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Archive Category: Books

    Puddin’ Eatin’ Lot

      Dined on authentic pukka tucka created by Sir Honeybone and then feasted on exquisite chocolate pudding that Rie made (she had to call Sydney to get the recipe!). Thank god she did – it was sublime.
      Heaven in Pyrex

      A grand night was had by all, whether our heads were photographically amputated or otherwise….

      Splendid in the kitchen

      I also recieved presents from the Crime Fiction Fairy!

      Divine Ya Ya

        Just finished The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood - it obsessed me. I read it in about three days. I don’t know whether it’s the kind of book I could recommend to the guys I know – it’s not really a ‘guy’ kind of book, but I’d recommend it anyway. I loved how it slipped between era’s and generations. The characters were intriging and sympathetic…I had my nose stuck in it at every opportunity over the last few days. Sometimes I venture outside the crime genre and am rewarded…
        Don’t think I’ll see the movie though – I’m sure it would only detract from the book – movies usually do.

        Clancy of the Overflow

          I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
          Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
          He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
          Just ‘on spec’ addressed as follows: ‘Clancy of The Overflow’.

          And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
          (and I think the same was written with a thumbnail dipped in tar)
          ‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
          “Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.”

          In my wild erratic fancy, visions came to me of Clancy
          Gone a-droving ‘down the Cooper’ where the western drovers go
          As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
          For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townfolk never know

          And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
          In the murmur of the breezes and river on it’s bars,
          And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
          And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

          I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
          Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
          And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
          Through the open window floating, spreads it’s foulness over all.

          And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
          Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
          And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
          Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet

          And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
          As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
          With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
          For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

          And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to trade with Clancy,
          Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
          While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal-
          But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of ‘The Overflow’.

          Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

          Pizza and Ken

            Had dinner last night at Chez Honeybone where guest of honour was the rather affable Ken Bruen who’s been in Australia gracing the Sydney Writer’s Festival with his presence. Here’s Cam, Chris, Ken & Moi:

            Ken Bruen & Groupies

            Lot’s of pizza and less beer (as it was a Thursday night)…Ken signed my book, which is v.exciting as I now am the proud owner of…wait for it….TWO SIGNED BOOKS. Yeah. I know. Startling stuff. Christine was my date as M is still sick, and we had a fine time until about 11:30pm when we all sloped off to our respective homes, except for Cam who, I understand, found a friendly mattress.

            Today was supposed to be the day where I do a months worth of work in eight solid hours, after which I would have the weekend to recover (and work on the website project I’m doing for Women’s Health West) and then come in on Monday to tart it all up in preparation for the reappearance of the boss on Tuesday. Did I get one thing done? No. Was it my fault? Actually, no. The person, O, that I share the office with, had a super-deadline this afternoon and I had to spend all day proofing and editing the bloody thing. So now I’m going to be here til god knows when. Well, until my conscience lets me go home…which, at this rate, will be in the wee hours. What a fun Friday night. My third last one in Melbourne.
            [Clutches head and goes into panic spasms.]
            I need to buy a trailer, I need to buy a trailer.

            Harry Harry Harry

              Well, it’s nearly here! I remember reading the first two Harry Potters as ebooks on my Palm Pilot in an aeroplane about three years ago. Probably did my eyes irreparable damage. I think I would like to give myself a Harry Potter weekend, where I just set aside a few days to eat cheese and biscuits and read my way through the whole lot, finishing them off with the latest one.

              Public Transportation

                Gave up on the Datsun from hell – but feel better about it as RACV man couldn’t fix the indicators either. Have ceased to be waif and stray latch-key child and spent last night at my mothers new pad. After walking the streets of Preston on Tuesday night, and pounding the streets of Balaclava yesterday evening with all my luggage, I was very relieved to get to my mums place (the dinner, salad and three kinds of cake were another positive feature).

                Got the train from Hampton this morning and sat next to psycho woman (why is it always me that gets the public transport freakies?) Anyway, this woman laughed hysterically as she read her book from Brighton Beach to Flinders Street. I sat there, taking on the persona of ‘person sitting next to freak’ and feeling early morning it’s-still-not-Friday grumpy. Then I started to muse to myself about the only times I’ve cacked myself over a book while sitting on a train. It was when I was reading Bridget Jones – Edge of Reason. So, then I was desperate to discover what the hell this book is that has transformed this chick from boring co-traveller to hyena-girl. We hit Flinders Street and both start gathering our bits and pieces for the escalator stampede, and I delay just long enough to glimpse the title of the novel: Bridget Jones – Edge of Reason. Sometimes being so right is just weird.

                24 Hour Read

                  Was at the library yesterday and on the way out I picked up a copy of A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. I read the first 20 or so pages in the library and had to keep reading in a half voyeuristic/half intrigued way. It’s definitely not what I usually go for, but it was just an amazing read – kind of like watching a train wreck. I finished it a few hours ago – it’s not a short book, but I read it at every opportunity (mainly when going through countless reboots of this computer I’m currently using, which is almost up to scratch). It’s the kind of novel that I would never read if it was recommended to me by someone else, but because I stumbled on to it by accident, it grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and took me by surprise. Searing is maybe a word that would be a legitimate descriptor. Yike. Recommended to TKP.

                  Saintly Brother

                    *big grin*
                    Just got Christmas present from brother in the post – has made me very happy. Four Saint books for my collection and…all first editions! Plus the book derived, or germinated from one of my favourite sites! Oh happy day! I bet M is happy too, because usally a girlfriend with five hours sleep is similar to a tasmanian devil crossed with a ragdoll kitten….but I am all glee!

                    My collection has just been triumphantly expanded--woo hoo!

                    Now my other first edition will have some friends.

                    Mr Darcy

                      Have to mention that I finished off last nights Colin Firth theme by reading a story he wrote in Speaking with the Angel (taken from a Ron Sexsmith song), edited by Nick Hornby. I like his style! Not sure about anything else he may have written, but am now tempted to poke around and see what I discover. It is a great book – probably a pretty good present too, as it’s a collection of stories.

                      Antipathy broods on the home front at present, and not knowing anyone other than those that are related to the object of my extreme annoyance is a bit of a downer. *sigh*

                      On a positive note, my boss survived my first draft intact; has now sent me pages of suggestions – not all negative either. So that’s a relief.

                      Guilt and Wet Books

                        It must be a product of my upbringing – feeling that staying inside the house all day is ‘bad’. Same as eating up everything on your plate – whether you’re full or not. Just stood at the window urging myself to go for a walk, after spending the day reading the paper, playing guitar, finishing Black Tide and filing all my bills and bank statements. Scintillating stuff. Fact is, I don’t feel like a walk. I would walk if I had some headphones – because I don’t feel like talking to anyone along the way, but I don’t. (Well, I have the headphones, but am Wi – Withough iPod – or walkman, or anything similar, for that matter).

                        A small tragedy. The other day M uncovered a few boxes that we’d left underneath the house. Would have been OK, except the pipe for our recently connected kitchen sink was buggered. Many of M’s sailing books are water damaged and fairly un-salvageable – I can’t even bear to see what of my books may have perished. Bought two 80 litre plastic storage bins for what has survived. I should have taken everything to my storage place, but I left some boxes behind; they wouldn’t fit in the van. Gah.


                          Just what I needed. More books!
                          Click for the big version
                          They set me back $2. Go the Tip Shop!

                          Reading List

                            Apparently I’m supposed to make bold all the books in this list that I’ve read and then add my own three book choices to the bottom. Then you steal it from me and use it on your site. From catsudon. I actually found it kind of interesting to scour the back of my mind for books that I remember reading when I was younger.

                            Book Mail

                              My book bounty

                              These arrived in the post today – improving my outlook immediately. The Patricia Cornwell – a very welcome package from Honeybone Inc. – I began at lunchtime. It’s so weird. I have rarely been more disconcerted by a book. She’s changed from first person to third person – it’s all “Scarpetta says this” and “Scarpetta saw that”. It makes it very hard going, but I am persevering. Apparently she did it in her last Scarpetta effort as well – I am yet to investigate the Saint magazine – it’s more for my Saint collection.

                              Teeth to Toast

                                When talking to my Small Brother in the UK the other day, the topic of M’s SmallEye virus came up, and Small Brother said “Does he look like that guy in that picture book – you know, with the naggy horse and the squinting eye…?” and I knew exactly who he meant, but neither of us could remember the name. It took a couple of days, but as I was in the van with M and Chris the other day, driving along the interminable goat-trackesque Hervey Bay roads, I remembered. Mulga Bill!! I even remember some chunks of it to recite – but now I’ve come to read it I’ve realised that I’ve had Mulga Bill and another bushy kind of bloke intertwined into one in my head. Luckily I could remember three consectutive words from the unknown one ‘teeth to toast’. This was enough for Google, which found The Oath of Bad Brown Bill – it’s got fantastic illustrations and was one of my favourite picture books.

                                This is the ‘teeth to toast’ bit:

                                Right there and then he galloped off,
                                To find himself a ghost.
                                And that same night he saw a sight,
                                That turned his teeth to toast.
                                He’s come across a hideous ghoul,
                                Astride a rotten log.
                                It grinned a slimy, slippery grin,
                                And breathed a damp green fog.

                                …if you want to read the whole thing, I put it here for a bit.

                                A Pattern of Islands

                                  Am reading a great book recommended to me by M – another one of his ‘adventurous’ novels. It’s called A Pattern of Islands by Arthur Grimble (published in the US under the title We Chose The Islands). Although it was first written in 1952, it’s actually mostly set around his experiences as a cadet in the Gilbert and Ellice Islands in 1913 through to 1932. It’s a fantastic story, very humorously written. I’ve been eking it out all day because I don’t want to finish it too soon. I would list it on my allconsuming list, but of course, Amazon doesn’t list it. But if you want to get a copy – there are quite a few available here. He and his wife Olivia were married on March 5th, 1915 and set off the next day to the Central Pacific. I’ve felt rotten today, but it has made me laugh hugely at least three times – though the story he tells about three and a half inch cockroaches on the ship on the way to the islands gnawing off the thick skin of his feet while he slept. Ugh.

                                  How much can a Panda bear?

                                    A copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves arrived in the post today from the lovely Dylan and Rachael in Melbourne. M got some music cds. It was basically a care package to ensure our continued survival up here, away from all our friends, melting in the humidity. How nice is that? Very nice.

                                    I have been hanging out to read this book a-g-e-s and the opening pages soothed my savage little faux literary soul. There is a ‘Shark Museum’ near to where we live, and the sign out the front reads:

                                    ‘See Vic’s Latest Film: Why Do Whales beach Themselves

                                    No question mark. It drives me mad. M and I practice saying it as a statement to each other (something that is hard, when the ‘statement’ begins with ‘why’). We try to say ‘themselves’ in a modulated, BBC kind of tone, but it’s hard. Before we leave Hervey Bay we are going to put that sign to rights.

                                    Why Do Whales Beach Themselves

                                  • a) they’re trying to find the question mark
                                  • b) to get to the other side
                                  • c) because they found themselves in an elephant cemetery*
                                  • * ‘Elephant cemetery‘ is the colloquial term for Hervey Bay – because it’s where a lot of very old fat people come to die. I didn’t say it was pleasant.

                                    In the Bag!

                                      My new bag. Hand sewn and crocheted by the lovely Rie. It arrived in the post this morning…[swoon] I don’t know how she finds the time.


                                      Also in the bag were some books from my book donor :) Entombed by Linda Fairstein (which I know is schlock, but I very much enjoy) and something called Retribution by someone called Jilliane Hoffman. As well as these, this morning is beautifully overcast and I have actually managed a cup of tea without dissolving into a pool of my own perspiration. Thank you for the care package D & R! Can’t think how much beer I must owe you now…

                                      George P. Pelecanos

                                        I love George P. Pelecanos. I just spent the morning ekeing the last few chapters of Nick’s Trip. If you get into crime fiction, you should read it – I especially like all the music references that are all the way through it – Kirsty McColl, The La’s, The Replacements, The Clash – he even makes mention of the bassline from The Guns of Brixton, which is one of my all time favourites. I’m on an end-of-book high.


                                          In the post today was my friend Marg’s new book The Catch. I almost died of excitement! The last time I saw it, it was a big bundle of typewritten pages with scribbles all over it. Now it has been transformed into, well, it’s a proper book. Look!

                                          And I even got a signed copy, thanking me for my help on the ‘bridal scene’. Hooray!


                                            Later I will post a picture of our room. It’s kind of like a library. Not only did M build three gorgeous bookshelves, but he found two more in a secondhand shop that matched them. Now we have five. All my books are finally unpacked (except all my plays – what am I going to do with them?) and very anally arranged in alphabetical order. I have a crime fiction section that occupies about eleven shelves! And I just began looking at LibraryThing with appraising eyes. I think I’m going to have to do it – after I wipe the hard drive on my laptop and start anew. If I can’t have a Mac, at least I can have a semi-zippy ThinkPad.

                                            Note To Self: try to remember not to brandish around new announcements online before checking whether the family of the anouncees have been informed of said announcement [bangs head gently and repeatedly against wall]

                                            Look Both Ways William McInnes

                                              I feel somewhat inundated by the persona of William McInnes. I went from resenting him utterly a few years back for taking over the untakeable role of Diver Dan on Seachange, to realising, belatedly, that he actually did quite a good job of it. Then I saw him plugging his book, A Man’s Got to Have a Hobby, at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. He made me cry laughing, multiple times – I bought his book on the basis of his reading of the section about Golan, the aggressive Christmas tree. He signed it for me, and asked whether I’d had an advent calendar when I was little. I had, I told him. Well, he said, if you liked Golan, you’ll proably like the bit about the advent calendar too. I was tempted to tell him that I lived around the corner from him for five years, but restrained myself and swooned away down the stairs.

                                              I whizzed home in the Humber on an internal pillow of giggles, ignored an morose M, and sat on the bed for the next two hours, cackling my way through the book. I have no idea why I found it so funny (sorry William McInnes). The last time I laughed so much was at Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason. M finally growled at me, as I dried my eyes for the fifth time, “B, you’re getting a bit tedious.” I didn’t care. Much.

                                              Last night we hit the Nova and saw Look Both Ways; the film written and directed by Sarah Watt (his wife) and starring him, naturally. It was fantastic. The animation worked beautifully, and reminded me of the workings of my own mind. The characters were all loosely connected in a web that pulled tighter as the movie progressed. I wish very much that I had seen the episode of Australian Story that focussed on him and his wife.

                                              I highly recommend Look Both Ways, and I intend to see it again. Don’t wait for the DVD – it’s definitely a bigscreen exprerience.

                                              The Rig

                                                It’s been too sunny to blog. Which isn’t exactly true. I spent most of Friday in the garden with myself in the sun, the laptop in the shade, researching my recording rig – which is proving to be quite frustrating. It seems that new motherboards appear all the time – I am trying to track down one that is recommended by Bob Lentini (who is the inventor of SawPro, SawStudio etc).

                                                So, for the geeks out there, this is what I have so far come up with in regard to what I’m after.
                                                Seagate 8M IDE 120g x 2
                                                Asus P4C800-E Deluxe
                                                Zalman CPU fan
                                                1GB PC4200 DDR2 Corsair (2x512MB)
                                                Matrox G450 DualHead video card (I know it’s old, I don’t care)
                                                EMU 1820M
                                                Coolermaster Real Power 450W Silent Power Supply
                                                Intel P4-630 3.0G CPU 2MB Cache 775pin
                                                GMC X-21 Trinity Case
                                                Some CDRW

                                                All I have so far is the EMU 1820M, which is the main thing. I am also thinking of an external hard drive usb case, but I’m a bit vague on what kind to get as I’m not sure what size normal Seagate IDE hard drives are… Am also wondering whether the CPU I have chosen is compatible with the motherboard, but it’s now midnight and I’m too tired to find out. Tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow. Anyway, this is what has been occupying my brain for the past few days (as has Hell To Pay – a George P. Pelecanos novel which has held me spellbound for three days. It’s tres excellent…)

                                                Happy Christmas, Small Brother – Sorry about the presents

                                                  Dear Small Brother,
                                                  How are things in London? Much to my disgust, my attempts to get you something for Christmas have been thwarted from the outset. Or nearly. I ordered you the Calvin and Hobbes Complete Collection from – bastards. They let me think that I was an organised and useful relation to you for at least 24 hours, when they then shot me a quick email to say that they were ‘out of stock’ and they were ‘dreadfully sorry’ and ‘maybe I could console myself by going out and shooting a fox’ or something – stiff upper lip, and all that.

                                                  Instead of grabbing my rifle, I instead went to the place I should have gone to first…(or so I thought). Usually doesn’t ever let me down. Sure enough, there was Calvin and Hobbes, in stock at various establishments. Right, I thought, I haven’t sent him a Christmas present for a year or two as I’ve been battling poverty and racist Queenslanders. I’ll send him something that costs a bit. Something with a bit of clout. So I order it. Again, I revel in a clear 24 hours, thinking I am both organised and generous (a difficult combination to attain at any time, but particularly near Christmas). Again, I receive a message. This time from a guy called Todd.

                                                  “Hi B,” says Todd, “The postage for your order actually costs more than was in the original order form. It’s going to cost $143.”
                                                  I ponder this for a while. Does he mean $143 for the whole order, books and postage? Or does he mean [stagger] that postage alone will be $143? Surely not. I write and ask him. Another 24 hours go by. Calvin and Hobbes may, at this point, arrive in time for Easter, depending on when that actually takes place.

                                                  “Hi B,” writes Todd, 24 hours later and with only two more shopping days until Christams no pressure, breathe deeply, “The $143 is just for postage.”
                                                  “Hi Todd,” I pound into the keyboard, “Thanks, but please cancel my order.I had no idea Calvin and Hobbes were so heavy.”

                                                  As we know, your birthday is two days after Christmas. We can blame our mutual parents for that faux pas. And while we’re at it, let’s blame them for creating a family in which four out of the five immediate members have birthdays within a span of 35 days, stretching financial management to the limits. Anyway, since you were even Smaller (than you are currently) I have tried to always get you TWO presents and not join those lame-o people who give you one decent present and then default on the whole deal by writing ‘Happy Christmas…AND Birthday!’ on the card.

                                                  So even though your Calvin and Hobbes collection was going to be the wonder present of your Christmas, I also sent you another little, less weighty book, so you’d have a s-e-p-a-r-a-t-e present for your b-i-r-t-h-d-a-y. Now, as I have been thwarted, you’re only going to get that ONE. MANKY. LITTLE. BOOK. and THAT’S ALL! How embarrassing. It would probably have been better to get nothing at all! But anyway, it’s too late now, and I just wanted to let yourself, and the rest of the Internet know that I tried. Goddamnit.

                                                  Don’t get drunk and fall in the snow. And watch out for carpet burns if you’re going to attempt any handstands for joy.

                                                  The Elder Sister

                                                  Just so it’s down on…er…paper?

                                                    There may be some [miaow] issues soon, as I’m sick to death of the way this thing looks, and want nothing more than a good hard… geek session, where I will upgrade my WordPress installation and grapple with a new layout and all the gnashing and slashing that entails. I have always liked the look of What Do I Know? and I also like Kartar’s site (as you can see, I’m into those little tabby things at the top) although I much prefer my side column on the left. Anyway, with my next few days full of steam cleaning, grouting, shed building and finding a copy of The Hot Kid in a place where internet banking is viewed with suspicion…my nights will hopefully be spent playing with kittens and giving [miaow] a revamp. As some famous political slogan put it – IT’S TIME.

                                                    Today is Towel Day

                                                      First book haul of the year!

                                                        On the final day of our surfing safari we went to a book fair in Drysdale on our way to Queenscliff. I scored.

                                                        The haul from Drysdale Book Fair

                                                        And the holiday is o-v-e-r. Wah.

                                                          I’ve backdated a few of the previous posts as I have not looked at my computer for about TEN DAYS. That’s right. TEN DAYS. And only some of that time was hard. The rest of the time I was either surfing, drinking or eating. It’s Sunday night, and tomorrow I land with a thump back into everyday life. I have been trying to clean up the trailer. M and I did a big shop to kick off the year of what we hope will be a quest to be frugal. We are also poised to set up a watering system for our ‘garden’ (currently only consisting of potplants as the earth here is grey sand) which will operate within the Stage 3 watering restrictions.

                                                          I can’t believe that December 2006 has actually been and gone. And I still haven’t written down my new year’s resolutions! I was wondeirng whether to write them here… And still I ponder. I will be posting some more backdated stuff over the next week while it’s all still in my head, mostly so when I look back, I can see what the hell I was up to. Today is the first day in about five or six days that I haven’t been surfing, and I’m feeling the lack.


                                                            Last night I lay whimpering sadly, headphones askew. I had finished, finally finished, all six of my Harry Potter audio books read to me by the delightful Stephen Fry. A hundred hours and 55 minutes!! It took me a few months, but I really did listen at almost every opportunity. In the car, cooking, cleaning, washing up, working on the caravan and while walking around the back paddock for fitness. Not only am I devastated that I’ve finished them and thus will never have quite the same level of wonder and enjoyment when I read/listen to them again, but also because there’s ONLY ONE MORE! I want it to go on FOREVER. [sigh]

                                                            Anyway, now I have to see the films – I’ve only seen the first one, so that should tide me over until the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows turns up in, let me see, um, 52 days. It has been a blessing having my spectacular new iPod and being able to fit everything on it. I am still trying to cope with the fact that it holds more than my macbook!! Now if only I could figure out how to get into the router here at work and open up a port for downloading, it would save me soooo much time. ;-)

                                                            Peter Temple slays the opposition

                                                              One of my favourite writers, Peter Temple, has won the Gold Dagger Award (the Duncan Lawrie Dagger) for the best crime novel of the year (and a healthy £20,000) from the UK Crime Writers Association. The novel is The Broken Shore. He was up against Giles Blunt, James Lee Burke, Gillian Flynn*, Craig Russell and CJ Samson.

                                                              Hooray for Peter Temple! That dagger is going to sit nicely in amongst all those Ned Kelly Awards. Maybe this might prompt a reappearance of Jack Irish? I live in hope… I know I point this out fairly regularly, but he did leave a comment here once! Now I will stop behaving like my mother when she thought Small Brother went to a royal wedding, and just suggest that if you haven’t read The Broken Shore yet – you should.

                                                              *I’m keen to read Gillian Flynn’s novel Sharp Objects, as it took out the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger and the New Blood Dagger.

                                                              Hatful of Hallow

                                                                Say hellow to hallows. Yah!

                                                                Going out for dinner tonight, and keen to go, but wish part of me (my eyeballs) could stay home and devour this. It’s the only one that Stephen Fry hasn’t read to me!

                                                                I managed it! NO SPOILER

                                                                  I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ten minutes ago. NO SPOILER. I am merely writing to trumpet the fact that I survived my media blackout intact. I started reading yesterday late afternoon, and read through today from about 1pm until now – 7.30pm. I have always been a snappy reader – and I’m so glad a) because I wouldn’t have got any work done tomorrow if I hadn’t finished it, and b) because the longer it took me the more scared I would have been of finding out in some misplaced email or something how it all turned out.

                                                                  M was v.good and stayed out of my way, offering me the occasional lime fizz. It’s lucky I don’t do this too often, because I’m incapable of reading for lengthy periods of time without sustenance. So, today’s effort took me through two oranges (fruit! who knew?), a bowl of popcorn, several scotch finger biscuits, several soy and linseed biscuits, a third of a bag of dried apricots and several cups of strong tea. I feel like I’ve been on a rollercoaster.

                                                                  Feeling booky

                                                                    It is such a decadent feeling to have VOUCHERS to shop with. From my Faux Uncle Noel (known to some as ‘Grassy’) I had Christmas and birthday vouchers for the Paperback Bookshop. As I happened to be shooting through this city this morning and actually had them with me, I spent a leisurely hour ruminating on what I would like best. Way, way too much choice. I have always wanted to own a current copy of the Australian Writers’ Marketplace but it just seemed too boring to blow fifty bucks on.

                                                                    To go with the same theme, I instead scored a copy of Reading Like a Writer by the aptly named Francine Prose. It pimps itself as ‘a guide for people who love to read and for those who want to write them’, i.e. me.

                                                                    I pondered on getting the new one from Jasper Fforde, but was unable to remember if I did actually read Something Rotten or just stole chunks of it with my eyes at many and various book selling establishments. I think it was the former. But I’m Not Quite Sure.

                                                                    So I kept in tune with my first pick and got The Best Creative Nonfiction: Volume 1. This was selected on something of a whim – as I flicked through, it seemed like the kind of stuff I like to read – and write. And I didn’t even know what the hell creative nonfiction was, until about a minute ago when I looked it up here.

                                                                    Last but not least, I got – no, NOT a crime novel (oddly enough), but One Train Later a memoir by Andy Summers, who played in a lot of bands, the most famous of which were (are?!) probably The Police. It was voted book of 2006 by Mojo readers and also got talked up by Word Magazine (and I must take the opportunity here to thank Mr H. who donates all his Word copies to moi – on the proviso that I never throw any away. Fair deal). Incidentally my very own mother went to see The Police somewhere in Massachusetts a few weeks back along with 29,999 other people, and they were apparently excellent. “That Sting,” breathed my mother, down the long distance line, “He’s looks fantastic.” Yes. That would be closely related to the squillions of dollars, the freakish amount of yoga, the happy marriage and, most importantly, the kickass bassplaying/singing stuff he’s had happening for a while now…

                                                                    I’m booked up and ready to rumble. Yay me :)

                                                                    A book for recording journeys…

                                                                      My lovely boss is a man of many, many talents – one of which is bookbinding. As I won’t see him tomorrow (my last day at work) he gave me the most beautiful leatherbound book that he made. The inscription instructs me to record my journey… It’s beautiful and the only other person to receive one from him in the office had to both work for him for 15 years and turn 50! I am so LUCKY!

                                                                      My boss's goodbye (for the moment) present
                                                                      My boss's goodbye (for the moment) present

                                                                      The paper is parchment-like – sort of thick and creamy. Excuse my raptures, but I never thought I would get one of these!

                                                                      It’s melting, it’s melting!

                                                                        My brain is the organ to which I am referring. I bought a copy of Minette Walters’ Disordered Minds on the weekend from Loch Market. It was three dollars and I was happy with that. I felt like I needed to be sucked into some kind of non-baby related page turner, however, the more pages I turned the more I had the feeling I’d read it before. I persevered for a few days, but having been awake since 4am this morning and noodling on the net, I decided to add it to my ‘allconsuming‘ list. Too late! I found that I’d read it two years ago – and hadn’t been that impressed by it back then either.

                                                                        But that was OK. Because yesterday when L, Chloe and I descended like a SWAT team on Savers in Frankston, I bought a Linda Fairstein book. Guaranteed page turner, I thought. No worries, I’ll read that instead. I went to allconsuming again to put it on my reading list. And there it was, again. I’d listed it two years previously – around the same time as the bloody Minette Walters effort. Gah. My brain is so cactus, I might just read it again, because there’s obviously not a lot of plot recollection going on in real life or in fiction at this point.

                                                                        SLAM Protest Rally & Sleepers

                                                                          I haven’t left this side of town for what seems like an a-g-e. Yesterday, this changed. M, Small Z and I drove into Northcote in the morning, and were gratified to discover that it took exactly an hour. An HOUR! An hour to civilisation, trams, coffee, chai made with leaves and hot milk, and…our actual destination. The first Sleepers Publishing CryBaby Salon.

                                                                          I was glad to have had M there acting as my Manny, as I doubt Small Z would have stayed in the toddlers room for the entire session on her own. As it was, I was practically the only person in the room without an incy-wincy baby draped over me or crawling at my feet. Lawrie Steed interviewed Rachel Power, author of The Divided Heart: Art and Motherhood – a book I would have bought except for a cash deficit. Am now going to request it for birthday.

                                                                          There was much discussion over the guilt involved with trying to pursue your artistic endeavours while still feeling like a worthwhile mother. A few times it was suggested that you have to try hard to just down tools, put your partner in charge, shove the expressed breastmilk in the fridge and JUST LEAVE. Something I have whole-heartedly aspired to, but am really really not good at doing. In question time I wanted to ask…but what about those mothers who have babies that don’t sleep without being breastfed and who won’t take a bottle? The sleep deprivation and the sheer brain deadening fatigue?! What do they do?!!

                                                                          I think the response would have been ‘do whatever you can’. If you can grab 30 minutes a day to write or dance or paint, just do it. It’s good enough. It’s better than nothing. And it’s no crime that if, when those 30 minutes are there for the taking, all you can do is slump with a few chocolate biscuits and a cup of tea. Things will always improve.

                                                                          I wondered also about the levels of difficulty – if you have come up with a non-fiction topic that you can focus on and research – is that easier or harder than writing fiction? Does the time you lack for contemplation weigh equally heavily on the fiction writer and the painter and the dancer? I suppose it all depends on the person, and what you allow yourself to do. Time to immerse yourself in your chosen artform shouldn’t feel like an indulgence, and shouldn’t feel like you are doing it at the expense of something else…the washing, the dinner… It’s this hardwired, burnt-chop mother thing that I think a lot of people identified with yesterday – the ongoing struggle to separate yourself as artist and mother.

                                                                          And as Rachel Power said – the triumvirate of art, motherhood and WORK is the real killer. She spoke about the harmony that can come of the motherhood and art combination. When work is thrown into the mix, that’s the thing that sends it all off key. Just thinking about this makes me want to go and buy a Powerball ticket…

                                                                          After visiting the nasally impaired, but mending Dr of Grass, we took the scenic route to Carlton via Coburg as Small Z slumbered in the back. And then moseyed on down to the front of the State Library for the Save Live Australian Music protest rally, where we met LIBRARYMAN (aka Mr H in work attire) and marched from there, through the city, and up Bourke Street to Parliament House. It was fabuloso!!

                                                                          At the end, after a rousing rendition of ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top if you want to ROCK & ROLL’, there was a little too much speechifying – a great deal of which was generally indistinct to those further back in the crowd. I think they should have got people up to make a few pithy statements, got ‘em off, and had a few more songs. But, whatever… We took our leave with the hungry small one, and headed home after a stop for lemon lime and bitters, some spuds and some pesto bread.

                                                                          SLAM Rally

                                                                          Note Small Z on M’s shoulders to left of banner…

                                                                          SLAM Rally

                                                                          Mother’s Day III

                                                                            I am posting this in a very belated fashion (written in mid June 2010, but backdated), but I did want my Mother’s Day to go on the record for historical purposes. (Here are Mother’s Day One and Two.) This year we went for a sail, taking my mum and T along for the ride. Just as we had in 2007, when Small Z was a tiny peanut sized blip in my belly, unknown to anyone but M and wide-eyed self…

                                                                            I made roast chicken, lemon thyme, chive and mayonnaise rolls, which went down a treat. The motor died, but we purloined another. Mum made a fabulous cake and spent a-g-e-s on the boat entertaining Small Z while I slumbered on the nets. We busted a shear pin on the replacement outboard motor and had to anchor outside the Warneet Channel while M and T performed emergency surgery.

                                                                            Ah, the wonder of the trimaran. I will never love a monohull in the same way. Too much lean, not enough room to spread out. Prior to our departure I had told Small Z the story of last Father’s Day, when she threw one of my anodised metal picnic cups overboard. It landed upright, bobbing merrily, while I shrieked, “Go about!! Go ABOUT! GET MY CUP!!” M obligingly turned the boat around as I hung over one hull and scooped the cup from the sea. Small Z thought this was very cool, and was therefore thrilled when her pink hat blew off and we had to re-enact exactly the same scenario…

                                                                            We had an excellent time…

                                                                            Mother's Day 2010 - Small Z & M
                                                                            Mother's Day 2010 - My Mum.
                                                                            Mother's Day 2010 - the CAKE!
                                                                            Small Z & her Nana - Mother's Day 2010

                                                                            And did I mention my beautiful and inspiring present from M and Small Z? It is a book that I never would have thought of, but is so amazing and presented in a gorgeous cloth cover over the hardback, with two bookmark ribbons (and you do need at least two…)
                                                                            My mother's day present...
                                                                            My day finished very nicely. M stayed aboard the boat due to tide constraints. Small Z was whacked and went to sleep before 7pm, giving me the e-n-t-i-r-e evening to myself. I cleaned the place to within an inch of its life and then luxuriated in the solitude and order before retiring. All being well? It was my last Mother’s Day as the mother-of-one…

                                                                            Love it late

                                                                              A week in the trenches with Small Z enmeshed in the kind of cold that saw green conger eels of snot emerging from her hose nose every 20 minutes or so. Accompanied, of course, by the kind of interrupted sleep that comes with being not able to breathe properly. Couple this with a dead car and a looming inspection of our house by the real estate agent…

                                                                              Yeah. That’s been the scheme of things. As of today, we have begun to blink in the light of a clean slate. M worked very hard researching our car and managing to take it apart and fix it for under $150 – it would have probably cost a grand and a half to take anywhere. The house is spotlessly clean and organised – M again, as I have been shackled by Small Z and my whalelike stature.

                                                                              Today my mother turned up to look after Small Z while I worked. But did I work? No, I had had to reorganise her visit to the school/preschool she might be starting to go to due to her cold and it had to be this morning. As we didn’t get home until after midday, getting Small Z to sleep took a while, as did lunch…I got a total of just over two hours work done. On a day when I had files due for Monday. Poor M. I have had to call on him again to look after Small Z for a full day tomorrow so I can at least get my hours up. If I worked in an office this situation would not arise, and sometimes I whimper for the feeling of not having work hanging over me that I didn’t get to because of a Small Z tanty, or a house inspection, or my own lack of self discipline (notice that I put that last)…

                                                                              And that segue-ways nicely into what my mum delivered today. A birthday present for me from She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Blogged. I SOOOO do not have a problem with ‘late’ presents. They are the best! A little oasis of acquirement when you think all celebrating has been finished off. I got a copy of a book I have been hanging out to get stuck into since I went along to see the author speak at the first Sleepers Crybaby Salon. Rachel Power’s The Divided Heart.

                                                                              I’ve already read the introduction and the first chapter, which is by Rachel Power herself. (The rest of the book is made up of her interviews with other artists, writers and actors on the topic of motherhood and an artistic life.) It almost made me cry with recognition. Argh, it’s like she lived/lives in my head, but expressed it all far better than I ever could have.

                                                                              On top of my book I also received a dark Terry’s Chocolate Orange, that I have hidden for emergencies, and some Madame Flavour tea, about which I have written before. But not only these – the most current issue of Frankie that contains fantastic vintage caravan photos. And have I mentioned that She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Blogged specialises in uber cool wrapping paper?

                                                                              Part of my late birthday present haul

                                                                              (With, but not part of, the birthday haul, were three bags of clothes for Pikelet. None of them sucked. Amazing for baby clothes! I would mention the name of the op-shop where she found such goodness…but then I’d have to kill you.)

                                                                              Sugar Sugar

                                                                                Tuesday at 1.30pm I turned up at the pathology place to have my blood tests for iron levels, Vitamin D, B12 and… my glucose levels. Why I never thought to NOT have the glucose test is beyond me. It simply didn’t occur to me to question it. Oh, the woe that ensued.

                                                                                The glucose test thing is to see if you have gestational diabetes. I had the test when I was pregnant last time and it was obviously a no brainer, because I barely remember it. This time? Ugh. I went in at 1.30pm, drank the bottle of hideous liquid sugar stuff and then had to sit for an HOUR. UNMOVING. Which would not have been such an ordeal if I hadn’t had to focus all my energy on not improving the decor with a technicolour yawn.

                                                                                So you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn that my result had been too high and I had to return on Friday morning for a glucose tolerance test. A TWO HOUR one. I could only imagine that it was going to be doubly worse. I did a bit more reading (as opposed to the none I had already done) and found out that glucose tests are best done in the morning because your blood sugar goes up at the end of the day.

                                                                                I suspected this was why my result had been ‘high’. Gah. Anyway. From midnight Thursday I had no food and no water and no nothing. At 9am they hoicked some blood out of my already bruised left arm, and then a bit more for the Vitamin D they forgot to do on Tuesday. I then drank the gross drink and sat on my arse. The nurse told me that there was no way I would be nauseous this time as I had an empty stomach. She was right. Thank GOODNESS.

                                                                                At 10am they took more blood. From the other arm, to diversify a little. I sat for another hour. My iPhone was low on battery – and this turned out to be kind of cool, because I was then forced to sit and read the book that I had brought along Just Kids – Patti Smith’s autobiography as recommended by my uncle, who was in that whole scene. It’s greatl

                                                                                At 11am they took more blood and I was free to totter out. Actually, I exaggerate. I felt a lot better than I had earlier in the week. I felt more like a camel than anything else. I needed WATER… M, Small Z and I went and ate sandwiches at a cafe and then M went to Boat and Small Z and I began a long journey home. This involved much skankiness and her actually falling asleep three blocks from home…

                                                                                Naturally I then had to continue onwards, because one never wakens the Kraken. I did a ruminative drive to Flinders, raced out to use the public toilets at the beach (Oh yes, bad parenting or urinating on own driver’s seat? Not a choice I even bothered to dwell on. Have you seen this ‘bad parenting’ list? I have done everything on it except number four. Which makes me a queen of the genre…) and then got back in the car. She slumbered on. I did a few more laps of Flinders, cursing that there were no places selling cake that I could go to that had a view of ones car, and drove all the way back to Hastings at a sedate pace. Small Z woke up as we pulled into the driveway. She does it like magic.

                                                                                My reward? A somewhat less skanky litt le lovely, and a text message from my midwife…
                                                                                No gestational diabetes! And Have A Good Weekend! I celebrated with a happy dance and some lollies. Because I could.

                                                                                Not so jolly

                                                                                  The upside of my ongoing insomnia are the podcasts I’ve been lying there listening to. Catching up on RadioLab, discovering Conversations (steered by the discomfitingly avuncular sounding Richard Doug Anthony Fidler) and absorbing past episodes of the Book Show.

                                                                                  But it was listening to a particular Book Show podcast that left me almost silently inhaling my own face at about 3am the other night. I lived and breathed Enid Blyton books from about the age of eight to around twelve. I had a second cousin who I only met about three times and actively disliked purely because she had the entire set of Famous Fives on her shelf – brand new. I was misshapen with envy.

                                                                                  I don’t think there is an Enid Blyton book I haven’t read. I was regularly devastated when I finished a series because it would never be so exciting again. But guess what? Hodder – the company that publishes all the Enid Blyton books, in their wisdom, have decided to ‘update’ the language for the readers of today. Oh please. Leave the lashings of ginger beer alone…

                                                                                  According to Hodder’s publishing director Anne McNeill, changing words like ‘luncheon’ to ‘lunch’ or ‘trying’ to ‘annoying’ will allow children to engage with the books without the barrier of strange, old-fashioned words.
                                                                                  Spiked Online

                                                                                  If you don’t understand that ‘luncheon’ means ‘lunch’ or ‘trying’ means ‘annoying’… then you’ll either get the jist of it anyway, OR you will learn that people used to use the word luncheon instead of LUNCH. And so on…

                                                                                  I was not aware that at the time it was written, Blyton’s work for children was dismissed by the BBC and some libraries as complete pulp with zero ‘literary merit’ and was thus censored accordingly. This rather hysterically misses the point. Her work was/is wildly appreciated by the age group for which it was written, and what is more illustrative of it’s worth than that? Despite my huge ingestion of Blyton books I don’t roam the world referring to people as ‘golliwogs’ or ‘dirty tinkers’ whilst inviting them to luncheon and then indulging in midnight feasts.

                                                                                  The language is indicative of the era in which it was written and in which the stories take place. To mess with it is an exercise in dumbing down and dilution. It is denying that the kids that read them have the capability and imagination to transport themselves to the worlds that Blyton conjured up (which are really as far from today’s reality as Hogwarts) without spoonfeeding them ‘modernisms’. By the time you’re savvy enough to read Enid Blyton’s most popular series, such as the Secret Seven, or the Famous Five, you’re surely cluey (sorry) enough to get the gist of some of the more odd expressions that are no longer in use, or read on regardless and survive intact.

                                                                                  So “It’s all very peculiar.” is going to become “It’s all very strange.” and “Mercy me!” has become “Oh no!” and “Fellow” will be “Old man” – just to name a few that were mentioned. Give me a break. So much of what you read when you are younger just sails way over your head – and you don’t appreciate things any less. There are many examples of racism and sexism by current standards throughout Blyton’s writing – and so what? They are from an era in which such things were not thought out of the ordinary. You don’t start messing with Shakespeare, Biggles or the William books to make them more ‘understandable’ or palatable to their current audience. It’s simply missing the POINT.

                                                                                  More links here:
                                                                                  The Book Show Blog – ABC Radio National
                                                                                  Golly! Blyton gets an update – The Age
                                                                                  This bullying of Blyton is rather trying – Spiked Online
                                                                                  The Famous Five

                                                                                  Baby on Board

                                                                                    The amount of advice that everyone from your landlord to your mother to people in the street want to give you when you have your first baby can, paradoxically, leave you feeling more confused and conflicted than ever. Obviously if you’ve had kids it’s sooo tempting to share what you learnt. But advice like “babies need to cry to ‘exercise’ their lungs” and “feed them for 20 minutes on one breast and then swap”… and suggesting Vicks Vaporub is a useful tool is just all antiquated quackery.

                                                                                    But it’s easy to buy into when you’re sleep deprived, lacking confidence, and just want simple solutions. Before Small D was born my midwife recommended Baby on Board by Dr Howard Chilton. I’ve dug it out again now she is here. It is a recent reissue and Dr Chilton is not only a paediatrician, but he’s an Australian paediatrician. I am now his disciple.

                                                                                    The subtitle of the book is Understanding you baby’s needs in the first twelve months. And basically, that sums up the book. It’s very readable and straightforward. I don’t know that I would have benefitted so much from it the first time around, but this time? It’s fantastic – because I remember so VERY little of all the newborn bits and pieces from when Small Z was a tiny dot (and this is a result of evolution – if you remembered all the minutiae and sleep deprivation, the world’s population would dive…)

                                                                                    I feel like it’s important to keep reading to keep myself informed, despite Small D being baby number two. Actually, it’s nice to tie in what I read with what it brings up from last time – which would otherwise remain unremembered at the bottom of my brain. I think it’s too easy to settle back and assume that because you’ve done it once, you know all about it. This is how those annoying ‘exercise their lungs’ people get created. And I’ve just returned from seeing our MCHN, a visit which left me wanting to kick her…but that’s a whole other story…

                                                                                    unschool monday :: reading

                                                                                      Books have been a big part of Small Z’s life. From Moo, Baa, La La La! sent to her by our lovely NSW friends when they found out that we hadn’t really been reading much to her (when she was about six months old to now, she has seen hundreds of books. Easily.

                                                                                      Here’s an old video of her at nine months, turning the pages right on cue. (*whimper* – where did my baby gooooo?!) I have always just assumed she would kind of learn to read by osmosis. And it seems that she has…

                                                                                      Yeah – she has a Nana who was a teacher for many many years who reads her lots of stories once a week. And yes, she has learned to sound out letters – I think it’s called ‘phonics’- to figure out how to pronounce a word. But neither of those things were as important as her own curiousity. And also, her love of a good rhyme. This last point has been incredibly helpful for working out words – she knows from the start of a line and the context, what the end should be:

                                                                                      James, James, Morrison, Morrison, Wetherby George DuPree,
                                                                                      Took great care of his mother, though he was only….

                                                                                      It’s obvious. THREE!!

                                                                                      I didn’t realise that she had begun to really read until we were walking down the street the other day. She looked up and said, “Fish and chips? What does that sign say that for?”

                                                                                      Above our heads was a big sign. Fish and chips sign

                                                                                      And then yesterday she came out of her room dragging a wool blanket we have had since she was a dot. It was probably very expensive as it is a fancy brand, but I found it in a ‘dog blanket’ section of the op shop.

                                                                                      “This is my Eeni, Meeni, Miini, Mo blanket,” announced Small Z.

                                                                                      “How did you know it was called that?” I asked her.

                                                                                      “Because, I don’t know. I just did.”

                                                                                      I persisted. “But HOW?”

                                                                                      “It says it – here.” And she pointed to the large label on the side…

                                                                                      Catch a tiger by the toe.

                                                                                      It’s like she is doing it almost unconsciously, which is odd but great. I’m so excited for her. I loved books SO much when I was little, and I hope she continues to – it’s a lovely interest to share.

                                                                                      This post is part of unschool monday at owlet…check out some others!

                                                                                      Doubled Up

                                                                                        A definite vote of approval. Small Z always has two books read to her before bed. Tonight is the First Night Ever that she has asked for the first book to be read again. I cross examined her a bit to make sure she understood that there would be no other books. Just the same book, twice. She understood.

                                                                                        This is the book:

                                                                                        You can check out more about the author here. It made me think of William McInnes – or, more accurately, his father.

                                                                                        Small Z made me go limp with hysteria after it, requesting, “Say something funny mama, so I can be funny back.”
                                                                                        In the book, the kid says;

                                                                                        “Dad! I’ve got something in my eye!”

                                                                                        “Yeah,” says the dad, “Your eyeball.”

                                                                                        I said, “Zoe! I’ve got something in my eye!”

                                                                                        “Yeah,” she said, deadpan, “Your eyebrow.”

                                                                                        There were many other ones, some of which she got right, and some of which she just rendered so oblique that I was crying with laughter. She gets so much of the wordplay in the book, but is a bit to little to really compute it and transpose it. It reminded me of a long ago holiday with our lovely NSW friends where Claudia (then about five or six) would tell jokes, the punchlines of which would be so unrelated that they became funny purely because they were so wrong.

                                                                                        Anyway – there you go! The book of the week.

                                                                                        Just a day

                                                                                          Today was curiously smooth. Small DB woke up chilled out and happy. I took Small Z to kindergarten and then whizzed into the library and got an hour and a half of work done before heading home to convince Small DB to nap. Mum went and collected Small Z.

                                                                                          Small DB slept. Resettled her twice and she clocked TWO HOURS. Unheard of. Thus I got way more work done than normal and actually feel satisfied with what I achieved.

                                                                                          Sent off a parcel of completed files, got both Smalls to bed by 6.30pm, threw self together a dinner of calamari and roasted vegetables… Sat in front of The Slap, when I was disturbed by a little mouse…

                                                                                          Someone can't sleep

                                                                                          She has come out of her room after bedtime of her own accord about five times in two years. It just doesn’t seem to occur to her. This time she said, “I need to wee…and can I have some secret staying up time with you?” So here we sit. I type, and she’s snugged next to me reading The Little Cat Baby and Russell and the Lost Treasure. She still can’t say her R’s properly, so it’s actually Wussell and the Lost Tweasure.

                                                                                          I have just realised I am going to have no work for five weeks over Christmas, and no income. Usually this sort of thing is covered by my tax return, but this year that barely exists. I have decided to start worrying about that tomorrow… Right now? I have half a small bottle of cider left in the fridge.

                                                                                          Bedside Light

                                                                                            It is a wonderful treat to have a Small that so loves her books. She reads to her little sister and it is lovely to see. Just because she can read doesn’t mean she doesn’t like be read to…it’s one of her favourite things.

                                                                                            Something new has begun. Each night, after the wee, teeth, PJs and two books she gets into bed and wants to read before she goes to sleep.

                                                                                            A week or so ago, it was still light enough when she went to bed for her to read with the window blind raised. Now? Winter approacheth. For the past three nights I’ve given her a little antique bedside light that I get out for my mum when she stays.

                                                                                            The switch is stiff – too stiff for her to turn on. But she can turn it off. I tell her she can read a little bit and then she needs to turn off the light and turn on her own audiobook CD and go to sleep. And this is exactly what she does.

                                                                                            My heart crumples a little, in a lovely messy way, to say that she just doesn’t think of prolonging it and reading as long as she possibly can. That may come later. For now, she’s happy enough just to have the autonomy of having her own bedside light and the authority to turn it off when she feels the time is right. There is so much that is good in her little heart that it sometimes makes me ache.

                                                                                            While you’re at it
                                                                                            Leave the nightlight on
                                                                                            Inside the birdhouse in your soul
                                                                                            Not to put too fine a point on it
                                                                                            Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet
                                                                                            Make a little birdhouse in your soul

                                                                                            Administrative duties…

                                                                                              The past week has been something of a struggle – fractured nights leaving me a zombie by mid-afternoon, getting through the days from cup of tea to cup of tea. I have had some horror parenting moments :( Last night, however, must have been a little bit better because today I summoned a skerrick of zing…

                                                                                              With Small Z at kindergarten, as soon as the other Small was asleep I worked through my (blisteringly exciting) list that had been eating away at me. I knocked off getting the washing out, paying bills, a phone call to the bank, making chicken soup in the slow cooker, a handwritten letter to the Penalty Review Board*, collecting files together to be posted today… and then an extra hard burst of rain came and woke Small DB after an hour and ten minutes. Gah.

                                                                                              At least I got most of it done. Later on my mother called and asked me, again, what I wanted for my birthday and what were my plans for the day. I told her to get off my back and not worry about it, it was still a couple of weeks away. Oh, she said, really? Yes, I said blithely, and looked at the calendar. And blanched. It’s a week tomorrow.

                                                                                              AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH. That’s why M, my mother, my father and Mrs H. have all mentioned it over the past week. I have no plans. My only plans had been to repeat last year – which was to fly to Ballina and lob in on our long lost friends for a week of beachy wonder. My only plan at this late stage? I don’t have one, but I need to invent one. Fast.

                                                                                              And, note to self: today Small DB fell off a chair in the library, hit her head on the coffee table in our lovely local bookshop where I bought Small Z her first dictionary and generally fell over or off everything in her path. I have to devote a post to her before she grows up any further…

                                                                                              * You’re here? About the Penalty Review Board thing? Let me tell you of two instances where M has cost us unnecessary amounts of money. Both have only recently come to my attention. One involves $153 of dinosaurs and the other about $300 of kangaroo mince. Whoops, sorry…it’s bedtime. It will have to be in another post…

                                                                                              Extremely Loud Moonwalking

                                                                                                This is the oddest thing. I have to write about it now, even though I have visitors due in a short while, clothes to put away and washing to hang out.

                                                                                                On my Kindle I have been reading Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer. I haven’t looked at it for a week or two, but sat down to get back into it while I had my lunch today.

                                                                                                (Incidentally, the sun is out for the first time in days. Small DB is asleep. Small Z is at kindergarten. M earned himself serious points by cleaning the house this morning after we’d left.)

                                                                                                When my dad was here on my birthday I showed him my Kindle and made him have a poke around with it. I was hoping to convince him to take it along with him on his upcoming jaunt to investigate Scotland. I failed.

                                                                                                So when I went to read my book today, it didn’t open where it was supposed to. I went to page 200 – making the assumption that was about where I might be up to. I didn’t recognise any of the writing so I flipped back from there until I did.

                                                                                                It was the part about the bombing of Dresden. I’d read it before. I read onward until I got to the point where the writing was new to me. The book – Moonwalking With Einstein – is about memory – a guy who starts investigating how memory works, how it has been used throughout history and memory competitions today. There are many examples of different ideas and ‘memory palaces’ in the book, so I assumed I was in some long descriptive piece that was eventually going to end.

                                                                                                It didn’t. The writing was fantastic. I read and read, sitting in the sunshine. I read about September 11 2001. Someone in the book had a father in one of the towers. The whole descriptive piece did not seem to be making any point about memory as far as I could tell. I was thrilled with what I’d read, but baffled…until I realised.

                                                                                                In showing the Kindle to my dad, I had begun reading the wrong Foer. I was in the middle of Joshua Foer’s book, but had mistakenly landed in the midst of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer – his brother. I had not read that section of text before, but I had heard the author read it himself, on the BBC World Book Club.

                                                                                                It was such a disorienting experience. With the additional (and relevant) oddness of me being initially unable to differentiate between text I had heard, and text I had read. Weird.

                                                                                                If you have read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close you will know that the father describes New York as once upon a time having a sixth borough. The descriptions in this story within a story are just quixotic and beautiful – but so could have fitted, somehow, into Moonwalking With Einstein.

                                                                                                Now I’ll have to read both. But I’ll start at the start.

                                                                                                A milestone. And Peggy.

                                                                                                  Almost normal. Although there is no real ‘normal’. But we usually feel in the minority, as it seems almost everyone else has car friendly kids. Today we drove for over an hour in the car to go and purvey the new digs of our lovely friends. From Hastings to North Coburg. Small DB did not make a peep on the way there, and…wait for it…

                                                                                                  She SLEPT on the way back. Slept. In the car. This is such a milestone outing for us, and one that I am probably making far too much of. But it was so incredibly relieving to arrive at our destination unsavaged by screaming, and even more amazing to arrive home similarly intact.

                                                                                                  We have not visited our friends at home for over a year because the drive would have been too revolting and public transport would have been an elongated headfuck. They have very kindly visited us MANY times and it was so wonderfully revolutionary for us to finally visit them – and particularly for us to get an eyeful of their new abode.

Thank you, Mr, Mrs. and Master H. You gave us a wonderful lunch. It feels like we made progress today and got a glimpse of the future outside baby-land.

                                                                                                  And we ALL love Small DB’s birthday book…

                                                                                                  …she requested it twice in a row tonight :)

                                                                                                  Book ‘em

                                                                                                    Books. Small Z is a voracious consumer. If I want an afternoon of peace (as I desperately did today) we go to the library, borrow a stack of books and come home. And there is quiet – she dives into them and does not surface until she’s read the lot. I asked her to keep two unread so I could read them to her. She kept one…and then lamented at bedtime because she’d read them all so fast and now had nothing new to read.

                                                                                                    “I just love reading,” she said, when we got home. “I love books.”

                                                                                                    “So do I,” I said – remembering that, yes – I was that book obsessed kid who could submerge into words – the thrill of realising there were more books in a particular series, and the dejection of realising that you’d reached the last one.

                                                                                                    Books are Small Z’s happy place. The flipside being that just because she can read anything, doesn’t mean I want her to. Some of the books in the ‘early readers’ section of the library are the text-equivalent of sliced white supermarket bread. (Do I sound snobbily judgmental? Good. I am.) She brought one to me today (and I wonder how long that is going to last?) from a series called ‘Girlz Rule’.

                                                                                                    Anything that uses a ‘z’ where and ‘s’ should be to add some kind of pseudo pizzaz needs to quickly stabbed to death. I flipped through it and it was all about a sleepover, ‘girlz’ only – of course, talking about Australian Idol and who ‘lurves’ who – making my inner grammar nazi riot afresh. I told Small Z that she could read it when she was seven… She was OK with that.

                                                                                                    Yes – I read my way through every ‘Sweet Dreams’ romance from the age of about ten. And every ‘Sweet Valley High’. But I was TEN. I was also getting stuck into The Saint (and still love to – Simon Templar being the pinnacle of manhood). Maybe I am in a less common position – having a quite young obsessive reader – and the ‘Girlz Rule’ books are aimed at eight or nine year olds. But WTF? It’s just stone-age genderised-wankery being touted to young kids that don’t need to learn that sort of crap.

                                                                                                    In the same way I avoid the sliced white bread, I will endeavour to avoid such unimaginative homogenised pap. But I don’t WANT to be a book nazi. I want to set Small Z free in a sea of texts and never dreamed I would have to police her choices. I hope that in another year or two she’ll be discerning enough to make her own choices without me feeling like I have to skim through them first…maybe she is now and I’m just not brave enough to let her?

                                                                                                    Today's haul

                                                                                                    Small Z’s first book.

                                                                                                      Done without assistance, although it was on my suggestion…

                                                                                                      Napoleon and Josephine.

                                                                                                        Small Z was taken by her Nana into town to see a musical. Actually, it was a ‘mousical’ as it starred Angelina Ballerina – a mouse that I dislike. I dislike her because the first Angelina Ballerina book I read had bitchy-girl fighting in it, and it also seemed to embrace gender-stereotyping with both paws. But maybe it’s just me. Small Z adored it and raced home to show her sister the dance steps she’d seen. And then made them both a pair of mouse ears out of gold cardboard.

                                                                                                        At bedtime, she melted.

                                                                                                        “I can’t go to bed, I CAN’T go to bed. I can’t tell you why. I have a big worry. I’m too scared to go to sleep.”

                                                                                                        WIth a little bit of prodding, and the mantra, “A worry shared is a worry halved,” her reserves were eroded.

                                                                                                        “I don’t want to tell you. I don’t want Nana to know, because she didn’t know, but I read a book today when we were at the gallery.”

                                                                                                        My heart dropped. There are, as I have mentioned, downsides to having an all-star reader.

                                                                                                        “That’s OK baby, I’m not going to be upset with you.”

                                                                                                        “I didn’t let Nana see I was reading it.”

                                                                                                        I waited.

                                                                                                        “It was called…Nap-lee-on and Josephine.” Tears started to drop down her cheeks.

                                                                                                        “Napoleon,” I corrected her, unable to stop myself. “I think he was a famous soldier or general.”

                                                                                                        “Emperor mama, he was an emperor. But I read in the book…” she stopped and struggled with herself. “In the book it said they CHOPPED PEOPLE’S HEADS OFF.” Her sobs took off into big heaving gasps. “They didn’t do that did they? Is that a story? Will someone chop off my head? I’m scared a monster will come in the night and chop it off.”

                                                                                                        I inwardly cursed Angelina fucking Ballerina, my mother and the gallery. And then wrestled with myself. Did I tell her it was a story? I hate doing that. I can accept the Tooth Fairy as a cute confection, but to lie about what she had read? No.

                                                                                                        She was beside herself, “I can’t get it out of my head! I wish I never read it. There is a worry in me now that won’t come out!”

                                                                                                        I stroked her like a little cat. “You know how things change over time? That people used to live in caves and there were no roads or towns or electricity?” She nodded. “Well, a few hundred years before now, yes. That did happen sometimes. In a time before people knew any better. Back before there were cars, and computers and fridges. It was a REALLY long time ago, no WAY does that happen any more. Not all things that happened in the olden times were good, but people learned and tried to be better. I’m so sorry you read that.”

                                                                                                        “You have to stay with me now mama, don’t go back upstairs. Stay next to me all night, because I still have that bad feeling in me.”

                                                                                                        I glued myself next to her, and we eventually slept.

                                                                                                        Last night, about three nights later, she stood next to me in the kitchen. We had not talked about it at all.

                                                                                                        “You know what I told you about? What I read? Well it’s still inside me and I can’t get it out. I don’t like it. But don’t talk to me about it. I don’t want you to say stuff about it, it will make it more in my head.”

                                                                                                        I nearly got out the dustpan and brush to sweep the bits of my heart off the floor. I hugged her little newly six-year-old body and wished I could squeeze the memories out of her and sweep them away too.

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