Sunday, June 29, 2008

Tickled pink

As a feminist, I don't love pink. I'm uncomfortable with its role as boundary marker between 'boy' and 'girl'. I don't like the way computers, bikes, play cars are splashed with that particular, searing shade to signify something as suitable for the girls. But as a person, I love pink. Not Cartland pink, a sad caricature of the warmth and loveliness. And not the pale pink you find on clothes for baby girls. But a deep, bright, rich pinkish pink - oh that I love.

I wear a bit of pink in subtle and small ways but I work in an industry where grey is considered quite a forward kind of a colour and so I try not to splash it about. But I am happy to stumble across pinkness: serendipity pink, like the flowers above, which sit under the gum tree outside my front gate. Or yesterday morning, sitting with the girls down a lane, in the sun, against the low pink fence of an old pink house. Above us deep pink camellias splashed against the winter blue sky. In our laps sat white boxes with raspberry framboise and a berry and custard brioche; we ate them with wooden spoons. Behind us a small bird, not pink but yellow breasted and blue winged, sang and flitted as Nell and I tried to catch glimpse. We sat in the pink of it all, for a perfect few moments. That kind of pink, I love.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Me! Me ! Meme!

As per request of Zoe at the funky Rivetkitty , the community-minded powerhouse Daisy at Daisy patch and Jillian at the sly and sideways Flyleaf :

The rules:

1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning

2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.

3. At the end of the post, the player tags 5 people and posts their name, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

What was I doing 10 years ago?

Mid-twenties, not a good time. Al and I were living in a sad and bad share house full of passive aggression and side taking. We spent a lot of evenings walking around New Farm to get out of it all. The house is still there: a big old rendered place with a terrace on top of the garage, owned by an Italian family (it's in Hastings St, New Farm). Still, it is the only garden in which I've grown excellent peas, and I first discovered Spanish and lemon thyme, which remain two of my favourite scents. I also had some seriously gorgeous parsley.

What else? I was starting my PhD but without a lot of direction. I went to the gym. I saw movies but didn't read very much. I cooked for the house on Monday nights. I had just returned from a holiday in Thailand and Vietnam. I was kind of rudderless, which was my state of being throughout my twenties. I'm very glad to have moved on.

Five snacks I enjoy in a perfect, non weight-gaining world (and in this world as well):

Only five? Brie on oat biscuits, mars bar slice, chocolate eclairs, honey joys, Schulte's wurst, from up past Gatton.

Five snacks I enjoy in the real world:

Olives, hommous + carrot sticks, rice crackers with peanut butter or avocado, lemon and s+p, boiled peanuts (but I haven't had them for years - do people still make them?), BBQ flavoured chips (because no-one makes Atomic tomato anymore).

Five things I would do if I were a billionaire:

Tithe, travel, buy up all the wild spaces in and around my town, look after my family, establish a Montessori school in my suburb.

Five jobs that I have had:

Tutor for NESB primary school kids, waitress, tutor for ATSI tertiary students, phone survey gal, university lecturer.

Three of my habits:

I bite my nails, can never push a drawer completely closed, pull out weeds in other people's gardens.

Five places I have lived:

Hobart, Launceston, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hamilton (in Western Victoria). I regret never having had the guts to go live overseas.

Five things to do today:

Plant scavenged violets under the apple trees, buy some cream, crunch numbers, pick up Lu from kindergarten, keep the fire going. So far, so good.

Five people I want to get to know more about:

Well, in the spirit of Jillian, I dream of finding out about the following:

This guy, who used to manage my favourite cafe, Fresh, and then disappeared, replaced by the current team, under obviously angry circumstances. I didn't see him for four or five years and then three weeks ago I saw him driving an old black ute, pulling out of a driveway two streets away. And then on Saturday I saw him dragging a bag of concrete into the old house I dreamed of buying, up near the land slip areas with an orchard out the back and a copse of old pine trees sighing like the sea. All this time I've wondered, for no good reason, who is he?

Cate Blanchett, whom I saw at the airport last Tuesday, babe in arms and sons circling about, her husband rushing up ahead looking harried and just as rumpled as he appears in all the women's mags. She is so skinny and so white and I want to know, is it hard to be that skinny and that white? Are you always hungry? And where did you get that really great skirt?

The guy down the road from me, who is doing up his house with scavenged materials. He has a neat little veggie patch with lovely citrus trees and a prolific passionfruit vine. He used to own a goat called Jeremy, who loved him and brayed for his return of an evening. I've never seen anyone with the man and I want to ask, are you lonely?

The women in a house across the road from me, who never shuts up her vicious dog that goes for anyone who walks by and will start to bark when he sees someone from the top of the street. I want to know, why won't you shut up your damn dog?

The outdoors adventure couple who live at the corner and who are slowly creating a really lovely garden with a pond and pots of good things to eat. They have the tiniest house in Launceston and I want to know, how do you fit all your stuff in there? And where's the bathroom?

But I don't know if these people have blogs and so I'll ask the following mysterious types to share:

Janine at Lost in reverie (a friend for nine or so years - but what was she doing the year before we met?)
My parents at Grace Hill
Kate at Inner city garden (what do inner city folk have on a to do list on a Wednesday?)
Rach of Grandy and Baa (from Tassie to Sydney - what's the story?)
Ingrid from If .... (she's on a break but what does one snack on in a small Austrian village?)

Friday, June 20, 2008


We ate alfresco in the area yesterday. I can take or leave pink milk (banana and raspberry smoothie) and left over pannacotta consumed on a damp log in a thicket but I can't get enough of the seeing my girls turn into sisters, with a world and a love all their own.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wine and roses

Back from Melbourne: work and fun. Seeing friends I've not seen for three years, meeting their kids, drinking and talking late into the night, shocked and unsurprised that distance and time can't alter the ease of our connection. And especially, tramping into Tambo's rose paddock, with hundreds of plants in straight lines, snipping armfuls of over-blown, luscious, bold and refined flowers, snipping in the drizzle for half an hour without guilt or cost and then carrying them into the elegant little farmhouse and stuffing vases to stare at, in awe of such abundance and thankful to be part of it. Roses are always best on a kitchen table, to sit by the tea and gossip.

Holidays are a time to drink from the well. I once thought this meant lovely meals in expensive restaurants and shopping in big cities; but really, it's sitting quietly in the lives of old friends, remembering their rhythms and savoring their joy.


Yesterday the girls and I went into the garden and picked the first jonquils, which have popped up under the apple trees. Then into the kitchen where Lu and Nell created some elegant arrangements.

And now the smell pulls me back to an oval in the Western District of Victoria in the early 1980s, bounded by thickets of these flowers, discovered by Nicole and me as we rode our bikes around the town.


Today Lucy smelled a rose and murmured, transported, "Aaah, it smells like salami. So lovely".

Thursday, June 12, 2008


All day long there are words, words, words. My girls talk, and so Tuesday, Thursday and Friday it's chat, chat, chat, mainly about babies, horses, dinosaurs, dragons, kittens and dogs. At work I have the same conversation about the same issues three times a week, I meet people, I write-edit-write-edit-write-edit, and send off a million emails; all my words get used up on things I am paid to say. By the end of each day there are almost no words left; I look for some silence, sitting on the couch and staring at the fire, maybe reading a book. I have all these thoughts swirling but no words to catch them. Sometimes I feel trapped in the quiet but mostly it's okay: some things don't need any words at all.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sunday morning

This morning was smoggy and grey outside and we spent it sitting by the fire. Nell bumbled and Lu and Al, and then I, began Narnia. After three years of spot, dot, rot, with a little bit of Lynley Dodd and some Seuss to keep us sane, the strong, wry, elegant words of C.S. Lewis are a joy to bat around. And Lu loved it, too: we're already almost through The Magician's Nephew, and the promise of a Lucy, snow and animals that talk in the next book keep her turning the pages.

We can rarely be sure where and when our kids pick up their words but one day of Lewis and 'vanish', 'tea', 'witch' are part of the lexicon. Which is just fine, but I can't wait until 'by gum' and 'I say' enters our our world.


And on language, Nell, who has around about twenty or thirty words to her credit can spit out 'yuk' with a clarity and conviction that makes me quail. Combining Nell's 'yuk' and Lucy's drawled and withering 'disgusting', mealtimes are somewhat of a trial at the moment.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Wish fulfillment

Around a couple of corners, up the lane and behind a falling down fence lies a whole yard of what we call 'Santa Clauses'. Were they linked to wishes in childhood, cousin to blowing out candles all in one go, shooting stars, four leaf clovers and the rest? It's a great idea for keeping kids quiet: I remember my friends and I spending hours searching through clover for the elusive leaf and rummaging about for a specially marked flower amongst the yellow "daisies", which were some kind of aggressive weed. Not that I particularly wistful or wishful child - whining was more my thing. Nor did I plan to use my wishes for good - oh, I always claimed I would wish for world peace, to fit in with the other morally hoity-toity girls, but really, my plan was to wish for a million extra wishes and then use them at my leisure. No need for such loop-holes in this backyard.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Today, the girls were at their carer's house and I worked from home. At lunch, Al came by and we went for a short walk, just around the corner and up a lane, so that I could show him a pink room in a house. We held hands and my body remembered itself at twenty-seven, in those lonely and confusing basil-scented days (were my twenties spent in gardens, lonely and confused?): no kids in arms and on shoulders, no prams and strollers, no toys that were Absolutely Necessary when we started out and discarded twenty metres down the road, no pulling dogs, no nappy bags, no work bags, no bus-is-leaving-in-ten-minutes-and-I-think-I-can-make-it-if-I-walk-faster
just-missing-it-all-those-people-staring-at-your-sad-mistimed-self, no deadlinedeadlinedeadline, not even an ipod. I felt so light, I was dizzy.

Three hours later I pushed the bloody big pram, bane of my existence, large as a hay cart and just about as manoeuvrable, back home from the carers, laden down with: 2x screaming kids (reasons: 'cold feet', 'tired arm' and 'want yoghurt', and unspecified); 1x nappy bag filled with muddy clothes; 3x socks + 2x pairs of gum boots; 2x under-clothed baby dolls; 2x tupperware containers with half-eaten lunches; 1x plastic bag holding 1x tub Nuttlex and 1x carton soy milk; 1x over-eager labradoodle and 1x lagging greyhound. Two hundred and seventy-three strange and lovely years have passed since my twenties, and I'm not sorry about it, not a bit.

Driving the point home

One of Lucy's favourite stories:

Once upon a time, there was a naughty little girl, who smoked and also liked to light fires; she was a FIRE BUG. One day, she lit a fire at the beach, and all the grasses burned and all the shrubs in the back dunes, and all the trees as well. And the animals had no where to go, they ran away from the fire which burned and burned and burned. And the poor animals had to run to the city because their homes burned, poor things, and they were very sad. And the beach was ruined and people couldn't swim there and people were sad too. But the police caught that naughty firebug and sent her in front of a judge in a COURT OF LAW. The judge said she was very naughty and sent her to jail where there was no telly and no nice food. And serve her right, that naughty firebug.

Our kids pick up all sorts of cues that we are not even aware of. But I feel it is useful to really hammer home important life lessons. Subtlety is for the weak.

This story also makes me realise that even after decades working as a sociologist, I am clearly seduced by a punishment rather than rehabilitation paradigm.


Lucy has just been introduced to Struwwelpeter and she loves it. It's falling apart and so she's not allowed to touch - which adds to its mystery and desirability - and in the morning over cornflakes we read about kids getting burned while playing with matches and starving because they won't eat the soup. I've not yet introduced her to the kid who sucks his thumbs and has them cut off by a ruthless scissor-hand creature; as an erstwhile thumbsucker I still find that a little too close to home.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Couldn't give a fig

Sick, again. Al had tonsilitis last weekend and into the beginning of the week; I held on until Friday and am now wallowing in unspecified illness. How is it that no-one has splashed a red cross above our door?

I wandered out into the sun in the back garden yesterday afternoon, to indulge in a little morose drifting about. And there, in the far corner, next to the compost bins, on its small and sorely neglected tree, I came across the last remaining fig. It has escaped the birds, the kids, and the frosts, and was perfectly, sweetly, sexily ripe; purple and pink and pale, pale green; an unexpected gift hanging off the elegant bare branches. Normally, I share my finds with the girls, to encourage them to see the garden as a place of promise and deliciousness, but not when it comes to figs. No-one loves figs as much as I do, and these are my selfish delight, the one bit of garden produce I keep all for myself.

When I first moved down here, I lived in a small terrace house that backed onto a lane. (For the local readers: on Balfour St, the first terrace next to the Sporties hotel.) Two houses down, the yard was filled with massive fig trees, with branches that hung over the fence. When the fig season came I would wander down each morning, collect an armful of ripe fruit and then sit on my deck under the banksia rose and grape vines and gobble the goodies in the cool morning air. Even after we moved, I would sometimes take a walk past the fence at an appropriate time of year and renew my acquaintance with those generous trees.

Driving past the lane the other day, I noticed the trees have been heavily pruned so that there can be no more sharing with the neighbours. Even though the branches will no doubt grow back, and even though I hadn't visited for a couple of years, I felt that one of my special places had been irrevocably altered, and I was washed, inexplicably, in a subtle yearning for those lonely, confusing and fig-filled days.