Showing posts with label nostalgic barf. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nostalgic barf. Show all posts

Thursday, December 01, 2011


I'm sitting in my clean, re-instated lounge room: furniture back into place, floor vacuumed, surfaces uncluttered.

[Quick! Somebody scrape Colonel Duck from the floor & give him a stiff drink...]

Down in the studio, Jon is working on the press for his Broadside residency. He's been on a steep learning curve, having never printed with type before, and as a painter, he's been resisting the hard edges of the task (like working in blocks and straight lines), but today he's decided to commit to one matrix, and is locking wood type up in a chase so that he can concentrate on playing with the inks in a painterly way. He comes on Thursdays, and Helani comes on Wednesdays, and they both bring lunch to share with me, which is lovely and a ritual I enjoy very much, especially for the conversations we have.

I'm sitting here enjoying the clean space, because the last week has been slightly chaotic - in a good way.

First, of course, we had Thanksgiving: the real deal, because of Julia, my American neighbour and her fun-loving landlord/flattie Lisa. As real as we could get it, anyway. I moved my outdoor table into the big loungeroom and moved the couch out to the other room, and we made one big dining area, with masses of spray roses from the back yard and candles.


Lisa prepared an ENORMOUS turkey that was cooked in my oven through the afternoon:

Turkey queen

Julia made pumpkin pies, pecan pies, sweet potato with marshmallow topping (meant to be a savoury!) and an amazing gluten-free stuffing involving cranberries & nuts and yummy things.

Mummy Crit, who was invited because her partner is a very homesick American (and also the fact that she's good company), made a mushroom-bean casserole and brussel sprouts cooked with bacon, plus many tins of root beer (yum!).

Bumblebee peeled 4kgs of potatoes, which I then diced and cooked and mashed, but Crit took over the mashing because I slightly undercooked them and they needed her touch to be perfect. He also made a kick-ass salad (he's getting very good at salad!).

Other people, who were mostly friends of Julia's and hence were either ANU linguists or anthropologists, brought fruit, cheeses and such stuffs.


By the end of the evening the turkey was the only thing that wasn't stuffed anymore. Julia was very happy.

Julia carving

More photos here.

The next day I cleaned up, but decided to leave the tables where they were until Best Beloved got home from the US (while we were celebrating Thanksgiving, he was losing that particular day from his life!). He got home at lunchtime, without his bag, which was lost in transit! Noooooooooo! No presents!

Well, almost no presents. He still had the duty-free bag. Two big bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin (at $25 each!) and a heap of maple syrup flavoured things like biscuits and chocolate. And a wee little Day-of-the-Dead present for me of a little guitar-playing skeleton lady in a matchbox that fitted into his checked luggage.

Poor bugger, he had to travel to NZ on Tuesday, and all his work stuff was in the bag. He hassled and hassled and talked to his airport contacts (that's his public servant special subject) but for ages we weren't sure if he'd see the bag again, or if it would be lost in the great mosh of lost luggage that haunts the world.

So we decided that we had a window of opportunity with the giant dining room and his travelling, and we called up a bunch of people he hadn't seen for a while and we had a bring-a-plate curry meal on Sunday night. We didn't get maximum numbers, but we had enough people to have a very fun night. And all the leftovers and cleaning up afterwards. Mind you, I wasn't sick of the chicken biriyani BB cooked after eating it for three days.

On Monday I had a visiting day: I went {shiver} across the lake! And all the way down to Condor! I visited my dear friend Narelle, who manages the ANCA studios. We've had many catch-ups around my turf, I figured it was time to visit her in hers. It was great fun, with lots of yummy food and talking. On the way back (I hate making an 80km round trip without batching a few things) I visited Elephant's Child, and we had a cuppa and swapped good reading books. Then I dropped in on the Aged Poet for a while and read her some of her own poetry (best thing about a failing memory, you like to hear about your own good work), then headed home, completely talked out.

And then on Tuesday the heavens opened, and lo, thunder and lighting was all around. Tuesday night was a bout of incredible weather, and if you were in it too, I hope you were safe and warm. BB went to Wellington, NZ, but while he was sitting at Sydney airport waiting for his flight out, his luggage was sitting there to, waiting for a flight to Canberra. The poor courier delivered it in the middle of a downpour, with lightning flashing overhead. The bag is now sitting patiently in the corner, full of presents and dirty washing, waiting for its master to come back to it on Saturday.

We couldn't sleep for the lightning, so I let Bumblebee come out of bed and we put a couple of comfy chairs facing the window and we watched the show through our wonderful front window. It was awesome, in the true sense of the word: horizontal lightning, vertical lightning, great growls of thunder.

We reminisced about the story I used to tell him when he was little and scared during storms. I made it up after a visit to Vinnies when I found a weird stuffed toy that was a lion in a safari outfit and no tail; it looked like Steve Irwin as a lion. I used to have a little bag of fresh toys in the laundry cupboard as a distraction if we were having a hard day. On this particular evening, it was thundering wildly and we were sitting on the kitchen floor eating popcorn (making and eating popcorn is another great fear distracter) and I told him that the thunder is actually a giant lion that lives in the sky, and every now and again lightning would hit his tail and he would roar. The poor grumpy lion! we exclaimed together as the thunder grumbled again. And you know, I said, there's only so many times a lion can get hit on the tail before his tail falls off and he doesn't want to live in the sky anymore, no matter how beautiful it is. Poor grumpy lion! And I pulled out the lion toy and said that this lion had come down from the storm and wanted a nice place to live where no one would make fun of his having no tail. Poor grumpy lion! I'll be his friend! B exclaimed. He called him 'Funky' and he still has him... out of sight, but not very far from his bed.

We laughed about the story and did that wonderful thing you can do with teenage boys, which is talking sideways while they think they're doing something else. I learned a lot, and then we staggered off to bed, aware that there was school etc in the morning.

The 'etc' turned out to be my annual chance to go to the art school to have a preview of the graduating show and pick out a couple of recipients for next year's Broadside Residency. I'm looking forward to meeting the two that I picked (I can't reveal them until Friday, when I give them their 'award' at the exhibition opening (I'm also going because Robyn Archer is opening the show!). Exciting! It's a good exhibition this year, I recommend a visit. It's a wonderful thing when the whole school becomes an enormous gallery.

And then last night we had my fortnightly Scrabble-dumpling soiree; fortnightly because it coincides with byrd's child-free weeks, and he and his lovely lady are the staple ingredient of the S-D nights, which have been happening in many shapes and forms since he was camping in our back yard when he had a homeless stint. We used to just drink beers in front of Spicks & Specks, but over the last few months it's transformed into something that is so much fun I haven't even missed S&S. Food used to be a bit of potluck until we hit upon the plan of everyone bringing a packet of frozen dumplings to steam with my big double bamboo steamer and we gobble them with chopsticks and various dipping sauces. Much easier.

We started the evening with an impromptu visit from neighbour Lisa's a capella group who gave us a taste of their repertoire before they do their first public gig later in the week: Java Jive, Boogie-woogie Bugle Boy and Love is in the Air. It was fantastic!

Then a few of us played Exquisite Corpse, the Surrealist parlour game where you fold a paper into four strips, and one person draws a head (leaving neck lines into the next section), folds it over, and the next drawing is of the torso to the waist (leaving lines again), then the next is the pelvis to the knees, and then the lower legs and feet. Sometimes we got a bit confused about direction, so things ended up having feety things at both ends! And we also had to add a little bit of text to make it fun.

Here are a few examples - the scans do no justice to the colours! Hoon (byrd's lady, and an old friend/housemate of mine) did some colouring-in of the drawings through the rest of the evening, when she wasn't dancing to Jeff Buckley, something I've never seen anyone do, but then she's someone who is always gorgeously different.

Exquisite corpse 1

Exquisite corpse 3

Exquisite corpse 4

If you look closely, you'll see an upside-down portrait of me done by byrd, and Bumblebee's 'love lightning'. It was a lovely evening. I fell off the wagon (only one day early), and we all drank wine and played Scrabble until far too late.

Hence the reason why I'm sitting quietly, having finally put the big table outside, finally done a big vacuum and put the couch back, and put the umpteenth load of dishes in the dishwasher that has been working very very hard this week.

And this is why I'm not entertaining again for a little while. At least until next fortnight, when the Scrabble board starts to rattle in the cupboard in excitement around lunchtime.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

... and another thing

I forgot to grumble about the 'school reunion' I went to on Sunday.

I used quotes there (I used my fingers when I reported back to the family) because I was sorely disappointed by the whole thing, and being my father's daughter, I knew exactly how the event could have been better without spending any money.

I used to go to Campbell Primary School in Canberra in the 1970s, right in the thick of the Whitlam era, the epicentre of weird craft and red wine dinner parties. My main memories of the school are:

- The library. When you finished having both sides of your card stamped they would staple on a new one. By the end of the year my card was more like a thick book, and certainly didn't fit inside the little pockets at the back of the books.

- Being able to walk from the library to my open-plan classroom (the first in Canberra!) without looking up from my book.

- Playing on the oval that was shared by our school and the Catholic school on the other side. Most of the time we shared amicably. When the wind was up we'd have spats. Most of the play involved 'catch and kiss'. I was never one of the catchers or kissers, I had new glasses and wasn't very desirable so I either played 'photographer' or just went back to my book.

- Being given a week's worth of homework in the open plan set-up and either finishing it straight away & reading the rest of the week, or leaving it all to the last minute (reading the rest of the time) and finishing it all in a panic, a habit that has lasted a lifetime.

Halfway through Year 6 we moved to England, so I didn't get to 'graduate' or whatever primary school kids did then.

When I saw that the school was having a 50th reunion, I got a little bit excited, because I've bumped into old classmates here & there and liked them, and one whom I really, really like, but every time we see each other she gives me her card, which I promptly lose, and we lose touch again. (See sidebar for statement that I'm a hopeless friend.)

Meh. I got to the school on Sunday and it was just a glorified big fete. One small table of memorabilia, which was nice but... there was absolutely no attempt to make old students or teachers welcome (apart from a few general speeches outside) or even to distinguish them from current parents, so there was a big outside mosh, lots of stall to spend money on, and only one short tour of the school for the whole afternoon. I only ran into the old headmistress by accident, and she, in her 80s, was amazing.* I learned more about my old teachers from her in a ten minute conversation than anything else I saw that afternoon, and I was sad to find that my favorite teacher had not only been there briefly, but had left just before I talked to her.

I did go on the tour, and retraced my old steps from the library (which is now the staffroom) to the open plan classroom (which of course looks smaller than I remember!). They had a stall where you could buy a new book and donate it to the library, and it would have your name inside it. I bought Ruth Park's My Sister Sif, which is the least I could do for all the pleasure that place gave me.

But honestly, would it have been so hard to give any visitor a red dot to wear, or to section off places in the quadrangle for different decades so that people could stand there and meet each other? I came away feeling quite frustrated.

*Miss Dorothy Brown moved to Canberra in the 1960s to be near the snow. She skiied until she was 81, when she had to stop because she had a sore foot, but now she still goes up and walks with snow shoes! She must be about 87 now, and was very agile and alert.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Time not only flies, it throws crap in your face

Colonel Duck couldn't resist scanning the photo mentioned in the last post:

Oh, youth is indeed wasted on the young. This photo makes me feel quite crusty.

One of my hands and both insoles have broken out in dermatitis thanks to something stoopid lurking in the carpets that only emerged when I tried to clean a few spots, and I have an inflamed Achilles tendon from standing wrongly at the press too long, which behaves itself when I walk on smooth ground but breaks out in flame if I tread any path rougher than concrete. I walked across the tanbark from my studio to Nicci's studio today to say hello and spent the next hour saying OW. Ow ow ow.

Sigh. Judging from watching my Aged Poet deal with extreme old age, it's all just going to get worse, so I might as well enjoy the fact that my eyes are working and I have all my own teeth, even if I do have these annoying aches and itches. At least I don't have a womb anymore. That's one bodily adjustment I'll NEVER regret.

That purple bracelet is actually a hairband. Looking at it completely connects me to her, 22 years later. Be prepared, but in a nice way.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Body memory

Sorry, haven't been very blogg
Oops, remembered that I swore not to apologise anymore when life gets in the way of blogging.

I've been on autopilot lately; operating 'normally' face to face with people, but feeling really flat and numb inside, the sort of caught-in-a-bubble mood that can be completely indulged by driving the car hard down the highway playing Vienna at ear-blistering volume while tears run down your face.

This is an odd time of year for me: the art school winds up, so I have a less obviously pressing schedule (even though there is LOTS to do), the weather hots up so that my body slows down, but the rest of the world seems to be in a high whizz towards Christmas. I am energised by busy-ness, like a self-winding spring, so unless there are pressing deadlines (I tend to type 'deadlies', which feels right) or people depending upon my efforts, I go into slow mode, and that leaves me time to think or mope, whatever my inclination. This year it's mope, big time.

There are so many names for what I'm going through. Churchill called it the Black Dog, Nick Cave wrote about The Moose in the stairwell. I've been on an internal emotional rollercoaster, which is hard for BB, who is a very smart man but not very intuitive and finds emotional outbursts befuddling. 'What can I do?' is a sensible question when you've been highly trained in management skills and how to motivate a team, but it's infuriatingly useless in the face of someone who wants you to just do something, anything, as long as it's not planned or discussed beforehand. And preferably accompanied by laughter, but he's not inclined to jolly me out of misery: he joins in, which never helps matters.

He sent me a text yesterday, from Melbourne airport, where he'd spent the day:

It's our anniversary soon! What shall we do?

And while I'd like to say everything fell into place, I certainly had a beam of clarity pierce the grey matter.

This is the time of year when bad things happen to my body. Just typing that made my eyes water.

I started writing a list of what happened each year, but if you've been reading the blog you'll know it all. Ever since we've been married, starting from the actual wedding, I've had surgical intervention on my woman parts, mostly for failed pregnancies, but culminating a year ago in the removal of them. All around this time of year.

I'm sure I did the right thing by myself to remove the offending organs (well, they offended me), but I still feel bad about BB's chance to have babies of his own. I console myself with the thought that I have laid a lot of suggestions on the table as to alternatives, with the proviso that if he wants to pursue them he has my full support, but the paperwork/organisation is all his (I think I've done my fair share so far). He's done nothing to date, so the regret can be fully shared in future years.

I think, though, that the combination of time of year and weather and everything is triggering off a large amount of body memory: pain, fear, dissatisfaction, anger, an annual time to take stock and make big decisions about forks in the road. I can't work out if I'm indulging myself or if it's involuntary. I'm unsure if this will pass or build, or be annual or whether I can nip it in the bud. I think having the same routine this year as most of the other years isn't helping (like going to Woodford)... I think I/we need new experiences to avoid this sensation of falling into a pit at the end of the year.

It's not just my flawed body and its memories that has been bringing me down... last weekend Poor Bumblebee had his tender young heart broken by someone we thought was a really good friend. It's a boy in his class who seemed more sensible and sincere than most; he was part of a group of kids who fall in and out of favour with each other constantly, but this boy always seemed to stay out of the pushings and pullings. We had encouraged B to spend time with him after school and on weekends, invited him over a lot, were cheered by B finally finding a friend who seemed to appreciate him for himself (for all his loveliness, he finds it hard to hang out with groups of kids, they always seem to find his weak spots -- he is very easy to tease, he's very thin-skinned). B had so much confidence hanging out with someone who actively listened to him on the same level.

But there was a boy in their 'group' who was very jealous about the afterschool activities, and unbeknown to us was working upon the situation. It's a long story, but ultimately this friend succumbed to the group's mood and hung the phone up on Bumblebee quite brutally, saying he wasn't 'really' his friend anymore. We watched B's face crumple and his confidence shatter on the spot. It was distressing, and made worse by this lad & the rest of the group of lads continuing to ostracise B through the week (not quite silently: pointing and giggling from across the classroom) for nothing that we can actually pinpoint other than it's making the jealous boy happy.

It's sad, and as a family we're all saddened. We feel quite helpless as to what to do. The lad's mother rang back straight after the hang-up and apologised, but didn't sound like she wanted to intervene, thinking it would work itself out. It hasn't, and it isn't a trivial matter. B, who had been feeling secure in that one crucial person's support, feels utterly undermined. He's wary again, and cautious, and we're suffering with him. We all, as a family, feel rejected. We're pretty bad with social upkeep generally, and situations like this show us how thin-skinned the three of us actually are. I went through a lot of them as a young adult, and I'd hoped my child would escape them... but no. So I'm also reliving bad memories of this kind too.

I am pinning my hopes upon high school for Bumblebee. I know it's a whole new big potentially cruel arena, but it will have a breadth that small classroom microcosms don't have. He'll go from a year of 50 students to a mosh of at least 250, and all jumbled up into different classes and groups. The old pecking order will be disrupted, and there will be new opportunities for friendships. And these kids will hopefully learn that you can be friends with each other in different ways and for different reasons.

I can hear thunder outside, which is heartening, but bad for my computer. I think it's time to get out & about, try to jolly up somehow. Harden the f%&* up, as they say.

Monday, August 31, 2009

It was the night before set-up, and all through the house...

...was the sound of muffled snorts as I watched tonight's episode of Ashes to Ashes and tried not to wake up the boys. I haven't been wholly comfortable with this crass extension of Life on Mars up to now, but tonight's episode made me laugh like a drain, especially the scene in the police station with all the Socialist feminists. Brought back memories of all the Resistance and DSP meetings I used to attend when I was a horizontal recruit (don't get me started). I'd like to bottle that episode, bring it out whenever I'm glum.

(These are 'Let Go' kites, ready to stick on the wall in formation)

OK. I'm ready. Tomorrow is installation day, and will probably involve a fair bit of plinth painting before I can get everything in place, because I'm borrowing some plinths from my studio complex, and they have a completely different shade of wall colour to the Megalo gallery. It will be such a relief to stop thinking about this body of work, and to let it go out into the world.

(This is a detail of the book of the epiphany a few days ago. I'm very happy with it.)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Secret diary time

Friday night was Date Night. One of my friends insists upon Friday Night being sacred for dates with her partner, and I've decided it's not a bad thing, except that I don't hire a babysitter every week, I have Date Night every fortnight when Bumblebee is off learning how the other half lives. Alternate Friday nights we try to have a family date. So, last week it was Coraline and ratty, this Friday it was District 9 and aliens. I realise in my excitement I twittered SECTION 9, which is classic me, I get everything wrong even when it's printed on a ticket in front of me. I'm not usually one for gore, but this movie was terrific, funny and interesting.

I'd had a stressful making day on Friday, lots of doubt and fear about the impending exhibition, so aliens wreaking revenge upon gun-toting South African men was just the ticket. Bernice came over last week and we discussed the Doubt and Fear thing. It's not the 'exhibition' that worries me, it's the 'solo' bit. My playful work is fine when it's bouncing off someone else's theme, and interacting with other people's playfulness, but I'm not sure it can hold its own on its own, if you know what I mean. When I think about my opening, my mind jumps to my first 'grown-up' kissing experience: standing in the carpark of the local rollerskating rink with a ring of excited teenagers around us chanting 'SNOG! SNOG! SNOG!' whilst clapping. The pressure to be cool was enormous, especially when he stuck his tongue in and I had to gag inwardly instead of openly. I've been nervous of public expectations ever since, even though I know in my heart that I can usually cope.

ANYHOO, I went to bed on Friday night hoping that I would dream a few solutions to my immediate problems, and woke on Saturday feeling a bit better. I spent the day in the studio looking hard at what I've made / gathered / played with so far, culled some things and adjusted others, and came away feeling much better and with a determined 'f*ck it, they'll have to love me just as I am' attitude. Not sure if I can maintain that over the next ten days, but I'll try.

Today I had a lot of fun. I spent the afternoon at the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG, pronounced Cee-Mag) teaching three book workshops aimed at 4 to 8 year-old kids in honour of Book Week. We made Secret Pocket Diaries, which are 'snake' concertina books folded down from one folded and slit sheet of paper, then decorated and stuck up with tape to make a special book all about the child, complete with a secret pocket to hide things from the reader. It was great. I'm kicking myself because I took photos, but left the cord for my phone at the studio so that I can't download the photos.

The kids had a ball, and they made fantastic books. Each group had up to 24 kids along with their adults, and the first group was having such a good time that we were finding it hard to get them out in time for the next session, when suddenly the fire alarm started. And kept going. And kept going, so that we had to evacuate. We all stood out in the square outside CMAG, wondering what to do. One of the fantastic staff gathered the children together and did an impromptu book reading on the steps of the Canberra Theatre, and by complete coincidence, two police officers were going past with Constable Kenny Koala for a separate event in the same building; they were stuck outside as well, so they put on a quick performance for us.

Later in the day, when we were all cleaning up, I glanced at one of the evaluation forms filled in by a parent on behalf of their child. In the space left for 'What was your favorite event of the day' was written 'fire evacuation'! What with book readings, Constable Kenny and the flashing, noisy fire engines, it was pretty exciting.

CMAG have an amazing team of really dedicated educational officers, and while today's events (watercolour painting, story readings, indigenous story-telling, face painting, book arts workshops; all completely free) were in honour of Book Week, they also have a regular CMAG on Sunday program on the first Sunday of every month, and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's one of those regular events that isn't well known, but once you've found out about it, you wonder how you lived without it (if you have children of the right age). I wish it had been around when Bumblebee was smaller.

I'd like to thank Ben, who was my very able assistant, and Amelia, who was a wonderful boss for the day. Plus all the other people in the amazing team. I haven't taught a dedicated kid's class apart from various school groups (as volunteer Mum), and I really enjoyed it. I rode home on the treadlie hoping I could do that particular class plan again somewhere/sometime, because even though I'd mapped it all out beforehand, it wasn't until the third and final session that I'd worked out how to REALLY teach it (or perfect it), and it would be a shame not to use that method again. Maybe it's something I could propose for Woodford next application...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Just last night

I was telling Best Beloved that I want to track down a copy of The Wiz.

Why? he asked.

Because Michael Jackson makes my heart ache when I watch him before all his insecurities erupted in a bodily fashion.

Well, obviously you can.

Oh rats, I always said he'd never make it past 50, and I also made a small bet with BB that he'd never fulfill the highly ambitious (and debt-fuelled) plans for a ginormous comeback tour.

So I guess I was right, but I don't feel smug about it. MJ has always made me feel sorrowful, maybe because I grew up watching him from wee one to weird one.

Poor old Bumblebee is a bit shattered. He's had MJ on high rotation for ages, and it's been vaguely disturbing me that the man had the power to attract 11 yo boys from such a geographical and chronological distance. But now he can stay young forever, and be worshipped from afar, which is exactly what he's always wanted.

I wonder if he wanted to be preserved or something? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

Postscript: Cheered immensely by a lovely silly bit of chemistry thanks to Coconut with a Motor. Absolutely nothing to do with MJ, but just the ticket, nonetheless:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Nice weekend, but emotionally all over the place. I guess I was a bit tired, what with losing two weekends straight to the press, and all the excitement of the exhibition set up and opening.

Saturday morning, I went to the markets, and stood in the line for fish with Annie Trevillian, where we chatted about the opening and then, overworking women that we are, discussed ideas on some workshops we could hold together -- printing your own bookcloth and then using it. Doesn't that sound yummy?

Then I grabbed the chance to go to my life drawing group, the first time this year! I got there late, which was a shame because our model was a fantastic man who understands artists (being one himself) and gets into uber-interesting poses, and I missed the really short poses. Still, the rest of the session was brilliant, and I wished I wasn't so rusty. It made me determined to turn up as often as I can, and I think most of my upcoming weekend teaching commitments are on the alternate weekends: phew!

Saturday afternoon was the floor talk for the exhibition, and it was lovely, of course. We counted 36 bodies, which is fantastic for something only advertised by email and this blog, and Rosemary Dobson herself came, which made the afternoon really special, and I'm pretty sure the group knew it.

That night Best Beloved and I just flopped with a bottle of wine. We went to bed really early, because we were both buggered, and I read to him while he played his gameboy. A friend had emailed me during the week and asked if I'd read Rosaleen Love's article in the latest Australian Book Review. She said it was really, really good. I had the issue, but I hadn't even looked at it, thanks to busy-ness. So I thought I might read it, and that I'd read it aloud for BB.

The essay is called 'Treasure Hunt', and it's been longlisted for the 2009 ABR Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay. I've always loved Rosaleen Love's writing: she's normally a Sci Fi writer, and a very good one. I have a signed copy of her Total Devotion Machine, and that's because I used to work with and for her late husband, Harold Love. I've only met Rosaleen maybe once, maybe twice, and then only briefly, and I'm sure each time I gushed slightly.

Harold and I and his research assistant, Meredith, once worked on a scholarly edition of poems by John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester. They did all the really hard work, and I got to make it pretty, using Caslon and working out the correct usage of obscure ligatures like 'st' and when to use the long 's' that looks like an italic 'f'. It was painstaking, nit-picking work, but hilarious because of the subject matter -- John Wilmot was the bawdiest poet on the planet.*

Harold died a few years ago, after a long bout of cancer. It's one of those situations when most of your sadness -- as an outsider -- happens at the early stages, and by the time they die, you're almost used to the idea, and so you're sad, but not overwhelmed. I took the news of his death shamefully easily, considering how much I'd liked working and talking with him.

On Saturday night I started reading to BB a few paragraphs of an essay that promised to be very interesting: about the aftermath of living with a book-collector, and realising that the books will lead you to discover more about your former spouse. Then I startled him by faltering, pausing, bursting into floods of tears. He didn't know what to do. I didn't know what to do. Eventually I pulled myself together and kept reading, but kept stalling as fresh gales of tears stormed through me.

I thought at first that it was a delayed reaction to Harold's death, and it was, in part. I'd been told about it second- and thirdhand, in abstract. I didn't really take it in properly. Then I realised that it was a lot more to do with the main theme of the essay: how little one can really know the people you're supposedly closest to, and the loss that one can feel when one realises that there will *never* be a chance to change that situation. And I also know that I cried (and still cry) at the excellence of Rosaleen's exploration of these things. It's SUCH a good piece of writing.

Poor BB doesn't cope with crying very well, it makes him uncomfortable. Is that a male thing? So I pulled myself together again as much as I could that evening, but it's very hard to close the door on a room stuffed to the point of overfull with grief, both old and new. My door stays closed much of the time, but if something -- anything -- turns the doorknob slightly, the door starts bending and threatening to fling open. I start leaking.

We went to the movies on Sunday morning, to see The Baader Meinhoff Complex. I sat in the cinema waiting for the movie, and leaked rivulets of tears down my cheeks, silently, wishing they'd turn the lights down properly before anyone noticed. Luckily the movie was too rivetting to encourage tears, but back in the car driving out to Fyshwick (to buy BB a deep chest freezer for our newly-emptied garage), the leaking started again. It's subsiding now, but I still feel that there's a really good cry left to schedule in sometime this week. Maybe I'll find a quiet place later in the week and read the essay again... And you should all rush out and buy a copy. Then tell me what you think. Did you cry, or is it just me?

*Funnily enough, this ties in beautifully with the launch of the new Trunkbooks volume, 'Hair', which I'm in, because my piece is completely informed by my time working on the Rochester volume with Harold and Meredith (not the same Meredith who edited 'Hair'!)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

two weekends


The setting was a classic end-of-summer Canberra afternoon: hot, dry, windy. The group was sitting outside under the carport, in a space kitted out with carpet offcuts, pine shelving and a hifi system playing Neil Diamond's Hot August Night on vinyl. The light was at first sharp and brittle, but it burnt away slowly as the records were changed. The women, sipping cold white wine, were brightly coloured in floral pinks and burnt orange. The men, sucking at recycled bottles of home brew, were discussing umpiring decisions from a local cricket game earlier that afternoon. The roast pork was ready and resting, the cream for the plummy dessert had been whipped gently, with special ingredients folded into it for extra lushness.

I had closed my eyes and I was in 1977, in my parents' Duntroon backyard. The cat that just jumped on my lap could have been our black & white Persian, Sadie. The dog that walked past was George, the Tasmanian Rock Hound* we shared with another Army family. The kids shouting in the front yard in their pyjamas were all my cousins, avoiding bed by keeping away from the adults. But I was sitting near the adults, a quarter of an ear to their conversation, another quarter on the music, the rest in my book, sitting very close to have first crack at the food when it finally arrived, and old enough to be included in their meal rather than fed earlier with the smaller kids.

I suddenly opened my eyes, and it was 2009, and it was Zoe's backyard, or rather, side-yard. Owen had umpired a game that afternoon, it was his home brew, their Neil Diamond, Dr Sista-Outlaw's pink dress, my orange top, our kids using light-sabres to whip each other up into a frenzy before the tears fell and we shoved the lot of them in front of a DVD. And it was Zoe's amazing milk-roasted pork with couscous and green beans, followed by something divinely creamy and plummy. And I was still old enough to eat with the big kids. In fact, I *was* the big kid, the oldest of everyone there.

Very discombobulating.


Last night we drove along the highway for 90 minutes to eat a meal with my beloved buddy Sacha, who was down from Brisbane for five days to mind her son in her ex-partner's house while he went to some men's drumming thingy in Tasmania (or so his son says, with a cheeky smile).

Sacha is a wonderful host: she invited a whole stack of lovely locals that she wanted to catch up with, cooked a (gentle) curry meal and plied us with wine and chocolate, then put us to bed in a spare room with a couple of recent glossy mags (she knows my tastes well) and let us sleep in.

She also had to babysit the beagle, and since I know some of you are hardcore beagle fans, allow me to introduce you to Wilson:

Isn't he lovely? He belongs to Sacha's son, and was quite the star of the party, especially when he started hoeing into some icecubes (the only thing he managed to wrangle out of us, despite using his eyes to his best begging capacity, and after his food-stealing attempts were thwarted), licking and crunching them up happily.

Wilson in action
These photos were taken this morning, when Bumblebee's dad (who lives reasonably near by) generously allowed B to drop by and see Sacha for a few hours of his access weekend. The boy and the dog got along swimmingly.

In case you don't like beagles, we also walked down the road and met a couple of stunning Burmese cats who live in an equally stunning sandstone house with their very creative owners (who were at the dinner). Here is Sacha with one of the lovelies:

sacha with cat
Such sweet kitties, a male and female, who are wholly indoor cats, but have a wired-in cat run at the back, between the house and the amazing ceramics studio. Sigh! Imagine having a lovely house with another one attached to the back, just for making things!

Double sigh. Anyway, dinner is ready (takeaway, we couldn't be arsed cooking). See ya.

*Actually an Australian Terrier, but he didn't chase balls or sticks. He was passionately devoted to rocks. He rocked.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy but sad

It was a subdued family who left the Canberra Theatre last night. Bumblebee's school didn't win the ACT Wakakirri title, but I'm cranky about the people who did. I've been trying to think, this morning, of ways to describe my grumpiness about the results without sounding like a bad loser. I honestly don't mind the losing bit, but I do mind losing to something that doesn't feel right.

Of the seven acts (plus extras) we sat through, there were really only three contenders. I'm not going to name names of schools here, that wouldn't be fair.

There was us, with our ripper little 'From little things big things grow' number about Sorry day. The kids were marvellous, but then so were the others.

'The others', in my mind, were a school who did a fab number on frog metamorphosis, complete with a great music mix, a good tight narrative, and the most gorgeous tadpole, frog and fish costumes you have *ever* seen. If their costume designer isn't already in showbiz, they are doing something wrong. A whole fleet of tadpoles on skateboards, and then wonderfully jolly tapdancing frogs (before the rubbish and the predators skulked onto the stage) made for a completely delighted audience.

Then there was the 'Tribute to Anne Frank' done by one of the Catholic schools. I adore the diary of Anne Frank, especially the uncensored version. This 'tribute' to her was the most facile and sentimental rendition of anything to do with her I have ever seen.

For one thing, they started off with a pastoral scene of happy, laughing, picnicking Jews dancing to German folk music ('no mention of the fact that she was Dutch', said the Dutch Albatross, for once in total agreement with me) who were marched upon by 'Nazi'-like soldiers (no swastikas, probably because they wanted to recycle the armbands somehow later) and for the most part whisked off the stage, leaving a small group who were then led into a hidden space. Mostly good and well.

Then we see Anne at her desk, and a voice over saying 'I'm Anne Frank, and this is my diary'. A little bit of time was spent watching the family moon around crying and waltzing, Anne held hands briefly with a boy, and then the Nazis found them. Then they were put in cattle trains (to the sick-making sound of Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World', a song that should be banned from Wakakirri forever for its complete over-use. In fact, let's make that a blanket ban for movies and advertising. I used to love that song so much!) and whisked off to a place where angels found her.

For the last THIRD of the segment, Anne lay in a heap in the middle of the stage whilst blue-bedecked floaty ballerina angels danced around her, and to one side her father sat and looked through her diary, crying.

At no time did they share any words of her diary, which for me would have been the point. They reduced Anne to a maypole, with everyone dancing around her, rather than a lively, heady, interesting individual.

The school representatives afterwards talked of their act being a story of 'joy and triumph'. Whose? The angels?

The judges swooned. Ballerinas! Angels! Jews being oppressed! The rest of us grimaced. At interval I had a number of conversations with people about the layers of problems around performing that theme. One fellow I'd never met before said that he had big problems with the way Catholic education co-opts other people's narratives for their own means. I don't think that's a particularly Catholic thing, but I do object to Anne being sentimentalised any more than she already has been.

And they won, to our utter disappointment. I was, if we had to come second, rooting for the frogs. They at least got the story right, and had a great message to share. As did we. We came equal second.

Still, I've always said to Bumblebee that it's the doing that counts, not the winning, and I stand by that. I haven't seen him yet (I let his dad pick him up) and won't until tomorrow night, but I hope he's not too sad. They won a number of other awards, including a $1500 environmental award which is in no way to be sneezed at (more money than the Wakakirri winnings!). So that may have cheered them up.

We did get one good giggle, watching the Jews and Nazis get the teamship award.

We went to the school fete this morning (held around the ACT Election polling booth) and splashed some money around on food and books. It was smaller than the last fete, and I realised that it was because the year 5 and 6 kids always contribute a lot of colour and energy to the stalls. But this year they weren't involved, having put so much work into last night's performance. They are the lifeblood of the school, and this year it showed. Nice try, guys.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I can has skates?

Ellis Hutch has pointed me to a new use for LOLz: Roller Derby!

Ellis is valiantly attempting to bring Roller Derby to Canberra. I missed the initial meeting and haven't found out how it went -- I dream of being back on my skates, but I seem to miss every opportunity (thanks to my printing obsession), and with the way my body is creaking and groaning, I fear I will be shite at any skating revival. My skates -- black and red soccer boot style -- are in the shed, wistfully waiting. Sigh.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I've been busy as busy, more so that usual, but should have time to blog properly tonight or tomorrow. Or the next day. In the meantime, I'm taking a leaf out of other esteemed bloggers' books and reposting an old post from 2005 that I stumbled upon today whilst searching for something completely different. I'd forgotten about this one, and hope it makes you both guffaw and cringe that way it did me. (For non-Canberrans, Queanbeyan is a town so close to Canberra that it could be a suburb, only saved from such a fate by being across the state border in NSW. It has a reputation of being 80% Bogan and 20% artists.) Enjoy!

An overkill of email charity requests makes me enjoy [in a guilty sort of way] this hard-hearted little piece that came through on the ether the other day:


A major earthquake measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale hit in the early hours of this morning, with the epicentre in Queanbeyan, NSW.

Victims were seen wandering around aimlessly muttering, "F**kinell" and "Whadda carnt". The earthquake decimated the area causing approximately $30 worth of damage.

Several priceless collections of mementos from the Torana Appreciation Society and the Queanbeyan Progress Hall were damaged beyond repair.

Three areas of historic burnt out cars were disturbed.

Many locals were woken well before their welfare cheques arrived.

QBN Radio reported that hundreds of residents were confused and bewildered, still trying to come to terms with the fact that something interesting had happened in the area.

One resident - Tracy Sharon Smith, a 15-year-old mother of 5 said "It was such a shock, my little Chardonnay Mercedes came running into my bedroom crying. My youngest two, Tyler-Morgan and Megan-Storm slept through it all. I was still shaking when I was watching Jerry Springer the next morning".

Apparently though, looting, muggings and car crime carried on as normal.

The Red Cross has so far managed to ship 4,000 crates of Vegemite to the area to help the stricken locals. Rescue workers are still searching through the rubble and have found large quantities of personal belongings, which include benefit books, Canterbury shirts, jewellery from Priceline and bone china from Woolworths.

***************** HOW YOU CAN HELP******************

This appeal is to raise money for food and clothing, parcels for those unfortunate to be caught up in this disaster. Clothing is most sought after. Items most needed include: baseball caps, tracksuit tops (his and hers), Shell Suits (female), white sport socks, sturdy boots and any other items usually sold in Op Shops.

Food parcels may be harder to come by, but are needed all the same. Required foodstuffs include, Fruit Loops, Steve's Kebabs, McDonalds, KFC, icecream and cans of Red Bull, VB, Bacardi Breezer, or Special Brew.

If you would prefer to donate money, 25c buys a biro for filling in the compensation forms; $5.00 buys chips, savaloys and gherkins, crisps and blue fizzy drinks for a family of 9; $10.00 will pay for a packet of Benson & Hedges and a lighter to calm the nerves of those affected.

PLEASE do not send tents for shelter, as the sight of posh housing is unfair on the population of the neighbouring areas.

********************* BREAKING NEWS*********************

Rescue workers have found a girl in the rubble smothered in blood.
When asked "Where are you bleeding from?" the girl replied "Queanbeyan"

[PS: forgot to mention that this ties in beautifully with TimT's bogan post.]

Friday, July 18, 2008

I am writing from a far-off country

We were meant to hang out with the Aged Poet this morning, but Bumblebee woke up with a deep fruity cough that I thought was best to keep away from her, so we stayed in our pyjamas until lunchtime. He played with the Darth Vader half of his new toy -- he really does love that incarnation of it -- and I tweaked my website a bit more, adding a book that I made as a student about eight years ago called I am writing to you from a far-off country: Experiencing Henri Michaux (I was fond of long book titles as a student).

I've lost this book -- I gave it to an art dealer not long after it was made and I've never seen it or heard from her again -- and I found I had all the files on some old disks. So now it exists again in virtual form, which is great because I put a lot of work and thought into it.

It's a response to a body of writing by French writer Henri Michaux that took my fancy, and also a response to the frustration I feel when I read something in translation, because I always get that sense that I'm missing out on the gravy of the text even though I'm eating the meat. I did this project before I made my Akhmatova book, and it sort of gave me a practice run with this issue, although I quite like the personal touch I gave this particular effort; it's almost a series of blog posts.

When I read these -- written four years before I started blogging -- I know why I started blogging.

A natural, aren't I?

I don't expect you to go and read all these postcards, but if you're interested, I'm very proud of the way my anecdotes respond to Michaux's whimsical ponderings. Michaux himself used his language very loosely. I remember reading somewhere that he offended many by breaking lots of the very strict rules of writing French, so translating him must have been a task and a half. I think he would have enjoyed what Babelfish did to his words.

(A note for anyone wanting to use that email for spam: it's completely out of date and you'll never get any joy from it.)

Sigh. It's nice to see it again. It's a lovely time-capsule.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Delights of the Day

1. Going to the farmer's market and buying my first bunch of poppies for the year (and lovely smelly jonquils for only $3.50 a bunch!).

2. Walking Bumblebee across the Lyneham ovals for his tennis make-up lesson, enjoying the cool morning and thanking the universe that he doesn't play regular and randomly time-tabled weekend sport like all the poor buggers who were playing netball and footy nearby.

3. Going to see the latest Indiana Jones movie with Bumblebee and thoroughly enjoying the many in-jokes that he wasn't getting due to lack of age and experience.

4. Taking Bumblebee to a local sushi cafe and using the little sushi conveyor belt for his first time.

5. Spending the rest of the afternoon guillotining paper until my arm nearly fell off, then arriving home to find Best Beloved preparing a roast chook (with lemon and herbs under the skin) for tea.

6. Having BB show me what looked like a fans-only nostalgia trip on YouTube about Mike Willesee mocking Dr Who fans for flocking to interview the director (circa 1984), a clip which dragged on and on until suddenly BB froze it and pointed out himself in the front row.

Dr Who nerdling
he made sure to tell me that Jeannie Little was just out of camera shot. This is one of his major memories of the occasion. I'm sure he thought she was a character in full costume or something.

Heh. My lovely nerd-in-training, complete, if you'll note, with looooong Dr Who scarf. Now that he's grown, he's passing on the costuming bug to Bumblebee (not that he's EVER needed encouragement), who has been cultivating his David Tennant look, wearing a black duffel coat with white gym boots and striking poses with the only BFG I will let him have (one of those highly coloured plastic supersoaker thingies), and more often a weird lego thingy that is the sonic screwdriver. We are a Doctor-loving household, and now that BB has the hots for The Catherine Tate Show, I'm sure we'll be glued to the next Dr Who series (I'm resisting -- very hard -- the temptation to download it, because my last visual downloading adventure blew my allowance to shreds).

7. The memory of yesterday's Jan Brown opening. Not only was it delightful to see Jan get her dues, complete with speeches, flowers and general all-round adoration, and equally delightful to see a lot of people I haven't caught up with in ages, but I was tickled pink to discover that I was represented in the exhibition in a few ways -- my Transmigration volume is there (open at my least favorite page spread, unfortunately), and also the Icarus volume that I helped produce (by printing both the text and images. It's in the bottom righthand corner of this page), and I'm also the subject of about three life drawings! I modelled for Jan for many years, up to and including when I was pregnant with Bumblebee. Jan gave me the pregnancy drawings, but it was fun to see some of the others up on the gallery walls.

I *highly recommend* this show. It's elegant, spacious and breathtaking. Jan's work is beautifully presented, as is her due as one of Canberra's most community-spirited and well-loved artists.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Snort du Jour ii

Whilst typesetting (on the computer, of course) an English translation of a Spanish academic tome on philosophy and semiotics and experimenting with various ways to hyphenate 'phenomenological', I noticed that I was humming this (using the word 'phenomena'):

I love this early version. I used to yearn for those vast empty spaces that certain muppets lived in...

Time for a geeky re-shoot? Maybe using freaky weather in the background.

OMFG Postscript

Mummy Crit is the Queen of Henson knowledge! Look what she found for me! You rawk, MC!

(I knew I wouldn't be alone in such an obvious word play :) )

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Remember to breathe

moon walker

The fully equipped traveller to the moon should have a pressure suit, an air tank, a walkie talkie set and a pistol.

From The Australian Wonder Book of Knowledge (Melbourne: Colorgravure Publications, n.d. (but well before 1969))

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Counting the beat

Last week while the boys were away I launched a major assault on my &Duck website, adding a lot of my artist's books and a few of my design jobs (I haven't finished putting them all up yet, but I got a fair way in). In the process, I pulled down an archive box marked 'books' that had been sitting on top of a cupboard for the past five or so years, and discovered a treasure trove of things I had forgotten about. I'd assumed the box was old books I'd stashed, but in fact it was my storage box for student work and stuff I'd made in Bumblebee's infancy.

And down the bottom was... gasp! This:

Countdown cover
Bought in England in 1979, this innocent notepad became my weekly obsession. I unpacked it in 1980, in steamy Townsville, where Colonel Duck was posted. Each Sunday evening I would sit cross-legged in front of the tv, and turn on Countdown. In the last ten minutes, I would scribble down the top ten as they were announced. I did this from September 1980 through to June 1981, when I ran out of room. I didn't start a new pad, instead I think I got a boyfriend sometime around that period, and therefore got the start of a life.

But it makes me all misty-eyed to look through the pages... what follows is merely a selection:

Countdown 800907
One of the things I love about these lists is the mix of music. None of this separation between mainstream and indie music that you get these days. I'm sure the lead singer of MiSex (who, BTW, my mother nearly ran over once in Townsville when he was supporting Split Enz, to my teenage awe and embarrassment) was trying not to vomit as Gavin announced this choice run-down of hits.

Countdown 801123
Check out the humour in 'MONGO ROCK'. I couldn't tell you if that was deliberate -- probably not, knowing the wide-eyed kidlet I was -- but it's ironic, because if I were asked to nominate the worst Australian performers of the early 80s I would, without hesitation, say Ross Wilson and Pat Wilson. And I only pinpointed in my mind why this afternoon as I was driving Bumblebee back from Cooma ahead of wild weather: smugness. They acted like they knew what Australians SHOULD be listening to, and bestowed that music upon us as if we should be grateful. And I hated them for it. They're probably very nice people, but I loathed everything Mondo Rock released, except 'State of the Heart'. And Bop Girl is going to pop music hell hot on the trail of Oh Mickey. BLAH!

The Leo Sayer Hit is actually More Than I Can Say, but I fluffed it and obviously never went back to it. That's always been my way... onwards, onwards, time for picking up the mess later (*snort* says BB and my mother).

Countdown 810201
Classic young teen, I flirted with coloured pens for a while. Can you believe the Slim Dusty number 1? It stayed in the top ten for a long time, as did Joe Dolce's Shaddupa you face.

Countdown 810215
But peoples, beware of using coloured pens for your precious documents, for this is what happens to the back of the paper!

My mother nearly fainted this week, with Dr Hook on the show. The only other time she swooned like that was when Shakin' Stevens was hosting. I can't remember this Abba song: On & On & On. Let's have a listen, shall we?

Oh yes. Frida's had better hair days. Not one of their best hits, is it? They sound as synthesised as that Cher hit a while back.

Countdown 810329
I love the way I keep writing Molly Meldrum in as if there could be a chance he wouldn't be there the next week. No wonder my parents thought I'd be a librarian. And -- *swoon* -- Suzi! I'd started spending my pocket money on singles around this time, and my collection closely correlates with many of the songs in this book. Well, the only other way of hearing new songs in Townsville was some horrible American relay broadcast on the local radio station on Saturday nights, running through the top 100 hits for that week. I didn't discover the cool stuff from this period until I got to university and got to plunder everyone else's record collections.

I can't begin to tell you about the thrill I got when I rediscovered this little gem. I thought I'd lost it, years ago! I think I'll make a proper solander box for this. Sigh!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Catching up (ladybits alert)

I'm sorry to leave you hanging... this is the first chance I've had to get back to the blog since the last post!

Bumblebee is away with his dad, Best Beloved jumped a plane to Devonport (for work) at dawn this morning and I've now got three days to myself... which I will hopefully put to good use. I am planning to be in the studio printing, and going home via the movies. No cooking, just leftovers and takeaway, no cleaning until the very last moment before everyone gets back on Tuesday afternoon (bringing with them Bernice Balconey and her offspring for a sleepover).

I hope.
I'm in the BookStud now, finding my makeready (the work you do to set up the type and press to get a good print) extremely frustrating. Lots of eeny-weeny measurements that seem perfect one moment, and completely out the next. GAH! So I am going to take a blood-pressure break and tell you about Bumblebee's birthday.


Because I dangled it in front of you, I'll give you a quick overview of B's actual birthday.

I'd gone to the obstetrician that morning, and it was a week before his due date. He made a joke that if B turned around, I'd be right for a natural birth. Not having prepared for a natural birth, having been told all the way that it was going to be very tricky if I did, what with my weird insides and masses of fibroids, I reacted quite violently to this suggestion and told him that if he left me to have a natural childbirth at this late stage I would personally wrap the cord around his neck. He laughed nervously and said 'see you in a week!'.

2nd ultrasound 061202
Here's the little tucker in utero, looking just like himself, except with a touch of the deep-sea creature about him. They did a few of these scans, to make sure he was ok amongst the fibroids, but at no point picked up that he had a dicky heart...

Anyhoo, I came back from my appointment, and went for a walk with a friend to the local secondhand bookshop. While we were looking at books, I had a contraction. I'd had a lot of Braxton-Hicks contractions, so it didn't bother me. All afternoon, though, I kept having them. My mother was my planned birth partner, and she was ready to drive up from Bega. My father was staying with me for a business trip. (I was a single almost-parent already, by choice. I only wanted one child in my life.)

I rang the hospital, but they weren't fussed and told me to hang about at home. Colonel Duck was getting nervous -- he's licensed to shoot people, but the idea of birth makes him go green around the gills. He tried to distract me by buying fish & chips and putting on a video of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (borrowed from the local library, and complete with subtitles for the deaf: 'Music swells. Bird goes tweet'). It was quite fun for a while, until the pain ramped up, and the hospital said come in for a check.

CD bustled me into his Little Red Ute and we drove to the hospital, with him nervously sucking and clacking his dental plate all the way. We rang Lady Duck, but we couldn't tell her to come yet because everyone seemed to think it wasn't time. I begged to disagree, and after an hour of people faffing around me and a whole whack of indecisiveness, someone finally checked between my legs properly and discovered that the baby was trying to shove his knee through my cervix. Oh! Emergency caesarian time!

CD rang Lady Duck, who jumped in the car. Unfortunately two hours of driving wasn't going to get her here in time, so I told CD he'd have to come in and hold my hand. He nearly fainted at the thought of it, so I asked him to ring my friend (M) I'd been shopping with that morning. She took 15 minutes to get there, by which time I'd been given an epidural and I'd yakked fish'n'salad (I couldn't hack the chips earlier) all over the nurse.

M did a sterling job, holding my hand and making jokes. I was shaking violently, scared that I'd feel the first cut, since the epidural had masked the pain but not the physical sensation of cramps. I asked them across the green sheet if they'd started, and they said 'yes, we're halfway through!' so I started to relax a bit. Then there was the most extraordinary sensation of a huge weight lifting off me, and I heard a squalk... OMFG, I've had a baby.

They passed the baby over to M, and we both sucked our breaths in, as he looked EXACTLY like his father, and neither of us thought that was a particularly good thing at the time. Then I said 'oh, it's Bumblebee', and the moment was broken and we fell in love.

It took ages to sew me up and do all the things they have to do, and I forgot to send word out to Colonel Duck, who was pacing a rut in the corridor. By the time I did remember, Lady Duck was there, and they had first cuddles as we emerged.

He wasn't a well baby -- he'd tied true knots in his cord, and was starving and eating his own brown fat, which is why he'd gone into distress. He was also jaundiced, and small.

B coming home
On the way home from hospital -- tiny! I had to cut off the cuffs from his little home-dyed babyskins to make them fit.

But he was/is mine, and he's a bloody trooper. We hoped he'd plump up once he got home, but he didn't thrive, and it turned out to be his heart. For that story, go here. That kid has been close to death so many times and survived that I've stopped fretting.


You can see why Bumblebee is utterly indulged by his grandparents and I. He's not spoiled, mainly because we don't have enough money to give him everything his friends get, but he keeps up enough.

So. He got a mobile from his grandad this year. It's not too fancy, with enough credit to let him ring me if he needs to, but not too much so that he can learn how fast it runs out. He messaged me yesterday to tell me his dad had taken him to Sydney. I love knowing stuff like that.

His nanny made him a cake for his party:
Isn't it lush? Choc sponge layers with fresh cream and sliced strawberries between, topped with all sorts of nice things.

It was a Lasertag party. I've never seen so many happy boys in one place.

This is the geekboy demonstrator showing off the new equipment. Flashing lights and noises... they were in heaven.

He gave a few of the teams some strategic tips, but only if they asked the right questions. The place was pretty scraggy on the outside, but once they got inside...

interior was the place of their (electric) dreams.

team red
Team Red. Note extreme seriousness. Gawd I hope he grows out of this phase... I prefer swords to this stuff!

I love all the names they were given. They also got scorecards at the end with statistics on who shot who.

Once geared up, they ran around a darkened maze, shooting each other and the bases. I stayed outside and watched the screen, but I could hear the music and the yelling through the walls.

They emerged from each game red-faced, adrenalin charged and shouting constantly. For anyone planning to have one of these parties, take these tips:

They really only want to drink water and light fizzies. They guzzle down chips, but don't try more elaborate party fare because they're not interested, just needing a quick snack so they can keep yelling and pumping their fists. A slice of cake, another drink, and they're off again. Take earplugs. Have a Bex and a good lie down afterwards.

It was, perhaps, the easiest birthday party I've ever hosted. But I was still exhausted afterwards, from the noise and lights and testosterone levels.

I went to see 'Lars and the Real Girl' a couple of days later, and it was the perfect antidote. Highly recommended.

Back to the makeready. Wish me luck...

PS -- JUST FOUND, thanks to Helen. Heh.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wunderkammer 6: Dictionaries

Wunderkammer: a series celebrating the almost lost


When I first met my Best Beloved, he'd just spent a large sum of money buying a dictionary. All 20 volumes of The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, to be precise. They take up two full shelves of our home office bookcase, and look fantastic. And that's what they do most of the time, sit there and look fantastic. Of course, when Bernice Balconey drops in for a glass or three of wine and she and he start haggling over obscure points of grammar and the difference between 'miniscule' and 'minuscule' (thank you, Jonathon and Pav), the M volume is run for, and lovingly stroked as it is gazed at. I, on the other hand, am usually running for a nice novel to sink into as they sink deeper into Baloney.

I, too, have a beloved dictionary, but it is only the size of a small house brick, a little hardback Pocket Oxford Dictionary that I've carted through the years, through endless house moves and seemingly unceasing study. It has my name written in the front in my high-school hand. It's always within arms reach if I'm working at home, and it's married to my equally battered paperback Roget's Thesaurus.

So tell me, do you still use a hard-copy dictionary? Or do you own the CD-roms of some reputable dictionary publishing house? Or are you a subscriber to something similar? Or do you just use the plethora of free on-line dictionaries? Or do you just rely on the spell-checker built into whichever program you're using at the time? Or do you not care at all, as long as ur grlfrd ns wt ur tlkg abt?

When I'm away from my married couple, I'll go on-line for my spelling requirements, but I'm blessed with an ability to sense if something's not spelled correctly, probably because I read a lot. In fact, most of the times I misspell things, it's because I haven't taken the time to properly re-read whatever I've written. Like blog posts/comments: dash them down, and hit send. Then say 'Doh'!

The sense of nostalgia I feel about printed dictionaries is not a sense of their impending obsolescence (to the contrary! They are becoming more collectible with every on-line year), but about the way looking through a dictionary leads you to other words, and other worlds.

Many are the times I've gone to look up a word, and become distracted by other words near by, and before I know it, I'm turning the page, or writing down something that ends up being something quite different after a bit of thinking, like a page of an artist's book.

This is akin to the way library catalogues are now virtual, and looking up a book tends to take you straight to that book, and nowhere else. My university library catalogue has a function that shows you the books on either side of the one you're seeking, but it's just not the same as standing at the shelf, running your finger along the other book spines, and happening upon the perfect book that you never knew existed.

You can still do this, of course, by stopping occasionally as you walk through the library shelves, rather than just grabbing the book you need and running out again. You can also go to bed and browse through the dictionary to learn a new word every day, as well. I just thought I'd point that out, in case anyone has forgotten. But I know I'm writing this for an audience of dictionary lovers, am I not? SHARE.

Before I stop, here's a short list of weird and wonderful dictionary-type thingies in no particular order:

Urban Dictionary
The Visual Dictionary
A dictionary of one-letter words
The Superhero Dictionary
Language Log
The Apostrophe Protection Society
sex-lexis, the dictionary of sexual terms
a very long list of on-line dictionaries

[cross-posted at Sarsaparilla]

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


There is an intersection of two roads near the university. Not the one that leads into the university, but down the road a bit, closer to the art school. I ride my bicycle across it twice a day, to and fro.

An ex-lover moved back to Canberra a couple of years ago. We had loved each other dearly once, but we were very young. The first time I saw him, almost twenty years ago, he was walking past me and my friends at the university. He had a gracefulness about him, a tall, lithe frame, a quiet, young dignity. I orchestrated a meeting with him, I liked him a lot, and I worked hard to woo him out of his determination to not fall into another serious relationship, having just come out of an intense school-sweetheart engagement. I can be charming and persuasive when I want to be. He fell, and so did I.

A few short years later we fell apart, for a variety of silly reasons that periodically through my adulthood I would weep in frustration over. I used to wonder if he'd been the one, if I'd pushed him away, or if he'd pushed me. Not having seen him for years, I would fantasise about meeting him again, and finding out if we were right for each other, now that we'd worked through our issues, dropped a bit of baggage, picked a few other pieces up. Now that we were older.

When he moved back to Canberra, he got in touch. I was newly married, he was following his heart north and moving in with her as she started a post in the Public Service. We met. The earth didn't move, of course, and by that time I didn't want it to. We both look different, but not so different that we don't recognise each other. There's a different kind of recognition between us now that is like a sad undercurrent, a mutual nostalgia, a shared history, a glimpse of an alternate universe.

We told each other that we should meet occasionally, have coffee or something. We haven't. But we both travel along the same path towards the university. We travel it often, he on foot and me on my bike. But the only place we ever cross paths is at that intersection, always with him going in and me heading out.

We face each other across the lights, and smile. The last few times I have held my hand out in a high five motion and we clasp hands briefly as we pass. And we keep going, in opposite directions along the same path.

Today I got to the lights just as they were changing. He had just crossed to my side. We stopped, and talked. One of the things I'd forgotten about him is how hard it is to have a conversation with him, as he is self-contained, shy, a still, deep pool of water. We shared news, a fact each, for a while, and then he told me that he's suddenly become an uncle, many times over, as all his siblings have had multiple babies. I asked if he planned to join them. He winced, and shook his head, looking at his feet. No, he was glad the pressure was off. I understand that pressure, and nodded, looking at my feet.

We were almost parents, once upon a time. We chose not to be. I don't regret it; I can't speak for him. But the undercurrent ran deeper all of a sudden. The lights changed, and we kissed each other hurriedly on the cheek and moved apart, travelling again, in different directions along the same path.