Thursday, 14 September 2017

Howard Arkley flats

I ride past this block of flats in Rathdowne St pretty regularly and sometimes I wonder if any of the residents know that Howard Arkley painted it twice: 1987, 1999

Either the real estate agents are unaware of this fact or they've been apprised of it but they don't regard it as a selling point. This is very disappointing. What is capitalism for if not for ouroborosses of reification?  

I won't be making an offer.

here again, are we? yes we are.

gone to a better place

Through a sequence of unbelievably hilarious misadventures which, were I to actually recount them, would of course display to advantage my unique personal brand of charming incompetence, I was fifteen minutes late for my session on Monday afternoon. To get to the consulting room on time I have to savagely fang it across Melbourne, and also, leave work when I need to leave and not a minute later. So I usually get there dripping with perspiration and gasping for air. The doctor obviously thinks this means I have been panic-cycling because she says, it doesn't matter if you're a little bit late sometimes. But that's not true. It clearly does matter, because when I am late, that is when we have the sessions where she just comes right out and says the harsh truths. Fifteen minutes late is a lot late in a forty-five minute session and the truths were correspondingly harsh. 

One of the volunteers at work said to me on Monday, You know that seasonal affective disorder? I reckon I get that. As he spoke he looked really, really sad. He's 89, but you would not know it. I thought, maybe that's what this is. Maybe I just need to get out from inside this bundle of coats and jumpers and scarves and gloves and feel the sun on my face and a warm breeze blowing across my bare skin.

The doctor said, you want what you cannot have and this is the only reason you want it. You want this because you have spent your entire life wanting something that was not available to you. The emotions are real but they belong to a much earlier time, not to what's happening now. You have to accept this. When you accept, there will be grief.

Easy for her to say.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Dirt heap update

Words can't express how I am feeling today but that's OK because this photograph of the dirt heap pretty much sums it up.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Weekend is finished now. All gone.

On Friday morning I drove to Lancefield. It was a lovely day and around about Bulla I started to feel that I should make the most of the adventure of being let out alone, and do something extraordinary to challenge myself - find something that I was afraid of and do it anyway.

So I decided to get my eyebrows waxed in Romsey
The abandoned pioneer settlement of Romsey

 When I pushed open the door of the Romsey Beauty Spot I felt very frightened for just a moment but it was fine in the end, so much so that I really shouldn't have worried. I didn't so much forget to take eyebrow photos for before and purposes as I only just thought of it.  Lack of pictures aside that adventure worked out pretty much okay for me.

Here's my new shoes instead and you may also enjoy having a little think about $10 bags of horse carrots and how much fun it is to give horses carrots to eat. 

Hore carrots

 I'm hideously sleepy so in lieu of needless words here are three more pictures of Lancefield  

Last Thursday

Despite having kinda crappy health still, I did go to work last Thursday. I got very wet on my bike on the way home, thanks to the freezing cold rain that the sky insisted on throwing all over everything, but it didn't matter because I had a wonderful feeling of peacefulness, energy and optimism percolating through me. I took a photo of the dirt heap to document the moment and that is also why I'm writing this post now.

That's my shadow making an eye which is looking at you.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Things are going to keep on happening

Just like the white winged dove Lenny sings a whole lot of songs which either one or both of his parents appear to have taught him along with some others that he can only have learned at school and which I had to google fragments of in order to find out that they emanate from Katy Perry and other, less recognisably global multinational but equally autotuned fictional human being brands. Well, I have showed him how to go crazy dancing to Yazoo so my work is essentially done, although he does not acknowledge that my work is done and will not allow me to sit down or leave the room while he dances. Could be an only child thing, I guess. He still gets very sad when he hears a sad song, I know better now than to let him hear Sufjan Stevens but oh, there are so many other hitherto unsuspectedly sad songs in the world.

I am going to Lancefield the day after tomorrow. I have asked Yes/No Tarot many times if it might snow. Yes/No Tarot says yes/no so I am thinking the odds are good. Not terribly long after that I'm got to La Trobe for a conference, gosh, how is that going to go down?!?!? Will I have a complete nervous collapse?!?!?! I still have a key to my old office, shall I take it with me and try it out? And keys to sundry other doors there too. Well, assuming I avoid being sent to prison, a little while after that I'm going to the very edge of Victoria for work, on the train again so that will be quite an exciting thing in its own right as I will be in a position to compare the Wodonga train with the Warrnambool one. And after that I am going to Numbugga, that will unquestionably be amazing. After that there is the day of "thousands of children + unnecessary quantities of horses = ?????" coming up at work, I always look forward to these things so much, and after that I am going to a conference at VU! What a life I lead, and Vinnie is no help at all.


I'm sick today! This means I am not at work. Being sick is a small price to pay for not going to work today and participating in what's happening there right now. I will not give in to the temptation to elaborate on this in public. This is quite a sad thing for you, reader my dear, because if you're somebody who I have the good fortune to know and see in real life, it's inevitable that you'll have to hear about the whole farcical business sooner or later, at a length almost certainly not of your own choosing, and if you're one of the people who I don't see in the real world, then obviously it's sad for you in that you will never know the truth and you will be driven mad with relentless wondering.

Well, dry your tears, because after all it is I and not you who is sick. I have a blinking pain in the left ovary, it has been blinking for five days now and it's beginning to get me down. I'll have an ultrasound next week - those pelvic ultrasounds, always such a treat, shall I liveblog it? - but meanwhile what's working for me is reading about Poland, Burma, and Soviet Russia in WWII, drinking herbal tea, nursing a hot water bottle, and doing lots and lots of moaning. Also the thought of going to Lancefield on Friday for craft camp.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

v-line apology

When I went to Warrnambool on the train I was sarcastic about the dirty windows, but just now I saw these two photos I took out one of said windows before my phone died. I'd forgotten about them.

Aren't they nice? The dirt on the windows is not so much dirt, it turns out, as it is an Instagram filter. They look like slides from someone's coast holiday in the 1960s.

I am sorry v-line.


Nice weather this afternoon, and I was certain the Canning St lotus eaters would all come out of their dens and lie down on the grass pouring cask wine into their mouths.  As you can see however
they didn't.  Disappointed again. I wonder where they all were? Dancing on moonbeams and sliding on rainbows? Taking the pony for a walk? It is Thursday after all. 
When I was almost home I saw this pile of dirt, not for the first time it must be said.

It's been there for ages but the trail of little footprints in it appeared no more than a week ago. Some kid has walked in it. If a volcano goes off in Brunswick East this will get covered in volcanic ash and soon after that ('soon' in terms of cosmic time) the footprints will become fossils. I think the likelier scenario is that whoever caused the dirt to be put here and built that poetically stark enclosure around it will come and get the dirt and move it about thus obliterating the footprints. When they've been rubbed out, nobody will ever know they were here or remember their brief existence - that is, nobody except for you, dear reader. "''"'"Lest we forget"'"''"

Well I have three choices before me for the remainder of the evening: See if there are more episodes of Get Krack'n on iview, sew a cloth badge that says 'Employee of the Month' onto my parka, or start reading this horrendous book about WWII that I brought home from work called All Hell Let Loose - I can see it's been written by some sort of British equivalent of Peter Fitzsimons but it's properly global and properly focused on the perspectives and experiences of ordinary people. Yeah, a real laff riot.  Or there is a fourth option, straight to bed without any supper.

Sunday, 27 August 2017


I do not know why I've taken it upon myself to write forty thousand words about a mildly interesting book I read a little while ago. I've had another go at finishing the post - still going - seriously, no fucking idea why. When I could be wasting my time and wearing out my finger muscles writing about so many so much more interesting topics, such as providing posterity with a veiled account of the very worst meeting in the world (I was fortunate enough to attend it a few weeks ago) or telling you again that I am not finding it specially easy to live my life.

Well, somewhat foolishly, I sang "I've been to Paradise but I've never been to me" to Leonard a week or so ago and he's all into it now. What a song! Slutshaming so over the top that it backfires and makes the supposedly regrettable hedonism of the lady's past life sound totally awesome, although I am not too sure about the being undressed by kings part. Google the lyrics if you do not remember. Of course I've been singing it too and encouraging him for all I'm worth. Charlene pales into insignificance beside the other song that's big with him right now - it's this sickening Christian thing about the Rapture which he apparently got access to by asking Dorian what is the best song ever. I am proud of Leonard for being able to think like a person who gets access to eBay Platinum Reserve but also it is very alarming that he learned the words to this song after hearing it two or three times. Last time it was played for him he sat on the floor, hands in prayer position, eyes closed, singing along - nooooooooooo.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Vinnie, etc

Poor Vinnie. I say "poor Vinnie" but honestly, my sympathy and compassion for him is limited, even though he's quite pitiful. Here he is next to me on the couch right now 
He just really, really wants a cuddle and I completely understand that - everyone wants to be cuddled - but he has zero idea about how to behave and he can only sit quietly by my side for a few minutes before he is driven to claw and bite, never understanding that this isn't behaviour which makes a person want to cuddle him. He's just kind of disgusting and he isn't to blame for that, and I know that nobody else will love him or even be niceish to him or pay him a little bit of attention every now and then. None of this actually matters because I just can't get enthusiastic about him. He's Vinnie and he always will be.

I've just finished reading Men of Mont St Quentin by Peter Stanley

I've read quite a bit of this fairly interesting writer's work at this point. When I started at the Shrine, I asked a colleague who's an active professional historian to give me a reading list that would help me not just to fill in the huge gaps in my knowledge of Australian war history, but also to get my bearings in whatever debates were going on in the field. It probably says something not very good about me that I asked to be pointed especially toward significant figures in the discipline who've made a stand against post-Howard historical revisionism. (Going tribal at the outset, always a dick move.) Stanley was one of the people identified for me then and consequently I've read a lot of his stuff over the past year and a half - in fact I've read far more of him arguing with other historians than I have of those other historians actually putting their cases. It's a little like listening to someone in your train carriage having an argument on the phone: sure, the person on the other end of the line probably is a fascist, but what you mainly get first hand experience of is the cross person beside you.

Anyway this book is one of those very worthwhile & instructive textual objects: a narrative experiment, triggered by qualities in the source material that don't appear to be amenable to capturing or conveying in conventional ways. This is maybe the best reason to experiment with form; possibly these are the only circumstances where genuine form-breaking is able to produce a fully legible and coherent text. Measured against the various intentions/ambitions Stanley describes at different points in the book, I don't think the experiment is entirely successful, but it comes close enough to suggest some very interesting possibilities for this kind of history.

The primal source is a set of scrapbooks made by a Hawthorn man called Garry Roberts, whose son Frank died at Mont St Quentin in France on 1 September 1918. That's Frank and his wife Ruby on the book cover. Garry had been documenting his family and community in scrapbooks for many years before the war so he was fluent in the medium, if you like. When his son went to war Garry collated and curated every bit of correspondence, news, information, photos, cuttings - anything that shaped his understanding of what was happening to Frank. When Frank was killed, Garry, like so many other heartbroken people in this country, in his grief needed to know as much as he could about the circumstances of his son's death and where his body was buried. He sought out the surviving members of Frank's platoon and elicited from all of them detailed accounts of the battle, Frank's death and what happened afterwards. All this, along with official and journalistic accounts of the battle, official correspondence, photographs, postcards, clippings, letters of condolence, the complete textual web, went into the scrapbooks, which Garry kept making for the rest of his life, and which are now in the collection of the State Library of Victoria.

Those scrapbooks sound cool. They sound like phenomenally powerful objects that both demand interpretation and render it superfluous / impossible. They sound to me like a fantastic example of the collection as the medium par excellence for expressing the lived experience of the twentieth century. You know that I am completely seduced by things like that - any kind of personal attempt to make sense of something ineffable through an organised selection of things connected to it. And these scrapbooks clearly exert some power because they have been the subject of a string of responses. Stanley lists half a dozen books and theses that have engaged with them (some of them are classics of Australian history), and since his book appeared (it's a few years old), the scrapbooks also came to play a key role in Melbourne Museum's exhibition about Australian families' experiences of the First World War, Love & Sorrow. I've seen the display. One of the scrapbooks is there, open in a book cradle, and placed next to it are some relics of the Roberts family that will make most people weep and also perhaps reflect on the infinite capacity of objects to represent not just a loved person but also to hammer home that person's absence. There's a curl of Frank Roberts's baby hair, letters from him, a tattered cloth parcel which Ruby had posted to Frank two days after his death containing one bootee belonging to their baby Nancy who Frank had never seen, and both bootees, and Frank's medals and his dead man's penny. Those things are pretty shattering but they don't speak. You have to impute a narrative to them. Mixed in with them the scrapbook looks a bit like another sad and silent object. Going only by its effect on historians who've worked with it, I think it isn't in the same category.  The curators have done as much as possible to allow the scrapbook's richness to emerge: there's a touchscreen next to the case where visitors to the exhibition can turn the digitised pages. Even so what dominates is the depth and extent of Garry Roberts' grief: in the context of the exhibition devoted to the topic of emotion and the war, not much else could cut through.

But Peter Stanley, who is a military historian, seems to have found the most remarkable thing about the scrapbooks to be not what they represented about Garry Roberts's grief but how that grief frames and drives a polyphonic, braided, temporally shifting and multivocal representation of the war, the voices of the living and the dead, the campaign and the battle, the aftermath and the consequences. Those first-hand accounts of the battle given to Garry by the surviving members of Frank's platoon are set by Stanley into dialogue with official records, against partial accounts by figures like Monash, Frank Hurley and Charles Bean, and eventually with the interpretative work carried out by journalists, war artists and the first historians. He says there is no comparable collection of minutely focused first-hand accounts of frontline fighting and I have no reason to doubt this and also no idea whether it's likely to be true (but soldiers wrote letters all the time didn't they? Certainly there seem to be zillions of letters and diaries recording individual perspectives on the Gallipoli landing). I must confess I was more interested in the historiographic reflections on the unique insights afforded by this collection of testimonies than in the book's actual telling of the battle. It occurred to me that one reason I felt a little let down is that I've read plenty of fiction about the Great War and because I'm kind of sloppy about keeping these things quarantined, it didn't strike me as particularly special to observe an event narrated through multiple (inconsistent) consciousnesses. In fact I wondered a couple of times, why doesn't he just write a novel?

The density of the scrapbooks created problems as well as opportunities. (still going)

Saturday, 19 August 2017

I'm on a train!

I’ve had a great day. It started at half past five when I got up and got dressed and rode my bike to Southern Cross station where I got onto a train to Warrnambool. That whole part wasn’t actually so much fun, it was raining and dark at 6 o’clock and about four degrees and I got so so so cold and because there was such a lot of water on the streets I went very slowly and only arrived at the train just in time, so I had to get on still in my wet things which I’d intended to change, and because I was short of time I also had to skip the very important step of getting a coffee, and therefore my outward journey was conducted in frozen coldness and I had to drink train coffee too. I forced it down with an egg and cheese roll that was the most hilariously unfoodlike substance I have eaten in years. The egg had had something incredible done to it and the roll was like…I want to say it was like a sponge but it was spongy without any recovery whatsoever. It had the quality of an edible object that has been grown in a vat or in a jar by adding water like a packet of sea monkeys. I needed to have the coffee, but the roll I only ate as an adventure, look, I am 44 and I’ve been on a lot of country trains. I knew it was going to be gross. It didn't matter because I also knew I would be going straight to Day Kitty as soon as I got to Warrnambool, of which more anon. 

The pair in the two seats in front of me (I am travelling in first class, did I mention that? la-di-dah. Ladidah!) were on their own transcendental culinary adventure - they methodically ate their way through one each of every kind of food you could get from the snack bar, and oh, the looks of concern on their faces when, just after Terang, the conductor came on the radio and said the snack bar would be closing soon! Anyway the train was pretty great, because even though it is obviously a point of pride with V-Line to never clean the windows of their trains, I could look out the window, and oh boy did I see a lot of cool things outside there. Heaps of animals, mainly. So many cows you would not believe it. I saw one very big hare running really fast across a field for absolutely no reason, I saw two foxes sitting in a small crater, heaps of rabbits that were having a great day, some alpacas, a camel, lots of horses. It was just like going in a train across a gigantic farm for hours and hours and I won’t lie, I fucking loved it. And I saw lots of towns too and railways stations. 

When I was a girl and used to go to Melbourne on the train very frequently, there were not as many railway stations as there are now. The canonical stations were these: Warrnambool, Terang, Camperdown, Colac, Birregurra, Geelong, Footscray, Spencer St. No others. Well, the train passed through many suburban stations but didn’t stop at any except Footscray. Now there appear to be about ten more stops, the new ones with poorly chosen names like Marshal, Sherwood Park, etc.  The other things I did on the train were piss in the toilet, which I don’t recommend if you can hold on because train toilets are the absolute worst, and sleep for a while curled up on my first-class seat and the one next to it, and I wrote the abstract for a conference I am going to go to in an effort to start rebuilding a connection with academia. I need to find people who I can talk with about the work I’m doing and who understand why it matters to make space for talking and exploring ideas, and that it’s ok to argue and debate as part of that exploration. I love my work and I like my colleagues but that sort of dialogue isn’t something we do and I miss it and need it back.

Well, 700+ words and I haven’t even got up to the part of the story where I get off the train yet. So I got to Warrnambool, went to Day Kitty which I do not know if I have mentioned on here before, but it is a cafe in Warrnambool which serves what I feel absolutely confident in saying is the most delicious, nourishing, good food in Australia and possibly the whole world. It occupies a shop, next to the cinema, which used to be Flaherty’s Chocolates, and there is a poetry to this which I won’t bother trying to unpack because everyone who reads this blog is well capable of unpacking it for themselves. Just go to Warrnambool and eat at Day Kitty then tell me what you had. What I would really like to do is to go there with you and watch your face when you take your first bite. That would make a good film, perhaps I can get some funding to make it happen, what do you think? Today I stood at the counter like a child in a sweetshop and read the menu several times until I was ready to commit. I had the okonomiyaki with a fried egg on top and a very good coffee and I read the paper and looked out the window at the sunshine drifting across Kepler St and savoured every heavenly mouthful.

After that I rode my bike around Warrnambool for a while which was great, I had vague thoughts of doing some op-shopping but instead I went and looked at some of the houses I’d lived in and hung a few laps past Kermond’s hamburgers because I do like the smell, how have they managed to make sure it never changes? How do they distribute it into the air so effectively? And then I went to the Warrnambool Art Gallery where my friend has a show and was giving a floor talk. Her work comes out of her recent experience of cancer, and it was powerful and beautiful. After her talk she and I had lunch and talked (not at Day Kitty because it isn’t open on Saturday afternoons) and walked along the beach until it was time for me to get back onto the train which is where I am now. Although I have gone on and on and on about the train it wasn’t actually the high point of the day and nor was being fed delicious vegetarian soul food, it was seeing my dear, dear oldest friend doing something so brave and amazing and spending a few lovely hours with her.