Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Woodford Files 5

Sleeping at Woodford is a fine art: everyone is under thin canvas; there are no designated quiet or noisy areas, so you might be next door to a quiet family group, a single snorer or a mosh of drumming teens. Around 6am, when everyone except the most foolish have had a modicum of deep sleep, the garbage trucks rumble around the larger roads.

The secret to a reasonably successful sleep is a good set of earplugs. We used to swear by wax plugs, but were talked into 'better' foam plugs by a kindly chemist chick in Taree. Since it's been two years since I had to use the wax ones, I can't truthfully compare, but the foam ones have been good. Once they are in, the world takes on an underwater quality perfect for sleep, and the rumble of the drums and trucks just add to the texture of your dreams.

Of course, good sleep comes best to a calm mind. I slept badly last night because we got back to the tent to find the back flap open and my stuff spread around. It looks like someone had come in in the dark, grabbed and upended my backpack, had a quick rifle through BB's less accessible backpack, then got spooked and left before they could get to the next 'room' containing Bumblebee's things and a bag of electrical cords that also absent-mindedly contained BB's iPod.

Luckily we hadn't left any other valuable things in the tent - we're quite careful that way - so all they took was my cheap but useful torch. But, as with all invasions, they robbed me of my peace of mind, and my faith in Woodford as somewhere beyond all that petty crap.

Anyhoo, it's the second last day, and anyone looking fresh is definitely a day visitor. We didn't get rain last night; we had a promising roll over of clouds as I was blogging, but it bypassed the festival, and today is blindingly hot and dry. On the first day I bought myself a fab red parasol in a lovely curved 'Empire' style, pulled from the seconds box and for my pains turned out to be the last of a batch of water-proofed stock, and it has been my BFF in rain or shine. I noticed this morning as I waited in line for a beet & carrot juice that people were standing close to take advantage of my shade.

I've spent most of today sitting behind the stall in S&E's 'living area' under a thick tarp, slurping the excellent local water and reading every newspaper we can get our hands on. I'm about to soak a silk scarf in water to drape around my shoulders under the parasol and brave the heat to do some shopping. It's Colonel Duck's birthday tomorrow and I forgot to do anything about it before I left Canberra. Trying to find a suitable gift for a tree-changed ex-army officer here is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. If I fail, there's still places to find things on the slow journey home.

New Year's Eve at Woodford is notable not only for it's excellent entertainment choices, but also for the 3-minute silence at 11:30. The entire festival stops still at the sound of the bell ring, and if all goes well the next 3 minutes are so quiet that the cicadas and frogs are deafening. There's always the odd 'WTF??!1!? from ignorant punters, but they are quickly shushed, and the silence wins. It's pretty spectacular for a crowd of around 25,000 people.

Candles are passed around for people to hold, and Best Beloved fondly remembers a fellow who once stopped, gobsmacked, hands full of fresh Pizza Loco slices (BEST PIZZA EVA), looking around, spooked by the silence, and accidentally holding the pizza over someone's candle, setting the slices alight. Someone pointed this out to him, and the rest of the silence was punctuated by muffled curses, stomps and quiet laughter.

I hope you all have a wonderful change of the guard. It's been another ace blogging year, and here's to many more (raises imaginary drink full of crushed ice). May your 2009 be everything you want it to be (and possibly more). Cheers!

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Woodford Files 4

I think this is day four - I'm losing track of time. Last night we were hit by a huge but thankfully brief storm, full of lightning and cooling rain. We had a minute's blackout of the whole festival site, which was very exciting. And it looks to be the festival pattern: today it's hotter than hot, with a storm due later on.

Half an hour ago I was sitting in a deep shady patch on a hill beside King Curly's concert, sipping a UDL and catching up with an old friend from the days of my first uni degree.

Right now I'm sitting on a smaller slope, still in deep shade, beside the Blues tent, listening to my constant festival fave, Kristina Olsen. KO is my idea of a Real Woman. She's gutsy, funny, brave, honest and very open to life. Martin Pearson calls her 'the only American I've ever liked' and it's probably because she doesn't wear her nationality like a badge or entitlement. She spends ten months of every year performing, and gets fully involved in whatever she participates in: at this festival she is performing, speaking, debating, and teaching both dance and musical workshops. And still manages to look great every time I see her.

Her music is sensitive yet earthy, and she accompanies it with lots of joy and humour. She just told a good joke:

What did the blues musician have on her tombstone?
I didn't wake up this morning.

Heh, oldie but goodie.

She was, as usual, on the panel of Martin Pearson's FYI show this morning, along with Sandy McCutcheon, George Negus and Kerry O'Brien: trifecta! What a morning. Times like that you can only really appreciate by being there. One good bit was George being given the chance to ban one Australian from our shores: who would you pick, George? He didn't take long to decide upon Phillip Ruddock, which led to a great discussion of PR's soullessness.

Another fab find today was Dev'lish Mary, hailing from Melbourne. I was attracted to them by the posters in the loos (best place to advertise yourself at Woodford), and I'd noticed Liz Frencham amongst the group. Anything containing Liz cannot fail, and this group is certainly no exception. I was delighted to find a wonderful quartet of women, all as talented as each other, playing kick-ass country, bluegrass and gospel. They hail from Melbourne, so if you do too, take up any chance to see them.

The grey clouds are encroaching, but I think people are more prepared today. Yesterday's storm was quite sudden for most; luckily we have a habit of looking at the sky a lot, and the lightning had been putting on a good show for a while. S&E are very experienced stallholders, so they'd battened down the hatches in good time. If nothing else, at least the storms freshen everything up.

Heh, another classic Kristina lead-in to a song:
I don't know bout you, but I've had my share of men say 'I don't love you, but you're welcome to hang around and have sex with me until I meet someone that I do love'.

The song is all about getting rid of that sort of person and being brave enough to be alone & give yourself the chance to meet someone decent.

Hallelulah, sister.

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Woodford Files 3

9pm, Sunday
I'm sitting close to the top of a huge natural ampitheatre FULL of people, waiting for Josh Pyke. The rain has moved on, the stars are out and the crowd is very happy. The trees that ring the amphi edge are lit from below, and while I know from daylight experience that they are gigantic, they seem dwarfed by the enormous teeming energy swarming below me in the lights of the stage.

While I'm waiting, let me tell you how much I liked Roger Loves Betty. Much. Especially the Betty bits, because Jodi Phillis can make *any* song gorgeous, but her own songs are especially good. And she captures women's emotions particularly well, especially that push-me-pull-you existance of being a creative woman that Wendy James also captures in The Steele Diaries. Jodi Phillis' album Red Whine and Blue got me through the years I was at art school with a young baby, and to my utter delight, she plays a small selection of those songs as part of the RLB act.

I sat at the front of the gig on my ownsome and scored a free cd for my pains.

Monday, 2.30pm
We've been really lucky with the weather. Sure, there's been a couple of rainstorms, but nothing major, and each day has been relatively cool and overcast. Today, however, the sky is blue and the sun is out in FULL FORCE. Hats are selling fast, and the kids are using their water sprayers on grateful passers-by.

Bumblebee and I and his new friend Sam have taken refuge in the shady but stuffy Empire venue for the Monday Mayhem Variety Hours. Armed with our water bottles and a paper fan each, we've been watching acts like the Ayres Rock Surf Lifesaving Club (excellent clowning), the Mad Hatter juggling act, Ross Vegas, and some puppeteers who are just about to come on.

Best Beloved is in the Village Green, a leafy spot near a bit of water, and is reading the paper. On days like this you can't wait for the sun to go down, and you lie low and wait for the fun that sunset brings. Then the street performers come out, the bars get busy and we all start strolling.

The sun hasn't gone down but the breeze is up. I'm waiting for The Ellis Collective at the Concert Tent. Should be good, I'm right at the edge where I can keep one eye on the band and the other on the crowd meandering past.

I can't get over how many people can't handle the basic premise of sticking to the left, and all the gravelly walkways are constantly jammed by gangles of teens trying to decide what to do next, just like those people who step off the top / bottom of a crowded escalator and then stop and look around, banking up everyone following.

Ok, music starting. I'll enjoy this one for you, Crit...

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Woodford Files 2

2pm: I'm sitting in the First Aid tent, holding a bag of ice to my leg, calming a mysterious insect bite that has festered for a few days and is now large and swollen, angry red with a dull yellow centre. I think the culprit was a green ant, but I can't be sure since I felt only the bite, early Friday morning.

3pm: I was a bit harsh on poor Juzzie, wasn't I? I guess I was so surprised at the contrast between his music and his lyrics; I think he desperately needs a lyricist.

I had a Chinese massage just then, just on my head, neck and shoulders, and heard not one, not two, but THREE ambulances struggle past us through the crowded dirt streets. On the way back to the stall, my shoulders plastered with deep heat patches, I wandered past Juzzie's concert and found it silent, an area cordoned off, and all three ambulances parked beside the venue, the crowd hushed and anxious. I didn't want to stay and gawk, and I haven't heard any goss, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't Juzzie himself. What a bummer of a thing to happen in a gig!

7.00pm: it's raining. S&E (my bro & sis in-law) have had a rush on their rainbow umbrellas, handing them out & taking money so fast none of us could keep count. Suddenly all the venues are standing room only. Entire families walk past in those cheap temporary rainsheets, looking like groups of ghosts in various pastel colours, looking, in fact, more exotic than some of the street acts.

I spent this morning life drawing. The teacher was fantastic, taking a bunch of mostly absolute beginners through an intense 3-hour drawing expedition: quick poses with charcoal, contour drawing, working with tone, working with line, and finishing with a great drawing exercise that forced us to really think about composition. She was great, and I came away completely invigorated. Best way to spend $35 ever.

7.50pm: I had a great Woodford moment last night... We got (free, necessary for crowd control) tickets to the Mutant Barnyard, and while waiting for the next session, went for a wander up to the nearest loo. It was near The Muse, and it only had a smattering of people in it, but the voice drifting out from the stage was haunting and familiar in an 'oh, I know that song so well, but can't remember her name' sort of way. I asked the bar staff who this was, and they said 'Roger Loves Betty', which was NOT what I was expecting. By the time I came out of the loo I'd cracked it: Jodi Phillis, who used to be half of that glorious 80s duo, The Clouds.

Dammit! I had to go back to the Barnyard, a room stuffed with stuffed and skeletal mutant animals - interesting but not where I wanted to be at that exact moment. Afterwards I dashed back to my programme and researched the rest of the gigs for Roger Loves Betty.

So here I am, staking out my claim in the shamefully empty Empire, awaiting more of Jodi's voice. There should be more people here. Anyway, they're starting. I'll tell you how they were, tomorrow.

I hope you're all having fun too! I'm not reading comments or other blogs at the moment, but will when I get back to (your) civilisation!

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Woodford Files 1a

I'm still not used to this phone; I accidentally sent that last post a bit early, bit never mind.

As I write this time, I'm sitting in the Blues tent listening to Juzzie Smith, who surprises me. His music is fantastic: slide guitar, harmonica, didge, various percussion bits played as a one-man setup, but his lyrics are absolutely awful. I'm sitting here wondering if it's worth missing out on the Empire Variety Afternoon (magic, comedy, puppetry) in favour of this, where the music is transporting but I keep cringing. Luckily most of his music is instrumental; he knows his strengths.

Kristina Olsen, who played first in this session, is absolutely up to scratch, with her songs vying with her comic and poignant stories for your attention. If you ever get a chance to see her, DON'T ever miss it.

I just looked around me and noticed that the place is PACKED. mostly with tanned young skin flashing tatts, vaguely clothes. The only way out is if I duck under the (cloth) wall next to me. I think I'm stuck here.



I don't think I quite got that right but it's pretty damn close... I'm not doing his rhyming any justice, but neither is he.

Now he's playing harmonica with his nose! That's cool. Ooh! He's inviting Kristina back on stage. See you later...

-- Post From My iPhone

The Woodford Files 1

Woodford Folk Festival, day one, and everyone is wearing their best festival gear. I should know, I helped sell a lot of it to them from Wild Chilli, my bro- and sis-in-law's stall.

I also mean 'festival' rather than 'hippie' gear, because the range of outfits is vast, from full-blown Goth to eccentric circus to surfy-wurfy kids accompanied by batik- saronged grandparents. Very colourful, as entertaining as the programmed entertainment.

At the moment I'm sitting at a hard-fought for table in The Muse, waiting for Martin Pearson* to get on stage for his first FYI morning show of the festival

Martin is a festival staple, both here and at the National, and this year he starts at 10am rather than 9, hurrah, so things can be done beforehand or sleep-ins can be slept.

I won't be coming to Martin tomorrow because I've enrolled in a morning of life drawing at the Visual Arts festival. But I do hope (now writing after the show) that he chooses his next batch of guests carefully; today he introduced as his regular panellists the marvellous Kristina Olsen and the fantabulous Sandy McCutcheon, and then added two of his (married) mates as the guests for the day, and they sucked all the oxygen out of the session. It will be a lot more fun when he starts pulling the daily guests from the amazing pool of talent whirling around this festival site.

Today I'm hoping to see (hoping, because plans change by the second around here): Jigzag, The Ellis Collective, Pirate Brides, Kristina Olsen, Juzzie Smith, Lior (I'm chasing down a few of my East of Everything favs), Dev'lish Mary and Doch. The Tiny Top is back this year, and The Space Cowboy has brought a freak show he calls 'The Mutant Barnyard' that has Best Beloved salivating.

The weather is perfect so far: warm with cloud cover and a cool breeze that hits every now and again refreshingly. There are threats of rain, but we'll see.

*I can't seem to do links or photos yet from this blogging app, so you'll have to do your own google about things if you want more info. I'll mount photos when I get back.

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I forgot, in the excitement of writing yesterday, to include my footnote so carefully asterisked along the way. I am typing on a computer today, in the cool beauty of my friend Sacha's house in Redcliffe, recovering from an oversupply of good G&Ts last night. It's the first time I've had carbonated fluid since 'me op' (all you need to know is that gas was BAD) and I'm happy to report that they went down a treat, so I must be doing ok. So, the missing footnote:

* I had a marvellous (and long) conversation in the Telstra T-Shop (snort) with the Tech Dude as he transferred info from my old phone to my new (which seemed to take forever, because, as I discovered later, the iPhone stored multiple numbers for the same person as separate entries, the sorting of which contributed to the Lost Hours). He is Muslim, and we discussed at length how boring Christmas Day is for those who don't celebrate Baby Bejeebus. Mind you, it can't really be much worse than Canberra on a Sunday night...

While we were talking he was playing some sort of game that involved humiliating an effigy of George Bush. I told him about my favorite one of those, the Bubble Game, and as he played and chortled I wondered aloud whether he would get into huge trouble if I was a less amiable customer. 'Oooh, yes,' he said, 'it's amazing how paranoid people are. I'm not supposed to play political games at all at work. But you have sharp eyes, and I'm very lucky.' I bet!

So my best wishes for the season are trying to be inclusive of those who don't have a season other than a boring couple of days. Have a good whatever :)

funny pictures of cats with captions

Also, if you want something close to a meme read from me, nice Perry at Matilda picked my brains a bit for his Summer blogger series. I felt like the comic relief when I read eveyone else's answers, but that's how I usually feel in company, so no biggy. Scroll down and read the others too; it might give you some decent summer blog reading!

Oh, should mention, because it was marvellous, my visit to the Barratt Galleries in Alstonville yesterday. Run by the charming and energetic Julie Barratt, it features works on paper with a special emphasis on artists' books. It's a beautiful old house converted into gallery spaces with a print studio and a shops space. Only an hour and a half from Brisbane, a quick ten minutes from Ballina and just off and beside some major highways, the gallery is really worth a visit if you're heading that way.

Goodness, it's Christmas tomorrow. Have a good one (if you're having one)!

funny pictures of cats with captions

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday greeting

Hello from Ballina, where the little motel jug is boiling and I'm about to make a cuppa with our own teapot and leaf tea, a travelling essential for us.

So far, we've been driving north slowly, checking out Big Things and visiting some of BB's schoolfriends. Today I'm visiting Julie Barratt's Barratt Galleries in Alstonville, dedicated to Artists Books, to see her set-up, see what is onshow and pick up some of my books that have been hanging around the place.

By tonight we'll be in Redcliffe with the lovely Sacha, preparing for Christmas day and Woodford.

Yesterday we hung out on Sawtell beach with friends and their very young children. I sat there wondering why the word 'Sawtell' rang HUGE bells in my mind, so I rang Colonel Duck and asked him.

'1976,' he replied, 'New Years. We camped there and celebrated my 30th birthday.'
Ahhh! Sitting there as a 41yo, it seemed a long long time ago. It's still a very beautiful spot, despite the bastard who drove his 4WD onto the middle of the beach because he couldn't be arsed walking from the carpark.

If I don't get a chance to post again before Thursday, may you and yours have a wonderful whatever-you-do-at-this-time-of-year.* And stay safe. We're trying, on this horrible coastal highway.

-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Biggest balloon day EVA

Ok, here I am, lying in bed, writing to you. One small step for those with laptops, one giant step for me. Fun!

It's our pseudo-Christmas morning, and it feels like Christmas day. I was woken early this morning by a loud WOOOSSHHH noise and rushed outside to discover a hot air balloon over our house... talk about Balloon Days!

It's also packing day as we leave tomorrow and I'm determined to take my time and pack the right stuff and remember odd things that I always forget but would make the Woodford experience much more comfortable, like a parasol.

The cats are prowling, time to feed them.

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, December 19, 2008

the lost hours

I meant to post yesterday, all about how great Bumblebee looked for his end-of-year disco. The theme was famous characters, and he chose, of course, Dr Who, David Tennant style:

Dr Whom, no glasses
Without glasses, and with brand-new sonic screwdriver, bought by me.

Dr Whom
With glasses; it's a wee bit fuzzy, but the one in which he looks the most authentic, I think.

I meant to post about Bernice's car trying desperately to break down as she gave us a lift to the school (BB having taken the car for another purpose), the same car we gave her last year with the express warning that it is a cute moneypit. Well, it is dead now, and we all mourn.

I meant to post about going to my doctor, and that fact that there I was, on me back, legs akimbo (even though my dictionary tells me it can only be done with the arms, but that's how it felt), him with a torch, and he says 'this is your 6-week check-up, is it not?' and I replied 'no, it's been about 4 and a half weeks' to which he replied 'really? You're healing very well, then!' Huzzar! I can swim in a couple of weeks. I knew that bikini was a good idea.

I meant to post that I didn't get the Melbourne residency I was hoping for next year. It was only a little one, but it would have been fun to do some work away from Canberra and catch up with the interesting people I know in Melbourne, which is SUCH a print-and-book city.

I meant to post that I have found a lovely bookkeeper who seems able to sort me out, even though I don't know if she knows what she's getting into...

I meant to do all these things, but then in the last-minute haste to get my papers together for the Nice Bookkeeper, I discovered that my mobile phone contract had expired, and I decided to drop into the Mall and see what I could see.

An hour later, I came out clutching an iPhone 3G, dizzy with excitement and fear. I got home, fell onto the computer to do some research (that I probably should have done before I bought the thing) and started playing. Next thing I knew, the boys had arrived home and it was dinner time. Holy data packages, Batgirl!

It's a thing of beauty, and means that I should be able to blog and email from anywhere, including the Woodford Folk Festival (no more waiting in line for 30 minutes at a crap PC!), and it solves the problem of whether I should or should not get a computer for my studio. No! It shall be a computer-work-free zone, but I can still order things and check things when there! Double hooray!

I would be grateful for any important tips & tricks about the phone that anyone has. I've run across a few really good ones (like the fact that unless you switch it off, it has a setting that tracks the location of each photo you take, and chomps up the download accordingly).

The next two days are, effectively, Christmas for us (sans any tinsel or trees). Colonel and Lady Duck are hitting town for presents and a nice lunch at a restaurant with us tomorrow, and then on Sunday we start the trek northwards to Brisbane and Woodford. I'll either be out of touch or blogging a lot, depending on how bored I get :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Murphy's Law: TMI alert

The tradesman who has been expected every day for two months to patch up some bathroom sealant comes and does the job while you're still in your pyjamas (at lunchtime). It's the day you need to bare your bits to the gyno surgeon and you can't use the shower until tomorrow.

Sigh. Top and tail time, kiddies.

funny pictures of cats with captions

Postscript: problem solved! Zoe is home! With a working shower! And she wishes she had glittery soap for me, but we all decided a few weeks ago that glitter is the herpes of the craft world, so I'm glad she doesn't.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I must be getting better...

I bought a bikini today.

I haven't worn one for years.

I bought boy-leg bottoms, a slightly padded bra top, both in black with coral and pink bits, and a hot pink rash shirt. I love modern mix-and-match swimwear.

I haven't the figure for it, but I've decided not to care, since I usually swim where no-one sees me, and it's very comfortable.

I tried a little bit of other, more Christmassy shopping, using my weird shopping trolley that looks like it's been cobbled together from a supermarket trolley and pram wheels. I dressed smartly to offset the dagginess of it, but still had pensioners coming up to me as I was taking my half-hourly panting breaks to ask me where I got it from.

Golly, I'm unfit. I don't think I'll be doing too much dancing at the Woodford Folk Festival! I was supposed to teach workshops at the festival, but I cancelled once I knew my operation date, worried that I wouldn't be up to it. I'm very glad I did now, I don't think I would have managed.

We're leaving home on Sunday, heading north to Brisbane for a while, and then working our way south via family and friends after the festival. I'm more confident about driving now, which is great because I'm a very bad passenger and BB is not a particularly confident nor relaxed driver. And he's going to be doing all the toting and lifting, so I can pull my weight with the driving. I can't believe how fast the last four or so weeks have gone! I see my surgeon tomorrow, I hope he likes what he sees...

I also bought a very nice orange top. I didn't like orange much a few years ago; I've done a complete turn-around about it, as you've probably noticed. Now I love the energy it gives me.

Energy not present now. Time for bed.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blues song day

There are many different ways to start the day, aren't there? There are two distinct ways among the many that I always take note of:

1. Balloon Days
You wake with no sense of anything special, just a normal day, and on the way to school/work/the shops you see a hot air balloon in the sky. The sight of it is so uplifting (see what I did?), that you just know the day is going to be a good one. This only works if you live in a city that has hot air balloon freaks in it. I suppose the balloon can be substituted by a special bird or car or something personally symbolic.

2. Blues Song days
This name is a bit misleading; it sounds as though the day is going to be miserable and bluesy. But no! It just means that you 'woke up this morning' (classic start to a blues song) knowing that it's a special day, for good or bad or indifferent reasons.

Today I had a Blues Song start to the day. I woke up this morning from a bad weird dream; just before I woke I was sitting in a weird little Datsun-type car, full of honey cornflake biscuits, with bamboo blinds on every window. A lot had happened before that point. I opened my eyes, and couldn't close them again.

Sunday is sleep-in day, sacred in the house, because there's no work, no school, and no markets. I love sleeping in, because all other days I am woken before 6.30am to eat breakfast with an early-waking man. To wake before seven on a day when you don't have to is tragic. So I lay there, thinking, trying not to think, trying to get dozy, but in such a weird wistful mood from the dream that I couldn't remember, I knew I had to just get up and do something meaningful with the day.

I spent an hour sorting out photos on my computer, which has too much stuff on it and not enough free memory to compete with the cat hair stuffing it has acquired over the years. When I got to the images of our Tasmanian holiday, I knew what the day was going to be for: writing the post I'd been meaning to write all year, about reading whilst travelling and how that affects your travel.

So I did.

the road

And now I feel better.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

LOLling aboot on a Sat arvo*

My next house:

funny pictures of cats with captions

My son, today:

funny pictures of cats with captions<

Padge, most days:

funny pictures of cats with captions

Wot I want for Christmas:

funny pictures of cats with captions

If I walk a long way, it feels like this:

funny pictures of cats with captions

Ouchy laugh of the day:

funny pictures of cats with captions

Either cat, helping with my office clean-up:

Dis book needz moar kittehs

Pooter, in two weeks:

ho freakin ho

*All genuine LOLcats. No actual Pooters or Padges were used in this post.

Friday, December 12, 2008

it's raining (again)

blue pole

Dorothy Porter died.
I finished the Blue Poles jigsaw.
It's raining today and Bumblebee is meant to be at the pool with his school.

The first is tragic (54!), the second is a relief, and the third is not unusual. Of the probably 7 December trips to the pool made by B, at least 4 have been cold and/or wet. I'm pretty sure the school's cancelled the excursion -- I don't listen to whichever poxy local radio station with ads that they inform, and I can't get through to the office, so I've just sent him along with the gear in his bag just in case, but it looks pretty pool-unfriendly out there. I'm sure they'll just watch videos all day or something equally pre-Christmassy constructive.

Bumblebee's drama performance on Wednesday was fab. He has a gorgeous drama teacher who looks like Robin Hood from the latest BBC series plays piano along with their dramatics, which is a rare and precious gift and they love him for it.

This is what our version of Sylvester McMonkey McBean (from Dr Suess's The Sneetches) looks like:
Sylvester McMonkey McBean 1

Sylvester McMonkey McBean 2
He's a lean, mean, money-making machine!

And this is the way Bumblebee photographs me finishing a puzzle:


Not the best portrait of me, but he was very keen that I include it. In the background on the right you can just see the awesome Hello Kitty! shrine pop-out birthday card my lovely Sacha brought me back from Japan. I haven't got around to putting it away yet, it's just so over the top.

So now we can free up the table for maybe a day or two of eating meals before it gets covered in jars and stuff to take to Queensland. Then we'll go back to hunching in front of the news with plates on our laps. I'm trying to sort out my home office today, because I'm meeting up with a real live Bookkeeper next week to attempt to make a clean start to 2009.

I'm working my way through my deep-litter filing system, not very systematically, making more piles of vaguely grouped papers. Every now and then Padge comes in, drenched with rain, and tried to be helpful. So not only are my financial and other records going to be interleaved with black cat hair, but they will also be covered in smudged and watermarked cat paw prints. I do hope she's not allergic to cats!

It's almost time to stop and have my (newly) habitual lunch in front of the tv. Shall I spend an hour in front of my beloved VH1 (they've got me hook, line and sinker, it's great as a background to many activities), or shall I start another DVD from the pile of RomComs lent to me by a friend? Again, choices, choices...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

this morning's meanderings

If you have a Windows set-up and are interested in trying out some free 'Classics' e-books, swing by Jeff's blog, grab the code, and then head over to the Macrophobic Sony website to choose which 10 titles would suitably grace your non-Mac screen.

If you would like to know how to make the perfect cucumber sandwich and admire the sweetest tea setting ever, go visit Girlprinter's new digs. I'm very happy that she's being internetly social again.

If you're feeling wurty but not quite able to release the tears, this will help.

And if you want a laugh after the cry to cheer yourself up, try this.

I'm starting to fill up my dance card. I spent yesterday afternoon sorting my (blank) paper drawers and making cards (only managed to make 5) and today I have pressure on me to finish the Blue Poles jigsaw so that we can have our dining table back in use (not to eat upon, oh no, but to put jam jars on! tuh!). I also have to sort out my finances and start thinking about what to pack for our trip to the Woodford Folk Festival in a few weeks. Plus work out my Xmas shopping. And I really want to update Sarsaparilla a bit, because I promised to and it will ease the Guilt Fairy who pisses in my ear every night. Luckily I can't move fast (my body does great Twinge) so I can't go too overboard with any of it.

Working out priorities is hard. Jigsaw? Cards? Heh, don't shoot me, all you exhausted people out there.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Any of you teaching types, snap your stitches reading this.

in making mode

I got back from the coast on Sunday evening, after a few days of complete restfulness. There really isn't much to do down there (unless you can run around and drive places) apart from reading, eating and watching things. Here I am, sitting on the concrete under the house, watching other things:

Colonel Duck
Looking to the left. Colonel Duck with trusty hound. Note the army greens hanging on the wall behind the gumboots.

The gang
Oh look! Bumblebee has come to ask if he can use the ride-on mower.

Uh oh. Lucky has discovered me while they get the mower out. I have to throw the ball, but it's much more fun holding it until he thinks I've forgotten about it.

greenhousey bit
Looking to the right. Mr Pooter likes to sit in this cool shady spot where Lady Duck does her plant potting.

Mr Padge walks past. You can see why one of his nicknames is now Curltail. Sometimes, when he's moving fast, he looks like a kind of pug dog, but don't tell him that.

cat & dog
The cats and the dog get on very well. Mr Padge and Lucky are probably looking for the ball I threw when they weren't looking.

And that's it for the photos I took, because I never remembered to take my camera anywhere. Apart from this, as I was sitting in the car waiting to be driven home:

Going home
Boooiiiiyyyyy faarrrrrmmmm!

Poor buggers. They hate the travelling, but they love being at either end. At the start of the journey from home, they sort of hold their breath until they get past the point of Turning to the Vet, and then they relax and start moaning half-heartedly. As soon as they get to the farm, they rush around checking out their favourite spots and getting under things and coming out covered in spiderwebs. They're Lady Duck's favourite dusters.

We (the cats and I and anyone who wants to come along) always do a circuit of the house garden, through the orchard and down the hill to the olive grove, then up the hill through the citrus trees and back to the house. This time we saw an echidna that started burrowing as soon as it heard us. Mr Pooter went for a closer look and ended up jumping a mile in shock. It was pretty funny.

I caught up with a couple of friends who dropped by (separately) to see me. I've known them as individuals, but they've recently met each other at a art class in Bega and like each other immensely. I'm completely chuffed, because they're both talented artists who have buried themselves in family and the demands of living in the country, and they will egg each other on to get creative. Those sort of friendships are so valuable, especially when you have things besides art in common. Their silver jewellery work is showing at the Spiral Gallery in Bega as I write, if you're in the area, and it's really good.

I'm getting better and better by the day. I'm at the stage where I can feel the improvement, a bit like a mortgage when you stop paying enormous amounts of interest and start making inroads into the actual debt. Visitors are most welcome.

I've realised that I can't do my usual excuse of 'I'm too busy to send Christmas cards' this year, so today I'm going to sit down and make some cards. Yesterday I made a heap of paper beads; I've admired the ones I've seen others make, including one of the students this year, so I decided to try myself. It's harder than I thought to get a good result, but by the end of the afternoon I'd made a string of paper pearl-like beads out of old sheet music, and my head was spinning with ideas that will stop spinning eventually and I'll come up with something do-able.

Tomorrow I have to make my way over to Bumblebee's school for both his ex-curricular drama performance (The Sneetches) and his end-of-year concert. Annoyingly, there's two hours between them, so I'm going to drive the car for the first time to get to the earlier gig. I have permission to drive but not the inclination, the same with alcohol. I had half a glass of wine on Saturday night with the home-made pizzas we cooked in Colonel Duck's new home-made outdoor pizza oven, but I spent all night nursing it and didn't like the taste. This is VERY unusual for me, as I'm a wine guzzler. Maybe it's an after-effect of the general? And yes, it was a wine I've enjoyed before.

And I hate being a passenger, always have done, but I don't feel in a hurry to drive myself at the moment. I think it's because I'm still slow and get pains when I react fast to anything, and a car sometimes requires fast reactions. Still, it's only across the road and up a bit, I'm sure it will be fine. I have to start sometime.

We've been gathering bits of costume for B's role as Sylvester McMonkey McBean: a blue satin bowtie from Colonel Duck, a fake moustache, a utility belt armed with a wrench and a carrot or two for comic effect. I'm sure he'll ham up the part suitably; he's a big admirer of comedy, and especially slapstick, and has been watching a lot of Peter Sellers as Inspector Clousseau over the past few days. I'm looking forward to watching him reinterpret a few Sellers moves.

So no more procrastinating: card-making awaits. Thank you to SuzeOz, who challenged me to my first game of Wordtwist, which I hadn't let myself play up to now. If you want to start a game with me, go ahead; I SO need the practice!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Wandering (slowly)

I'm running hobbling away to the Duck Prickle Farm this afternoon, to spend a few days in the bosom of my family, since they've been whinging about not seeing me for months. The funny part is the Colonel and Lady Duck are incredibly busy this weekend, so I'll only really be seeing them in the mornings and evenings. Still, it will be much nicer doing my daily short walk around the property rather than tottering up & down my street.

Tathra Girl -- by the time you read this, you'll probably have heard from me. If not, I'll be the next phone ring.

A few dot points for your reading pleasure:

-- It's birthday week, apparently. Naomi (beloved 'Dr Sista Outlaw', termed so because she is my ex-sister-unmarried-to-my-brother-in-law and thoroughly PhDed) hopefully celebrated her guts out after a fairly trying year; Laura is a bit low, but cheered by typed cats. Coz looks splendid, entering the hair cycle yet again. I love the hair cycle. Short, long, and the infuriating stages between. Makes life worth living.
Happy Birthday to you all, and any others I've missed.

-- Jahteh nearly split my stitches this morning with her pre-Christmas post. Be warned though, don't read it on your feed-reader; mine only showed the coloured lines and not the commentary she provides. Which actually made the whole post much funnier when I dived in.

-- Charlie Sofo, one of my favoritest living artists, wrote a beautiful post about libraries. Please read and enjoy. And then look at his other posts. And then look at his art.

-- Thank you to Bernice, who came to Canberra for her usual weekly visit (she commutes for work, poor love) and gave me a studio present -- a wee little bar fridge! Yay! Cold white wine at the end of the day! We borrowed the keys back from Byrd and went to the space to oooh and aaah again. It was so worth the walk.

-- Best Beloved went to (one of) the opening(s) of the new National Portrait Gallery last night. I didn't go because I wasn't invited. *His* friend Barbara Blackman has long known BB's valuable skills as a handbag at openings (which is the role he played with me before we fell in love) and takes him all sorts of posh places.

So I had takeaway noodles in front of Wallace & Gromit with Bernice and Bumblebee while he sent me text messages like ANY MESSAGES FOR ROLF [Harris]? HE'S RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME (to which we replied FIND A STICK. POKE to which he replied WHO NEEDS A STICK?) and WHAT SHOULD I SAY TO MR AND MRS HOWARD? NXT TO THEM to which our reply was absolutely unprintable.

Unlike Kevin, who was apparently very gracious about John Howard's role in encouraging the gallery's new premises. Unlike Ron Radford, who apparently allowed the jackhammers of the National Gallery's renovations to not just start up just as Kevin got up to speak, but to continue to emit horrendous noises freely (in the very late afternoon, cocktail hour!). And that is about the extent of BB's gossip, apart from recognising a few faces like Margaret Olley, William Yang, etc. If I'd been there it would have been juicier. Never mind.

OK, BRB. Might even be able to blog from the farm computer...

Humorous Pictures

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Cats catching the mouse

u need 2 cleen out ur lint trap  its overflowing wit cat hair

For anyone wondering why I'm not challenging you in games on Facebook, it's because both my computer and mouse are full of cat hair and seriously need a clean/service. Cat hair slows things down a LOT.

I'm starting to do stuff. Today I'm going to get out the rubber, blade and pencil (a printmaker's best friends) to clean up and sign some prints I made on my last active weekend. I'll show you once they're done.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Studio. I has one.


Heh. Check this out:

Studio Duck

Welcome to Studio Duck.

I signed the papers this morning, thanks to Byrd, who gave me a lift to the studio and back. While we were waiting for stuff to happen, we went into the space and both oohed and aahed for a while.

I've been loath to write about this until the line had been signed, just in case something went wrong. But nothing went wrong, it's all mine for three solid years, at the end of which I'll be able to apply for another three years (the maximum any residency goes for is six years). Woot!

These studios are purpose-built by the ACT Government, and the rent is fantastically cheap, for the express purpose of helping artisans get on their feet, and hopefully letting them get to the point of being able to sustain a commercial rent when the residency expires. Unfortunately Canberra has no cheap areas, no derelict warehouses in proto-cool areas that can be developed as artist spaces, so this complex is it, and artists quite often find themselves floundering at the end of their term. So you can understand how much these studios, based in Dickson, are appreciated. There is another batch in Mitchell that are larger and more industrial (for sculptors and woodies etc), and that's it, I think 40 spaces in all. It would be great to have more of them, especially in South Canberra. The waiting list, as you can imagine, is long, and the tenants like to stay as long as they can.

Anyhoo, aren't I lucky! It's a great space, 48 square metres to play with (we worked out that this is the same size as the living/kitchen/dining area of my house), with high ceilings, good light, gas heating, lots of powerpoints, a sink, three-phase power, and public liability insurance.

Unfortunately, the timing is such that I won't be able to use it until mid-January, so I've given the keys to Byrd and let him have a place to make some big (portable) work for a while. He'll do a few things for me in return like take the boards off the window (the last tenant had a few window breaks, but I'd like to chance it for the nice breeze and light I'll get) and maybe put a little tattoo on the wall for me as a souvenir of his time there.

I've taken photos and made a map, so now it's time to measure all my gear and make a plan, taking into account the way I work and the way I'll move around the room. In January I still won't be lifting things, so I'll initially just move my binding stuff in there and get going with the Dobson edition, and then get the bigger stuff in once I can clean it up a bit before the removalists get involved. My poor press and type are filthy from being in the garage for years, and my big standing press is a touch rusty.

Golly, I'm excited. And tired. That was the most walking I've done yet. Time for a nanna nap... and a deep breath!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Greedy reading

I've been feeling a bit frail over the last few days, nothing major, just sore and tired, and pissed off with not being able to walk any faster than a steady hobble. Still, I must be grateful that I can walk at all, and get off the whinge wagon. It's still a treat to not have to do anything, and yesterday and today I decided to do what I've always loved doing -- lie in bed and read.

The book I chose was Wendy James's The Steele Diaries, a book that, I should openly state, was sent to me by the author, *not* as a review copy, but rather that if I liked it, could I tell my friends about it, as a kind of viral campaign. Of course! I love telling my friends about books I read, and if I liked it enough, I thought at the time, I'll blog about it.

I loved it. The link I gave above gives a great precis of the story, and is worth clicking. It's one of those books that sucks you in and doesn't want you to put it down. I read it in two big greedy sessions, only broken by sleep and a quick (and well-needed to escape cabin fever) hobble from car to seat excursion to the cinema to catch Brideshead Revisited before it finished.

Apart from the well-constructed plot, there are lovely references to figures from Australian art, shape-shifted just enough to be recognisable but refreshed, moved geographically and their familiarity used to add depth to the central premise -- the quandary that all creative women have to face regarding work vs family choices. It's a theme that has both local and international flavour in this book, but the most recognisable historical thread is that of the lives of John and Sunday Reed, Joy Hester and others of the Antipodean scene of the '30s, '40s and '50s. If you know their stories, this novel is rich with layers.

As far as Zelda's art was concerned, I could not help thinking of one of my favorite artist/illustrators, Wanda Ga'g, whose biography, Growing Pains, a lovely old hardback, was given to me years ago by a friend. Wandy wrote and illustrated 'Millions of Cats', which is a book no cat-lover should be without. I'm not sure if Wendy meant to evoke Wanda (who also did her own versions of Grimm Fairy Tales), but it was nice to be reminded.

Wendy also deals with one of my pet issues with modern literature and film and Hollywood in general, which is the nonsensical idea so beloved of creative/ beautiful types that two brains make a brainier or two people altered by plastic surgery will create a perfect looking child. It's the thing that made me throw The Time Traveler's Wife across the room and against the wall when [SPOILER ALERT - BUT YOU SHOULD HAVE READ IT BY NOW] they have a child and she's brilliant and has all the best of both parents and is able to manage time travel much better than her father did. GAH. DOUBLE GAH. And then I picked up the damn book and finished it because I just can't leave books unfinished.

Wendy spends a lot of the book exploring the pressures placed upon the child of two brilliant parents. Granted, Zelda turns out to be pretty special too, but in her own way. And that is not a spoiler. That is as it should be.

And since you and I have always been interested in book covers, it is worth waggling a finger here at Wendy's publishers, who gave The Steele Diaries a cover that visually slots it beside Colleen McCulloch novels in the Chicklit section. NO! Boo! There's a wealth of fabulous Australian art -- particularly prints -- out there that could have been used, or simulated, to create a rich, evocative cover that could have attracted quite a different readership. Never mind. Truth will out, as someone cool once said.

So yes, I'm recommending Wendy's book to my friends. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

On another note, I had a abdomen-wrenching-but-worth-it guffaw this morning listening to the Radio National News. I'll type it as I heard it:

Tributes are pouring in this morning for Joern Utzon, the man who designed the Sydney Opera House after his death at the age of 90.

Wasn't he clever!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Stouch of the century

The Canberra Times had its usual share of junk tucked into it today, but layered under the Spotlight sale catalogue was a booklet-shaped advertising feature called Imaginem, 'Your 24-page guide to promoting your brand or business with the help of Canberra's "creatives"'.

Flipping through the pages, glancing at the different pleas for being more creative than the team on the next page, I came across an article called Print is Greener by Rodney Wade, a sustainability consultant. It's a ripper little piece about print reading vs online, and uses The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, a 700-page report, as its example:

Print 85g
The printed version of The Stern Review was validated as 85 grams of CO2 in total for the complete manufacturing process and the paper. Because it is a finished printed book, that is the maximum CO2 it will ever amount to and can be read as many times as you like over the next 100 years.

Online 226g
For every hour that a person reads The Stern Review in PDF format on a typical desktop computer, 226 grams of CO2 are generated. This does not include the CO2 footprint for the IT infrastructure to deliver the PDF via the Internet, nor does it include the footprint to print it out on an inkjet or laser printer. Of course, a typical reader will print out parts or all of the repoprt. Why? Because the majority of people generally prefer to read from hard copy.

CD 300g
A study in 1007 by Australian Dr Tony Wilkins, Group Manager, Environment and Climate Change for News Ltd, has validated that the manufacture of a CD with The Stern Review data generates 300 grams of CO2 per disk or a DVD 350 grams and that is even before it is put into a computer and viewed or printed.

I'm interested in whether he factored into the print version the energy needed to distribute the volume, by post or via bookshops, but even so, they are very impressive figures.

One of the first things I read online this morning (via Editorial Anonymous) was about the declining state of school libraries in Britain, which is an article less about computers taking over books and more about ignorant ideas of staffing needs, but still, in a world where people think children are getting a well-rounded education from computers alone, shouldn't this sort of environmental calculation be taken into account?

Walk with me, tell me what you think. Are books sustainable, really?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy anniversary, baby...

I woke up this morning at about 4.30am and couldn't get back to sleep again for hours. I eventually did sleep, and awoke to find the boys had tip-toed around me and gone to school etc. Best Beloved was glued to CNN watching the Mumbai situation unfolding, and so it wasn't until about 11am that he came in to the bedroom where I was being a Roman snotting the Greeks in Civilisation on the gameboy and said

'I just realised -- it's our anniversary!'

We looked at each other and laughed, because neither of us had done or planned anything, and I certainly didn't feel up to doing anything. So we just held hands for a while and made sure neither felt like breaking up with the other and then got on with our day, me lolling around feeling fragile and him cooking a batch of Christmas Pudding.

I'm still pinching myself about the studio turn-around; I'll give out more details about the space when I've signed the dotted line and actually held the key. Suffice to say that my going-to-sleep routine over the last few months has been to lie and imagine a phone call telling me that the space is mine, and then mentally working out where to put all my equipment; by the time I think about opening the garage door and showing the removalists where the press is, I'm asleep. The weird thing about the other day is that the phone call was so close to my dream conversation that I'm afraid that I'll fall asleep halfway through the lease signing! Heh.

So tonight, as it rains (which it, thankfully, didn't on our wedding day), we toasted four happy years, him with champagne and me with a Nudie, which is the most luxurious drink I can think of drinking at the moment, because alcohol is out and I won't touch anything bubbly (believe me, anything gas-filling or producing is torture!).

Have to go. Bumblebee is hassling me to read another chapter of The Pinhoe Egg. Ah! Domestic bliss.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Talk about putting things out to the universe...

I just got a phone call from the local government-subsidised art studios who had broken my heart a couple of weeks ago (see point 6 of the last post)... Studio Duck is GO! Some circumstances have changed, and the space is now offered to me. I think I laid an egg during the call.

Best Beloved was out picking up the boychild, as were most of my local friends, and I had to talk to someone before I popped, so I rang Bernice and hyperventilated while she told me to breathe. And shrieked along with me when I did.

Holy shit! My whole universe just revolved around me and suddenly the world is a completely different place. I've had it happen to me plenty of times with bad news, but this beats all.

I wish I could drink, I'd be having a few tonight. I'm just going to have to eat chocolate until I burst my stitches. WOOT!

7 (working) things

Wow, I forgot about memes. What a perfect way to blog when you're thinking about things to blog about. Christie brought this one around again, and I've been saving a few others up my sleeve, so prepare for some serious meme time over the next few days. Hopefully I can find something fresh to dredge up (that doesn't work, should be 'rank and dripping', shouldn't it?)

And welcome, anyone who has found my blog via the article in the Age on Sunday. I hope you find some amusement on this scrolly thing. If not, follow the links, find your bliss elsewhere and no hard feelings. It's a wide blogosphere out there.

OK. Seven Things Meme.
Rules: Link the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog. Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links. Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog (this is the only thing I hate doing with memes. It's so 'name ur frenz').

1. I'm insanely messy. It seems to be one of the fundamental things about my personality. No matter how hard I try, in various ways, to institute a cleaning routine, it always lapses. I tell myself it could be a Buddhist discipline, and if I mastered neatness I could move on to a Tai Chi practice, but I always fall by the wayside and end up beating myself up about it. Luckily I married a messy man, but every now and again we beat ourselves up about it. I still have hopes about the Tai Chi practice (just have to find a class that fits the flight path) but I'm afraid I will always have a floordrobe.

GAHHHHHHH. Apart from KNOWING that I've written something close to that para somewhere on this blog before, I think I need to take a different tack today. I just went out to the lounge, where I patted Mr Pooter for a while (curled up asleep on the airbed, giving me the perfect excuse not to put it away yet) and thought. And I've decided to use this meme to write about seven things about my art/craft practice, if only to remind myself before I can get back to it. Here goes:

Seven things about my working processes:

1. I believe in the power of the hand. Something about everything I make has to be done by hand. I can't see myself designing something and then handing it over to someone else to produce. I do that with my freelance money work and I hate the loss of control. With my own, personal output, it needs to have something personal about it. So, for example, if I make a photocopy zine, it will be hand-stitched, not stapled. Also, in a more direct sense, there's nothing quite like using your hands when making. Using your hand to smooth cloth onto a book cover gives you a control that you can't get with a bonefolder, although you need the bonefolder afterwards to attain a crispness you can't get by hand. But never under-estimate the importance of touch in relation to art and craft. It's primary.

2. I love the notion of the multiple; it is the reason printmaking developed, to be able to make many images out of the one matrix. Over the last few decades, printmakers have been exploring ways to make multiples that are also individual, so that they start with a set matrix but then 'progress' or 'vary', either by varying the inking or printing methods or they are then pushed past the initial print stage by folding, cutting or touching up in some way. This is a way I try to work, and it is very easy with letterpress: you can vary the material upon which you are printing; you can print text and then add hand-printed elements; you can hand-colour the text and print upon the same background, the varieties are endless. Even when I make traditional image prints, I like to vary them somehow. It's never boring.

3. I try to make books and prints that are hard to reproduce photographically. That is, they can reproduce, but the images are nothing compared with holding the original. For example, here is a scan of front cover of my upcoming book (it will be available late Jan/early Feb):

Poems to Hold or Let Go, front cov
I'll show you more of it and the book later, but for now I just want to talk about its reproducable qualities. This is the front of the dustjacket, and it's printed in two shades of metallic ink on dark blue Wibalin bookpaper, which is a reinforced paper product suitable for bookbinding purposes. Both shades look dreadful here, because they're flattened out and caught in one pose so to speak. When you hold the paper or covered book in your hand, the printed woodtype of the typographical pattern has a grey-blue sheen that shimmers subtly as you turn your hand, and the yellowy-green metal type title pushes itself forward out of the dull navy blue. It's a combination that calls, not shouts, which suits the modus operandi of the poet herself.

4. I like to use materials, tools and processes that give my work secret properties, load it with layers of meaning that sometimes I'll be the only one who knows and cares, or can be unpacked if anyone wants to know. How would anyone know that the metal type used on the cover shown above once belonged to the poet's late husband, unless I told them? Or that the cover (back and front) contains the entire alphabet, because it is an important symbol itself in the poet's work (she has written a number of poems about type and the alphabet, but the whole notion of literacy spools through her oeuvre like a glistening thread), but the letter O shows twice, because it is so present in the title? And that the poet goes by her married name by day, and I have arranged the letters so that her married initials are on the dustjacket and pare down to her working initials on the book's actual cover? There you are. All my work has these physical notions, they appeal to the fiction reader in me.

5. I am a messy worker. It's my biggest fault, and working clean and neat is such a challenge. But I do devote myself to this challenge, and maybe forcing myself to do everything -- paper preparation, design, setting, printing, folding, binding, publicity, accounts -- is akin to the Tai Chi practice I aspire to. It's not efficient (dear Ceiling Cat I wish I had an agent or dealer of some kind) but it's deeply satisfying, and very faithful to my yearning for the slow making life, even though it seems to push me faster and faster.

6. I yearn for a Room of One's Own, because I find trying to do all this making in a very public space quite stressful. I know that when I have a studio, my output will be better, because I will have the mental space to concentrate. Unfortunately, the hints I'd got about getting a space in the next few months turned out to be wrong; I'm back in the realm of Waiting, for who knows how much longer. I found this out the day before 'me op', and I spent a few therapeutic hours sobbing out my anger and fear. I'm ok now, just resigned to another possible 12 months or longer living cheek to jowl with my printing equipment around the house and having to find space and time at the art school to get things done. Sigh.

7. I know that this is a Bad Time for producing luxury goods for the sale of, but money has never been an issue with this endeavour. I contacted the National Folk Festival a few months ago, to see if they were interested in some letterpress demos in return for a free ticket. They were very interested (it's not going ahead, for reasons I can't divulge, but may happen the year after) and said that they were ALWAYS keen to hear from 'tradition bearers'. After the call I sat for a while and thought about that. Australia has a funny relationship with tradition. We like to dispense with it, yet revere it when it manages to survive. I'm very happy to think of what I do as tradition-bearing. Makes up in a way for the failure to bear other things :)

I said I hate tagging, and I do. But I'd like to know seven working things about other people, so I'm going to throw a few blogs in the mix: Poppy Letterpress, Rainy Planet Press, Artnoose's Sitch, Double Elephant, Viminalis, Strange Fruit, and May Day Studio. Tell me/us seven things about your working or creative processes. Please... or not. It's totally your choice.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A post that Colonel Duck will appreciate

I wondered, before I was housebound, how I would cope with spending the time in the house looking at all the things that have needed doing for so long and not able to do anything about them. I'm the 'home handy' person in our household; BB is more the 'homemaker' type, into providing routine and nourishment. I didn't worry too much about BB's two weeks off, because he's very adept at lolling about, cooking, watching, reading and listening to the radio. But maybe I've had him wrong; maybe the lolling is legitimate tools-down time from his high-stress office lifestyle. You see, we've never had more than a week stuck at home together, we've only had time off when we've been able to do things to stave off boredom.

So imagine my excitement today when he got up, looking way better than he has for days, and started getting busy in a way I've never seen before. He didn't, as I expected, roll his sleeves up to make Dr Sista Outlaw's excellent pudding now that she's divulged the recipe, no, he went to the hardware store, and came back with stuff that fixes stuff.

Are you sitting down, Colonel Duck?

Since breakfast, he's fixed the leaking toilet that has been leaking for months, and -- gasp -- got my whippersnipper working, the one I got for my birthday back in October and was still in the box thanks to a combination of my busy-ness and inconvenient weekend rains. I can hear the buzzing out there now as he's slashing the backyard jungle. He's also weeded a huge patch of the neglected veggie garden. And now he's gone off to pick up the boy from school.

I cannot begin to tell you how joyful this makes me. There are burdens lifting from my chest! My to-do list is shrinking slightly! I'm writing this because I'm afraid that if I make too much fuss over it to BB he'll stop. He's not big on fuss. So if any of you are talking to him, don't make a fuss either. He really doesn't read this blog :)

But I just HAD to share. It's an amazing day. Colonel Duck is one of the few who will really know why.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

patients, always a virtue

I'm bored. I don't feel like reading, and sitting at the computer makes me stiff and grumpy so far. I've knitted a scarf, and I'm well into the Blue Poles jigsaw. This is the third time I've done it (1: pregnant, 2: after I finished art school), and it's fulfilling the side of my brain that wants to be at the Book Stud, working. Sifting and sorting jigsaw pieces of blobs of paint is quite similar to dissing* hell type.**

A couple of days ago, Best Beloved started coughing. I made a joke that he was an illness diva, unable to watch me suffer without joining in and topping my pain. We laughed, but OH NOES! He has developed a man-flu cough. I think at least half the world knows what that means...

He is doing his best to stay nice, but he is naturally grumpy when ill (you do know, don't you?) and the best we have come up with is circling each other around our tiny house and trying not to cross paths too often. He is very worried that I might get the cough, and I'm grateful that he's thinking like this, as I sneezed for the first time a day or so ago and discovered the pain of abdominal paroxysm. A cough would indeed be hell.

I have, for a long time, been saying that when (when! I'm refusing to say IF) we expand our house, we should have separate bedrooms. It's always troubled BB, who seems to think that if we don't share our bed our marriage will crumble, unlike me, who thinks that, along with the dishwasher we bought as a wedding present, it can only strengthen our relationship. Well, last night we -- he -- pulled out the queen-size airbed from the garage, moved the loungeroom around, and we set up an alternate bed. I took the airbed for various reasons, one being that it's much more comfortable than our bed (and, I discovered last night, I can sleep sideways on it and it supports my stitches beautifully), and another being that I could watch tv in bed and go to bed as late as I wanted without huffs of nagging tiredness from the sleep nazi usually next to me. I love that man, I do, but he's dreadful in bed (on one level, anyway).

So both of us had a lovely sleep last night, and I greeted him this morning to find a man halfway on the road to Damask-us, much more willing to think upon the separate rooms debate. Hooray! One small step for me, etc. I'm thinking of staying on the airbed for a while, because of that nice support it gives me.

And he's still doing a good job of looking after me, as well as himself. Bumblebee is pretty much doing his own thing, playing with his stuff and chatting (loudly) to his friends on the phone.

This afternoon we all lolled around the lounge and watched Mon Oncle, a film that delights us all nearly as much as Tati's Monsieur Hulot's Holiday. I especially like the trip-traps of every female's high heels, which add to the film in a vaguely similar way that the sound of a typewriter adds to the film Atonement.

Afterwards Bumblebee and I watched Classic Albums on ABC2 which was exploring Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life, certainly one of my favorite albums. SW has always intrigued me; how can someone who can reach such heights of brilliance also get down to such depths of mediocrity? I mean, take someone like Billy Joel: you can draw a distinct line at the point in which his career turns to mush -- Christie Brinkley. With Michael Jackson, his career deteriorates as his face does, in a steady curve. What's Stevie's excuse? Meeting Paul McCartney? Hanging with Michael Jackson? Any opinions?

Hmm. Anyhoo, back to the jigsaw. I'm certain I'll be bored enough to start doing something creative soon, but so far the braincells just haven't regenerated enough after the big sleep at the hospital. I am enjoying this cold snap we're having, because it's always nicer feeling housebound in a fluffy dressing gown and slippers, don't you think?

* putting back into the type cases: DISTRIBUTE, not DISRESPECT.
** letterpress that has been set and forgotten, often for years, sometimes jumbled up or bumped, sometimes of different fonts.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Feeling full

[discussion of lack of ladybits warning]



Thank you for all those lovely well wishes, I'm sure they were floating around my head in hospital like some kind of charm shield. The nurses were all commenting about my swift progress when I was showering myself on day 3. Not that I particularly wanted to shower myself -- I wasn't given a choice, they were majorly understaffed -- but when you need a shower, you need a shower. And I could sit and hold onto things at the same time, so it wasn't too big a deal.

The surgeon said I could go home on Monday. He's very nice, but he's a bit perfunctory. I decided to stay another day (I had the luxury of a private hospital, which is really the only thing I can thank Mr Howard for after forcing us to take health insurance a few years ago, even though I choke on the thought a bit. I did draw the line at watching him on Monday night, though. He still makes me ill when I hear his voice.) because I got a bit wobbly about being at home with our bed that hasn't got a really secure bedhead for sitting up, and that has two huge prowling kitties that like to leap on my lap unexpectedly. So I stayed until Tuesday.

Then on Tuesday the surgeon said that the nurses could take off my plastic wound dressing before I left, to save me coming back to his rooms the next day. He went, and when the nurse came in I asked her about it. 'Nope,' she said. Keep it on until the weekend at least. It has healing and supportive qualities and you'd be much better off. Take it off yourself then.'

I love that sort of knowledge, the stuff that actually benefits the patient rather than is convenient for the doctor. But I shouldn't moan -- my surgeon, and anaesthetist, were fabulous. I've now got no womb, but two healthy ovaries and I still have my appendix (did I mention removing it was an optional extra if it looked a bit peaky?). Which means that I get to keep my wurty hormones, and I get to have a 'normal' menopause, whatever normal means.

At the moment I don't feel like anything has been taken out; when I was a small girl I had a recurring nightmare that people would steal into my bedroom at night, cut me open (in a very small-girl un-gory way, sort of like opening one of those teddybear pyjama-holding pillows) and take out all the bits, replacing them with assorted nasties -- machinery, snakes, stones, whatever -- and sew me up again. I'd wake up, be alive for a few moments then die agonisingly. And then wake up, and prod my tummy cautiously. I feel like someone's done that to my abdomen, it's bloated and full of odd pains and aches and wind. I'm being careful to keep up my pain relief!

The womb itself was apparently very distended with fibroids, so once this bloating disappears I SHOULD feel like something's gone. The poor organ has been to the pathologists to be checked; I haven't heard back from my doctor so I presume there's nothing urgently nasty about it.

The thing that surprised me most about the last week is how little I felt like reading. All that time, all that lying about, and my brain just wasn't interested in text. I watched a lot of bad television, things that made me very glad I don't usually watch a lot of live television. I played a lot of gameboy, particularly Sid Meier's Civilisation Revolution, which is easy and just involves wandering around building cities and snotting other people's armies. I used to play Civ I on my Mac Classic, and don't like many of the changes made to the game, there's less of the actual city control and more emphasis on the snotting. But good when your brain doesn't work.

I'm playing Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass at the moment, and I'm halfway through the game, with the help of the occasional cheatsheet, which I justify because my brain still a bit of a puddle. Bumblebee is very jealous of the fact that I spend my days lolling about playing games, so I've taken to reading to him in bed after school. We're reading Diana Wynne Jones' The Pinhoe Egg. The one book I did read in hospital was her The Merlin Conspiracy. I think I could read her anywhere. People say she's better than JK Rowling; I think they've got separate strengths. Diana's characters aren't as lovable as JKR's, but her vision of magic is, for me, more appealing, much more wicca, or even shinto than JKR. I can see why the Japanese adore her.

My goodness, I'm blathering a bit, aren't I? I'm getting a bit stiff, so it's time to walk around a bit then lie down a lot. I'll be back before you know it, maybe tomorrow. Before I go I just want to say that Best Beloved is still earning his name, big time. He's spending his time cooking me the most wonderful meals (of which I can usually only eat a little bit) and making me comfortable. I have to think of a way to thank him properly.

*THANK YOU (properly) to Laura and Dorian. This image is the front of their get-well card, greeting me when I got home, made by old-fashioned cut & paste methods. I lurv it. (And, BTW, the kitties have behaved themselves beautifully.)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Womb with a view

Colonel Duck, on the phone tonight: You've been a bit slack on the blog lately...
Yes, I have.

Talking to someone, a few days ago:
Me: It's the same old, same old, rushing around trying to get everything in order before I hit another deadline. But this time it's different, in that I *really* just have to drop tools and stop.
Her: I bet you're really busy trying to cook meals and freeze them for the boys, too.
Me: ... um, actually, no.
Her: NO? How are they going to cope?

How? They're going to cook their own meals, wash their own clothes, and make their own brekkies, just like they always do. I tell you, I am fully cognizant of the wonderful of being smitten with a man who can do his own washing, cook his own meals and wrangle a child, but never more so than now. He has freed me up fully over the past couple of weeks so that I can just get things done. And after next week, he'll be looking after me and Bumblebee as the primary carer. This is why I dubbed him Best Beloved. He earns it.

So. I can't really believe that I'm only 3 days away from a day that's been looming for so long. I feel a bit foolish, making such a long lead-in to an operation that isn't really that dramatic, but it's taken a lot of planning to make the space in my obsessively busy life, and now that it's here I feel a bit odd. Most people -- who have private health care -- just make the decision and do it within weeks, but we've been talking about this for so long that it's become a Big Thing.

Anyhoo, I've almost finished my duties... I've burned disks of layout work to pass onto editors and indexers, sent off files and invoices, now just have to finish up at the BookStud tomorrow, drop some books off to the Aged Poet on Wednesday, and run a few chores, and then pack and clean on Wednesday afternoon. Stop ingesting at midnight on Wed, then my number comes up 7am Thursday morning.

It really didn't feel real until last Thursday, when I had a pre-op clinic appointment with a leathery Barbie doll of a nurse with a name that is the American word for lollies. She was amazingly weird; very fun to talk to, but hypnotic to watch, with her dark wrinkly tan, fluffy white-blonde flippy hair, thick makeup, lashing of jewellery and teetery heels. Thin as a piece of wire, and skin-tight dress. I felt very surreal telling her that I had *no* idea what I weigh, haven't weighed myself for years. She, on the other hand, looked like she whipped onto the scales every time she was alone in the room, just in case.

She sent me off to have blood tests, and when the needle went in, reality finally connected. That's right, they're going to cut me... it's going to hurt. I got the shakes. I kept the shakes all day, until Bernice showed up with champagne to toast Obama's victory. Irrational, but realistic. I feel a lot better now, but I know it's not going to be the easy holiday I've let myself think it will be.

Still, there are probably worse ways to spend 6 weeks. I've got a fantastic pile of books, two new Nintendo DS games, the entire series of Deadwood to watch (courtesy of the kind people at Artwranglers), and a computer to blog with. Plus cats to train *not* to leap on my lap. Spoiled rotten, truly.

And a mindset to shift. Once I have no choice about my fertility, I have to work on the guilt of having failed to provide such a wonderful man with a baby of his own. He hasn't contributed to this guilt in the slightest, except for a bad habit of wandering around the house with a cat cradled in his arm, murmuring 'now, you have to be sure to support the head' that makes Bumblebee laugh but tweaks my tearducts slightly. No, the guilt is all mine, but I have to learn to knock it on the head, as I've tried my hardest, and also offered him many alternatives: leave me, & find someone fertile; have an affair; donate sperm to some lovely lesbian couple who will give him visitation rights; adopt; donate sperm generally & allow the result to look for him down the road; whatever else he can think of. He's thinking upon it, but his general philosophy is that he has a wonderful partner who pushes him to think differently, and a fabulous stepson who entertains him mightily, plus cats who fulfil his need for nurturing, so who is complaining? See? Best Beloved.

And I have to stop my habit of saying, when I love a man's work, that I'd love to have his babies. I said it aloud to myself on Saturday as I was binding books to the sound of Ben Goldacre talking about Bad Science on RN's The Science Show. Woof! I said, I'll have your babies, as he made some uber-nerdy sexy point about fish oil. Slap the wrist. Find a new statement of admiration. It wasn't very feminist anyway, and I'm sure I started saying it years ago very ironically. Well, I won't be able to have ANYBODY's babies soon, and won't that be liberating? Maybe I can keep saying it, just recover a more ironic tone.

So I've been enjoying riding the bicycle hard around the streets between home and the uni, enjoying walking freely and upright, and looking forward to the moment that the doctor promises will come, when I'll be a New Woman. Woot!

I'm sure I'll get a chance to blog before then, but if I don't, see you in the soup.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

They can has, and they can has not

Found this at What Ladder? Dunno if they made it up or She hotlinked it, but so I'm hotlinking it, because better late than never and it's just SO GOOD. I've been too busy to blog, but I'm terribly happy that Obama won. Not because he's going to save the world, but at least he's going to try. For the moment. I'm sure at some point he'll have his Henson moment and we'll all go back to normal. But in the meantime:

But spare a thought for poor New Zealand, with wunder-pollie Helen Clarke ousted by NZ's version of Malcolm Turnbull. Only time in the last 15 years I've not wanted to move there.

I'm cleaning up the studio frantically after a wonderful last weekend's labour.
Back soon.
Sometime in the next 4 days, anyway.

Monday, November 03, 2008

major imposition

For the past few weeks I have been falling in love with a blog called Editorial Anonymous. Very good advice about publishing, especially if you aspire to be a children's book writer.

The post I read today is *exactly* what I need for explaining page imposition. Not so much for explaining how to print in sections, but why books have to be planned around certain magical numbers, and they are never odd ones.

Read it and understand, aspiring book-makers (and writers). I will be putting this on my FAQ-so-go-and-look-it-up list in the BookStud (with full acknowledgement, but of course).

I have been binding furiously, filling backorders and trying to get ahead of myself a little bit. I'm almost there. 10 days and counting until I'm under the knife. Same deadline as the students getting ready for assessment at the art school. As you walk down the corridors, you walk through weird balloony walls of anxiety and stress like the bubbles in Donny Darko.

First reminder: the annual ANU School of Art graduating student show is on Friday the 5th of December at 6pm, and will run through to the 14th of December. It's well worth a look, and there's some good art to be had at very reasonable prices.

Oh, and I just can't resist these two to finish:

funny pictures of cats with captions

funny pictures of cats with captions

Friday, October 31, 2008


funny pictures of cats with captions

LOLcats refresh. And change the subject.

funny pictures of cats with captions

I've always wondered about messages between feline body parts. Sometimes one of my cats will be inside, and the other will come in from outside, and they'll look all interested at each other and touch foreheads briefly and then suddenly not need to be near each other again all evening. I'm sure they've just conveyed a whole bunch of news between them, either telepathically or whisker-pathetically. What do you think?

Soon -- soon, my pretties -- I will put photos up of my actual cats. Although there are a lot of LOLcats who look just like ours.