Monday, December 27, 2010

Achy breaky tummy

I seem to have (sob) lost my camera, so I can't share any pictures of the last couple of days. The company and the food has been amazing.

We had a collective effort for Christmas Day: fresh oysters from Tathra, prawns and ocean trout from the Sydney fish markets, ham from the Bega valley and turkey from... somewhere. Lots of salads, too, you'll be pleased to know. We ate and drank so much that dinner was missed, but not missed.

Yesterday the food splendiferousness was all due to my sister-outlaw, Dr Naomi and her new fellow who bears a passing resemblance to Shaun Micallef, something that might make Crazybrave Zoe jealous if she didn't have her own fellow who bears more than a passing resemblance to Keanu Reeves. My fellow bears a passing resemblance to Captain Haddock from Tintin, but I'm very happy with that.

The short part of that digression is that quasi-Shaun is a very nice fellow, and after a very delicious lunch of crayfish, barramundi, Vietnamese salads and sticky rice with mango and then after an extremely drunken game of Scrabble, he proved to be a perfect match for Dr Naomi, and has our blessings, not that she needed them.

Today we are having yet another eatathon, on behalf of another branch of the family. I think my stomach is going to fall out of my body through my bottom, it's getting so overloaded. My head is only just recovering from this morning's hangover (we drank a lot of champagne with our Scrabble). I don't think I'll do that again today, although I've already played three games of Chess and two of Scrabble.

It's been raining like the billy-o, which makes me very glad I'm not at the Woodford Folk Festival sloshing in the mud like my intrepid niece and nephew. No, the worst bit about this holiday is the incessant cricket watching by Colonel Duck, but it's bearable because [a] they're leaving tomorrow, so we'll have a few cricket-less days and [b] the worse it is for Australia, the cheerier Best Beloved becomes. He's humming around the house as I type, happy in the knowledge that the newspaper is bemoaning HUMILIATION OF A CENTURY. Honestly, I would have pegged that as something from the Vietnam War, or even Gallipoli, not a frigging cricket game.

Anyhoo, hope your stomachs are recovering. See you again soon.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays for tomorrow

('Darwin Santa' from the Cool Cards blog)

I'm sitting in a gently genteel ramshackle house in the Blue Mountains, around the corner from BB's parents (did I ever tell you that he's the son of a preacher man? *And* a preacher woman? Both ministers!). It's grey and cool outside with a faint drizzle, and it's the closest and best thing I'll get to a white Christmas.

Other years we've spent today driving north, getting hotter and sweatier and preparing ourselves for a week of hot/humid/dusty/muddy randomness from the Woodford Folk Festival.

This year we're getting the Family Christmas out of the way; if we do it right, we won't have to do it again for another few years. Today Colonel and Lady Duck are wending their way here via the delights of Canberra's Brand Depot for a touch of last-minute shoppery, something I'm delighted not to do. They are sharing the house with us for a few days before returning to Lucky the Wonderdog. Lady Duck will adore this weather as much as I do. We both hate heat.

The best thing about this arrangement is that this house has not a skerrick of Christmas crap around it, whereas with a short walk we can be enveloped in the real deal: tree, decorations, presents, food, attitude, good cheer. And then we can return to the sanity of this secular space. Best of both worlds. Huzzar!

We exchanged contracts on our new house yesterday. It is a very traditional double-brick 1965 Canberra house with a triple garage for my studio and more storage space than you've ever seen for all of BB's jars and preserving and whatnot. Lots of wall space for books and art, and the only changes we'll need to make is to the curtains and colour scheme... eventually, when we've done everything else. I can live with peach tones and floral curtains for a while as I recover from the freefall of getting the old house ready for sale and resuming teaching etc.

So here we are, in an oasis of calm for a week, booked long enough ago to not be able to change our plans, and thus are forced to stop sanding and painting and cleaning and packing until New Year's day, when it all starts over again.

So raise your glasses and let's have a toast to a full and busy year: to Christmas 2010, here in a flash, what a year that was. Thanks to all of you for your support and friendliness, and I hope tomorrow is not too stressful for anyone. It's only a day. May it be a good one. Happy holiday!


Friday, December 17, 2010

terribubbly sad but happy too

To be honest, I didn't know that Ruth Park was still alive until yesterday when she died. She's three years older than the Aged Poet (who is 90), so she had a lovely long life (although I hope she enjoyed her Extreme Old Age more than the AP is).

We are huge fans of The Muddle-headed Wombat. I packed the books away yesterday so I can't give you an example of the wonderful writing. Best Beloved was reading them aloud to me when I was sick recently and he does all the voices so well. In our minds Padge is Wombat and Puss is Pooter. Secretly in my mind, I am Mouse, Bumblebee is Wombat and BB is Puss.

Her novels and autobiographical work are wonderful as well, of course, but if she'd only ever written TMHW, it would have been legacy enough. Thank you, RP, and RIP.

funny pictures of cats with captions

The most excellent news is that after some high-tension negotiation argy bargy, we got to a price we could pay on the house we like. We haven't exchanged contracts yet, so cross fingers for me that all goes well until then. The best bit of the agreement is that we will get access to the new house's garage between Exchange and Settlement to store all our boxes etc so that the old house can be clear and uncluttered for the Open House time! *big sigh of relief*

I was out last night, and I'd left a tense and gloomy household, because of the argy-bargy. They were supposed to be cooking dinner, but nothing much had happened by the time I left. Then I got a text saying BRING PIZZA AND CHAMPAGNE. Shazam! I happily did so, knowing that the world had just turned on its axis.

So I'm suspending my studio activities for a month (unless something really urgent comes up) and devoting my energy to packing, painting, patching, and what ever else comes up. Apart from Christmas, of course. It's going to be extra relaxing, because we know how much work is ahead of us. W00T!

funny pictures

Thursday, December 16, 2010


hai wassup nothin much k

I'm sorry, peoples, I'm turning on comment moderation for a short while in order to discourage commenters whose names are product names. More work for me, but I'm getting tired of reading computer-generated text that makes no sense, especially when some of it is a straight cut & paste from my own writing. Bugger off, trolls. Nice people, stick around.

Also -- if, like me, you're feeling a bit sad about the poor drowned peoples and some of the press that's coming out of the incident, arm yourself with this essential reading. Won't make the situation better, but you might feel slightly empowered with teh knowledge.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Not Wordless Wednesday

Although here's a little snap that could be wordless:


Oh, it's all excitement here.


Not wanting to jinx the process (I'm a practical person with odd little superstitions), we've put an offer in for the house we fell for, and have had a fairly positive response, with a few little points to negotiate (like the actual price), so it's full steam ahead for gussying up the Private Jetty for sale.

I've been trying to meet all my normal commitments whilst furiously painting bookshelves and packing books and knick-knacks to unclutter the space. I packed four boxes of little bits & pieces and afterwards couldn't even tell the difference, which was a bit depressing. Boxes are arriving en masse today so I can start packing up the piles of books that came from the main bookshelf in the loungeroom (that I've been meaning to paint for seven years, since it was built) and then we can move freely in the space again. One of the terms we're negotiating is to be able to use the garage space of the new house (which will eventually be Studio Duck) between Exchange and Settlement to store our boxes while we sell this house. Thankfully that shouldn't be a problem, according to the agent.

On the weekend I was sugar-soaping a few spots in readiness for paint and decided to use the rest of the bucket on the window-frames. Every spot I touched seemed to flake off, and I had a spot of the wobblies. Poor BB came in from the garden where he was doing a sterling job of de-ivying and de-cluttering and I had my first meltdown of the process, which was quickly defused by the swift administration of a chocolate brownie. Phew.

Ceiling Cat, bless sugar soap.

I'm so glad I'm not a painter as an artist. I really don't connect with the medium.

Of course, there has been help. Colonel Duck is here doing a marvellous job on the garden with his magic whippersnipper and DIY skillz

colonel pergola
(that's the nicest view of his bum that I could get out of three photos)

I'm very grateful, and have been plying him with tea and fruit cake and risotto and wine, etc.

And of course, the cats are helping.


Mr Padge walked all over the (removable) shelves I was painting out the front and got white paddy paws, and Mr Pooter sniffed the shelves and ended up with a white Hitleresque moustache. All washed off now, but fricking hilarious.

Here's something to make *you* laugh. It made me laugh like a drain, and was a great way to bring ancient Egyptian history alive for Bumblebee:

(For anyone without access to pictures, like Thirdcat, it's a clip about Oprah Winfrey giving thousands of her most devoted fans the chance to be buried with her in a vast tomb called the Oprahmidion (built by said fans), along with all her favorite products to be used in the afterlife. Comedy gold.)

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

House hunting

More adventures in real estate. This is a whole new world, and one that makes the head spin.

Last weekend we saw some amazing places, and by amazing I mean the full spectrum of 'oh wow' to 'WTF?!!?'

Best WTF was a place down the road that was completely unrenovated and still furnished. Best Beloved stood for ages in the loungeroom, gazing open-mouthed at a reproduction of a painting of a man teaching his son to shave, witnessed by a beagle. Later he said to me incredulously, 'It wasn't just the subject matter that was awful; it's the fact that [a] someone decided to paint it in oils and [b] someone else thought it was good enough to reproduce it!'

Bumblebee ran down the hall, past the pink & green bathroom with lime green shag carpet, and called for me to come & look at the cupboard in the spare room. When I got there, he opened the door onto a whole other wing of the house with a 'rumpus room', cocktail bar and home office full of lion kitsch (the owner was a member of the Lions Club of Australia, judging by the number of certificates on the wall telling us so). So I quickly stood behind the bar and B called BB down and said the same thing, opening the door on to me doing my best 1970s housewife pose, asking, 'Hello dear, had a hard day? Would you like a cocktail?'

Given that we're not interested in any renovations, I don't think that was our dream house. It may be someone else's, especially if they don't want to renovate, but live in a retro heaven. You'd have to get rid of the smoker's fug, though, which lingers in the drapes and walls and shagpile.

The best house we saw I'm going to hug close to my chest, because we've shifted from what an agent called 'passive clients' to what they probably call 'emotional suckers' and I don't want to jinx anything. Suffice to say that in the past two days we've interviewed a few agents with a view to putting our house on the market after Christmas, and we now have a long and daunting list of things to do to our place over the next four weeks. These agents, they don't waste a second. They seem to work all hours, and their enthusiasm is amazing. We have a shortlist of two really lovely women to work with, and it's a tough call, because they've both got really good qualities in their own very different ways.

But the speed at which this is happening is doing my head in. If we don't get this house, we're ok, I'm sure something will turn up, but the whole family is in love with it, and no matter what else we find, this will always linger in our hearts as a ghost house. I'll tell you more as things firm up, or fall through... and I'm starting to declutter. I don't have the energy for huge tasks at the moment, but Best Beloved is a very goal-orientated person, and now that he has a concrete reason for doing things, he's powering along. I'm just going to move around the house putting things into boxes and doing little jobs like touching up paint scratches and repairing door handles etc. I think I'm going to tell the family that any help in lieu of Christmas presents would be much appreciated.

In the meantime, I've written a post at Book Art Object about the Claire Beynon piece I've finished.

folded the second part

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Oztralyan Bounty of Books

The marvellous Bernice Balconey has rightly pointed out that while the last list was Very Worthy, it's also Very British (well, it was a BBC list). My objection to it, upon contemplation, was the weirdness of it -- I mean, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, with Hamlet singled out? The Chronicles of Narnia and then The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe singled out? Bizarre.

Anyhoo, Bernice has gone to the trouble of making another list for a meme. It's called

Bernice's Bounty of Books: The Ozstralyan Way

Same rules: bold for read, italic for started/not finished/bits read. I won't do so well this time, but I'm still going to try...
  1. Fortunes of Richard Mahony - Henry Handel Richardson
  2. The Reading Group - Amanda Lohrey
  3. Coonardoo - Katherine Susannah Pritchard
  4. Dog Rock - David Foster
  5. The Transit of Venus - Shirley Hazard
  6. Voss - PW
  7. Children's Bach - Helen Garner
  8. Reports from a Wild Country - Deborah Bird Rose
  9. Jack and Jill - Helen Hodgman
  10. Legendary Tales of the Australian Aborigines - David Unaipon
  11. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow - M Barnard Eldershaw
  12. Carpentaria - Alexis Wright
  13. The Little Company - Eleanor Dark
  14. For the Term of His Natural Life - Marcus Clarke
  15. Tourmaline - Randolph Stow
  16. My Brilliant Career - Miles Franklin
  17. Peel Me a Lotus - Charmaine Clift
  18. The Acolyte - Thea Astley
  19. Cicada Gambit - Martin Johnston
  20. Fat Man in History - Peter Carey
  21. Seven Poor Men of Sydney - Christina Stead
  22. The Magic Pudding - Norman Lindsay
  23. Cloudstreet - Tim Winton
  24. Tirra Lirra by the River - Jessica Anderson
  25. Exiles at Home - Drusilla Modjeska
  26. Harp in the South - Ruth Park
  27. Letty Fox: Her Luck - Christina Stead
  28. Mr Scobie's Riddle - Elizabeth Jolley
  29. Eucalyptus - Murray Bail
  30. The Pea Pickers - Eve Langley
  31. From Little Things, Big Things Grow - Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly
  32. Merry Go Round in the Sea - Randolph Stow
  33. The Female Eunuch - Germaine Greer
  34. Come in Spinner - Dymphna Cusack and Florance James
  35. The Blue Plateau - Mark Tredinnick
  36. Lillian's Story - Kate Grenville
  37. Me, Antman and Fleabag - Gayle Kennedy
  38. Johnno - David Malouf
  39. Because a White Man'll Never Do It - Kevin Gilbert
  40. The Commandant - Jessica Anderson
  41. Just Relations - Rodney Hall
  42. A Difficult Young Man - Martin Boyd
  43. The Albatross Muff - Barbara Hanrahan
  44. Power Without Glory - Frank Hardy
  45. Pioneers on Parade - Dymphna Cusack & Miles Franklin
  46. City of Women - David Ireland
  47. Mother, I'm Rooted - Kate Jennings
  48. Five Bells - Kenneth Slessor
  49. My Brother Jack - George Johnston
  50. The Year of Living Dangerously - Christopher Koch
  51. Careful, He Might Hear You - Sumner Locke Elliot
  52. Fringe of Leaves - PW
  53. Death of A River Guide - Richard Flanagan
  54. The Spare Room - Helen Garner
  55. The Glade within the Grove - David Foster
  56. Mr Darwin's Shooter - Roger McDonald
  57. Bush Studies - Barbara Baynton
  58. The Electric Beach - James McQueen
  59. Beware of the Dog - Peter Corris
  60. I Can Jump Puddles - Alan Marshall
  61. A Million Wild Acres - Eric Rolls
  62. The Plains - Gerald Murnane
  63. Diary of a Wombat - Jackie French
  64. Nice Try - Shane Maloney
  65. Two Weeks with the Queen - Morris Gleitzman
  66. Paper Nautilus - Nicholas Jose
  67. The Lost Dog - Michelle de Kretser (heh)
  68. A Mother's Disgrace - Robert Dessaix
  69. The Seal Woman - Beverley Farmer
  70. Collected Poems - Gwen Harwood
  71. Maestro - Peter Goldsworthy
  72. A Long time Dying - Olga Masters
  73. Benang - Kim Scott
  74. The Lyre in the Pawnshop - Fay Zwicky
  75. I for Isobel - Amy Witting
  76. The Persimmon Tree and other stories - Marjorie Barnard
  77. Moscow Trefoil - David Campbell and Rosemary Dobson
  78. Caught in the Draft - Veronica Brady
  79. Weevils in the Flour - Wendy Lowenstein
  80. Vertigo - Amanda Lohrey
  81. Sugar Heaven - Jean Devanney
  82. Sorry - Gail Jones
  83. The Twyborn Affair - PW
  84. The Cry for the Dead - Judith Wright
  85. Schindler's Ark- Thomas Keneally
  86. Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living - Carrie Tiffany
  87. What a Piece of Work - Dorothy Porter
  88. Bobbin Up - Dorothy Hewett
  89. The Drowner - Robert Drewe
  90. Blue Skies - Helen Hodgman
  91. Ride on Stranger - Kylie Tennant
  92. Radiance - Louis Nowra
  93. Aunts Up the Cross - Robyn Dalton
  94. The Slap - Christos Tsiolkas
  95. My Place - Nadia Wheatley
  96. White Man Got No Dreaming - WEH Stanner
  97. The Drover's Wife - Henry Lawson
  98. Tasmania by Road and Track - E T Emmett
  99. The Aunt's Story - PW
  100. Come Back Peter - Joan Woodberry
Hmm, not too bad... quite a few gaps I'd like to fill! I would just like to say in my defence that there are a lot of writers in this list that I have read other books by.

There's a few I'd change or add. Like

The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan (although he's there, with a book I haven't read)
Gilgamesh by Joan London
and (this may be howled down) Monkey Grip by Helen Garner?

Although we could debate all day whether this is supposed to be a list of things every Australia SHOULD read, or a top 100 of what Australians HAVE read (which is what I think the BBC list is). Which would make quite a different list, methinks, stuffed with Bryce and Tim and Colleen.

How did you go?

Friday, December 03, 2010

A lot more than 100 books


It's been AGES since I've done a meme; I know I've done this one before, but I think the list has been updated. While I'm sitting here trying to decide if I feel well enough to hang around outside in the rainy damp in order to present my residency tonight or if I should sit in the relatively germy closeness of a cinema with my boys, or whether I should just go back to bed (I'm REALLY bored with that option), I might as well reminisce about the nice books I've read and see which gaps I need to plug this close to Christmas.

I got this version from Godard's Letterboxes:

And so it comes around again….

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.


Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.

Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2. Lord of the Rings – JR Tolkien

3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6. The Bible

7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14. Complete Works of Shakespeare

15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20. Middlemarch – George Eliot

21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens (but I have it on my iPhone, waiting for a chance)

24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34. Emma – Jane Austen

35. Persuasion – Jane Austen

36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis

37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41. Animal Farm – George Orwell

42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (Oh, I'm so ashamed)

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50. Atonement – Ian McEwan

51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52. Dune – Frank Herbert

53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72. Dracula – Bram Stoker

73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75. Ulysses – James Joyce

76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78. Germinal – Emile Zola

79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80. Possession – AS Byatt

81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84. The Remains of the Day – Kazu Ishiguro

85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White

88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Am tackling these on ebook right now)

90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94. Watership Down – Richard Adams

95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Phew, that's a lot more than 6! There are 15 that I've never tackled, which gives me a score of 85. Mind you, with all the sets, there's a lot more than 100 books on that list. Lucky I had my Thomas Hardy binge this year! How did you go?

Nice gaps, though. Gives me something to look for at the library for our Christmas sojourn to the Blue Mountains... we're renting a house around the corner from the in-laws, so that we can do the Big Family Christmas but still have some space. Board games and books ho! Last time we had Xmas at the BMs, it snowed! Mmm, that would be nice, although my Dr Sista Outlaw (happy birthday for yesterday!) might not agree.

* This image is a sculpture idea I have. It's called 'Book Club'. One day I'll make it.

Thursday, December 02, 2010



Here I am, venturing forth from my sickbed (well, sick house) to attend the ANU School of Art Patron's Day to pick out two interesting graduates for my Broadside Residency.

I'm standing in the main Gallery of the school, caught like a bug on a pin by Megsie from Glass Central Cenberra but the entire school is, for ten short days, a vast cornucopia of emerging art.

It's not a fabulous snap of me, but I thought I'd pop it here so that you can have a glimpse of the lovely little brooch that BB and B bought for my birthday. It's a tiny silver box with the sea inside it, beautifully modelled in perspective so that when you look in, you seem to be looking over the waves forever.

The brooch is by Jane Dodd, and we found it in a fab studio called Lure in Dunedin.

Straight after this I went home and had a nana nap. Looking at talent is exhausting.

Today I woke up to a fresh onslaught of head ache and sinus crappiness. I'm seeing the doctor this afternoon.

Two weeks out of the studio! What a waste of good free time. Bah.