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.