Sunday, March 30, 2008

I think it might be Tuesday

Down here, there's relief in the air: it's getting colder, and the ground is wet from rain these past days. The dark drops quickly and unexpectedly soon after the girls are in bed. Some days there are spaces when Lu and Nell play together and I can sit and stare into the middle distance or read or play on the internet. I've found a good yoga teacher. I've planted lots of freesias and very few broad beans; the bulbs from last year are already rising up under the apple tree with no effort on my part. It's been suggested it's time to start thinking about promotion at work.

Last night I walked across the park in the dusk, feeling pretty and singing out loud to The Church and The Triffids. I went out to dinner with women who have appeared rather suddenly in my life and who seem to like me. We ate Thai and drank wine and talked and laughed. I felt like someone resembling myself.

I used to share an office with a woman who was mad - sweet in many ways but really quite mad. (It wasn't a friendship that ended well.) When I was in a bad patch she told me: 'It can all be different on Tuesday'. In the dark times these past eighteen months it's been hard to believe that life could be anything other than what it is; time and joy were suspended. But things change, sometimes creeping towards difference and sometimes switching so quickly a person can lose their bearings. It can be hard on Monday night and happy by Tuesday noon. Joy cometh in the morning.

There have been many, many times these past months when I've believed I'd only ever remember happiness, that I wouldn't live in it again. But this Sunday night I think that maybe (knock wood, fingers crossed, God willing) the longed for Tuesday might have finally dawned. I worry that in writing this my Tuesday will slip away (I don't walk under ladders either, and freeze when a mirror cracks) but Crazy Kate gave me a gift when she said it to me, and without sounding too awfully, painfully pretentious and oracular I just wanted re-state that hope for someone else:

It can all be different on Tuesday.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Yesterday my first baby turned three. I can't quite remember the tiny dollop Lu was when the midwife first placed her in my arms but I remember that I recognised her immediately, because she was formed from a piece of my heart, much as Eve came from the rib of Adam. I had no expectations of how she would be but I knew when I held her that Lucy was exactly what we desired, even if we didn't know what that was; she was the perfect fit for our family though we had no plans about how we would manage the jigsaw.

But even as I recognised her, I couldn't possibly have foreseen what she has become. How could we know that she would be so remarkable and challenging and divine? That she would correct my pronunciation of dinosaur names, look at pictures of tornadoes on Flickr, sing when no-one is noticing but never ever dance. I would never have imagined the Lu would love a very few people, and love them with unwavering passion and loyalty; that she would spend hours in her head, dragging us along behind as Mummy raptor and Skippy and Fireman Sam and Daddy Wolf and puppy Nell and a dozen other characters. I didn't know she would climb rocks; wake up crying because she forgot to dream; argue the point; paint storms; love roses. When someone looks at her she stares back unsmiling, unwavering. She won't walk when she can skip or run or gallop like a horse. She owns the space she moves through; she rarely wears clothes, she likes to pee in the garden - who knew this is the person she'd become?

I've never understood why people want a girl. You don't get a girl, you get someone so unique, so unexpected, so utterly and completely themselves, there's not much connection to whatever it is we think a girl will be.

I wanted a child and I got a Lu, and she is exactly the right Lu for me.

Happy birthday, best Boo, love Mamma.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Just plain wrong

A tomato plant popped up amongst my cucumbers and beans, and it's still going strong even while all Amish Pastes, Tiny Tims, Olmovics, San Marzanos and the rest have given up under the hot sun and my non-committal watering. It has huge fruits but they are not turning red - I think I've got a Verna Orange on my hands. And much as I love my properly ripened tomatoes, I can't bring myself to eat these. They are orange, not red, and in my world, that's just plain wrong. It's in the league of some of my other strict and inexplicable garden rules:

* Purple leaves are just plain wrong.
* Lilac roses are just plain wrong.
* Daffodils with any pink (or 'salmon') on them are just plan wrong.
* Those little round carrots - the ones that aren't long and pointed - are just plain wrong.
* Black radishes are just plain wrong.
* Freesias without a scent are just plain wrong.

Just something to remember if you ever plan to offer me a salad.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Slide night :: Fashion rules are for wimps

(for bluemilk)

All through my childhood my mother was brave enough to let me choose my own clothes.

Now, I have really great bags and some funky shoes. As a general rule, I don't look too crazy at all. Sometimes, I even look quite nice. And I never mix my plaids, spots and stripes. Proof we learn from our mistakes.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The old house down the road, the one I was worried would be knocked down and replaced by a McMansion, is safe. The new owners are living in a caravan parked on the road while they a rebuild the interior. When it's all done, they are holding a barbeque so that the neighbourhood can come by and see what they have done. They're getting rid of the roses but I can't have them: the local women have already claimed the plants (they're vultures, these long time ladies). I dream of these sorts of people buying houses in my suburb. I love that they acknowledge the interest and ownership of the the people who already live around here, I love that they respect what already exists, I love that they are offering free meat.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Over it

In the northern hemisphere bloggers are complaining about their long cold winters and their need for spring. Here I am so over summer. It is autumn and it is 29 degrees (celsius), which is completely inappropriate. Tasmania should know better. The dirt has gone to dust and I suck it in when I dig in the garden; the 'lawn' has never looked so sad and uninviting; the flies ... the flies! the flies!

We are currently trying to rebuild a bit of a financial buffer and so have imposed a limit on petrol: one tank per month. That's almost gone and it's only the 15th, and so there's no trip to the beach. I am dying for something cool and blue.

Thus, I planted some of these:

Delayed gratification, yes, but cool and calming and something to get me through these dog days of summer.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Old School

We just bought some flat bread and it sells itself as 'first made by the Ancient Phoenicians'.

That's old school.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Maybe still a little tired

After many months - no, years - of not enough sleep things are finally getting a little better. Both girls have been pretty much sleeping through the night for a couple of months, and now it seems Al and I are learning how to do it as well.

But this morning I tried to open my office door with a banana. It didn't work. So I tried again.

It may be I haven't quite recovered from the three and a half years of sleep defecit. It may be we are all lucky I don't operate heavy machinery in my job.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Yes, Tamsin, dogs-with-an-s.

If I had world enough and time, I'd have a tribe of kids and a pack of dogs. As it is, it's two of one and one and a half of the other. We're fostering a rescued greyhound. When I say 'fostering' I mean having a greyhound stay with us, knowing that she's unlikely to be placed and so is a de facto member of the family.

Her name is Squeak, which is very inappropriate; she drifts along so elegantly it really should be Saskia or Anna. I feel like someone out of a Russian melodrama when she walks along beside me. She's regal and gorgeous with big brown eyes. She's very patient with the girls who cannot believe she's not a horse (I don't think she's aware of her rights as a pet and so puts up with a lot more than our labradoodle, who's forever looking at us with barely disguised resentment). She wants to chase down our chooks and kill them but I know the feeling so can't really blame her.

In the words of another greyhound owner: Best dog ever.

A little bit of what you fancy does you good

The other day at Clarendon Al turned to me and said, "There's a lot to be said for this kind of thing".

For a man who's long subscribed to the philosophy of if you can't eat it don't plant it, this was a turnaround, but not an unexpected one. The garden has become something of An Issue, at times even A Point of Contention, and once or twice sharp words have been spoken over who has failed to do what. This in turn is a cause for resentment - how has it come to pass that a place that for so long was a touchstone of my identity, one of the few rem(a)inders of a pre-child me, has turned into just one more thing to do?

Occasionally I read about the most luscious of gardens, filled with good things to eat, and apparently kept going on ten minutes a day. I've not managed that. The watering, the planning, the care of the soil eats into my time and is always managed with Nell on my hip and Lu tripping along beside me, wishing we were playing 'foot stuck'*. So we've had some nice veggies from the garden this year but aside from the peaches and zucchinis, not the bounty I'd hoped for.

But that's okay. For the moment I'm giving up my The Good Life dreams and recognising that I'm not a peasant and my family won't starve without a big harvest of tomatoes. I'm reading Jackie French again (and again, and again) and she writes that total self-sufficiency is a grim prospect; much better to grow what you want, what gives life richness and depth. Just growing anything without pressure does that for me, but the following things give me particular joy:
* towers of corn
* beefsteak tomatoes and cherry tomatoes for salads
* new potatoes for boiling and frying
* as much pesto as possible
* zucchinis
* broad beans to eat with Morrocoan meals and in a dip with goats feta
* raspberries, raspberries, raspberries
* lots of different lettuce for salads

With these in the garden, I don't feel poor or put upon. No-one wants to skimp and when I grow my own I don't have to. So while I'll keep planting other things, it doesn't matter so much what happens with them. Because the other luxury in my life is time when there's nothing demanding to be done. And at the moment, this is in inverse proportion with the number of plants in the veggie garden.

But thing thing that got me thinking and remembering was a comment from French's website: flowers are important. It's hard to feel deprived with a big bowl of pink roses in the room. But I want the right kind of flowers. I'm not so keen on those prim little buds in pink, red and yellow; I like things overblown and colourful, generousity spilling out all over. When it comes to flowers I like an excess of gorgeousness. Al, ever the poet, put it this way: "I don't really notice it but it's nice to have some things in vases something over there". Indeed.

We've had flowers in the garden this last, rather difficult year. But I've not often made the effort to move them into the house. It's been another 'one more thing'. When picking flowers gets mixed up in a general feeling of hopelessness about the garden, the house, the washing, the grocery shopping, the general never-ending-ness of domestic tasks, then it's time to do something about how I see the garden and about how I see my life.

So it's back to a re-think. This is always hard for me as I can be a little ... rigid. But there's something liberating and exciting about letting go of old expectations and allowing new ways of being in my life and my garden to emerge. I'm thinking many big, vulgar, pink roses (which is just how I like them), poppies bobbing in happy drifts, tulips, irises and lupins and anything else that takes my fancy. I've got at least half of these things in the garden already; the trick is to remember it, and when the glass feels half empty, to fill it with flowers.

* I get my foot stuck in a rock in a tidal river and Lu rescues me from certain drowning with a reed through which to breathe and levers to move the rock. I am tearful and grateful and hail her as a hero. And repeat.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Swimming at Paper Beach with the dogs and kids. Eating some lingering blackberries in a copse by the river. Finding my new dream house by the water.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


Desperate to get out of the house, we went Clarendon today. It was glorious. The grounds were filled with sunshine. The only sound was the humming of the bees amongst the last of the roses.

Lucy whined the whole time.

Like Good Parents we tried to capture her imagination and help her relate to these surrounds, so filled with interest and mystery. She whined.
Like Bad Parents we tried to buy her silence with ice cream. She whined.
Like Defeated Parents we packed the girls in the car and drove off back home. She whined.

You'd never guess it from this:

There are lies, damned lies and statistics. And then there are family photographs.


On the way home we stopped at the Glover Exhibition, a Tasmanian landscape art prize, always glorious. I look closely - the paintings are so beautiful and after three days they are sucked into private collections; most I will never see again.

Today I turned a corner and my heart stood still. Because there it was: the painting I've always wanted to see even without knowing what it would look like. A hazy Bruny Island pastoral, nothing identifiable but recognised by my mind's eye. I bought that painting. I'll have no new clothes for around about three years but it's worth it. You can't wear a canvas, it's true, but in a world stuffed with Things To Buy it's not often I get that sudden rush of blood to the heart.

I climbed back into the car on a high.

And Lucy whined and whinged and waa'd all the way home.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Slide night :: glamour girls

I have spent the past few days throwing up into a blue plastic bucket and tending to sick children - not my most fabulous self. In contrast to these glamorous types:

(Grammy (r) and a friend and ukelele - still a humorous prop after 80 years)

(Grandad (l) and unidentified glamorous friends)

I especially love the second photo though it's a bit spooky in its National-Socialist architecture and aesthetics. All the photos from my early 20s involve drunkeness and casual draping and a decided lack of glamour, even when the group were tricked up in black tie (and we were, more often than you might think a bunch of uni students would have cause to be - that's the UQ Law School of the 1990s for you). This on the other hand, has captured A Moment for the future.

Monday, March 3, 2008

My island home

The photos from a few posts ago were snapped by Al as I walked back over the road after taking the above. We were parked at a small church in the middle of nowhere special, a church with a swifts' nest under the eves. It was summer; our weekend away at the beach happened at the same time the area got its first proper rain in two or three years. (The holiday-rain nexus is the common denominator in all our trips away.)

I look at this and I can't believe I actually live here. I'm a lucky woman; we're a lucky family.

Tassie seems to be enjoying a certain regard in the Australian media at the moment. In the Weekend Australian magazine Swansea has been framed up as an emerging hot holiday spot; Lonnie, where I live, is in the recent edition of Australian Country Style, looking as much like a cosmopolitan urban area as the writers could manage. But it's the moments and places we stumble upon accidentally that make this place feel so special to me. Day-to-day, I tend to forget what it means to live here - it can be hard to remember in the face of loneliness and the hassles of daily life - but photos like this snap our luck and our blessings back into focus.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Just when I thought I'd won the war

A & M are coming over with their baby daughter, H, and their boy, B, who's Lucy's age and someone she plays comfortably with.

Me: We have visitors coming over. You need to put on some clothes. No nude-ness when we have guests.
Lu: No. Pants off is fine.
Me: No. You can wear trousers or you can wear a dress. What's it to be?
Lu: Hmm, a dress. B likes to see me in a dress.

How? What? Where? WTF? I'm not sure B can even say dress. I've never said anything like that; I don't know a woman who would. I don't know a man who'd hold a preference (or at least speak it in those terms). It sounds like bad dialogue from a soap - 'girl talk' to establish 'character'. But we don't watch that kind of thing.

I thought the enemy was at the gates but it turns out we've been infiltrated.

I am quietly freaking out and switched into remedial feminist indoctrination mode. And casting suspicious looks at everyone.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I think today was the final blackberry session of the season. Last week, there was more than enough for all, even with a greedy labradoodle. Today, there were more pink and ungiving fruits than luscious black ones. Many looked delicious on the side that faced the sun but on the shadow side they were unripe. And the best picks have retreated beyond arms' reach, deep in the copses, available only to the birds.

I picked madly, but couldn't keep up with Nell's demands for more as she waddled behind me, mouth open and chirping like an insatiable baby bird. In the end she was most content on my hip, pointing out the particular berries she wanted. (I had a vision of the future and she was standing in an Italian market telling the stall holder 'Not that one, that one, that one at the back'.) Last year Lu was crazy for the fruit but this year she'll only accept the most perfect 'blackberry dazzlers' - the rest are licked, rejected as too furry/ spiky/ pink/ yuk and passed on to her sister. For Lu, the cemetary is now more delightful for the possibility of adventure to be found underneath the oak trees or through the head high grass.

The last blackberries and now a long wait over the year. But not so long as I thought - how is it that February has already passed and autumn visits us in th mornings now?