Friday, January 30, 2009

Strategies for surviving the heat.

1. Frozen bottles of water in freezer
2. Cool water in fridge
3. Dripping water on seedlings and herbs (and feet)
4. Bath water
5. Shower water
6. Wet washer
7. Ice pack

Strategies for becoming irritable in the heat

1. Hearing from the in-laws that it is only 15 degrees in Invercargill. Although they did invite us to jump on a plane and fly on over. *

*starts counting coins in the bottom of the handbag*

Nasty crisp burned stuff on the bottom of the oven

That's a metaphor, innit. Our house, with it's thick walls and insulation, has taken many days of hot hot hot to heat up. The house has been a blessed oasis of cool surrounded by the shimmering heat haze and too blue skies of the plains of summer. The house has been shade and cool drinks. The house has been our safe place, our retreat, our relief.

The house has heated up.

It's going to be above 35 degrees for the next week, except for an exceptionally chilly 31 on Sunday. I don't think our thick walled, well insulated house will be cooling down any time soon. Tomorrow I am purchasing some Rid, because the mosquitoes outside are something fierce, and I refuse to stay inside after dusk after today.

I was really, really afraid of the cold here in Canberra. Ha, I say, and again, Ha. I laugh disparagingly at the cold from the inside of my fluffy coat and beanie. I disdain the cold. Or at least I would, if I wasn't trying as politely as possible to invite it back as soon as it finds it convenient to visit.

I am worried about my very old Grandpa in Melbourne's hot hot hot and hoping he shifts a camp bed into the air-conditioned living room. I wish we could all fly to Scandinavia for a few days.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

It is the heat

The heat is wilting my basil, my parsley, my chilli bush and my tomato plants. The heat is also wilting my two beloved blokes. They don't have the luxury of Government-sponsored air conditioning for eight or so hours a day.

Also wilting, or possibly deep-fried, are the populations of Victoria and South Australia. Here's hoping for an icy breeze from Antarctica some time soon.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


If someone wrote a new business plan for some kind of transport system and said Oh, it'll cost a fortune because you'll have to build factories all over the world, constantly rebuild horrendously expensive road systems, sacrifice thousands of people every year to violent death and injury, suck up totally un-renewable natural resources to build, maintain and power it, Oh and it'll also contribute to pollution more than any other single industry, the person evaluating the system would reply Are you completely crazy you crazy, crazy, crazy fool.

And you would say - you wouldn't have to sit next to anyone on the train.

And the person would say - well, that's all right then. Bring it on.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sally Fields moment

Aztec-Rose kindly butterflied me. How pleasant to have such kind and interesting readers. It's funny, I used to only be able to write things by confidently imagining that no one would ever read the words, but now I quite like having people read and comment. So thank you very much.

I would like to send it on to Adelaide from Adelaide (formerly Third Cat). It's her birthday soon, too.

And also to Ramping it Up, because whenever she finds the time to post it is a red letter day.

And I must confess to having a bit of a 'you like me, you really like me' moment this afternoon after seeing my butterfly. No Gwyneth Paltrow weeping about cousins though. I like and value my cousins, but if I ever win an Oscar they will not be getting a mention. And nor will they today.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Charles Darwin, a paddleboat and splash

The National Museum, which usually cannot decide if it supposed to be educational or entertaining, has come firmly down on the side of fun today. They are even selling ice cream in the foyer. Not particularly nice ice cream, I may say, but the thought is there.

The family had strolled down at 9.59 am to view the Darwin exhibition, which is much more interesting than it looks from the entry way. On the 10 o'clock rule we just squeaked it in - finding a parking spot nearish the door and avoiding the queue for tickets. Five minutes later would have been a disaster - cars, kids, queues and scary old people everywhere. I am not sure why Canberra residents and visitors insist on always arriving at things at 10 o'clock on the dot, but I am grateful for their predictability. I fear it is contagious, though, because our pre-Canberra arrival times for things was usually 9 or earlier.

After learning many factoids about the Beagle, fossils, Galapagos islands, horses hooves with vestigial toes and sandy walks, we repaired to the lakeside to eat our tasty whole grain bread rolls with diverse fillings. Near the museum is a most delightful spot for a picnic, since there is entertainment laid on. The paddle steamer, Enterprise, was tooting away and filling the air with the dual smells of burning and oil, seagulls and swans were hustling for scraps, small children were teetering up and down the hills, cyclists were zooming or huffing past according to their fitness levels. And best of all, there were people in pedal boats. Which was quite entertaining enough, even before two young women stopped their boat a few feet in front of us and decided to stand on the edge of the boat to take photos of each other. Sadly I missed the actual moment of entry, but it was a most satisfying splosh, and a very happily damp young woman clambered out of the lake. The other one jumped in shortly afterwards in the pursuit of justice and equality. I don't know when I've seen two people get such fun out of a body of water.

Which brings me to an important issue. The National Capital Authority website states that the water is (usually) safe for swimming. People go in the lake for triathlons. But the locals can produce an expression of deep scepticism bordering on horror if the notion of swimming in the lake is broached. So is it safe to swim in there or not? Where do locals go to swim in fresh water around here? Can you avoid floating algae as the National Capital Authority advise? Enquiring minds want to know.

Oh yes, and it's Australia Day and I am disconcerted by the amount of children getting around with flags draped around their shoulders.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The English Provinces

My aunty has been in town for a few days, and as well as delivering her own delightful company and some charming and amusing family photographs, she brought with her some books salvaged from my grandmother's house.

There is a large two volume dictionary from the late 19th century, which tells us not to misswear.

There is a wonderful book from the 1950s on Australian history since federation, with much enthusiasm about migrant labour (especially keen on people putting fruit into large boxes, it seems). The end papers have a colour reproduction of Old Parliament House on the day it was launched upon the seas of democracy, with the Red Ensign flying alongside the Union Jack. I will be taking this to work to show my colleagues, since it has been the subject of much debate recently.

But my favourite text so far is The English Province: a picturesque survey of the English and Welsh Counties, publishied in 1888 by George Routledge and Sons. Interestingly the author is P. Villars, but with a translation by Henry Frith. Translated from what, I wonder? The book also includes 250 illustrations of extraordinary fineness and detail. The reason I am loving it so, however, is this:
As the fundamental principle of the English Government is to permit everyone to manage his own business as he thinks best, the provincial administration is exclusively local and decentralized.
I am uncertain as to how true this was in 1888, but I am enjoying the self-governing business men inside my mind immensely. Right this minute they are hitting each other with umbrellas and walking out in front of traffic without looking left and right. Anarchy! (They are also wearing bowler hats and suits, and may be quite strongly influenced by Monty Python's depiction of men in the City).

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Shiny ants

I love the way ants of different kinds can inhabit the same regions quite densely but can completely ignore each other. This morning I was watching huge ants, as long as the first knuckle of my little finger, calmly going about their business. The sun had been up for about an hour and a half, and was just starting to remind the skin that the day was on the way to hot hot hot. The air still had that chill of morning, though. The light shone on the ants as they pottered about, exploring the bark and leaves and concrete near the bus stop.

Littler, but still not tiny, black ants were much busier. They were bustling about the place, sticking to their known paths, looking out for food or whatever it is ants do in the morning. The big ants, the calm ones, just stepped over the black ant trails without any bother. The black ants ignored them just as much as they ignored me.

The huge ants were the ones that cause fear in the hearts of men with lawnmowers. The ones that if they get inside your car are nearly as frightening as hunstman spiders. The ones that bite, and bite and don't let go. But this morning, they just quietly gleamed among the gum leaves.

And then I hopped on the bus and was greeted by the smiling driver as if I was a friend in a dream, come back from the dead for an all too brief time together and I sat down and read about the depression of Charlotte Bronte and was mildly irritated by Elizabeth Gaskell's need to apologise for Bronte's moments of irritation and mustard.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Today I had enforced upon me the recognition of an achievement. This week is the completion of the graduate program at the Best Department Evah. I will be a graduate no more. The newly minted graduates for 2009 will arrive some time in the next few weeks, and I and my colleagues will no longer be the most junior members of the Department. We will be grown ups.

Also, I have a certificate, which is always a nice thing. Alas, it will not roll up neatly to fit into my tube o' recognition with my degree. I shall have to begin an additional envelope o' recognition.

This moment of somber celebration made me reflect upon what a year of achievements it's been for the family. We moved interstate and didn't go completely and utterly deranged. The Noodle started at a new school, and didn't go completely and utterly deranged. The Husband completed his Masters degree. I am yet to fully gauge levels of derangery there. I have completed a year of full time work where I have had moments of comparative derangery at different times, but what else would you expect? Full time work? I asks you. Madness from beginning to end.

The biggest achievement has been that we all still like each other. But I don't think we get a certifcate for that.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Found a new Canberra blog.

It's about food as well. I am a satisfied bloggy reader.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Member of the Wedding (or creative work avoidance)

Hello. We return from the successful linking together of Man o' Sand and Girl o' Sea down in Melbourne town. Successful in that they made it through the weekend of wedding events, and still give every impression of intending to stay married. Successful in that many relatives sat in close proximity for many hours on separate occasions, and no blood was spilt (of the literal red kind or the transparent kind that comes out of people's mouths occasionally after a shandy or two). Successful in that singing and dancing was carried out by those under the age of four and by those over the age of four and all had a mighty fine time doing that. Successful in that it was the absolutely funnest wedding I've ever been to, and I can't imagine a funner one.

It was held here.

This band played.

The husband speechified.

The Noodle danced with beautiful ladies. But not the Bride. I think he thought she was a bit too beautiful to ask to dance.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Victorian novels have morals!!!!!!! Stop the presses.

Thanks for letting us know, oh great scientists.

Let us hope that there was a terrible failure of communication between the scientists and the journalists, because otherwise those scientists are going down in a very Heathcliff, long-term plan kind of way.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Surprise of the nicest kind

Came home from work - gently broiled on the bus - washed clothes, ate delicious noodles, put the Noodle in a cool bath and then to bed. Opened facebook to find a message from a person I have not seen for many years, but is one of those people who you are both happy to see and happy to keep on seeing. Joyous, pleasurable surprise and I can't stop smiling with it.

So facebook is worth it after all.

But I am worried about the bus drivers. I think they should go on strike until the ACT air conditions their buses. It worked all right in Brisbane.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Current state of mind

In which I put on the eggs to boil for salad for dinner, and then thirty seconds later think 'what is that mysterious boiling noise? Is it thunder?'

Oh them jungle blues

The Noodle, perhaps unexpectedly, has taken to the raw, blues crooning of CW Stoneking like it was mother's milk, like it was shoes and he the puppy chewing on them, like he's a kid taking to a thing that you never thought he'd take to, and you never know what damn thing it's going to be next.

So now we have a seven year old, practising his leg cutters, bellowing out 'mining for gold - odelay-ayayy- mining for gold' at the top of his lungs out in the backyard. I don't know that anyone has ever had a duel career in bowling for Australia while singing blues tunes before, but I reckon the Noodle is the man for the job. I also don't know what the neighbours think, because frankly sometimes it sounds like Stoneking's talking lion may be killing the kid right there on the driveway. Singing = howling reasonably often it seems.

In other Noodle news he's spending a goodly amount of time reading Cricket's Great All Rounders by Kersi Meher-Homji. He has also discovered the beauty of Wisden's (thanks to the Woden Library, repository of greatness as it is). I don't know how long the cricket obsession is going to last, but it's of an immense and dizzying magnitude at the moment.

I can just see the family setting off for India or South Africa in a few years time, following the Australian team all about the countryside and trying to squeeze in the odd tourist attraction in between matches.

Luckily the reading thing is still big, so in between the discussion of square leg, leg spin, the gully, the slips and the relative merits of lbw appeals we also get to hear about time travel, teleporting, complicated spy plots and dragons.

I wish I was seven again. I miss believing in things that hard.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Confessions of an escapist reader

You know you have a hit a new low when you are feeling nostalgic for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe because of the lack of self-doubt the characters express during their adventures.

Do any of those children ever monoligically express terrifying angst at the burden of ruling an unknown country? No. Do they ever wonder if, perhaps, some other people might be quite a lot better at the job? No. Do they ever think to themselves, actually, I quite miss the steamed puddings of home, and I wonder if our parents are missing us? Not a bit of it. A pair of beavers (not the kind Kaz Cooke is irritated at, I hasten to add for any Narnia novices) and a lion tell them to do some stuff. So they do. Except Edmund. A scary lady tells him to do stuff. So he does.

I would like to say that I most certainly do not advocate this position for real-life human beings. I think children asking 'why' is most certainly a positive thing (along the lines of ''if Tyrone jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?' kind of thing). And I think adolescent introverstion and questioning of authority entirely tickety-boo in every way. Although that does not mean I am looking forward to the advent of it in our home in a few years time.

However, if I have to read another fantasy novel (in my precious escapist moments) in which the angst levels of the characters make the young people in The Outsiders seem like an entirely jolly hockey-sticks, Five-go-to-the-sweetshop kind of crew, well - I may just lose my mind. Especially when carried out over fifty-seven very thick volumes. Yes, yes, ethical questions about the use of magical powers over other people are important. I know I worry about my mind-control powers every single day. Not to speak of whether or not to blast co-workers into little ashy heaps whenever they question my will, but it's all starting to get a bit tired.

Ursula le Guin does it very well indeed. Although I can tell that I am now an old adult and not a young adult because I have started thinking to myself when the young people set off on their adventures 'why don't they just stay home where it's nice and people love them?' instead of thinking 'woo-hoo, let the fun and disasters begin'.

I think I'll go back to reading Mary Barton. Disasters aplenty there, for sure. But a bit less Hamlet-style whining 'why me?' as well. I can get plenty of that in real life (mostly from me) thank you very much.

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Kaz Cooke is feeling as irritated as I am. For me it was the article in the SMH about fillums for the girls. Especially the bit about the movie where brides fight each other or something. I'm growing to have a really, really strong loathing for this notion of women as, oh you know, hating each other's guts all the time. Cos if there's one thing I'm grateful it's people who make movies especially for women (oh ta for that) about women who hate each other! Hilarious and charming.

Kaz Cooke is irritated by that stupid Beaver ad and other stuff.

If you read the comments in response to Kaz Cooke's rant you too can join the World of Irritation.

Or otherwise you could go and do something enjoyable with people who are worth spending time with (unlike inventors of beaver ads, for example).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A new year's miracle at the DFO

This morning, after a most time consuming breakfast experience, the family jaunted off to the DFO in Fyshwick. We had never adventured to the DFO before, but we all needed to buy shoes. Shoes appropriate to the Wedding of the Century (now a mere fifteen days away). Shoe purchasing has proven to be a difficult and occasionally horrifying experience over the past few years, so the extra challenge of rising to an Important Occasion was a teeny touch stressful.

The Husband (known as introvert) is giving a speech at the Wedding of the Century. A person cannot give a good speech in bad shoes. If Confucius didn't say that, he blooming well should've.

First impression - DFO is really, really big. Second impression - there's actually stuff there a person might like to buy. Third impression - better not go there too often.

So to our miracle. All three of us found shoes that we actually, genuinely, reallio, trulio wanted to own and wear. In different shops, admittedly.

We purchased our footwear and decamped to an afternoon of cricket. Again. Although later we also visited the Botanic Gardens and watched white winged choughs behaving very strangely towards a lizard.

And if it comforts anyone the Husband (known at the time as not-yet-husband) and I had a doozy of a fight over whether or not the things in our wedding invitations should be centred or left aligned. Tears and madness. But we like each other again now.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Portraits at the portrait gallery

So yesterday we went to the still brand-new Portrait Gallery. We avoided the first few days it was open, because it looked like everyone else in Canberra was there. They offered activities for small children. Canberries seem to whoop it up whenever activities for small children are advertised. I am not sure if this signifies that there should be more activities for small children here, or whether Canberries are just very committed to the development of their children.

Anyway, as you'd expect there were lots of portraits. The emphasis is strongly on the life of the sitter rather than the artist, style, technique or anything else actually to do with art. It's not that any discussion of art is entirely absent, but if it was it wouldn't make all that much difference to the experience.

I kind of suspect the gallery is aimed squarely at people who feel that they don't know much about art (and are perhaps quite content with that). Perhaps I'm being horribly unfair, or perhaps it's just my art-bias-underskirt showing. I always enjoyed how the Queensland Art Gallery made non-arts people feel very welcome and relaxed, but also offered accessible and useful information about art of all kinds as well. I really miss the Queensland Art Gallery, although I do think that the balance between natural light and artificial light has been compromised by the new back door. It's too bright!

The Portrait Gallery manages the issues of light and space very well indeed. Inside the building is lovely and soothing. The flow of people through the space is pretty good, and there is nearly always enough space to look at a picture from more than one spot. Some of the viewers had trouble moving through the space without getting in the way of other punters. So did the Noodle, who cannot quite believe that some spaces are not entirely appropriate for practising swing bowling (albeit with no ball). Also, I'm not entirely sure he believes that strangers exist as such, because he never really seems to see them. Except to shout 'that lady is really, really short isn't she?' at the supermarket. Perhaps I need to go about the place introducing him to everyone he sees.

The earlier portraits were positioned more in their social context. Issues of the social meaning of the portraits, the wealth of the new society and so on were discussed in the didactic panels (I love saying didactic panels. Some of these ones are morally didactic panels). As the portraits moved towards contemporary times and the subjects became more recognisable (nearly all politicians, celebrities, sports people and the like), there was less of this. Which was a shame, because a discussion of why it's suddenly only famous people rather than rich or self-congratulatory people, who get portraits would be interesting. To me, anyway.

There's a most fine bookshop at the gallery (run by an ex-coworker of the Husband that I don't know).

Criticisms aside, and they aren't really criticisms but observations I guess, I liked it. I shall go again, and have already added it to the 'places to take visiting relatives' list. After Old Parliament House and the Botanic Gardens, I reckon.

Gardening quote from the Noodle

"Pickled dwarf runner beans! Great!"

I think we should have not taught him about sarcasm after all.

I also think the success with the potatoes may have gone to his head.