shorts, socks. Outside the door of the shed was a table set up with wine and nibblies. Not wanting to drink, I asked for something non-alcoholic, and was poured a glass of water from the tap attached to the rainwater tank.

A bit of chat with the others gathered around – mostly friends and press-making collaborators, only one other person having anything to do with printing – and then we were allowed into the 'Tin Tent' to discover a completely different world.

I was expecting... I guess I was expecting the usual printer's set-up, arranged around the inside of a green tin shed. I wasn’t expecting the ambience of hand-cut wooden beams and carefully yet carelessly arranged arrangements of various collections – saws, lathes, timbers, chains, plugs, books, tins. among many, many collated things – up the walls and on a big mezzanine that is obviously a living quarters as well.

It was a living working space, one indistinguishable from another.

Richard had arranged for some local musicians to sit up on the mezzanine level with violin and harpsichord.

They played (exquisitely) from above as we entered and saw, in a cleared space at the far end of the shed, the press that Richard and a group of friends had built by hand.

You see this picture? Look at this:

It was gobsmackingly wonderful to stand and look at this working replica of early printing history. I can’t begin to convey how privileged I felt to be there when it pulled its very first print.

I had borrowed my mother’s digital voice recorder, and managed to record Richard’s opening speech.

I’ll provide a bit of it here, to give you an example of the gobsmackery:

This was started at the beginning of the year; I think the first of January I started to first put plane to wood. I might just go through quickly a bit of the language of the common press, the various parts, and you’ll see on the printed matter that I’ve made a bit of an explanation and some of the background, but basically this press was derived from plans … from a double volume book called The Common Press, which is the documentation of the common press that is in the Smithsonian Institution in America. Without the plans in this book I would not have contemplated it, but I looked at it and thought ‘I’ll have a go at this’. Just shows the things you can do in a moment of rashness.

The original plans called for oak, elm, beech timber, and the big departure has been that this is not European timber, this is all Australian hardwood. This is where Les and other people have come in. So, from the bottom down: the Feet are the hobs of the Tathra Wharf (there’s a story behind every piece), the Cheeks are (pretty ratty, you can see the difficulty of getting big enough timber)… basically wharf timber from North Bega.

These pieces... that’s the Head, and the other big lump down the bottom, that’s the Winter; those two pieces take the whole of the impression. These are dove-tailed into the cheeks, there’s a big dovetail running up in here, top and bottom, and those pieces take the whole pressure of the press, and these are Roads and Traffic Authority guideposts.

[laughs from viewers, someone says: they don’t make guideposts like that anymore!]

You can see a bit of the original timber there, I’ve written the dimensions there: 8 1/4 x 7 3/4 x 24 3/4, and that’s the offcut. So that’s the Winter. And somewhat ironically, the Summer is this little strip here...

If you want more of that verbal tour, you can download the files and hear for yourself. I’ve broken it into chunks, and apologies for some of the incidental noise, especially my iphone beeping at me. I taped until I stopped to have a go myself. None of the chunks are more than six or seven minutes:

Part 1: Richard Jermyn: Acknowledgement of the local Aboriginal peoples (this is about 30 seconds; I didn't mean to separate this out from the rest of the acknowledgements, but I was experimenting with the sound software)

Part 2: Richard Jermyn: thanking all those who were involved

Part 3: Richard Jermyn: Details about the parts of the press and what materials they used.

Part 4: Richard Jermyn: a live recording of pulling the first print

Part 5: Richard Jermyn: more live printing

Part 6: Richard Jermyn: an explanation of the metal screwthread and how it was made

The detail, the terminology, it’s all something you’d expect to see and hear in a museum, but it’s alive and well in a tin shed in Pambula. Amazing. Apparently this press will outlive anything built in European wood, thanks to the hard woody goodness of our Australian timbers.

Look at that woodcut of early printing again. See the inkballs used for printing? Richard had even put together a couple of those, made with wooden handles, horsehair and the remnants of a friend’s leather jacket. They worked really well, and he put a friend on printing duty while he supervised the press working.

On dabbed the ink, the paper (dry, not damp: he didn’t dampen machine-made paper) was inserted onto the guides, the tympan (made from real vellum) lowered onto the frisket and the whole lowered onto the forme (which is the locked-up type). Then he got friends to turn the handle that moved the type under the platen, and pull the lever that lowered the platen onto the type to make an impression. That prints the first page. Then the forme is rolled further along and the second page of the sheet is printed.

When the tympan was lifted to reveal a (fairly roughly) printed page, we all sighed deeply, no one more than Richard himself, who had very bravely and generously waited until we were all assembled to see if his press actually worked. This is what we took turns printing:

Don’t bother counting the typos: we know they are there, but there wasn’t time to change them, because the music was playing, and the wine was being slurped, and we were all taking turns to use the inkballs and turn the handle, and pull the lever – which, incidentally, explained a lot to me about why there weren’t many women in the trade. It’s hard work to pull that lever! I don’t think I could possibly print on that press regularly, although it would be akin to working out on a rowing machine, and probably very good for me.

>Just in case you can’t see the image, the book he used to build the press was called The Common Press: being a record, description & delineation of the early Eighteenth Century Handpress held in the Smithsonian Institution by E. Harris, C. Sisson (London: Merrion Printers, 1978). He used local craftsmen to help with timberworking and the blacksmithing.

He showed me the book after we stopped printing (only because we ran out of paper!) and it is incredibly detailed, with cross-sections, x-rays of inserts, plans and materials. Still, there’s no way I would look at something like that and think ‘I could do that’. I only do that with pictures of things people have printed.

I think everyone came away from the Tin Tent that day feeling privileged and excited. Richard had invited the local media but they didn’t show, and it’s their loss. Richard told me that he has happily spent $10,000 building this press. There is a thread on Briar Press about the possibility of building such a press, and I can’t wait for Richard to receive the praise he deserves for achieving it. He hopes to move it to somewhere more accessible, but in the meantime he will show it by appointment to anyone who is interested. You can read his contact details on the letter at the start of this post, otherwise feel free to email me and I will pass on his details. If you want to see more images of the press and the day's proceedings, go to my flickr set.

Richard Jermyn

[cross-posted at Ampersand Duck the website, Slow Making, and Spike, the Meanjin blog.]


No child, no urgent work, a weekend to plant flowers and see movies. Felt a bit flat on Friday arvo, all my urgent deadlines of the last few months have been met... BB was off winning a trivia night so I called up Byrd and he came over for a chilled evening eating stir fry and watching crap(pish) tv. He's great company.

* * * * *

On Saturday I went to the farmers markets and was seduced by rows and rows of pink and purple petunias going for 12 pots for $10. I bought a stack and filled a few planters on the front verandahs. I'm a lazy gardener, but these will only last a season and I think they've going to cheer me up a lot when the weather turns hot. I spent most of the afternoon fixing the front garden tap which broke as soon as I used it to water the flowers. Of course, I didn't take the broken bit with me to the hardware store, so I bought the wrong size replacement, and had to drive back and do it all again. There are no hardware stores in north Canberra anymore, so this was very frustrating. Mind you, there's no substitution for the buzz a bit of DYI gives once it's done.

* * * * *

Reason I like Best Beloved #1364

Sitting in the dark watching the end of Julie & Julia, where it says (and this is NOT a spoiler):

Julie Powell is now a writer.

Her book was made into a movie.

Best Beloved leaned in and said into my ear:

They should have said Her book was made into half of a movie.

Indeed. BB didn't like the Julie bits of the movie much, but he fell in love with Julia (and her kitchen), so I guess I've got a bit of French eating ahead of me. It's lucky I love butter.

A lot of people laughed at the moment that Julie got her first comment, so I'm guessing there were a few bloggers in the audience.

I liked that movie, but I didn't love it as much as I did Moon. I went into the cinema expecting to spend much of the time with my eyes shut (I'm so bad with suspense) but came out completely exhilarated and energetic. Onya Duncan Jones! I love you as much as I love your father. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go and see the movie.

I'm trying very hard to write up my Common Press experience. I should be finished soon; I'm just trying to do it justice. I'm sure my braincells will kick in soon. I haven't had alcohol since my birthday, but when I stop rushing around, it takes a while to make my brain work again.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Country Show

country show

Yee haw!

Coming your way real soon, with a chook raffle that has the best chooky prizes you've *ever* seen (all proceeds to the RSPCA), an open- entry cake competition, and lots of good country art.

Poster made by me from wholesome chunks of wood type and metal type with a slick of rubber stamping. Printed on a Vandercook SP-20 press. Posters will be sold at the show.

Oh -- there are two versions of this poster. This one is called 'Woodchop'; the other is in pinks and turquoisey blues and is called 'Fairy Floss'. Each is printed in an edition of 10.

(This is what I did with my school holidays. It was printed on Miss Kitty, my 'new' press, and she did really well for her 'first' run.)

(This is also proof that undies-damaged wood type can still be used to good effect :))

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

let's play with fonts

Arial and Helvetica... do you know the difference?

Test your skillz...

When I first took that test, I was a cocky little thing, and shocked myself by getting only 10/20. Then I actually read the article about the differences between the two fonts (you can find it all here on Ironic Sans), and was surprised, in a number of ways. Now I don't think I'll ever use Arial again.

Then I took the test again and got 19/20. There's one that is really, really hard.

I love typography quizzes. I'm not obsessive about fonts, that's probably a flaw in the design part of my brain, but I know enough to get by, and rely on intuition rather than historical facts and cool brands (a bit like my cooking/clothes buying). Still, it's always fun to do type quizzes. Another good one is called the rather difficult font game. And one of my all-time fav bloggers (because he writes about sexy things like tools and books and other great stuff with a sense of fun seriousness) found one recently called cheese or font. Fun!

Monday, October 12, 2009


There are different forms of yearning, aren't there? Some can be wistful, some to do with appetites, others are vague and others still are sharp and pointy.

Here are some of mine:

-- to be less well fed all the time
-- to walk on the beach more than I do (at the moment, annually)
-- to have fewer things I HAVE to do
-- to have a better singing voice
-- to lie on my back in the grass and look at the stars / clouds / trees
-- to read that perfect book
-- to write that perfect book
-- to understand mathematics better than I do
-- ditto for certain sciences, like chemistry and biology
-- to be an effortless housekeeper, to LIKE cleaning
-- to be able to have a complete day without niggling aches & pains
-- to be a man for a week, just to see what it's like
-- to be a child again, just for a week, as well (with an adult consciousness)
-- to be fresh in love again
-- to be able to have a long, whimsical conversation with someone and not worry about time or the topic turning 'silly' (what exactly is 'silly'?)
-- to sleep until lunchtime again
-- to know certain historical characters
-- to see Hagia Sophia before I die or it blows up
-- to eat cheesecake every day and not end up a diabetic
-- to be able to swim like a fish, in the sea (which is very big and scary for me)
-- to be a grandmother
-- to travel the world by myself, taking lots of time to look and think

Bernice has just added to my very eclectic and eternally unfinished list, with a new category (in my experience) of feminity/ feminism.


I'm not unhappy, just thinking about the various little holes in my psyche. Makes it sound like Swiss cheese, but that's just life, isn't it? I'm sure they're very over-privileged white woman yearnings, but that's exactly what I am, so there you go. Many of these things are achievable, if I took the time to do them...

Friday, October 09, 2009


Just popping in again to say that there are more photos of the common press here; I can't see myself writing properly about it until at least the end of next week...

Forgot to mention that we saw Circus Oz the other night. Such a high quality troupe, and each act was like a short story, with so many layers of meaning packed into each segment. And Miss Em was divine, as usual. We saw her at the last Woodford Folk Festival, and we were glad to see that being accidentally dropped on her head there didn't seem to have any long-lasting damage!

The Governor General was there too, looking very glam. Bumblebee was very impressed at being a couple of metres from her in the foyer. I hope she enjoyed it as much as we did.

Oh -- and if you're local, go to the latest exhibition at Megalo. It's Nicci Haynes, with a print show called alphabeater totally based on James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. It's textual, it's hairy, there's a noise machine, and the whole thing ROCKS.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Remember to breathe

Thought I'd just check in for a quick visit.

First off, let's all take a moment to breathe deeply.

Monaro clouds

It's been a while, hasn't it? I'm constantly taking photos of clouds. These were on the Monaro plains, on the way home from the Bega valley last weekend. I ducked down by myself to witness a thing of greatness:

Did anyone see that Stephen Fry show about the Gutenberg press and the fellow who made his own? Well, I went to the launch of an Australian version of the Common Press, down in Pambula. It's a true thing of beauty, made from vintage and new Australian hardwoods and local blacksmithery. I haven't got time to write more about it now, but I have a sworn duty to write properly about it, as I was the only other printer-type witness. I have voice recordings, video and umpteen photos. It was AWESOME. Here I am, pulling a print.

I came back to Canberra fired up, and inked up my press to get it fully functioning. And fell in love. I've been dicking around with it for days, working on a multi-layered poster for an upcoming group exhibition:

Country show first stage

I'm in love. It's smaller than the Bookstud press, but far more accurate. I've barely stopped to eat and sleep, since BB has been in Carnarvon and B has been with his dad.

But there's always been time for kitty snuggles.

Padge in bed

Right now, I'm dashing out to watch UP in 3D, making a token effort to give Bumblebee a fun holiday, and hoping that it doesn't make me puke. I'm teaching for the next four days straight, so you may not hear much from me again for a while. Keep breathing!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

how many roads must a woman drive down?

According to Wikipedia,

Douglas Adams was asked many times during his career why he chose the number 42. Many theories were proposed, but he rejected them all. On November 3, 1993, he gave an answer on
“The answer to this is very simple. It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought '42 will do.' I typed it out. End of story.”

Adams described his choice as "A completely ordinary number, a number not just divisible by two but also six and seven. In fact it's the sort of number that you could, without any fear, introduce to your parents."
Stephen Fry, a friend of Adams, claims that Adams told him "exactly why 42", and that the reason is "fascinating, extraordinary and, when you think hard about it, completely obvious." However, Fry says that he has vowed not to tell anyone the secret, and that it must go with him to the grave.

Another reason why I think Fry would have made the ULTIMATE Dumbledore. *Sigh*


How do I love thee? Lots. I've always thought that 42 would be so much better than 40, and much much more fun than 43 and counting. And so here I am, and the last year was pretty good, so let's hope this one lives up to its promise.

Thank you to all those lovelies who sent me birthday greetings on Facebook, a place I very rarely haunt anymore, because life is just too short. It's hard enough writing here, and I'm trying to keep away from the computer as much as I can these days.

In fact, Bumblebee and I decided to take the shortness of life into our hands and run away to the beach yesterday so that I could wake up on my birthday to the sound of the sea...

In fact, I woke up on my birthday to the sound of Bumblebee clutching me and hissing


at 4:00 am this morning. We were sleeping side by side in our sleeping bags on a shared large airbed, and the noise did indeed sound like a zipper, but not a tent door zipper.

Groggily, I patted him and said 'no, it's not, go back to sleep'.


Good question. It did stop. I knew it wasn't a zipper, more likely a lyrebird imitating a zipper, but he'd woken me up enough to be aware of every. fricking. night. noise. including mosquitoes and possums. And so we didn't go back to sleep for HOURS, no matter how much I tried to lull B into relaxation. I think I slipped back into blissful unawareness at about 5:30, but Bumblebee got out the Gameboy and stayed awake... guess who is going to bed early tonight?

happy at Pebbly

Here we are, in our utmost favorite spot, in the pebbly cove between Depot Beach and Pebbly Beach on the NSW south coast. It is a slate beach covered in rocks and pebbles, and when the water comes up and covers the rocks and pulls down again going out, the pebbles hiss as they push together and the rocks get up an amazing rolling rattle as they tumble and smooth themselves. The place is covered in gorgeous perfectly round smooth rocks that you can't take home because it's National parkland.


Bumblebee can skim stones here for hours. I can sit and read for hours. It's perfect. On this trip I started reading The Jesus Man by Christos Tsiolkas (a Lifeline find): absolutely unbeachy book, but fascinating so far...

I also made some friends.

beach friend

And I had a quick dip in the sea today, just before coming home, so that I could feel the beach on my skin and hair for the rest of the day. It was very cold. I can still feel it on my skin, and if I lick my arm... mmmm, salty!

When I got home there was an answering machine message from one of my lovely aunties wishing me the best and hoping that I didn't feel too bad about the anniversary. It took me a moment to realise that she was talking about my grandfather's death last year. It's funny, I hadn't thought about it until that moment. Doesn't mean I don't miss him -- I do, badly, but I've been missing him for a long time, and dying when you're old is different to a young, tragic death. So I'm grateful that she reminded me, but it isn't going to kill the day, I think.

There was also a parcel from my mother-in-law containing the new Margaret Atwood novel. SQUEEEE! How excitement! Other pressies are apparently waiting until tonight, when I have dinner with BB, Dr Sista Outlaw and Zoe, which is about as much excitement as I will be able to manage before a better sleep than last night.

Can't go without a chuckle:

funny pictures of cats with captions

Love the fact that the Lolcat mirror image is just someone typing the words backwards, not flipping the speech bubble... other presents were some gorgeous smelly flowers, a graphic novel of Coraline, and a fabulous Patsy Payne artist's book (Murmur)... just had an extraordinary drunken scrabble game with Dr Sista Outlaw and Zoe that is documented on crazybrave's twitter thread. Great birthday. You're all beautiful, trooooly.