Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, &tc

Penni has an even more than usual touching, insightful and beautiful post over at Eglantine's Cake.

The Noodle was rather disappointed in the fireworks put on in the heart of the nation. I guess they are saving the good stuff for Australia Day and Skyfire (whenever that is). Didn't like the soft serve icecream available much either, although I feel that the two people in the icecream van more than earned their money.

He is also worried that the people flying over Antarctica at midnight to celebrate the new year were not wearing their seatbelts. How do a train a child to be marginally less of a law-abiding spirit without unleashing chaos and anarchy?

Today we essayed swimming in Lake Burley Griffin. Without it being utterly unpleasant, it is not something I could recommend to others. Nearby rivers (eg Murrimbidgee and Cotter) are definitely the better option for a dip.

New year's resolution? Um, more rivers, less computer? That sounds all right.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The hits of Christmas

Junior has been very pleased with the UFO from the Tasmanian branch of the family. It really, really flies and hovers. If only we had some very tiny cornfields around here. The cricket ball on a piece of elastic for practising batting has likewise been a hit (geddit?) and seems also to have improved the abilty to put bat and ball in the same place at the same time.

Great-grandpa's ABC Shop voucher has been spent (what else) on a book about cricket. The Noodle has yet to find time to ring Grandpa and say thank you, since he has pretty much had his head in said book ever since. He has stopped to eat, but there has been a definite delay.

The Newton's Cradle was likewise a hit with the Noodle and with Melbourne cousin (nearly 14). In fact, it has been such a hit that it may not recover.

Other hits include glazed ham, Mr Kipling's mince pies and some very tasty blue cheese as chosen by the Noodle. Unexpected guests have come to entertain us and contribute to eating our left overs, so it has been all very satisfactory all around.

Now stuff will start to happen again, but for today we are off to swim in some nearby river and eat sandwiches of leftover cheese and greenery.

Hope you are all recovering from the festivities and looking with refreshed rather than exhausted eyes to the new year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Guiness Book of World Records

The Noodle says that he must call the Guiness Book of World Records to tell them that he is the boy with the most Christmas presents in the whole world.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Christmas everyone

I shall pass on words of wisdom from co-workers.

1. Don't come back maimed (!)
2. Stop eating before you have a stomach ache.

They are generally more cheerful than that makes them sound.

Have safe, wonderful holidays for those that get holidays.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's my birthday and I'll drink lots of coffee if I want to

So I have. Also have opened presents, watched diverse Christmas carol productions on the telly and mopped the floor. It's quite astonishing how much nicer a clean floor feels to the feet. Happy birthday, feet.

Unsure why there are more carol shows on telly today than on Christmas, given that I am fairly sure I have not become the messiah since last year. But I am not complaining because I do love the Christmas carols. The Noodle sang me Silent Night, Good King Wenceslas and the Twelve Days of Christmas while I was mopping the floor, which made it a much nicer experience than usual.

Now some nice people in England are singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing, bless them.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Good Thing

While generally I think my job is a Good Thing and I quite like doing it, the concept of the weekend is proving particularly attractive this week.

Also, if any of you haven't noticed, it's nearly Christmas. How's that, eh?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sydney, splints and sea

Well, ocean most probably what with staying at Coogee. And harbour, if that is what you say.

The Noodle and I intrepidly caught the bus from the heart of the nation to that other great city, Sydney. I am frequently astonished at the idea of plonking the national capital down in the middle of some sheep paddocks, but when I visit Sydney (or Melbourne for that matter) I remember why it seemed like such a good idea. Now I have always loved Melbourne, and I must say I am developing a much higher appreciation of Sydney's charms now that I am all surrounded by NSW and so on, but I am heartily pleased that neither of them gets to be the boss of Australia. Canberra's rampant inferiority complex can only be healthy for those who attempt to govern bits of the rest of the country.

The bus was very full of people going to have fun in Sydney. Weeee! And one very rude grumpy man.

We fulfilled our health care responsibilities (plain-ish blue AFOs, everyone, which nicely match the school uniform and no comments on insects from the lad).

We checked into our hotel across the park from Coogee Beach, we read our books, we rested, we repaired to the sands. The sands came back to the hotel with us, and a surprising amount made it all the way back to the ACT as well. We have sand enough for a beach, but no balmy ocean, alas.

I was trying to explain to the Noodle how rich you would have to be to live in Watson's Bay but I don't think he believed me. I am such an exaggerator generally that I think he assumed I was pretty much making it up. But no.

But you can go and enjoy the view for the price of a ferry ticket, so who is complaining, what with the perfect blue sky, the flattish like un-ironed linen sea, the sails, the seaplanes, the sand and the plans for world domination.

Reading: Wolf Hall still. What can I say, it's a big book and people keep making me go to work for 7.5 hours a day when I could be reading novels. It's a Booker Prize winner I really wanted to read, and now that I am reading it I still want to read it. Five stars Booker judges.

The Noodle: I just finished reading him Tom's Midnight Garden, which made him cry. It made me cry too. The husband disgusted with both of us. The Noodle is reading the Glory Garden's series to himself again. It has cricket and it is funny! Well. He is mooting reading The Lord of the Rings next. The husband is disgusted with both of us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bear Necessities

So tonight was the primary school concert, with the theme Tunes from the Toons. Displays ranged from Bob the Builder to a Hanna Barbera montage, from kindy to grade six.

Junior's class performed the Bear Necessities from The Jungle Book with a certain enthusiasm. He performed with style and joy.

Last grade 3/4 (with excerpts from The Pirates of Penzance) and grade 5/6 (with an amazing rendition of Grease) were the standouts. This year kindy's Bob the Builder was definitely a highlight, largely thanks to the incredibly bouncy girl in the front row who did not stop jumping for the entire number.

The audience of parents, younger siblings, older siblings and friends went home with smiles on the dials and the kid talked 19 or maybe 99 to the dozen for the next hour. Brilliant. I love our school.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tom's Midnight Garden

I am reading Tom's Midnight Garden to the Noodle as his bed time reading. The book is all about a child with insomnia, so I suppose there is some kind of irony there.

At first the Noodle was expecting it to be a funny book (indicating what he has been reading to himself recently), but once he realised it was more serious he brought his serious attention to the story. He always wants to skip the bits about Uncle Alan becoming irritable at Tom, but he is quite delighted by how Uncle Alan is often wrong, that Tom's experiences are beyond clever Uncle Alan's knowledge and perception.

The Noodle commented last night, as we approach the whole skating-to-Ely bit of the story, that soon Hatty's time will be catching up with Tom's. He figured out that Tom's reasoning about how long ago Hatty's time is might be wrong - the Victorian era was very long indeed and Tom assumes that Hatty is from the very start of it. Which of course she isn't. I am very pleased, because I think that he will find the ending very satisfying. His question was whether or not Tom would go back into the Garden to find Hatty old. I love the way the book explores the different paces of adult time and child time so that a child can understand it.

I myself am reading Wolf Hall. She tries to avoid that trap of historical novels in which the characters that we are interested in have somehow more 'modern' opinions than the others. I wish I didn't have to go to work so I could keep reading it all day and find more things to think about.

I am also reading a manuscript of short stories written by a Brisbane friend which I found in my letterbox when I came home from the beach. After I have told her what I think, I'll tell you all as well, so that you can all immediately read the collection as soon as it is published. I do like having clever (and slightly scary) friends.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

We found the south coast

There's quite a lot of it, and it is not as far away as you think. Unless you live in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, any parts of Queensland (south or north) or Abu Dhabi. Or any other state, territory or continent other than the ACT and parts of NSW. It's very close to the heart of the nation, though. You can drive back without stopping and your legs will only feel very slightly stiff. It takes about the same time as catching the bus to work and back, plus a bit of prevaricating about the bush.

When you drive there from Canberra you go out of the ACT into NSW and then the ACT bulges out a bit and you go through it again. Tricksy.

It is not a good idea to give your child a pie and a smoothie for lunch in Braidwood before descending the range, unless you are missing the 'vomit on Mummy' experience and wish to relive it. Pie and smoothie is much nastier than breast milk and smoodged up sweet potato. Did make it out of the car though, so all respect and gratitude to the Noodle. Humans are much easier to wash than upholstery (this is my best parenting tip). You can get the smell out of humans really, really easily just with soap and water and you don't need any tips from books published by the ABC.

The southerly wind that blows onto the south coast is really, really strong. And makes big waves. Which are not fun for the paddlers and sandcastle users of the beach. The gentle northerly, however, is a champion breeze for both paddling and sandcastle making. The water is nearly warm enough to swim in (which is a sign that we are metamorphing into Canberries, not Queenslanders).

There are many shells at the bottom of the cliff at Mossy Point. Likewise seaweed.

Tides are quite the interesting thing to watch when you have spent many recent years inland.

Moruya is a Very Nice Town. It should have some kind of niceness award. The General Store (which is not in the main street) does a very respectable breakfast and sells a wide variety of colourful lollies. I am less convinced of the charms of Mogo, but there's a good second-hand bookshop there and also it is called Mogo which is kind of fun to say. There's a road nearby called Bimbimbie Drive which is also fun to say and goes to the tune of Mr Plow very well.

Sea is salty. Sand is grainy. Noodle is happy.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Four days of living on coffee and fancy hotel food is less than good for the system.

And it's amazing the amount of traffic in Sydney at midnight.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

On being cool, pretension and personal integrity

So it occurred to me this morning (in the car for a change), that being cool is all about the being able to conform with your subcultural norms effortlessly. Or at least so that it appears effortless from the outside to the other people in that subculture. I say this as a person who never was cool, partly because I never could quite decide which subculture I thought I should be part of while still desperately desiring the approval of people who seemed to occupy a consistent subcultural position. So I often came across as very, very pretentious as a young adult because I was desperately pretending to be something (anything) other than what I was. What I was pretending to be was someone who knew what kind of person they were. And I didn't.

At the same time, I desperately wanted to be an honest and decent person. I still do desperately want to be an honest and decent person but I feel like I compromise on things all the time. But it is much easier to live up to a sense of self when it actually comes from inside rather than outside. It's harder to be utterly pretentious when you are actually doing things that are important to you rather than feeling like you should do them because they are important to someone else. Of course.

And no insights here, but I'm dead sick of being given all these aspirations and coolnesses and false consciousness about what kind of person I should be to be a person worth something that have nothing to do with my idea of what is honest and decent. Or even stylish, for that matter. And I greatly dislike the future teenage years that the Noodle must face as he tries to negotiate all this stuff and every kid has to deal with it as best they can and best never seems quite enough.

And this post was inspired by Ampersand Duck's post on music of the 1980s and 1990s and what happened to her son last week and watching Spiderbait on Rage last night and thinking about all the time I spent as a yoof trying to figure out what other people thought so I could think it too, and how it is much nicer to be a grown up and just think stuff without second guessing every single second of the day and wondering 'am I good enough' all the time.

On the other hand, I really miss wearing flanno shirts in winter, and I had really, really good early 1990s hair.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Not remembering the past

Through Vanessa de Lacy's blog I found Lark, selling all kinds of witty and fun home make things. Including magnets made out of swap cards from the 1970s which makes me want to buy them very much and also makes me want to unpack my cardboard boxes full of stuff I never look at but shift from house to house to see if my very own swap cards are still in there or if my very own swap cards didn't make the cut some time in the past and if I did buy these magnets I would, in fact, be buying back my very own swap cards.

I think it's more likely that it's just that nearly everybody in the 1970s had the very same swap cards.

Vanessa also makes beautiful and covetable things and has a very fine visual Christmas list of things she would like for Christmas. Which makes me think I don't get out op shopping anywhere near enough any more. And that I have been looking at the wrong bits of the immensity of the web recently as well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In which it is hot on the bus

On Monday evening I was coming home from the Gender Rights are Human Rights* exhibition at the Legislative Assembly on the bus. Actually, imagine for a moment that I am stepping on to the bus, inserting my monthly ticket into the bip-beep machine and then sitting down on the side of the bus that I habitually sit on. I have consumed half a glass of sparkling red wine and two canapes (one chicken, one unidentified but tasty).

The bus is an airconditioned bus. But OH NO! The airconditioning is not working. It is hot on the bus. It may not be 37 degrees on the outside, my friends, but oh it most certainly is on the inside. The collection of young people, old people, poor people, people who fear driving and people who believe passionately in sustainable transport sigh heavily and droop.

Until a woman stands up and walks to the front of the bus. She says something inaudibly quiet to the bus driver. The bus driver says audibly loudly 'Oh, sorry!' and stands up and fiddles with some controls. The air begins, gradually gradually, to cool down. The bus driver (who has a separate airconditioning system over the seat) had put the heater on instead of the cooling. So.

How many trips had he made before someone commented? How many old, young, poor, fearful or passionate people fainted or sustained damage to their health? How long did it take to cool down? (I can answer that one, from Civic, across Commonwealth Bridge, down the avenue past Albert Hall and part way round the Circle). How apologetic was the bus driver? (a little bit, but not enough). And how sad and slightly angry was I when I hopped on my un-airconditioned bus on the way home from work this evening to find that it was even hotter than the bus with the heater on? Sigh.

*It's on until Friday if you can get there. You have to go through the security check at the front door of the Legislative Assembly, so remember to take your Swiss Army Knife out of your handbag before you go.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Junior book fan

The Noodle has started his own blog. Because why not?

It is called 'Books I Love by Eddie Nedwards' and it's in the sidebar over there under 'Books I Love'.

In case you don't guess he loves Harry Potter!!!!


In which I am happy to have the kind of life where one of these does not seem needful.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On bookshelves and hypocrisy (or good stuff about Canberra)

Although I hasten to add that that the two are entirely unrelated.

The husband built bookshelves today! I am very impressed that I know someone who can build bookshelves. And in one day. I give you a little time to quietly marvel.

**** **** **** ****

The hypocrisy is about the national capital. I am thrilled and grateful to be living in a place with no traffic congestion or air pollution. I love the trees and space. But this, of course, means that the city is rather thinly spread. We don't have a lot of areas of high population density. The planning also means that employment centres are a lot more spread out than in most 'cities'. There's not one centre, there are several - round the Parliamentary area, Civic, Belconnen, Woden and Tuggeranong. Bottlenecks are rare.

But of course, it's exactly this which makes public transport impossible to run effectively or efficiently. So I take joy in the pleasure of a quiet, clean, well-serviced city and curse curse curse the slow and inconvenient bus system.

But hyprocisy is not the greatest luxury, actually. That would be the pleasure of not having to sit immobile in a car for an hour and a half on a so-called freeway twice a day every day. Oh I cannot tell you the pleasure it brings. Those of you living in congested cities probably notice every day how frustrating it is, but I can tell you, you don't know how badly it burns inside you, how much it weighs you down and makes your life incrementally less bearable until it stops.

Sigh of relief and relief again.

Now, after Paul Keating's anti-Canberra rant many of the locals (introduced and born-and-bred) argued that Canberra was quite nice actually, thanks for asking. Many of them mentioned the lack of traffic as a key benefit. Nay-sayers seized upon this as an indication of what a weakly and unappealing town we have. Nuh. What we have is a town where you can do what you like without the traffic interfering to make the journey hideous, to make every single thing you do every day somehow less pleasant to downright unbearable.

There are many, many delights about the heart of the nation. I live here in a kind of mood of wonder and ease. But the peace of being able to get about and do all the good stuff is certainly a part of it.

This may be the first of a random series called 'stuff I like about my town'. It won't be a hugely frequent series if it is dependent on the excitment of new furnitured, though.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Cake of Green

It is surrounded by the evidence of the husband's literary work habits, because we had to hide the cake in his study so that the Noodle would not spy it and lose the element of surprise. Please note the diverse use of jaffas and fruit sticks to enhance the decorative theme, the very green icing and the toasted coconut pitch. Very proudly I say, 'it could have been worse!'

Down Under Feminists Carnival No. 18

It's here at Wallaby.

I was very pleased and surprised to find myself collected in it. Hurrah.

Lots of good posts about caring and other stuff, including by the glorious Miz Lippy of Ramping it Up.

Friday, November 6, 2009


Junior and I have spent some of our valuable Saturday afternoon time watching the Rock Eisteddfod judging on the telly. I have had, I can tell you, qualms. Qualms about watching telly on a quite pleasant Saturday afternoon in which the Noodle's pliable and ever-developing brains will be Turned to Mush or his eyes will become Square. I think I am channelling my grandmother. If it was winter and we were sitting in front of the heater I could also channel my grandfather and worry about both of us Melting the Fat Around the Kidneys. But for spring this is, thankfully, not an issue.

But I am now qualm-free, because after the judging was over (congratulations to the school who did a mass-dance interpretation of the Grapes of Wrath and the second-place getter who provided a sensitive re-enactment of the Rosa Parks story) we went outside and did a bit of weeding. And the junior has now come up with a fully staged and choreographed performance about the evils of competition and war mongering. He has imagined costumes, musical genres, sets and props. The main characters are two queens striving for some kind of symbolic trophy, while they deplete the resources of their respective countries and allow all of their people to become either a) dead or b) destitute. The dancing is done mostly in mirror image to emphasise that the struggle is pointless, because the two groups are identical.

My idea was a re-enactment of the moon landing, because I thought it would be kind of funny to make kids dress up as astronauts and dance. The Noodle is a person of considerably greater spirit than me.

I never quite understood how people could possibly come up with the grandiose ideas that Rock Eisteddfod entrants seem to consider obligatory. Now I know. Some people just think like that, even when they are gardening. Telly may not, after all, Rot your Brain, but if you watch it you run the risk of Eisteddfod-think seeming somehow reasonable. It's a danger I had never before considered. I choose to see it as 'inspiration' and believe that watching telly in the day time causes the Noodle to be creative and vibrant.

Didn't see any spirit fingers, though.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Satire, or books that make you anxious

So here I am reading more Elizabeth Gaskell. Wives and Daughters, which is unfinished due to the death of the author (not in a metaphorical sense, she just died before she could finish it and also she had just bought a nice house to retire to with her overworked husband, which sounds hardly fair really).

The thing is that Gaskell makes gentle or not-so-gentle fun of many of her characters. Never as broadly as Jane Austen with, for example, Mrs Bennet. Gaskell's characters always have good and well-demonstrated reasons for being the way they are, for their good points and their faults and the ways they frequently grate upon each other's nerves. But unlike Austen, when you are reading about Gaskell's characters you can never be conveniently on the outside, pointing and laughing at the vulgarity of others. You cannot be Mr Bennet at all.

My overwhelming feeling when I am reading about Gaskell's characters is 'oh no, I hope I am not like that'. But fearing all the time that the vanity, pretension, selfishness and silliness are exactly what I am. I never, ever fear that I am like Lady Catherine or Mr Collins but I fear very much indeed that I am like Molly Gibson's selfish and manipulative step mother. I don't really know any other author who quite captures that fear and anxiety about self and uses it to propel the narrative along. The fear of doing wrong, and being seen to do wrong, is very strong in Gaskell's work. Jane Austen's characters either never think of it, or don't really notice that they have done wrong until it's all over and time to prettily repent. Gaskell's characters have to keep deciding to do right (or not to bother) over and over again.

It's clever and funny. But horrible.

(Some horrible people in real life have the same power of invoking 'oh no I'm not like that am I' as Gaskell's characters. I don't know how they do it, but it can infect even the most bubbly, the most serene and the most stable. It's some kind of negative gift, and could be used in warfare or at least espionage).

Monday, November 2, 2009


We've done our national duty by putting ignorant $2.00 each-way bets on horses running in the Melbourne Cup. The TAB are very helpful and have betting cards with 'Melbourne Cup' printed boldly on top so that ignoranties like us don't accidentally bet on the third race at Townsville instead.

We didn't pretend to know anything about horsies or gambling and went for the tried and true 'we liked the name' method, so all of us are betting on Mourilyan. The Noodle might get a place with Basaltico, but I think generally we are unlikely to hit the big time.

TAB was very crowded, but only a few fascinators in the crowd, alas.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Because humans do not live on cake and lollies alone

The Guardian reports that CERN might be churning out results (or ending the universe, which might be an intersting result for other universes out there) by Christmas. Wheeeeee!

I'll have to see if I start having my 'Switzerland disappears down a black hole and wonders how long it will take for the grass to stop growing' dream again this time.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Party party party

So we have:

1 cricket themed cake that is bright green

2 golden snitches for 'Pin the Snitch on Harry Potter'.

2 pictures of Harry Potter on a broomstick (1 for above, 1 for 'Throw the Bludgers at Harry' - a last minute innovation because I forgot to save cans for the roll or bowl a ball a penny a pitch kind of thing).

2 bottles of lemonade

1 bottle of juice

2 pizza bases

divers pizza toppings


38 million lollies

6 goodie bags with mixed goodies

Tomorrow we will have:

6 highly excited children

30 degree heat, and

2 tired parents.

added 1 November, 2.31 pm

Learned things.
Even quite sensible 7 and 8 year old children can squeal quite loud when excited.
Children do not actually eat all that much at parties, especially when they hate the pizza you provide.
One negative child can almost spoil the whole thing, even for kids who are having a very good time.
Children are conservative and do not reward innovation.
Perfectly nice parents do not always equal perfectly nice children.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The way things should look, if it were up to me today

Because I am a bit slow I only found these re-designed to look like classic Penguins Harry Potter covers today. And my brain went boggle and I was consumed with the kind of desire that I haven't had since my fetish for red sneakers earned me a slap on the wrist for false consciousness back in the mid 1990s.

Computer busted again, new-old computer

Funny old neutrinos. Old computer will not play nicely with others. Oh well.

It's been a week with a lot to think about but not so much to write about, so that's all right.

Missed out on getting Rockwiz tickets for the maternal parent in Cairns. You'd think the one time something actually bothers travelling all the way north a person would manage to get hold of tickets. Lament and so on. Waily waily waily. No.

The Noodle had installment one of birthday festivities on Sunday, and all presents were satisfactory to an unexpectedly high degree. This year he finally got the birthday bug and woke us up at 6 am to ask where the presents were. On his grandfather's arrival the first utterance was 'I wonder what you have brought me?'. And horrified embarrassment at the laughter that erupted out of all the adults. We are not used to a mercenary and present-oriented son.

Today at work I made many mistakes. I hope it is not a lasting illness because I feel like a right dill.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Computer has un-busted itself

Apparently it just needed a nice little rest. Lovely.

All is go with the birthday extravaganza preparations. We are (temporarily thank goodness) in possession of high levels of sugar and plastic tat. Even with a fairly minimal approach, we still seem to need a lot of stuff.


The Noodle: he is halfway through Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. He has been halfway through it for days, so I assume he is not enjoying it as much as the others. I didn't enjoy it much either. Apart from Fred and George's joke shop there is precious little fun in it as far as I can remember. However, the Harry Potter monologue has not slowed down, so it is not affecting his pleasure in the Potterverse at all.

Me: Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, by Vincent Lam. As with other Canadian books it is about people having emotional crises and catching the train. These people are doctors, so they eventually earn enough money to start driving their own cars, unlike people in stories by Margaret Atwood or Alice Munro. Although Carol Shields people often have their emotional crises on long-distance drives I suppose. Anyway, in Canada people in stories have emotional problems and also cover long distances. In British stories people seem to go to the beach to have emotional problems. I like Vincent Lam's book generally, but the stories/chapters are either too disconnnected or too connected to really make me feel comfortable reading them. There's no work to do to figure out the connections with events and ideas, but there's no real reason (that I can see) that they need to be disconnected from a kind of narrative line either.

I also just read some Greg Egan short stories, which are thematically linked and kind of form a progression of quantum science and its effect on humans/people. While I very much enjoy Egan's thoughtful speculations, I find that once his characters can start sending themselves as data packets at the speed of light and everyone can live forever that I lose interest. His characters keep questioning whether some meaning is lost for them in these circumstances. I don't have much of an opinion either way on that, but certainly some narrative tension is lost when the (dead) characters can just download themselves again, or when they can erase memories they don't want any more. When they travel to the other side of the galaxy as data on beams of light, they do seem to leave their problems and preoccupations behind. Unlike, say, moving from Melbourne to Brisbane when you find that, horribly, you have brought your prejudices, ignorance and emotional patterns right along with you.

And yesterday our little workpod was sprung eating cheese and fruit instead of working on Friday afternoon, after a really, really busy week. We had a little time spare-ish because we were all waiting for work to come back to us for the next step on the public service merry-go-round. But when the Big Boss looked at us with 'incredulity' we all adopted behaviour that we hadn't manifested since leaving high school with the hanging head, blushing, brazening it out or whichever, So I don't think travelling to the other side of the galaxy would change our collective relationships to authority figures all that much, even if it solved the problem of proximity to them.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Broken computer

My computer is kind of busted, so I will be having a mini break from the blogging.

That's all, except that the Geoscience Australian Open Day was a very Good Thing. You should all go next year if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Three years

So here it is nearly three years since the young son was sick in Spain. It does lend a slightly bitter-sweet feel to the birthday preparations.

Three years ago we had planned to have some kind of cake on the Noodle's birthday and to visit the Picasso museum. We had dragged presents from us and from other relatives half way across the globe. Other presents and cards arrived in the mail - sent from Australia before junior ended up in hospital. It was a too-strange juxtaposition.

The nurses in the intensive care ward made a Happy Birthday sign and stuck it on the shelf next to the Noodle's bed and we brought in birthday cards, but he didn't see them, I think. After we got home his Nana put on a little party for him at her house, but he was still quite fragile and it hurt him that it wasn't really his birthday as well.

The year after he wasn't keen to celebrate too much, and last year he wanted to go to Questacon, so we did and had a wonderful day of science and treats.

So this year we are all quite excited to be hosting a party, even with the associated parental nervousness. And I am feeling very grateful that I don't need to be hyper-vigilant and ready to rush to the hospital any second and glad glad glad not to have to worry every second that he is with someone else that he might get sick and they might not know what to do.

Knock on wood, etc.

Harry Potter, Harry Potter, Harry Potter

The Noodle is up to the Order of the Phoenix. He seems to be over the fear of Voldemort.

We have been hearing a lot about diverse Harry Potter issues. The Noodle tells me he has been doing a lot of serious thinking about it.

Dolores Umbridge is the worst teacher.

Boggart is pronounced Bogart. As in 'Neville's Bogart is Snape'.

Charms and/or Defence Against the Dark Arts is the best subject.

An online quiz that places you in Ravenclaw is disappointing.

Snape is not a sympathetic character to a seven-year-old boy.

Fred and George are the best magicians ever.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


So is it more damaging to your sense of competence to always be working right at the edge of your abilities with the stress and the short deadlines and the working late OR is it the always working comfortably and safely within your boundaries with not much to challenge you at all?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sometimes writing is hard, n'that.

Am having to cudgel the brains at work to try and write something interesting.

It's a terrible about-face from writing at work usually, which is about simplifying ideas and squeezing them onto one page. Interest is rarely an aim.

On the other hand I am having lots of fun cudgeling my brains for birthday present ideas like this and this or this. Well, maybe not the last one.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Reading, reading, small amounts of thinking

So I made the husband borrow me some books on Bourdieu from his university library, because it's a bit outside the expertise of the library we have at work and I feel a bit like I should only get inter-library loans for work-related reading. So I've had speech writing and social inclusion and negotiation and dispute resolution and really I think Bourdieu would be at least as relevant as some of that, but I can't quite sell it to myself yet. Or perhaps I mean I can't quite imagine myself explaining it to my boss quite yet why I need to read more Bourdieu and how it will make me a better public servant. Which I doubt it will, actually, although I am sure it would not make me a worse one.

Anyway, one of the books I thought was kind of a survey of how people in America are using Bourdieu's ideas in their thinking but it has kind of turned out to be really a book about why Americans hate Bourdieu's ideas, and it's been interesting I suppose. I have a tendency to fall in love with the things I find intersting, and some part of my critical thinking turns itself right off.

Also I have been feeling quite sad to realise how far away from all kinds of ideas I am right now. But that's a function of my imagination, not geography.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Party planning

So the Noodle has invited a tasteful amount of children to his birthday party in three weeks. It would have been in two weeks, but his bestest friend is in Shanghai at the moment, so we had to delay.

Kids these days seem to lead a vastly more cosmopolitan life than we did. Our whole burning desire was to go to Queensland, and I never got there until I was 17 thank you very much. These days the kids are off all over the world. Argentina, China, India, anywhere you can think of really.

Sigh. I am only partly consumed with envy.

So for the birthday party we are planning some non-competitive games, because the Noodle is always irritated how some people get prizes and some people don't. He is thinking that if everyone has a goody bag at the end, no prizes are necessary. He is considering whether there should be a prize for statues, but has forbidden pass the parcel outright. I think this has more to do with the fact that he was the only kid who did not get a pass the parcel prize at the last birthday party he attended rather than any kind of ideological commitment.

There will be pizza and frog-in-the-pond. And lemonade. What else is necessary (besides valium and earplugs)?


The Noodle: The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. He says it is hard, but he keeps coming out with all kinds of concepts about time travel and photon teleportation and different dimensions, so he must be getting at least some of it.

Me: Samurai Kids 4: Monkey Fist by Sandy Fussell. The Noodle has already read it since we got it yesterday afternoon, so I stole it and read it on the bus. Which caused some consternation, because he wanted to read it again when he got home from school this afternoon. Oops

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Back from the north

Which, being Brisbane, used to seem like the far south to us Queenslanders, but to us Canberrans looks and feels like a dream-world of the north with the jacarandas, the sunshine and the tiny beads of sweat on the skin. 'It's not humid at all' the Brisbane-dwellers say, in a tone of similar bewildered outrage to those comments on the ABC news site saying 'but Australia is not a racist country'.

And Brisbane is indeed quite humid and Australia, well.

The kid had a fine holiday, where no one expected anything of him at all except that he relax and have a good time and entertain himself if he got bored, which is surely the best kind of school holiday experience a person can have after all.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Life with no kid

It seems to involve movies, DVDs and junk food. About 90% of my day-to-day energy seems to be generally consumed by attempting to not be a bad role model to the junior. While he is away I have kind of, um, relaxed a bit.

Not sure if the stress involved in trying to be good is worse for the kid than the high levels of exposure to junk food and laziness would be if I gave up trying to be good.

Let's just say I may have eaten apple pie for breakfast, and I'll leave the maths up to you all.

The Noodle, on the other hand, has been quite busy up there in Queensland. Apparently.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


The lad has gone north for a week, and we are not quite sure what to do with ourselves. But we did get to spend a couple of hours at the Lifeline Book Fair today without that refrain of 'can we go home now. It's time to go home. We've been here long enough. Can we go home now'. We spent the time choosing books about cricket for old Noodle, and rustled up a copy of David and the Phoenix as recommended by Charlotte's Library. It's much easier to choose books for him when he's not there. I don't know what that means.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Things of which the Noodle is afraid:

1. Voldemort

2. Singing in front of other people

3. The Big Bang

Things the Noodle loves:

1. Harry Potter books

2. Singing with other people

3. Cosmology

Monday, September 21, 2009


I couldn't give him the experiences of my childhood, not even if he wanted them.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The chores of spring (no symphony, alas)

Including spring cleaning, of course, although I don't propose to write about that in case I give anyone the impression of competence.

This morning we collected the Noodle's new glasses - two stylish pairs, one with dark grey frames (plus tiny Spongebobs) and one with blue. He looks very stylish and intellectual, and even more laughably like his father than usual. I am so glad he has inherited my mutant little toes and pointy chin, because otherwise I would doubt the connection at all. Although he does have an expression when concentrating or mildy irritable (being closely related emotions in this family) that is comically like my Mum. When very irritable, on the other hand, he looks so much like his Yaya that it is beyond frightening. In that mood I would quite happily back him against the White Witch (with or without turkish delight).

He was pretty irritable when he found out he had to have glasses. One more thing to worry about, one more constant little intervention to add to his AFOs, his exercises and his constant anxiety about getting sick or having to have more tests. But now that he has the glasses he seems quite excited. It rather helps that one of his idols at school has also recently started wearing glasses. Thank goodness for that, I say. He doesn't have to wear them all the time, but he's decided to wear them to school on Monday to see how it goes.

Monday is also dress up day at school, as a gold-coin fundraiser for the RSPCA. The idea is to go costumed as something starting with R, S, P, C or A. We were thinking 'pirate' because that is an easy outfit that can be made up out of old ballet cossies, scarves and other bits and pieces. But then, while looking through the dress-ups archive box I found an old knight's costume that a friend brought back from England one year. It still fits! So now he is going as a crusader, and although he is not sure that he wishes to represent the philosophy of crusading as such he is pretty darn chuffed with the fake chain mail, the foam sword and the extraordinarily brilliant shield we have made out of red and black cardboard. The Noodle's design has a sword on one side and a snake on the other and at this point I would like to say that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

My cutting and pasting is outstanding. By which I mean that anyone who is an artist or person who habitually cuts and pastes such as a scrapbooker might say 'hmm yes' and politely change the subject if I showed it to them, rather than laughing until they fell down, which is more my usual standard.

The Noodle has decided he will be either a computer game designer or a theoretical physicist when he grows up. I still haven't decided what I want to do when I grow up, but am extremely impressed at the way children have progressed from such things as 'nurse' or 'astronaut'.

Now I am going to go and compile a short, mental list of the things I just absolutely must do before I clean the bathroom, starting with a cup of coffee.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cherry blossom

The cherry trees are blooming at the Japanese Embassy on Adelaide Avenue.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Parenting is not all about stuff

The Hoydens are having a great discussion about feminist parenting and how it is actually not, you know, all about depriving your children of pop culture experiences but is, you know, about engaging with your child and the world around you in a conscious and aware sort of a way.

And that, you know, there is actually more to a parent/child relationship and a child's relationship to their world than the stuff they own.

Anyway, as everyone in Melbourne knows, parenting is really all about indoctrinating your child to barrack for the correct team. *

*for people outside Melbourne you can read this sentence as a flippant joke. Melbournians, carry on.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Little Women - Jo is like me

I am reading the Noodle Little Women. Why not, I thought to myself, he might enjoy it.

I can say he is. He is identifying strongly with Jo, just as much as bookish girls do, and he is loving the way Meg dresses herself up and laughs at Amy's efforts to use the fifty cent words. It is most gratifying. He is already asking if there are any sequels.

The Noodle is reading the Little House books to himself. I've been a bit reluctant to give them to him, because I have issues with many of the political attitudes. I seem to remember some great essays on the topic in The Horn Book magazine, but I don't have electronic access to it anymore. Francis Spofford also has a damn good chat in The Child that Books Built. It isn't just the racism of Ma's attitude to 'Indians' or the assumption of progress in the pioneers march across America, it's the moral narrowness and the emphasis on independence rather than collective achievement.

Better than I'd hoped, though, a lot of the attitudes have brought on some great conversations about attitudes from the past and how things change.

The Noodle also wishes to know why Jo can't just wear trousers if she wants to. Good question.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Came home to a lovely thank you card, with a photo of potential parents on one side and a photo of the yet-to-be born child as well.

It's a lovely reminder that, at a distance from our day to days, existing lives and brand new lives are getting ready.

Plus it's a great excuse to browse at etsy for baby clothes and toys. Not quite as soothing as googling trifle recipes, but not far off either.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Toes over the edge

Am recovering from hideous allergies.

Am unsure if I can recover from the cliff hanger at the end of series 2 of Battlestar Galactica.

Am even less sure if I can recover my self esteem after resorting to the hope that they will use the 'it was just a dream'* escape route. Much like President Roslin, I am unsure if I can forgive myself for that ethical lapse.

If you know what happens at the start of series 3, please don't tell me. But you could send me the Dvd in express post. That would be nice. And if you find my dignity, you might as well keep it. I clearly won't be needing it for a while.

*Problem is, I just don't believe that Starbuck would really grow her hair like that. It seems even more implausible than all that other stuff. Really. No really. It must be just a dream with that hair. Ack. Or do we have a whole next series of telling us how they got there, but then not how they escape? A series long cliff hanger. Gods of Cobol, save us!!!! Remember what I said about my dignity up there - now you know what I meant.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

On being the Prime Minister

Clearly no one in this household is prime ministerial material, because we cannot watch the footy with a calm sense of enjoyment. The Noodle cries, I get a stomach ache and the husband gets furious.

Be glad we are not running the country. Mr Rudd seems to enjoy himself but takes it all calmly. He does, however, force his sixteen year old son to wear a suit to the footy, which is kind of weird.

Brisbane Lions - one point ahead at half time.

Edited - more importantly, seven points ahead at full time after being down five goals at three-quarter time.

The PM became quite animated at the end, and I don't think it was his son in a suit, I think it was a grown-up in a suit who is quite young (and me showing my age by thinking he might be a teenager).

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sorry about the silence

I am dealing, badly, with the fact that hayfever can make me so, so sick here in Canberra. I'm sure I'll be back to normal once the anti-histamines do their work, or when spring is over.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Birthday Party

I know that we parents are supposed to find our own children's birthday parties stressful. I have no first hand experience, really, because the Noodle has not been keen on having a large party to date. But I see the pain of other parents, the smiling through gritted teeth and the highly-flexed muscles as the fairy bread is delivered to the table. I also remember my generally vile behaviour at my own childhood birthday parties (especially the sixth, when I sulked in my bedroom for reasons I do not remember and refused to come out), which I assume was rather more than irritating for my poor mother who had slaved with the decorating of biscuits and birthday cake and inventing games and so on.

What I want to know, though, is whether other parents find other children's birthday parties stressful as well? Or is that just us?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

backyard life skills

The thing about AFL is that all the skills you learned coping with siblings are thoroughly utilised. Dodging and weaving, thumping, running away as fast as you can, feinting and occasional taunting. All useful. All highly paid.

Unfortunately for me, whining and crying are not highly regarded by AFL selectors. Alas for being the younger child.

Go Lions (half time lead at the SCG - haven't won a game there since 2002).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Demon fingers

You know, some of the birch trees along the side of the road look rather too much like the grasping, evil Green Noah for my liking. Only when they don't have leaves, though.

I wish Linnet was nearby, especially now that St Christopher has been declared imaginary.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Eva Ibbotson, J.K. Rowling, Gerald Durrell, Karl Marx

A diverse kind of reading for the past week, but in some ways all about quite fantastic adventures in other worlds (of varying accessibility).

The Noodle and I have been reading The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson, although he took over with the silent reading partly in response to my laryngitis and partly because he couldn't bear to wait another night until he found out what happened next with Odge and Ben and the horrendous Raymond Trottle. Ibbotson is not one to have a bet each way on her ghastly characters. They have no redeeming features at all, as far as I can tell. He has now progressed to Which Witch and has decided there should be a Facebook quiz called 'Which Which Witch character are you". He thinks no one would want to be Madame Olympia, and if anyone did get her that they are the kind of person he doesn't want to know. Or friend on Facebook, anyway.

I have also been reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and am being quite astonished at how much time packing and organising Fleur and Bill's wedding is taking. We bought the DVDs of Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban for when the Noodle has screwed his courage to the sticking place. He enjoyed Philosopher's Stone very much in the end. With only a few gasps of horror and hands in front of eyes moments.

But the fantasy world I am enjoying inhabiting most is Durrell's Corfu in My Family and Other Animals, which is making me laugh and wish I was sitting in the baking sun with a plentiful supply of figs. But with less random target shooting from family members, I suppose. Corfu seems quite a lot more magical and exotic than most of the English drawing-room fantasies (thanks to Judith for the term) that I read as a child. I didn't much like the book when I was a kid, I think I wanted the exotic in the form of English high teas, green lanes and I'm-game-if-you-are attitudes, not the added layer of exoticism of English people actually leaving England (and not for Narnia, which is so very English anyway). Given my fetishisation of English fantasy, it's astonishing I've never been there, or perhaps not, since I doubt England is actually infested with children having magical adventures, and would be somewhat of a letdown.

The Karl Marx thing is a tenuous link, actually. But I was rather reflecting on how he was such an outsider in England but how his children were so English. How he was trying to have a revolution, but was so concerned with the respectability and marriageabilty of his daughters and the worry of having no surviving sons to support them. And how the constant change and upset of his life is much more in the 19th century tradition of topys-turvy fantasy than the conceptually consistent and tightly plotted children's fantasies that I still so much enjoy.

And all this came on from reading Charlotte's Library, which is an addictive blog about children's and young adult fantasy books, wot makes me think lots.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

*hack hack splutter wheeze*

Canberra strikes again. My co-workers suggested I stay home tomorrow because they are tired of hearing the above sounds emanating from my pod.

I don't feel ill, I am just making some hideous respiratory noises. This city is utterly vile and germ filled and also laden with pollen and dust and other small things that your run-of-the-mill bronchiole (not braciole) just can't cope with.

Otherwise it is a great town, honest.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The High Court Judge test

Now, I'm aware that this post will tell you all a bit too much about my upbringing and expectations, but there it is. I have utterly no desire for the Noodle to be a lawyer but somehow this whole lawyer thing is in there, and I can't quite manage to expel it. Despite the fact that we have no lawyers in our family, not one, never, ever, ever and quite possibly never will.

When we were expecting the baby, as yet nameless, we thought of many names. We thought of names from our families, names from literary theorists and philosophers and favourite books. We thought of names off the telly and names we remembered fondly from primary school. A lot of the names we thought of became redundant after the ultra sound when we discovered that Rosie or Raphaela would not be appropriate. The Noodle is pleased he was not a girl, because he would have preferred Lily or Lucy for himself (herself, I mean, I suppose - not that he's alone there, thousands of parents have picked Lily and Lucy in recent years, that's for sure. Pretty names, too, but not ones we thought of).

So we got to a point where we had a handful of names. Some of which we look back at and think 'heavens to betsy, we didn't have sleep deprivation at the time, what freakish anomaly could explain us even considering that name'? But most of them were OK. And we subjected all the names to the High Court Judge test, which is what you have to think about if your kid might grow up to want to be a High Court Judge, and how would he or she feel about being called Justice Whatever. So Justice Fifi Trixiebelle is a tough one, perhaps lacking in the necessary gravitas. It's not to be conservative, some pretty wild names sound damn fine after 'Justice' but some just sound a little uncomfortable together.

The other professions we road tested were author and foreign correspondent, which also probably tells you a bit too much about our general attitudes to the world. A lot of unpleasant stuff was going on in the US at the time, so we had to try out all the names followed by 'Washington' in an ABC sort of voice. It's a good test. The ABC website should promote it. Plus it makes you say the name lots of times in a row, so you can see if you get used to it. And sometimes your mouth saying the name makes your mind just boggle.

All of which is to say, it's very exciting that people are having babies, and I can't wait to meet them and find out their names.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The people on the bus

It's quite amazing the detail you can know about the people on the bus. The man with fleshy earlobes, his right ear has three tiny moles, the tiniest nestled right near his neck. He has dandruff, but just a little. The woman who sometimes sings along to the hits and memories who has golden red hair and wears her beret perched on her head, like the lid to a large disposable coffee cup popped on top of an egg cup. The young woman who smiles and looks like someone you'd like to know who turns out to be partnered with the young man from the earlier bus who always says 'hello' in the mornings, and when they appear together they also belong to a jaunty and observant toddler who is never, ever on the bus himself.

There's the woman who wears a red coat and reads the same two prayers, over and over again, every morning with the same intense concentration and look of patient pleasure. The girls who can talk and talk and talk to each other or their mobile phones and we all know about their boyfriends and betrayals and the parties they are going to but they haven't told their mums. I expect the mums really know, but they could ask anyone on the bus if they needed the details.

And on the way home, the dad with the little girl, who goes to sleep facing the wrong way on the seat and has to be carried off along with the briefcase, the schoolbag and shopping for dinner. And all of us waiting, waiting, waiting to get home to dinner and the warm and the light and maybe a little bit of TV and sleep, before we all wake up and stand at our stops, climb aboard and ignore all the other people on the bus.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Here I am in the mood for some research again. Research of the kind that you do in the library with books and archived newspapers and old exam papers and other interesting stuff that recklessly throws itself in the path of your questing brain. Later there will be time for organising and structuring and making choices, but right now it's just time for looking and reading and thinking and dreaming. Of course, this is the easiest bit and sometimes tricks you into thinking it's the funnest bit, but actually the part when the threads start to come together and narratives and little clusters of information start forming (like lumps in bad gravy or hopelessly tangled knitting) is probably the most exciting for me.

I was lucky enough in my last job to have a fair bit of these research processes, spread across the National Library of Australia and diverse other specialist collections. The fun of it all. My current job doesn't have much of this kind of work, apart from looking back over our own files, which can be a journey of discovery all its own I admit but hardly nourishing in the long run.

But being in a festive sort of research mood has accidentally put me in a 'reflecting on what went wrong with my PhD' sort of mood as well. It's more elegiac than forensic, though, I guess. But generally speaking I think what went wrong (external forces aside) is that I asked the wrong question, so the answers I got just were not all that interesting to me. I didn't have the skills to answer the question I really wanted to ask, so I didn't ask it. 18 months in the public service has taught me that I can learn to do anything*, so stupid me for not just putting up my hand and saying that I needed to do a bit of coursework in my study plan. So here is my advice to budding researchers - ask yourself a question you really want to know the answer to, not a question that fits what you think you can find out.

At the moment in my research space I have lots of small questions to answer, which I hope will add up to some bigger sorts of answers in the long run. And I'm very happy to be here in the heart of the nation, with lots of nice, research-friendly, national institutions.

*within certain limits, naturally.

Examining the past

Monash University seems to be running a research project on the English curriculum in Australia. They have a selection of PDFs of past papers from 1914 to the present.

Whenever you think that the internet is no use to a body except for entertainment and chatting, something brilliant turns up.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Public service

I had a big rant about public service probity and how it seems very strong in the Best Department Evah and how I felt quite downhearted about the whole Godwin Grech thing and even more downhearted about how Some People seemed to think it was not really a Big Deal. And how it gobsmacked me most astonishing that the Public Service Commissioner had to come out and remind people that public servants work for the executive part of the government, not for the Opposition or indeed anybody else. And that whistleblowing and making up porky pies to give to the Opposition are not, in fact, similar things at all.

But it got a bit personal so I took it down.

Ooops, there it is again, up there. But a bit less, well, personal and political.

And my mistake turned out actually to be a difference of opinion rather than wrongness, and a compromise has been reached with no lasting wounds. Or at least none that I've noticed yet.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

First assignment

The Noodle is working on his first ever assignment for school. He is writing about Antarctica and making a poster. He's picked a few animals and is now writing about Shackleton.

He's doing a very good job of picking out the information he wants to use and summarising it in a few key points. I wish I'd learned how to do that. Obviously the husband who paid attention at university is doing a fine job of offering guidance to the young feller.

Ampersand Duck's new studio

Yesterday the Noodle and I, with another friend, attended the launch of Ms Duck's new studio and her beautiful press. I love the elegance of a proper piece of industrial machinery, and the process that goes into to producing art (durable and ephemeral) from ink and paper and metal. I wish I knew what it smelt like.

The event was, of course, celebratory. The happiness of something new is always fun, and you only had to look at Ampersand Duck to see what the studio meant to her.

I think, for those of us who aren't artists or who don't make things with our hands, we tend to forget the work, the space needed to make things, the hands on doing of making. We get used to seeing the finished thing, and nothing else. Ampersand Duck's studio has space for the process of printing, space for designing, space for reading and thinking. I guess the garden outside is for time away from the desk, away from the work; a mind-freshing place.

I love the beauty that Ampersand Duck produces. It was a Good Thing to see a part of how it happens, and that there is a place just for that, and not for all the other bits of life.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Baby you can drive my car

Yes, yes, it's back with the driving lessons. I drove to work today with my new driving instructor in a car the like of which I had never imagined myself on the inside of. (If I was Winston Churchill I could do that sentence without dangling bitties, but also without sense. But there it is. We can't all write as if we regretted the end of the Roman Empire, now can we? No. The like of which the inside of I had never imagined myself - you see, it's no good.)

The car had a rear spoiler, if you can imagine such a thing. And imagine me inside that car. And also driving it. I almost wish I was a seventeen year old boy so I could have sufficient fun out of it.

The driving was a somewhat less than entirely vile experience, so perhaps I'll be getting the hang of it yet. The man explained why it is that the clutch makes the car go, which was oddly helpful and also meant five minutes where I was not in charge of a ton of killer metal but sitting and listening quietly to explanations instead, which is something that I am good at. At which is something that I am good.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Today I made a mistake at work, and I didn't really notice until it was nearly time to leave. And no one was there to fess up to. So I will have to do it first thing tomorrow morning. Also I was quite adamant about being right. Which I can be from time to time (which may translate to nearly always or may not, depending on who you talk to, adamant, that is, not right. Although clearly I think I am right a bit too often as well).

I am not very much enjoying the thought of having to go and face it tomorrow. I suppose it will remind me that sometimes I am not in possession of all the facts. Although it also reminds me that if someone is in possession of all the facts, and knows that I am not, it might be nice to share. Sharing is a good thing, yes it is.

I shall comfort myself with thoughts of Jervis Cocker. He seems like a man who understands both mistakes and adamancy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

16 ring tones (not as good a movie as 16 candles)

So we have these new telephones. We had training on how to use them yesterday. The training took an hour. We didn't learn everything about the telephones in that hour. At the end the trainer said, 'don't forget, they are just telephones'. She was lying.

My ring tone is called 'nature'. This is also a lie.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Pine nut mouth

So, is it real or is it one of those weird beliefs that populate the intertubes?

My brain says 'weird belief' but my taste buds scream 'true' with a particularly nasty, metallic bitter flavour. If it's not pine nut mouth it must be something else horrible, so I'm sticking with the bizarre diagnosis (because I did, in fact, eat pine nuts on Friday in a very tasty spinach and roast pumpkin salad).

I might not be enjoying my food very much, but I am quite enjoying being part of a genuine online phenomenon. Why not? Silver lining, always look on the brightside, etc.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


For reasons known only to them, the Noodle and his Groodle (which would be the grandparent du jour) are discussing the worst flavours of toothpaste during their very long telephone call.

The child describes the worst potential flavour as 'two-tooth' or 'mutton'. Am quietly stopping myself from chuckling loudly so as not to interrupt the flow. .

Friday, July 24, 2009

A very fun and interesting question about early reading

Over at Still Life with Cat. What was your first ever reading experience?

I only remember reading books. Despite being a Great Reader, I don't think I was at all an early reader. I remember writing all kinds of random squiggles and pretending it was writing just before I started school, and feeling quite stressed about whether or not I would be able to learn to read and whether I would be able to write my name effectively.

Obviously all the reading out loud my parents did when I was but a babe did kick in, though, because I remember learning to read very quickly indeed once I actually made it to school. At that stage we still had Dick and Jane books and funny little books that included pictures for some of the words. I hated those intensely, because I already knew that a picture of ducks meant 'ducks' but I felt I could do with learning the word for it. They were tiny, cute books with covers hardly thicker than a playing card. The covers were soft from being handled for so many years. I would love to have one now because the type and the illustrations were beautiful. I am surprised I can remember something I loathed so much with such nostalgic affection. Little nostalgic affection for Dick and Jane, though.

The Noodle kind of learned to read about the same time he learned to talk. The lag was hardly noticeable. As a result, he has no memory of learning the alphabet or learning how print or text works. As far as he knows, he's always known how it works and how to extract meaning and entertainment from it. He had a phenomenal memory for words when he was a toddler, and pretty much learned how to say new words by their resemblance to ones he already knew. Phonics at school really helped his pronounciation, though. Up until then he had that real reader's thing of learning the meaning of word by context and by similarity to other words, but no knowledge of how to say things out loud.

I remember this a lot myself as an older child - I still have to think twice about how to say archipelago correctly. The Noodle, with a much greater geographical and political awareness than I ever had can say archipelago correctly. He knows a lot about Indonesia, apparently. I learned about archipelagos from Ursula Le Guin and thought they were as much a fantasy trope as magic rings and self-doubt.

I hope Pavlov's Cat writes a fabulous book on early reading. I'd love to hear about the diversity of experience, and the good and bad memories people have. And I just know that I'll pass on second-hand anecdotes about it for years to come. Yay!


It's always generous of other people to have birthdays so that you can have a nice reason for going out and having fun.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In which magic lunchboxes do not play sport, to my lasting sorrow.

The Noodle is back at school this week. He's fallen in with the sporty crowd again. I miss the stories of the various magical creatures (including the magical lunch box) that he and his less-sporty friends used to imagine. It's astonishing how monumentally dull, and by monument I am thinking Mount Rushmore rather than country town ANZAC memorial, a blow-by-blow account of six and seven year olds playing rugby/soccer/footy/cricket can be. I have a much higher tolerance for magic lunchboxes.

I have a new desk with a window, though. I can see branches and sky as well as my computer screen. I am looking forward to seeing the beauties of spring emerge, safely within my glass, pollen-proof cage.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Diana Wynne Jones, family and the past

Judith from Misrule has just returned from the Diana Wynne Jones conference in Britain.

The news is that Diana Wynne Jones has just been diagnosed with lung cancer. I feel awfully bereft at the news. I hate to think of the pain and ordinariness of the world acting upon her.

I've just been re-reading The Time of the Ghost, which is one of the bleakest portraits of a family in her work I think. Most of the other awful families have some kind of excuse - they have been magicked, or one awful family member has made things so awful for everyone else that they become awful too. But the Melford parents seem just naturally horrible to their children. The parents are neglectful, unkind, and selfish. Their imaginations are horribly limited, they don't even get much benefit out of their selfishness, just the mundane day-to-day running of a school boarding house. The worst thing, I suppose, is that when you read about Wynne Jones's own family, they don't sound much different. Not that you can ever experience someone else's past from their fiction, of course.

Some people do have a real gift for sharing the immediacy of their past experiences. I think it's a wonderful gift, but probably glad that it's a rare one. I adore my dearest friend's intimate and emotion-infused stories of her family and childhood but I'm not sure I could accept it from anyone I loved less.

There are plenty of other hideous families in Wynne Jones's books, though. Maybe the mother and uncle in Conrad's Fate are actually worse than the Melford's; the mother neglectful and the uncle malevolent. And the magical family in Archer's Goon amaze with their violence, selfishness and complete inability to listen to each other. On the other hand, while brothers and sisters bicker and fight a lot, they tend to be incredibly loyal to each other and to take immense risks for each other as well. Children have to rely on themselves and other children in her books. Even benign and kindly disposed adults are rarely much actual use. To themselves or anybody else, really.

Wynne Jones isn't ever guilty of that lazy dead-mother-method of getting rid of parents so that the action can go ahead for the children, although she certainly plays with it in her funnier books like Howl's Moving Castle. Lots of the action is driven by children having to cope with the fairly unpleasant events set in train by their elders - parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. The kids often end up taking the consequences and solving the problems because the adults are too self-absorbed, stubborn or lazy. Or just lack the imagination to understand what they are doing, which I think is the worst sin of all in the Jonesiverse.

I hope her books help me keep my imagination intact as I keep on being a parent and an aunt and a family member of all kinds. I hope she keeps on reminding me that the past is a beautiful and exciting place, but mostly because it brings us to the present and the future.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Does anyone know why Kevin McCloud was eating a banana on tonight's episode of Grand Designs?

Why, Kevin, why?

If Kevin McCloud can no longer offer me clarity, simplicity and a vision of a perfectible world, then who can? Curse that banana and everything it did or did not stand for.

Robin McKinley, books galore and the future

Arrived home to find that my copy of The Hero and the Crown has arrived from foreign climes. I don't know why it's not available locally. But there it is. I haven't read it since I was a teenager, so perhaps I'll have a different perspective in a day or two. I shall report.

Has been a massive week of book acquisition. The husband is abandoning his long-time career as a bookseller. Which means no discounts on new books in the future. This will be the first time in about 18 years that neither me nor any immediate family members will be working in a bookshop. It's unnatural. We could just open our front door and put a sign up, I suppose. We have quite enough books to spare a few.

It's lucky we found Canty's so we can get more. And more. And more and more and more.

I also acquired two Phryne Fisher mysteries that I haven't yet read, Ursula Dubosarksy's The Word Spy for me and the Noodle and Anthony Eaton's YA fantasy books on the recommendation of Emily at Riverbend Books. If they're not outrageously good, she's in big, big trouble.

The Noodle's book pile is looking alarming. I can't even begin to describe it. But it's starting to escape, and may be breeding.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Love is like a butterfly, or in which the husband's and my feminist parenting principles are tested.

The highly principled husband and the Noodle jaunted off to Sydney earlier this week so that the Noodle could be fitted for his new AFOs. That's ankle-foot orthotics for those of you who are not required to have personally fitted bits of plastic worn on the ends of your legs. The Noodle has been wearing them for a few years, and has, thus far, had one red pair, one blue denim looking sort of pair and one pair with monkeys on them. The patterns are the kind of patterns you'd expect someone at a hospital to expect a kid to like, but could be worse.

The Noodle gets to pick the pattern.

So he had his plaster casts done without incident. Being fitted for orthotics is kind of fun, because the plaster goes on and then comes straight off again. You get all the entertainment value of a broken limb without any of the pain, inconvenience and itching.

Then the Noodle gets to choose his plastic. He chooses a pattern all over with pink butterflies. The orthotics man (they have all been men so far) says 'but that pattern is for girls!' The Noodle is adamant, butterflies is what he wants.

So when the husband tells me this story upon the lads return from Sydney, my mind immediately thinks 'uh-oh'. And then thinks accursed things at itself for thinking 'uh-oh' about a a young fellow wanting a butterfly pattern on his legs if that's what he feels like.

So, here it is:
a) I am incredibly chuffed that the Noodle is not bothered by wanting a pattern that is 'for girls' and is quite happy to stick up for himself and make that choice
b) I know that a butterfly pattern will attract attention of a critical and unkind nature from some children at school and from some adults outside of school
c) I don't really want the Noodle to know explicitly that things that are 'for girls' are no good, or at the very least no good for boys. For one thing his best friend is a girl.
d) one way or another, AFOs cost a lot of money
e) if attention of a critical and unkind nature is forthcoming the Noodle will not want to wear his AFOs to school any more. This will make him less stable with the walking and playing soccer and so on.
f) we do not wish to travel back to Sydney for new AFOs in a different pattern two days after these ones arrive
g) I feel bad about deceiving the Noodle, but...

So the man at the orthotics work shop might, maybe, almost definitely* will run out of butterfly pattern plastic just before he makes the Noodle's AFOs. So I and the husband are compromising our ideals and fundamental beliefs about the comparative value of girls' vs boys' patterns and gender identity in order to save ourselves some money and time and to save the Noodle feeling self-conscious about something that we have some control** over. He'll possibly be quite upset anyway. But hopefully he'll keep wearing the damn AFOs.

So if in a few weeks I post a post explaining that the Noodle refuses to wear his AFOs because they are not butterfly patterned, you will know that my sin has come back to haunt me.

If I were in an AS Byatt story I would right now be horribly aware that my moment of compromise is dooming me to a life of mediocrity and banality. I think I might choose a more forgiving author. Any suggestions?

*because the husband rang him up and asked him to.
**because he has been feeling very self conscious about things none of us have any control over recently, and it is breaking all our hearts quite a lot.

Monday, July 6, 2009

As light as Mrs Jackson's sponge cake.

While I have many things I would like to be discussing with you all, none of them are of the light and bright variety that my tapping typing fingers are inclined for.

I'd like to talk to you about disability and the disclosing of serious things at inopportune moments and what the hell is an opportune moment anyway and people not knowing what to say and not knowing what to say back. I'd like to talk to you about NAIDOC week and the bright young things at work doing all the hard work to bring it to the people of the Best Department Evah. I'd like to talk to you about some of the books I've been reading and how some make me think and some make me feel and some make me want to scream AAaaaAAaaaAaaargh and forget that I ever learned to read in the first place.

But I don't think I will today. The lads are in Sydney town. And I am here with a big, fat fantasy novel and a block of Old Jamaica. Time to sit on the sofa.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The kindness of colleagues

So it's the last day of the old job. I am at home, filled with champagne (by which I mean domestic sparkling wine) and a cocktail that claims to taste like a pine-lime splice. Which was fine, but not as pine-lime splicey as the drink that Rainey used to make at the Old Homestead Inn in Clifton Hill in the early 1990s. A fine drink on a hot day that was. Mmm. Ah, Clifton Hill, home of excellent fish n chips and fifteen beers on tap.

The colleagues have also provided a Nice Box of Chocolates and also a subscription to the Monthly, so I will remember them every time I get a new edition. Yay colleagues. My old university colleague, Ben Law, will have an article in the next Monthly so this is all very timely. It's a colleague fiesta.

We also had morning tea with Hummingbird Cake, Banana Bread and Karen's Chocolate Biscuits with Peanut Butter and Macadamias. Karen may have left, but the biscuit-recipe continues to spread happiness and high-blood pressure throughout the Best Department Evah.

Took my box of stuff downstairs to the new desk. Have mild to moderate horrors at actually doing new job. I'm sure it'll be fine by Monday. Sure, sure, sure.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tigers, mountain lions and starting a new sort of job-thing on Monday.

It's funny how, in spite of all previous experience, you keep on believing that doing something new and different will actually change your life.

The things that actually change your life kind of sneak up on you gradually, or pounce unexpectedly like a mountain lion. I have no idea if mountain lions really pounce unexpectedly, but I'm enjoying imagining it happening.

I think the most unexpected and pouncy big cat related event I ever have experienced ( in a non-lazy-metaophor kind of way) was at the Melbourne Zoo during a school excursion. An especially indolent and bored looking tiger sprang *whoosh* at the wire cage while my friend Kylie and I were peacefully standing there looking pretty indolent and bored (because we were fifteen and had been forced to go to the zoo). It taught me two things. One, you really can't use karate or kung fu to fight a gigantic carnivore. Two, you really, really should keep outside those little wooden barriers that they put in front of the wire and not stick your fingers in the cages of gigantic carnivores, just like the signs tell you.

Kylie fell onto her bottom and her mouth opened up. Her teeth were comparatively unimpressive, though.

I expect my new job will be unlike the tigers and mountain lions. And also, I hope, unlike things that skulk around corners. My new job is not zookeeper, or circus animal act. It's exactly like my old job, in an office downstairs from my old job, but it's a different job. It's a public service thing, I guess.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Melbourne, blooming Melbourne

I am jealous of people eating ravioli at Tiamo and generally having fun with their friends and relations.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What is it with all these sore throats anyway?

I've been stuck at home sick with a sore throat. Again. I have been lying in bed or on the sofa watching bad telly and listlessly paying attention to the world through my laptop.

There are plenty of things I could be doing at work, I can tell you.

When I said to the doctor, 'I'm going to have to get out of Canberra if these respiratory tract infections keep up, ' he got this manic gleam in his eye and said 'go! go now!' I think I left his office feeling more worried about him than me.

Since I've come to Canberra I have had hayfever so bad that I ended up in bed for a week, tonsillitis, divers sinus infections and now this generic sore throaty business. This place is a crazed haven for irritants and germs. You'd think they'd breed more happily in the mild and moisty climes of south-east Queensland, but apparently not. Who decided to build the damn national capital in this trough of illness and despair?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Finished Ballet Shoes, what next?

I am happy to report that Ballet Shoes has been an all round success in the read-aloud stakes from beginning to end. The Noodle was very keen to find out if Gum came back and confident that he would. The wrap up was most satisfying for a young person who is anxious about loose ends.

I think he secretly thought that Posy was the best character, because she was just so confident about herself. It makes me realise how rare confident characters are in literature for children. And when they are confident they are frequently obnoxious. The narrator carefully points out that Posy is not obnoxious, because she is so committed to her dancing - she's just being realistic when she notices that she is a better dancer than the other girls at the Academy. I like that.

Of course, the Noodle spent the entire chapter of Pauline's pride with his head under the pillow, weeping with anxiety. I thought he might expire on the spot when Pauline shouted at the theatre manager. He is a most satisfactory audience.

We are still stuck in the eagles' eyrie in The Hobbit. The Noodle is too afraid to continue. He enjoys the story so much, but he is so afraid for Bilbo all the time that he can't relax. If only we got to the end, and he could see how Bilbo's resourcefulness and tenacity get him through I'm sure the Noodle would feel happier than leaving Bilbo hanging (almost literally from Dori's legs).

Anyone have any suggestions for a good read-aloud that is not filled with incident and horrors?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sandy Fussell's blog

I've linked to it over there in the sidebar - Stories are light.

I love Sandy Fussell's Samurai Kids books. A year or two or so ago I wrote a column about what would happen if Frodo had not been able to jump that huge crack in Moria, if he hadn't been physically able to do it. I had a little rant about how most characters in fantasy novels (for kidlets and adults) are just physically fit and capable, half they time they don't even get tired out.

The Samurai Kids books kind of address this question in my mind, but not in terms of disability or limitations; rather in how working together and recognising your own skills as well as those of the people around you is a great way to success.

The issue of ability is often on my mind, because the Noodle's health situation has some impact on his ability to keep up with other kids. He gets tired out, dangerously so. He can't balance very well, can't jump, can't really run. But his head is filled with risk taking and adventure, just like anyone else. Books fulfil a big part of his need for adventuring. Sandy Fussell's books are some of the ones that make it seem possible for him to really get out there and be a hero.

Plus, they are funny and exciting. That's also cool.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Call and response, or plagiarism as a sport

So I've been reading this book that drop-dead lifts styles and events out of many of my favourite childhood and YA books. Shamelessly. The author of this book clearly really likes the same books as me. At first I felt quite unforgiving, indeed angry and losing my gruntle. It was a bit like someone shamelessly stealing your biscuit at the station cafeteria (see what I did there, geeky fellow readers). But I have come up with a letting-copy-cat-authors-off-the-hook theory.

It's not an homage or a pastiche. It's not plagiarism punishable in a court of law, with the Australian newspaper Scandal Scandal Scandal headlines. It's a response, and engaged, tender, critical and thought-provoking response. So the liddle bitsies that seem All Too Familiar are by way of quotes, by way of fair use, by way of emphasising the critical engagement with the source texts. To do it with at least half a dozen childhood fantasy favourites just shows the breadth of the thesis involved. It's a breathtaking moment of creativity and scholarship, all packaged up in a big fat book with embossed lettering.

What do you all reckon?

It's not Eragon, by the way. There can be no forgiveness for that particular performance.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Work as a quest

Today was a day of much jocularity at work. I am pioneering a post-it note led work practice, so I have no space on my desk. I fear that I will be unable to make the most of my post-it note vision until I have a corner office. So some kind of infinity into the future then. But in the meantime, my co-workers have given full rein* to guffaws, chuckles, giggles and oomphs of astonishment.

What I would really like to do is lie on the floor again with my textas and a couple of sheets of butchers paper. Not in a team building kind of way, just in a I don't want to look at my computer screen ever, ever again kind of way. Or perhaps I could just stay in bed and dictate to a minion over the telephone. There I go with that whole corner office approach again.

But actually what I was thinking this morning is that if I was Frodo I wouldn't be in Mordor. But probably not in Rivendell either. Actually, I am probably not in the Lord of the Rings as such, but maybe a shorter book with less poetry and more measurable outcomes and KPIs. Which lacks narrative focus, but also lacks vast armies of evil orcs rampaging about the place. And I am so depleted on outrageously romantic notions this week that frankly I'd rather take the KPIs**.

Next week I am going to talk to you all about how if only Gandalf had done a decent risk assessment process*** at the time he first became concerned about the nature of Bilbo's ring, they could have strolled to the Cracks of Doom (or more likely entered into some kind of contract arrangment or perhaps an MOU with the Riders of Rohan), and disposed of the ring according to the guidelines. With time for a festive morning tea at Rivendell for Aragorn and Arwen's wedding on the way, in which the Hobbits all bring a plate of home made goodies, but Gimli forgets until the last minute and only brings a packet of tim tams, which get eaten way before the home made chocolate biscuits which probably taste quite nice but look like lumps of poo.

*suddenly have metaphor anxiety, because I don't really know if 'full rein' comes from letting the reins go loose on the horse so that it has full rein to gallop away with you or whatever it feels like (which in my admittedly limited experience is stopping dead and eating grass) or whether it should be 'full reign' such as a monarch might have if it subscribes to the philosophy of the divine right of kings and can therefore do whatever it feels like, including laughing until it spits on yer post-its.

**I don't really know what these are, and please don't tell me because you might ruin the surprise when I get up to that bit in my non-narrative driven story, and because of the lack of suspense in most of it I have to get my surprises and plot-reveals wherever I can get 'em.

***You can find decent examples of risk assessment processes all over the intertubes. Gandalf was a rubbish researcher.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ballet, fashion and wilfull damage wilfully avoided

Have read two chapters of Ballet Shoes to the Noodle. Had no idea that it was so funny and brilliant to read aloud. Feel vaguely ripped off about reading it silently in my head all these years. The Noodle, unexpectedly, finding it hilarious. He nearly fell out of bed with laughing and had tears of mirth. Tears! Is much better than the TV show.

A day of odd happenings. One of the school girls at the bus stop came over to me today and asked if I was a fashion designer. Now, any one who has ever seen me in any circumstances can vouch for the fact that I look as unlike a fashion designer as it is possible to look while still wearing clothes. I look like a person who is not unaware that there is such a concept as 'fashion' but has not spent any time researching it. I am related to fashion in the same way that someone who once watched Catalyst is related to Buzz Aldrin. So I felt chuffed, shall we say. And awfully relieved that someone on the planet thinks I don't look like a public servant.

And then on the way home from work, someone left two tyres in the middle of the road presumably maliciously. They were being cleared away by a car load of young men who looked very like the kind of person you would imagine leaving tyres in the middle of the road, or perhaps blowing up letterboxes with fireworks*. But no, these young men were sputtering indignantly in the manner of a crusty grandfather (possibly one who has just had his letterbox blown up by wayward yoof). I wished that A Current Affair had been there to observe the noble and selfless yoof protecting the good suburban residents from random tyre damage. But no, it was just me.

*Apparently blowing up letterboxes on Queen's Birthday weekend passes for fun for a small but effective portion of the ACT. Luckily, everyone will have sent their birthday cards to the queen some week's ago, so as to allow for shipping time.

Uh-oh. Have turned into knows-nothing-about-apostrophes-woman. I'm leaving it here to shame myself into better proofreading. As if that'll work.

Monday, June 8, 2009


So last night I watched the television program of Ballet Shoes starring the thin woman from Silent Witness and Hermione from Harry Potter. I liked it more than I was expecting to, but not quite as much as I was hoping to. I thought it was a pretty intelligent adaptation, culling bits that didn't add much to the characters or actions and still managing to get the feel across in a quick-and-dirty sort of way. The romance I felt was poorly handled, and also not in the book. I didn't feel all horrors and et alors about that, but I did think that poor old Theo ended up rather shabbily treated and with a highly sketchy backstory to boot.

The moments I liked best were, of course, to do with the auditions. The short moment of Pauline (Hermione) reciting Shakespeare in the black velvet dress was spot on. Pauline acted and looked exactly like I have always imagined her in this scene and very reminiscent of the illustrations in my edition of the book. I was rather bothered, however, by the non-Tenniel like nature of Pauline's Alice dress. Wrong. Also Winifred was not, to my mind, at all selfish and precious in the book - rather she was desperate for cash and kind. Conflating her with the dancer with the big bottom was just plain silly, even as a device to keep Posy's amusing impersonations in the story.

Overall, not enough about clothes or dancing. The organdie dresses did not take nearly enough work, and did not look nice at all. Where are the ruffles, I asked myself, and why would Nana let the girls out dressed in their slips?

I didn't mind, really, the way Garny's story was increased. From an adult perspective it didn't hurt to understand a bit more of the pressure that Garny was under, and how the three children had pretty much sucked up every moment of her adult life. No one ever asked what Garny wanted in the book, as I recall. As a child, I never much wondered either. But as a slightly grouchy 37 year old I wanted to know.

I've also been reading a fantasy novel that has a bit too much of the adaptation for my liking. Oddly, it only hurts me because the author clearly read and loved many of the same fantasy books I did when I was a young gel. The list, I think, in order of influence includes Lord of the Rings, Dragonsong and Dragonsinger and the Earthsea books. With a dash of the Dark is Rising. It's quite horrid reading along, in a perfectly functional fantasy narrative, only to find yourself in a barely disguised Lothlorien crossing a river with a rope, or meeting someone who owes a bit too much to both Aragorn and Gandalf. Or arriving at a music school only to think that Robinton should come striding in any moment. Thankfully, there are no dragons in this book (yet).

The truly irritating thing is that the person obviously can write, and has some perfectly sound ideas of their own. The story and the characters finally found some form towards the end of the book, so I'll give the sequel a go and optimistically hope for the best.

Or otherwise I'll read one of the Noodle's Asterix books. The Noodle's reading list at the moment consists of Asterix, Horrible Histories, a now-lost book on the Periodic Table of the Elements and the Samurai Kids series. Over and over and over again.

He has also announced that he wishes to be a graphic designer when he grows up. He wants to design posters and brochures and he wants to open up a magazine and see his work inside it. Sounds like a plan.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Praise him with great praise

So the husband, who is the most talented husband a person could ever want, is having stories published in Overland and in Heat in the not-too-distants.

A person could not feel more proud and impressed.

Plus, it means I get all the fun of pride and publishing satisfaction without having to go through the agonies of writing and screwing the courage to the envelope-sending place. I love vicarious career satisfaction. It's brilliant.

Also, I forgot to say I was so engrossed in Black Dust Dancing the other night that I nearly missed my bus stop. I think it has the best descriptions of how people feel about themselves and about other people, observed through their actions and opinions, that I have ever read.

I would like to be even more gushy and carried away about both of the above items, but since the whole Michelle de Kretser at the Brisbane Writers Festival incident I try to keep at least some of that kind of thing on the inside.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Black Dust Dancing by Tracey Crisp

As lots of other bloggers have said, it's bloody good. Am in love with the description of nailpolish and its relationship to netball.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Where have all the monologues gone?

I have had a sudden attack of nostalgia for the monologue this afternoon on my way home from work. I seem to remember in the 1990s the monologue was the thing, the one and only thing, to be listening to and watching. For all I know, of course, the good people of the world are monologuing merrily and plentifully, but alas I do not get out much.

So in the 1990s, when I did get out much, I did like a bit of fine monologue action. Stand out moment of live monologue for me, of course, is William Yang's Sadness. Words and pictures, brilliant. Despite only ever hearing one voice, Yang's Sadness is a conversation, a party, a dream but punctuated with moments of solitude, loneliness and tearing grief. The piece, in my memory, is watched over by the twin ghosts of Yang's mother and Patrick White, watching and waiting to see what the outcome would be.

I also remember vivid moments of Penny Arcade at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, which was the wrong place because her work was as far from stand-up comedy as it is possible to be while standing up in front of a crowd of people and frequently making them laugh. Penny Arcade was not on stage alone. She was accompanied by burlesque dancers. There was a lot of flesh on display. But when she finally shed her own clothes and stood naked in front of the audience there was no sense of titillation; I just wanted to hear more, to hear more stories, more about her, to understand more about the kind of person she was and what she wanted to say. I was attached, compelled and distressed to think that the stories would have to come to an end.

There were monologue movies as well - Spaulding Gray's Monster in a Box stuck in my mind more for the look on his face when he tried to front up to the book on the table than any of his words. And Sandra Bernhard singing and mugging, but still managing to convince me that I wanted to know more, more, more.