Penultimate post #blogvember 2013

IMG_3505It’s almost the end of blogvember. It is the day before the last. Friday night. Glass of rosé. BBQ chook.

This blogvember I have so far written 11 536 words. By the last word on the post tomorrow it will be over 12 000. There are insights in those words, secrets and typos. There were a wide variety of topics covered and having completed a quick review, some of the writing could be better, and a lot of it would have been better with more editing. Such is the challenge of blogvember, write everyday, write fast and post.

The discipline of writing everyday is one of the techniques most commonly cited in advice for writers.

I’ve cited this before and I will again to remind myself that I am not there yet.


Writing is a muscle. Smaller than a hamstring and slightly bigger than a bicep, and it needs to be exercised to get stronger. Think of your words as reps, your paragraphs as sets, your pages as daily workouts. Think of your laptop as a machine like the one at the gym where you open and close your inner thighs in front of everyone, exposing both your insecurities and your genitals. Because that is what writing is all about. (Colin Nissan)

Much self editing has been at play, and not enough exposure. The exposing of insecurities I still need to work on. The generation of new ideas has been easier and harder than last year, sometimes I think because some of my ideas have already had a good run. It also lead me to conclude that there is a bit of sameness in the routine between this year and last year. I think now would be a good time for a complete overhaul and a new writing venture. I’ll be mulling that over while I keep doing my daily workout over the summer.

The soft parts #blogvember

There are parts of me that are damaged and sore. Literally and metaphorically the tender velvet purple bruise of pain resides in my right hip. It is at times more present and then, it recedes and fades. The soft part which is evident if you press it, if I lie on it, is protected, shielded and cosseted. The words to describe the pain do not come easily. I wonder if it will ever heal. Ever stop hurting.IMG_3486 - Version 2

The pain leads to compensation. It leads to holding back. I don’t use the full range of motion. I lengthen, only to a point. I hold back and keep myself in check, in reserve. Literally and metaphorically the pain is protected. I hold it in, as I hold myself back. I downplay. It doesn’t hurt that much. It doesn’t hurt today. It’ll feel better after I had a hot pack, a panadol, a stretch. Deep in my hip the pain curls itself deep in the tissue and keeps quiet and invisible.

The causes of the velvet purple bruise of pain are deeper than the  tissue. They are deeper than me. They might stretch back to the beginning of me. The soft parts need careful handling. The bruise needs to be strengthened from the inside. The support structures of the hip, the tissues, the tendons need to be gently worked over. The rest of me need to be able to sustain. The rest of me needs to bear the bruise and the pain of working on the damage.  I can’t run. It follows. I fell and now I am paying for hitting the ground.

Fantasy island #blogvember

In the late seventies there was an island where, for a fee, you could live out your fantasies. My fantasy island doesn’t involve fees, or dwarves or sea planes, or humidity. The island of my imagination is for mothers. Exclusively. Almost no one else is allowed. There is only wine you like, books you like, music you like, lots of relaxation and uninterrupted sleep. It is for mothers. You don’t have to wash clothes, or iron, or wash up, or cook. Or you can do all those things if they make you feel good. There are massages, and clean sheets every single night. Ironed. Clean. Linen. Sheets – every single night. There is any book you want, or any magazine, or any anything with words in the world, immediately. There is music. Lots of music. And tea. There is always a packet of chips, or an orange, or a lamington, or cheese and bix.

Fantasy Island

Fantasy Island

The island is only for mothers because even when, or if, they go on holidays, they are never off duty. There is never the chance to just let go. That can only happen when everyone else is totally happy, comfortable and asleep. This is not possible in normal circumstances.

On my fantasy island, there are no fees, it’s not means tested, it takes anyone of any colour, race or creed. You can talk to anyone or no one. It is totally up to you. Simply, it is the best place on earth. I think it should be entirely tax payer funded. It is a community service to have invested time, energy and mental respite to mothers. My childless friends should not miss out, so they can apply through a ballot, for a few limited spots. The weather is never more than 25 degrees. It is never more than about 50% humidity. You don’t have to pack. Everything you need is provided, and it is all much nicer than the stuff you would have packed anyway.

Fantasy island is the place I always want to go in my imagination. When I need the respite from the hurly burly of the world. Wouldn’t it be great?


Sunday Confessional Four #blogvember

The making for beautiful wrapping and gifting

The making for beautiful wrapping and gifting

While I like to think that good cheer, the milk of human kindness and joy will be enough to see us through to the end of the ‘silly season’, I know it won’t be enough. No amount of extra yoga and breathing through your nose will be sufficient, by itself, to carry me across the finish line that is Christmas eve in one piece. I am going to need some help. If I am going to survive the kindy Christmas party, work Christmas party, other parties, end of year celebrations for bookclub, mum’s group, family gatherings, not to mention the birthdays and festivities, not to mention the shopping, gathering, cooking,  I will need gin. And wine. Lots and lots of wine. This is before I even think about how to tackle the day itself.

This Sunday I confess to my tricks to assist with the extra frivolity and carnival atmosphere that will invade our lives very soon.

Gin and tonic. Wine. Campari spritzers. Christmas cake and cups of tea. Sometimes all of the above.

Soon we all need to start preparing in earnest. I like to begin this madness by preparing my emergency stash. Bottle of gin. Chips. Several bottles of wine. Wine bottle gift bags. The gin is for me, as are the chips, the wine is to slide into a bag and give away. It is ready for all the people who will invite you round, turn up with a gift or present you with a cheery card when you haven’t factored them into your shopping list. In fact, I no long even make the list, I just get the wine in, get the bags and a sparkly texta and away I go. Walking out the door, pass by the laundry, wine, ready to go.

Every time I go to the supermarket now, I come home with at least one of the novelty Christmas-y chocolate packs. Gold ones. I wrap them or just stick bows on them. That stash occasionally gets too large and we have left over Ferraro all over the house for months into the new year.

There is another trick, although it is wearing a little thin in this house, is this CD. Or should I say three CD set!

I defy anyone not to be cheered by this festival of lounge music cheese – yes mum, I am looking at you. I do like the Bublé in the car so I can sing along and no one can hear me. No one will let me listen to it at home! With that preparation in place, then all I need to do is crank up the stereo, open the front door and try to remember which red frock I wore to which party last year.

Time to confess! How do you survive December with all its delights? Do you need a Bex and a good lie down just thinking about it? Tell me how you cope.

Boundless Playground #blogvember

Boundless Project - siteplan

Boundless Project – siteplan

The Boundless Playground, an all abilities playground, to mark the centenary of  Canberra is a project which is gift to the children of the national capital, from the public servants of Canberra. An important place designed for all children, regardless of ability, the Boundless Playground will provide a place for all children to play, regardless of what they can do.

A lot of us, all our family actually, has been involved in large and small ways since the beginning of the project. We have rattled fund-raising tins, administered websites, assisted with events, sung in choirs and helped out at events. The effort involved in organising such a project takes hundreds of people, long-term commitment and ideas. Creative ideas to raise awareness and funds. One of the more creative ideas was a mass choir with a Boundless song, specifically written by talented Canberra duo, The Cashews. The best thing about the mass choir is that it was full of real people, of all abilities, young and old. And it featured children. Lots of children. Some of the children were interviewed about playgrounds and the kids, lots of whom we know, made into the video. Here is it. Where do playgrounds come from? by The Cashews and the massed choir in support of the Boundless Playground.

The video features one little boy, talking about slides at about the 33 second mark. You might recognise him.

You can make a donation to important work of the Boundless Playground here.

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

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?


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