Country Dreaming

So, we’ve bought ourselves a block of land. We call it, rather grandiosely, the farm.

Did I mention that we’re excited?

The Great Dane with the summer-golden grass blowing against his knees.

The Great Dane with the summer-golden grass blowing against his knees.

We spent an evening out on the farm this week, wandering around the hills, wading through wind-rippled grass, hopping across rocks, watching kangaroos graze in the bottom paddock. I’m sure there’s a jab in there somewhere about roos loose in the top paddock, but let’s not do it just yet.  By the time we’re in the middle of building a new house, selling an old house and packing up eighteen years’ worth of family trash and treasure, there’ll be plenty of roos loose in the proverbial paddock.

 

But for now, we’re walking on air. We're daydreaming. We're skipping around with satisfied grins on our faces, already living the rural life in our hearts. 


I suspect, however, that my daydreamings are a tad different to those of the Great Dane. 

 

My  daydreaming involves a lot of slow-motion running through flower-filled meadows. 

I let my hair grow long and adopt a timeless country wardrobe of white muslin shifts (summer) and taupe linen tunics (winter), teamed with khaki gumboots. And I look lovely - think Scarlet Johansen meets Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman. I spend great chunks of time sitting in a wicker chair on the veranda, a crocheted granny rug on my knee, a pot of tea at my side, a book in my hand. And yet, despite the many hours I spend in leisure, my house and garden look like something straight from the pages of Australian Country Style. There is even a freshly-baked sponge cake, 30 cm tall, sitting in the pantry - although goodness knows how it got there when I have never baked one higher than a pancake. (Again, it's the daydreaming thing.) 


The Great Dane has a simpler vision. He sees a big shed. Really big. In fact, every time he mentions it, it has grown five metres longer. Perhaps he's forgotten that, in Australia, we don't bring our animals inside for the winter. But who am I to point the finger? I'm running across flower-filled meadows in a white muslin frock with a goat called Feta at my side. (Did I mention the goat ... and the goat cote?)


Of course, we both know that reality must temper the dream. There will be hiccups along the way. Like this tree that suddenly plopped across the road three weeks ago:

The sun will be hotter, the wind stronger and the frost harsher than we expect. The thistles and blackberries will run rampant. The goat will turn out to be a pea-brained whippet. And I will not look effortlessly stylish but will stumble around looking like this ...

Effortlessly frumpy.

Effortlessly frumpy.

But we don't  care! We're excited and happy and enjoying the long and wobbly road from dreams to reality. And we can always turn our blackberries into jam!  

  

Where are your dreams leading you?

 

 

Have a squiz at this!

I take you for a giggle down Memory lane with a snippet of Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman. Note to self: Remember to wear a corset when horse-riding through the flower-filled meadows on the farm. 

 

NEXT WEEK:

Dust off your lamingtons. The Great Dane is becoming an Australian citizen! 

 

 

What I Learned in Primary School

Was it just my school, or were the seventies a strange time for primary-aged kids?

I don’t remember a lot about my education in the early years, but these lessons - taught by my teachers and through interacting with my fellow students - are the ones that have stuck with me:

·         Never ever run with scissors

·         The skills involved in high-jumping, long-jumping and triple-jumping will hold you in good stead for decades to come so you’d better master them. The fosbury flop and the scissor kick are particularly important if you want to succeed in life.

·         When walking with scissors, point the tip of the blades down towards the ground. If they point forwards, you may run into a fellow student and disembowel them. If they point upwards, you may fall on the scissors and disembowel yourself.

·         If you’re in the library, SHHHHHH!!!!

·         A beautiful title page is foundational to the learning of any new topic - Australian history, fractions, poetry, seed germination.

·         Needing to go to the toilet during class time is a crime and if you can’t get through maths without needing to wee then you deserve everything that’s coming for you.

·         Milk is good for you. Even if it has been sitting in the sun for three hours and has clotted into large lumps.

·         Those in possession of a 24 tin of Lakeland pencils in Grade 3 are destined to become the leaders of the western world.

·         Glue is more valuable than gold. Put only a small dab of glue on each of the four corners of a worksheet before pasting it into a book. Any extra dollops you distribute are Wasteful. Yes. Wasteful with a capital W! 

·         Always pass scissors handles first. This may seem confusing because it means holding onto the blades while you pass the scissors, and goodness only knows how many fingers could be severed if there is some sort of interference (earthquake, crash-tackle) in the middle of the manoeuvre.

·         Red and blue make purple. Red and yellow make orange. Blue and yellow make green. But if you don’t clean your paintbrush in between dips, everything turns brown.

·         If you don’t brush your hair before you go to school, the photographer will turn up that day to take the annual school photos. Truly. Every time!

·         Popularity is in direct proportion to monkey bar skills.

·         Eleven elevens are one-hundred-and-twenty-one.

·         Everything becomes a deadly missile, capable of taking out someone’s eye, when thrown through the air. Even a scrunched up ball of paper. Even a feather. So pass, don’t throw … unless you are in a war situation.

·         It is important to be able to grow wheat on damp cotton wool. Nobody knows why. It just is.

·         Sometimes the answers in the back of your Mental Maths books are wrong. Your sins will find you out so always calculate the answers for yourself.

·         Nothing says ‘I love you, Mummy Darling Heart!’ like a macramé owl.

·         Softballs are hard, despite the innocuous-sounding name.

 

What did you learn in primary school? Do share!

Daydreaming for Business and Pleasure

I love a good daydreaming session. It is, of course, part of the job when you write for children - a delightful part. But beyond the poetic rats, the downtrodden orphans and the crumbling gingerbread mansions that fill my mind and spill out onto the page, there are more realistic things about which I dream over and over again. Things which seem vaguely possible. Things which may, one day,  truly come to pass.

Here are my top three daydreams:

1.    I will be upgraded to First Class on a flight to Europe. In this fantasy, I am plodding forlornly along the Economy Class aisle of the plane, towards my minuscule seat, when an air-hostess taps me on the shoulder. ‘Excuse me Ma’am,' she says in a Texan accent. (I don't know why it's Texan when, obviously, I'm flying Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific.) 'You have been upgraded to First Class.’ My dreaming doesn’t run to the details of fourteen blissful hours in First Class heaven. I don’t dwell on exotic seven-course menus, complimentary pyjamas and slippers or a seat that stretches out into a full-length bed. I just wallow in the pure delight of hearing the words ‘upgraded’ and ‘First Class’ being spoken ... for me. Me!!

2.    I am forced to live in a four storey row house on the edge of hilltop village in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region of France. Forced to, you hear me? And I have to stay there for a whole year, writing every morning as I sit on the balcony with the view across the valley, then spending the rest of the day dining on cheese, figs, olives and chocolate éclairs, roaming the countryside and speaking fluent French to the locals. (Not bad for someone who can barely ask for two baguettes without muddling the words!)

3.    I live on a lush, hilly farm surrounded by quirky, affectionate animals. There is a goat called Feta who sneaks inside to climb the bookcases and trit-trot across the rafters. There is a spotted pig called Harold who sleeps - and snores -  in the middle of the kitchen all day long, a hen called Trudy who lays eggs in a hat on my desk and a shy blue tongue lizard called Ralph. Ralph roams the garden in summer but  sleeps on the hearthrug in winter. Olive my whippet will be there, of course, joined by a greyhound called Chubs and an enormous rescue dog called  Knud. There may even be a monkey. Just a little one ... with very good manners. The animals don’t smell, make a mess, try to eat each other or contract unusual diseases. We live in a state of high health, happiness and harmony. We also drink lots of tea poured from teapots decked in daggy crocheted tea cosies and sup on home-grown vegetables and chocolate éclairs. (I don’t know where the chocolate éclairs come from. Maybe they are flown in daily from that hilltop village in which I was forced to spend an entire year. Maybe my husband and the monkey make them. I'm not fussy, as long as they have fresh cream and plenty of chocolate.)

So there you have it - my fabulous fantasies … or are they my destiny? Only time will tell.

I wonder what fills your daydreams ...

 

 

Lippy and the Slippery Slope

I never start my writing day without my lipstick.  I truly believe that my lippy is the one thing that stands between me being a regular writer and me being the kind of writer who looks like something that the cat has just dragged in after the dog has gnawed on it, buried it and dug it up again … The kind of writer who cuts her hair with a knife and fork and scares little kiddies …The kind of writer who turns up at swanky events wearing a torn T-shirt and tea-stained jeans. And no, that does not refer to a current denim trend like stone-washed or ripped. It refers to jeans that have been worn every single day for months on end without being washed and, as a result, bear the drips and dribbles of a thousand cups of tea.

Sounds weird, I know, but the lippy is the part of my morning routine that anchors me to the real world.

Every morning, even though I work at home and don’t see anyone other than Olive the whippet, I dress in clean, tidy clothes, eat a healthy brekky, make the bed, then do my hair and make-up. The final step of the routine is applying lipstick. I then walk into my study.

Sure, I could work with focus and discipline in my jarmies all day long, with the bed unmade and the dregs of my porridge bowl festering in the sink. But I don’t want to. I escape into a creative world for a good chunk of time every day during the week. I often remain in that world even when I’m away from my desk, which can make me a vague and annoying companion. I just know that if  I did not maintain some normality and routine in the rest of my life, I could easily tip over the edge. Oh so easily! Drop the lippy and soon I have stopped doing my hair. And if I’m going to have a rat’s nest on my head, why would I bother changing from my soft, squishy PJs into regular clothes?

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

….

It’s six months since I last swiped lipstick across my lips. I stagger out of bed, grab a box of chocolates on my way past the kitchen and plonk my flannelette-clad derrière down at my desk.

An hour later, I swipe the cellophane wrappers onto the floor, wipe the chocolate from my face with the sleeve of my jarmies, stagger to the kitchen  and rustle up a pot of coffee and a plate full of crumpets and honey. I return to my desk and continue to work. By 3pm, I feel the need for some vitamins or fibre, so I bumble to the fridge. I return to my keyboard bearing a banana, a raw carrot and a whole watermelon.  

By the end of the day, I have produced three humorous and charming episodes for my latest book. My writing focus is totally intact. My dignity, however, is not.

My pyjamas are splattered from neck to knee with coffee, runny caramel and honey. Papers cling to my hands and sleeves like Post It Notes. The letters T, R and E are permanently stuck down on my keyboard (caramel is a bummer for computers). Sticky pinkflesh and little black seeds are splattered up the walls from where I crackedthe watermelon open using nothing more than a wooden ruler and the hyperactivity produced from a mega dose of caffeine and sugar. Wasps circle my head in a dither of indecision over which sugary smear to eat first from my desk.

I rake my honey-coated fingers through my hair, decide that the fringe is a little too long, grab my scissors and take a few snips. I inadvertently snip the wing off a wasp. It falls to the desk where it thrashes about in its death throws. Filled with remorse, I put it out of its misery by squashing it with the lid of the chocolate box, burst into loud and lusty sobs, stand up, stagger for the door and step on a sharp piece of carrot. I hop sideways, oohing and ouching, and slip on the banana peel.

 I fall heavily. One cannot eat a box of chocolates for breakfast every day and expect to fall lightly.

When the ambulance arrives, my house and my person are in such a shocking state of degeneracy that camera crews appear and as well as being on the national news, every hour, on the hour, for the next three days, I soon appear as a meme or a gif alongside the likes of Donald Trump and the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil.

Get the picture?

This, dear friend,  is why I will continue to apply my lippy each morning, come rain, hail or shine. For I am afraid that if I let a little bit of my routine relax, the whole lot will crumble and before I know it I will be attending posh dos looking like I have just crawled out from beneath a rock … or worse still, I'll be featuring on a ghastly reality TV show called ‘Revolting Writers Revealed’ or ‘World’s Most Embarrassing Pyjamas’. 

Wild Teens Watch Sunrise

I thought my life had ended. I was thirteen, so melodrama was the flavour of the day, but things did look dodgy. My family had just moved from Coonabarabran, population a bustling  3000 (half of whom played in our back yard), to Peak Hill, population 1400. Or so they said. I think the town sign may have been painted by a cock-eyed optimist … or maybe they included dogs, kangaroos and emus in the tally.

 The Peak Hill we arrived to in January was flat, hot and dry. It looked like the kind of place you’d die in, your back pressed against the trunk of a gumtree, gasping, ‘Water! Water!’ as crows perched on the toes of your Dunlop Volleys, waiting for the perfect  moment to start in on your carcass.

But the Peak Hill of my arrival quickly transformed into a warm and welcoming rural community where I spent four calm years growing from child to adult. The town was safe, so my brother and I were afforded a great deal of freedom, both day and night. And despite the absence of the most basic entertainments available to other youths of our time - movies, roller-skating rinks, shops, discos, cafes - we had fun. Loads of it.

Here is my Top 5 list of teenage entertainments from Peak Hill in the early eighties:

·         Yabbying - A willing parent would drop us all out of town at our favourite dam. We’d catch yabbies, picnic on jam sandwiches and swim. At the end of the day, we’d hike the few kilometres home along the paddocks, a hessian sack full of yabbies slung across our shoulders, our shorts dripping with muddy dam water. We’d boil up the yabbies and gorge on them, then do the next thing on my list …

Yabby fashion - checked shirt and terry-towelling short shorts. Lovely!

Yabby fashion - checked shirt and terry-towelling short shorts. Lovely!

·         Cards - We’d sit up, all night long, playing Five Hundred or Euchre. I know! Sounds more like a group of old-age pensioners in a retirement village than a gang of teenagers, but we had a hoot. We even tried Bridge a few times, but someone always had to sit out and nobody wanted down time. We’d shuffle, deal, shout, play trump cards, eat Jatz and cheese, laugh and sip endless cups of steaming hot tea. 

·         Sunrise over the Harvey Ranges - Rising well before dawn, we'd meet at the corner of our block, hike up onto the small hill at the edge of town and watch the sun rise over the distant Harvey Ranges.  Of my Top 5, this is the entertainment that moves me the most when I think about it. I still remember how it felt sitting on that ridge -  the coolness of the pre-dawn air, the anticipation, the delight at the changing colours of ranges and sky. How blessed we were to have grown up with friends who took joy from such simple but magnificent things!

·         Church - Again with the retirement village overtones, but Peak Hill Uniting Church was a huge part of our social life - church, youth group, carols by candlelight (always outside beneath the gumtrees so that you’d go home with galah droppings in your hair), Sunday School picnics and, best of all, fellowship lunches. You have never seen a spread until you've had lunch at a country church gathering.  Admittedly, every second dish, sweet or savoury, contained pineapple chunks - but the cooking was superb, like something you’d see in a special foodies’ edition of Country Style. I still salivate whenever I see a trestle table. Takes me right back to the towering sponges and curried chicken casseroles of my youth.

·         Bush Dances - Blue Light discos might have made it to the sophisticated metropolises of Parkes and Dubbo by the early eighties, but we were still leaping around to the jaunty strains of the violin, the piano accordion and that most sophisticated of instruments, the lagerphone.  I must have stripped the willow and polkaed my heel and toe in every tiny memorial hall within a fifty mile radius of Peak Hill. And there were quite a few! It was marvellous fun, especially for an unco-ordinated lass like me. I always looked like a chook with a nervous twitch when I tried to dance to modern music. (The fact that I have even used a term such as ‘modern music’ is rather telling!) But in bush-dancing, all I needed was energy and a whole heap of enthusiasm. Best of all, many of the dances were progressive, so if I accidentally poked my partner in the eye or dragged the skin off his shin with over-zealous foot-stomping, I didn’t have to face him for more than a minute or two. It was a clumsy girl’s dream come true. Furthermore, there was always supper at half time, pineapple chunks included.

I don’t know what teenage entertainment would look like in Peak Hill nowadays. But my sentimental heart hopes that, somewhere out there, there is a time-warped enclave of young men and women who are still catching yabbies, relishing the changing colours of daybreak and ripping the skin off each other’s shins to the jangles of a lagerphone.

Walking home from a yabbying outing, across the paddocks, yabby sack slung over Kylie's shoulder.  My brother has made a shady head-dress by rolling the end of his towel around his leg. 

Walking home from a yabbying outing, across the paddocks, yabby sack slung over Kylie's shoulder.  My brother has made a shady head-dress by rolling the end of his towel around his leg. 

Our favourite dam.

Our favourite dam.

Spring time at our favourite dam. The Harvey Ranges are in the background. My friends are making daisy chains.

Spring time at our favourite dam. The Harvey Ranges are in the background. My friends are making daisy chains.

Me at a church tennis outing. I look unenthusiastic, I know, but those old wooden racquets were incredibly small which made ball-contact almost impossible. The sponge cake at afternoon tea, however, was large and delicious and had my total dedication.

Me at a church tennis outing. I look unenthusiastic, I know, but those old wooden racquets were incredibly small which made ball-contact almost impossible. The sponge cake at afternoon tea, however, was large and delicious and had my total dedication.


Blitzing My New Year's Resolutions

It’s the 7th day of January and I’m just getting around to making some New Year’s resolutions.

So let me see … What do I need to change in my life?

I’m noticing a little issue with middle-age spread. (Sounds like a topping used on soldiers’ sandwiches during the Battle of Hastings.) I could resolve to tone the flubber with tummy exercises, but I hate sit-ups and push-ups. Sorry, that should have said, ‘HATE sit-ups and push-ups’. I might have considered joining a gym, but a friend told me that joining is not enough. Apparently you actually have to visit the gym - even get sweaty on some of the equipment - for the membership to work. Thanks for bursting my bubble, V!

So no NYR regarding my Michelin midriff.

I really should eat more superfoods. The experts are saying that quinoa, kale, chia seeds, acai and mangosteens are the bee’s knees. Trouble is, I feel pretentious just saying ‘quinoa’ (‘Kwin -ower’ is so much more Australian, don’t you think?), I truly believe that kale tastes and smells like poo and chia seeds sound like something that should be shot through a pea shooter at one’s geography teacher. I wouldn’t even know an acai or a mangosteen if I fell over it. Can you fall over an acai??? I’m so confused! 

So that rules out a superfood NYR.

My cooking repertoire has become rather narrow of late. Perhaps I should resolve to make a new and exciting dish once a week. But every new recipe I’ve looked at lately has weird and wonderful ingredients like Himalayan yak yoghurt or barium-infused caviar. It’s the superfood debacle all over again. Besides, my son is so bored with my cooking that he has offered to make an exotic chicken curry for dinner. Why would I mess with that?

So no experimental cookery NYR either.

Hmmm. Maybe I need to change my approach. The goals we set should always be measurable and achievable. Even better if they are downright enjoyable or something I was already planning to do!  So here goes ...

Here are my New Year’s resolutions for 2016:

1.    I will eat nougat at least once a month. There is not enough nougat in my life. I can’t even remember the last time I had a good piece of nougat so this resolution will involve some serious habit-changing. I am, however, willing to make the effort.

2.    I will return the boxed CD set,  ‘Learn fluent French in Eight Hours’, to my brother and admit that it hasn’t worked … not even after sixteen hours.

3.    I will allow myself at least one hippy hairdo episode a month where I banish the brush and let the frizzes and curls have their feral way. A wise friend told me that one needs to make peace with one’s hair. Here goes, D!

4.    I will not run. Anywhere. Any time. Unless I’m at the beach and a tsunami is approaching … or I am being pursued by a grizzly bear … or a thief is making away with my nougat.

5.    I will not eat kale.

6.    I will allow my inner dork freedom of expression. I will wear cardigans, strings of fake pearls, floppy beanies and crocheted flower brooches.  I will buy tortoise shell spectacle frames - again. I will eat fried eggs and potato chips. I will grow petunias, nasturtiums and hydrangeas in my garden. I will talk to my whippet and other people’s dogs in public. I will embrace fancy-dress opportunities with gusto. I will post cute puppy videos on Facebook. I will collect pigs.

7.    I will invest in a good pair of fluffy slippers before winter arrives.

8.    I will write. Furiously. Frantically. Joyously. For publication. For my eyes only. I will write rollicking poetry. I will write a new novel.  I will write stupid blogs and silly love letters.

Done!

Now let’s see how I go.

 

 

I am Electrogirl

I don’t want to sound like I have tickets on myself, but I am a superhero. I came to this astonishing realisation today. It started with an oven full of choc-chip bickies. The fan was humming, the aroma of baking sweet-treats was wafting through the house, the dog was licking the mixing bowl, when - KAPOW! - the oven kicked the bucket.

‘Hmmm,’ I thought.

 I know! It’s not a very superhero-ish thing to say, but I had not had The Epiphany at this stage. ‘Hmmm,’ I thought. ‘Baking’s off the schedule. I’d better vacuum the carpet.’

But as I ran the vacuum cleaner back and forth across the carpet, I noticed that the suction had died. Now, a vacuum cleaner that has lost its suck is about as relevant as a leech that has lost its suck. It has, to all intents and purposes, given up the ghost.

The failure of two electrical appliances in one hour started me thinking. Perhaps I am emitting supernatural electrical impulses that are interfering with the electrical appliances in my life!

This may sound like a giant leap of the imagination, but bear with me …

For months now I have suffered from the night jolts. You know, where the neuro-electrical currents in your brain surge and wake you with a wild and dangerous jolt of the legs. (I don’t even know if neuro-electrical currents is the correct term, but I’m a superhero, not a psychiatrist/psychologist/Wikipedia webpage) For weeks now, my hair straightener has been making a weird crackling, sparking sound every time I use it and my bedside lamp has an odd delay thing happening where the light bulb refuses to glow until a number of seconds after the switch has been flicked.

‘Aha,’ I thought, a pattern starting to emerge.

I delved deeper into my past. What about the time in Denmark, twenty-odd years ago, when our dodgy little Skoda wouldn’t stop running? We turned off the ignition, pulled out the key and ran around the carpark waving our hands in the air, uttering monotonic Danish expressions of panic, but still the engine ran. This was terribly ironic, because there were many times when we wanted the engine to start and it refused. I must have been emitting some strange electrical impulses that kept the starter motor going. (Again, sorry about the vocabulary. I am a superhero, not a mechanic/electrical engineer/Wikipedia webpage)

And then it hit me. BOOM! BASH! BAM! I have been emitting strange and sporadic electrical impulses all over the place for years.

I am, in fact, a superhero with supernatural powers.

My power is electrical surge.

I am Electrogirl!

It all makes sense now. The nerdy glasses and the sedentary desk job are a cover for my real superhero identity - just like Clark Kent. I have been raised by two kindly country folk as though I am their own real child - just like Clark Kent!

What a revelation!

My Big Challenge for this next week is to work out how I can use my super powers to serve humanity ...

Perhaps an alien race will try to invade earth but - ZIP! ZAP! TWANG! - my electrical surge power will bring their spaceships to a standstill (a hoverstill?)  and they will be powerless to attack.

Maybe I will be on board an aeroplane when the navigational systems fail but - BUZZ! SPARK! FIZZ! my electrical surge will reboot the computers and sanity and safety will be restored.

Quite possibly, there is a friend who is desperately looking for an excuse to get out of hosting the family Christmas do. I will don my cape and tights, fly into her kitchen and - BZZZT! THWACK! KAPOW! - my electrical surge will destroy her oven, leaving her without the means to bake for a ravenous crowd of twenty seven. What a shame (snicker snicker). The hungry hoards will just have to go to Aunty Dawn’s for Christmas dinner this year instead!

I am Electrogirl.


Remember the days of the old school yard?

When I think of my primary school days, three things spring to mind.

The first is Perkins Paste. I loved Perkins Paste. Not only was it snowy white and delightfully thick, it came in the nattiest little tub a girl could dream of - hot-pink with a white lid. The lid alone was a wonder to behold.  It had a cute little stalk on the outside and an applicator stick on the inside. This meant that you could apply Perkins Paste for miles and miles without gumming up your fingers. You could spend an entire afternoon gluing  yellow crepe paper balls all over a cardboard cut-out of an Easter chicken and emerge as clean as you began. Well, perhaps your sweaty little hands had caused some of the yellow dye from the crepe paper to run, leaving your fingers with a strangely jaundiced appearance, but at least you weren't coated in Clag up to your elbows.  (Don’t get me started on the horrors of Clag!!!) Better still, that little stalk on the top of the lid made for great chewing. Many a student has passed a boring ten minutes by chewing on their Perkins Paste lid. In fact, I would go so far as to claim that every Perkins Paste lid stalk at my school bore molar marks due to the frequent and verbose drop-ins of our school principal.  

The second thing that springs to mind is hair baubles. I loved hair baubles almost as much as I loved Perkins Paste. I wore my hair in plaits and, later, big floppy ponytails at either side of my head. My mum used to make my hair baubles out of dressmaker’s elastic and buttons or beads. My all-time favourites featured clusters of large yellow beads that made me look a little bit like a horse with bunches of sultana grapes at the top of my tail. Gooooorgeous!

Just one example of my extensive collection of hair baubles. Here, they are teamed with some simple silver slides, but my mother also experimented with buttons slipped onto bobby pins. 

Just one example of my extensive collection of hair baubles. Here, they are teamed with some simple silver slides, but my mother also experimented with buttons slipped onto bobby pins. 

And the third thing that springs to mind (and makes my tummy lurch) is school milk. The government used to provide daily milk for every child in Australian primary schools. The contractors would kindly deliver the crates of milk to the school gate at 9am where they would remain, sitting in the blazing sunshine, until recess at 11am. Every single day. Consequently, the milk  was always warm and sometimes even suspiciously curdled. I didn’t mind so much if I got chocolate milk (I could pretend it was hot chocolate gone a bit cold), but warm strawberry milk is not for the faint-hearted. And who were those kids who chose unflavoured milk? What were they playing at? Was it an attention seeking thing or did they come from another planet???

I'm not sure if I'm posing here or holding my tummy after a particularly warm bottle of strawberry milk at school.

I'm not sure if I'm posing here or holding my tummy after a particularly warm bottle of strawberry milk at school.

What are your top three primary school memories, I wonder?


Primary Fashion Icons

Remember when you thought your teacher was the most beautiful woman on earth and you wanted to look just like her? Oh deary, deary me.

Miss Seibel, my Grade 1 teacher, was the bee’s knees. She had a purple mini-dress pinafore with an enormous butterfly embroidered across the bib. She’d pair it with a white skivvy and lace-up, knee-high boots. Gorgeous! Oh how I longed for a purple, butterfly-embellished pinafore to go with my white lace-up boots.

Actually, I still think Miss Siebel looks absolutely stunning in this photo. I, on the other hand, look like Gretel from The Sound of Music (second row, third from the right).

Actually, I still think Miss Siebel looks absolutely stunning in this photo. I, on the other hand, look like Gretel from The Sound of Music (second row, third from the right).

Mrs W…, a teacher who fits somewhere in the early years (not sure where),  had shoes to die for. I can’t remember what they looked like. I just remember that we all vied for centre front row position on the mat during story time so we could softly, gently, furtively reach out and stroke those hallowed shoes. Occasionally, someone would manage to slip one off her foot and hug it to their chest before she reclaimed it.

Mrs Ansell, my Kindergarten teacher, had long orange hair and used to wear stripy garments of tan, orange and brown to match her beautiful locks. Matching hair and fabric! She was stunning.

I'm afraid the black and white photo does NOT do justice to her extreme passion for colour co-ordination. I'm the girl with plaits, second row, far right.

I'm afraid the black and white photo does NOT do justice to her extreme passion for colour co-ordination. I'm the girl with plaits, second row, far right.

Mrs Brain, my Grade 4 teacher, was such a fashion icon that I had my hair cut in exactly the same style as hers. This may not sound too disturbing, until you realise that she was my mother and her hairstyle was something like a basin cut crossed with a mullet. I had, in fact, turned myself into a miniature version of my mum/teacher. At least we were fashion victims together - a good bonding exercise, I’m sure. Not so great, though, for family photos as you can see here ....

Yup! Strange but true - me and my mum, Mrs Brain.

Yup! Strange but true - me and my mum, Mrs Brain.

But the teacher I admired most for her charm, beauty and fashion, was Miss Doherty, my Grade 2 teacher and headmistress of the infants department. Miss Doherty, you see, had sensational curly hair, a smile like sunshine and sleeve protectors. Sleeve protectors were plastic sheaths, elbow-high, elasticised at the wrists. They were worn to shield the sleeves of one’s blouse or frock from paint, chalk dust, ink, Grade 2 snot and Gestetner chemicals. I thought they were the most glamorous item with which any woman had ever adorned her person.

It pains me to see that Miss Doherty did not wear her sleeve protectors for our class photo. It delights me, however, that I got to stand right by her for the photo (second row, far right, sporting my best grin).

It pains me to see that Miss Doherty did not wear her sleeve protectors for our class photo. It delights me, however, that I got to stand right by her for the photo (second row, far right, sporting my best grin).

Thankfully, we grow up and move on. We find new role models. We gather our idea of fashion from ever-changing sources. We form our own unique style. Which is just as well, or I’d be accessorising my basin-styled lady mullet and purple pinafore with tan-striped stockings, lace-up boots, giant butterfly brooches and an exotic range of plastic sleeve protectors.

Aw man! Who am I kidding? I still really want some sleeve protectors.  

 

Surfy Whippet

Olive the whippet is back from her first ever trip to the beach. She is too young and too irresponsible to have her own iPhone, so in lieu of selfies, I have recorded her week's holiday at the beach, here, in pics ...

Nervous anticipation as Olive travels from home atop her beanbag chariot.

Nervous anticipation as Olive travels from home atop her beanbag chariot.

First sea breeze. First time balancing on a sea wall. First beachy photo. 

First sea breeze. First time balancing on a sea wall. First beachy photo. 

Looking like a drowned rat after our first dip. It was meant to be a paddle but the water at the beach doesn't stay puddley-shallow all the way out. Who knew?

Looking like a drowned rat after our first dip. It was meant to be a paddle but the water at the beach doesn't stay puddley-shallow all the way out. Who knew?

Meeting Sunshine, a groodle (golden retriever poodle) with as little brain and as much heart and exuberance as  a whippet.

Meeting Sunshine, a groodle (golden retriever poodle) with as little brain and as much heart and exuberance as  a whippet.

Sunshine

Sunshine

Braving the surf beach ...

Braving the surf beach ...

Exhausted at the end of a day of adventure.

Exhausted at the end of a day of adventure.

Boardwalk fashion (not to be confused with catwalk fashion).

Boardwalk fashion (not to be confused with catwalk fashion).

Sporting the surfy dog look ...

Sporting the surfy dog look ...

And the windswept look ...

And the windswept look ...

Cuddling up with a friend found in our holiday house.

Cuddling up with a friend found in our holiday house.

New friend Bean (as in full of beans), a five-month-old kelpie-poodle (A koodle ... a keddle ... a poopie? Who knows?). She was clean and shiny before Olive took her for a rumble in the sand.

New friend Bean (as in full of beans), a five-month-old kelpie-poodle (A koodle ... a keddle ... a poopie? Who knows?). She was clean and shiny before Olive took her for a rumble in the sand.

Teaching Bean to sit and wait politely for a treat from Kate's pocket. 

Teaching Bean to sit and wait politely for a treat from Kate's pocket. 

Exhausted. Sleeping all the way home. 

Exhausted. Sleeping all the way home. 

I’m a Wallowing Ditt-squirrel. What kind of reader are you?

I have met many wonderful young readers over the last few weeks, but two stand out in my mind. One girl came bearing her copy of The Girl Who Brought Mischief. The book looked brand new - shiny cover, spine uncracked, corners perfectly sharp. It might just as well have been lifted straight off the press. It had, however, been read six times. Six times! This gorgeous girl loves reading but also loves keeping her books in mint condition. I was incredibly moved to think that a child valued books so highly.

Another  girl came bearing all three Red Dirt Diaries. They looked like they had been trampled by a herd of hippos with unusually muddy feet, then stuffed into a saddlebag with unwrapped chocolate and carried across the Sahara Desert by camel before being dropped into a water trough and laid out on a cactus to dry in the blustering wind.  This girl said she reads through all three Red Dirt Diaries from beginning to end, then starts straight back at the beginning again. I was, once again, incredibly moved, to see such enjoyment taken in a familiar story. Also a case of books being highly valued.

These two very different book owners both love stories and reading, but in their own special way.

This made me think what a diverse group we readers are. Not just in our taste but in the many habits that surround our reading times. Books are a serious matter, so I thought it was time that someone tried to name and classify at least some of the types of readers in our world. (Please note that all readers are created equal and all classifications are non-judgemental)

The Ditto - The Ditto is a repeat reader, one who loves to read beloved books over and over again. They become so familiar with the characters and plot that there are absolutely no surprises left, but they love returning to certain books because they are JUST SO DARNED GOOD.

The Rocket - The Rocket races through books at a cracking pace because, for them, quantity equals joy. They are the hot chip scoffers of the reading world.

The Wallower - The Wallower likes to meander and loll about in the pages of a book, taking as long as she needs to absorb the delights of language, to reread moving passages, to mark favourite bits in pencil, to ponder the pages in a bubble bath, to imagine what she would do if caught up in this fictional situation, to draw parallels between this story and another favourite, to sigh, to nibble chocolate every time a certain word is used,  to act out parts with different voices … You get the drift. A Wallower's book can look a little world weary - cocoa stained, water damaged, scrunched, mauled - but these are scars of honour, the proof that a book is the bee's knees.

The Squirrel - The Squirrel stores her books away in specially made shelves and sees them as an essential item for survival, much as a real squirrel views her store of acorns as a harsh winter approaches.

The Thief - The Thief scans through a book, reading snippets here and there - just enough to make sense of a story. Details are for the birds!

The Sneak - The Sneak reads the end of the story first to make sure it is a good one and worth the effort of wading through entire book.

The Sea Cucumber - The Sea Cucumber doesn't read at all. She can read, but isn’t interested. She’d rather watch a movie, take a nap or eat slime off the bottom of a rock pool.

The Hamster - The Hamster reads the same genre all the time - historical romance, murder, dystopia, stories about ponies with pink manes and ambitions to run in the Melbourne Cup someday … They pick one theme and run with it, much like a hamster on a wheel.

The Slave - The Slave is one who reads only because they have to - for school or work … or to find out what’s on TV.

The Vortex - The Vortex reads anything and everything - novels, biographies, dictionaries, magazines, web pages, emergency procedure charts in hotel rooms, nutritional information on cereal boxes, tattoos on peoples’ knuckles as they approach their nose …

The Polar Bear - the Polar Bear reads seasonally. She will go for months, even years, without reading a single thing, then hibernate beneath her doona for days on end to devour an exciting book. She usually emerges hungry and grumpy, with bad hair. Toss her a chocolate bar then hide until she has fully awakened to real life again.

This is just the beginning. Feel free to add any new categories that you feel are important.

I am a Wallower and a Ditto and a Squirrel - what we in the Reader Classification profession would call a Wallowing Ditt-squirrel.

What kind of reader are you, I wonder?




Hotel Snacks a la Green Eggs and Ham

The most important rule in our family is not about love, respect, mobile phones, the need for daily showers or who gets to watch what on TV. Our most important rule is to do with staying in hotels and it is this: DON’T TOUCH THE HOTEL SNACKS.

Knock yourself out with the hotel freebies - you can shampoo your hair five times, cover yourself from head to toe with the free body lotion, sew all the buttons from the tiny sewing kit onto your earlobes and shave with the complimentary razor. You can even dance around Sydney’s CBD wearing the free shower cap for all I care.

JUST DON’T TOUCH THE HOTEL SNACKS!

You see, not only are the snacks that you can buy in your hotel room ridiculously expensive, but they are right there.

All the time.

Staring at you.

Egging you on to eat them.

And once the thin end of the wedge of Toblerone is between your lips, you’re a goner. The feeding frenzy will begin and next thing you know, you’ll be lying on the king-sized bed, wrapped in the fluffy white gown (use of which is free - so there’s nothing wrong there), flicking through Fox Sports (also free, but so terribly dull) with chocolate dribbling down your chin, chip crumbs in your hair, a piece of Scottish shortbread ground into your pillow and a jelly tot stuck up your nose. It’s unattractive, unhygienic, unhealthy and horrifically unaffordable.

It’s no laughing matter, so I have created a cautionary poem in the hope that you will be able to memorise it and call it to mind when next staying in a hotel, feeling the pangs of hunger conflicting with the contents of your wallet. No need to thank me. It is my act of community service….

 

Those hotel snacks.

Those hotel snacks.

I do not like those hotel snacks.

They cost you to the moon and back.

The chips, the nuts,

The jelly beans,

The coconut ice,

The Jersey creams,

The little men of gingerbread,

The boiled sweets - white and red.

Although in bags as small as mice,

They come at an enormous price,

Money that could do much more

Than make me gain a pound or four.

Those hotel snacks.

Those hotel snacks.

I will not touch those hotel snacks!

I pace across the room and back.

I shield my eyes so I can’t see

That bag of cashews wink at me.

I take a bath. I wash my hair.

I spray free perfume everywhere.

I read the mags. I flush the loo.

I flick the telly, shine my shoes.

I make myself a pot of tea.

I drink a cup, then two, then three.

I use up everything that’s free.

Everything that’s free for me.

Then suddenly I find myself

Standing by the tempting shelf.

The one upon which lie the treats -

The chips, the nuts, the coloured sweets,

Little red-waxed balls of cheese,

Chocolate frogs and spicy peas.

I will not touch them. No! No! No!

I really do despise them so!

I will not eat them in the bath.

I shall not munch them by the hearth.

I will not eat them in the bed,

Or even standing on my head.

I cannot chew them by the door,

Not in the loo, not on the floor.

Those hotel snacks are bad, you see.

Bad for you and bad for me!

They’re wicked, evil, nasty poo.

But what’s a hungry girl to do?

A bag of crisps can’t do much harm.

Should it really cause alarm?

After all, chips come from veg,

Giving them a healthy edge.

I sidle up until I stand

So close to them, they brush my hand.

The package bends and gives a rustle.

Next thing I know, I’m in a tussle.

I’ve torn the packet all to shreds

And chips go flying on the bed.

I sweep them up and scoff them down.

The dregs and crumbs fall on my gown.

I lick the salt flakes off my lips,

Then think, ‘That wasn’t many chips!’

I spin around and squint my eyes,

Looking for the next surprise.

‘Aha!’ I cry, ‘A gourmet box

Of salted caramel-centred chocs!’

What harm is there in such a treat?

I’ve worked so hard and now I’m beat.

One needs rewarding for one’s labour

And caramel is just the flavour!

The lid is off, the sweets are out,

The cellophane lies tossed about,

I gobble all the caramel chocs

And wipe my hands upon my frock.

My eyes peruse the nut selection.

Candied almonds! Pure perfection.

And when they’re gone I hit the bickies,

Gourmet yo-yos, white and sticky.

I wash them down with fizzy drink ,

Then follow with some cheese that stinks.

But look! What’s that behind the phone?

Pink marshmallow in a cone.

I’m feeling rather full by now,

But pink marshmallow - Wow! Wow! Wow!

I lick the cone until it’s soggy,

Then eat a final chocolate froggy.

I moan a little, hold my head,

Then flop upon the king-sized bed.

What’s that beneath my arm I feel?

A voucher for an in-house meal.

Complimentary, three whole courses.

Hang on a minute. Hold your horses!

Have I just wasted ninety bucks

Filling my tum with pricey muck?

I flop my head back on the doona.

Oh how I wish I’d found it sooner.

I moan, I groan, I shed a tear.

I feel some brewing gas, I fear.

I wipe the voucher across my brow

And take a solemn snacker’s vow:

‘Those hotel snacks.

Those hotel snacks.

I do not like those hotel snacks.

They cost you to the moon and back.

I really do despise them so!

I will not touch them. No! No! No!

Unless, of course, they’re really yummy,

And I have an empty tummy.’

Qt Hotel last week - best snacks ever. The sight of this was killing me ... but I stuck to my guns and refused to indulge. (It probably helped that I had just eaten a slice of lemon tart the size of my head at the Vienna Cafe in the Queen Victoria Building!)

Qt Hotel last week - best snacks ever. The sight of this was killing me ... but I stuck to my guns and refused to indulge. (It probably helped that I had just eaten a slice of lemon tart the size of my head at the Vienna Cafe in the Queen Victoria Building!)

And the Transcontinental Hotle  in Melbourne the week before.  

And the Transcontinental Hotle  in Melbourne the week before.

 

And the Stamford Plaza in Brisbane on Monday. Such fortitude I've shown!

And the Stamford Plaza in Brisbane on Monday. Such fortitude I've shown!


ISSUES

Issue:

1.    A problem or situation with which one needs to deal

2.    A discharge, gushing or outflow  of matter

I awoke on Thursday morning to a rather disturbing issue (definition 1, above).

‘Bloop! Bloop! Bloop!’ said something in the bathroom.

If you have ever awoken to the sound of ‘Bloop! Bloop! Bloop!’ in the bathroom, you will know why I moaned and longed to pull the doona up over my head. You will also understand why I didn’t.

You see, bathroom bloop-bloop-bloops just cannot be ignored. They are, after all, heralding the arrival of sewerage issues (definition 1, above).

At first, I believed the issue to be limited to sluggish drains - sinks taking longer than usual to empty, toilets needing that second flush. But on contacting my local water authority and being urged to go outside to investigate, I was confronted by a vision most disturbing.

The issue (definition 2, above) was no small thing. Vesuvius would have looked like a sputtering, raspberry- blowing babe compared to what was erupting from my overflow drain. It was a plague of poop of dystopian proportions. A sinister sludge of unimaginable filth flowed freely across my veranda and into my garden bed full of newly emerging bulbs. Oh dear! Oh dear! Oh dear! Never more will I gaze upon daffodils with unadulterated joy.

Worst of all, I wasn't even sure that the issue (definition 2, above) was all our own. Turns out the issue (definition 1, above) was tree roots growing into the sewer mains, and there would have been an issue (definition 2, above) at every house along the street.

I almost proposed to the water authority’s plumber who fixed the issue (definitions 1 and 2, above). If he had stayed at my doorstep a moment longer, I would have forgotten that I am happily married, dropped down on one knee, taken his poop-covered hand in mine and asked him to marry me. Gratitude is a powerful thing. That’s why roses and chocolates work so well upon a girl’s heart. But let me tell you, nothing matches the affection one feels towards the individual who has forced everyone’s poop back underground rather than allowing it to flow freely over the veranda and into one's shoes.

Now, if I can just get over my newly-formed daffodil issues …





Around the World in Eighty Selfies

I'm just back from a ten day road trip with my bestie - that’s my mum. We drove 4000 kilometres, ate 367 varieties of cake and pastry, had a Thelma and Louise moment where we were pursued by the police (my fault, but an innocent mistake … Truly!), slipped through the Big Banana, caught up with long lost friends and relatives, felt the sea breeze in our hair, zoomed over mountain ranges, wound along verdant valleys, watched whales at Yamba and dolphins at Merewether, had a burn-out on Pennant Hills Road in Sydney (also my fault, but another innocent mistake … ) and delved into my mother’s family history. Loads of fun washed down with copious amounts of black coffee. Marvellous!

I have always been a happy snapper, taking photos of every family event and holiday, content to be the one behind the camera and absent from the photos. But Mum and I, hyped up on sugar and free from the restraints of home and family, decided to do the unthinkable. We  selfied our way up and down the east coast. And it was surprising to experience the willingness of all - young and old - to participate. Now, sugar-free for 24 hours, I see the stupidity of my ways. To prevent anyone else from making this dire holiday mistake, I shall record a little of my mother-daughter road trip here in selfies. Let this be a lesson to you all … 

First stop, an hour into the journey, for coffee and cake. 

First stop, an hour into the journey, for coffee and cake. 

At Merewether with Jacqui and Charlie. Charlie is the one licking her nose. 

At Merewether with Jacqui and Charlie. Charlie is the one licking her nose. 

There were signs everywhere promising 'a bunch of fun' at the Big Banana, but it's a great disappointment. Am I the only one who thinks it should be standing on its end, offering an internal spiral staircase up which one can climb, to emerge at the top for a bird's eye view of the coast and banana plantations?

There were signs everywhere promising 'a bunch of fun' at the Big Banana, but it's a great disappointment. Am I the only one who thinks it should be standing on its end, offering an internal spiral staircase up which one can climb, to emerge at the top for a bird's eye view of the coast and banana plantations?

At Lennox Head with  my Aunty Anne. Aunty Anne is the quiet, sensible one of the family. 

At Lennox Head with  my Aunty Anne. Aunty Anne is the quiet, sensible one of the family. 

On the headland at Lennox Head, a whale splashing out at sea. My mum  has developed a crazy glint in her eye by this stage and I am not sure whether it is one custard tart too many or selfie-mania.

On the headland at Lennox Head, a whale splashing out at sea. My mum  has developed a crazy glint in her eye by this stage and I am not sure whether it is one custard tart too many or selfie-mania.

Having brekky at The Goldfish Bowl in Armidale with our beautiful friend Mary. 

Having brekky at The Goldfish Bowl in Armidale with our beautiful friend Mary. 

Having dinner at the New England Hotel with old uni friends, Glenn and Rhonda Wilson. My goodness we have all aged well over the last thirty years!

Having dinner at the New England Hotel with old uni friends, Glenn and Rhonda Wilson. My goodness we have all aged well over the last thirty years!

Back in Newcastle on the Anzac Bridge with Aunty Jacq, Callan and Charlie the grinning mutt.

Back in Newcastle on the Anzac Bridge with Aunty Jacq, Callan and Charlie the grinning mutt.

Having a serious moment with  nephews Callan and Matthew. 

Having a serious moment with  nephews Callan and Matthew. 

A return visit to that bakery, one hour from Mum's home, for a final apple-custard tart and caramel eclair. 

A return visit to that bakery, one hour from Mum's home, for a final apple-custard tart and caramel eclair. 

The dad selfie - happy that his wife has made it back to Canberra without drowning in cake and cream or slipping on the Big Banana peel.  

The dad selfie - happy that his wife has made it back to Canberra without drowning in cake and cream or slipping on the Big Banana peel.

 

Back home in central Victoria at last. A final selfie with Olive, my whippet.

Back home in central Victoria at last. A final selfie with Olive, my whippet.

So sorry, but from now on I will endeavour to stay behind the camera. I will not, however, stop eating caramel eclairs. 

Yarn-bombed Dog Stops Traffic in Kyneton

Yesterday, I went to Kyneton for a little day trip with Carsten (husband) and Olive (whippet). It was rather chilly - eight degrees on arrival - so skinny little Olive was clad in her doggy coat. I made it myself with crocheted granny squares, a dose of humour and a whole lot of love. I think Olive looks gorgeous in it - like a retro hipster dog. Carsten thinks otherwise. For some reason, he’s embarrassed by walking a whippet that looks like she’s blown across a grandmother’s sofa and come off the other end, tangled in the cushion covers. He even thinks Olive is embarrassed by her coat.

On arriving in Piper Street, we got out of the car beside a pretty cottage with a picket fence. I inhaled the crisp frosty air and the scent of freshly brewed cafe coffee, smiled dreamily at the blue-stone church in the distance, then leapt in fright as a border collie slammed himself against the inside of the picket fence, snapping, snarling and frothing at the mouth. Olive, a typical whippet of kind but cowardly heart, suddenly leapt at the outer side of the fence and became a snapping, snarling monster herself. I definitely saw whites of eyes and glistening fangs. I might even have seen raised hackles if they weren’t covered in fetching little granny squares of pink, purple and crimson hue.  Until that moment, Olive had never ever shown any inclination to fight it out with another dog. In the fight or flight department, whippets are equipped to flee. Up to 40 km per hour if necessary.  

‘See?’ said Carsten. ‘That dog made fun of Olive’s daggy coat and she had to pretend to be tough to overcome her embarrassment.’

I peeled Olive off the fence and walked along the footpath. I was soon stopped by the delighted cooing of an elderly woman. ‘Huh!’ I thought. ‘Now here’s a person who knows a well-dressed dog when she sees one!’

‘What a sweet little thing,’ said the woman. ‘Is she a rescue dog?’

Rescue dog?!! What was she implying?

Carsten was smirking in the background and I had to admit that, maybe, Olive did look she was down and out, wearing an old rug that she’d found out the back of an op shop. Perhaps I needed to knit her some fingerless gloves for her four paws and carry her dog treats around in a tattered brown paper bag to complete the image.

We continued on our walk, me frowning, Carsten giggling, until suddenly, we were yelled at by a policewoman. ‘Hey you!’ she shouted from the window of the police van.

‘This is it,’ mumbled Carsten. ‘We’re about to be arrested for cruelty to animals or defiling the beautiful streets of Kyneton with a disastrously dressed dog. We’ll be thrown into jail. We’ll be disgraced on national television!’

I was silently praying that it wouldn’t go beyond an on-the-spot fine.

But no! The tide had turned. The policewoman wanted to know if I had made Olive’s coat. She said it was fabulous and wished she had the same for her two whippets. We had a lovely discussion about our pampered pooches, hollered across the street, while the traffic banked up behind the police van.

From that moment on, Olive was a star. Wherever we walked in Kyneton, we stopped traffic, drew smiles and compliments and had our photo taken. Rebecca de Podolinsky, local jewellery maker, has even popped Olive on her Instagram site. (See below)

My precious Olive was the belle of the ball … or at least, the talk of the town … and mostly in a good way … I think …

Anyway, I was chuffed, Carsten was miffed and Olive was just Olive - a skinny little whippet who wanted nothing more than to keep warm and not be teased by the tough dogs around town.