Still travelling in a downwards direction

Monday seems to have become the red letter day in my week. The day that our circumstances crowd into my head and I loose my tenous grip on feeling OK about everything. It used to be a day at home, just Grace and I, a day when I would get everything back on track after the weekend. Not one of negotiation and being prodded. Yesterday had it all, grinchy housework, petty squabbles with G in front of the child, stony silences and that crippling feeling of grey inertia. Coupled with a nasty anger that caught in my throat, rendering me silent lest my words escape all sarcastic and bitter. All this despite getting everything done. Despite Grace being totally charming and well behaved at the supermarket and despite the fact that I looked into the trolley at the checkout and thought, man we eat well. It even looks healthy.  Once again conversations were had and reassurances made. More from me, but I know the intent is there on his part. We both mean well, we just get under each others feet sometimes.

After shopping, Grace and I shared one of those syrupy easter eggy type things in the car. I like hanging out with her, chatting. She's learning new words every week. Favourites at the moment are More (for anything good or desired), Bubee (for babies and children) Popo (for compost, she's going to be a little earth gardener, I can tell ). So not everything is crap. But there's a lot at stake. For all three of us.

Last night I had dinner with my dad and my sister at a local eatery. Sometimes we go somewhere a bit schmicko and eat too much good food and drink too much really good wine, which my dad chooses because he knows about that sort of thing. But last night I couldn't bear the thought of having to leave the neighbourhood, or the thought of over attentive service. One place we went to last year had a waiter that ran a special crumb brusher over the table cloth between courses with Mr Bean type mannerisms, which when I am feeling myself, is hugely funny. Last night it might have made me cry. Today has been better, but I've realised that my reactions to life stresses are heading in dangerous directions. It's normal to react to these things, of course, but I think my brain chemistry is starting to change. I'm less and less able to get back on my feet and see my way forward. I'm starting to loose the ability to manage my moods with everyday sorts of things like exercise, order and sewing.  Grey inertia will do that. I've made an appointment to see my doctor. It may even be time to consider drugs. Looking back over my blog archives, I can see that this has been brewing for a while.

I have very mixed feelings about taking anti-depressants. I never used to have any problems taking "recreational" drugs. The first time I had zoloft, I buzzed around the cafe where I worked saying that it felt like having quarter of an e every morning. Which it did, for a while. Then it just felt normal, but like all my feelings were in a jar over the other side of the room. I could take them out and examine them, but not feel them. Even the really great ones. My sex drive disappeared and given that I was unpartnered at the time that should have been OK. At least in a temporary sense. But I missed that edge. Nothing felt sharp any more. So I took myself off the pills and everything was fine for a while. The next depressive bout, I just got through with yoga and time. I didn't need to be medicated again until the post natal psychosis hit. I quite liked the lithium and would have kept taking it for longer if it wasn't for the gastro style side effects. I've been reading up on it all again at my favourite site for mental health obsessives, crazy meds. Thing is, if I go to the doctor and talk to myself sternly enough, maybe I can do it without the drugs. It will just cost more. And be harder. It's not that I think taking drugs is the wrong way to go, I just don't like them. But I will if I have to.

Todays illustrations are from Playhour Annual, IPC Magazines, Ltd. 1969. It's not in very good condition but is full of charming pictures of The Magic Roundabout Children, Rolf Harris and Coojeebear and much more besides. Just looking at that picture cheers me a little, where "there are so many gay things to to. When Sonny and Sally finished their ride, they played Giant Draughts, and then had a trip on the camp paddle steamer. Then went on anything again."  Sign me up, is all I can say. Twenty cents, along with some other beauties, from the local oppy with the grumpy lady who ignored Grace going Hello, ello, ello and bye, bye, byeee to everyone who walked in or out.

Mum, Grace and I visited the oppy on the beginning of our walk to the outer fringes of Moreland.  Checking out potential areas in which to live, should we decide to buy a house later in the year. Deciding that I don't want to live next to the freeway and thinking it would be better to move further north. Or to decide that we would still enjoy life with a (much) smaller backyard. We're not in any hurry, we could probably stay in this house for another 20 years. Just looking and considering which areas we like. And at least if I couldn't get my morning going early enough to get to the gym, I did walk up and down hills. For hours.

Blogging will eat itself, a meme

In the quiet cracks of today I've been thinking about writing about Australia day and all, but today I don't have the working brain cells necessary to do the topic justice. Well, not without being snarky. Which I wouldn't like, because I think we have a lot to celebrate in this country. So Happy Australia Day, Oi...

Best of all, I had the day off work! After getting only a public service day of leave at Christmas because neither of my work days fell on the public holidays. Which indicates a major planning failure on my part in negotiating my return to work (if only I'd selected my working days as Monday and Tuesday, which they're going to end up being anyway... so public servantish to think like that, I know). Anyway it was a gentle day with lunch at Barkly Square with Grace, Mum, sister Betty and Cam, followed by napping on the couch with a very trashy sci-fi book, followed by some beautifully boring cricket on the telly.

Anyway, onto the meming. I got this one from Em and I've been wanting to write a little about blogging for a while, so here goes.

1. Do you like the look and the contents of your blogs?
Yes, more or less. Although I'm starting to ponder another style change on this one. I've recently tweaked the other one, changing the format to two columns. Which I really like. I'm considering doing that here but that means faffing with the banner etc and I just can't be bothered. Yet. In certain moods I enjoy fiddling with the template in typepad. It's all very formularised but it's amazing how much fiddling you can do. Especially once I discovered that you can use custom colours for text and backgrounds. The trickiest thing I find, is applying the same style to one's about page. It's hidden in the user profile section and not a logical process.

As far as content goes, I'm up and down with it. Sometimes I'm really pleased. Sometimes I'm not. I'd like to learn how to do short pithy posts but I don't think it's in me. It does tickle me though that I have a blog all about laundry with nary a stain removal hint. Man, I love playing over there sometimes. Then of course there is that other, other blog. The one that's like the secret evil twin chained in the attic. I think a makeover might be in order there too. One day.

2. Does your family know about your blog?
Oh yes, indeed they do. Luckily they don't all read it. Otherwise we'd never have any conversations that don't contain the words, "yeah, I read that in your blog..." Seriously, I consider the fact that my family could read my blog a good form of self moderation. They're very open minded so I don't have to be too careful of anything other than being unfair or hurting someone's feelings.

Come to think of it, I think my family even like my blog. I'm hoping that some more of them may come over to the dark side (light side?) and start their own. I've convinced G to return to the fold.

3. Can you tell your friends about your blog?
Close friends, yes. People I don't know so well, I tend not to. They might think it's weird, or something. I have had the experience of someone saying that they know more about me from reading my blog than from real life, which when they don't have a blog you can read in return feels a bit lopsided.

4. Do you just read the blogs of those who comment on your blog?
No, I read far and wide. There are now 97 blogs on my bloglines. I don't read all of them all the time or I'd never have a life or time to write anything. The number of blogs I comment on regularly is much smaller, maybe tennish? I tend to have to read a blog for a while before I feel I can comment. I'm a lot more comfortable commenting now than I was at the beginning, when it always felt super awkward.

If someone new comments on one of my blogs, I always go and visit theirs. It seems like the polite thing to do, and I've found great new blogs to read that way. I imagine that if one was getting huge numbers of comments, it would be hard to do that. I tend not to comment on the blogs I read with lots and lots of comments. Sort of feel I would be lost in the crowd.

5. Does your blog positively affect your mind?
I guess so. It gives me a way to write, a way to feel like I've said all I need to say, a place to vent sometimes. And it has led me back to taking photos, which I'd stopped because I just ended up with rolls and rolls of undeveloped film, and then stacks of photos that needed to be albumised. Sometimes I think of my blogs as like a photo album with words.

The other thing is that blogging makes me feel more myself. Which I think has a lot to do with the process of writing, and of writing in a diary format in particular. I used to feel like this when I was studying at RMIT and keeping a paper journal, writing short stories and reading to an audience.  I also made a decision quite early on to be as real as I could be, even if it meant sharing some of the less pretty things in my life. That's the sort of writing I like writing and reading, even if it doesn't always feel great at the time. Often it feels great once the words are out and not in my head anymore. That said, I also like boring, which is kind of why I have the laundry blog. My special haven of banality.

6. What does the number of visitors to your blog mean?
That someones reading? I have to be quite stern with myself and not be too stats conscious. It's gone from just me and my family reading to maybe 50 to 100 hits a day. And according to Feedburner there's an average of 30 subscribers, which is small potatoes compared to some blogs. Nonetheless I get pretty excited that anyone is reading!

7. Do you imagine what other bloggers look like?
Not really, I find that I connect most through words and getting to know someones narrative voice. But then again, I do quite like to see the odd photo of the blogger up on their site, if they feel so inclined. However it's nearly always the words that keep me going back. 

8. Do you think blogging has any real benefit?
Yes, for the individual it's a chance to have a voice. In a wider sense it means that those who read blogs are less reliant on mass media for entertainment and that smaller more diverse viewpoints enter the public discourse. Or something.

On the other hand, one could argue that it's a form of expression only available to those with broadband internet and enough spare time to gaze at their navels. That it's the white middle class latte sipping elite at their chattering best. I prefer to think that it's a form open to almost anyone and that eventually human consciousness will expand to the point where we become super enlightened beings and stop killing each other and destroying the planet.  Think of the connection between the widespread use of the printing press and dissent and revolution. It could happen. Probably not in my life time.

9. Do you think that the blogosphere is a stand alone community separated from the real world?
No. Even if it feels like that when we're online, we still take our online experiences back to our offline lives.

10. Do some political blogs scare you? Do you avoid them?
I don't like the conflict and name calling that seems to go on in the comments sections of some political blogs. I also feel that it's been such a long time since my brain was used in any sort of academic way that if I entered that arena, I'd be dogmeat. Not that I ever felt that convincing when I was at uni anyway. Although I once got 97% back in the 80s during my honours year, for a metahistory talk I gave on Foucault and The Order of Things (there's a list in that book that I just love, I no longer have the book but have the list transcibed somewhere). In this case the mark was totally undeserved, considering I gave the talk pretty much on the fly, with pretend notes, having spent the night before smoking drugs and talking about Foucault as opposed to actually reading Foucault...  The lecturer did suggest at the end of the semester that perhaps an academic career wasn't for me and that maybe I should go to New York and become a writer. However, I digress.

11. Do you think that criticizing your blog is useful?
Sometimes my Dad says that I've put up too many photos. I  disagree, although I did stop using ampersands & start using the proper ands when he mentioned it. He was right on that one.

12. Have you ever thought what would happen to your blog in case you died?
Not until I read this by Problogger. I guess if something happened G would do something with it, he knows all my passwords. I guess my blogs would just stop and disappear into the ether. 

13. Which blogger has had the greatest impression on you?
Everyone on my blogroll has made an impression on me. That's why they're there.

14. Which blogger do you think is the most similar to you?
Although I think I think I fit fairly neatly into the Australian/personal/mummy blogger genre, I don't think anyone is that similar to me. Even if we have lots in common. Blogging is about uniqueness.

I would love to discover more Australian blogs with lots of gardening content. So if you find me, please comment so I can find you. 

15. Name a song you want to listen to.
It's been floating around my head for a while, Culture Club, Miss me Blind;  I know you'll miss me, I know you'll miss me blind...

Downhill from here

I think I can pinpoint the moment from which my week began to go a bit pear shaped and everything around the edges started to disintegrate. It is summed up in the photo below. A perfectly pleasant afternoon at my mum's house. Late lunch, because I went to the gym in the morning, went home and got Grace and then walked to mum's. Fast because as usual, I had procrastinated about the gym and was therefore running late. At the gym, I confronted the fear that has been creeping up on me for a few weeks now. My jeans have beome less and less comfortable, and I have started to favour certain outfits. Yes indeed, I am stacking on the weight again. About five kilos. Aaargh. More gym. Less food. Be hungry. Around this table I was saying that I wish I was one of those people who seem to naturally limit their weight. Who is content with one biscuit instead of wanting three. It's not like I'm back where I was, but five kilos is five kilos I don't want.
The Melways is out because we were looking at houses in the local real estate supplement. Looking at possibilities for later this year. Dreaming. Checking locations. A little further out, but we'll see. Just looking at a map makes me nervous. And aware of all the things that need to happen over the next few months. Like sorting out work and income. Like G getting a reliable job. He's got two degrees but has been out of the professional workforce for a while. There are various reasons I won't go into. It's not as if he's a bad worker or anything, he's just not all that good at playing the game. So, he's decided to go with his first degree but he needs to do a professional year. The surveying equivalent of articles. And it's hard. Nobody is being very friendly about it. And I'm going nuts because I want him to get this, so he doesn't keep doing crappy jobs with no prospects that end badly. At work I see what happens to people when their employment options shrink and it isn't pretty, definitely not what I want for my beloved. Despite the government rhetoric of wanting older people to re-qualify and to stay working, the older you are, the harder it gets. And I don't really want to be the full time worker in the family. It's really not the best option for either of us. The long term ideal as I see it, would be for both of us to work part time, about seven days between us.We're aware that G might need to work full time for a while to get himself into a position where he can do that, but...

So after this, my camera died. Just died. It was only the battery. So I went into town today. Which didn't really make me feel any better about anything. It didn't help that we'd been having a fight discussion, in which I was basically saying that he needed to pull his finger out. We have these discussions every now and then, even though I know that they don't really help anything. It's like all the words build up inside me until they come spewing out and everyone gets unhappy. So I walked around town feeling anxious, and having to call on the mobile to see whether everyone was all right. Which of course they were. So I started to have that little conversation in my head where I ask myself whether I am depressed or nutty, or whether all this is a normal reaction to the sorts of things that are happening in my life. Which I think they are, and I ask myself what the doctor would say, and then think maybe I need to go and see her again soon. And I'll pay her a whole lot of money for her to say what I thought in the first place, that this is a perfectly normal reaction to life stresses. Well, der. It's just that sometimes I don't trust my judgement on what's normal or not anymore. Which I think will be a long term consequence of that particular episode in my life.

I was looking for a new pair of bathers, and that was a whole lot of fun. Especially feeling fatter than usual. Sigh. I didn't buy any because the only pair I halfway liked were a size too big (how ironic) and not on sale at Target (possibly the only item of clothing in the whole shop that wasn't) and I couldn't face buying something I would have to alter at full price. As it was I couldn't face buying anything except the batteries and my lunch. Just. was. not. in. the. mood.

Well, I think that's more than enough whinging for tonight. How was your day?

By the way. They are not my cigarettes. I used to smoke rollies. Which I used to keep in a decorative wallet like folder. I'm missing smoking at the moment. Mum keeps leaving her other packet at our house. I look at them and go, nuh... But there's a part of me that can still feel the bliss. And man oh man, sometimes my fingers just itch to roll a cigarette. More than smoking even.

Rainy day gardening

This must be my favourite sort of summer weather. Warm, wet and faintly tropical. Brooding skies, intense colours and earthy aromas. Being out in the rain and not being all that bothered by it. Watching your child run through the rain and mud, half in the scrud. Sitting on the back porch watching the splash and drip, noticing how the garden seems to have relaxed and expanded. How  rain drops sparkle like the most precious of jewells. I feel relaxed too. My vegetable patch won't die and neither will my garden.

During some of the not so rainy patches I attended to the main vegetable patch. The couch grass invasion has been dug out. The peastraw mulch has been topped up (with much assistance from my little helper) and I've started planting out the next lot of seedlings. First off I planted a second lot of corn. The seeds I sowed direct into the bed didn't germinate but the ones in the seed box all came up. I also planted green and purple basil around the edges of the tomato bed. Purple basil is also going in amongst the cosmos which have suddenly come back to life. I'm thinking that a lower layer of purple foliage and white flowers under the tall laciness of the cosmos could look quite special. If we can keep the water up to them.

I haven't really been watering the garden properly since we went on stage three restrictions. I'm not the best waterer as it is and my preferred method is to give the garden a really long soak about once a week with the sprinkler. I find that works quite well with heavily mulched beds . But I am not allowed to any more. I could water with the hose between 8 and 10 twice a week but I keep missing the appointed times. Like everyone else, we've been bucketing some of the nicer grey water onto the garden. They even have buckets under the showers at the pool and our house guests just treated the bucketing regime as a normal and expected part of life. This bucketing of lite grey water seems to be keeping things going, just. My next garden is going to have a well thought out dripper system. And rainwater tanks.

I'm glad I did the hard work with the mulching earlier in the summer. I spread several bags of chicken manure and compost over the vegie patch and then covered it all with a layer of peastraw. The manure, as well as fertilising the plants, adds moisture holding capacity to the soil. Today as I tiptoed around the patch (trying not to compact the soil) the beds felt very springy. Under the mulch, the soil is mostly looking quite good. Not quite as wet as I'd like, given the amount of rain we've had, but the mulch on top is quite wet and I suppose the soil will absorb some of that over the next few days. It seems as if the plants may have instantly sucked in huge amounts of moisture. As you can see, the plants look plump and upright for the first time in weeks. It's also possible that the soil underneath the garden soil, the sub soil, may have started to dry out. I remember in 2002 the subsoil was so dry that I gave up most watering as it all seemed to suck away very quickly. Amazingly, most of my garden survived that.

The positives of mulching are widely known. It reduces the soil drying out from evaporation, protects worms, improves soil structure and drainage, adds nutrients and water holding capacity, reduces the impactof weeds and provides a soft, absorbent surface for rain to fall on. The down sides are not often talked about. Heavily mulched beds can prevent rain from penetrating into the soil, especially if light. This tends not to happen when watering or rain is regular, but during extended dry spells. And seems to affect beds where not much is growing. Perhaps plants themselves provide ways for the moisture to get into the soil. It's really noticable in the bed of beans (to the back of the photo). The soil under the mulch is quite dry and the mulch seems to have formed a crust with a powder inside it. Many of the dwarf bean seeds I planted have not germinated. Those that did are not doing well. The climbing beans are doing better but they're getting lots of grey water. So I'm going to scuff the mulch up and try to get some beans going. And perhaps think of some other ways to get water under the surface.

Tommorrow I'm going to try and plant the rest of the basil, some cherry tomatoes which I've heard can be grown in a pot over winter (?), coriander and a whole heap of lettuce seedlings. You can never have enough lettuce, I don't think. Then I'll top up the seed boxes and sow the next lot of seeds. I think I should be starting to plant seeds of winter vegetables. I always leave things like broccoli far to late but if I plant it now, then it seems way too early and they'll be attacked by cabbage moths. Maybe I should look it up. If it's rainy, I'll sit under the porch with my book and wait out the heaviest showers. And watch the rain fall. And I certainly won't be complaining about the weather.

Only six weird things about me?

So many memes, so little time. But I'm going to do this one tonight because sooz tagged me and then h&B did too. A change from talking about the weather. First off, the RULES: People who get tagged need to write a blog post of 6 weird things about them as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says "you are tagged" in their comments and tell them to read your blog. (I avoid tagging, but we'll see how we go)

At first I found it really difficult to think of six weird things about me. It's not that I don't think I'm weird. I feel weird much of the time but it's very difficult to separate out actual weird things. I don't even think these things are in themselves weird, idiosyncratic maybe, but not weird. So does that make me a freak?

  1. I only wear flannellette shirts is summer and autumn. Perfect over a singlet or t-shirt when it's a bit nippy at night. But I don't like them with a jumper over the top, so I stop wearing them once jumper weather settles in. I bought several flannies when I was pregnant. They were great for breast feeding and slopping around the house covered in baby spew. I always feel a bit self conscious when I wear them out, like to the supermarket, because I don't quite carry the wearing of said flanny as an alternative subset of cool. And you never know who you'll meet at the supermarket.
  2. No matter what we eat at night, I tend to serve it bowls. Because we eat in front of the telly more often than not. I keep resolving to change this but probably never will. I blame my parents. Grace will be able to blame me, when she's a grown up and doesn't want to eat her tofu watching telly while the world falls apart.
  3. I have sometimes dubious tastes in childrens books. This is one of my favourite domestic scenes from a book floating around the study floor this week.(Me and My Big Surprise, story by Denise Burt, Photography by Haworth Bartram, Childerset, Autralia 1982)  We have a K-mart sourced copy of that toaster. 
  4. This shits G no end, but I must lie awake in bed for a full half hour before getting up. Stretching, snoozing, thinking and delaying the inevitable. So If I have to leave at 8.30am, that means setting the alarm for 6.30am. Any later and I wouldn't have time to eat my breakfast, make my lunch, chat with Grace, read some of my novel, check my internets, have a poo and shower before scurrying off to serve the public at work.
  5. I am quite obsessed with being regular. Because awful things happen if you aren't. I won't go into details, there are others I can have that conversation with. I'm quite proud that I said poo on the internet (and not in relation to a baby). Heehe, smirk. Freak.
  6. I can wiggle the toes on my right foot from side to side. I'm doing it now. Gross.

There, that was pretty easy. I could think of many more I'm sure. I'm not going to do h&bs other meme, the one about five things I 've never revealed on my blog. Honestly I can't think of anything I haven't already said or will say one day if the context presents. That I would say in my blog. If you know what I mean.

So who am I going to tag? Rachel, Kerryn, Kel, if you're interested. If it doesn't appeal, don't. I won't be fussed.

Really, it's like the difference between Ford and Holden

I would complain about the heat once again, but what would the point of that be? We have interstate guests in transit, returning from the mook homeland. They're electing to sleep outside or in the shed. Despite the fact that I'm mortified that the couch of shame in the loungeroom is not good enough, and that the foldout in the study would be unbearably hot and stuffy (and noisy with the calls of neighbourhood hoons and heat amplified traffic sounds), I can't say I blame them. We've offered every sleeping possibility inside but no takers. I've been thinking of sleeping in the backyard too, but it's getting crowded out there and I need to be close enough to hear Grace. We ate inside, but sat out under the vine as darkness fell. Drinking beer and explaining the difference between left and right to a bemused nineteen year old.

Emboldened by the beer, I ranted about the new momentum of conservative family values and a perceived push to have women at home looking after the kids in a "traditional" setup. But only if the family is well off and middle class. And only while the kids are little. After that there's all sorts of pressures on women to rejoin the workforce. Because we need more workers (outside the home) so as to keep on top of economic growth. Not that we don't have more than enough of everything in our world as it is. Too much even. It's sharing it around that's the problem. Don't get me wrong here, I love the home life and part of me would love to stay at home full time. And I'm fully aware that it's still work, hard work even. I'm not even bitter that others can and I can't. Indeed I feel extremely lucky that our circumstances are such that I can still work (outside the home) part time. Like everyone else we make certain financial choices to do this. It's just that on a bigger picture kind of level, it irks me that this is choice is seen as viable for only some families. Mind you I think that for most women, no matter what our class or financial position, we are damned whatever our choices. You know, have children, don't have children, stay at home, work part time, work full time, childcare, not childcare etc and etc. Am I right, or is it the beer and lack of sleep speaking?

In my lefty utopia, it's all family friendly workplaces, a 36 hour week, part time hours for those who need them, shared parenting, excellent affordable childcare for those that choose it, good conditions and balancing work and home.  All very well on paper. What I really need is more hours in the day.  La la land. My part time contract is up for discussion again. I'm torn between wanting to work more hours and being paid more in a job I consider useful but infuriating at best, and wanting to be a home with Grace more. I'll probably feel better once the discussion has been had.

It was a long day today. The heat is not making it better. Sleep might.

I really need to stop complaining about the heat

It's pleasantly cool now and I feel the need to scramble something down before the heat comes back and turns my head into mush. Last night, all I could do was sweat and pitifully read blogs with pictures of snow and feel glad that I could. Yestereday started of OK, G was working and my mum came to look after Grace before lunch so that I could go to the gym. Which was pleasant enough. I felt virtuous that I was making some use of my membership. Eventhough I felt jealous of another woman's clever retro/contempory and oh so cool gym outfit that looked perfect with her very cool biceps. I felt very dowdy in my scaffy target three quarter pants and icky black runners. So mumsy. And trashy. And full of squishy bits and bulges. I fantasised about dieting and going every second day, no matter what. And the new pair of gym pants I could make.  About the potential new slimmer me, the one constantly held in check by the old me who's been around for years.

Anyway, after lunch we went to the pool. Not the local, which has quite a small old fashioned toddler pool which Grace isn't too thrilled about. She fell under last time and although I picked her up instantly, the fear on her face is something I'll never forget. It's still with her in some way too, I'll bet. The pool we went to had a very shallow baby pool, a toddler pool with walk in entry and best of all, a big shelf with water coming out from small pipes on the wall, which seemed to be a great hit with the under threes. And their watchers could stand in waist deep water and watch. Most amusing. Especially when Grace was upset by this little boy (I can't remember what for) and he then proceeded to see if she was OK and then kissed her on the cheek. She followed him everywhere for at least ten minutes after that. We didn't leave the pool until nearly tea time and when I rang G to tell him we were running late he told us about the power being off. Yikes, I thought, no telly, no internet! On the way back to the car, we played in the park for a bit. All the grass is dying and the elms are shedding leaves which were lying around in big dry drifts.

I just love that dress she is wearing. It's quite old, 60s maybe and I got it from Savers a while ago, hoping that she wouldn't grow out of it before summer. She loves it too, especially with her pink sandals which are nearly too small for her already. Grace has become very funny about her shoes, demanding that they be on at all times and howls if they need to be removed for nappy changes.

After the pool we sat around the kitchen drinking endless lemon and sodas, listening to the ABC on Gs old tranny. The heat was oppressive. And none of the news was good news, fire in the mountains, homes lost, lightening strikes, power out over most of the state. Public transport chaos, traffic lights out. Long delays. I thought about the gas crisis in 1999. We started assembling candles and thinking about where the gas lamp might be, and the camping torches. I thought about how glad I am that we live in the city. I always feel glad about living in the city in summer. Bushfires scare me. I worried about whether the power would be off for weeks. It all felt very apocalyptic.

We decided to have a late snack dinner. You know, mini toasts and cheese with carrot sticks, tomato and cucumber. After Grace went to bed, G went to the shed to apply some more varnish to the little table he's making and I sat in the quiet and the last of the light reading Marge Piercy's The Longings of Women. The sort of book guaranteed to haul me out of my reading slump. It's a bit like the last one of hers that I read, but that's OK. Formula is good for breaking reading block. Then, just before dinner, I went to see whether the power was back. And it was. So everything went back to normal. Except that it was still hot. I couldn't sleep, but that's quite normal at the moment too. Hopefully lots of sleep tonight.  


As I started to type, Grace was sitting on the footstool under my desk, bumping her head, pushing my feet away, babbling in a conversational way and reading one of her many Little Golden Books. The one about visiting Grandma and Grandpa Smith which features catching a bus to in the country, lots of homely activites and a night at the drive in. All in 1985 style drawings. This book seems to be on high rotation at the moment along with Barbie in the Spotlight, which I bought at the oppy because it's illustrated with scenes made with photos of real barbie dolls, as opposed to drawings, giving it a surreal look I find rather apealing. It crosses my mind that maybe this isn't the best sort of book for a nearly two year old girl. Still, it is only one among many. At least Barbie does stuff. Even if she wears impossible shoes and ends up modelling rather than reporting.

I know I probably shouldn't buy any more books for Grace because she probably has too many as it is. Which I pick up from the floor several times a day. Or not. Another of her favourites is Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present by Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Puffin 1962. I didn't realise that this book had won awards until I looked it up, but I can see why it's been so popular. I wish Grace would let me read it aloud to her. You see she won't let either of us read to her (her nana sometimes gets to). Any attempt to do so, either sitting on your lap or sitting next to her meets with wriggles, superfast page turning and Noo, Nooo. This is the closest I've been in a long time. Grace let me sit next to her and look over her shoulder for ooh, maybe five minutes. And it's not as if taking the photo ruined the moment, I had the camera in my hand for something else and just snuck one in.

It's not that Grace doesn't love books. Book is one of her 20 or so words, used as she moves them from room to room, or when she hands me one to read, or snatches it again from my hands. She has piles of books in various locations around the house. In the study, in her room, in the lounge, the back room and the kitchen, in our room. It's like a little pitstop to spend time between rombling and jumping to sit on the floor and turn the pages. Right way up, even. But I wish she'd let me read to her. We just have to keep offering I suppose.

My own reading has ground to a halt. I started reading Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard after Christmas but I've found it hard to get past the first few pages. It looks like the sort of book I should like, nature and living in the country being favourite themes of mine. It could be the sort of book I can't read with the radio going and people talking all around. Some books allow me to shut all that out, but other books seem to demand quiet. Something that is in very short supply around here. Unless I read at night after everyone else has gone to bed. But that would cut into my blogging time. Sigh. I need another hour or two in the day, but not at the expense of sleep. Because I just don't have enough time to do everything and to do nothing. I did quite a bit of nothing today, falling asleep on the couch under the plum tree, a gentle breeze above and a spot of warm sunlight on my cheek. It was lovely. Even though I should have been taking advantage of the civilised weather to knock off some sewing or gardening tasks. Still, I have to get back into reading books too. I think I'll have to find something easy and page turning to get me back to the habit or I could end up not reading for months. Which would be terrible. I hate it when that happens.

This morning I spent a couple of hours learning about bloglines. I've been a click on my favourites sort of blog reader but I think it's time I got a bit more organised. I still don't feel really comfortable (as in familiar) with it but I think it'll be better. Once I started playing with it, I realised that I could manage how my own blogs look in bloglines if I claimed my blogs in bloglines. However I couldn't get past the verifiction process because I haven't managed to insert the code into my typepad template. I'm on the middle typepad plan, and although you can fiddle with the html for individual posts, you can't insert code into your template. Has anyone done this, or knows whether it can be done? Is it worth bothering with? The other thing I'm not sure about is what causes a blog to update in bloglines. Do they update when someone comments on a post? Or just when a new post is published? So much to learn. Next week, Flickr.

Pale, bleached summer morning

For a change, this morning I was not running horribly late for work. Only acceptable late. Within five minutes of my scheduled starting time even. I sat in the car for a few moments waiting for the airconditioning and fiddling with the Beth Orton tape that I lke to sing along to while I'm driving. Badly, I might add, and the tape is making scratchy sounds in places, oh. The light bounced off metallic surfaces, glinting and shimmering. Washing out the colour. Mornings in early summer are really different, all light green and dancing colours. Sun that doesn't seem certain to stay the whole day. This part of summer, the part we're in now until we start getting reliably cool nights and shortening days it's all about the glare. And this year, the heat. And making your peace with it, or escaping from it. Not hot absolutely all the time, but rolling along in big hot waves.  Tonight is quite lovely. Cool enough to think. Cool enough to sleep well.
 This morning, it didn't feel that hot at first, not for the first hour, but it had that Melbourne feeling of a very hot day to come. I'd gone to bed  reluctantly, all hot and tired and woke without having used the blanket at all. Grace and I each had a big glass of water first thing this morning. She didn't want hers at first but I handed it to her and stood in front of her drinking mine. If I'd told her to drink it she'd have pushed it away, of course. Once she started drinking, the sips turned to gulps, her big brown eyes saying, yes mummy, this is what I need.

I enjoyed the air conditioning at work today, even if work itself was all a bit busy and difficult. Once I had time to check my email etc I found that my holidays have been approved. I thought they would be, but I never feel comfortable about confirming arrangements until I get the formal big tick. Yay. Early March, two weeks at the beach (thank you). Hopefully it will still be warm enough to swim in the sea and not all smoky from the fires (please don't let the fires still be going in March). Maybe the drought will break with big storms across the ocean beaches, interspersed with warm, calm days for swimming. Barbeques at night. Some nights with extended family. Big messy dinners and scrappy lunches. Boardgames. A trip to a country town for opshopping and an hour in an internet cafe where G can make his chess moves, I can look at blogs. We've always done quick internet cafe visits on our travels. This will be the first time I'm not shifting from foot to foot or waiting in the car. It'll be a family thing, Grace can get her five minutes of Boobah too. Any time I get on the computer these days, she's pulling at my side, trying to push me off my chair saying Baa Baa. It's clear what she wants. I worry about what I've started. Although I pleased that G didn't let her play Boobah today. They did other, more interesting things.

When I got home from work, I played outside with Grace after she'd finished her dinner and marvelled how the cool change had made the light all soft. Compared to this morning, that is.

Even with the heat and endless drought, I much prefer mid summer to mid winter with it's dark days and endless drizzle. Cold seeping into everything, yech. I haven't worn shoes for months and I like that. I read in the paper during my afternoon teabreak that the signs are that El Nino is breaking down which means that the drought could break this autumn. Maybe we'll get storms on the beach afterall.

Did I say I'm looking forward to our holiday? I think I did.

What's the story, morning glory?

Our front yard is protected from a busy road by a high hedge of nasty privet, adorned by equally or even more noxious morning glory. Morning glory is a stinker of a weed. It thrives in poor dry soils and can be spread by seed, root section or stem cutting. I know because when I moved in here, three sides of the fence were covered with it. It was growing up at least two sides of the house and came inside in several places more than once. If I'd have known how bad it was, and how I would battle it, I might not have moved in at all.
It was 1989 and I had been living by myself up in West Coburg for a year or so. Living alone was not something I enjoyed as much as I thought I would. Which was a pity because I had just started to make headway on that West Coburg garden, when I decided that I had to move back in closer to the inner city area. Something that I find funny is that in this garden I was leaving, I had actually planted some morning glory seeds I had bought at the Coles supermarket and was training them up the fence. What followed may well have been karmic punishment.

I did the rounds of share house interviews. I wanted a garden and I wanted control. So I was desperate to move into this house when I found it. This house was cheap and roomy, with a certain rustic charm. It was filthy and stuffed with junk but it also had a big yard full of knee high grass with a tree in the middle. And the guy with the lease was OK and thinking of going back to Adelaide soonish. Every morning on the tram to work, I passed the house and just knew I could make it work. I charmed, hustled, and made compromises. I agreed to keep my cat outside. The room and soon enough, the house, became mine (now it's ours but that's another story).
 As it happened, I lost my job several months later. My whole department was retrenched. It was happening every Friday in the city, people going home in taxis with their pink slip and box of personal stuff from their desk. I cared less than most. More time for gardening and a long holiday to Byron Bay and surrounds. It was walking back to the hostel after going to the pictures at Nimbin that I saw my first truly horrifying morning glory infestation. I thought, oh it's the tropics, it will never get that bad at home. I'll be able to get rid of it eventually. No worries.

I spent long hours pulling it from the fences, the house, the collapsing chook shed along the back. The vines and the dried detritus they contained made me itch. As soon as I had cleared one side, then another would have grown up. The vines would run under the house from one side to another. My housemate at the time thought I was mad. It wasn't my house, why should I care? Besides it was pretty. And the garden looked all bare and desolate after I pulled it down. The next door neighbour also had a healthy infestation, for which they blamed us. Of course.

I did get the morning glory under control. Sort off. Then I just gave up. It was all too much for me and the landlord wasn't going to help. Life had become very busy. We had started the cafe. I didn't have time for endless weed control. I kept it off my garden beds and periodically did a big blitz. It always came back.

About this time, I had a housemate John, who was a real hoot. He was older than me, a raffish academic sort who disappeared overseas frequently. We talked frequently of the plants hallucinogenic properties. His best story was about how he ate a packet of seeds and was so out of it that he couldn't remember what happened, so a week or so later he did it again. And still couldn't remember what happened, except for a scratching feeling behind the eyelids. After hearing that, I was never tempted. Not even a little.

G moved in here in 1999. At some point the landlord came to the party. Something to do with a new property manager. Herbicides were used. I'm pretty organic in my approach, as a rule, but this was necessary. The neighbours were required to treat their property. Now we are on to it. Or at least G is on to it. When we see it in the garden, it's pulled up, dug up and thrown away or put in a special noxious weeds compost area. Except for the vine growing on the privet out the front. It kind of looks so lovely against the yellow. If you can forget how evil a weed it is for just a moment. Pretty but evil.

Meme, The A to Z of me

Haven't done a Friday night meme for a while, so I thought I'd give this one from Kerryn a go. I might as well stay up, it's too hot to go to bed and actually sleep.

A is for AGE: I'm 43. People often say I look younger and I have several theories on why this might be. Fat makes your face look younger. I don't act like I'm in my forties, indeed I don't really know how forty somethings are supposed to act these days. When I was young, middle aged women wore sensible Fletcher Jones type clothes and carried themselves with dignity. Except my mother, of course, which mortified me.

Did I just say that I'm middle aged? Yikes.

B is for BEER of choice: If I drink beer it is usually Tooheys Red which is what G buys. His mates call it Bridgewater Red. Bridgewater is an outer suburb of Hobart. If I'm buying I quite like Boags. He reckons it's a girls beer.

C is for CAREER: Oh, for effs sake. I'm a servant of the public. I try and do a good job and be nice to those I serve. Even when it's difficult. There is so much I could write about my job, if I was less concerned about being found out and not having the job. It's not a career. I'd rather have a life. Some people manage both but I'm not one of them.

D is for favourite DRINK: Bickfords diet lemon with soda. Living on the edge, adding some ice and bitters. Coffee. Iced coffee.

E is for ESSENTIAL: Sunglasses. Hat. Camera. Computer.

F is for FAVOURITE: song at the moment: It's Not the Spotlight, sung by Beth Orton. It comes from the bonus disc with pass in Time, a CD I listened to again and again while I was in labour. And again when I went nuts. I heard Rod Stewart singing it on the middle aged radio station the other day. I think I may have to dig out Atlantic Crossing again some time soon. Actually I think, not only do I need a new Beth Orton car tape, but I need a Rod Stewart one too.

G is for favourite GAME: Scrabble. I was unbeatable until I taught G my moves. Now he wins at scrabble and chess so I don't play any more. It's just unbearable. There's a beach holiday coming up so maybe I'll have to get back into it.

H is for most memorable HOLIDAY: Central Australia in 2004. Sleeping in the car. Camping. More scenery than we could handle. Uluru, more than we imagined. Camping in the freezing cold with the incessant noise of the generator making the power to heat the tourists hotels of the rich. Alice Springs. Hermansburg, where Albert Namitjera was born. Real bush camping in the MacDonnells.

I is for INSTRUMENTS played: Sadly ,none. I briefly tried to learn the guitar but I have no musical talent whatsoever. None.

J is for favourite JUICE: Orange. Or that weird four fruits with guava, but only in certain moods.

K is for KIDS: One. She is nearly two. I have to remind myself sometimes that Grace was not put on earth just to fill me with beauty and love. We travelled a long, sad road to have Grace. I'm glad we kept going.

L is for LAST KISS: This morning as I kissed Grace and Gerard goodbye. Grace pushed me away and said bye. She loves saying bye, bye, bye and hello.

M is for MARRIAGE: Probably never going to happen in the formal sense. Friends said that when we started telling the bureacracy that we were a couple that that is like a gen X marriage. I wouldn't mind but apparently I've missed my chance.

N is for full NAME: Janet. I don't use my full name because I don't want people (like exes, disgruntled former housemates etc) to be able to google me and find my blog. If people I know find my blog because they read blogs, or because I tell them, that's OK.

O is for OVERNIGHT hospital stays: Well, there was that time I don't remember as a toddler when I had some sort of spider bite. More recently, giving birth to Frank in 2002 and Grace in 2005. And of course, about a month or so when I went nuts.

P is for PHOBIAS: Snakes. The very thought. Reminds me of the Tasmanian trip of 2001 when I saw four in a week on the west coast. It got so I could barely get out of the car.

Q is for QUOTE: Baudelaire, a line from L'invitation au Voyage (which I learnt in high school)translated from the French, "'All is order there and elegance pleasure peace and opulence." I used to have it spelt in glitter letters on gold paint and under varnish, on the ledge above the sink. When we redid the scullery, G was concerned about removing it and despite my protest that it was OK, that I'd moved on, put it on my internet desk top instead.

R is for biggest REGRET: Wasting my late twenties and early thirties. Not having a family earlier. Not the same but kind of related in devious ways.

S is for SPORT: Football, if there's a chance of Carlton winning. Otherwise no.

T is for TIME you wake up: 7, 7.30am. But I'll go back to sleep till ten if I can.

U is for colour of UNDERWEAR: Black.

V is for VEGETABLE you love: Asparagus. Beans. Broad Beans. Brussels Sprouts. Cucumber.

W is for WORST habit: Biting my nails. Comfort eating. Slacktitude when it comes to excercise.

X is for X-RAYS you’ve had: Teeth. Lots of my teeth. I suppose that's what happens when you approach middle age, your teeth go to crap. Also my arm, after a learning to ride a motorcycle accident when I was twenty. I never even got my Ls.

Y is for YUMMY food you make: See here. Not complete but it's a start. I'm feeling the need to make lemon curd tart again. Soon.

Z is for ZODIAC sign: Scorpio. We're very mysterious(really?) and bossy. And deep. And there's two of us.

It's hot

It's hot. Coming out of the airconditiong early this evening was like walking into a hairdryer. A hair dryer being using in a stuffy moist bathroom. Except that's it's dry. I didn't sleep much more that three hours last night. Which adds the the surreal feeling. Work felt like land of the zombies, I don't think I'm the only one not sleeping. Ditched the gym this evening in favour of the pool.  Despite being knocked and buffeted by other lap swimmers in a crowded pool, it was blissful to submerge into the quiteness of the blue water. Out of practice with swimming, could only do ten slow laps. Maybe I'll have to go again.

When I got home, there was an old four wheel drive from up north outside. I remember that we have been expecting a visitor and that the Kombi caught on fire last year. This must be the replacement I thought. Nice, apparently they have yet to find a mountain this car can't climb. We are being visited by mooks returning to the homeland. And possibly again on the way back, when there may be a subgathering.

And, yes that's my skirt in the left hand corner. I'm back in black. And I've just remembered why I like a-line skirts. The full skirt I was wearing today, although cool and breezy, kept getting caught in the wheels of my chair whenever I got up from my desk to go to the photocopier. I prefer clothes that don't flap.

At least I don't have a long fur coat. Tony (cat) is clearly suffering and is slinking from not so cool, to not so cool spot. This is one of his favourite early evening perches. Grace keeps emptying his water bowl onto the garden and it is irritating for everyone, especially Tony. Although being a cat he is not above drinking from the toilet. Yech. I have to find somewhere for his bowl where she can't reach. Which is getting harder and harder. She'll be on the kitchen table or trying to climb out the loungeroom window from the back of the couch in half a blink. Not being allowed to do any of this is just making it so much more attractive.

Over New year, I decided that we needed a family holiday and there's somewhere really good by the beach that we can go, although it's not quite sorted yet. I've asked for leave in February and have been told that it's very short notice and that they'll think about it. I wish I'd put in for more leave, the day I got back. There's been lots of time away from paid work but I realised the other day that we haven't had a holiday since the Central Australian odyssey in the winter of 2004.When I came back I was pregnant with Grace and life just rolled on from there. It's been a lot longer than I like to leave it, we need our holidays. To play and just be together. If you leave them too long it seems to become a really big drama to organise and people seem to become a bit resisitant to the idea. I'm crossing my fingers....

Fruit into jam

Nothing says summer to me more than a pot of boiling sugar on a hot day. And that sensation of being hot and sweaty and sticky with sugar and fruit juice. But it doesn't start like that. It starts in the cool of the morning with an intention. A resolution that this is the day* we make jam, because if we don't, the birds will finish off what's left of the apricots and the chance will be gone until next year. Unless of course I buy the fruit, which while nice is not quite the same.

I had lots of help. Grace loved being involved with fruit picking and has really enjoyed eating apricots straight from the tree. She had quite a solemness about it, as if she realised that it was a bit more special than usual. Or maybe being the fruit gourmand that she is, she was just savouring the extra freshness, that extra dimension of taste when you eat something still warm from the sun. And the apricots, although nothing special to look at have been sensational this year. When it's dry, the flavours are much more intense.

It was quite difficult to find enough fruit that hadn't been savaged by the birds. Our backyard is a bird paradise at the moment. We're getting wattle birds, little yellow finches, rainbow coloured parrots (are they lorikeets?), the usual black crows and the doves that like to scrape all the mulch of the vegie patch. Not to mention the sparrows and mynahs. So it's noisy and the fruit that was still more or less whole was often well, a bit dirty. Not to worry.

This is a view from standing on my milk crate, head in the tree. I'm quite taken with how lush the vegie garden is looking from this angle. Due to the drought most of the parks are yellow. People with lush gardens have signs saying they are using grey water. We don't really have any lawn left, just dust, hard dirt with cracks in it and some scraggly bits of dried grass.  I checked the vegie patch again today (as I do everyday) and the tomatoes and eggplants seem to be doubling in size daily. They are well mulched and don't seem to mind the dry. The last sowing of corn didn't germinate, but the early sowing is about to set ears I think. It must have got rain at a crucial point perhaps?

Anyway, we managed to pck about three kilos of fruit, which is the limit of my jam pot. And more than enough for one afternoons work. I washed all the fruit very thouroughly and it cleaned up much better than I expected. In past years I would have left fruit this dirty on the tree.

I also had to cut off quite a few blemishes. But I enjoyed sitting there listening to Anthony and Cleopatra on the telly. I managed to get most of the boiling done while Grace was having her afternoon nap. Unfortunately she awoke during a critical phase and was not happy to be excluded from the action. But boiling sugar and rampaging toddlers do not mix. So she had to hang out with Daddy for a while.

I had forgotten how tricky apricot jam an be. I used the same method as with the plum jam, but unlike with the plums, it was easy to prepare the fruit. But it's a longer boiling time, more likely to catch and burn and much, much harder to judge when it's ready. These apricots are quite low in pectin so the moment of perfection can be easily missed. If you underboil, it will be runny and too sweet. If you overboil, it will be toffeeish. I think this one might be a little overboiled and has a slightly gorpy texture, but we're all agreed that it has a good flavour.

I was very careful with the pouring into jars and only had to clean the sides of one jar. I love the sound of the cellophane cracking as it dries and tightens.

We had a friend over for a beer on New Years day and I asked him if he ate jam and then whether he preferred plum or apricot. He nominated the apricot and went home with a big jar. I think we have a few more to give away, which is nice.  I'm feeling quite proud of my jamming efforts this summer. We don't have any more of our own fruit until next summer, unless I can catch the yellow plums, which I've never bothered jamming before. I may yet score some gifts of fruit or see some in the shops that just says jam me. Or I might not. Even so no need for any shop jam at all this year, I think.

* The day was actually New Years Eve, not today which was hotter and would have been truly hellish.

Happy New Year!

This morning as I did the housework, I listened to the local ABC radio as people rang in with their resolutions for the New Year or to report on a successfully kept resolution from last year. I found myself trying to think of what resolutions I might make. Last year one resolution was to avoid buying any clothes or material in black. Those familiar with the inner city style sensibilities of Melbourne would appreciate how truly difficult that might have been for me. But I did it, more or less. And as a result, there is far less black in my wardrobe than there has ever been at any time since the neon punk phase when I was nineteen/twenty. Sometimes I can even wear whole outfits containing no black at all. Except my undies, but let's not go there. Anyway, the theme of Self Portrait Challenge this month is New Years resolutions, so I thought that I might try and come up with one new resolution every week.

New Year's eve passed this year with barely a ripple. We didn't go out or celebrate in any special way. I made nori rolls for dinner and we watched Day of the Triffids on DVD. As G was working today and had to get up early, we were in bed before midnight. Lying there listening to the neighbours in the street across the road set off illegal fireworks, I made my first resolution. To celebrate more. I think I've said it before but we're not overly good at celebration in my family. I'm not thinking fancy, but just of finding a way to make more of birthdays and holidays. To step out of the ordinary routine and make things a little special every now and then. I suppose I could come up with a list of actions to support that resolution, as suggested on the radio, but that's a little close to corporate planning for me. So I'm just going to keep the thought there in the back of my mind and make a little effort when required.

And if anyone's thinking of taking up the Self Portrait Challenge this year, I'd say yes, give it a go. I've found it strangely addictive and quite rewarding in some unexpected ways. It's also really easy. You just go to the middle column of the site, read the particpant info link and then go to the meta section at the bottom and login. Once you have a login it's super easy to load a link each week.

So happy New Year everyone, may your year ahead be filled with peace, happiness and other good things...

PS I'm posting early because well, it's new years day and I'm in the mood for new yearsy sort of things. My own little celebration if you will. I'll upload to the SPC site once the last weeks have been archived and then we'll be able to go and check out everyone elses resolutions.

PPS Finally uploaded. Seems SPC site is working again. So head on over. There's lots of interesting new year's resolutions.