Sunday, April 26, 2009


Una: what was the start of Una's house?
Mama: *blink*
Una: Oh yeah, the city got made. (pause) God made the people and the world made itself.
(aged three and a half)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Fred You Are Six

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Frederique, you are the daughter of my heart. You are my strangeness, poured from me and put into the world, you are the deepest part of me, the part of me that almost remembers my infancy, you are the part of me I don't recognise when I look in the mirror, you are the strangest and most unlikely things that I do. You are me and not me. You are a stranger who looks eerily familiar, a song I know that I've never heard. You are more ancient than me. I have a strong perceptual memory, from when you were a baby, of seeing you as giant and I was miniature - you, your head, your face, filled the whole scope of the world.

This past year, in your time of being five, you have:
chosen to take my middle name - Ann - as your own
run through Paris in bare feet
cried in the bird markets of Mong Kok
been a bridesmaid
bought your first watch
had your first pocketmoney
started school
taken to maths
entered the literary world of Ramona the Pest and the faraway folk and Famous Five
been to the circus

learned that the Easter Bunny is not real*
chilled out
learned to write fox
found God
inherited a pet turtle
built a complicated lego robot, using the instructions
run in your first race
decided to become a circus girl on weekdays and a rock star on Sundays
learned the days of the week
been brave and wild

Happy birthday, my girl Fred.

*She asked me outright on Sunday night, and I could see in her face that what she really wanted was the truth. I told her. She kissed my forehead, and thanked me - for the eggs or the truth, I'm not sure. A bit of both I think. I said 'I'm a little bit sad you don't believe in Easter Bunny anymore.' She comforted me with, 'I do a little bit.' I told her she couldn't tell Una. She said, her words not mine, 'Our Little Secret.' I told her how I'd snuck out the door in our room to hide the eggs in the garden while they were eating breakfast. She asked me, 'Does Daddy know?' At the circus, which was wonderful, not the least because it was also creepy and melancholy and sad, as well as being shiny and magical and clever, she amused herself trying to figure out how the magician performed his tricks.
I have always instinctively favoured fantasy over reality for my children, overprotecting their imaginative life, as if it is some rare precious insect, easily blown away or trampled. This journey towards the real is one of my favourite surprises so far as a parent.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Another Video

This made me cry too. I swear I'm not pregnant. Just a bit soft.

Easter Bunny Day

This morning the Easter Bunny came. Of course you can't go outside and look until after you've had your breakfast. Fred was so full after one piece of toast. Una had forgotten about the whole chocolate business, and kept drawing, taking the occasional mouthful of weetbix (I always have weetbix except one time when I had porridge, remember when I had porridge for breakfast? Wasn't that a funny day?). Finally it was time to look. Nothing in the fairy garden. Hmm. The Easter Bunny comes where you've been playing recently, I suggest. Fred's been playing at Tom's. No, no. The Easter Bunny always comes to your house (a slightly confusing statement since we usually spend Easter away with friends - luckily it goes by unquestioned). We haven't really got Easter Bunny lore down in this house. Luckily the girls don't ask why the Easter Bunny delivers chocolate eggs, because I don't know why. I guess when you're five, or three, it's totally within the realms of probability that a fluffy bunny who loves children would want to lay little chocolate eggs in the garden. Okay, so let's look in the barn, they spent a lot of yesterday riding their bikes and making gutter-rivers and washing babies in the barn. Nope. The swings? Aha! There they are - next to

the stage.
Easter Bunny knows that Fred's school gave out an extraordinary quantity of chocolate and that Una also got eggs at creche, so the spread is light on this year (not that the girls notice). Fred gathers up her white chocolate Lindt bunny and her four caramel easter eggs. 'When I get inside I'm going to give an egg to you Mummy, and one to Daddy,' says Fred. And she does. I am overcome. We suggest to Una she give one of her eggs to Fred to make things fair again. Una does, without question. I love them. I love my girls.
The Easter Bunny has also brought presents, even though we're not quite sure about Easter and presents. This Easter Bunny remembers how some girls at school got toys and perfume and jewellery for Easter, but she doesn't really think these are appropriate for Easter. No, no. Easter is the chocolate holiday. On Facebook this morning she reads about kids who got new Nintendo DS games and she quietly disapproved of such extravagance, such blatant consumerism on behalf of one of her alternate selves. Anyway, this Easter Bunny nestled amongst the chocolate a painted wooden egg, a badge each and a fluffy chicken (who can resist a fluffy chicken), inside a little plastic egg, decorated by a little old man and a little old woman somewhere in Melbourne. Trinkets, Easter trinkets.
This morning, when Fred gathered up her eggs she said 'Thank you, Mummy and Daddy!'
I said, 'don't thank us, thank the Easter Bunny.'
'Oh yeah, I forgot.' She calls thank you to the Easter Bunny.
Did she forget? Or are we perpetuating an untruth? And is she protecting us by playing along?
Tomorrow, the circus! Fred couldn't be more excited. And four nights down at the beach! Yay!

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cheap books? What's not to love?

Dymocks has jumped into bed with Big W. Target and K-Mart, putting their differences aside because they want to bring you cheaper books and all you have to do is sign their petition. Squee. Sound too good to be true? That's because it is. It's positively wicked.

They want you to believe if the importation rules are changed, then you will be skipping through their stores filling your baskets with marvellous literature, then after throwing a mere handful of coins towards your new friends, you may proceed to read your fill, and what the hey, go back for more. This, as Bob Carr points out, is for the greater good, because then those poor little working class cherubs will also be able to participate in this frenzy of cheap books. (Oh good, so need to worry about education, access to libraries, or literacy programmes then? Dymocks will sort them out with the excess books America doesn't want. Still selling them at a profit mind you - extra profit in fact because they bought 'em so cheap.)

Dymocks says: "The current law stops us buying books at the lowest price to put in our stores for you to buy." Huh? How come then, you charge more than RRP in Australia, for books much smaller and more vulnerable booksellers don't see the need to overcharge? I happen to know your discount is greater than an independent bookseller. If Dymocks is telling you if it can get books cheaper at wholesale it will pass the saving onto the customer then they are LYING. Even if the importation laws were lifted and books could be bought cheaper (none of which has been verified), Dymocks has already shown it doesn't pass on its discounts to the customer. Please don't sign their petition.

Here are some other ways to get cheap books:
Don't shop at Dymocks or Borders because they frequently up the RRP of books. Compare prices with an Independent chain like Readings (and if you buy 2 or more books from the Readings website in Australia you get free postage) or your local bookseller.
Still think books are looking pretty pricey? Then join your local library. They're free! Most libraries have reciprocal arrangements and a book buying programme so you can request titles they don't automatically stock. And authors in Australia still receive payments from library books, so don't feel like you're cheating your author mates out of any money when you use your library card. Also libraries sometimes sell old stock for peanuts.
But you don't want to borrow, sometimes you just want to OWN. I getcha. Buy second hand (please note that as an author I have nothing to gain from the resale of my books. But I'm not writing this as an author. I'm writing as a booklover. Just not a Dymocks booklover.)
Lend, swap and borrow your books with like-minded friends (join a bookclub if you have no friends).
Check out
Ask for and give books and vouchers for Christmas and birthdays
And sometimes, just sometimes, accept the cost. Give yourself a tidy sum and the gift of time (an hour, two, or if your time rich, a whole day), and dammit go to the bookshop (a nice one where people let you browse). Open and close books. Linger in the poetry section. Breathe deeply. Enjoy being there. Feel the textures of the covers, run your fingers over the print, admire the typography. Sometimes good things cost money. That's okay.

I am not writing this as a writer. I have an inflated enough sense of self to feel sure I'd be able to get by even if the laws were changed and Australia became flooded with American and English books - I'll keep writing, and hopefully keep selling books, though I accept that I'd be looking at getting myself some pretty hot American and English agents. Yes, I'm worried for my friends in publishing and what would happen to them. But mostly I am writing this as a book buyer. I don't have much money, we've been living on half an income for the past four years. I buy books for presents, I buy myself a small handful of books for myself every year, often with a voucher, and these days I find myself lingering over the Penguin Classics first, for sheer bang for your buck. But I also want to be able to read Australian books, and I want my kids to read Australian books. I want Australians to be able to speak to each other and not have to be translated into American first. I want us to know each other, and be interested in each other's thoughts, to respect each other's cultural differences. Andrew Kelly writes about this eloquently here. We are still paying for a publishing culture dominated by colonial distribution for most of Australia's culture producing existence - arguably this is part of the reason why we have such endemic racism in our culture. The idea that we could become mere distributors again is chilling.

That's why, despite the fact that I'm a booklover, despite the fact that I too would like cheaper books (hey, Kev, about getting rid of the GST on books?) I would rather stick my fingers in my eyes than sign Dymocks' petition.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The hills ARE alive. They are. They are.

For some reason this made me want to lie down and cry. Not for sadness and desolation at another portent of the imminent death of the world, or with grief at the terrible loss in L'Aquila (this story of the scientist who drove around the streets with a public address system telling people to leave in the weeks before the quake, who was arrested for fearmongering, was like a single human version of the whole global warming crisis, of everything that's wrong with the relationship between science and the state.)
But back to this. This makes me want to cry. Because this same struggling world is also full of hope and love and people making each other happy and many many reasons to save the earth.

Partners in Mischief

bush, originally uploaded by MartinJorgensen.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Hey everyone, Steph of the wondrous blog Hey, Teenager of the Year interviewed me yesterday, and her questions were so wonderful, and my sick children were so tedious, that I couldn't resist answering straight away. Get thee hither, and read what I had to say about being a superhero, among other things.

I must admit, sometimes I have trouble believing Steph's a teenager - we were following each other for ages on Twitter (like days) before I realised. I'm sure I wasn't ever that fabulous or funny. How dare she be. But hooray that she is.