Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Goodbye 2014

I've done this particular questionnaire on the last day of the year for the last few years. As I've succumbed to some lurgy, been up half the night coughing, I think this is a good, easy thing to do on a New Year's Eve - along with giving the cupboards a clean out and make a start on the jumper I'd like to finish by the time I start uni in March.

It's been an interesting year in many ways - and I'm hopeful that 2015 will be brilliant.

So here we go.

1.What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

I started a Masters degree in September. Never done that before. I also taught myself how to knit cable - something that's elude me for over forty years. That's a real achievement.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I just had a look at what I said at the start of the year and I didn't do too badly. I've managed to keep gainfully employed, remained fit and healthy, have quite a lot of fun and get writing again. I'm not despairing too much about "failing" at keeping my resolutions, but I've started to take measures to get a few more of them off the ground in the near future.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No. My cousin had a son earlier in the year, but we're not close.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Thankfully no. However, it took a while to come to terms with the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams. Both went too soon.

5. What countries did you visit?

Just Indonesia - Bali to be specific. Tasmania is not a country, but it feels like another country in some ways.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

A bit of job longevity in great places - rather than bitty work. I managed to work 48 weeks of the year  - it was just that it was all over the place which made things feel not to secure. I'm a contractor - you live with it, but I'm really hoping for some well paying, longer term contracts this year - and I really don't want to go back to one company that I spent a bit of time at this year. There are opportunities to be found - lets hope they come in quickly.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

June 21st. Went with a group to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show with a group of friends. Magic evening. I don't think I've laughed so much in years.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I reckon receiving a distinction for my first subject back at Uni was pretty special. Not going nuts at one particular job was another.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I don't see things that you fail to do as failures, but learning opportunities. I can't think of anything other than not losing weight - but I'm okay with that.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I've had a couple of buts of rather nasty colds and flu. One bout of the proper flu in June, something akin to pleurisy in September and a few rounds of the sniffles. My left shoulder (anterior deltoid) has been pinged for a few weeks, but it's just a ping thank goodness. Will hopefully be right next week.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Comfortable heels. Audrey Hepburn gave some advice once about heels - buy they half a size too big - they will wear better and be far more comfortable. As a standard ladies 8.5, it was a bit confronting buying size 9 shoes. I found a pair of block heels on sale. Some of the most comfortable heels I've ever owned.

 12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Hmmm. A hard one that one. I'm giving this one to Julian Burnside QC for standing up for the oppressed and disenfranchised.

Rosie Batty is an amazing woman too - standing up for abused women everywhere. She's an enigma.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Pretty much all of the Australian Federal Government - atrocious mob of luddite, pork-barreling leaners if there every was  mob. Awful people.

Rupert Murdoch gets a mention for still breathing as well.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Rent, tuition, going out, gym and shoes.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

I remember getting really excited about going to Rocky Horror Picture Show. I was excite about going to Bali in February. Every time Maow Moaw comes to stay I always get excited because I love having him around. He's asleep on the bed at the moment.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?

There are two songs that resonate from this year.

This one:

Then there is my current theme song. I like this because of it's message:

And ear worm of the year goes to: (I hate hip hop which makes this worse)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?

(a) Happier
(b) About the same
(c) Richer in many ways.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Tried to run, exercised, read, kissed, slept.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Stuck around in jobs I really didn't like that much. Put off going to the doctor about the hot flushes (The Pill really is a wonder drug)

20. How will you spend New Year's Eve?

At home on the couch with the cat after an early evening movie. Most of my mates have gone away. Besides, I have the snuffles, not worth running around. Just want to keep quiet.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?

Not so much fell in love, but had that love reciprocated. 2015 could turn out to be an incredible year. I'm not giving details. Just have to wait to see what happens.

22. What was your favourite TV program?

Two stand outs. The second series of The Hour. Sat and cried over Freddie at the end of the series.
Many a hot evening was spent drooling over Dr Blake with a large gin and tonic in my hand. Like most perimenopausal women in their forties, Friday night was gin and tonic and Dr Blake. Phwoar! Seriously, who ever would have pegged Craig McLaughlan as a sex symbol?

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

I don't hate people. However, I seriously dislike:

Most of the Australian Federal Parliament Cabinet for being delusional fascists
James Hird for being a complete tosser (FFS resign already and go away)
One nameless boss who gave me the complete irrits - this person was more a major irritation

24. What was the best book you read?

Two books stand out. Richard Flanagan's "The Narrow Road to the Deep North." Read it back to back. Incredible.

A mention has to go to Hannah Kent's "Burial Rites". The book started me on the master's journey - if this skinny little upstart for Adelaide can write something so amazing, so can I!

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

My discovery was more of a rediscovery. I have to thank Steve Coogan for putting me back onto Alanis Morrisette after over a decade. (See Trip to Italy - you will understand)

26. What did you want and get?

A job that I really like after a lot of searching.
Made a few new friends
Kept my sanity for the most part.

27. What did you want and not get?

To be a size 14 on the top. Maybe this year.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

I saw 30 films this year. The top five were:

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel - piss funny
2. Pride - English cinema at it's best
3. Calvary - Thought about that one for weeks - Brendan Gleeson for Best Actor
4.The Secret Life of Walter Mitty - Just joyful
5: Boyhood - Long, but worth it

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

On my actual birthday I went to book group. My parents were in town on the weekend before and we went with a couple of friends for a dinner in Kyneton - excellent day. I turned thirty-eleventy something.

30. What one thing made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Study and love.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?

Black, more black, with a bit of silver for good measure. If not black, navy - I am from Adelaide after all.
Oh, and where thongs (flip flops /jandles - what ever you want to call them) as much as possible.
In winter, chunky boots.

32. What kept you sane?

Friends, reading, cinema, exercise and my pill. They will be wrenching my oestrogen from my cold dead hands in years to come. A revelation.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

My heart still belongs to Clive Owen, though Craig McLachlan is getting up there now, but only when decked out at Dr Blake.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

Pretty much everything our current Federal Government did got my back up. The publicity around banning the burqa in Parliament House and the mistreatment of ordinary people who wear burqas really made my blood boil. Do I understand why a woman would want to cover her face or wear a veil - no, I don't but it's not my business what anybody wears. Do I give two hoots if they do - absolutely not. The Liberal Coalition dog whistling to the unwashed throng once gain. I really dislike how they stir up dissent and hate by picking on minorities.

35. Who did you miss?

Julia Gillard as Prime Minister. Wayne Swan as Treasurer... I miss having a sane government - one that's not working for big business and has more than the interest of a few in their sights.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

During winter I had a job at a Telecommunications Company. My team were superb. Davey and Kaz were two of the best colleagues I've ever had - the job was stressful, harsh and pressurised, but these two made going to work a joy. We're still in contact.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Looking for the good makes things a hell of a lot better - always.
And sometimes you have to let people go - they might come back, they might not.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

You didn't run, you didn't lie
You knew I wanted just to hold you
And had you gone you knew in time we'd meet again

For I had told you.

(Got to get you into my life, The Beatles)

Have a great new year. All the very best for 2015. Keep safe. Be happy.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Year in Review Meme

As always, this has been stolen from Sunday Stealing: As always, I'm doing a question and completing a chore. Having a house guest around the place the house work has banked up once again (and I've been away for a few days, that doesn't help either).

I know there are three more days left of the year, but this seems as good a time as any to get the yearly wrap up out of the way.

In 2014, I gained:

A sense of worth, a direction and some memories of great times.

I lost:

The feeling that I had to put up with bullshit from bullying bosses. Standing up for myself - and walking away was a good lesson to learn. Life is too short to put up with crap.

I stopped:

Having no confidence in myself. I also stopped drinking caffeine on a daily basis. I do have the odd coffee, but it's rare now.

I started:

A Masters of Arts in Writing - one subject down, eleven to go. Loving every minute of it. I also tought myself to knit cables.

I was hugely satisfied by:

Gaining a distinction on my first subject back at Uni. Looking at the comments, I've worked out what I have to do to get a HD... (Yeah, yeah, over achiever...) And finding out that I can knit cables.

And frustrated by:

99.9% of what our current Federal Government does, says and thinks.

I am so embarrassed that I:

Am an Australian at this present time. Our current Federal Government is a disgrace - sending Australia's reputation down the loo.

Once again, I:

Kept my gym membership up and saw a personal trainer regularly.

Once again, I did not:

Lose any weight - but I'm not too fussed as my fitness has remained up and I'm still fit and strong.

The biggest physical difference between me last December and this December is:

My red hair is probably hiding quite a few more greys.

The biggest psychological difference between me last December and this December is:

I'm a bit more self-confident and I won't take rubbish from anybody. No matter who they are. Having somebody tell me they love me regularly helps bolster the confidence as well.

I loved spending time:

With friends. Maow Maow. In nature. In the gym.

Why did I spend even two minutes:

Pondering if I should go in for the job I'm in now. That was a waste of half an hour.

I should have spent more time:

Exercising, writing, cleaning my flat.

I regret buying:

Uncomfortable shoes that are on sale.

I will never regret buying... even though with that money I could have ...

My education, even though with that money I could do all sorts of things including adding to my house deposit, go travelling, replace my couch etc etc etc...

And heels half a size too big - best advice given by Audrey Hepburn. A revelation.

I ...way too much.


I didn’t... enough.

Exercise. Read. Go out. Write. Say I love you.

 ... drove me crazy.

Our current Federal Government.

The most relaxing place I went was

Ubud, Indonesia. Love it up there. Close second was Northern Tasmania. That was brilliant.

Why did I go

To see Noah? Dire film. Russell Crowe should sod off back to New Zealand.

The best thing I did for someone else was

No idea. I've provided a few healing sessions. They were good. I try and step lightly through the world - if this means doing good things for people, so be it.

The best thing I did for myself

Went back to university. Not take second best. Exercised regularly.

The best thing someone did for me

I blame Hannah Kent for inspiring me to go back to uni. Oh, and Blarney and Barney inviting me down to Tasmania for Christmas.

The one thing I’d like to do again, but do it better,

No regrets - so I'd do nothing over.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Joyful, Joyful

I'm just back from Tasmania after three of the most lovely days I've had in a while.

Barney's family have taken me on as one of their own, which is a joy in itself. They're wonderful people, easy-going, calm. Christmas Day was spent at Barney's sister's place on the banks of the Tamar River, just out of Launceston. After a lunch fof roast turkey, chicken, pork and lamb with roast vegetables and salads, then trifle, plum pudding and pavlova for dessert, (there were seven adults, three kids and a teenage boy. The teenage boy, Tim, a lovely young man of 15 eats enough for three - put away enough food to feed an army barracks, so this was just about enough food.)

After a bit of a rest Tim and Barney went sailing out on the river, Grandpa took Chance and Lance out on the dingy. The rest of us just watched on from the deck on a picture perfect summer day. No acrimony. No family fights. The only thing that came close to disaster was that the peas were left in the microwave. As disasters go, you don't get much more minor than that.

Christmas with friends is so much more mellow than with family. There's few expectations, other than to be a good house guest, watch your manners and pitch in where you can.

Spending Christmas in a town on the banks of the South Esk River, you don't get much more peaceful that that.

Yesterday,  Boxing Day (unless you're in South Australia, the only place in Christendom that doesn't have Boxing Day) was spent recovering from the food coma. I went for a wonderful hour long walk along the river, stopping to chat to every dog I passed. I looked at the river and felt happy. I've been in country girl mode for the last three days.  It's great.

At lunchtime we went and met some friends at a local park. Norty, a mate from book group hails from around these parts. Armed with her parents, brother and his kids we cooked a barbeque at the park. Sausages, a couple of champagnes, the kids playing cricket and throwing rocks in the creek. I took my crochet hook and some wool along, giving my hands something more to do thank drink. Helping Norty's Dad out with the barbeque, playing food runner and drink topper, we put the world to rights, talking Tasmanian Politics and cycling.

As lunch progressed, the table next to us started to fill. Being near this group made the afternoon.

Australia has a great tradition with picnic grounds. Many councils provide free of very cheap gas barbeques to use. This partly to stops the fire hazard, but it also encourages people to use the parks. You rock up, claim a table and go from there. You never know who might be at the next table. Half the time, after a while, you'll end up playing cricket, chatting with or borrowing bbq tools off the people next to you.

The group next to us were a bit of a juxtapostion to rest of the people in the park. The church group, around thirty in number, hailed from somewhere in Africa. Women in brightly coloured clothes, happy babies sleeping in slings on their backs. The men, engaging with all around. Norty's dad said that he knew some of them from Church and went over for a chat.

As the afternoon progressed, the music came. Joyous sounds, gospel music came from the small sound system. Then came the dancing. Men, women, children... they'd dance a bit then sit a bit, but the beats and the music went on all afternoon. At times, a few of our group got up and joined them.

I can't remember being around so much joy before. We were surrounded by happy people, joyous people, who were happy to include all in their fun. And it was just that - fun. There was no competition, no angst, no sorrow - just singing and dancing and happiness.

At times like this you realise that you're in a great country.

Near the end of the day, Norty's mum and I started talking about a few issues in the district. A retired drug and alcohol nurse, she's well versed in the problems of the district. We got talking about the defunding of the local women's shelter, and society, not just this society, needs more places and services like this to help get people straight.

One of the girls from the group heard what we were talking about and joined our conversation. She's stuck out from the group. Seemed a bit reserved - a camera hung around her neck. It was applauded when she got up to dance.

"Hi, I'm Gracie. I hope you don't mind me joining you. I heard about what you're talking about. Can I please pick your brains?"

We asked her about the group. "We're from our church. Most of us are from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana... West Africa. We like to sing. We like to eat. We like to dance. That's what makes the world a great place."

Couldn't say it better myself, Gracie.

Turns out Gracie - all of seventeen, wants to be a human rights lawyer. She's about to do her final year of high school. She's passionate about women's rights an getting out into the community and wanted to know where she could get more information. And articulate, intelligent, kind soul. We gave her what information we could and swapped numbers, happy to give her any guidance we could.

We all came away from the afternoon with our faith firmly restored in humanity.

I also came away wanting to dance.

It was a truly wonderful afternoon.

So now I'm home. The cat is thrilled to see me - he's already found the blanket I half finished for him over the weekend.

So now for a week off.

In all - it's been one of the better Christmases I've ever had.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Christmas Meme

Another one that might go down in the annals of "oh, this might be fun."

A Christmas blog.

I'm not a Christian. Hmmm.... Questions, as always, from Sunday Stealing.

1. Do you send Christmas cards? 

No - though I send the odd seasonal email.

2. How soon do you start shopping?

Depends  - normally early December, but I've been known to pick up things in the months before if something takes my fancy.

3. Who do you shop for?

Store vouchers normally.

4. Do you put up a Christmas tree?

No, never.

5. If so, is it fake or real?

Real ones are great, but they're not that environmentally friendly. Actually, Christmas isn't that environmentally friendly when you think about it.

6. Do you like tinsel?

Horrid stuff, but it makes cat's poo look pretty.

7. Do you use homemade or store bought ornaments?

Moot point - don't have a tree.

8. Do you put Christmas lights outside your house?

No. That would scare the possum out front.

9. Do you put lights on the tree?

Don't have a tree. Waste of electricity.

10. How about popcorn and cranberries?

Why would you do that?

11. Is there a wreath hanging on your door?: 

Hmmm - seeing a theme yet? No.

13. Do you hang up your stocking?

I don't wear stockings, they give you candida - why would you want an itchy crotch at Christmas. Nope. Besides, don't you normally hang stockings in the shower after you've washed them?

14. Does your family read "Twas the night before Christmas?"

No. However I know most of this by rote after learning it as a child.

15. Christmas Movie?

Best Christmas movie ever - Die Hard.

16. Character from any Christmas Movie?

John McLean

17. Christmas Song?

I tend to run out of stores that play Christmas carols too early (like before December) But the powers that be had a magic choir do this one in the atrium at work the other day and it filled the building with lovely music. Still love Martin Crane's version of it too.

18. Christmas Memory: 

I've got some good Christmas memories of Christmas's spent with friends. The one spent with Lachlan was a good one.

19. Give or Receive?


22. Ham or Turkey?

I don't really eat that much pig - and turkey is normally dry. I like the Australian tradition of seafood and salad.

24. White Lights or Colored Lights? 

Does it make a difference?

25. Blinking Lights or Still Lights?

Seriously, these things matter?

26. Were you Naughty or Nice this year?

A bit of both.

27. What do you want for Christmas this year?

A new Federal Government and for the untimely downfall and demise of Rupert Murdoch.

28. When do you open your gifts?

Christmas morning.

29. What's the best gift you've ever gotten?

The trampoline we got when we were kids was pretty good.

30. What's the worst gift you've ever gotten?

Oh, that cushion. A workmate once gave me a bottle green cushion with a picture of kittens and puppies with Christmas hats on it - truly dire. I accepted it graciously as it's the thought that counts - it then was placed under the blanket on the couch.

31. Who gives you the most gifts?

My friends are pretty generous. We give experiences now/

32. Have you ever had a secret Santa?

Only the ones at work and the one we have at Christmas in July - you normally score something good out of that one.

33. Do you like wrapping gifts?

Not really waste of paper.

34. Do you put change in those red buckets?

This must be an American thing - I do try and give to charity over the season.

35. Do you burn a yule log?

It's the middle of summer - having the heater on is the last thing I have in mind. Besides, my flat doesn't have a fire place.

36. Can you name all the reindeer?

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph.

37. Do you bake cookies?

No, but I made Christmas Apricot Jam this year for all my friends.

38. Have you ever seen your mommy kissing Santa Clause?


39. Have you ever gotten a kiss under the mistletoe?

No, don't even know what Mistletoe looks like - it's not an Australian plant.

41. Do you drive around and look at the Christmas lights?

I've got better things to do with my time.

42. Have you ever left Santa cookies?

As a child, we used to leave out Father Christmas a beer, a mince pie and a carrot for the reindeer. Then  When I got told that Father Christmas wasn't real (Thanks Karen Hawkes, the Jehovah's Witness who lived down the road - I was five... thank you for shattering my innocence.) I worked out that Father Christmas had my father's dentures.

43. Have you ever sat on Santa's lap?

Only as a child.

44. Who do you celebrate Christmas with?

This year I'm heading to Tasmania to spend Christmas with Blarney, Barney and Barney's folks - they've adopted me in this year. Should be great - I've never been to Northern Tasmania before.

45. Where do you celebrate Christmas?

Normally with friends in Melbourne, unless I go away. One of the best Christmases I ever had was in Thailand. On Christmas Day we went riding elephants. That was cool.

46. Have you ever had a white Christmas?

No, but I nearly had one. I spent eight Christmases in England - Christmas is so much better in Winter.

47. What part of Christmas do you look most forward to?

When it's over.

48. Have you ever had your picture taken with Santa?

Only as a child and that was like 40 years ago.

Sorry - as a non Christian, Christmas irritates me a lot.

Ah well.

Bah Humbug.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Light, More Light

So much has been said about what went down in Sydney on Monday, culminating in the deaths of three people in the early hours of Tuesday morning. I don't need to add any more commentary on this, other than to send good thoughts to the hostages and those who died and the scene, wishing them, and their families love, strength and peace.

See, I'm one of the millions of office workers who regularly stops in at a cafe to pick up a coffee, juice or some buttered raisin toast during the morning. I get how this event has permeated society and how the collective grief has encompassed us all. We all think, "It could have been me, my colleague, my friend in that cafe." And true, it could have been any one of us there. Thankfully it wasn't.

Like many other Australians, I'm thankful that our strict gun laws prevent people from owning semi-automatic weapons. I grew up on a farm. I've grown up around guns - I'm not anti-gun, but if you're not a soldier, a policeman, a farmer or a member of a registered gun club, what do you need a gun for? Strengthening the gun laws after the Port Arthur massacre was one of the best things Prime Minister John Howard did (possibly the only thing, but I do give him credit for this one). That this gunman only had a shot gun probably saved many lives. Not that you want nutters to have guns at all - but we can all be a very thankful that this was not a hell of a lot worse than it was - many more could have died. They didn't. As tragic as this whole situation is, they managed to keep the casualties to a minimum. May those involved be able to get on with their lives quickly and peacefully.

I'm pretty cranky at the media at the moment - I'm not sure that the blanket coverage on all four main free-to-air stations was the best way of handling this - however I get why they did it and this time around, they appeared to be a lot more reserved and cautious about what they were broadcasting  - thank goodness. Unlike the Daily Telegraph with it's misrepresenting headlines and dog-whistling at those prone to ignorance and hatred. A complaint is in with the Press Council about this - breaching too many of the Press Council rules. May this lead to the demise of the Murdoch empire - horrid man. Horrid organisation. He's ruined enough lives over the years.

Since all this broke on Monday, and continued into Tuesday there's been a couple of things going through my mind.

One is something that we hear a lot in Freemasonry.

The only thing that can overcome the darkness, is the light. We need light, more light.

By focusing on the darkness, we take away the ability to see the truth, what is before us, what is good. You cannot see what you need to see without shining a light things. Light is the antidote for darkness.

So I suppose what I'm saying is that even when we're faced with such horrific and terrifying actions such as what happened here on Monday, focusing on the good, the kind and the courageous is a far, far more productive than concentrating on the bad. Of course, be aware, grieve, reflect, get angry in appropriate ways, but find the light and move forward.

As has been said so many times in the last few days, Australia, we're better than this. We're bigger than this. From every changed behaviour that's instigated from this man's foul actions, he's won.

I won't let that happen. I'll continue to look people in the eye, nod, smile, say hello in acknowledgement. I'll continue to strive for harmony and peace on this earth. I'll continue to look for the light.

The other words that keep resonating with me are some ones often heard at weddings. Corinthians 13 4-7 and 13. I'm not a Christian, but these are great words.

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

In times like these, this is the message that needs to be spread.

Keep calm, keep safe, love your family and friends. And keep looking for the light.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The "Have You Ever" Meme

Better late than never I say: 

1) Have you ever gotten lost in a maze? 


2) Have you ever been attacked by a wild animal?  No

3) Have you ever ridden a camel? No

4) Have you ever pet a rat? No

5) Have you ever been a member of a gym? Yes - and I have been for a very long time. Love my gym membership.

6) Have you ever been in a helicopter? Yes

7) Have you ever cheated at a test? No

8) Have you ever ridden a tractor? yes - I can drive a tractor - grew up on a farm

9) Have you ever passed wind/gas in an embarrassing situation? All the time.

10) Have you ever played the bongos? Yes

11) Have you ever handled a snake? No, thank goodness

12) Have you ever assembled furniture by yourself? Yes - I am the Ikea queen.

13) Have you ever been scuba diving? No - afraid of open water

14) Have you ever had a disastrous interview? Plenty of them - it means that you're not really right for the job.

15) Have you ever sold your services? I am a consulting writer/instructional designer - I sell my services all the time.

16) Have you ever raised money for charity? Yes, and i try to do this a few times a year.

17) Have you ever won a giant sized cuddly toy from a fair? No

18) Have you ever milked a cow? Yes - again, grew up on a farm

19) Have you ever used the phrase "back in my time" to someone younger than you? I seem to be using that more and more.

20) Have you ever invented a fairly unique meal or drink?  I remember mixing Baileys with beer at uni - that was pretty disastrous.....

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Are You? Meme

It's Xmas jam making day, so there is my grandmother's recipe Dried Apricot Jam on the stove boiling away on the stove. I'm having a cheapo Xmas this year, so jam is being given away as presents. I think this is a wonderful idea as everybody I know has everything they need, home made jam is a good thing to give. Most people like apricot jam.

So it's a stir of the pot then a question. Breaks things up a bit and the jam doesn't catch on the bottom of the pot. Love making jam. Just wish my grandfather was here to stir the pot with me.

1) Are you psychic in any way?

I read tarot professionally and have done for many years - does this count? I'd say I'm moderately psychic - I occasionally see things and I'll often sense things, but I have no control over things.

2) Are you a good dancer?

No. I look like a fridge freezer when I dance.

3) Are you a good singer?

I can carry a tune, but don't make me sing in public.

4) Are you a good cook?

Certainly, there are things I cook which people ask for  - such as my lemon polenta cake, chicken and roast pumpkin stir fry, birthday cakes... I'm a pretty good cook.

5) Are you a good artist?

Not in a traditional sense, but I love creating things.

6) Are you a good listener?

I like to think so.

7) Are you a good public speaker?

Yes. Public speaking doesn't freak me out in the slightest.

8) Are you a good babysitter?

Depending on my mood. Kids generally like me. I generally like kids.

9) Are you a good mechanic?

No. Change a tyre, fill up the petrol and stand and look at the engine. That's the end of it for me.

10) Are you a good diplomat?

Another depends on the time and place. I can have my moments. I a bit too tactless to be a true diplomat.

11) Are you a good employee?

Turn up on time. Do what's asked of me. What more do you want. Yes, I'm a good employee.

12) Are you a good dresser?

No. But I dress to my shape and I'm colour coordinated because I wear black most of the time.

13) Are you a good swimmer?

Pretty good. I'm a medium lane swimmer when I hit the pool.

14) Are you a good skier?

Haven't been skiing for about 30 years so I'd say that this is a no.

15) Are you a good gift giver?

Sometimes. Depend who it is. My best friend got a garden gnome from me one year - she spent the next ten trying to run the thing over. When I give gifts I try to personalise them or make an effort.

16) Are you a good musician?

No. I play the flute badly and can read music. Better than some, but nowhere as good as others.

17) Are you a good comedian?

Occasionally. How do you titillate an ocelot?
You oscillate it's tit a lot.
Boom boom.

18) Are you a good cleaner?

No. Again, my house is sort of clean. That's good enough.

19) Are you a good actor?

Not really. I did a bit of acting in a former life, but I'd never make a stage or screen actor.

20) Are you a good writer?

Yes. That's part of the reason I'm doing a Masters in writing at the moment.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


It's that time again.

Book group Christmas party on Tuesday night means that I have the weekend to bag up the lollies (sweets / candy) that we use for the count.

Our book group is a very democratic in the way we choose our books. All of the group bring along two books for the choosing. Criteria for these books are 1. Of literature or good popular fiction standard, 2. Under 500 pages (though there is a bit of leeway on this.) 3. No non-fiction, autobiography and biography. 4. Easily obtainable either in a library, online or in e-book form.

At the meeting on Tuesday everybody will champion their two books, after which all are handed a rubber glove and a bag of 25 lollies with which they will cast their votes. You can't vote for your own books, but as many lollies as you want on the books. The top eleven books are selected for the year. I love what's been put up this year - I can say after Tuesday what they are, but for now, I have my own dilemma.

What am I going to put up?

Here's the bother. I had a couple of books in mind, but they've been put up already by people in the group. So I've raided my kindle and the bookshelves and I've got to get down the job of picking two.


So here is my long list, with pros and cons.

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

Pros: Well under 500 pages. Acclaimed.
Cons: It's the story of a female sociopathic paedophile who preys on teenage boys

See, I think this could really bring up some great conversation around the table. However I wonder how it might be received by some of the more delicately constitutioned members of the group. I've only heard good things about this book and think that the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to putting it up.

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld

Pros: Well under 500 pages, winner of last year's Miles Franklin Award, Australian content
Cons: Might be over-hyped

I've heard a lot about this book - and finally picked it up at the airport on the way home from Sydney the other day. It's the story of an outsider and the book allegedly reveals an existence of beauty, horrors, hope and redemption. Unsettling and fresh. This is another strong maybe book. But after a head of somewhat harrowing books this year (ie. Gillian Mear's "Foals Bread" and Flanagan's "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" maybe something lighter is a good idea.

A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine by Marina Lewicka

Pros: Under 500 pages, Funny
Cons: Strange title. About parents - and we all have our parent issues

This book is a few years old and tells the tale of a daughters and fathers. Dad, it appears, is going a bit dotty and remarries - a glamorous woman from the Ukraine - his place of origin. As the sisters try to to usurp the gold digger some not so great family history comes out. I think this is a pretty benign choice that should get the conversation flowing, especially as most of us in the group have aging parents.

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Pro: Under 500 pages, we've never done any Sebastian Faulks, well regarded
Con: War story

Birdsong is seminal - probably the most beautiful book ever written about trench warfare. It's up there as one of the best books I've ever read and Sebastian Faulks is one of my favourite authors. However, I'm known as "war girl" in the group as I've often put up books about war. So after putting up the "The Book Thief", "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" and a couple of other books in the same vein, I wonder if they're sick of me putting these sorts of books up for the group.

All That I Am by Anna Funder

Pros: Under 500 Pages. Award winner. Australian Author
Cons: War story. It's been put up before and didn't make the cut.

We've had a couple of books that should have made the cut, but didn't. Ian McEwan's "Atonement" being one. This is the other. A story of Jewish refugees in London in 1939, it tells the tale of two sisters living their lives under a greater threat. Anna Funder is an amazing writer, but I'm wondering if it would get a second telling - though in saying that, we have four new members in the group now who wouldn't have voted for it when it didn't make it (and it only missed out by one lolly - just like Atonement - yet another war story)

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Pros: An author we respect, looks interesting
Cons: Over 500 pages

Michel Faber wrote one of my favourite books - "The Crimson Petal and the White". We also did "Under the Skin" earlier this year - strange book that it was. He's a fantastic writer - but the book is over 500 pages - not by much, but I think that this will preclude it. This might be my Christmas reading.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Pros: My mother thinks it's brilliant, great reviews
Cons: Just over 500 pages. War story

It may seem strange to want to put up a book my Mum likes but she's has good taste in books. I send a lot of books her way and she tells me of things she likes. She's raved about this one. However, it tells the story of a blind girl in France and a young boy in Germany in World War II - do you see a theme happening here? Good reads rates it up there as one of the books of the year.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Pros: Under 500 pages, great author
Cons: A bit strange

Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite authors. The queen of dystopia, she's incredible. I love her imagination and her presence of mind. We did "The Handmaid's Tale" a few years ago and the group loved it. I listened to "The Year of the Flood" the sequel to the book on a road trip to Adelaide a few years ago and that was brilliant. Margaret Atwood is a living treasure.

So can you see my dilemma? There are a number of other books I've considered putting on the short list and I have to make my decision by the end of tomorrow. We're nearly there - but gee, this is a hard one.

Any advice on what the two should be would be welcome.

Have a great one.