Sunday, October 31, 2004


It’s the Saturday night before the Sunday midnight (well, yesterday it was), the day I was finally going to find a plot and characters, and several things seem obvious:

- It’s obvious I had to make a cake. There isn’t a NaNoWriMo-er on the planet who could start without a cake. Obvious? Yes. (Tick.)
- It’s also obvious I needed to make some choux pastry and eat it before it got to the oven. (Tick.)
- Sweeping, doing the laundry, doing the washing up? Obvious? Yes. (Tick, tick, tick.)
- Cleaning out two cattle troughs and fixing two broken pipes? Obviously obvious. (Tick, tick, tick.)
- Spending several hours looking for a quotation for this blog’s sidebar? Yes, obvious. It could not wait another day. (Tick.)
- Not being able to find one? (Tick)
- Reading the paper? (Tick)
- Walking the dogs? (Tick)
- Procrastinating all day because I’ve forgotten this is fun? (Tick.)
- Coming to my senses just in time to remember? (Tick.)
- Continuing this tick-a-list idea so long it gets really tedious and makes me look like an idiot? (Ticketty ticketty boom tick!)

Sunday midnight: less than a day away. (Tick.) Cannot wait.

Saturday, October 30, 2004


There was an article in yesterday’s newspaper about a girl who killed herself, and I want to say something about suicide. If this is likely to upset you, could you skip this post and come back tomorrow, please?

If you’re still reading: I’m not talking about euthanasia. And this is just my opinion, a notion I once happened upon which helped me. If it’s no use to you, then I hope at least it doesn’t offend you. And the preachy tone in what follows? I’m a right bossy cow, sorry.

When I was at uni, a friend of a friend of a friend hanged himself. We’d never met, but I used to see him walking down the hill from campus. When I heard of his death I felt devastated, not because we were friends but because now we never would be. And more than that: he’d killed himself, killed everything he’d been, and everything he ever would’ve become. And more than that: he’d murdered the friend of his friend, murdered the son of his parents, the brother of his siblings, the grandson of his grandparents.

Before this I’d thought of suicide as a life choice, one of the alternatives when considering the future. If you felt bad enough, and could see no alternative, suicide was an option.

Now I think it’s not a choice at all, or more correctly, it’s a choice for only a limited part of yourself, the part that is the individual. This part is free to do whatever it wants, to live or die. But this is just one part of you; there are lots of others. You’re connected to hundreds of people, whether you’re aware of it or not, and whether you want to be or not. Not just family and friends, but everyone you ever come in contact with: people in the neighbourhood, at work, at school, in the street, on the road, at the bus-stop, walking down the hill from campus. For every connection to someone or something outside yourself, there’s a part of you fulfilling that role. And it’s these parts which don’t see suicide as an option. They don’t give their permission; you belong to other people too.

Think of it as a rule with no room for negotiation. It doesn’t care how you feel. It doesn’t care what you want. It’s a rule which can’t be broken: You don’t kill the child of your parents. You don’t kill the friend of your friends. You don’t kill the sibling of your siblings. You don’t kill all the people you’ve been, and you don’t kill all the people you’ll become. Do whatever you have to do to stay, because stay you must.

Thursday, October 28, 2004


It was such a perfect twilight tonight. I love twilight any night, but this one was just gorgeous: a cool dry breeze bringing a pleasant smell of woodsmoke (or maybe the cane fires burning?), sun going down, moon coming up, interesting clouds across a softening sky... Actually the moon made me laugh. I’d just been thinking about how beautiful everything was, when I looked over to the eastern horizon and - as if on cue for the final scene in A Perfect Twilight - a full moon was rising. (I mean, come on, I’m not that gullible: a full moon as well?) It just made me laugh.

And in that happy tone I offer you this: “... all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich, c.1342-1413: Wikipedia article here) Maybe not, of course. But, maybe yes, too. Why not look on the bright side? (Look, if you’re arguing with me, please just shut up. I’m the Queen of this Empire. Kindly stand aside and let me pass or I’ll have you dealt with.)

It’s the Thursday night before the Sunday midnight (NaNoWriMo-speak) and I still have no plot, no characters, and no clue. But I do now have a cheer squad: Ernest and Piggly, two little pigs standing on top of the monitor. They don’t say much, but they’re real damn cute. And also - importantly - I now have a plastic sword with which to slay demons. It’s not just an ordinary sword, either: the handle is embossed with dragons and is decorated with a shiny purple plastic jewel. How special is that, hmm? Jealous, aren’t you?

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Everyday miracles

I live in a district where coffee trees grow. And today they all started flowering. The heavy rain last week helped to synchronise their schedules (or something) and all the local trees burst into flower this morning. From a distance it looked as though a dusting of huge snowflakes had settled all over the paddocks.

The flowers are like 5-pointed white stars, clustered together in clumps along each branch. And they have the most amazing scent, something akin to that of a citrus tree blossom: warm, sweet, swoon-inducing.

The trees flower for only one or two days per year. By some quirky miracle, millions of bees appear out of nowhere, buzz around the flowers (pollinating the trees and ensuring the growth of next season’s coffee), and then disappear again. I don’t know where they come from or how they knew to get here today; apparently they have some sort of message service. But we’re very grateful, little bees. Good job.

And I’m also sending thanks to Kent at Dock of the Bay for his post about fig trees. I thought of it today as I was mowing a property down the road. They have a huge fig tree which I usually don’t notice. But today I looked at it properly, and paced out the diameter: about 53 metres. Which is seriously big. Which presumably also means it’s seriously old. Imagine what it might've seen during its lifetime...

I’m guessing it hasn't seen this before, though: up the hill from the fig tree, in the middle of the lawn, lying there seemingly at rest and happily oblivious to the world: a lone pineapple.

Facing the music

There are two crows (or maybe ravens?) living near the front of the house where I live. One of them - I call it a male - looks like he’s hunched into a cloak. If you walk towards him, he remains on the fence until the very last minute, and then slides into the sky without any obvious effort.

I looked at him the other day and thought: That crow is doing everything it’s supposed to do. It’s doing everything a crow should. He knows instinctively what needs to be done and then he does it. The perfect creature.

In contrast, my life seems like a stupid mess. I grasp at this and totter towards that and am never sure about anything. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, or who I’m supposed to be, or what anything means, ever. Did I leave myself behind somewhere? Am I waiting somewhere up ahead? How is it that a crow knows exactly what to do, but I know exactly zippo?

I went through my CDs today, trying to find a theme tune for my so-far non-existent NaNoWriMo story, and discovered with a bit of a shock that there's hardly anything to choose from. Music can lift the top off my head with joy, but I haven’t bought anything musical for years, have I? No, of course not. I was sensible. I saved my meagre pennies for sensible necessary groceries.

Well, I’m learning my lessons, and here are today’s:

1. Stuff the groceries. You’re too fat anyway. Spend your life on the stuff you love, for God’s sake!

2. Be nice to crows. They're much smarter than you.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


I’ve been preparing for NaNoWriMo by clearing my brain of all thoughts. Preparations are going really really well.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

New blogger | Old fool

I started this blog about two weeks ago, and now I can’t stop thinking about it. I wander around all day with my head somewhere else, paper and pen at the ready to note down the next idea. The whole world has become a potential blog topic.

And so it was that I went to bed last night, thinking only of this blog (yes, yes, how romantic). What to write next? How should I phrase this or that? If I write that differently, will it be funnier?

Underneath this non-stop stream of drivel was the dim awareness of discomfort in my chest, but I was too busy with The Blog Daily Times to really notice. It was only when I shifted to a more uncomfortable position that the little voice of pain broke through the blog-fog: Hey! Over here! This hurts!

And suddenly, of course, pandemonium: My chest hurts! My chest hurts! Heart attack! Breast cancer! Worst case scenario! Oh no, oh no, arghh!

I put my hand up to detect just where the pain was coming from and made a remarkably speedy diagnosis: “Sharp pain in ribs due to sharp pen in pocket.”

True story, I’m afraid. (God help me.)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

NAN-no WRY-mo

It was hot today. Hot as blazes, as my Dad would say. At lunchtime it was 37 degrees out on the verandah (in the shade) and 34 degrees here in this room.

So that means it’s time for the taste of summer: Golden Circle Fruit Cup Crush (a cordial you mix with water or, if you want to get sophisticated, water and ice).

And it’s nearly time for the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, pronounced NAN-no WRY-mo). I’m thinking I should try it this year. The idea is that you must write 50,000 words between November 1 and 30. There’s no time to sit around agonising, you just write fast. It’s like a simultaneous free-writing session, with thousands of people around the world doing the same thing at the same time:

[from General FAQ] Art for art's sake does wonderful things to you. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. It makes you want to take naps and go places wearing funny pants. Doing something just for the hell of it is a wonderful antidote to all the chores and "must-dos" of daily life. Writing a novel in a month is both exhilarating and stupid, and we would all do well to invite a little more spontaneous stupidity into our lives.

Are you interested? Do you want to try this? I'm thinking I should have a go. I'm thinking I should stop thinking and sign up. Yes. I will. (But.. but... but... Such a damn coward, I should be ashamed. How is this scary for heaven’s sake? But it is, and I am.) Need to find a plot and characters and .... what else is needed for a novel? Hmm... brain seems to be fogging... can’t think what’s in a novel... can’t remember ever reading a novel... what the hell is a novel?...the word “novel” is starting to seem, you know, novel...

Attack of the heebie-jeebies

Look, I don’t know how to say this without sounding like the biggest dag (ie. a rather foolish person with an Australian accent): I just discovered a comment on my last post and now I don’t know what to do. It’s the first comment on my first weblog, and the first indication that anyone apart from me is reading this. Until now I sort of imagined I could post things online and keep doodling away to myself, with just the possibility that anyone else would see it. (Possibility has that delicious quality of being very iffy and malleable: the maybe yes/maybe no factor. That factor is good).

I'm going to settle down now and try to act like a grown-up. And here's hoping there’s at least a possibility that one day I’ll stop over-analysing every last little thing. Yes, yes... what a fine idea that would be.

To petite anglaise: thank you.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A cure for every ill

It’s one of those days... Everything I write is stupid. Everything I do is annoying. Everything I am is inadequate. I should probably sue someone.

A place on the gulf

No man is an island. But for anyone who isn’t a man, or any man who won’t march to the tune of an aphorism, if you're inclined to be an island, here’s a role-model for your consideration:


Alternatively, you might want to just buy it with that spare CAD$169,900 you have lying around (see Vladi Private Islands).

I got an appeal letter yesterday from the Salvation Army (a religious charity you’ve probably heard of). This year they’re asking people to fill out a card to brighten up someone else’s Christmas. This is a nice idea; I support it, etc. But the letter begins like this:

Imagine waking up alone on Christmas Day. Rather than looking forward to sharing the day with family and friends, instead you face a day filled with loneliness and despair...

Oh? Really? Now, I know what they’re trying to say - loneliness is a terrible thing - but it’s not true that everyone alone is lonely.

Speaking (metaphorically) as a lifelong human island who drifts closer to the mainland occasionally, I can never wait to get back out to sea, and back to myself: on my own. And I don’t feel lonely out there - I feel at home, at peace, at one with the universe. It’s only when I’m with other people that I feel lonely. (This is due to all sorts of things: social incompetence, shyness, temperament - some of which I should try to overcome.)

It’s not “being alone” that makes you lonely, it’s the sense of “being separate from” which does it. And I suspect it’s about feeling separate from yourself. If you’re an extrovert, you feel most at home when you’re surrounded by other people: your focus is outward and social, so you feel cut off from the real you if there are no other people around. If you’re an introvert, you feel most at home on your own: you look inward, and feel cut off from yourself when in company.

Anneli Rufus, the author of Party of One: the Loners' Manifesto:

No two loners are alike, but all of us have one thing in common: we like to be alone. We like it. Everyone else - nonloners, that is - can't stand to be alone. They squirm. They feel ashamed. They yearn for company when they're alone. They're bored and don't know what to do. They're lonely.

We're not.

Maybe we're not holed up in caves all day, or in submarines like Captain Nemo in his Nautilus. But alone we feel most normal. Most ourselves. Most alive.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Seasick and listing

I’ve had all day to write stuff for this blog (raining - no work) and so far I’ve written the previous post plus this. And that previous one? About the rain? It took me so long to write it, the rain has gone.

Things start off all right. I make a note whenever an idea crops up (“I’m blogging this” stamped all over my forehead) and then write a first draft when I get the chance. And this is where the trouble starts.

The first draft is rough and jumps around a lot and has all sorts of rubbish in it (chaff... leaves... Where’d this frog come from?!). So I toddle along to a second draft and start moving things around, tidying this, that, fluffing, rearranging... That takes us to Draft 3. By this stage I’ve probably added new bits, and then they need tinkering. And soon it becomes obvious I’ve completely lost the plot and am just trying to be clever and cutesy. So it's back to Draft 1. Again.

(Did you know the term ad nauseum comes from the Latin meaning “to the point of nausea”, and that nausea comes originally from the Greek for seasickness? Just in case you were wondering.)

Bert, what utter nonsense

It’s raining! Serious, bounteous, beautiful rain! It started on Sunday night and up until 9am this morning we’d had 130mm. And it’s just what we needed.

It’s always dry here during winter, but the last wet season (summer/autumn: December to May) was dry too. The creek on this property stopped running about a month ago, and previous to that had been trickling only thanks to some underground springs. This has happened a few times before, but it’s rare. And this little creek usually joins a larger one in the next property. That larger one also stopped running. My Dad can only remember this happening once before, and he’s lived in this area all his life.

The cattle have troughs to drink from, so they’re okay. But the creatures that normally live in the creeks? I don’t know whether they can migrate. I found a yabbie earlier this year, for the first time ever. And I’ve seen rats running into little caves on the creekbank. And a big goanna. And usually there are two ducks. What happens to them in a drought? I don’t know. Probably something tragic.

And that’s the context for what I’m about to tell you. Little-Pup and I were out walking this morning in the aforementioned rain. It was windy. I was struggling with an umbrella. I turned to Little-Pup and said (and this is word-for-word exact): “Oh, this rain! Goodness, how annoying it is!”

... Goodness?? ... How annoying it is?? ...

It's raining for the first time in thousands of years and I find it annoying?? And (infinitely more horrifying): when did I start saying "Goodness!"
? What the hell’s going on? Have I started channelling Mary Poppins**?

**The film Mary Poppins (based on a series of books) was a live-action/animation from Walt Disney in 1964.

From IMDb’s “Memorable Quotes from Mary Poppins” (edited a bit):
[Mary Poppins, a nanny, and the children in her care, Jane & Michael, meet up with Bert, who - though burdened by the heaviest Cockney accent in the universe - has created a beautiful chalk drawing on the pavement. He tries to take them into the picture-world.]
Bert : I'll do it myself.
Mary Poppins : Do what?
Bert : A bit of magic. It's easy. You think... you wink... you do a double blink. You close your eyes, and JUMP!
[Nothing happens.]
Jane : Is something supposed to happen?
Mary Poppins : Bert, what utter nonsense! Why do you always complicate things that are really quite simple? Give me your hand please, Michael, and don't slouch. One, two...
[And they jump.]

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Tea cosy

Even though Australia grows the best coffee in the world (oh yes we do!) at the moment I’m addicted to Madura tea.

Here’s how to make a great cuppa. Teabags are fine (crackpots will disagree) but you need to let the tea steep for five minutes. Not four and not six: five. Then take out the teabag and let the tea sit for one minute. If you like milk, add it now. And if you’re Old & Cranky** like me, sweeten yourself up by adding sugar.

Then there’s nothing to do but relax. Forget the worries of the world, because, in fact, all is now right with the world: you have a cup of tea in your hands. Ah, yes! Truly it is the cup that refreshes.

**I’m not officially Old yet (just turned 137) but that day is on the way and, as everybody knows, all old people are cranky. And because I do so love to fill out a stereotype snuggly, and because when I’m Old I’ll probably forget, I’ve become Cranky already. (This is what they mean by the “pre-emptive strike”.)

Rainbow Lorikeets

There’s nothing quite so overlooked as something you can see every day. I’m guessing this is why we Australians don’t make a fuss of the Rainbow Lorikeet. But such a beautiful bird! Look at those colours!


They seem to be invading this district: I see them practically every day now. Apparently they’re quite hardy, and prepared to take on the Noisy Miner (an aggressive little bird fond of gang warfare, often driving other birds away).

Apart from incredible colours, Rainbow Lorikeets are characterised by a peculiar sound, which I will now try to recreate... It’s something like a muffled bell saying a quick “nyup-nyup-nyup” - but warm and chattery. (Okay, so that didn’t work at all. Sorry.) They also have a distinctive type of flight: imagine drawing a cartoon boat on a wavy sea; the line you’ve used to depict the sea looks like their flight in profile. They make their nests in hollow trees or other enclosed spaces.

Which explains why one Lorikeet couple once tried to nest in the roof overhang outside the kitchen window here. One of them would sit on the guttering while the other tried to squeeze into the ceiling through a loose bit of corrugated iron. Unfortunately this was not a good spot for a nest. The eggs would have been cooked in the heat, or eaten by a carpet snake (many old country houses have these snakes living in the ceiling; this is a terrifying possibility which I avoid thinking about). I patched up the gap in the roof and made them a little nesting box instead. From my point of view it was a really dinky little house, and they should have been thrilled and exceedingly grateful, but the birds didn’t like it at all and went away.

Beautiful, chatty, fussy about real estate... And Australians don’t idolize them. What a puzzle.

PS. While Googling for a picture I discovered that in fruit-growing areas of Australia, Rainbow Lorikeets are regarded as pests. And they fight with other birds over nesting sites. But... but... but...! They look like such nice little birds!

Friday, October 15, 2004

Distant fires

There was a lot of smoke around today, blown across from bushfires far far away... (I hope). The smoke gave the day an eery sort of feel. It was really hot and dry, which is much easier to cope with than the humid conditions summer will soon be dumping on us. (I hate summer. Every spring I start dreading the arrival of summer, and then every damn year it arrives!)

I could see the sun going down this afternoon - and I mean look directly at it - thanks to all this smoke. It was an amazing sight: a brilliant red disc, about the same size as a full moon.

But the sun is not the same size as the moon, and is actually just a tad bigger:
p82. If the Sun stopped producing energy today, we wouldn’t know about it for ten million years. [...] the Sun is so big that heat and light from its centre take ten million years to filter up to the surface. Then it takes another eight minutes for the heat and light to travel across from the Sun to the Earth.
But don’t be fooled by size:

p96. [...] the Sun itself is nothing special. It is just an ordinary star, tucked away among many billions of stars which form a vast swarm of stars called the Milky Way galaxy. And the Milky Way galaxy is just an ordinary galaxy among many billions of other galaxies that make up the known universe.
- Anthony Wilson, The Science Museum Book of Amazing Facts: Space (London, UK: Hodder Children’s Books,1996).

What a big place it is. As far as the eye can see, plus most of the rest of the universe.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

All-aboard the handbasket?

So the Australian election's been run and won. What a mob of mug punters we are.

Clive Hamilton's article in the Sydney Morning Herald ("Self-absorption wins the day") discusses the result:

Booming house prices coupled with unprecedented levels of consumer debt have left most Australians absorbed by their own material circumstances, with little room left for thoughts of building a better society.
And Hugh MacKay, in conversation with Geraldine Doogue (Compass, ABC TV, Sunday 10 Oct 2004; transcript) touched on similar themes, though not specifically referring to the election:

[...] for the last few years it’s been a story of people really disengaging from the national agenda. Being less concerned about social and political issues. Being less charitable, being more prejudiced, less compassionate. And that doesn’t seem to me to be the kind of Australia that we have been and that’s a disturbing thing to have to report at this stage of my career.
Things are looking a bit grim, but perhaps we're not beyond redemption. Perhaps for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction. Perhaps for every parliamentary big-head there's a Bob: Messrs Brown & McMullan. The Bobs embody qualities we used to admire as being quintessentially Australian: quiet dignity, courtesy, respect. All this country needs is a few more Bobs. A few million more.

No problem.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Getting out of the house

Every day I go for a walk with the dogs (Big Pup and Little Pup - names changed to protect the innocent). Usually it involves them dragging me along at the end of the dog's lead. One dog or the other has to be tethered all the time or they race off to the creek to cause trouble, so when we're out walking, one of them is always on the lead. And I am necessarily attached to the other end of that lead. And they are not often inclined to stroll. I've tried to teach them to walk sedately, but not to the extent of actually teaching them anything. (I know. Bad dog owner! Bad, bad dog owner!)

As we made our riotous progress the other day - them running, me stumbling - I tried to devote due attention to my poor dear feelings of rattiness and desolation (it was my birthday). But those damn dogs just have no respect. They left me no time to be melancholy, and what's more depressing than that? I was driven to fast-paced despair, thinking: "So this is what my life has become!" This well-rehearsed statement usually cues the boo-hoo-hoos, but this time something unusual happened: it made me feel optimistic. This is what my life has become. Become. In a state of becoming. Not fixed and concrete and permanent, no! I'm floaty, airy, swaying stuff in motion. I'm making this life, not inhabiting it.

If the dogs were impressed by this sudden enlightenment, they didn't let on.


I need to rejoin the human race.

At some point (don't know where, don't know when) I wandered off the track and got lost. Now it feels like I'm bogged in a swamp of inertia. Every move takes such an effort it doesn't seem worth trying, and usually I don't. But that's got to stop. Or I've got to start. One way or the other I have to get out of this swamp and get going. Yes.

So I'm starting this blog, a tiny little step on the way to somewhere new. Just one foot in front of the other till I'm out of the swamp and walking: shaking the limbs, unfurling the wings, blinking the eyes in the sunlight...

Here we go.