Friday, August 31, 2007

Wigging out in the pen

I keep meaning to blog about this, but I've been really busy and it keeps popping out of my brain. I can't imagine any Canberra people reading only me and not Crazybrave or any other of the fine local dudes who have been proclaiming a blogmeet tonight, but just in case you do... there's a blogmeet tonight.

Details here. And here. and all over. See you there. For a while, at least, before I keel over in exhaustion.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Red hot mamma moment

I spent today (after a lovely sleep-in) working on a design project that has boiled hot and cold for the last four months, and is finally at Deadline stage. So the day was spent tweaking and polishing, and nipping into Facebook to play a bit of scrabulous, then back out for more tweaking and polishing.

I wasn't finished in time to go to the whole of one of Barbara Blackman's periodical soirees (she's a friend of BB and his family), but I dropped in towards the end to pick up BB, who was ruddy and jolly from lashing of champers, and caught a fabulous blues jam involving Tony Hill (a writer who can play a mean piano) and classic jazz and blues belter Madam Pat.

Madam Pat in the piano

If you look closely, you can see M. Pat reflected in the piano. She is 84 years old, in a wheelchair, but can still belt out a low growly hot mama blues better than anyone I've heard.

I sat beside the piano, absolutely thrilled and mesmerised. I tried to video her to record the sound, but the piano drowns her out and I was too shy to sit next to her with the camera rolling.

Magical. Twenty minutes of her singing that I will never forget. Ever.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tired AND emotional, in the truest sense

Last night I had a lovely time. Dinner with two of Best Beloved's oldest friends, who were in town for one day only on a home visit from England, and then a liquidy visit to the launch of Artwranglers, an enterprise supporting both Zoe and I financially (she did the blog, I did the stationery), where I met and had a lovely drunken chat with Peter Fay about the melancholy freakiness of limited edition premmie dolls.

Today I woke up a touch squidgy. But. I am professional. So I got to school early and set up the press for a day of printing the aforementioned Wanted Posters. We (a very keen student and I) printed them all day, letting people make up their own crimes and set their own names. I didn't get time to make spare ones for helpful bloggers, but I will do another session next week, because they're too much fun not to share. Those who suggested things and want a poster had better email me their postal address.

Here's a selection of 'crimes' I managed to remember to photograph:

wanted: incorrigible sedition
We used the same large words with varying leader sentences at times, depending on the preference of the purchaser...

wanted: repeated sedition this. This is the combined name of a couple of collaborative printmakers.

wanted: officiousness
This was requested by an obviously long-suffering girlfriend.

wanted: blogging
Made for The Shopping Sherpa in person, who blogged about the experience here

wanted: pedantry
Requested by an academic's wife

wanted: faffing about
And this one I made for Bumblebee. Happy to recreate it for other parents.

Others I didn't get a chance to shoot were: CRIMES AGAINST HIS SISTER, INCORRIGIBLE ACTS OF GAMING, REPEATED ACTS OF HERESY, HEINOUS CRIMES OF FASHION and OBSESSIVE USE OF FACEBOOK (made for a student!). There were others but my brain hurts. Anyhoo, on with the story.

We printed solidly from 10am to 4pm. And then at 4.10, as we were cleaning up, Best Beloved looked at one of them and said 'Oh!'

I know that 'Oh!' noise very well, and my heart sank. It was a typo. Hopefully it was a typo in one of the customised bits. But no. It was a big typo of an omitted word and it was on every. frigging. poster. we'd. printed. all. day...


And NO ONE picked it up or mentioned it if they did.


All the fun of the day just flopped and I felt stupid and tired. And my feet ached.

BB and I went to the movies straight after, which was a good idea because it gave my feet time to stop throbbing and was something to distract me from feeling grumpy. We saw This is England.

[*clasps hands*] oh golly, you have to see that movie. It's horrendous and poignant and funny and ... and... and the music is great. The last scene had me weeping into my sleeve to hide my face. I hate it when they turn the lights up 2 seconds after the credits start. There's no time to really react to an ending. In The Lives of Others I was so riveted I couldn't cry until it was absolutely all over, and even with the lights up I sat there and bawled, to the consternation of my fellow travellers, known and unknown. Turning the lights up fast is mean-spirited. There's a lot of that about these days.

It was an emotional rollercoaster. I came out utterly drained emotionally after being drained physically. Then we got takeaway and ate it in front of Dr Who, which pulled me through the mangle AGAIN. I don't have another drop of water in me, honestly. I feel pulled in all directions. Even The Sideshow couldn't make me smile, although that's actually not unusual. I watch it for the acts it showcases, not the inbetweeny bits.

I'm about to go to bed, and hope that tonight the cats will NOT use me as a parking station, as they have done for the last few nights. I woke up a couple of days ago with my arm around Mr Pooter (he'd wriggled under the covers) and Mr Padge sitting squarely on my chest, purring deep vibrations through me, after giving me dreams of being buried alive under an earthquake. They seem to think I'm very relaxing...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wanted: you to come to this

We're all buzzing at art school, preparing for Open Day on Saturday.

I put together this:


And on Saturday I plan to print as many odd crimes as I can, including Sedition.

Any suggestions?

Open Day: 25 August, 10am to 4pm, and all the workshops will be doing something: Painting, Printmedia, Sculpture, Ceramics, Glass, Textiles, Wood/Furniture, and Gold & Silversmithing. Something for everyone...

So far we have CRIMES OF: SEDITION, REGICIDE, PASSION, OMPHALOSKEPSIS (yes, you'll have to look that one up, like I did)

Did I mention that any suggestions will be printed in the slow moments with the name of the commenter and sent to them?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I'm going to pick up Christy's general tag and do the EIGHT RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME meme, as if my memory isn't random enough and just in case you feel I don't talk about myself enough :) I'm sitting in my art school office waiting for Bumblebee to be dropped off after circus school (thank goodness for car pooling) and all my scrabulous games are waiting for other people, so here goes. (Apologies if I've written any of this stuff before. I told you my memory is random.)

1. I hate tight things around my neck. This ties in with hating to wear anything that makes me think about it while I wear it: tight/high shoes, tight bras, things that cut in under the arms, g-strings. I try to be comfortable at all times and I tend to wear things I can run in.

2. I hate to run. But I'm prepared for the need to.

3. When I think about walking on a sloping roof or a high slippery place, the soles of my feet tingle (they're doing it now).

4. I love romantic comedies. It's the girliest thing about me, and something I feel a vague sense of shame about, thanks to the pre-lipstick feminism that I inherited from my auntie godmother (see also points 1 & 2). Doesn't stop me from watching them.

5. I went to Kirwan High in Townsville for a while. Also Randwick High in Sydney. I went to a lot of schools, actually.

6. I always knew I would be a single mother. I didn't think I would ever find a man I wanted to stay with for a lifetime. The jury is still deciding on that one. (Don't worry, we're still in love! But a lifetime is hopefully a LONG time.)

7. I feel all sparkly on days when I physically make something that isn't a bed or a meal. Books and prints usually fit the bill.

8. I can't live without a novel beside the bed. But you knew that.

Have a go if you feel like it.


Monday, August 20, 2007

A bit of topicality

I just rang my credit card provider to cash in some reward points (movie tickets, of course) and was offered twice the amount of credit that I have now (which is VERY modest). When I refused, the man on the other end sounded positively miffed and was very cold to me for the rest of the phone call. I felt like giving him a mini-rant about personal credit overloads and the crisis currently hitting the States. Not that it would have made any difference. I feel shitty about getting rewards for spending money; I'd rather be rewarded for NOT spending money, but that seems to have gone out of fashion...

And I'm hearting Kevin at the mo, and loving the lack of fight in the Liberal creche about Kev's big breasty adventure. Last night on the news I could feel all the glass houses trembling slightly, but no stones were thrown. Let them only try, and see what crawls out into the light among all the glass shards...

Best Beloved was in Broome last night, cuddling crocodiles apparently. Tonight he is in Darwin, and will travel all abouts there. He's loving his job because he gets to travel all around Australia, and has a Quaintarse map that he uses to cross off all his flights. He's crossed off about half of what they offer so far. Bumblebee and I are quite enjoying his times away; we get to revisit our single parent days...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Remember to breathe

bird outside

... especially when you're 84 like sculptor Jan Brown, who made most of the objects you can see in this photo. Except for the Christmassy thing at the front and the real bird looking in at the window, which Jan and I found highly amusing when I popped in to see her last week. I've mentioned Jan before; walking into her loungeroom is sometimes quite unnerving because of all the birdy eyes looking your way.

Anyhoo, this birdy arrangement is for Sacha, my lovely bird-loving friend in Brisbane who has had the most revolting few weeks, including the sudden death of one of her beautiful (and young) cats. And for anyone else who needs well-wishing. I wish you well.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

more disarray

Also, a mate has written a critique of the National Museum so far. He's interested in some feedback if you've got any.

Have you got any?

Personally I was a big fan of the original plan to build at Yarramundi Reach, so I've never been very keen on the Disneyland they've build on Acton Peninsula, and which now, according to his post, is falling into disarray after a short time.

Scenes of illness, death and disarray


Well, that went as well as might be expected. I didn't get any leads on friends, but I don't think my blog is a hub of national activity, so I'm happy in the knowledge that if anyone googles a combination of Jamie Florance, Cranbrook School and suicide,* they'll find me here.

Jamie's grave

Many thanks for all your warm comments and suggestions.


One very happy outcome of all this was the discovery that Lord Sedgwick and I share a non-blood kinship that made the universe fall into place in a number of ways. One of my favorite family friends is one of his favorite friends, and thus this small beautiful world gets smaller and more beautiful. I wish we'd made this connection when I visited Melbourne earlier this year, but I'm sure it won't be too long before we can all get together over some wine and have a giggle.

I rang my parents and told them about this discovery and was startled to know that my dad has a lot of admiration and respect for LS and his activities, at least for the ones he was doing a few decades ago. I felt a bit young and out of the loop. It's nice to know there are still fun things to learn about your family!


I drove a frigging long way to drop sent Bumblebee off to his dad's place on Friday, with stern warnings that B was to have a quiet weekend since he was committed to perform for two solid days at the impending Step into the Limelight extravaganza.

When I got him back on Sunday he was puking and coughing simultaneously, with a high fever. I know he would have picked up the bug a few days before, but his illnesses always manifest themselves on his dad's weekend, and his dad always dismisses them as less than they are. 'It's just a cold', he said. At 10.20pm (the earliest we could get in), I was at the after-hours doctor at the hospital, getting antibiotics and being warned to keep a close eye on him.

This being the night before the 20th anniversary of my bro's death, and almost exactly 10 years after Bumblebee almost died on the operating table with open heart surgery, I got a bit stressed. My life is full of neat little patterns, and I was terrified that this might be one of them.

Don't get me wrong, Bumblebee was nowhere near Death's door, I was just exercising my right as a novel reader, film watcher and paranoid mother to imagine the worst. So I had a fretful night's sleep, going out occasionally and feeling his forehead, checking to see him breathe. And in the morning, there he was, pale but alive. Of course.

He's fine now, and the upside is that we don't have to go to that horrid performance. He was going to be singing and waiting and singing and waiting for two solid days. And we were going to have to be there the whole time. He's NEVER going to have a chance to be a child star because I don't have the patience to allow him to be. Bleck.

Kitty disarray

To add to the 'fun', the cats caught a bird on friday and dragged it inside, where it proceeded to flap up and down the house, beating itself against windows and trying to escape the claws. When I got home from school pickup, there were feathers EVERYWHERE, especially in the bathroom where they seem to have plucked out most of its poor tail.


The loungeroom was covered in feathers, and there were scenes of disarray, like on the dining table where BB had just lined up a batch of freshly-filled jam jars, ready to be wiped and labelled.

jam fevver

The cats were sitting on the lounge, not looking terribly excited, so I thought all the action was over, but I couldn't see a body. Then Padge got up leisurely, sauntered over to the kitchen, and jumped up on the bench. It was then I noticed the bird wedged up behind my dishrack, trying to make itself invisible, panting and terrified.

Bumblebee freaked out, so I asked him to lock the cats outside while I caught the bird. Unfortunately, while he was herding them, the bird flapped away and landed on the floor, and they pounced again, which freaked him out even more. Lordy, it was chaos. Eventually I got the cats out, caught the bird, put the cats in, and took the bird outside. I didn't know what to do! My mother would have killed it; she possesses a calm practicality for these things that I can only take so far. I tried to make it comfortable and get it some water; it had only 3 tail feathers left, a bite in its side and a bite near its neck. But the wind buffeted it and it took the opportunity to use the last bit of its energy to flap up into the nearest tree, where I couldn't reach it. The next morning I went out to look and it was dead, cradled in the branches. I hope it didn't suffer too much.

Our cats are well belled, and they aren't allowed out at night; I can only think that Friday's freak winds (very hard, very fast, very loud) gave them an unfair advantage. We praise their mouse catching, but they know they have been bad when they catch a bird, and they've only done it twice in three years. They now have a new name: bird butcherers.

But I don't think it bothers them too much.

Cats asleep

* welcome, if you have done that. The full story is the next post down.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

This is what personal blogs are for, rly

Monday the 13th of August is the 20th anniversary of my brother's death, a fact that takes my breath away at odd moments. I have mentioned him obliquely over the years, as his memory bobs up and down. Today I will go full frontal. Ish.

Twenty years is a significant anniversary, and aside from the usual feelings of loss, grief and helplessness, I feel an urge to know what some of his friends are doing now, and since I have this first-person narrative thing chugging along on teh interwebs, I thought I would put some feelers out there in case any of you know anyone who knew him.

So rather than attempt to say all this in an personal notice in a newspaper, I have placed an abridged In Memoriam notice in a couple of large newspapers for today, and at the end of the notice I have placed my blog address, and that is why I am posting about this today and not Monday. No doubt the newspaper typesetters will set up my notice in a rather ugly fashion and the blog address will blend together with the personal message completely illegibly, but those who are interweb savvy will hopefully get the gist. Maybe others will think it is poor taste to promote a blog in a death notice, but it is 2007, for goodness sake, so get jiggy wiv it.

This is the ad I placed (or how I would like it to look):

FLORANCE, Jamie Andrew
1/12/69 - 13/8/87

You were wrong: life isn’t better without you.
You are loved and missed.


I didn't include the photo, of course. It's a very old and battered photo, and the only one I could find. I get so used to seeing images of him at my parents' house that I forget that I have none around my own house apart from this so-very-alive one. Yes, his t-shirt says 'adildos'. He was a teenager :)

I would also have liked to expand that line a bit to: You are loved and missed, especially by those who would like to have known you. By that, of course, I mean Bumblebee, and Best Beloved.

Bumblebee thinks and talks about Uncle Jamie constantly, and is very concerned that we don't visit his grave enough. I've tried to explain that I don't feel the need to visit his grave site often because I don't feel J's presence there, but B likes the formality of a graveside visit. And I think he was deeply impressed by the year we went to a florist to get a flower to lay on the grave, and 5-yo Bumblebee was asked by the shop assistant if this pretty flower was for his mum or grandma. 'No,' he replied seriously. 'It's for my uncle, he's dead. He killed himself.' The shop assistant went to pieces and gave him the flower for free. I'd never really made a fuss about visiting a cemetery with him before that (it was a bit like visiting a playground), and it was his first taste of someone treating such a subject seriously.

Best Beloved finds the topic poignant, probably he is a little bit younger than Jamie and can see it on a peer level. He wishes he could have met him, especially after viewing Jamie's Good News Bible, his school's religious textbook of choice, altered during many long boring Religious Ed classes, with every line drawing adapted and captioned in a hilarious Monty-Python-meet-The Goons fashion. I think that Bible is my family's most precious possession, a capsule of my brother's taste and ability in comedy. Always look on the dark side of laugh.

And my parents and I just miss him, like a gaping hole in our lives, slightly patched by the inclusion of B and BB, but something that will never, ever be filled properly.

Here's a few things about my brother, just in case it jogs anyone's memory or social set:

He went to Cranbrook School, in Sydney, Class of 1987.
(No, we weren't/aren't rich, he had a full scholarship that is only given once every 6 years to a Defence Services child. Just in case you were wondering.)

Yes, Class of 1987 means that he died the year of his HSC exams. Just before his trial exams, actually. And his friends were NOT given permission to delay an exam to be able to attend his funeral. But they came anyway.

His story is quite similar to the film of Looking for Alibrandi, especially the area of Sydney used in the film, and the schools the characters went to. So similar that when I saw the movie, I couldn't see the credits for tears, and I wondered if the author, Melina Marchetta, had known my brother and his girlfriend. I don't think so, but I don't think I can ever watch the movie again. The book was published only 5 years after his death. It's too close to home, literally, or at least the home we were in at the time. Except that my dad wasn't a bullying perfectionist lawyer-type that drove his son to his death, or whatever it was.

When he died (he gassed himself, on our kitchen stovetop, BTW) his friends tossed some ideas around on how to commemorate him at the school. One idea was a plaque on one of the toilet cubicle doors. He would have loved the silliness of it, but the school thought it was undignified and refused, missing the point completely.

Names of friends I can remember without ringing my parents (who will probably find this post excruciating): JJ, Sam, Gaby, Justin, Julia, Rod, and Kathi. I hope you're all doing really well, and having happy lives. I'd love any of you (and any others) to get in touch, by commenting or by email (mentioned in the sidebar of this blog).

I wasn't, to my eternal regret, around a lot at the time, but that's not anyone's fault. By the time we got past that whole 'my sibling is dumb' phase, I was at university having a big sister life, and although we wrote and visited and got on extremely well, I mostly got long-distant reports about what my family were going through for the 9 months (there's that irony again) between his nervous breakdown and his death. Nine very hard months for my parents, who tried everything they could think of to keep him alive. And we had plans for him to come and live with me while we both went to uni, so I guess I was counting on a bit of quality time then. But no, it was not to be.

Actually, the message I really wanted to print is:


If you know anyone who is showing suicidal tendencies, tell them it sucks. It sucks big time. It really does. For those who go (gee, you showed 'em), and for those left behind constantly wondering why (no matter how many reasons you give them) and if they could have done anything, or anything else to help. It's a lose-lose situation.

Anyway, that'll do, Pig. He was a good brother while I had him, and I hope he's happy where he is. I have a number of drafts of notes he tried to write, and the last line of one of them is:

I know you can live without me. Please do.

Smarmy bugger. As if we had any choice, bless him.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

:( and :)

:( Bad news

My blogging workshop has been cancelled due to lack of interest, although I know that most of the people who would be interested have probably either just got themselves a blog and got on with it, or expected they could just rock up on the day. Maybe they should have just made it an interactive floortalk with me in front of a projected laptop, open and free to the public?

Never mind; this means I get the whole of Saturday to do something fun...

:) Good news

My book project has finally moved past Go. There have been a string of setbacks, such as a devastating flood, catching up on commitments missed while flirting with the idea of pregnancy, finding out that the particular type of paper I wanted to use had stopped being imported (and thus doing a frantic search to buy the last stocks of it, to the chagrin of many Aussie printmakers), having one of my contributors freak out about manuscript proofing and sit on it for months, and being offered the chance to teach letterpress classes during my residency (and thus halving the time I have to print for myself), and discovering that the polymer platemaker WAS actually damaged from the flood, and had to be fixed.

BUT. Last week the platemaker was fixed. Yesterday I picked up the A2-sized negative films, covered with and images (to make the polymer plates), and today my woodblocks arrived from one of the illustrators, Rosalind Atkins. Two glorious postcard-sized type-high endgrain woodblocks, made in England and sent straight to the artist and now sent to me, landscapes engraved in exquisite and tiny detail, and I held them in my hand and almost burst into tears with grateful excitement.

I have three more weeks of teaching (I'll post about that experience soon, suffice to say my feet are throbbing), during which I'll cut paper and make plates, and then I should be able to start printing... hooray!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Remember to quiz

You Are Paper

Crafty and creative, you are able to adapt freely to almost any situation.

People tend to underestimate you, unless they've truly seen what you are capable of.

Deep down, you're always scheming and thinking up new plans. Your mind is constantly active.

You are quite capable of anything you dream of. You can always figure out a way to get what you want.

You can wrap a rock person up in your sheet of trickery.

A scissor person can sneak up and cut you to pieces.

When you fight: No one can anticipate your next move

If someone makes you mad: You'll attack them mercilessly when they're unprepared

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Cake! Love a bit of cake. Cake! Ca-aaake...

office flowers

Hooray! Poppy and jonquil season, which make August just that bit more bearable. If I could have my 'druthers, I would travel away from Canberra in February and August, because the former is just a bit too much Summer, and the latter one month too much of Winter.

Anyhoo, enjoying the first poppies of the season has become a bit of a tradition around here. The smell of the jonquils as I sit and type is glorious, and every so often a poppy pops and starts unfurling, much to the delight of the cats (and myself).

Yesterday I was feeling unhappy with my ladybits (yes, AGAIN. I have a very short cycle these days) and even unhappier that I was ejected from my snuggly bed by BB, who doesn't understand that the first day of a bleed outweighs the fact that Saturday is the only day he gets breakfast in bed (as a friend said, it's a bit like paper-scissors-rock, debating reasons not to get of bed first on a winter morning).

So I went to the farmers markets in a very grumpy mood and proceeded to spend a quarter of my grocery budget on flowers and cake. Then came home, festooned the house with flowers and ate cake with lashings of tea. Not just cake, friends. They were slices of Amore Cakes, the best bloody cakes in the southern hemisphere, and only available in Canberra at these markets and possibly the Kingston Markets. I bought a slab (no such thing as a dainty slice of Amore) each of: Macadamia & Ginger Cake, Raspberry Slice, Sour Cherry Cake, Lemon Polenta Cake, and Toffee & Chocolate Cake. All under $4 and all about the size of your outstretched hand. None of them good for your waistline, but very good for the soul. We've been eating them slowly through the weekend, chunks at a time, and the cake tin still looks respectably full.

I also spent most of the day yesterday with Bernice, working on our collaborative project, trying to solve problems with printing with a mangle, and getting partway there but not all there. (I work occasionally around John Loane, who prints all of Mike Parr's huge prints, and I think I'm going to pick his brains next (very Zombie-like) about how to get the rest of the way through our large-scale intaglio printing adventure. I suspect it's going to involve changing the paper we're working with.) So we got back last night not as UP as we would have been if we'd cracked it. Never mind, half a bottle of wine worked for me to restore the spirits.

Bumblebee is meant to be with us this weekend, but he went a friend's beach house for a birthday sleepover, lucky boy. He went to his school disco on friday night (dressed in Sith Casualwear, of course, minus the lightsabre) and watching him greet his friends -- once we'd got past the increased security measures, each child accompanied by an adult to get in the door and brandishing their permission slips bearing parental signature and emergency contact number -- was akin to watching the T-birds from Grease greeting each other after the long summer holiday. Hilarious attempts at Cool Enthusiasm.

On thursday I attended one of the art school's twice-weekly public lectures (Art Forum, all welcome), this time by the curator of Knit 1 Blog 1, Barb McConchie. It was great; as she gave her lecture about discovering the world of knitting blogs, she got the technical assistant to sit next to her and use the projected laptop to click through blogs. His challenge was to move only through knitting blogs, and to never visit the same one twice for the whole hour. Heh. I think he could have done it for two days and never run into the same one twice. It was great to see how many international craft blogs link to Canberra's own Whip Up blog.

There was something else I wanted to write about but it's totally escaped my brain. Hmmm. Nope. It'll come back sometime, no doubt. Sometime when I'm NOT near the computer.