March 29

2011 (aged 44)
Black Swan would have to be one of the most stupid, overwrought, hysterical (in every sense) films I have ever seen. Nearly as bad as Boxing Helena. Nice to spend a decadent afternoon with my husband watching it though!
They were playing Afternoon Delight over the PA at school this morning. I wonder how many of the kids know what that song is actually about...
2006 (aged 40)
Evie (very excited): I got a idea! (What is it?) I don't know!
2003 (aged 36)
Alice turns on TV; I turn it off; Alice has tanty. "More-more toast," she demands tearfully. She scribbles vigorously on piece of paper (left-handed). I relent and put on TV. Alice and Nana settle down to watch Sesame St.
I retire to the scriptorium to work on 2nd draft of 10th Power (Knot of Waters chapter). Manuscript of Waterless Sea has arrived for final copy-edit but I want to finish this chapter first.
1998 (aged 31)
If only T* hadn't said that about living together, that got all my hopes up that he might really care but he doesn't - he only said it because he doesn't want to pay so much rent. Oh this is so stupid. Why can't I just accept the situation for what it is, why this craving for romance?
1996 (aged 29)
T rang on Sunday and said are you going to S's party and I said what party & he said it starts in an hour so I went. Didn't dress very sexily - could have done better. T flirts with everyone so I'm not going to pay attention to it any more!
1995 (aged 28)
Happy for once! Ulitarra are publishing "Madeleine," had a good weekend in Sydney with D which work paid for, B Potato Head is definitely leaving in July. All I need now is a love life!
I asked T to a movie. At least I should feel as if I have options...
1993 (aged 26)
"The Scottish girls never left their washing all over the living room."
"Now, Mer," said Simone, laying down the paper. "That is just plain not true. They used to leave their washing lying around all the time."
"Well," said Mer. "Maybe once. Or twice. But their clothes were nicer anyway. The point is, the girls were absolutely perfect, and Lucy is a pain in the arse, and that's the point."
"Arrse," said Simone, rolling her tongue around it like a toffee. "Bollocks. Mudder."
 1989 (aged 22)
There's no point wishing I could write like Margaret Attwood or Margaret Drabble or Dale Spender. I have to write like me.
1987 (aged 20)
I didn't go to see Death In Venice tonight with B & S. I stayed at home to keep D company. He and B have been broken up for a week now. So what does D do? Goes to his room and listens to the radio after morosely shuffling cards and complaining about how bored he is. That's the thanks I get...
1986 (aged 19)
Double shift [at the Swagman]. Hour's break between. Fell over with tub and cut lip. Absolutely buggered. Bed at 1am.
1985 (aged 18)
Up massively early, dashed down to Common Room to meet Philosophy tutor (quite young, not very cute). S never showed. Ran to uni to meet F & F. Needless to say, F's Shaun and my Shaun are one and the same!!! S bought us coffee after Legal History lecture. Had long deep & meaningful with F, visited J & L at St Hilda's, then H at Queens (who was out), then borrowed book from the Baillieu, to Med building to try to find A's brother, then finally Naughtons. Sat around drinking and getting depressed about our lives. Met up with J, L and JR. Back to college, arranged to meet R at 6.30. Into city, shopped in Myers for a prezzie for F's parents and ran into LP. Met R & K at the station and had brandied apricot icecream. Ran for train in the dark and got home at 8.30. D & m with Mum. Chiefly about alcohol.
1981 (aged 14)
I'm leaving for camp tomorrow. I'm increasing nervous and electric with anticipation. I haven't finished packing yet...
1980 (aged 13)
Constructed a HUGE tent over the balcony and played in it with H & E. Happy are the days of childhood...
1977 (aged 10)
I hoped to go up in swimming but I don't think I will. I played Headhunters with Tracey. Very boring day today. Nice though.
1976 (aged 9)
L got a Merit Card. It rained. We learned about Pompeii and Troy. We had Toad-In-The-Hole for tea.

* T = Taylor (now my dearly beloved huzzband)


Tooth Traumas

 Alice had ten teeth taken out this week. Some were rotten, some were crowded or crooked baby teeth, and have been removed to allow the adult teeth to come through straight (we hope).

It was a big operation, bigger than we were really prepared for, and the scene in the recovery room was like something out of The Exorcist. I think I've watched too many post-operation scenes from Days of Our Lives; I guess I pictured my little girl waking up quietly, pale and interesting, in a hospital bed, perhaps whispering vaguely, 'Where am I?' while I stroked her forehead reassuringly.

Well, she was definitely pale -- her face was as grey as a plateful of porridge. Interesting? Yes, but not in the way I imagined. Blood-soaked gauze spilled from her swollen lips as she thrashed about in post-pethidine delirium. 'Water!' she croaked. 'I URGENTLY need water!' (At that point I was relieved to note that the anaesthetic hadn't damaged her personality.) I started to feel rather ill myself, and managed to pass her to her father before I keeled over. Luckily for me, I thus avoided the projectile vomit she then sprayed over everyone else in the room (mostly blood she'd swallowed during the procedure). Groggy and drooling, eyes rolling in her head, she lolled in her father's arms while I tried to pull myself together.

Three days on and we are all feeling much better. It's helped a lot that she's become something of a celebrity at school. A crowd of well-wishers has hung over the school fence near our back gate at recess and lunch-time, calling her out into the laneway, and on the second day, our garden was invaded by all her friends, who came spilling over the fence to visit.

So now my main problem is coming up with ideas for soft food. There won't be any chewing for a while.


Evie's Homework

One of Evie's homework tasks this week is to write down the recipe of her "favourite food to cook."

Evie's Chicen Strips

  • chicen
  • flower
  • breb crums
  • 2 eggs
  • bolws

Cut the chicen ant put the flower and bred crums into the bolws and some cracked egg in. Get the chicen and: 1 flower 2 egg 3 bred crums. Cook and eat.

They were delicious. Except now she's decided she's vegetarian again. DAMN IT!


Some of you may be aware that a couple of years ago, Penni Russon and I co-wrote, in alternating voices, a book called Dear Swoosie. Her character was a smart-talking redhead called Poppy, and mine was a hippy-drippy blonde fortune-teller named India.

Well, I've just started reading Six by Karen Tayleur. And one of the six main characters is a hippy-drippy fortune-teller - called Poppy. With red hair.

Tres bizarre! Admittedly, Swoosie is a light-hearted, frothy romp, and Six is... not so much. The books were published in the same year, so there's no way we could have accidentally read each other's novels. It just goes to show that there is a lot of stuff floating in the ether, and sometimes two or three people haul down the same things in their nets.

But the weirdest thing about it is, it's exactly the kind of spooky coincidence that the India/Poppy girls themselves would absolutely love. I can almost see them smiling mysteriously, not-quite mirror images of each other, and wandering off into the Land of Fiction, arm in arm.


The Million Dollar Secret*

I've recently made an exciting discovery. Or I should say, re-discovery, because I actually worked this out years ago and then mysteriously forgot it.

The secret of getting lots of writing done every day is this:

250 words.

Yes, that's all. Just 250 words. But you have to write them FIRST THING. Before breakfast. Before that cup of tea. Before you hang the washing out. Before you feed the bearded dragon. Before you look at your emails, or heaven forbid, think about a blog post. All that can wait. Not for long, because, hey, how long does it take to dash off 250 words? Ten minutes?

But amazingly, once those first 250 words are on the page, it makes going back and doing more soooo much easier. Those first quick ten minutes at the keyboard might turn into an easy half hour, then an hour, and before you know it, you've written nearly a thousand words and it's not even ten o'clock yet! Or even if you do take a break (because, hey, we all have to eat sometime), 'going back to work' is not as daunting as 'starting work.' I don't know why this is. It's something to do with the small-target theory, I think.

But gee, I'm glad I've remembered about the 250 word trick.

* If that heading doesn't attract a lot of casual browsers then I don't know what will. Boy, are they going to be disappointed...


Meanwhile, Down At The Kennel...

This time last year there was a lot of excitement in the Kennel. The Western Bulldogs had just won the NAB Cup -- the first time we'd won anything since 1970 (and even that was only a night grand final). Our new recruit, Big Bad Bustling Barry Hall, was red hot, and the Doggies were favourites -- yes, favourites! -- to win the 2010 flag.

Well, as we all know, it didn't quite work out according to plan. The wheels fell off late in the season, partly due to injury and illness. But also our elderly, if distinguished, forward line looked slow and ineffectual (apart from Bazza, who kicked an alarming total of 80 goals to finish second for the Coleman Medal). We finished fourth, which was probably about what we deserved, and the Magpies marched off with the premiership.*

On paper, this season looks less promising. We've lost our fearless and beloved captain Johnno, and the experienced premiership player (among other things...) Jason Akermanis, and the brave servant Nathan Eagleton. There's about 500 years worth of experience gone, right there.

But down at the Kennel, while we're not as hysterically excited as last year, a quiet confidence is bubbling away. We have some special new pups to add to the pack. Mitch Wallis and Tom Liberatore are the talented sons of club legends, and while they're young, they're already looking pretty good. (That's them pictured above. Wallis is the one with the blond curls.) They've been friends and team-mates all their lives. Aww! And our new captain, Matthew Boyd, played in the same team as Little Libba's dad. How about that.

And we've unearthed the Z-Man, the Bullfrog, the Z Factor: Zephaniah Skinner, who has an electrifying leap. Hey, he can jump over Barry Hall's head! Overall, the team looks faster, younger but just as skilful.

Here's hoping for a good year for the Bulldogs. Maybe it's a good sign that just ending up in the finals again will feel, not like an acheivement, but a disappointment. Come on, Doggies -- take it all the way!

* By the way, Collingwood fans -- please don't whinge and moan about how you had to wait soooo loooong between flags. Twenty years? Please! To us patient souls at the Whitten Oval, that's a blink of an eye. Try waiting for FIFTY SIX years and see how you like that...


Gendered Reading?

I can't remember exactly how I stumbled onto this debate yesterday (originating here, with some statistics by VIDA about the proportion of books by women, and books reviewed by women, in some major US literary journals) but it chewed up a good few minutes of what was already a fairly unproductive day.

Suffice to say that the results are both horrific and unsurprising. And I'm sure if anyone did a comparable study of Australian book reviews, the situation would probably be even worse.

Just out of interest I decided to do a quick breakdown of the books I've read in the last year. (This task was made simple by my handy-dandy book diary.) This was the result:

Blokes: 41
Chicks: 47

I was actually really surprised by this. I expected my reading to be far more heavily weighted toward books by women. I think of myself as a biased reader, consuming far more women writers than male authors. So what were all these blokes writing about that I was lapping up so avidly?

As I made my very quick, unscientific, superficial count, I did notice that the blokes' list leaned markedly to the comic end of the spectrum - Stephen Fry, Bill Bryson, Richard E. Grant and Nick Earls were all over-represented. Male authors also accounted for the majority of football books read (ahem!) and a fair proportion of the history books. The other significant chunk of books-by-men consisted of children's and YA titles. Again, I was a little surprised by this. I tend to think of kids' and YA as a fairly female-dominated field. But my brief list reminded me of the excellent books I read last year by the likes of David Almond, Steve Augarde, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Russell Hoban, Mal Peet, Tim Pegler...

So what's missing? There is one big, obvious hole in my blokey reading, and that is male-authored literary fiction. The reason? Well, to be perfectly honest, I find a lot of books by literary blokes... well... boring.

But perhaps that's a topic for another post.


Order In The House

I was more than a little dismayed, faithful readers, to discover that my parents (both of whom, you would think, know me fairly well) thought that the photo featured in the post below was a picture of MY HOUSE.

It's not.

It's a publicity photo from the TV show Hoarders, which I was discussing above and below said photo. Not my own house. My house doesn't look like that. Even when my parents aren't coming to visit.

Now, my house is not super-tidy in the way that, say, my mother's house is. This is not surprising. My parents are both tidy folk (Dad was trained in neatness by the Royal Navy) and they live alone. The only time their house gets messed up is when my children come to stay. This is a crucial point: I live with children. I do the best I can, but it's struggling against the tide.

Sometimes Michael says, just forget about the housework. Which is a lovely thought, but it's not possible. We have to eat, three or four times a day. We need clean clothes. I like to be able to walk through the house and see the floorboards. Don't get me wrong, I do as little as I can get away with. But I find I have to attain certain minimum requirements to preserve my mental equilibrium.

1) My bed must be made, and the floors in my bedroom must be clear.
2) The work area of the kitchen (ie the bench beside the stove) must be uncluttered.
3) I don't like piles of crap all over the floor. I like to be able, if necessary, to walk through the house with the lights off without tripping and breaking my neck.

Conversely, there are designated messy areas that can be heaped with junk and I won't bat an eyelid.

1) The kitchen table -- basically a dumping ground for school notices, homework, lunchboxes, readers, stray toys, pens, made and found objects.
2) I can't stand clothes or towels strewn all over the floor, but I don't mind them piled on the couch. Makes sense to me.
3) In general, I will prioritise "tidy" over "clean." Let the dust accumulate! As Quentin Crisp always said, after five years it doesn't get any worse. As long as the dusty piles are NEAT I will not care.

What is the one thing you need to be neat? What is the one mess you will happily ignore?


Enough Stuff?

Lately Alice has started to watch a rather disturbing show called Hoarders. These poor people are in the grip of a compulsion to acquire, and keep, all kinds of junk, to the point where their houses are so crammed with stuff that they become almost uninhabitable. During a long-overdue clean-up, one woman discovered the flattened, mummified remains of two of her pet cats, which had 'disappeared' some years earlier; they had wandered into the maze of junk, become hopelessly lost, and died.

It's desperately sad for those involved, and their families, but I can't help also thinking of this programme as an allegory for Western capitalism. Our urge to consume and acquire huge, unwieldy amounts of useless crap is slowly choking our planet.

I suspect that Alice is fascinated with this show because she has a little bit of the hoarder in her.* She adores garage sales, hard rubbish, and op shops; abandoned objects call to her. She wants to pick them up and love them. We have an attic full of stuff that Alice has 'rescued.' Her favourite walk at the moment takes in a visit to a $2 shop in High St, Preston, swinging by Savers on the way home, where she scours the street for detritus that donors have spilled. Last week she picked up a (rather gorgeous, I must admit) remnant of beaded chiffon, a single high heeled shoe, and a tiny baby's shoe ('But Mummy, it's adorable!') Then she discovered a vacant lot. She peered through a gap in the fence and her eyes gleamed. 'Oh, Mummy, please! It's an absolute treasure trove!' To my jaded eyes, there was nothing particularly appealing about the soggy sofa, the rotting cardboard boxes or the tattered scraps of plastic blowing about among the weeds, but I let her go and have a look around (carefully).

Luckily, she had spent her $2 wisely at the $2 shop. After half an hour of examining every item in the shop, she finally chose -- a rubbish bin.

Maybe there's hope for her yet.

* Or perhaps the collector? She loves Collectors, too.