Monday, March 30, 2009

New Look

I've been fiddling with the look of the site, what do you think? I've tried to simplify the layout even more, though I thought I'd have a change from the black and white for a while. I like that the blog posts are bigger than before, it's been annoying me for a while that the margins seemed, well, not very marginal, but as wide as the posts themselves. I plan to add a blogroll in the next few days of the blogs I read regularly. Here is my cup of good intentions. Speaking of cups, and coffee and the fact that I'll be facing down my coffee in half a blink because nights seem to go very quickly these days, I better go to bed, before the temptation of endless fiddling takes hold.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Twits

I have been accused of twittering too much and not blogging, so I am now going to blog...about Twitter. It is oddly compelling,in fact so much so that I think I may have to go cold turkey, for fear of losing myself to the dubious pleasure of instant gratification. Anyway, in the interests of posterity (twitter is unnervingly ephemeral) I thought I might retrieve - and occasionally expand - on some of my recent tweets.

Balloons have an odd air of sentience about them.
As I typed this afternoon I saw, out of the corner of my eye, something oddly white bob into the room, and of course my first thought was rodent, despite the lightness and the bobbing. It was a balloon of course, propelled by a draught through the gap under the door. It seemed to be coming in with - if this is not an oxymoron - idle purpose, as if to say 'I've been hanging around in the vestibule for ages and there's nothing really happening there...what are you guys doing?'

Una puts a stone against my ear and asks me what I can hear.
to which @KitchenDani replied Did you tell her you are stone deaf? And @lukeii said 'Rock music?' Ha ha - punny. And yet it was a lovely moment, I really listened. I was genuinely sad when I didn't hear anything. Una said she heard the sea. I liked that idea, of a small ocean, trapped deep inside the heart of a stone.

@KevinRuddPM Squee - it's just like in West Wing!
After seeing photos of Kevin and Obama hanging out on the set of West Wing er, the White House.

Bratz - Adventure Girlz Yasmin: Comes with Adventure Accessories including Hair Brush
Fred has asked for a Bratz for her birthday. We are considering it. I was kinda pleased to find an 'adventure girlz' series (is my problem with Bratz that she is a skanky ho, or the white trash spelling of everything?), until I realised she comes with a hair brush. I'd almost prefer to buy her the spunky princess Bratz than a sexed up supposedly adventurous girl who has a hairbrush and a walky talky (gosh, it looks just like a pink cell phone) in her 'adventure' kit. At least it starts to unpack the princess myth by directly contradicting the demure sexuality of the Disney Chicks. I actually went looking for one in the city (any Bratz) to see if I could get past my hatred of one enough to admit one onto the property and couldn't find one. Most of Myer seems to be closed, and David Jones's departments each seem to have shrunk to a third their original size. I guess that's the whole economic downturn thing, needless to say it was a bit of a shock.

Coined a new verb today: procrastibaking. Go forth and use it muchly.
Only turns out other people already thought of it already. Darn it all to heck.

Wasps wasps coming inside droning against the window glass you are too slow to live wasps.
Autumn is wasp season, they come inside with their long malevolent torsos. Martin is frightened of them but they are easy to kill. Last year they fed on the pears on the tree, the ones we attempted to save from the birds (it didn't work, the birds got inside the nets and we managed to harvest only two pears). This year we didn't even try to net the pear trees and the fruit was mostly picked off before it was even ripe, so the wasps haven't been attracted by the scent of fermenting fruit; they haven't been gorging themselves into a drunken stupour. There was also a rumoured nest on a neighbour's property last year, which apparently has been removed. Or perhaps it's just not been such a good year for wasps.

And finally:
Facebook started with a man on a boat who didn't want to talk to his friends. Are we surprised it can't cope when we do want to interact?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Fox Mama Love. Fox Dream Dog.

1. Yesterday Martin's parents (aka Nana and Papa) drove up from the eastern suburbs for a quick visit. Martin's Dad has been seriously unwell, and continues with his cycle of treatments and brief periods of rest in between. As we were sipping our cups of tea and nibbling our chocolate chip biscuits, Fred disappeared to her bedroom to get something and came back shouting, dangling a dead mouse by the tail. She was not at all distressed. Excited yes, 'I have NEVER seen a dead mouse in my bedroom EVER before!' But utterly unfussed. Even while rushing her off to the bathroom to wash her hands (while Martin quickly flung the dearly departed into the far off bushes), inwardly cringing, I couldn't help marveling at her moxy. I'm not sure I could have responded with such scientific interest, without a glimmer of squeamishness or fear.

2. Today Fred wrote a song. She wrote. Both words and the notes, indicating where the pitch rises and falls. The words are 'Fox Mama Love. Fox Dream Dog'. They are my favourite words, it is my favourite tune, and she is my favourite instrument.

3. I was relaying this story to Martin today about parents breaking the news to their little boy that Steve Irwin, his hero, is dead before he starts school and hears about it during ruthless playground talk. And got tears in my eyes during the retelling. Fred has been playing with her 'After the Disaster' colouring book. 'Draw something you wish you had taken with you.' The other day she said, not angry, just in chitchat at the table as she and Una drew, "I'm going to kill the whole world. The whole world's a burning fire. The whole world's a death machine." Last weekend we went down to the beach to stay at my sister-in-law's holiday house and Una thought the reason we were visiting them there and not their usual home was because their house had burned down. Suddenly the house next to the shop is for sale, while other houses have been quietly taken off the market. The neighbours across the road are separating, not just because of the fires of course, but it's unsettling in its timing. Martin has joined the CFA and spent last Wednesday night running around in the dark wearing reflective orange pyjamas and forgetting people names. It's been raining and raining and raining, and the sunflowers Frederique planted last November - finally - have bloomed. The roads are still closed.

Before I go to sleep at night I think about them all, especially the families. When it rains, I can't help but open up like a flower, the children take off their clothes and run outside and play in it, Martin and I sit on the veranda to drink our tea and listen to it rattle the tin roof. But there are people 2km from my house living in tents, huddled beside their chimneys, which is all that still stands of their homes. Where do they go when it rains? How are they keeping warm now that the weathers setting in?

Fox Mama Love. Fox Dream Dog. It sounds like an incantation. A spell against the dark.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Cover Sneak Peak

Little Bird is due out in July.
I love this cover, though I had to take out Ruby-lee's freckles. Boohoo.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

An Australian Canon

I am trying to put together a list of Australian books for my Reading Australian Writing class that would help to give a sense of Australia's 'canon'. I am also teaching a Novels class, and we discussed the cultural cringe in that class too. A few names came up as quintessential Australian writers (Tim Winton and Bryce Courtney mainly), but many of these readers had never, for example, encountered some of our brilliant urban writers. So I want to offer a range of choices and voices, including some more urban literature. Short stories and poetry are important too of course, though I feel like it's easier to access a 'canon' for short stories and poetry because of the number of anthologies available that can point you towards an author's body of work.

So far I have, in no particular order:
Something by Patrick White (suggestions? I've only read The Vivisector)
Something by Peter Carey (suggestions? I'm a bit underwhelmed by Peter Carey's writing, but I do think he's part of our 'canon'. Perhaps True History of the Kelly Gang*?)
The Grisly Wife by Rodney Hall
Lillian's Story by Kate Grenville
My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin*
Remembering Babylon by David Malouf
Of a Boy by Sonya Hartnett (though anything by her would go on my list)
Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta
Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner
Monkey Grip (and The Spare Room) by Helen Garner
Three Dollars by Eliot Perlman
Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
Tirra Lirra by the River by Jessica Anderson
The Plains by Gerald Murnane*
Storm Boy by Colin Thiele
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
Capricornia by Xavier Herbert*
The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
The Boys in the Island by Christopher Koch
Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardsonm (or should that be Fortunes of Richard Mahoney*?)

Okay I'm flagging. I want to include Susan Johnson in this list, but I'm not sure which one, maybe Hungry Ghosts? Should I put Beverly Farmer down, or should I acknowledge that her novels, though sparkling with the same prose as her stories lack something (when her short stories are often perfect). Randolph Stowe - Merry go round in the sea? Ivan Southall, Eleanor Spence are two more definites...but again, not sure which title. And there's so many more of course. Oh yeah, Richard Flanagan.

Anyway, join in. Australian recommended reads for emerging Australian writers and scholars. And if you also don't read Australian books, then why not? I will compile a more definitive list using your suggestions. If you think any of the above should be removed, make a case for that too.

*The ones with stars I haven't read but I know enough to know I should have.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Thanks Everyone

for your kind words of encouragement and your sympathetic oohs and ahs and catchings of breath. I am past feeling near death and hovering closer to ninnyish.

Probably fortunately I am in no position to give up driving altogether, though by necessity I've had the weekend off holidaying, oddly enough, with my mechanic, who is also my brother in law. I will have to drive on Tuesday from Melbourne to somewhere west of Bacchus Marsh (birthplace of Peter Carey) to a school camp. Yes. Whee. Then on Tuesday night back to uni to teach and then back to west of Bacchus Marsh for more camping fun. So driving ahoy. I don't feel too shaky about the idea of being behind the wheel, though something tells me I'll be driving plenty slow, specially if there's a sprinkling of rain about.

Now I should be packing, just back from a weekend at the beach, off now to this work bizzo. I am quite looking forward to coming home on Wednesday and belonging to my own house once more and doing some good honest writing on Thursday.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Last Friday - February the 27th - was my one year anniversary of being a licensed driver. It did not go past unnoticed by me, when the road into our town was still blocked off I was using my driver's license a couple of times a day to get in and out. I meant to blog about it, but as so often happens the blog post dropped half formed out of my mind.

So a year has gone by and most of the time I am just a lady who drives. I am still hyper aware on the freeway and at night, and - I thought - when it's raining.

There's two ways into St Andrews - one is via Hurstbridge and the other is via Panton Hill. For those of you intending to stalk me one day my route of choice is generally via Panton Hill, the road is wide and the bends are generally gracious. The Hurstbridge road disconcerts me. It has an 80km/h speed limit, which many locals see as a challenge, many tight bends and blind corners and it's narrow in places, narrow enough that meeting the school bus coming the other way never fails to alarm me. Today as I was leaving an appointment with the optometrist I hesitated at the roundabout, rain streaming down my windscreen, and considered for a moment taking a long detour to avoid this experience. No no, I told myself. You're a fine driver. You'll be fine. There wasn't much on the road. It's not uncommon to have something sit right on your tail going up the Hurstbridge road, and you can hear them thinking evil thoughts at you as you slow down to 40 at every turn. As I passed the turn off to Strathewen a silver van pulled out behind me. Perhaps, without thinking, I sped up a little, so as not to slow them down. The strange thing is that moments later they simply vanished. I guess they must have pulled into a driveway. Perhaps my eyes played a trick on me and when I saw them turning right in the rear vision mirror they really turned left. Do eyes do that?

I thought I was driving carefully. I must have approached the corner to fast. I must have braked instinctively as I was making the turn. I know I do this sometimes, and I know I shouldn't. Even as the car hit the barrier I didn't quite believe I was having an accident. Then I was flung across the road, then I was being tugged by some invisible force through the gravel gutters on the other side. I had no sense of being in control of the car (though somehow I managed to bring it back to the right side of the road and achieve a fairly decent, safe-ish park). It was like I was no longer driving the car, but some instrument that responded to its will. The steering wheel steered me, pulled my arms up and down like I was a puppet. A spooky puppet, with a silenced voice trapped inside. I had all sorts of coherent thoughts, it was just that the way they were strung together didn't make much sense. I ploughed down one of those little white poles with its tiny rectangle of red reflective plastic. Well, I say I ploughed it down, which makes it sound like I had a say in the matter, that I was an agent acting from will, that I had some reason to cause it harm and I didn't, honestly, I have always been inexplicably fond of those white posts, those reflective squares. They are part of the roadscape of my childhood. I spent a lot of my childhood on roads, wandering. In fact, aesthetically speaking, roads are one of my favourite things in the world. At one stage I wondered if this was the way I was going to die, which on reflection seems overly dramatic. Having said that, if I'd met something coming the other way, clipping along at 80km/h... Well. Let's not go there.

Of course I am fine. I probably should have mentioned that already.

So I turned the key and turned off the engine and sat for a moment. I got out and had a look at the little blinded eyes where the lights had been (they'd been taken out on both sides) and the big fold in the bonnet where the lid no longer fit. I seem to remember wandering on a bit, just a few steps, and then I waved down a car. A kindly lady stopped (later I found out she had once been a high school teacher, and she retained this air about her) and we stood together and wondered what I should do. Neither of us had a phone. She took me to her house just down the road and I called Martin. He was out walking with Una in the rain, but a friend of ours had met him on the road and he drove Martin and Una back to our place to get the second car and Martin set out to rescue me.

The accident must have happened at about 11.45 this morning because as I waited for Martin it turned twelve. The husband of the lady who rescued me collects clocks. At twelve they all began to chime, each of them with their own set of bells. It was beautiful and eerie and poetic. Time. Time. When the accident began time began to bend, everything seemed to happen so slowly and yet there was no time to act. Time to think a thousand separate thoughts, but no time to bail out, no chance to pause, rewind, [APPLE +Z] UNDO, start over, do it properly. Time. A dozen separate bells, maybe more, all chiming for the same hour, but not quite synchronous, to make a music of sorts, or a poem, or a nonsense. Five minutes or so later the lady's husband showed up, with various family members fresh from the airport (from Tasmania of course because stories must be neat in their details), including two small grandsons. I was surreal to them, an oddity in this scene of homecoming. Only another five minutes and then I was gone, leaving oonly a small flurry of strangeness and re-explanations in my wake (you always retell the tale when the stranger is gone).

Information not available to me: where was the silver van? This is my story, but even your own story withholds details. It took me back to another story, fun times, eleven years ago. Another crash. This car beyond repair and the other guy was taken off in an ambulance. This one, as crashes go, was better.

Just after I had the accident (actually around the same time the accident was occurring) we heard of some money coming to us that will more than cover the repairs. Strange how these things occur. Una is quite cross with me for crashing the car and Fred is disappointed that she couldn't see it, it was already with our mechanics by the time she came home, Martin said they were gleefully ready to start ripping pieces of it as he left. Martin is just happy I am safe. And I am. I am safe. I am fine.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

More Photos

Summer is officially over, but we are reminded that fire season isn't. Tuesday is now being heralded as the worst day since Friday and schools may close again. To say I am sick of it is an understatement. Clouds have sat grey and swollen, low in the sky, all day. We have waited anxiously for them to open. Everything is so parched and dry. Tuesday isn't going to be hot, but they are expecting winds at 150km an hour. Weather. All this weather and no rain.
These photos were taken by Martin yesterday just up the hill from us, about five minutes drive away. I hasten to add that from our house we can't see any of this, we still have green bush across the road. It is utterly unbelievable to me to think: walk down to the road and turn right. Cross the bridge. Walk another five or ten minutes and there's this, the world deprived of colour:

The road past Mitten's Bridge is still closed. Martin went through with friends to help them clear their property and pick up the oddments that survived, a kid's playgym. A letterbox. Bits and pieces.
This last one I took in our front garden on the evening of Sunday the 8th. The whole garden glowed radiant orange red. It was the most terrifying beauty I have witnessed.

Here's their blog.