Sunday Confessional Three #blogvember

Someone please make me a cup of tea?

Someone please make me a cup of tea?

Last night I dreamt that I was walking around with my camera. I saw a man coming towards me. He bumped into me, hard, and later I noticed he had stolen my camera lens. I gave chase all over somewhere that reminded me of Sydney University. Soon into the chase I realised there were more sinister forces at play. While I pursued the camera lens through the underground parts of the university buildings, I noticed that I was being cornered. Entering rooms with no exits, blind alleys and rooms without windows, I was getting panicked in the dream. There were a series of utility rooms with enameled equipment coloured mint green, the same colour as a Metters Canberra fuel stove. The tension of this dream narrative was clearly building, and it woke me up. At 4am. This was not optimal. Shortly thereafter, Benedict woke up needing to wee, and then Robert got up and started watching rugby. I confess now to not being especially gruntled by any of this. Really? Rugby at 5am? Eventually I went back to sleep and so did Benedict. Which was a relief.

I checked my camera. Lens is still on.


Tomatoes before Christmas #blogvember

There is a story in Canberra about how you can, if you are boxing clever, sow seed and eat tomatoes before Christmas. About three people a year manage it. In a town where there is frost until November, often, and this year in particular, there was a frost in October where the temperature plummeted to minus 3.9, it is a challenge to get tomatoes into the ground and ripening fruit by December 25. Read More

Why I love being 40 – perfume #blogvember

The best thing about being 40 is knowing my own mind. More precisely, the best thing is knowing what I like. It was very plain today, while chatting with a charming and yet extremely young assistant in Mecca Cosmetica. In the first two minutes it was obvious that she was learning about perfume from chatting with me rather than selling me anything.  She did know her product range, but she couldn’t have made a suggestion for me based on any description of what I liked. As it turned out, I told her. I also told her that this was one of the good things about having worn perfume for 20 years, you learn a thing or two. Read More

Kids and reading #blogvember

Never too soon to start long form books

Never too soon to start long form books

My son can’t read … yet. He can recognise letters and his own name. He knows when you *cough* skip over sections or pages of familiar books. He has been read to since the day he was born. His bedroom hosts the philosophy, poetry and reference sections of our library. When he was tiny, he did delight in making me furious by pulling the ones on the bottom shelf off, one at a time. Mostly he understands that books need to be treated with respect. I have never told him he can’t read a book. I will read him any book, any time. I have made myself a rule, which is often exploited, that I would never refuse him a book or reading time. Read More

I’m at war with myself and I have just worked out why

10 December 2009

December 2009

For a long time, I have been suffering a general malaise. For the first two years of Benedict’s attendance at childcare, we suffered through weeks of sickness from Easter till August. We were all sick for months at a time. And we recovered eventually and 2013 has been better. Except I didn’t really recover. This feeling is not just a simple virus or head ache or pain in the leg. It is a deep seated unspecific feeling. I am not at all at peace within my own skin.

This feeling, right now is part of a life long feeling of dissatisfaction with my physical body. It’s a fine body in many ways. It contains me. It mostly works. It also has some deep limitations. Rubenesque and short waisted. Fair and freckly. Not especially tall. For a long time I had, at best an ambivalent relationship to it. At worst, I really hated it. I am not now at that worst. I have been doing more Pilates, yoga and the odd bit of other stuff. My opinion of myself has been much improved with effort on my part and the reformer which lives up to its name. Yet the malaise persists and is worse right now because I have been sick in bed for two days. Read More

Three good blog reads

IMG_0800 - Version 2My throat hurts. My ears hurt. My family stayed home today. Not me. I went in to fight the good fight. I worry about tomorrow. Maybe we will all be home. Lying around moaning.

There is no more fight now. My eyelids are closing regularly. I read three great blog posts instead of writing one.

I reaffirmed the affinity I have with Naomi – she not really into mornings either. I could have written that post. Except that she already did and wrote it better and more wittily than I would have. Pass the travel cup of earl grey!

I was lured by photos of beautiful peonies to Tiny Savages’s piece about Mondays. And the photos of gin she posts. And clean sheets. I want to move in to her blog. Immediately. It’s beautiful. I could easily live there.

And finally, I read this Who is Kayte Murphy? I was amazed it had taken this long, but she’s out now! I still vividly remember meeting this force of nature Mrs Woog. I was and still am amazed. Sometimes other people’s blogs are the best blogs. There are all so pretty. The words are all in the right order. And I don’t have to moderate over 80 comments tonight. Cheers all three. I love your work.



Sunday Confessional Two #blogvember

This Sunday I confess that I am in two minds about writing.

In my writing mind I am, at once, a much better writer and a much worse writer than I actually am. I’m better because in my writing mind I don’t make typos, I can spell, and I never use poor grammar or clumsy construction. I’m worse because what I write isn’t very interesting, it never lives up to my own high standards for prose style and it reveals the wrong things or not even close to enough of the truth.

This battle is played out, and if you’ve been reading for a while, you will have noticed it, across the posts on this blog. It appears when I am under pressure to write. Oh I can’t write that, I tell myself, or if I write that I’ll need to do ten hours of research to make it credible. The variations are endless as the two minds argue and bicker. The discipline and rigour of process should keep me on track. Practice and repetitions, like training, should be making the writing better, faster, easier. When the noise in my head gets too loud, I read about the practice of other writers. Discipline, routine and focus are constant themes.

I wonder sometime about whimsy. About putting ideas together in new ways. Kicking over the rocks. Debunking myths. Lately I’ve been wondering how I can make my plans for the study renovation to give myself a proper solo writing space. It needs to be a priority. The writing at the dining room table while homey and central to what’s important at our house, allows insufficient space for the two minds to argue, agree and disagree. Space is needed to keep the minds apart and let the truth out.

Maybe what I need is a new chair

Maybe what I need is a new chair

Short and sweet #blogvember

Buffalo mozzarella and tomato and basil salad

Buffalo mozzarella and tomato and basil salad

This is probably the most beautiful salad I know how to make.

This photo speaks to the best of my Saturday. Gathering provisions to make a beautiful dinner. Markets and foraging and assembling the best ingredients.

My only regret lately is that there is far too little focus on la dolce vita and far too much on graft and on unimportant but necessary things like money and paying bills. I so enjoyed my Campari Pomegranate Fizz, while watching what constitutes peak hour in Canberra on Friday afternoon, with an excellent companion who knows about conversation. It was a shame to leave to attend to my responsibilities. Where is the nanny when you need her?


Campari and pomegranate fizz

Pleasures lost #blogvember

I am one of the biggest fans of the interwebs. I love everything about them. I love blogs, online shopping, being able to search archives, twitter and the power of information at my fingertips. I love the instant solving of problems, weather forecasts, taxi bookings, holiday browsing and the settling of arguments. Exactly how old is anyone who has any kind of public profile? This information is usually available, right now. My favourite thing about the internet is that I never have to go into the library ever again for myself. The library is on the internet, straight to my e-book. Read More

Art and Me #blogvember

NGA Fountain ~ so much joy ~ so little time

NGA Fountain ~ so much joy ~ so little time

Tomorrow I will take Benedict to Art and Me for the last time.
It is the last one for the year and next year he will be too old.

Art and Me is an interactive program for two and three year olds run by the National Gallery of Australia. For the past two years, as often as possible, Benedict and I have made our way, one Friday a month, to the front door of the NGA. The excitement in the small boy as we wait for the doors to open is palpable. He races around, weaving in and out of the assembled queue of mostly 60 plus visitors who are waiting to enter the latest blockbuster. I try to help him understand how many minutes we will have to wait. I try to make sure the number of minutes is not too many. I take his photo with the pears. I measure his progress by how tall he is compared to them. He is now too tall. Too almost four. Much bigger and with more understanding than the mostly tiny two and three year olds, with whom he attends this magical monthly wonder, that is one of the best experiences I can imagine.


The tours involve learning, drawing, expressing, appreciating and accreting knowledge about what is important and about our wondrous cultural institutions that are so much of a part of the nation’s capital. Benedict has looked at modern art, classical art, sculpture, pop art, and installations in the children’s gallery about play. He has drawn with white pencil on black paper, made cut outs like Kentridge, he has stared at Monet, pressed all the lift buttons, paraded his ‘gallery arms’, straight and neatly by his side. He has sung and wriggled and we have both stretched out on the floor gazing up at the mobile in the modern art gallery.

Here is a short photo essay. Small boy grows and learns about art.

It has been the most wonderful experience of the month, in the past two years and I have looked forward intensely to the joy of it, and so has he. Now, we will do other things and just visit the gallery, but this precious time will stay with me forever. Whenever Benedict doesn’t feel like going to childcare, he asks me if we can go the Gallery instead. A fantastic place which is now knows his way around.


Breaking Bad is finished. Now what are we going to do? #blogvember

We have finally finished watching Breaking Bad. All of it. It’s over. Now there is a yawning gulf in our evening particularly between nine and midnight that used to be filled with the archetypal anti-hero doing appalling things.

What are we going to do?
That awful absence of addictive television has left us starting at each other on the couch wondering how to converse with each other. The coasters permanently glued to the arm of the chair have been swept aside in favour of books, journals and other enriching and edifying materials. The living room has been cleared of clutter that had accumulated through weeks of neglect. The nana rugs have been laundered to remove the cat hair and melted shards of chocolate. The endlessly ignored and actively not-read for months pieces in the New Yorker and other fine publications have been absorbed and agonised over. Plot and character developments and the denouement have been dissected. It is over. It is finished. There are no more episodes. Nothing left to discuss. No more bad renditions of the ‘Say My Name’ scene.

And yet I am not ready to let it go, not quite yet. I am not yet ready to move onto something new, not ready to start another huge distraction. Lucky I have blogvember. How else would I fill the endless stolen hours? Before I leave Breaking Bad I give you this flashback from my childhood. What on earth would my grandad think of tv about meth labs and bad guys set to a soundtrack of his favourite gunslinger balladier?


I’ve got this lovely 12 place dinner set. Would you like it? #blogvember

Sometimes married life, or co-habiting life, or just hanging out life, has traps. Like a bear-pit. These traps can sometimes, I have heard, take the form of unscheduled and unannounced visits from other people’s parents.  Or so I am told. If you do happen to find yourself in such a situation, perhaps you’ll need a little help. Here’s what advice I have picked up along the way, from friends who have had this sort of thing happen to them.

If you hear about a proposed visit by MIL to your town while you are away on holidays, the best thing to do is promptly forget. You don’t want to ruin your relaxed state. When you return from holidays, still forget. Until two days after you get home. Then hubby will remind you and you won’t have time to do anything. This is probably for the best.

When he does remind you three key pieces of information will be imparted. Your MIL is in your town, you are going to take her for coffee, he can’t remember her number. (These facts are all interchangeable with other facts like, today is Saturday, the car needs petrol, I can’t find my keys, as they are, equally, all completely useless).

If you arrive at MIL’s temporary accommodation with her longtime friends, say hello, be welcoming and friendly. If she then produces all her luggage when you think she’s gone to collect her purse, remain calm. Under no circumstances should you shoot accusatory glances at hubby*. He is in the same boat, that is far out to sea, in the dark, with no EPIRB or any flares. The next 48 hours will be a stormy period. Better to stay calm and dry for as long as possible.

Natural topics of conversations for MIL

  • Your wills
  • The contents of her house and how she’d like you to have them
  • Your husband’s ex wife (etc)
  • Your husband’s children
  • Your husband’s father
  • Your husband – with the sub-topics of, his job, his parenting, his political beliefs, his table manners, his future plans, his children
  • Your house and its contents
  • Your choice of school – together with choice of what age to send your child to school
  • The education system at large
  • How many ‘certified’ genius grandchildren there are in the family and how your child is going to be one of them
  • Young people today, and all that.

There are a number of approaches for dealing with ‘the natural topics of MIL conversations’. Most of them involve irony and a thick skin.

Over, say a 48 hour period, if you are very proficient, you can employ all of the different approaches in turn. Sometimes, if you are extremely good, you can employ different approaches for the same conversation at different times. Naturally, you may be finding yourself in the same conversation a number of times over 48 hours. You can either play a straight bat, take the ironic route or just pretend that you didn’t hear the question. Anyone like another cup of tea?

For example, the conversation about the contents of the house will go something like: ‘I have a 12 place setting Noritake dinner set, would you like it?’ Your response should be, I’d love it, but MY mother just gave me a 10 place setting Satsuma and we really can’t store it. I mean where would we put it? This last phrase should be accompanied by an expansive gesture around your tidy living room. This may then morph into, if there is anything at all that you want in the house, just say so. It is a good idea to defuse this with wry remarks about bringing your own roll of red stickers next time you visit. Mine. Mine. Mine. Sold. Sold. Sold.

Exactly the same conversation at another time about a different dinner set may include phrases like, have you had this valued? Anyone ever appraised your collection?

Having narrowly avoided collecting more 60s dinner sets, a camphor wood chest and a glass table with a light inside (just for example) the conversation may take a morbid turn towards the wills, death and dying and the rosy future you will have after everyone else is dead, with the 60s china and the glass table. You need to be ready for this. Here, my research tells me, you can use all the different approaches together. The question about your own will, should be answered with, are you happy with your solicitor? Perhaps we should get further advice? This will perhaps deflect the conversation momentarily into the legal profession and all that ails it. And away from you and your BLANK will kit you collected from the post office last time any one mentioned it. Cup of tea anyone?

The school conversation, much like the genius grandchildren can either be treated seriously or ironically and you can use the same stock responses for both. Yes, we do think our child is your most special grandchild and indeed a genius, would you like to see his umbilical cord?

*Using the term loosely of course, to mean ‘other spouse equivalent’ which I read once on a form.

Tea set? Would you like one?