Friday, October 21, 2011

Live to you from Farmville

This is such a good holiday, although there's a lot to remember. I have a big long list of things to do at particular points of the day, and as I type I realise that I have forgotten to feed the fish for the last couple of days.

*feeds fish, who don't seem very grateful but perhaps they're shy*

So. Here I am, at the Duck prickle farm, with Lily the poddy lamb and all the rest of the sheepy family. Lily comes from another farm, and was adopted because her mother had rejected her (stomping harshly on her in the process and leaving her with a deformed ear) and her owners were going away. She's a dear little thing.

Lucky & Lily

This is Lily, along with her best mate Lucky. Lily is trying to drink her bottle and Lucky is trying to get me to throw the ball for him. Because I'm a woman, I managed to do both things at once.


This was taken by Colonel Duck before he went travelling up the coast and left me in charge.

We're trying to persuade Lily that she's a sheep, so she spends most of the day with the mob (apparently a 'flock' is smaller than a 'mob', and since the number of sheep has doubled in the last few weeks, it's now a mob) but once you're a poddy animal you're always yearning to be with the humans, so I've been letting Lily come & play with the dogs every now and again. She loves a good scratch under the chin, and between her horns and down her long Roman nose, and as she feeds she stops to butt me in the same way that the other lambs headbutt their mothers' udder, then once she's finished she jumps on my back joyously. I hope she grows out of that bit; she'll be heavy once she grows up!

She's the middle child of the new generation. There are two rams just about a week older than her, and a pair of new lambs, a boy and a girl, who were born on Monday, and they are the cutest little things. (I will post more photos when I get home, because I'm a bit scared of blowing the teeny web quota this farm possesses). They all have very long tails, and as they feed, the tails spin around like cranked handles, winding up their energy.

I'm completely enamoured of my live animal experience. I'm used to the wonderfulness of cat company, but sheep company is another thing entirely; the warm milk-covered snuffliness of Lily's nose and the soft nibble of her lips on my fingers, the slightly greasy rough yet soft feel of her nubbly short fleece and the pointy poke of her cloven hoofs against my foot and up my spine. She has long white eyelashes and her eyes are too dark to show her sideways pupil clearly, but as I feed her I look over at the other sheep (who stand nearby, comfortable yet disdainful of me as a human) and their bright yellow eyes with a horizontal black pupil remind me that we don't have to look far for a sense of something being alien.

My nana is the most present person I've ever known. She doesn't dwell on the past, never has done, really, and I while I know that much of this sense of being in the moment is due to her dodgy old memory, she's always had the knack of being perfectly comfortable with just being wherever she is, spending all her time with her plants, her animals, her books and the tv. She's not a particularly social person and I've never known her to have a friend outside of her family, but she's content in her own space, not antisocial.

It's been nice having the time & space to talk to her. While my dad's parents used to come and visit us when we were living in various places, including overseas, she & my grandfather (papa) never did. Papa went overseas with WWII but nana never made it, and I asked her if she regretted this.
"No," she said, "I probably would have done if I'd lived in a different time; when I was a child all I wanted to do was travel and see lots of things, but then I met your grandfather & started having babies [4!] and life just kept going. But when I was a child we didn't have tv and movies, and now I feel like I've seen so much in my life through books and movies and magazines that I don't think I really missed anything."

Imagine if she'd got into the internet!

The other thing she's said that sticks with me is when I mentioned that her life here is like being in a nursing home without the people. She said that was fine by her, she couldn't bear having to be part of a group or being made to sit & talk to other people her own age: "It's hard work having to conform." She's said this a lot to me as I grew up, and it always made me feel better about my wariness of groups. I have a lot of friends and acqaintances (hello, all of you) but I don't have a 'group' that I hang with regularly. Apparently, according to my friend Kim, in social networking terms I'm what is called 'a hub'. Heh. I think -- I hope -- I'll end up like nana, happy in my own space, puddling around with books and catching up on a lot of crap tv, but hopefully all my lovely networks will still be swirling around, and we'll all be using our large-button keypads (or whatever the appropriate technology will be) to stay in touch to bitch about our carers and compare notes on our incontinence.

I'm doing a lot of reading while I'm here. I was given a book voucher for the local bookstore for my birthday (keeping the money in the Bega Valley!) in an attempt to lure me down her and lo! it worked.

I've just devoured Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, a lovely sensual fantasy about a black & white circus that operates only at night. It's one of those books that operates like The Arabian Nights, telling multiple stories and leading you back to the beginning so that you want to read it again once you've finished. It reminded me of a much more readable/understandable Jonathon Strange & Mr Norris.

Now I'm juggling AS Byatt's Ragnarok and China Mieville's Kraken, mainly because I couldn't decide which to read first, and I opened up each and read the first page and I was sucked into both.

Ok, time to let out the chooks and feed the dogs. Home on Sunday, not that I really want to leave...

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I'm sorry, I've been trying to blog today but I can't log in to the blog via my computer for some blood-pressure building reason that only Google knows and I can't fathom. I'm doing this from my iPhone.

Hello from Numbugga, at the prickle farm of Colonel & Lady Duck. I'm lamb, dog-, chook- and Nana-sitting for most of the week.

I'm not doing much besides bottle feeds, animal feeds, human feeds, talking to community carers and reading.

Here's a photo of some of my charges, including Lily the lamb.

I will keep trying to log on, I've got lots of photos, and this keyboard is annoying me. Plus I can hear Lily, nagging for her next feed.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reading list

Turns out I *have* read The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, but it was so long ago that I've forgotten the details. Doesn't matter, she's such a pleasure to read every time.

Just finished The Children's Bach by Helen Garner, after everyone telling me for years to read it. I found it at the Federation Square book stalls, started it at Melbourne Airport and read most of it waiting for my delayed plane and during the flight, then lost it unpacking and only finished it yesterday morning. It is wonderful, you were all right. The sheet-folding scene on pp. 56-7 of my 1985 McPhee Gribble Penguin edition is so close to Rosemary Dobson's poem 'Folding the Sheets' that I am at a loss to know which came first, the dates of origin being very close. (They are good friends: I have often read postcards from HG to RD and helped RD to write letters to HG. I've never met HG.) I was quite startled when I found it.

I also finished Sophie Cunningham's Melbourne. I borrowed it from a friend, but I'm going to need my own copy. My copy of Kerryn Goldsworthy's Adelaide should be arriving any day now, requested from my mother-in-law as a birthday gift (she doesn't accept 'don't buy me anything, oh maybe just a voucher' as a response, I have to name a title). I can't wait to read it.

Is that the time? I meant to get out of bed at 9, it's now 11.20. Better do something useful with the day; I printed last night until midnight in my uggboots -- such a luxury to have the house to myself! And the cats, of course. They're all over the bed right now. I slept in my big King-size bed last night squished up between two big furry animals... might as well have had the whole family in there, the amount of room I got.


{ahem... I do miss the boys, of course.}

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Sorry business

You know that you're heading into Senior Moment territory when you realise, in a wave of cold sweat, that you've not only double-booked yourself, in a way that you just can't rectify, but the people you've stood up ARE YOUR PARENTS. Mind you, if it was a true SM, my parents would be dead or horribly old, but it was close enough.

I have been holding two separate events happily in my mental calendar, not bothering to write either in my iPhone calendar because I was so confident that I was not going to forget them... and I didn't. I just hadn't realised that they were happening at the same time.

So. I'd made a date with Lady Duck to go to the Fred Williams exhibition at the NGA today, because it was her birthday just before mine, and she's been in love with FW forever and forever. I'd bought her the catalogue, and Colonel Duck was going to do something else for a while as we immersed ourselves.

I also enrolled in a screenprinting class this weekend at Megalo with Minigraff, partly to encourage my friend Jezza to come along & use his awesome design skills in a more physical way, and partly because screenprinting fell through the cracks of my printmaking education, and I've always wanted to try it.

It wasn't until I turned up this morning, bang on time (because Mini runs a TIGHT SHIP AND WOE BETIDE ANYONE WHO COMES LATE (unless they've made a cake)), when I thought to myself 'I'm so loving this. Just think, next Sunday I'll be looking at art with mum... or was it this Sunday? Which means it would be... oh shit... TODAY!'. I dashed outside and rang them, and sure enough, I was between a rock and a hard place.

Bugger. Buggery bugger.

They were in Canberra for another reason, which is good, and to his credit, CD took mum to see the show anyway, because if she'd missed it, she'd always regret it. But I feel like a heel. When I rang up tonight to apologise AGAIN, Colonel Duck answered the phone and said to my meek 'hi', 'Who's that? Our daughter? We don't have a daughter anymore...' and then thankfully burst out laughing.

Phew. If it's any consolation, the class was really, really good. Here's what I made:

Balloon Day, © Ampersand Duck 2011

I thought I might do a run on tea-towels later in the year, along with a few other cat designs. I like how well black cats work with screenprinting!

When I got home, the house was empty. The boys have gone to Kyogle for a week to visit our new {cough} great-nephew. I'm cat-sitting and catching up on various things, including sleep. Best holiday ever!

I started with some gardening. They (the boys) gave me a magnolia tree for my birthday, something I've always wanted to have in the garden. We went down to the nursery and I found a variety called:

stahwaz magnolia

STAHWAZ!! How could I resist? I've planted it where it will eventually cast shade on the studio in summer, allow sun in winter, and will look stunning in spring. *happy*

The garden is delightful.


I did a tour of the garden with the cats and took some photos.

catty dogwood

Check out my dogwood tree!

I've got the rest of the photos as a flickr set, but here's a couple more:

Blowsy blooms

doggy wood


Time to make a simple dinner and watch Mme Ramostwe do her thang. So nice not to have to get all fancypants with the food, etc.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Daily life begins

Phew, what a week that was!

I've just written my website account of Impact7, here's where I get to be extra-curricular.

I'm sitting in my studio with the far-side rollerdoor up, waiting for my new (old) wooden map drawers to be delivered. They were supposed to come yesterday, then 10:30 today, then 12:00 today... hopefully soon, anyway. I can't do any print work until they come, because all the flat spaces are covered in the stuff that was in my metal map drawers and they're being taken away for sale at the same time. So I'm catching up on my online writing in the meantime.

It's the first day of my new life, the one where I'm only working at the uni one day a week, and the rest of the week is for my studio. A bit scary, and I'm not sure how it will go financially, but for a short time I have the pay from my recent primary school residency and that should keep me going for a little while once I stop fitting out the studio!

Here's Padge, sitting in the shadows of my new/old double glass doors; they're ready to be installed by my friend Mark in front of the existing rollerdoors so that I can have light and air and not wind and leaves.

AH! Finally, at 1:15, the cabinets come. Dammit, they put the more solid one on top of the wobbly one; I'll have to do some argy-bargy with them once Best Beloved comes back from his business trip (the next 3 weeks in this house are like revolving doors, with each of us coming in & out and always missing each other!).

Here they are, being carried in by the two roughnuts hired by the auction-house. I observed that the guy at the back might lose a toe if he wasn't careful, and he said 'yeah, I've got me Taiwanese Working Boots on'. Ah, yes, well.

So now I have lots of drawers! Huzzar, watch me fill them up.

And lots of photos of my Melbourne jaunt, over at Flickr.

I had a lovely conference, helped by the fact that a friend had let me stay in her empty Melbourne flat for the week, and it was only one tram and one train stop from the venue.

Here's the best thing that happened to me during the week (closely followed by dinners and lunches with other friends):

Len & Laura

Isn't he gorgeous? This is the little bundle of joy belonging to Laura (Lucy Tartan) and Dorian (Arty Fufkin), Leonard. I skipped a session so that I could cuddle him and he drooled all over my hand, and I treasured that drool all afternoon when I got back to the grind. He's a dear old soul,.

Len & Dorian

Here's his more serious side.

After the conference I stayed on for a couple of days.


This is the closest I got to the Grand Final: cupcakes in a show window. The whole day I was in denial about the football, which I figured was my birthday prerogative, it being my birthday that Saturday (all the fours, 44. I think my years are finally outnumbering my chin hairs). I went to a meeting of the Print Council of Australia, and after the meeting we drove around to a few exhibitions and had lunch at the gorgeous Abbotsford Convent. The city was eerily quiet; the last gallery was close by the MCG and I could hear the crowds and the whistles. At one point we were trying to find a taxi for someone to get to the airport. We found what we thought was a taxi rank, but it turned out to be a row of parked empty cabs outside a pub!

After all that I caught a tram up Nicholson Street and went to Gerald's Bar in North Carlton to meet up with a few blogging types.* The blogcall was: Elsewhere, Another Outspoken Female, Will Type for Food and Lexicon Harlot. Also joining us was an old lovey I'd lost from my past until we discovered each other on Facebook, which surprised the hell out of me (the FB bit, not the meet-up) because he's not a computery type. He happens to be a friend of WTFF Tim, and this fact pleases the hell out of me in a very Douglas Adams probability factor way. He brought his children along, and a good time was mostly had by all, I hope. Pol and the kidlings couldn't stay for dinner; AOF took us to a fab little Asian place down the road (it being her locale) and true to a foodie, the food was excellent. (Phew, you passed that test, G :) )

The next morning (Sunday) I was determined to go to the Camberwell Markets. Lucky that I was so detemined, because it was the daylight savings changeover, and I would normally stay in bed. I forced myself up, got out to the road, and lo, the trams weren't running for another hour. Bugger it, I thought, I'll walk. So I did. It was the first rain-free day for ages, and it was only 2 km.

The reason why I wanted to go so much is because of Michelle de Kretser and The Lost Dog. The markets are something Michelle would talk about both in the book and in her phonecalls to me. It's been years since then, but I got talking to Deborah Williams at the conference (one of her dog prints is on the cover) and that got me thinking about the book, and the markets, and I really wanted to go.

I wasn't disappointed. They are great markets, and I found all sorts of things. I came away with little funky hair clips, a magnifying glass, some postcards (of Canberra in the 1960s!)... yes, lots of LITTLE things that will slip easily into an already overstuffed bag for the plane. And then I found these.


OOOOHHHHHHHHHHHH. I loved the one on the left, mainly for the liquid-paper splatters all over the top ribbon cover. Then I saw that the right-hand one had a lovely hard case. I walked past them, and five minutes later came back. How much for the right-hand one?


I went all wobbly. It didn't seem dodgy, just didn't have a ribbon, but that's easily fixed (scroll down that link). So I bought it, gentle reader, and lugged it back on the tram to the flat. And then proceeded to rearrange EVERYTHING so that I could carry it in on with me on the plane. Hold that thought.

On the way out of the market, I stopped and talked to one of the stallkeepers about something and noticed his dog, who is obviously a seasoned vet at these markets:

camberwell gus

When I found out his name is Gus, I went all wobbly again. You see, Michelle's dog, who was the inspiration for the story, and who is featured on the cover of the book, was called Gus. And that's why I was at the market. Man, some days are just like novels.

I need to stop, only because I've spent most of the day on this computer and my new drawers are calling out to me... but I just wanted to bring you back to my typewriter. I now have 5 typewriters, all with their own charms. This newest one gave me a big surprise when I got home. I opened the lovely hard case, and in the little pocket inside the top lid, was the ribbon, nicely wrapped in a freezer bag, and THE MANUAL AND THE 1984 RECEIPT OF PURCHASE. I am very fond of 1984, it was a year to remember, not always for good reasons. But I do find that most of my significant objects were made or marked for years that have personal significance for me, and I guess this one joins the club. And was a bargain to boot. I haven't seen a working typewriter under $100 for a couple of years now. Yay! Must have been the birthday germs.


*I have to apologise formally to anyone I didn't contact while I was in Melbourne. It was a very intense week, and energy levels fluctuated. I knew it would be so, which is why I issued such a lame blogmeet callout. I also meant to ring people, that didn't happen. I'm back in February, so let's do something then!