Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I passed!

I am now, as Martin put it, legal. Not that I was doing anything illegal before. I have just been on my first solo drive. It was quiet. Very very quiet. My own personal cone of silence.

I liked it.

Driving Test

I am going to be tested on my ability to drive today after which I might get a little card with my photo on it that says I'm allowed to do it whenever I want without anyone shouting at me to stop if I pull out in front of a large fast moving vehicle.

Doing this test feels like it's about more than just whether or not I can fluke a reverse park handle my vehicle with poise and accomplishment. It feels like a test of my adulthood, like a correction to the past, a movement away from denial. I am trying not to be too philosophical about it all. After all the first most important thing is not crashing. But up there is not having an existential crisis in the middle of an intersection. Remember always execute a right hand turn before questioning the nature of reality, or the profound absurdity of existence.

Of course, driving is really a test of my physical prowess, not of my worth as a human being. If I fail I will sit it again. I think there's something in that for all of us, don't you?

(A five legged fly just landed on my finger. I am sure it is an omen. But of what?)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

More on Fred's past life

F: Starfish bite.
P: Do they?
F: Yes, my grandpa was in the water and one came up and was biting him.
P: Is this your Grandpa from before I was born?
F: Yes, before everyone was born. My grandpa was a doctor and he died. No, he didn’t die but his house was old and he went to live somewhere else and he take me to find my parents and you were the best choice. When he left England I was very sad to see him go. I’m never going to see him again. He’s going to live in Africa.
P: Did your grandpa have a wife?
F: Did he? Let me think about it. Let me think about it. No!
P: Did he have any other children
F: Oh yes. Lane. Jasus, Bosus, Dacy, Clacy, Jaelene and Janie. Those were all the names of his kids. And there was one named Jack. I don’t like Jack. Because he always sits on my grandpa’s best chair. He’s always doomed. He has orange hair. And he has dots like a dozo.
P: Are you going back to live with your Grandpa one day?
F: No. He’s never coming back.
P: Do you miss your Grandpa?
F: Yes. A lot

Video Killed the Radio Star

I am going to be on 3RPH this week, on the Children's Hour talking about The Indigo Girls. Only thing is, I'm not quite sure when that is. I found ancient reference online to a Children's Hour at 6pm on Tuesdays. So I'll be tuning in at 6 tonight to listen to myself gabble. Or maybe I won't. In Melbourne 3RPH is 1179AM. I am not sure (I am a font of unknowledge) if the Children's Hour is played in all states.

Being interviewed is weird because they ask you questions and sometimes you don't really know what you're going to say but you start talking anyway. Which leads to this strangely meandering answer. By the end of which you've forgotten the question.

Oh well.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

silly and fun

is this

Stay and play for a minute or two.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Thanks for the Memories

How cool is this guy?

The upshot is a 15 year old South Australian, Rory Stokes, has 'busted' the myth that goldfish have a three second memory. What a great story to read about a 15 year old in the Age. It seems all we ever read about teenagers are the Corey (who now?) 5 minutes of infamy stories. I bet Rory also knows how to party, he just doesn't have to wreck a suburb doing it. And he'd be considerate. Of the, you know, fish.

Does make me a little guilty about leaving our fish, Sprinkle, Santa and Reindeer, behind when we moved. I hope the new tenants love them/found them. Perhaps we should send them a card.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Kahlil Gibran - On Children

I'm not a fan of Gibran. Overuse has made him something of a cliche and there's something about his tone that irritates me, I think I tend towards poems that draw on narrative and character rather than this sort of 'telling' language. A few people around me discovered him in late adolescence, when I felt my own tastes in poetry were far more sophisticated. I read a lot of contemporary Australian poets, some of the mid 20th century Americans, a few English poets, Roger McGough was a favourite. I had a big writer crush on W. B. Yeats and was romanced by his love for Maude Gonne. Sylvia Plath came later. But never Gibran. If you aren't sure who Kahlil Gibran is, rest assured you have probably heard some of his poems. Gibran tends to be the poet of choice for those milestone ceremonies - weddings, funerals, naming days.

But I came across this excerpt (below) in a book I'm dipping in and out of at the moment - Buddhism for Mothers with Lingering Questions by Sarah Napthali. I am not a Buddhist, or an anything. But as a parent, I struggle often. I struggle with tiredness, with a sense of not having my own space, with the lack of freedom that comes with having children. I struggle with boredom as I eat dirt and stick pies or make the horses talk to each other. I struggle with Fred's anger, with her tendency to fight every transition, from mealtimes to baths. I struggle when Fred tells me that the girls at kinder tell her she looks like a boy and laugh at her at rest time, saying 'goodnight boy' (and then she tells me that she made that up, so I struggle with confusion about what is her inner world and what is her outer world, and which one matters more). I don't struggle so much with Una because from the moment she was born I knew she was her own person, that she was mine for a temporary time. I've written about this before in this blog but that clear distinction, for whatever reason, is not there with Fred. Maybe it's because I see myself in her so clearly. Maybe it's because she was first. Maybe it's because Una navigated the process of separation from me, from the breast, so easily whereas Fred still clings to the space between us. Anyway, that is why this poem resonated with me. You can read the rest of the poem, but the last lines kind of thrash the lovely bow and arrow image to death, which is why I, and no doubt Sarah Napthali, omitted them.

As for the rest of Napthali's book, it's very much focussed on being in the present moment. Something I loved about motherhood when Fred was an almost constantly delightful baby - in the same way travel reduces you to be concerned only for all your basic needs and the rest of you lives in a state of constant reception, absorbing all these images, sounds and smells. But now, now that there's anger, it's hard to stay present, it's hard not to plan ahead or look back. Also as I said, I look at her and I see all my own childhood anxieties and fears. It's hard not to project them on her freckly, funny face, a face so like my own at almost five years old.

On Children
Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Dame called Diablo

I went to see Juno a few weeks ago, I meant to blog about it but I didn't. Juno is getting some criticism from feminist quarters for being anti-abortion, but to me it seemed pro-choice in the true sense of the word. Juno, 16 and accidently pregnant to her best friend, doesn't feel right terminating for entirely personal reasons, so she goes ahead with the pregnancy, adopting her baby out to someone ultimately as outwardly dysfunctional but open-hearted and loving as she is. To have witten the screenplay any other way, with an agenda in mind, would have belied these particular characters who dwelled within the world of the film.

Anyway, in my opinion it's a lovely movie with a quietly hilarious screenplay and a great team of characters, all of whom resonate off the screen, but especially Juno and her hapless boyf.

Part of the reason it's got a lot of press, in fact a lot of the reason there's a lot of jaws yapping is that the writer (yes, people are actually interested in the writer) is an ex-stripper. Diablo Cody says (of studying writing before she became a stripper):

"I never intended to get my writing out there. I always thought of published writers as honor roll students -- the real overachiever types. I never intended my work as a springboard to anything else. I write because I'm addicted to it. It's my confessional." (Wired Magazine)

Popular Myths
1. Writing is something good girls do.
2. You know, those overachiever girls who aren't interested in sex, smoking, drugs, but whose only real appetite is for reading.
3. Writing is an asexual activity.
4. The intellect is not an erogenous zone.
5. Raw imagination is less powerful than sexuality.
6. Exposing your body is the most vulnerable way of exposing yourself.
7. Strippers are not intellectual, strippers are sexual automatons, strippers are their bodies.
8. Writing is not a physical, inhabited, bodily activity.
9. Sensual writing is somehow cut off from the body. Writing is not a sensual act.

It's part of the bigger myth really, that being sexual, that being interested in sex and pleasure is antithetical to being nice or good. I'm glad that someone like Diablo Cody can get strong press because she is a writer who has had an unconventional path, and shows young people that going to uni isn't the way to become a writer. But it's a shame that the first thing anyone has to say about her is that she's an ex-stripper. Watching Juno, I am sure she is far more fascinating and complex than being simply an ex-anything. It's another label, another box to put her in, another way of parceling female sexuality so that it is at once permissive and punitive, simultaneously available and withheld.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations - this blemished chapter in our nation's history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

Prime Minister Rudd's speech, to be delivered 9am today (in about 10 minutes) on a Day of Reconciliation for Australia, a day to celebrate.

Friday, February 08, 2008

New glasses

My friend Grace had her eyes done and gave me her old frames, just after Una took my red glasses in her hands and went SNAP!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Past lives and bluebirds

Frederique has started talking in eerily vivid detail about her past life.

Her mum and dad were dead and she lived with her Grandpa. Her Grandpa taught her to read maps and follow the trainlines and to tell the time by the stars. He also taught her to point with her fingers before she lifted binoculars to her eyes. Tonight she got up and came into the lounge room to tell me she missed her old Mummy and Daddy from before I was born, when I was living in Africa. Her old Mummy and Daddy died, and her Grandpa came and got her. He gave her a flute to play and the prettiest ribbon and a skipping rope but it broke. She said the gold looked like brown stones.

It's not that I believe her exactly, it's just that she's so convincing. She's been telling me this story over the period of about a month now and it builds such a clear picture that I want to write a novel out of it.

Speaking of novels I sent a little one off to Penguin today. It's called Bluebird and it's another Chomp. Hopefully they take it, though it is a little odd. I'll find out in a month or two I guess.

The Friendly Duck and other Souvenirs

The Friendly Duck, originally uploaded by nellup.

Una met a duck on our holiday at Nickle Doo, loving him through the safety of the glass door. His name was 'Friendly Duck' and Una watched eagerly for his return, but he never came back.

Now, weeks later, if Una is inexplicably crying copious tears and we ask her why she tells us she is 'sad about her friendly duck'.

The best souvenirs are stories, memories, images and phrases. Familylore.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A for enthusiasm, F for Sitting

So they're gonna do reports for kinder. You know, which I'm sure will be swell.

But why am I already dreading reading Fred's? (When I was in prep - you know, all of five years old - my report said I was immature. I think Frederique takes after her mother.)

Anyway, I like her just the way she is. My scattergirl.

In related news, we love the Lollipop People and this is a gorgeous piece of writing.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


I am booked in for my driving test on the 27th February. I have been learning to drive on and off since I was 16, when my boyfriend at the time would let me drive his beloved Fiat 128. I came quite close to being ready to sit the test when I squashed my poor little car in 1998 (almost leading me to declare bankruptcy, but that's another story - the moral of which is always pay a lawyer if you get into trouble cause they can get you out of stuff you can't get out of by yourself). My current learner's permit (which lasts for 10 years) expires on the 20 March. I have been driving for seventeen years. But I am still worried that I'll get nervous in my test and make a stupid mistake, ride up on a curb, fail.
I enjoy driving, but I am scared of everyone else on the road.

Becoming a Grown Up
Learning to drive heralds a new era for me. I've realised now that I often drive that I am going to need some kind of small bag in which to keep my purse, the car keys and my sunnies/normal glasses - at the moment, I always hand the keys back to Martin when we arrive because he always has pockets. I don't have pockets. I've never owned a handbag in all my life. I either use a backpack or nappy bag or I carry my purse in my hand or Martin carries everything. I may have to buy a mobile phone as well. I used to have one but it died by baby spit.

Please note that below is the most ill-informed weigh-in on the US Election on the net
Martin and I just finished watching West Wing season 6 last night (and will move on to 7). It's been, frankly, bizarre and confusing watching candidates battle it out in the primaries simultaneously in West Wing world and the real world, but it has given me greater understanding of the American system and also greater interest. I am looking forward to the results of Super Tuesday (Feb 5) with great interest. Martin favours Obama, he thinks Hillary is too political, that Obama is the better person. I'm not sure I agree. I admit, I would love to see a woman president. It amazes me, watching West Wing, that their vision for a presidential race was one fought almost exclusively between men (the one female runner drops out early, revealing that she only ran to get certain issues brought to the fore), and the only minority represented is Latino. A few years later the race is between a black man and a woman. It's pretty exciting days. The Australian election outcome could be seen as a microcosm of the world stage, that we're ready to move away from conservatism, to deal with some issues that really take a different way of thinking (like the environment, human rights, a sustainable economy which isn't solely fuelled by rugged individualism) in which case we really could be looking at a black male president or a female president by the end of the decade. To be honest, there was a time not so long ago when I could have easily believed that this wouldn't happen in my lifetime.
Though I wish the choice was really between Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda - or Santos and Vinick as they play in West Wing. Alan Alda is so the Republican you want to love, so much so that I currently think he's set to win the election, in order to show faux-political-balance on TV. No spoilers please.

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Indigo Girls

It's February, which means Indigo Girls is filtering into the bookshops in Australia and NZ. It's already been given a pretty good write up in the Readings newsletter and there was a reprint before the book was even released.

You can read the first three chapters here. Or you can go and read this bit of embarrassment if you must.