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Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso is a small landlocked country in west Africa. It is surrounded by six other countries.

Burkina Faso is also my default answer to any question which includes the word ‘Africa’.

For as long as it has existed,  I have been doing the quiz in the back of the Sydney Morning Herald Good Weekend section. Now Robert and I do it together. We can judge how the weekend will go, just by how many questions we get right. Lots of right answers? Cracking weekend coming up. There are always geography questions. I get every single one of them wrong.  Robert gets about 90% right – occasionally he gets them wrong, but it is rare.

I know nothing about the geography of the world. Practically nothing at all. I have to think very hard when trying to imagine which side of the country the west coast of the US is and what cities that represents. I know nothing of the geography of Asia and only have scant understanding of the countries, coast lines and seas that make up Europe. Read More

Blogvember post the last … what no one tells you ~ part one

What you must not do, is reach behind you into your past and try to drag parts of it with you.

You are not that person anymore.

Let me tell you a story.

This is a story about ‘everywoman’. She’s you, she’s me, she’s your wife, your sister, you lover, your friend. Let’s call her Stella, although that isn’t her real name. Stella lives in a world where the truly important and transformational aspects about her life are hidden, not discussed, not for public consumption. She lives with a haze of unspoken thoughts and fears hovering just out of her grasp.

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

What no one tells Stella is how much of herself she will lose. Or about how much she will lose control of perfectly simple things, like getting in the car and driving away. Or about her bodily functions and how they will betray her while she is trying to get on with life. Or the boredom, or the self loathing, or the sheer frustration of trying all day to something easy and minor and trivial that cannot be achieved while holding a baby that won’t sleep.

No one tells her that everyone, every woman feels like this. In Stella’s mind they are all coping and it is only she who is paralysed standing next to your car for an eternity trying to decide if you should just carry the baby into the bread shop or whether you should get the pram out of the boot. As she stands there a stranger approaches her gently to ask if she is ok because she is concerned that Stella has been standing there for such a long time.

In Stella’s mind everyone else loves making craft and cuddling tiny babies while not reading their book. In her sleep deprivation addled brain, it is only she who is monumentally incompetent and you are the only one you who can’t do all the housework and cook the dinner and look after the babies all day.

What no one tells you is that this is the last bastion of the secret club that you can only enter by having a baby. A secret door that once you pass through it you can never go back. The changes are profound and you can’t know this from the outset. The mechanical details of having a child can be taught and explained but no one will tell you what it feels like. Not often does anyone try to speak honestly about the grind and the isolation, and if they do soft words in rosy colours are applied over the hard messages to soften, to conceal and to temper the blows.

If Stella is lucky she will be well supported. But no amount of support and encouragement is going to silence the noisy voices in her head telling her that she should love this, that it is natural and easy and that if it isn’t, that it is her fault. If she is unlucky she will not be supported. She will be bullied by doctors and nurses and her pain from the birth with never leave her. If her expectations, no matter how unrealistic about her birthing experience are not met, she will feel like she has failed in some way, and no one will want to talk about it. Not her friends, not her partner, not anyone; because after a while someone else cannot hear her tell the story over and over again without wishing it would stop.

Sometimes Stella will feel like she is surfing the wave to the shore and that soon, she will get up on her feet on the wet sand and walk, free from the clinging water. Other times the tide and the gritty irritating sand will trap her, pulling her back under. She will occasionally try to feel herself again. She’ll try to read the New Yorker or the Paris Review but the page will swim beneath her eyes and she will struggle to hold a coherent thought and then the baby will need a feed or comfort or the toddler will pull all the books off the shelf and Stella will leave the page there only to have to try to tidy it up later.

No one will tell her that it will take years before she will successfully drag some part of her past into the light and reconnect with it. If she is lucky she will know women with children older that her own, to give her glimmers of hope that one day she might be able to do these things again. The things that make her feel whole again. But today is not the day this is going happen. Today Stella will start at 5-30 and keep going till she collapses in the evening, only to have to get up during the night over and over.

Sometimes other women will tell Stella about the joy. The sheer bliss of newborn smell or rosy sleeping cheek or smiles. The telling won’t be enough to convey the heartrending and the unraveling of which will go with these. Or forever living with your heart outside of your body.


Welcome. Here is your life changing gift.

Blogvember post 29 … the penultimate post

With much fanfare and as much excitement as the finish of NaNoWriMo, I present the penultimate post of blogvember.

A quick recap if you’ll indulge me.

I wrote a blog post a day for the past 29 days.

I will write one more tomorrow and that will be a blog a day for the month of November. I wrote each post on the day they were published. I didn’t prepare in advance. I had a few prompts from my good friends on twitter, but otherwise I made it up as I went along. As with my writing for NaNoWriMo, I am a pantser with these challenges. Hardly any preparation, just a shell of an idea. See what happens.

I managed to write over 9 000 words. Not all of them are great words, some of them are out of order.

I did write over 1200 words about gin, which was a surprise. So few words?

A few posts were totally fantastic and a delight to write. I particularly loved post 28 for the reactions and for the joy of recognising a fantastic person. I also enjoyed writing everyday. Some posts were painful and were affected by tiredness. You can work out which ones those are for yourself, I am sure.

Only one day was I totally unable to write anything at all. The dog ate my homework post on day 17 features, The Kinks and well, sometimes that’s all you need. Well, The Kinks and rosé. I also wrote about a wide range of subjects, many of them close to my heart. And there is still one more post to come. Stay tuned.


Blogvember post 28 … good friends, good life

Not often do you met someone who shares many of your hopes and dreams, who is also different enough from you to keep it genuinely interesting. One such person for me is the reason I wish I lived in Melbourne. There are other people too, and you know who you are, but there is one particular person who I wish I lived nearer to, because then I would live closer to them all!

Melbourne ~ home to many fine people

Yesterday this fabulous person wrote one the most important pieces I’ve read for a long time. Really, it is that important. Learning resilience, she says, has far greater merit than being a winner.

When contemplating this, add to it, the idea of finding balance between supporting, caring for and nurturing your family, while looking after yourself and perhaps even finding something to do that financially contributes without taking away from everything that is important to you. Then add the pressure, to love what you do. There are more threads to this blog post that one of Ruth’s pom-poms and it knots around the core of our well-being and happiness. You can read Ruth’s post Finding balance here.

Sometimes people think our family is unconventional.

 It’s true we do some things differently to others.

While I don’t think Ruth’s family is like everyone elses, for a start it is much bigger than ‘average’ whatever that really means, and it has more boys in it than I can think about without just feeling overwhelmed, I think she has crafted her family in a way that few people can manage. With a deliberate care. With mindfulness. With consideration of her impact on the world and on others.

Ruth has supported me in ways she couldn’t possibly imagine in the first three years of mothering. And in life in general. She’s provided me with inspiration, with recipes and ideas. We’ve talked about the downsides of homework, or the upsides of food markets, of love of music and family and making your own way.

This has been invaluable to me as I balance, work and mothering and all the rest of it. She has very clear views about children and food. These helped me beyond measure when I was getting myself into a lather about weetbix for dinner and worrying about fussing over food. She has written sincerely and in a helpful fashion about her family and what they eat on her blog many times. When up against it, more than once, I’ve just checked the recipes on her blog so at least I know what to make for dinner. It is not all about the food. There is a shared love for and striving for a happy home and a heart full of joy.

@ and that is the key! we don't have to do things the same to be happy. beat your own drum. trust yr heart. live with courage

Ruth has helped me to see what was really important about parenting and living.

Courage. I wish her luck as she thinks about how to prepare for the next phase.

A song. For all the songs we have shared.

Who inspires you? Who helps you to see what’s truly important?

Blogvember post 27 … NoNoNaNoWriMo

One of the reasons for starting blogvember, is to continue writing everyday, even through I couldn’t commit to NaNoWriMo this year.
I have watched with envy the tweets about other writers success and word counts. I’ve focused on blogging and stayed away from writing anything else. But I’ve missed the camaraderie. Part of the excitement of NaNoWriMo is the boost you get from being part of something larger than yourself. NaNo is a movement. It’s not just you and your macbook or your pen and notebook pulling words and placing them down. You are doing it along with everyone else who is undertaking this mad endeavour. There are books to help you out, produced by the wonderfully titled Office of Letters and Light.

Aside from the companionship, the thing I miss the most about NaNoWriMo is the latitude I gave myself, to spend all the Tuesdays last November writing. In the coffee shop. Often accompanied by @eatshootblog, who is an excellent writing companion and writes at EatShootBlog. We were a good team. Good at drinking coffee. Good at sitting side by side madly typing and ignoring each other, for the most part. We did have conversations about what we were writing, sometimes. We also talked about a good many things, but not on the Tuesday in November last year. It was a NaNoWriMo 6000 words a day catch up and talking was a waste of precious writing time.

Over many, many Tuesdays long after NaNo was finished, we had perfected the art of the writing meet up. We met most Tuesdays when I wasn’t working full time, and it was a standing date. We’d write, we’d chat, we’d engage.

When it wasn’t possible anymore, around July when I moved jobs, I missed it. I missed the companionship, the shared goal to write, and to drink coffee.

It was my only tandem writing activity, the rest of the time I wrote alone.

Most writers write alone. It is a solitary activity. Some writers can’t write in noisy places. Some can’t write in quiet places. Some have to write first drafts long hand.

Blogging is solitary and yet immediate. Unlike novelists or philosophers, or writers of other published works that are actually printed, who have to wait months and sometimes years for the final product, bloggers can publish now. And promote and get reviewed. Almost immediately. Not so the NaNo novel. That takes a long long time. At the end of November you are left, if you’ve managed to keep your story under control, with at best a first draft. One that needs a lot of work. And that work is the hardest work of all.

The editing. The re-writing. The killing your darlings. This is the writing you must do alone.

Corrective pencil at the ready


Blogvember post 26 … bits and pieces

There is no coherent theme to what I am about to write, I can’t think of anything pertinent. I am ruminating a major piece on motherhood that will take enormous courage to write, as I will have to profess my early incompetence and total lack of clues about how much it would change me. This will take some time to write, as I struggle to express myself about how I felt nearly three years ago.

Instead, I am giving you this, which will no doubt be a string of random madness.

Campari spritzer ~ just what the hot weather demands

I have a campari spritzer and Lou Reed. We are reaching never ending tired. I have a wading pool and toddler to supervise. The bloody gardener cut the bloody mothering banskia rose back again, in spite of it not needing it and in spite of my express wish that it be left the hell alone to grow huge and unwieldy and screen the house behind that grows daily as it is extended and threatens our peace and sanity. He cut it anyway. He doesn’t work for me, I don’t pay him so he does what he likes. Which drives me totally insane. And there is little I can do.

I have a leaking water meter or pipe or something out the front. I only know because the gardener left a note in the letter box. Dial 1300-SaveMe. I do not want to have to deal with it.

I have to write a lot of stuff for work about stuff that is not clear and no one knows how it will end up. Obfuscatory brilliance is required. It is ok to say you don’t know for a while. Except that it is really, really important to people’s lives. The frustration is mounting that there is such a lack of clarity. And that it won’t end anytime soon. Welcome to working in human services.

I forgot to book the cat into boarding over Christmas and now both our regular places are full. I forgot because I picked her up after we got home from Melbourne and I was exhausted and the vet made me wait and tell me all the things about her teeth cleaning, and then I just wanted to go home and forgot that I needed to book the cattery for Christmas.

A lecturer from the University of Western Sydney just used ‘irregardless’ on national television. It is not a word and now it appears so frequently it will become the newest excrescence on the verbal landscape.

I am to have salt and pepper squid for dinner tonight. I thought I was having my dinner alone, as Robert was taking The Talking Boy to the movies. This fell through and now there is not enough squid nor is there anything else except two boiled eggs which he has to make himself. I am going to attempt to not cut my hand off as I make the accompaniments for my squid. After the huge piece of glass that I managed to embed in my foot and then extract, yesterday, I’ve seen enough blood this week.

I sit outside on the third of the hottest days since December last year and while I am attacked by mosquitoes, I ponder the decision to write a blog post a day for an entire month. This writing gig is both important and difficult as Blogvember has amply demonstrated.

This always happens when I have a big post in the off. I find it impossible to write about anything else, not strictly true as I am actually writing this now, such as it is.

Now, I give you Lou Reed because I have loved this since I first heard it when I was seventeen

Told you it would be madness.


Blogvember post 25 … working and mothering

I went back to working full time in July.

After a reasonable period of part-time with an unencumbered day off to clean, shop, drink coffee, run errands, write, it was something of a shock to go to work every day. In the beginning this was only to be a six week stint, and then back to the previous arrangement. Of course, life doesn’t always work like that, and I found myself negotiating to move to full time and to move jobs.

Lots of people have asked me how I manage. I am always reticent to talk about the difficulties because they are wholly middle class problems. I chose to work full time, and if I were really unhappy with the arrangements I could change them. It is not a necessity for our survival.

I do think that there are compromises, cut corners, sacrifices and bargains. There is also outsourcing and a slackening of standards. What bothers me the most is the enrichment activities that I can’t do with Benedict. In Canberra there are so many activities, lots of them free, it’s easy to get to most of them; the only issue is making time.

I try to take him to the monthly Art and Me program at the National Gallery of Australia. It is a fantastic program with excellent early childhood educators and art is a gap in my knowledge and I always learn something.

NGA Fountain ~ so much joy ~ so little time

Art and Me at NGA for 2 and 3 year olds

I would like to participate more in Libraries ACT’s excellent activities for young children. Watch the excellent Vanessa Little talking on 7:30 ACT last Friday about her plans for the libraries of Canberra and their transformation. These programs in the libraries are vital for all kids, particularly kids with parents with low literacy. The library is a gateway to reading, to experiences, to other people who are not like you, to life long habits and patterns where reading holds a primary place in a life.

There are other experiences that I wish I could do with Benedict during the week. Paint and Play, a weekly outdoor riot of kids activities in local parks around Canberra. Swimming. Kids music programs. Bike riding in the park in the afternoon. These are the activities that I wish I could do. These are the sacrifices.

Of course this choice to work means that we have great financial stability and it means I can buy lots and lots of book to make up for the lack of trips to the library, but it isn’t the same as engagement with the community. It is no substitute for a broad range of experiences with a broad range of other kids and in quality early childhood programs.

My challenge for the new year is how to make sure we participate in more of these kinds of activities that bring joy.


Blogvember post 24 … Bond. James Bond. Martini anyone?

Tonight Robert is having a boys’ night and camaraderie to see Skyfall. A rare treat for him to see his mates.

I will not be at all sad. I shall be home mixing martinis and watching Goldfinger.

Sometimes one olive isn’t enough

There has been a lot of talk about martinis and Bond in the fifty years of Bond. From the allure of shaken not stirred, which no true aficionado would put up with, to the rise of the vodka martini which just taste like vermouth, to the creation featured in Casino Royale which first appeared in Ian Flemming’s novel of 1953. The Vesper is ‘Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?’

Kina Littet has been renamed and Gordon’s is no longer 47% proof but you could still make this version of the martini today.

Or you could try this which is my favourite way.

Everything must be super cold. The glass, the gin and lots of ice. Shaking is forbidden as it just introduces more of the melted ice into the drink, which to my mind defeats the purpose. Really good gin is essential. There are some great ones being made in New Zealand and in Perth at West Winds Gin. This varies according to your taste, or who you recently asked to bring back duty-free for you. Usually I drink Bombay although Tanquery 10 is great too.

There are many arguments about how dry a martini should be. I swing from just to the right of Winston Churchill who was said to whisper the word vermouth in the direction of the glass and possibly a bit to the left of Noel Coward who suggested waving a glass full of gin in the direction of Italy. There are also arguments about the kind of vermouth, French or Italian. For my money I like Noilly Prat. Good. Consistent. Reliable. Useful for other things.

The ratio in this establishment is probably 5 parts gin to 1 part vermouth, and that part is sloshed over the ice and then stirred and poured out. So in fact it is likely to be less than one part. A ‘measure’ will depend on the size of the glass used. It is the ratio that suits you that is the crucial point. Work that out then adjust volume according to glass.

martini ~ extra dry ~ if you please

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice.

Add one half measure of vermouth to the ice and stir. Then discard the vermouth.

Add five measures of gin and stir until everything is very very cold.

Strain using the shaker’s lid into a martini glass.

Garnish with green olive or a twist of lemon peel.

Enjoy. And remember that martinis are like nipples, one is too few and three is too many.

Celebrate the best of Bond here is the opening to Goldfinger, easily my favourite Bond ever. What’s not to like? Sean Connery , Shirley Bassey, Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore and great lines.

Do you expect me to talk?

No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die!

Blogvember post 23 … if Twitter had existed in 1991

Twitter was ‘invented’ in 2006 and launched in July 2006. I joined 16 February 2009 and my life really hasn’t been the same since. When I joined there were fewer than 6 million registered users. There are now upwards of 200 million. There are 50 million active accounts where people log in every day.

The best statistic I can find is 5% of users generate 75% of the content. This always reminds me of my favourite Remo t-shirt ‘Content Provider’ with all its many connotations. Content to provide content. Providing content contentedly. Those with content to provide.

Today it is a different Twitter world than it was in 2009. But I wondered today, while thinking about my sliding door moment with @mamabook yesterday when we realised that we passed each other, almost daily in all likelihood at Macquarie University during the early nineties, what if Twitter had existed? We might have met. We were there at the same time. Almost studied the same things. I am waiting for her to produce a transcript so we can check if we did study the same subjects.

@ If I had only studied philosophy we could have been friends for a whole extra 20 years! #amazeballs @

If Twitter had existed in 1991 how different things would have been. We wouldn’t have had to make such sure and definite plans. The vagaries of plans with no mobile phones and no cars were few. The plans were concrete. Cancellations had to happen hours in advance. But we didn’t worry much about what we were missing out on either. We had detailed uninterrupted conversations. No beeping. No instagraming. No tweeting.

If Twitter had existed I wouldn’t have had an answering machine that played Arrival of the Queen of Seba when you called and I wasn’t home. The thought of this, the mere recollection of this cracks me up to this day. And I might have had more money as I wouldn’t have had to waste so much money on STD phone calls to my family in a un-deregulated telecommunications market. Damn you Telecom. No really damn you.

If Twitter had existed when I was in first year missed opportunities wouldn’t have slipped by. I might have kept up with world events a bit better while I spent endless, countless hours on public transport dragging myself across Sydney to go to university. I might also have realised sooner, that almost everyone was as clueless and disoriented by life as I was in first year. I might have been able to get real conversations going about ideas that interested me, instead of my so-called friend’s eyes glazing over every time I mentioned phenomenology and existentialism.

There might not have been Drum Media if Twitter had existed in 1991. How great a medium is Twitter for the music scene? The Big Day. I can’t even imagine that on Twitter. I bet it is totally awesome. Gigs at the Horden Pavillion – how amazing would that have been with iphone and Twitter.

I may not have missed out on making connections with people who I would never have met otherwise and who could have been enriching my life for the past twenty years. It was a slower world. In 1991 it was still another four years before I had a new-ish laptop and it was another nine years before you could SMS between carrier networks. Remember that?

It was even more years before I had both my great macbook and cable internet in a convergence of greatness which I just couldn’t believe and I used it to chat on Facebook *face-palm* Even then I was desperate for a medium that would connect me to ideas and conversations and people.

Twitter still didn’t exist for another whole year.

Blogvember post 22 … the beginning of the end

The makings for beautiful wrapping and gifting

This evening in the glow of the western setting sun, I went to my first ‘end of year’ event for the year.

The National Gallery end of year shopping night for members. It was a refined beginning of the end of the year mayhem.

A little treat for everyone. A bit of browsing. A live choir that mesmerised the toddler. The fantastic fountain at the new front entrance and the pears for a diversion, while some chilling out and chatting occured. The shopping itself was just an add on. I would have gone just to hear the music and drink the sparkling wine.

I got a few bits and pieces to add to the gifts pile. Plus a few more goodies arrived this morning in the post including yet more MT tape! I am seriously addicted to that stuff now. Pretty. So pretty. I have enough stuff now to start wrapping and list making and packing some things ready for posting. This weekend marks the start of one of the two busiest periods in our family calendar. December is second only to May for birthdays and celebrations. Not only do we have end of year, Christmas, Boxing Day, and cricket, we have birthdays. Lots and lots of them.

The birthdays this year include littlest niece, favourite twins, big niece, my brother, my two best friends’ three year olds, both of them on the same day, and of course, last but not least toddler will turn three on the 27th. Time will tell if this birth date is a burden or not. What is clear, is that a special birthday needs planning, a beach and a bucket and spade. And an umbrella and a big esky for the darling boy’s exhausted parents.



Blogvember post 21… about a philosopher

@ Tell me about your favourite lecturer/tutor at University and why were they so memorable?

For today’s post I am mining suggestions from my pals on Twitter. Today @eatshootblog has been in my thoughts. She was featured in a story about cycling today in her role as editor of Canberra Cycle Chic in The Canberra Times, as was @damonayoung for laughter. Damon is one of my favourite Australian working philosophers, and I wish I could write about weighty topics as he does, with proper time and care. He loves fountain pens too and often posts lovely photos of them on Twitter.

I am not going to write about either laughter nor cycles. That is actually quite enough about bikes for this blog – even if @eatshootblog takes fantastically gorgeous photos of bikes and describes riding her own bike as like drinking a gin and tonic, I don’t actually like them at all. The hat hair alone is enough to put me off. Apparently, you only need to write about bikes and caffeine to attract more negative commentary than you do if you write about cars and Canberra.

Today, I am going to tell you about my favourite lecturer at university.

When I first went to university, I went to Macquarie University. After about the first two minutes of first year, I realised that everything other than the philosophy I had enrolled in, was a total waste of time. Finally, in philosophy, I had a name and a canon for everything I had been thinking about for, well, for my whole life. I loved every single minute of every single lecture and tutorial. It was sheer unadulterated bliss. Not only the first year course taught by the professor, he was the foundation professor. He had been at Macquarie since the beginning.

At the end of second year our thoughts turned to how best to make the most of our final year. There was a course on the books called ‘Seminar Unit B’. What was this course? Cath, my friend and fellow traveller in philosophy, went to ask.

Max told us. ‘It’s whatever you like. We don’t always offer it, but if you’re interested we will. Just tell me what you’d like to read and we will read it. Then at the end of the semester you can write an essay.’ What? This was a course? We couldn’t believe our luck!

We immediately enrolled. What a gift! Then each week we would turn up, our class of two for a session with the Professor. Sometimes he would forget to turn up. We would slink down the wall outside his office, sitting on the floor talking about what we had read. Sometimes he would just be late and in a flurry of apologies let us in. Every time was a magical tour. His office was stacked with books, with papers and with paintings, two and three deep in places. We often dreamed of liberating them all and hanging them all over the department. He is the archetypal professor, down to the monkish hair and the eccentric clothes. He always wore amazing shoes, and bought clothes in Europe. The sort of clothes I had never imagined. When he laughed his whole body would shake and he would throw his head back and guffaw. Those tutorials were the most liberating and important intellectual discussions of my whole life. There was nothing we couldn’t discuss. No theory too outlandish, no connection too tenuous. The rigour and the depth to those talks, I have never experienced again.

Max supported me through my honours year and assisted my first publication. He also rescued my PhD when I thought that I would never finish it. He nurtured a dissertation topic that few believed was worthy of such a substantial piece of scholarship and he gave me countless hours of his time freely to ensure that I passed. I owe Max Deutscher an enormous debt of gratitude.

He taught me how to think, and how to study philosophy. He gave me insight into how deeply you need to think about things to really get to their core. To the heart of the matter.

The last time I saw Max was at his house. I was walking away with the final pieces of my thesis intact and ready to be written up. I spoke to him afterward, when the result was in and I knew that I had passed. He is without a doubt the most significant figure in my intellectual life.

You can listen to his wonderful words here (vale Alan Saunders). And read about his latest book here.

Max Deutscher studied philosophy (University of Adelaide) and then Oxford (1960-63) with Gilbert Ryle. Appointed Foundation Professor at Macquarie University in 1966; published on themes of remembering, inferring, and physicalism. After involvement in Vietnam protests, wrote Subjecting and Objecting (1983), papers on Sartre, Ryle, and Husserl, and then a series of essays in conceptual analysis after deconstruction. A free-lance philosopher since 1998, he has published Michèle Le Dœuff: Operative Philosophy and Imaginary Practice (2000), Genre and Void: Looking Back at Sartre and Beauvoir (2003), and Judgment After Arendt (2007). His work (since the 1970s), in its concern with themes of European philosophy from Hegel to Derrida, continues to draws upon the varied traditions of analytical philosophy.

Blogvember post 20 … a rambling, ramshackle and ranting post

This morning, I managed to get a take away coffee before work. The logistics of this seem overwhelmingly simple. This would actually be overwhelmingly simple in other city. But not in Canberra. The trajectory I have to travel to make this occur, is worthy of the search for the Higgs Boson participle. It is more complex than pure maths, requires more coordination and planning than the mineral resources rent tax and is more frustrating than can be imagined.

Keep calm and drink coffee

The reasons for this are many and varied. They are mostly too tedious and boring to go into, but some of them are taboo. There are things in Canberra that are not to be mocked. The coffee and the dearth of good coffee in Canberra is well documented. Some people care, more people don’t. The ones whose eyes glaze over when you start up about coffee, are the people with whom you immediately change the subject and talk about something else.

The drive to get the coffee is the part when the frustration begins. It is not done to mock drivers in Canberra. In places like Sydney, mockery of other drivers, other pedestrians and indeed other commuters of all kinds is sport – love your new train marshals by the way – WTF?

Not here. Here it is not the done thing to complain about the fact that Canberra is full to bursting with drivers who are not able to cope with our ‘so called’ peak-half hour. The peak is lengthening slowly as the city grows and I am told that there are genuine bottlenecks that rival the M4 or the Westgate Bridge. As they all occur in places I have never been, I cannot vouch for the veracity of these claims. It seems that these changes to the road conditions and the congestion suit not the drivers of Canberra with whom I am forced to share the road at the hour of eight. Not that I am at all allowed to mock, criticise or otherwise disparage other Canberrans for their driving, heaven forfend.

So having made the arduous journey that should take all of ten minutes but frequently takes much much longer due to delays caused by, lets call them blockages in my path. These delays are caused by failures to understand that at an intersection with a left turning slip lane, if the traffic is proceeding straight ahead to your right, and a set of lights holds all the other traffic from entering the roadway, then it is perfectly ok to just turn left after checking that you are not about to mow down the occasional wayward school girl who happens to be using the pedestrian crossing – noting that the view of the crossing is clear from at least 50 or 100 metres away so it is not actually essential to even slow down to take the corner if there are no pedestrians nearby.

What actually occurs is that 60% of the cars come to a complete halt to observe the traffic passing to their right before proceeding to accelerate once more onto the empty roadway. If you did this in Sydney you would receive a blast of horn or worse a car right up your clacker. Anticipation and using all the available green time mean nothing here. For too long have the drivers of Canberra have had wide open streets with no competition. Lots of them have absolutely no competitive edge with the exception of instances of merging, when they are all politeness – after you, no really, after you – would someone please just go!

Worse, not that I would know about how to draw attention to these things, is that the drivers of Canberra who cannot cope with the two sides of a roundabout being in use at one and the same time. Or indicating. Or giving way to the right. Or just actually driving straight ahead and just concentrating on where you are going!

It would take longer in Sydney to drive twice as far even in peak hour some days. Now toleration is my middle name and the philosopher in me understands the reasons for this behaviour, but all of it impedes me from getting to the coffee!

Mornings where I actually manage to remain cool and spend the enforced extra travel time listening to Emma Ayres telling me wonderful stories and playing nice music, I am greeted by cheery baristas who live for coffee.

Then all that remains is to drive the other ten kilometres to the office, which is another taboo about good coffee outside the narrow band surrounding Civic. How I wish we had public transport that worked, then at least I could just read. My blood pressure would probably be much more reasonable too.