Saturday, November 29, 2008

Monica Dux and the Mummy Wars

I just wrote a very intemperate (furious, really) response to Monica Dux's piece on why women should be more prepared for labour and birth.

But it upset me that I was so upset, so I deleted it.

Pregnant women already attract unjustified scrutiny and criticism. No woman should ever be judged for the decisions she makes while in labour, given how indescribable and unexpected that experience really is. But how a woman handles her preparation is another matter entirely, and maybe a lack of preparation deserves scrutiny. To just "wait and see" when the stakes are so high is simply negligent — both for the mother's health and for her baby.
The final paragraph up there kind of sums up why I was so very, very irritated. Pregnant women already attract unjustified scrutiny and criticism, but it's OK for Monica Dux to add to it because, dammit, she's RIGHT AND ALL YOU OTHER WOMEN OUT THERE ARE IGNORANT, LAZY, NAIVE AND ILL-INFORMED. Oh, it turns out I'm still quite angry. Sorry about that.

I'm off for some nice, soothing, lemon tea. Or perhaps a little stomping round the house ranting. One or the other.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Stormy weather

Late this afternoon the sky darkened, the rain plunged down and the fine and noble people of the Best Department Evah celebrated by watching the window cleaners across the road get completely and utterly soaked. Even altruistic and selfless servants of the public have moments of weakness.

When I got to the bus stop this afternoon there was a pool of grubby water slopping over the gutter and on to the footpath. The bus drivers varied in their approach from slowly and carefully pulling in so as to avoid dampening the shoes of soon-to-be passengers, to tidal wave speed and nasty chuckling at the damp trouser cuffs of the patiently waiting workers.

Despite my window-cleaner schadenfreude I managed to stay dry, which frankly does not seem fair. I should have had to sit on the bus for forty minutes with my wet trouser cuffs slapping nastily against my chafed shins. And my shoes should have been sloshing unpleasantly as well.

Also when I got home the husband (praise him, praise him) was preparing delicious home-made oven baked chips (tasty potatoes from Fyshwick Markets), with even more delicious grilled fish with lemon zest, capers and chives.

I think I might take up thinking nasty thoughts about window cleaners as my second job. Clearly the universe rewards it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Characters inside my head

Characters who have quite strong ideas and personalities, but generally speaking don't seem to do very much, which is possibly why I don't feel compelled to write stories about them. No narrative.

But I'd miss them if they left all together. They don't seem to need to be written about, and in fact sometimes it seems like quite the imposition.

I like writing well enough. I feel like doing that all the time. Just not stories about people doing things.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Career path

I am making a very good beginning on my new career choice; nearly (but not quite) meeting famous, influential and important people.

I think I am a natural.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Handy hint

Put the moisturiser on your hands only after you have brushed your teeth. Otherwise there's less traction than a politician talking about climate change in a coal mine.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Art, cheesecake, books

A most satisfactory morning. We briskly took ourselves to Fyshwick Markets to purchase fruit, veg and sundry deli items (including Cheese of the Week - this week we have Norwegian Ridder Cheese). I popped into Officeworks on the way home to buy some note pads and pens because whoever is supposed to be ordering stationery at work doesn't seem to know that it's their job. Perhaps it's me. And I don't want to be a bad Secretariat girl, and turn up to a meeting with no bits of paper for More Important People. As the Queen does not carry money, so do More Important People not carry biros and bits of paper. Apparently.

After slinging the produce in the fridge we dashed out again (with a strangely compliant Noodle - I think his three days stuck at home feeling crook finally made him want to leave the house). We went to the Beaver Galleries in Deakin, because they had a show reviewed last week in the Canberra Times, and it looked nice. Full of nice art, in fact. Many prints that we would quite liked to have bought, except what with the global downturn and the Government deciding it wants some of its money back from us this year it didn't seem such a financially prudent move.

So we went to Curtin and spent too much on second-hand books instead. The prices at the bookshop there have gone up astonishing, and also the coffee is no longer free but is surrounded by chairs and tables and a cabinet full of cakes, even though the coffee is made by the same domestic espresso machine as before. I don't think people should be charged for domestic-level espresso. There should be some kind of international charter against it.

Also Beaver Galleries has a cafe, where the coffee is produced professionally, but still isn't great. But the cheesecake more than made up for it. Canberra may have some lacks (including consistently good coffee) but there's a real commitment to quality lemon cheesecake, it seems.

Noodle is now happily reading his new (expensive), secondhand Asterix comics. I shall return to Grand Days and see how I go.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Growing Summer (or ideology and children's fiction)

The Noodle and I have been enjoying The Growing Summer by Noel Streatfeild a good deal. He had a moment of absolute terror when Robin fell out of the boat, and the story immediately switched to Penny and Naomi waiting at home for the boys and Aunt Dymphna to return...and it's getting later, and later, and later.

Took us three days to get past those chapters, with much clinging and many looks of anxiety and insistences that nothing terrible happens to anybody in The Growing Summer (unless you think having to eat Penny's cooking is cruel and unusual punishment). Aunt Dymphna is very anti-whining. She may be mad and addicted to poetry, but she's a handy identifier of edible mushrooms and she is not interested in keeping things clean. Not perhaps an A grade aunt, but certainly not the worst either - worst aunts are probably Spiker and Sponge in James and the Giant Peach I reckon.

I have been reading Apple Bough also by Streatfeild on the bus. I bought it at the Fiesta last week (harrumph cookies). Or at least the lads bought it for me after I had to rush off to look after the tipping over cans of formula stall for a while. I wonder how much money we made?

Anyway. Apple Bough is, if anything, an even weirder book than The Growing Summer. Streatfeild is so insistent that Myra is ordinary and untalented, so much so that we never even find out what Myra enjoys doing (except for hanging about with her dog and pining for her old house). It doesn't sound interesting. She never gets any embarrassing m'audition moments because she does not dance. She never outshines anyone at skating, because she does not skate. She is always patient and kind and also tidies up after everyone. She is not boisterous or opinionated in any way shape or form. I don't think she belongs in a Noel Streatfeild novel at all. I believe she escaped from a more than usually dull Sunday School prize book and migrated into Sebastian, Wolfgang and Ettie's family in search of excitement only to be enslaved bythose theatrical over-achievers. Thursday Next should turn up and send her home (with the dog of course).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The future of work

Not really, just still writing expressions of interest for jobs next year. Is hard.

Noodle sick in the tum.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fiesta and the biscuits of rejection

School fete - lemonade spider, sausage inna bun, chucking tennis balls at formula cans, kicking soccer ball into plastic goals, chocolate cake, chupa chup, guess the number of lollies inna jar and tombola.

Thank you school. As well as providing a fine education for my child you have now taught me what tombola is.

All those years of reading E. Nesbit and Enid Blyton couldn't do it.

Disappointingly tombola does not involve chucking anything or toppling lumps of stuff. And you don't have to sing 'Yes, we have no bananas' or 'I've got a luvverly bunch of coconuts'.

Also, no one bought our plate of double chocolate chip cookies at the cake stall, despite the fact that we followed the marketing advice of The People Watchers and labelled them super deluxe chocolate cookies with extra chocolate. Well, whoever took them home for free at the tragic end of the day got lucky. They are the best home made biscuits ever and are irresistible to anyone with even a vague fondness for chocolate. The recipe is in Bill Granger's Simply Bill cookbook. Go and make them - you cannot fail and you will scarf a lot more than you expect. Also you can easily freeze half the dough and cook it later if you don't want to scarf too many biscuits all at once.

But still, they will always be the biscuits of rejection to us. The Noodle says we are to make chocolate cupcakes with brightly coloured sprinkles next year. Or caramel slice.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Life without fury

I was just reading back over some of my earliest posts, and realising how angry and upset I was back then. I don't think I was quite aware at the time. Lucky, possibly. I felt bad enough though.

Anyway, it's made me realise what a good thing the move to Canberra has been for all of us. I'm supposed to be writing mini-job applications today for my permanent placement next year, and I've been feeling a bit cheesed off about it, because it's a lovely blue day outside, and there's biscuits to be cooked, and it's Saturday for heaven's sake.

But when I look back at all the problems we had in Queensland - the constant worries about education, about health care, about transport - and think about the almost complete lack of worry I have about those things here, I'm so so so glad that the Government gave me a job where Canberra was the only option. Because otherwise I probably would never have hauled myself out of Brisbane.

I do miss some things a great deal. I heartily miss the wonderful people at the Rehabilitation Unit at the Royal Children's Hospital. A more fun, kind, supportive and blooming useful group of people could not possibly exist on the planet. And I miss my Dad. Lots. I miss the Noodle's other grandparents lots too. And my dear beloved friends in Inala. I miss them so much I could just kidnap them and keep them in our garage.

And Canberra is not problem-free. The need to travel to Sydney for anything other than basic healthcare is expensive, for example, although we are getting to know Randwick quite well.

But the feeling that things are better than they could be is intoxicating.

Baby on bike

This morning I saw a man riding his bike. He was carrying his baby, about 12 months maybe, in one arm as he was riding around. I've seen him before, I think, riding his bike with his baby on his back in a baby-carrying back pack. No helmets.

This morning, though, he was holding the handle bars with one hand, other arm around the baby, slowly swooping across the car park and across the road before riding along one of the many bike paths in the area.

All I could think was how her soft skull could so easily crash onto the bitumen or concrete if he lost his concentration for just one second. I've been anxious about it all day. Clearly, the man was not anxious in the slightest. Either it never occurred to him to worry about the consequences of dropping her or of stopping suddenly, or he thought it was so unlikely that it just wasn't worth bothering about.

I've worried almost every second that the Noodle has been alive. Usually about entirely the wrong things, I have to say. The scary, dangerous moments were almost always the ones I hadn't thought about in advance.

I'm not quite sure if I'm just deeply horrified and appalled at the man on the bike's attitude or whether I am also just the slightest bit envious. I really don't want to see him again, in case I shriek out at him in my anxiety, and become the very agent that causes him to drop the child - blump - right on her head.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New baby in the world

Over at Ramping it Up there's a new baby boy.

I nearly, almost, quite a lot actually, feel like a baby is a very good idea.

Not likely, though. I don't think my stomach muscles are capable of pushing any more.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


In what seems like an astonishing and unprecedented event we actually finished something at work today.

I feel like cracking open the bubbles. Or going to sleep for a month, one or the other.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Best years of your life

Now, my general feeling is that if I had to travel back in time and live my teenage years over again I'd probably prefer to be lost in time-travel limbo forever in agonising pain (like Meg tessering with her father) than endure the horrors of life between 13-19.

James Roy, in Town, seems to me to have captured the ghastly horror of teenage existence most accurately. Which makes me suspect that if I were a teenager now (through either time travel or just having been born 20-odd years later than I was) I would avoid this book like the plague. I spent most of my teenage years with the feeling that I was doing the wrong thing. Actually, I think it was two feelings - one that I was doing something bad and that there might be Consequences, or the other one that I was doing whatever I should be doing not very well actually. I never felt the need to turn to literature to confirm that other people felt like this as well. I usually wanted to read books about children or young people saving the world, or otherwise adults having quite other feelings, such as jadedness, awe, pride or prejudice.

Roy's characters have a bijou little story-ette each - a chapter really I suppose. The collection together constructs a version of a country town seen through the unforgiving, but oddly uncritical, eyes of its young. Awful. Each chapter belongs to a month, as well, so its possible to trace the stories of some characters throughout the book, although others clearly have very little impact on the lives of their schoolmates.

In 'October - The Rule of Threes - Warwick' the narrator, Warwick, tells what it's like when three kids at school die. One is the little brother of a class mate, one is a friend of a girl Warwick thinks is 'hot' and one is someone he was friends with in primary school but hasn't talked to in a long while. Warwick notices other peoples grief, he feels the disaster of young people dying, he imagines how his mother would feel if it was him or one of his brothers. It's a moment of emotional sensitivity to other people, but not much awareness of how it changes Warwick himself or how he even feels about what's happened. Roy captures these feelings perfectly. Adults sometimes seem to think these traumas should mature young people, but I think it just messes them up.

The next story, 'November - Rotational Forces - Hattie' jumps to the sister of the girl who died. Earlier we found out that Hattie is smart, outspoken and funny. She seems happy and confident, and her home life comes as a shock. She calls her mother The Mayor and her father The Chemist and they just can't leave each other or their kids alone. One of the naughty boys of the school is half in love with Hattie's poise and intelligence, although he can hardly even admit it to himself.

UQP have published the book, and it's ace. It won a prize in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards. I hope lots of school libraries have bought a copy, because I'm not sure who else would. I suspect it might be a book that adults buy for teenagers rather than one that teenagers buy for themselves. In my experience teenagers were buying Terry Pratchett, stuff about vampires or Penguin Classics and poetry. Very young teenagers certainly bought plenty of YA fiction, but usually romance or fantasy (or both) or adventure novels. Maybe the bookshops I had much to do with didn't attract the right sort of teenagers.

But I hope many people read Town, because it's worth reading. Even if it does give me that creeping, ripply, you're-doing-the-wrong-thing sort of feeling that I thought I'd almost grown out of.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Prize winning effort

Yesterday the Noodle won his class's annual prize for effort at combined assembly. The husband attended, and said that the Noodle's teacher stood up and explained why he won the award, and then he was called up to the front to receive his prize. Which was a book - Pirateology.

His teacher said he always tries his best, even if P.E., and that he will try absolutely anything going. He's such a mixture of nervous and astonishingly brave.

Proud? I am!

The Penguin Book of First World War Stories

One of the purchases from The Book Grocer last week was The Penguin Book of First World War Stories, edited by Barbara Korte and Ann-Marie Einhaus. I think I've been seduced into World War I fiction by Pat Barker's Regeneration trilogy. One of the nicest things about historical fiction written about another part of history, but written more-or-less in your own part of history is the ease with which one can understand the points of view and prejudices of the characters. The very best historical fiction does a damned lot of explaining for the reader (without those didactic asides or weird anachronisms. Not that I'm against weird asides or didactic anachronisms. I quite liked Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell).

The written-at-the-time historical stories, though, hit a person quite differently. It's the unexamined patriotism that's the hardest to accept. Not all the stories fall into the 'war is hell' genre, and not all of them fall into the 'join up to be a hero' genre either, although both are strongly represented. The first story, 'The Bowmen' by Arthur Machen, tells of mystic longbowmen from Agincourt striking down 10,000 German soldiers. Frankly, it's very odd indeed. Others include a weird garden and a big dog, a ghost soldier who can't make friends with the new owners of his house, a women who builds her whole life about mourning her brother and another women who resents having no one to mourn.

The oddest, though, is 'His Last Bow' in which Sherlock Holmes defeats a rotten German spy by sending a cleaning lady to look after the scoundrel. I'm not sure that a super spy, even in the very early 20th century, would a)confide in his cleaning lady, or b)keep all his secret letters hidden behind a curtain in pigeon holes labelled with the names of each secret. Obviously a person who respects tidiness more than victory. It may be comforting to think that your enemies are a bunch of wallies, at least until you prove unable to beat them. I guess that makes you look a bit silly as well.

All the stories are from the allied point of view, indeed, mostly British. There's nothing German or Turkish or Australian here at all. I didn't notice that until just then. There's one story about French people, written by an American woman, and one by Katherine Mansfield. Some of the stores are by Scottish or Irish people, though.

Incidentally, one of my favourite World War I stories is The Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederic Manning (Australian, but doing a fine impersonation of the English class system). The other name of it is the rather unfortunate Her Privates We.

The Noodle, on the other hand, is reading considerably funnier books. He's just finished the entire series of The Floods by Colin Thompson. And he's giving The Muppet Show Annual a thorough going over as well. He has two series of the Muppet Show on DVD, which is bringing joy to my heart. All the classics are there, including Pachalafaka, Dr Bob, Pigs in Space and many, many monsters eating people. The Noodle is particuarly delighted by things fallen down on Wayne and Wanda and Crazy Harry's diverse explosions.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Hiphopapotamus vs Rhymnocerous (or Noodle vs Mum)

We showed the Noodle this extract (with parental talking loudly over certain moments as a Highly Sophisticated Censorship Technique - pass it on the Stephen Smith), because we thought it would make him laugh when the Hiphopapotumus said "I'm the Hiphopapotamus and my lyrics are bottomless" and then he couldn't think of anything else to say. O yea, it made the Noodle verily laugh like a drain. Hilarious.

Short term outcome has been a very amusing afternoon of the Noodle vs the Mum. Being a charming and non-competitive young fellow though he decided that we should not be in competition but should take over from each other when someone couldn't think of another rhyme in the spirit of cooperation. My lefty, pinko, greeny heart was warmed. Except I was laughing too hard to be sentimental.

His best rhyme was fooooood with illooooooo-(next line)sion. My worst rhyme was tasty with wasty (ie you shouldn't throw away food that is not tasty, because that would be very wasty. Eminen can look out - we'll take him on any day. (Or if Eminem is too, too utterly five minutes ago, we'll take on whoever the contemporary version is, provided that they don't have guns or hang around with Lil Kim, cos she's scary).

Plus I learned how to embed a You Tube video. It wasn't hard. A person needs more ambition.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

So, Obama wins the presidency

I was especially busy with a particularly pointless bit of labour while at work today, so I didn't get to hear the speech or anything. But I did manage to find a few moments to visit the Washington Post and find out the news. I was quite astonished that McCain had conceded so soon. But then looking at the figures I guess he had no choice.

The cynical part of me thinks that nothing much will change in the world, but the optimistic part of me thinks that something pretty amazing has already changed. I'm so heartened that so many Americans rejected the cynical battle metaphors of the Republicans, and rejected the assumption that it's perfectly OK to take money from the poor to redistribute to the rich, but it's somehow dirty to take money from the rich to redistribute to the poor.

On the teev Kerry O'Brien is giving Wayne Swan a hard time. Frankly, it's an uneven contest. Swan sounds like he might cry.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Hon Joe Hockey

Facebook wanted to know if Joe Hockey was a friend of mine.

It seems I have a more politically diverse group of online (and real life) acquaintances than I thought. I wish this didn't make me feel as smug as it does. I don't really care to analyse my feelings either (because self-congratulatory tolerance is usually prejudice masquerading as something nicer, and it's usually a pretty thin veneer at that, and I quite like the person who I believe is responsible for this in the it's a pleasure to see them unexpectedly kind of way and I still like them even post-chat).

I must say, though, that some people inhabiting positions that seem extremely, ludicrously, climate-change denyingly right wing to me describe themselves as moderate. I can only imagine how remote from moderate they think I am. Actually, I don't have to imagine it. I am sure they think that I am extremely, ludicrously, climate-change radically left wing.

However, I think that the Hon Joe Hockey can exist without online expressions of good will from me today.

I'd be utterly charmed to friend Bob Brown, though. Or the local rocket scientist.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Melbourne Cup Day

We went down to the ACTTAB to place our bets. The husband dropped a massive eight dollars total - two dollars each way on Mad Rush and another horse who didn't win whose name I forget already. I dropped a massive four dollars - one dollar each way on Nom de Jeu and Alessandra Volta. I had my money's worth out of Alessandra Volta's temporary lead.

The Noodle spent one dollar each way on C'est le Guerre. He won $7.80, of which the husband returned $5.80 to the son, since the son prudently refused to gamble his own money this morning. The Noodle spent $3.00 on a vanilla cornetto and his put the rest in his money tin.

He also suggested that if he had a race horse he'd call it 'Horse'.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Incredibly talented people I went to school with episode 1

Actually, not sure how many episodes there are, since I lost touch with nearly everyone from school pretty much a day and a half after it finished. But recently, thanks to the magic of Facebook, I came across Darrin Archer. I knew he was a wildly talented jazz musician because his brother told me (he also comes from the kind of family who are likely to say nice things about each other). But the good thing is it inspired me to google him, and now I can bring you a link to a sample of jazzly goodness.

I shall be forking over my $$$. Not today, though, because I spent too much money at the Book Grocer on Juvenal and Nick Hornby's music reviews.


Our house has been a bit stressy lately. Actually, that's not true - there has been no earthquakes or subsidence or mudslides to stress the house. It's the people inside the house that have been anxious and irritable.

The husband has submitted his thesis. He's in that twilight world of waiting for the results and wondering what to do next.

The son has been doing assessment at school. I don't remember being stressed about assessment when I was in Grade 1. Actually I'm not sure if I even noticed there was such a thing. More proof that my child is smarter than me. But he claims he's worrying about that, so I suppose I must believe him.

I have been worrying about work. It's been like the experience of doing group work at uni, where one group member never turns up until the day before assessment, and then insists on forcing the rest of the group to change everything. Except, unlike uni, you don't get to complain to the tutor about what a prat this other group member was. You just have to accept that you all look like prats and get on with the next thing.

Also the adults have been drinking too much coffee.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Sister Buckle

Seriously, this blog is the first thing that has made me feel homesick for Brisbane since I left.

And as Mary Rose McColl once told me, Finish Your Thesis!