Monday, September 29, 2008


You know, it's not Sydney's fault that it's full of quality. Great beaches, great weather, great bridge, great museums. They've got everything except affordable housing and decent conversation. Even their public transport isn't as bad as they think it is. They have trains, the lucky beggars. Trains that go places.

But the thing the city has to offer us at the moment is quality medical care. So ta for that.

We'll soon be off for another round of medical tests for the Noodle. The news from the last round came back, and was neither good nor bad. More news needed.

Songs I wish I'd written

Today I wish I'd written Dive for your memory by Robert Forster. It's been a long time since I was unlucky in love, but that one makes me remember what it felt like.

If the cliffs were any closer
If the water wasn't so bad
I'd dive for your memory
Through the rocks and the sand

But, of course, it's too much trouble, to do even that, which is why things went rotten in the first place.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Post Grand Final Post

I think I spoke too soon. The Noodle proved to be very *ahem* sensitive to the tension of the Grand Final. He was expecting Geelong to win. It shouldn't have come of a surprise to me, since he was in tears watching the finale of Scrap Heap Challenge last week.

Afterwards we went to the Canberra Nara festival, and wondered whether Nara holds a Canberra festival and what on earth they would do there. This festival had koto music, calligraphy and kite flying. But the best bit was the candles. The Nara Park has a dry watercourse, which was filled with tea lights so that the whole thing was a flickering stream of light. Actually, it was a bit like the bit in The Spellcoats where Tanaqui enters the river and the souls are streaming through the shimmering light. It was actually quite hard to tell if the candles were sitting in water or not in the dim, moving light.

People keep telling us that Canberra folk don't turn up to stuff, but tens of thousands of them seem to go to all the same places we do. With little kiddies.

I had to miss a picnic in the park earlier in the day, though, because of other obligations. However, Happy Birthday.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Grand Final

Alas for the Brisbane Lions. Have defaulted to barracking for Geelong, although I have no good reason for this. I did once have a quite tasty pie in Geelong, but I've had much more fun in Hawthorn over the years, so it can't be that simple.

The Noodle's first Grand Final was the 2002 tension-o-rama between the Lions and Collingwood. He was not quite one, and despite his bold flag waving, was horrified by the intense barracking of his Dad. His Dad was overwhelmed by the tension himself, and had to keep going for little strolls around the front garden. The 2003 Grand Final was less exciting, but there were no tears, and no one had a stomach ache.

I have nothing to say about 2004. Nothing at all.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sweet Valley Spy

Walker Books haven't quite stopped sending me review copies of YA and children's books yet. They are so good at publicising their books that they just can't let go. Great for me, though, because they have sent me two books that gallop along at such a pace that they even gave the illusion of speed to my loathesome bus journey.

The first one may be the silliest book I've ever read, and I can tell you there's plenty of competition. Cross my heart and hope to spy by Ally Carter tells the story of Cammie Morgan, a teenage genius who attends the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women. But oh! she's not a normal teenage girl, indeed no. She's a spy in training, and so are all the other Gallagher Girls. The book lacks the kick-arse action of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider series, or the completely crazed Cherub series by Robert Muchamore. I suppose the prom scene and the flirting have to make up for it. While I can't imagine how I missed the first one in the series (sarcasm is Not Nice, but there you go), here is the US cover to give you a very accurate sense of where the books are coming from. Sweet Valley High meets James Bond, and calls him a hottie.
The other one Walker sent me was Bloodline by Katy Moran.

Bookbag has a review:
Katy Moran's story, though, comes to us fully-formed, credible, and utterly absorbing. It's without the tiniest trace of anachronism and has great attention to detail, right down to the diction.
They also thank the good people at Walker for sending it. Thanks indeed. This one is a corker. I wish Moran had written it when I was twelve or so, so I could have re-read it a few dozen times while I was especially impressionable. (And I secretly put in on the list of 'books I wish I'd written' as well').

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


The Noodle just refuses to eat chicken. A person has considered fibbing about it, and pretending that the mysterious white meat in the dish is pork, turkey, duck or gluten-based fake chicken.

A person feels that would be inappropriate.

Sometimes, though, he forgets to ask until after he's already eaten it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Anne Shirley's womanly bosom

So, recently I've been thinking quite a lot about breastfeeding. And also quite a lot about Anne of Green Gables, although the two didn't really come together for me until this morning on the bus. The Linda McIver article plus Ramping it Up talking about the righteousness faced by mothers really made me think. And it's years since I breastfed anyone on the bus!

Anne, of course, had quite the parcel of children herself. Not in the first book, although she had spent her pre-Avonlea years caring for toddlers and whatnot. She probably had a reasonably good grasp of the issues of breastfeeding. Now, I don't know how the late 19th and early 20th century regarded women's breasts and the suckling of babies thereon, and I haven't decided yet whether I'm interested enough to find out. If there's a good book written in amusing and easily digested prose then I'd be keen.

But anyway, Anne must have known all about it, and so must Marilla. I'm not sure I'd trust Gilbert's opinion, though. I think he had a tendency to be blinded by science (although things worked out OK in Anne's House of Dreams for Lesley).

The various articles about breastfeeding, and the general sense that many women perceive disapproval of passers-by when feeding their babies in public areas, (plus one very odd article about Britney Spears's sister telling us that having an exposed breast while feeding you baby = a 'porn storm') made me think that attitudes to women and children are Very Odd Indeed. As if I didn't know this already, but sometimes it just hits the side of your head - whoomp - likely a particularly stupid pigeon in King George Square.

But what would Anne think?

Disclosure: while I fed my baby from my own womanly bosoms until he was fifteen months old I was myself a formula baby. I've decided to blame all my shortcomings on this, and sheet the guilt home to my mother. It's the modern way!

Plus I don't remember anyone disapproving of me feeding my son anywhere. Either I hang out in enlightened and sensitive places, or I am myself completely insensible to criticism. I'm betting on B.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Great Australian Albums - Human Frailty

I have watched all of the SBS Series of Great Australian Albums. Apart from the Murder Ballads epidosde I would say that they have all been rather bitsy. While it's certainly enjoyable hearing the music and listening to band members chat about their histories and ideas the Australian series lacks any clear focus. Unlike the British series there's not much information about how songs were created or recorded, which is a damn shame. There's something about process documentaries that is just too fascinating. I can't resist (which is no doubt why I'm also addicted to Grand Designs).

But I watched last night's episode with a particular enthusiasm, having been an outer-suburban fan of the Hunnas as an impressionable, but hard-rocking, fifteen year old. I remember seeing them at Festival Hall, with Paul Kelly and another band that I can't remember. It must have been in early 1988 or 1987, since I was old enough to attend gigs, but was still collected by the parent of one of the other girls rather than making my own way home.

One comment by several of the band members, and by the guy from the Fauves (not sure why his commentary was more relevant than anyone else's, but at least we were spared Ben Lee), was that Hunters and Collectors were caught needing to court the outer-suburban, beer-barn yobs to sell records and hold big shows. But that they were, in fact, gentle and sensitive folk who had Things To Say About Emotions, and really should have not needed to pander to such an audience. The assumption about the yobbish blokes singing along to Say Goodbye was that they only cared about the rocking rhythm section, flannos and blokey aesthetic.

My hackles were raised by this. Now, growing up on the extreme suburban/rural fringes of Melbourne has given me a pretty thorough grounding in outer-suburban yob culture. I would not defend much about it. Like most of the members of Hunters and Collectors I removed myself to the inner suburbs at the first opportunity (which was pretty much the day after schoool finished). And I do remember having a good old chuckle with my best mate at all those sweaty, unattractive blokes shouting 'you don't make me feel like I'm a woman anymore'.

But I thought, why not ask the question, what were those blokes getting out of Hunters and Collectors? Why did the songs mean so damn much to them? Maybe the emotions, learning to be an adult, falling in love, falling out of love, not being able to fall in or out of love, all had something to do with it. But no one asked those questions, because it's just easier to sneer at yobs from the suburbs. Easy, quick and utterly boring.

Nearly all of us come from the suburbs. Might as well face reality.

Otherwise the show was fun, in a kind of not-very informative way. Toby Cresswell comments at the SBS website that he had to ask Nick Cave about the process rather than the feelings and stories of Murder Ballads. I wish he'd applied the same method to his other shows.

Listening to: Born Sandy Devotional, 16 Lover's Lane, Everybody Digs Bill Evans.

Reading: Boofheads by Mo Johnson. Which tends to indicate that advances in telecommunications technology have not altered suburban blokey yob culture. I'm so glad I never, ever have to be a teenager again. This book confirms my strongly held view that I would choose death over a return to teenage years any day.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Handy hint

The day that you decide to visit Floriade is not a good day to forget to take your hay-fever medicine.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Less waiting

Well, one piece of news turned up.

Still waiting for some medical results for the Noodle. During the first half of this year we had an almost doctor-free period. Anyone who has experienced the appointment and intervention roundabout will understand what a pleasure that was. Anyone who has not experienced the roundabout probably doesn't think about it much. Blessings upon them, and hoping that they stay free of doctors forever, or at least until twenty or so years after retirement.

But since July we've had a pretty doctor-intensive period - although nothing like the months after the Incident, or even the period of time after the Noodle's initial (non-)diagnosis.

We've been to Sydney twice, to both of the children's hospitals. Mysteriously, in Sydney they don't seem to think that bringing all their patients to out-patients or specialist clinic at the same time and letting them all wait for hours is a good idea. Perhaps they could send a time and motion expert to Brisbane to advise.

I hope the results come next week. The news will be neither good nor bad. But the more information the better. It'll help us know what we should be concerned about, and we what we don't need to be concerned about.


Me: 501 low-fat recipes

the Noodle: Samurai Kids: The White Crane.

Me and the Noodle: The Wind on the Moon by Eric Linklater

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Waiting and waiting and waiting

So you're waiting for some news. It's likely to be bad news, but the slim possibility of it being good news won't quite let itself be ignored. Hitchcock decides to make a movie about the waiting period. Henry James writes a book about it. A life-time of television soaps waxes and wanes, filled with incident but lacking the all important resolution.

The phone rings. The news is not good, exactly, but it could be worse.


Monday, September 15, 2008

$50 words

The Noodle has a homework assignment that has, no doubt, a sound pedagogical purpose. Each letter is allocated a dollar value - A = 1 and Z = 26. You can figure out the rest.

The task is to create words worth certain amounts - $20, $50 and $100.

We thought it would be easy. It's not. Give it a try and see how many hours of your life can be sucked away trying to find just one $50 word.

The wheels of the bus

Helen Irving asks where the power for the High Court to make judgements on whether or not things are constitutional comes from. Then, of course, she has to ask the next question - where does the power to make the constitution come from. There are all sorts of sensible historical and legal answers, of course. The British Parliament, precedent, convention and so on.

But another sort of answer is convention and acceptance. The power exists because none of us object to it enough to complain, lobby or revolt. And that, as far as I can tell, sums up why our democracy works. We obey laws that are convenient for us or laws that match our everyday behaviour. We obey laws that give us benefits or don't require anything of us (which is nearly all of them nearly all the time). We theoretically obey some laws because there are unpleasant consequences if we don't, but I don't think it really works like that. I think most of us obey the law because it's slightly more convenient for us to do so than it isn't.

Think of jaywalking, for example. Only the most law-abiding or timid citizen has never jaywalked. Especially in Canberra where the traffic is frequently light or entirely absent. We disobey those particular traffic laws because it's more convenient for us to break the law. And Melbournians, as we all know, are notorious fare evaders. Some people seem to look at the law and decide that the benefits of tax evasion, fraud, bank robbery or whatever are worth more than the mild benefits of obeying the law. So the law has no power over their ideas, and no power to make them respect the decision makers of the land. Those people (and possibly several other millions) don't care a jot if the High Court has power to decide questions of constitutional law, or whether the constitution accurately describes the structures of power within Australian institutions.

I'm not trying to argue that individuals are not subjected to state power. That would be stupid. It's just, you know, lawyers seem to think that legislative power, constitutional power, parliamentary power mean a lot more to day-to-day life than it appears to most people. I dunno. The bus timetable has more power over me some of the time, because it's imposed on me and I have absolutely no choice in the matter. I can do nothing but comply or walk home.

And this is why these long but not especially insightful thoughts on power exist at all. If I hadn't been on a 55 minute bus journey to travel a distance that would be 14 minutes in the car I would never have had the time to even think of these issues. Public transport and power - now there's something to think about.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Struggling with creativity

Last night I watched the SBS program on great Australian albums, and it was on Murder Ballads by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It teased out a good deal about how songs were written for the record, and the process of translating them into something that a whole band could play together. The slightly steely looks from Mick Harvey tended to indicate that the process was quite fraught at times, and that if only he could have produced the same thing without having to depend on a lot of other people's creativity he might have found it easier (which is only my interpretation, not his).

I've been watching my husband struggling at home to write a series of short stories for the research component of his Masters in creative writing. It's been painful, because he hasn't had any feedback at all through the process this time. I think he decided to do it that way deliberately, but it's made the whole writing process painful and isolating. Or that may be moving to a new town where we don't really know anybody, and the Brisbane Lions are very far away.

At work I no longer have to sit in a room by myself and try to figure out how ideas should fit together with words, and then present them to someone else for evaulation. I don't own any of my ideas at work, and they always have to fit together with a whole bunch of other people's ideas. They never stand alone. I like it. I've always thought I was a sitting alone in the garret kind of person, but I think I'm actually a group of talkative people, butcher's paper and textas kind of person. I never, ever want to go back to my lonely pursuit of originality.

My son has just been doing his maths homework and singing.

Me - Five Things to Know About the Australian Constitution by Helen Irving, which has already mentioned more than five things, but has endeared itself to me by comparing learning about the constitution with travelling from Hobbiton to Mordor. I'm not sure if that makes the Governor-General Sauron, but I'll see how it turns out in the end.

Noodle - just started reading Lemony Snickett's Series of Unfortunate Events. I think he is utterly horrified, but enjoying himself considerably.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Back to blogging

Twelve months might seem like a long break, I suppose. It's been a big year.

Relocated to Canberra, started working for the public service and stopped trying to do the PhD. Bliss. Not being a postgraduate student is about the best feeling ever. In fact, I recommend everyone start a PhD and then drops out of it, on the same principle that you should hit yourself on the head repeatedly with a rock, because it feels so good when you stop. I don't know how long the feelings of relief, lightness and joy will last, but basically it's been like a year of honeymoon.

And being a public servant is surprisingly satisfactory, despite the fact that many of my colleagues do, in fact, wear grey suits. Not all of them though.

And last night I managed to attend the Prime Minister's Literary Awards. The Prime Minister was there, although for considerably less time than any of the other attendees. None of the rest of us had to rush off to continue running the country. There was some elevated company, including the Minister for the Arts (not dancing), Tom Kenneally, Rhys Muldoon (from Playschool!!!!) and diverse booksellers, publishers and delightful people who administer the Public Lending Rights. Bless them. They are clearly good hearted and generous souls, and not only with sharing of government money.

If I had been tempted to get above myself by swanning around Parliament House eating prawns and sipping bubbling wine I was positively deflated by having to wait half an hour for a bus to get home afterwards. Canberra public transport is more of an aspiration than a practice.

It was odd being at a book event with so few Brisbane literary celebs. In fact, I don't believe it's constiutional to hold such a thing without any ex-students from QUT creative writing attending, so it was lucky I was there. Phew.

Oh, and my column got cancelled last week, so I have plenty of time to blog. Lucky me.