6 November 2007 redux #blogvember

Today is the sixth anniversary of when Robert and I met. Three years ago I wrote an open letter to Benedict about his father. When I re-read it this morning, I cried. Tears of joy. To celebrate I am reposting that letter.


Dear Benedict,

Soon it will be the three year anniversary of the day I met your father. I started my new job on 5th November 2007. Remember remember the fifth of November, I thought, well if I don’t like the ACT Government, I can always blow it up.

I met your daddy for the first time on my second day of work. It was a Wednesday. The Tuesday was a public holiday – no one told me that. I started on Monday in an almost entirely empty office with most people, including your daddy, taking the Monday off. So after an exhausting and emotionally draining first day in my new job, I had a day off to recover. Then on Wednesday when everyone actually came to work, I spend the morning being introduced to people; whose names I immediately forgot. I was quite freaked out. I then rounded out the morning with an absolutely appalling sandwich for lunch because I didn’t know where to go.

In the afternoon I was sitting quietly at my new desk, reading a cheery card from your lovely Mamie who was a bit worried and had sent me a card and some lip balm (it’s windy in Canberra in the spring, she thought). Suddenly, there was a crashing sound close by. The sound of sheet metal being hit with something. I jumped out of my chair with surprise to see your daddy standing next to my empty filing cabinet. His foot had collided with the cabinet in his enthusiasm to cross the space between me and the rest of the office.

Hello, he said, I’m Robert. After a few pleasantries he wandered off again to his little windowless glass box about 5 metres away. As they say that was the beginning of the end.

Shortly after this day, he asked me out for coffee to interrogate me about what I knew about industrial relations. I think I passed – I seemed to be able to answer his questions ok. I didn’t know at the time, but he had done his research (smart man your daddy). He knew who I was – while I was still quite in the dark about him! He seemed to like me. So I started giving him a hard time.

I cracked some jokes at his expense. He asked me out for drink after work. Soon I was seeing him everyday. I didn’t want there to be another single day when I didn’t see him.

My darling boy, your daddy is a wonderful, kind, witty and generous man. He knows a lot of things – like where everything is in the whole world, the names of all the Australian Prime Ministers in order to Federation. He knows lots about books and has read a huge number of them. He knows all about how government works. He can cook – really delicious food, and his lemon tart is enough to make you grow out of your egg allergy quick smart.

Most importantly Benedict, your daddy knows what really matters in life. Love, laughter, fun and joy. He is loving. He has loved you since you were just an idea and not yet a boy. He is the best daddy a boy could have. I weep with happiness at having met your daddy.

Your mama x

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?

Sunday Confessional One #blogvember

Too early for tinsel?

Too early for tinsel

Sunday is here. Following on from last year’s innovation, this Blogvember will feature a Confessional post on Sundays. Without further ado, for ado seems unnecessary, this Sunday I confess I am not ready for it to be December again. I have barely recovered from the last time.

December in our family is not just about Christmas. It is about birthdays. A lot of birthdays.

In our immediate circle of family and friends in the month from 28 November to 27 December there are nine birthdays. And there will be another added this year, when my sister-in-law has her second child. The December birthday honour roll includes two nieces, my brother, my son, and close friends children turning three and four; including one set of twins. I am always wary of adding them up in case I forget someone.

There are also a minimum of four childrens parties. The attempts to do combined parties are thwarted by interstate relatives and grandparents, or other difficult to work around family commitments. This means that we are at birthday parties every weekend for the whole of December, sometimes two in the one day. This is before the Christmas celebrations are taken into account. It makes me tired just thinking about it. This year I thought I had gone out early enough in the planning. I booked the hall. Set the date. Announced. Only to have been too late again. It’s three separate parties for the three kids who are turning four in the space of two days.

The shopping alone is enough to kill me. The present choosing, wrapping, card writing and arranging is a marathon. The cooking, and cleaning and in between it all, the odd bit of Christmas preparation. Last year, I wrote myself a list. It is in my diary. It has a detailed explanation of where I put the birthday accoutrements and in which box the Christmas lights have seen out the year. I glanced at the list the other day. I promptly shut the diary.


The annual treasure hunt

Boxing Day used to be all about cricket, ham rolls and beer. It is now about making the 27th of December special for my beautiful boy. I promise myself every year I will be one of those organised and on-top-of-it people who shop at the mid-year toy sales, who buy in bulk and wrap as they go. Bless me father, for I have sinned.

Oh how I laugh when I get to November and there are no age appropriate gift cards in the box. Tasteful adult cards? I have millions of them. Ones with dinosaurs and fairies and stuff little kids like? Totally absent. My continued lack of preparation and incremental forethought stares me in the face, as I peer into the box hoping that something will appear. Better get shopping. Actually, better have a gin before I start.

Suggestions welcome for birthday presents for girls turning three, four and nine, and for brother who has everything.

Writing time #blogvember

Unplug and write

Unplug and write

I burst into the kitchen just now. Robert is shelling broad beans. I’ve got this idea, I say. I’ve been trying to think of an idea, a kernel for a post, all afternoon. I continue. You know that story about Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan talking about how long it takes to writes songs? Yes, he says in a drawn out way. Well, I press on, I think I’ll write about that, and writing. About how long it takes. Yes, he says again. Not very enthusiastically. I exit the kitchen. Sometimes the ideas sound better in my head than when I say them out loud to you, I say. That’s the role we play for each other, he says. Read More

We are here #blogvember

It’s the first of November. It is not 4 in the morning. Which is just as well as today has been full enough without extending it for another 10 hours. It is the first nice evening for a while and we are sitting outside. It is the start of Blogvember, or as we call it round here, NoNoNaNoWriMo.

I can’t commit to writing 1667 words a day, for every day of November. While I would love to, and I’d love to feel the fantastic sense of achievement of ‘winning’ NaNoWriMo again, I know what is required. I know I am not able to commit the time required. Never mind that I am bursting with story fragments, ideas and characters. I just don’t have the time.

Me? Nerves of steel!

Me? Nerves of steel!

Instead I will blog every day for November. That’s a blog post a day for 30 days. Last year’s blogvember was a whirlwind of working full time and writing every day and the hardest thing was finding and processing images. This year will be no different. I won’t be able to find any more free time.

If you write everyday, you need images for your blog; to promote it. It provides a visual reference for your reader. Something that represents your words. If you’re a writer, you need to conjure those images, but in the minds of your reader, not in the blogosphere. The writing and the blogging I have done, particularly in the last three years has shown me the difference. If you want to write fiction, you need to stop blogging. If you love your blog, it is hard to find the time to write fiction. That is just my experience. This year at least, I have a stock of images ready to go … well sort of. I have taken photos. I have sometimes even processed them into acceptable blog images. I have a few ideas for posts I would like to write. Mostly it will be a ‘pantser’ effort of making it up, just in time, as I go along. My creative processes will be curtailed into snippets of compressed, expedient writing, rushed and hurried, while I should be doing other things. I will spend a bit of time this evening, formulating some ideas and trying to work out how to carve out the hour a day I really need to do Blogvember, or indeed any creative writing process, justice.

While I struggle to find the time, I commit to bringing you insights, small and large into my life and the lives of those around me. The big issues, the tiny and insignificant issues, the issues that matter and the ones that only a tiny handful of people will actually care about. Hope you can join me for the wild ride.

Everything you know about me is wrong

I shared an office once with an extremely clever and truly good person. One day while I was acting rashly and threatening retaliation against a perceived academic slight, she turned her face to mine and said: ‘Don’t lose your credibility. Without that you have nothing.’

What I couldn’t see so close to the moment was that the retaliation I wanted to wreak was going to do me significant damage. Its intended recipient was going to brush it off like a leaf fallen from a tree and it would have has as much impact. To me though, it was going to cruel my chances altogether. Read More

Top ten reasons I am over the 2013 election

I am often moved to shout at the telly these days. I like politics. I consider myself reasonably well informed. I live in Canberra – I am sometimes close to the political action. I usually love elections. This time round I despair. For the first time in my voting life, I am over it before the voting even starts!

I am seriously over what passes for commentary in most quarters. I am tired of the reductive three word slogans. I am totally over the demonising of people seeking asylum to this country.

What to do? I can spend time hiding under a rock. I can turn off the tv. I can block my ears. But none of these are my style. Without further ado, here then are the top ten reasons I am over the 2013 election … before it even happens. Read More

Life on mars

I’m smooching on the couch with my boy and my cat.

This is blasting

We are reading baby books – because no one wants to find the big kid library books and besides I am pinned to the couch by the cat. Benedict is telling me stories about bears and dogs.

Somebody might bring me wine. That’d be rather tops.
Tomorrow I start a new work gig. I am seeking balance and more moderation.
I will paint my nails. Find something nice to wear.
Charge up my phone. Get into a new routine.
I might even wear my ‘NEW’ Remo pin from circa 1997.
Just to remind myself I am starting fresh.

Lincoln Park After Dark

Lincoln Park After Dark

Ultimate book Q&A … on it goes

Lovely Michelle who writes a beautiful blog, Book to The Future has tagged me in a lovely Ultimate Book Q&A.

Here are the Ultimate Book Q&A Rules

1. Post these rules
2. Post a photo of your favourite book cover
3. Answer the questions below
4. Tag a few people to answer them too
5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them you’ve tagged them
6. Make sure you tell the person who tagged you that you’ve taken part!

Read More

Kindness of strangers


A woman I don’t know gave me a gift. She thought she was giving me a night’s accommodation and the chance to have a night away. What she actually gave me was the opportunity to briefly be without responsibility, without a role.

Read More

Hottest 100 – 20 years of paths I didn’t take

This weekend there was a return to the good times. The anticipation. The radios blaring all over the suburbs. A return to old times, when radio was a lifeline for lovers of music. A return to a time when waiting and anticipation was all part of the game. No instant anything. No internet, no SMS voting, no Spotify. Just vinyl and tapes. And the radio.

Twenty years of the JJJ Hottest 100. The music of the past twenty years – songs released between 1 January, 1993 and 31 December, 2012. The Hottest 100 poll, which started on JJJ in 1989, has changed a bit. The first time I was able to listen to the countdown was the first year I was in Sydney as an adult, 1991. The next year’s broadcast on Australia Day 1992, I was ready. And I made these.

Hottest 100 precious artifacts from 1992

Hottest 100 precious artifacts from 1992

I have carried them around for twenty one years. Through at least eight moves. That is now more than half my life. The top 15 songs contain 8 of my favourite songs of all time. I don’t have anything to play these tapes on any more. All the tape decks, all the walkmans, none of them are here any more. Lost over the years and broken and abandoned as CDs and then digital everything took over.

Now I wouldn’t need to laboriously record the music and then transcribe the playlists in minute writing, in four different colours. I’d just log on. I know there are golden moments on those tapes. The back announcing of songs, the sleepy (ok, drug addled) voices of artists doing interviews down the phone from the other side of the world. Those fleeting, ephemeral moments are trapped forever on magnetic tapes. Probably now unplayable.

The nostalgia created by the Hottest 100 this weekend lead me to reflect on all the lucky escapes I have had.

The missed opportunities, the chances not taken, the decisions which closed off a certain path. In 1992 I did not transfer into Arts/Law. Nor did I do well enough in first year uni to swap into Mass Comm – then as now, hard to get into and desirable. (I blame History 101 for that – a bastard C grade for that course wrecked that chance.) I didn’t stay in Potts Point. I didn’t do a lot of things. I did decided that I would study philosophy. I did only the minimum of other subjects that year. That set a path which turned into a doctorate, moving to Canberra the first time and a missed opportunity to marry someone with three passports and thanks to his baggage handler father, 10% fares on Qantas forever.

The ten years of songs, 1992 to 2002, reflect thousands of these moments. Heartache, young romance, parties, tragedies, mistakes. This year’s Hottest 100 countdown, is the soundtrack to every decision good and bad I have made for half my life. It is the musical accompaniment to all my joys and fears. All the sorrow and excitements.

The ten years after that from Are You Going Be My Girl to Spectrum (Say My Name) were among the most tumultuous of my whole life. They produced a PhD, another move, new jobs, a man and a baby. Massive changes.

When in the early days it was so difficult to record, archive, save and catalogue, now it is so simple. It’s fast but some of the fun has gone. It took me two minutes to mine the archive for the lists from the past 20 years and beyond to 1991. In 1992 it took me days to finish those tapes and I had to wait until Drum Media published the full list of the tracks as I didn’t know all the song titles and artists. Some of them I had heard for the first time, that Australia Day 1992. These track lists are now filed on Triple J’s website under archive – history. I have a special home in mind for those tapes. They really ought to be displayed as the cultural artifacts they are. They deserve a special place.

Only one question remains? What’s my favourite song from the 1991 list?

That was too hard. So I made a list. It’s here on Spotify – with the cool kids.

And here is the list with one of the most disappointing No 1 tracks ever

Thanks for the memories Triple J and here’s to paths not taken.