Tuesday, 23 October 2018


Just three pictures from the road trip, which is a long time ago now, to break the posting drought. I got back from that trip so bursting with Thoughts, almost all about the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement, and all set to Write Something about it, but honestly? I knew, even while I was thinking about it, that I would not be able to make it work.

Anxiety has been my constant companion recently. Right now, I'm feeling apprehensive about possibly not getting enough sleep tonight, and while i do have the alarm set for half past five, I feel like this most evenings, including on weekends when I never really need to wake up any earlier than say eight o'clock. So, while the only way to put that sort of nonsense to rest is to drag it out into the light of day and stare it down ie don't frighten myself into going to sleep earlier and earlier every evening, to the detriment of living my life, I am not going to carry on writing. I haven't go much to say right now that isn't negative and gloomy. Oh I wish it were otherwise. Well, I will write again tomorrow. One step at a time eh Captain Mainwaring.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Road trip

Frontrunner for greatest photograph of 2018

Leonard and I have left Melbourne for a few days. We're in a hotel right now but tomorrow night and several nights after, we're sleeping in a tent. Last time we went camping it was a complete and utter disaster. Today it took nearly three hours to fill every bit of space in the car with objects, including a pair of pet beds I impulse-bought at Kmart this morning for us to loll around on, chairs, a table, tent, bed, blankets, sleeping bags, lights etc etc etc, plus a sobering quantity of clothing and probably not enough books.  There are a couple of near-freezing nights forecast and I feel sure I've brought so many things that it will be frustrating and painful digging through them and trying to locate, say, a pair of warm and dry socks, but at the same time I don't doubt I have failed to pack numerous essential pieces of equipment.

I really have no idea at all why I thought this trip would be a good move, but just because I can't think of a reason for undertaking it, that doesn't mean it won't turn out to be fun. Not necessarily.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Clean and tidy

I am drinking peppermint and ginger tea out of a very nice cup. It is the first time that the cup has been drunk out of, I hope this is what it wished for. The house is warm, clean, bathed in shadows and soft golden light, very quiet, and smells faintly of lavender and sandalwood. The cat is sitting on the couch back about 30cm to my left. He's purring. He loves it, just loves it, when the furniture and the floor has recently been vacuumed, funny about that since he's the producer of all of the things that make it necessary to vacuum. I can't look at him because that just sets him off into all sorts of stupid behaviour. My hair and skin are damp and clean, I'm wearing blue cotton pyjama pants and a very soft white tshirt with a picture of a disco ball and LCD Soundsystem written under it, and as well as this cup of tea I have a bowl of cut-up oranges. The dishes are all washed, the laundry basket doesn't contain enough dirty clothes to fill up the machine, there are nice things to eat in the kitchen if I get hungry. When I get into bed I will lie down in fresh smooth sheets and I will sleep until the sun comes up. And it has taken an enormous effort today to get things to this point. As usual, one has to wonder if a quiet clean house - all the chores finished and nothing left to do - is worth all the time and trouble.

Why not just ignore the dust and the fluff and the piles of unfolded laundry, the heap of hats and coats, the mounds of pencils and drawings and loops of cats'-cradle string, the clutter of books and papers that covers half my bed?

Well, I don't know. I felt dirty and surrounded by dirt. Perhaps it's an effect of the sunshine. In the morning when Lenny came and woke me I asked him to open the curtains and the sun came streaming in. Such a feeling of luxury to be warmed by the sun without getting out of bed. I let him watch TV for a while then I took him to the pool for his swimming lesson. Parents are supposed to watch the swimming lesson but instead I read my current book, which is about Keynes, and which is also why I have had so little time to write anything recently. After the lesson I got into the pool too. After that we went to a bookshop and then to a cafe, just in time - I broke the coffee pot a few days ago -  and then I drove us to Ikea where I had to get something needed for work, and I also had to play house in the little houses like always - Leonard is seven and a half and he still enjoys playing in the little houses - and we had lunch there and while I ate my almond cake and Lenny ate his fish and chips I felt like I was stranded half-way up Kilimanjaro (or maybe half-way down), but still, we stuck at it and accrued a pot plant and plant pot, four glasses, twelve cups, twelve tea-towels and three hand towels, a single-bed quilt cover and a pillowcase, and a vanilla-scented candle, and two packets of biscuits. I think that was all. It's both more and less than I set out to acquire. The plant is nice. The thing for work, a standing-up laptop stand, turned out to be stored in their other depot so I had to drive there to collect it. I managed to get home without having a complete nervous collapse; when I saw the laptop stand thing came in two boxes I felt like I was still stuck on the mountain that rises like a Memphis above the Serengeti only perhaps my oxygen cylinder had a faulty valve. In the car I sang 'Raspberry Beret' very softly and Leonard fell asleep. He woke up at home when I turned off the engine. 

While Lenny watched the first Harry Potter movie I assembled the laptop thing, mashing the threads of at least two of the screws. I cooked our dinner and we ate it in front of the TV while the movie went on. I washed the day's dishes and without really meaning to I sorted out the contents of two of the big drawers in the kitchen, put things away, cleaned objects. I was continually calculating how many more tasks I could get done in the increments of time between superintending each step in Leonard's evening journey towards bedtime. I should not do these things. I should just sit down with my feet up and not ever worry.

We are both pretty excited that Leonard is coming to work with me tomorrow. I packed one bag with books and things for him to keep himself occupied, and another with his overnight things, he's staying with his grandparents tomorrow night. He was in bed and asleep by 7:45pm. I'm going to bed myself, now.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

Sorry for your loss

It is a fact of birthday teas that they vary in quality.

This was rather a subdued spread of sugar 'n' carbs certainly, but the head curator's birthday happened to fall on the penultimate day of a multi-week festival of leavetaking for another colleague, who has now moved on to a spectacularly great new job and who is already much missed.

This is the afternoon tea she brought into our office on her last day. The cake was green, pink and purple inside. We'd also had a lavish afternoon tea for the entire staff a few weeks ago, dinner out for our office, drinks, lunch out, karaoke, and dinner out again.

Working with people you actually like is very necessary. It's good. But the drawback is that there gets to be less and less of the worthwhile part of one's life that isn't embedded in work.

* * *

You know, I've been thinking about writing this blog post since about 7pm. Now it's nearly 11pm and as usual I'm having a hard time keep my eyes open. I've written a few warm-up sentences and not started on the main thing, but I fear it isn't going to get started. I've been going about my business - child-wrangling, shopping, cooking, laundry, tidying the house, getting things ready for tomorrow - and the whole time thinking about something I wanted to write, shaping a couple of key sentences in my head, thinking about the motif I'd try to hang it on.

All I wanted to do was write about my day. Today was one of those episodic days that I find are really good to write about because they're a string of experiences, in different settings, with different people and with different qualities, but I'm the thread which each of these little spheres is strung onto, carrying something from each episode into the next and so they do cluster together. I sometimes think beforehand that I know what I'm going to write but usually what I do end up with only really pleases me if it brings out elements of an experience that I was unaware of before writing about it. This post, for instance, from 23 April; I know I began it with the intention of writing about certain difficulties belonging to the lead-up to Anzac Day, but it became about an entirely experience altogether and the time spent in writing it, in thinking it out, opened up a place from which to reflect on certain patterns of feeling and ultimately to try not to be swept up by them again when I see them beginning to emerge.

I'm not saying that writing about my life is therapy. I know the difference. But there is a relationship, and I think it might be of a kind that isn't conducive to writing autobiography, especially in a not very happy period of one's life.

A movie I saw this afternoon - The Ladies in Black -  had not one, but two women in it who read and were moved by Anna Karenina. The movie was a comedy and everyone in it was happy and contented, even the lonely and thwarted old people, although if the movie had had any connection to reality then not one person in it ought to have been happy.

As Tolstoy's novel says at the outset, nothing about happiness is narratively or aesthetically distinctive, but sadness requires examination. Examination generates insight, and the insight is what's of value: the emotion which brought it out to begin with is just the inciting event of the narrative.  But when it's your own life you're writing about, the necessity of measures limiting one's exposure to one's own sadness outweighs all other considerations. I get up early; I pack a lot into my day; I keep busy; I make myself so tired by bedtime that proper thinking is out of the question. (I'm not sure how much sense I'm making right now.) I'd like to think there's a mode I could work in, if I could just find it, which would give me the openings and the insights without needing to start from a place of inner disturbance.

Monday, 17 September 2018

hasty late night last minute festival of dot pointage

It's a race! How many dots can I get points against (or should that be how many points can I manage to dot) before falling asleep!

    In soviet russia, blue suede shoes step on you.
  • Last Friday the day came, as I always knew it would, when I arrived at work dressed in my active wear for bike riding* and not carrying the clean, sober and neatly pressed change of business attire, as specified in the "Personal Presentation Policy" because I packed the bag and then left it behind. So I tried to cobble something together out of what I had on and the things in my locker. I didn't think it was going to work and then I remembered the strange cupboard under my desk. Strange cupboard delivered: among other things it contained trousers, with only a small amount of cat hair on them, a jacket, and best of all, a pair of blue shoes. The pants and coat were also blue and counterintuitively but interestingly, when I dressed myself in this monochromatic garb which I would not have willingly selected, I felt not like a nun or a volunteer at a Liberal Party election night function but instead rather like a member of some People's Army or other. Cosplay is an important part of life and unintentional cosplay is best of all. There is nothing quite like it as a stimulant to making it across the finish line of the working week and this one had felt twice as long as usual. Because of reasons 

makes my blood boil

  • The last time I got in a hot bath it was really a bit too hot and I felt kind of sick all night and most of the next day. My doctor has moved her rooms to a terrace house in Carlton and I have a new appointment time: 8am on Tuesdays. Last week was the first time in the new place, which is the fourth since I started with her, and it was quite strange, possibly because she sort of invited me to feel anxious about it. I certainly did my expert utmost to contribute extra anxiety to the situation by getting up at half-past-five and going to the pool to swim some laps and taking a sauna then going to get coffee somewhere i've never been before and having to eat an almond croissant for breakfast, and not figuring out exactly where the street number for the new rooms was located in that very long street until ten minutes before the appointment time. So when I got there (bang on time) I realised that even though I've known for weeks that this change was coming I hadn't told anyone at work that I would be in later than usual that day and every Tuesday from now on. Symptoms, man: the unconscious is such a wellspring of amazing creativity. I really, really love it ( "it", "that", "es", "id.") 

  • Saw this

  • Workplace food. After all this and after craft camp I felt kind of terrible, bad enough to think seriously for a few minutes about maybe fasting for a few days. That wore off

Thinking about fasting is not the same fasting, no not at all. It is important to remind oneself of the truth of this. Likewise, while I have downloaded the Couch to 5k app, so far I have only thought about putting it to use.

  • Saw this too  Leonard was with me when I took this picture and he said it was a good idea and that we should take pictures of interesting clouds we see when we go on our road trip the two of us are going to take in the school holidays. I wondered whether he was aware at all of how cute this suggestion was. I feel fairly sure that he might have been quite aware but also that he might grasp that consciously cute kid stuff doesn't garner a lot of enthusiasm from me. I am a little curious about what he might consider to be an interesting-looking cloud, though. 

*ie jeans with pyjamas underneath

Sunday, 16 September 2018


I think I'll take Leonard to yoga with me tomorrow, rather than skip it - and he appears to be quite keen. Today, as we drove down the road from Comadai to Diggers Rest, I was talking to him about my yoga group and describing to him the other people who will be there, and when I said Sandra is from Ireland, he said 'Wait, there's a country called Island?' In the one or two minutes it took to share his amusement then clear up the misunderstanding and confirm that yes there is a country called Ireland, I thought, well right here is a choice; I could go either way with this.

Here's a fork in the road. I can plant a seed and actively cultivate an identification with something understood as Irishness, or I can leave it unsaid, and wait and see what happens in the absence of a directive of that kind. It was startling to suddenly realise that this young person just doesn't understand himself as having a blood connection to a far away but familiar place. Or, maybe, what startled me was noticing how much everything that I do and think is done and thought through the lens of that understanding. Well, children Len's age are just beginning to be developmentally capable of forming a concept of the past as something that caused the present and at some point he'll need to explain to himself just how this applies to the fact of his own undeniable presence in the world.

I did say to him 'You're a little bit Irish', without being able to explain this at all satisfactorily. I know it was an unsatisfactory explanation I gave because it was obviously very boring. But I also don't exactly know what I meant. Obviously the St Patrick's Day kind of Irishness, not even tribal, just a particularly pissweak kind of globalised identity-mongering triggered by not much more than happening to have an Irish surname (which Lenny does not) is just a complete embarrassment, and while I have Irish citizenship, and many first-degree relatives born in or living in Ireland, and a great fondness for Ireland, I was born and grew up in Australia and that's the end of the story. I would never call myself Irish and it sets my teeth on edge when I hear that claim made by people kinda like me. And yet, I think the psychic universe of the Irish diaspora in Australia is still everywhere, permeating everything; it's often silent, or unrecognised, but it's there, in the fabric of the culture.  The memories and mindsets and energies and struggles that carried my relatives here and shaped their family life and relationships, and defined the upbringing of their children, are the same ones that embedded Irish experiences and ways of seeing into the life of the Australian community, and because of this, I've lived with the memory of Irishness shaping my feeling of belonging in Australia, a post-imperial Australia, without this country being the be-all and the end-all.

I hope Lenny will take better care of his Celtic skin in the sun than I have done with mine. In complete honesty, I am reckless. I love that moment which comes with the start of every summer when I glance at my forearm or look in the mirror and see that my freckles have woken up again. What I should be thinking of at these times is not how great it feels to be pulsing with warmth and colour again after the pallid misery of winter, but of the people in my family who survived into old age and and how the skin on their hands and arms and faces eventually looked. I had almost black hair when I was young and I am a little more olive than Lenny, who freckles big and orange, and is probably going to have a string of adolescent summers where his nose has more freckle on it than unfreckled area.

my grandmother's passport