Tuesday, 22 December 2009

extreme weather mayhem

We are currently playing an exciting game of Weather Cliché Bingo in the UK, due to the Extreme! Weather! Conditions! of literally millimetres of snow and hovering-around-zero temperatures. The Eurostar has just limped its first train through in four days, Heathrow and Luton airports seem to be closed indefinitely (if you want to fly anywhere for Christmas, you may do so next March), and roads are closed everywhere. Cue the clichés.

My bingo card is getting full, as it has both ‘chaos’ and ‘mayhem’ on it (though also ‘bedlam’, which I haven’t heard yet). Other family members have crossed off ‘ongoing delays’, ‘heartache’ and ‘families running out of time’ just from one airport alone. Surprisingly, ‘the biggest/worst snowfall in x years’ has yet to make an appearance. But bonus points were scored from a canny spotting of an entreaty to ‘find the Dunkirk spirit’.

There is even an Added Irony round. This covers motorway signs warning about weather problems that are themselves compromised by the weather problems (witness: the ‘Sa preading’ rather than ‘salt spreading’ sign). It also includes a rather brilliant comment heard on tv just this evening that ‘around Christmas is the worst possible time for weather like this to happen’ – mid-July presumably being more convenient.

It seems likely that ‘absolute shambles’ won’t be wheeled out until the aftermath, which could be weeks away at this rate. A twist in the tale tonight might furnish other valuable opportunities, though, as theories begin to be floated on councils being forced to import grit from offshore. (Jury is out on whether importation of pluck and mettle will also be required. Snork).

Please feel free to offer your own suggestions that should be included on the bingo card. Even if you are in Canada, where you will have to stop laughing at the UK’s incompetence for long enough, or the southern hemisphere, where you will have to stop laughing and also come home from the beach.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

after three o'clock

The scene: The Seafront Restaurant*, The British Seaside, about 3.10 pm.

ME: (planning to run some errands and then come back later) Hello. What time are you open until?
RESTAURANT LADY: About quarter to five. But you can’t have food.
ME: No, that’s all right.
RESTAURANT LADY: You can have tea, after three o’clock, but no food.
ME: Great! Thank you!

There may be restaurants where the tone of this exchange is begrudging or abrupt, but in this instance (and in most instances of this very same conversation), both participants maintained a jaunty, friendly and pleasant manner.

It is The Way We Do It here.

I would not at all have expected to be served food after three pm in a seafront restaurant at The British Seaside, even though it has the word 'restaurant' in its name, which implies there is food to be had. There is a narrow possibility that at the height of summer and tourist season, allowances would be made for people to eat food in a seafront restaurant after that time, but not always. Thus I was not in any sense disappointed that this was the case.

To Canadians, Americans, and, let’s face it, most people in the world, this is absolutely unfathomable.

But it is one of the many things that makes this The British Seaside. I love it. I don’t love it ironically, or nostalgically, or in a way that implies I think it is quaint or old-fashioned or comical with a side of embarrassing. I just love it, without qualification.

I went back at 4.10 p.m. and had tea, and a scone with jam and cream, and looked out at a wild and wintry sea. And felt very pleased indeed with the whole affair.

*Not its real name. I’ve called it this because I can guarantee you this scene has played out in every single seafront restaurant in the whole of the UK, several hundred thousand times.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009


Friends, the time has come to speak seriously about something very important.


This excellent publication came from the library book sale at a cost of one of your finest earth dollars, and I can feel your envy all the way from here.

There is one among you who once told me tales of an office in which, on quiet Friday afternoons once the bosses had departed for their afternoon of golf and alcohol, the secretaries all indulged in a heady afternoon’s macramé-ing. (There are others of you for whom the afternoons of the mid seventies emphatically did not involve such pursuits, and who frankly may be in slightly better shape now if they had).

The observant will have noticed there is something amok with this publication. Because this is not your traditional 1970s government-office secretary macramé. This is cutting edge, the-80s-will-be-here-in-three-years macramé, and that means macramé with the most modern of materials.

As the book notes, polypropylene is ‘washable, colourfast, mildew proof, durable and practical for interior and exterior macramé.’ But perhaps most importantly, ‘the ends of polypropylene cord can be fused together over a candle flame for easy splicing’. It is not, then, a staggeringly massive surprise to find elsewhere on the same page a notice that ‘disclaims any liability for untoward results and/ or for physical injury incurred by using information in this book’. This is not macramé for the faint of heart.

This pillow cover design will ‘liven up an entire room’ – presumably because nobody will actually want to sit down on something as deeply uncomfortable as a pillow made from polypropylene cord. Other project descriptions include the following: “the lines of this elegant design are reminiscent of the slender loftly towers of the Near East, from which holy men cry the summons to prayer”. So you can see, this is some pretty amazing macramé.

The magnificent project on the cover page at the top is called ‘Bell of Yama’. There is no such flowery project explanation for Bell of Yama. Bell of Yama simply is. If you need Bell of Yama described, well, then, maybe you just don’t get Bell of Yama.

Its ingredients include 660 yards of gold polypropylene cord, and a ‘large cowbell’. In fact, the total amount of polypropylene cord needed for this project is SEVEN HUNDRED AND THIRTY. And yes, that would be just shy of HALF A MILE.

Something tells me that Bell of Yama is not a project those office workers would be secreting in their desk drawers.

I, however, am going straight down to the yachting store to tell them I’d be willing to import the cowbells and we can work out some sort of kit cost. They probably don’t even know what a goldmine of creativity they’re sitting on there, with their endless polypropylene yardage. The macramé revival starts here.

Monday, 23 November 2009

the weight of worry

Flipping out today; thanks for checking.

It’s the weight limits.

I don’t go over luggage weight limits for flights, because I don’t. 20 kg is a lot of stuff. I don’t want to be carrying around 20 kg of anything.

But - especially when it comes to big moves, like, oh, like the one just over yonder the other side of Yuletide - I always flip out about them.

20 kg is the limit. You can, if you wish, pay some cash to go over the limit. It doesn’t appear to be all that much cash. It wouldn’t matter much if I had to pay a bit extra.

And in fact, I know with almost deadly certainly when I show up at the airport, if my bag is over 20kg, it’ll be, like, 22 kg. And that will be fine.

But I am flipping out. Because I flip out about luggage weight limits. Always.

I think it is the uncertainty. If you get to the airport and are over the weight limit, and suddenly they’ve changed the rules and decided nobody is allowed any extra, or it is actually going to be a thousand dollars a kilo, there’d be nothing you could do except throw stuff out. And when you are carrying everything you need for a year, you’ve already made damn sure that all of it is pretty important. Including – perhaps especially – the large numbers of hardback picture books and chocolate for gifts. I do not want to have to choose between having shoes and having candy.

I have to get a handle on the flipping out, pronto, because it makes me do ridiculous things, such as convincing myself that being the bringer of maple syrup is more important than being the owner of any pants.

Wait. Maple syrup IS more important than pants. Right?

Sunday, 1 November 2009

the flu post

Hey, remember that time the NDP and the Liberals and the Bloc put on their big girl boots and went to see the headmistress and told her they didn’t like the class bully any more?

For non-Canadians: this happened around November last year. Prime Minister Stephen Harper had been running things here in such a way that meant every time he wanted to pass legislation, the other parties had to either vote for it, or force an election (this happens when you attach a confidence vote to everything). Naturally, nobody wanted to force more elections – which are costly and get people’s backs up – so a lot of legislation got passed.

This worked for quite a long time. Until it didn’t. Eventually the other three parties went to the Governor-General and said a) they didn’t like being pushed around and b) the government didn’t seem to have much of an economic plan, so c) the PM had lost the confidence of the House. They proposed a coalition. (the coalition would be the Liberals and the NDP – the Bloc wasn’t going to be part of it, but supported it).

It may not appear so from my rather pedestrian summary here, but dudes, it was a massively exciting few days. Leaping from largely symbolic head-of-state to political superhero in a single bound, the Gee Gee had the fate of the country in her hands.

She had the following choices:

1. Dismiss the PM and force an election.
2. Suspend parliament and give the PM time to get his act together.
3. Officially ask the opposition if it was ready and able to form an effective government, and hand it power.

Given the opposition had already been to see the Gee Gee and told her it was ready and able, it actually seemed Option 3 was a probable step.

Option 2 seemed unlikely, because at the time we were all in the clutches of the Global Economic Crisis (ah, remember that?) and not only did the government not have an effective plan in place, but having no parliament sitting at the time would surely just compound the problem. And if she wanted to dismiss the PM, the opposition was already raring to go, rendering the election in Option 1 unnecessary.

In the end, though, she went for Option 2.

But we all learnt a new verb that day: ‘to prorogue’. ‘To suspend,’ in parliamentary-speak: the Gee Gee decided to prorogue parliament. Suddenly we were all using it as if we always had done in regular everyday conversation. “Oh, we were going to paint the house, but we’re proroguing that till spring.” “I might prorogue my cup of tea till after this episode of McLeod’s Daughters has finished.”

And now, here we are a year later, and H1N1 is upon us, and everyone is coming unglued because there aren’t enough vaccinations for everyone right now and people’s access to them has been, as it were, prorogued. Why? Ah, well, you see, they stopped producing the adjuvanted vaccines, because (until last Friday) they thought the non-adjuvanted ones were better for pregnant women, so they stopped the line of adjuvanted ones to produce more of the other kind.

Why yes. Adjuvanted. Wasn’t that always part of our lexicon, just like prorogue was?

It is comforting that at times of political and social crisis, we can all take a moment to expand our vocabularies.

Friday, 23 October 2009

on the road again

Insistin’ that the world be turnin’ my way, I have quite literally been on the road. Again.

Being On The Road, as Canadians will be aware, involves Eating At Tim Hortons.

The background to this tale is that I do not like sandwiches all that much. I don’t mind sandwiches, but they don’t exactly stop my clock. They are massively handy, though, and since this past two months there has been a lot of On The Road-ing, they have featured quite strongly in my daily menu. It means that by this point in the game, I could probably be quite happy never eating a sandwich again. Especially not one with a slice of (insert name of processed meat) and a slice of (insert name of sliceable hard cheese).

So, it used to be that if you just wanted some salad between two bits of bun at Tim Horton’s (because of the issues vis-a-vis Ham and Swiss) you had to ask for a ‘garden vegetable sandwich”. It also contains cream cheese. I learnt this through practice. I am able at learning by doing.

However in recent visits, asking for a garden vegetable sandwich has met with uncomprehending stares. I have had to describe the way in the old days they used to take that to mean lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes with cream cheese. Between two bits of bun. Once it was described, they caught on very easily, but it was a bizarre turnaround from not being able to use any other phrase than ‘garden vegetable’ to suddenly ONLY being able to use a phrase that WASN’T ‘garden vegetable’. (Either way, the servers look at me as if I have just got off the crazy train carrying a bag of mothballs and wearing half a Tunnock’s tea cake on my head, because NOBODY ever just wants a salad sandwich, but anyway).

So, armed with my description, and On The Road, I hit Tim’s.

ME: Could I have a sandwich with salad and cream cheese in it, please?
TIM:(for it is he): You want a bagel with cream cheese?
ME: No, a sandwich. With the cream cheese and salad.
TIM: An egg salad sandwich?
ME: No. It is the same salad you put in your egg salad sandwiches, the lettuce and cucumbers and tomatoes. But with cream cheese. In the sandwich.
TIM: So, do you want an egg salad sandwich or a chicken salad sandwich?
ME: Well, quite honestly, I don’t even like sandwiches.
TIM:(trying to be helpful) on a bagel?
ME: No. No. It is two bits of bun, and on one of them, you put cream cheese. And on top of that, the salad items heretofore described, and then the other bit of bun.
TIM: Madam, I can only assume what you mean is a GARDEN VEGETABLE SANDWICH.
ME: Oh good heavens. Thank you. Could I also have a receipt?
TIM: Indeed.
(The sandwich comes)
ME: Please could I have my receipt?
TIM: Sorry. I forgot. Now it’s not on the register any more.
ME: Well, but I know this seems a little much, but the thing is, I am On The Road Again, and that means I should really by this point be getting’ the world turnin’ my way like a band of insistent gypsies, and it also means my organisation buys my lunch, which is basically the biggest solid it has ever done me, (the tears begin to well) and if I don’t get a receipt for this sandwich I don’t even want or like, that is literally four dollars and ninety seven cents that I WILL NEVER SEE AGAIN.
TIM: Oh good heavens.

Monday, 19 October 2009

it's what you do with time

Here is some Time. It's mine.

I am Biding it.

Things are afoot. There is much to do.

Alongside the biding, though, and the things underway (it's under weigh, isn't it, ship people? I know. I do know. But underway is less weird), I hit the big city lights with my book talk, Steampunk is the New Zombies, this week!

It's all on my own, so I don't even have to defend my (measured, literate, solid-as-a-fictional-steam-powered-juggernaut) theories against anyone. If you wish to challenge me, I will fight you with my ninja handouts. They have fonts. Zombie fonts.

And now, back to the Biding.


Sunday, 11 October 2009

the happy, from the weekend road trip

1. Baking a Grandma Cake (thatched with chocolate buttons) and taking it to share with the fam in the USA.

2. Merging from Highway 6 onto the 403 at Burlington for the first time. Dudes, the merge is BACKWARDS. You merge into the OUTSIDE LANE. Also, the merge lane is approximately two feet in length. It is massively exhilarating, provided you come out alive.

3. Three words: Dance Dance Revolution. Against my sister. Bring it on.

4. Fall colours in New York state.

5. The Coodabeens singing along to Wired for Sound.

6. Podcasting, enabling my entertainment - on the 403 back through the world's darkest country night, and without even the excitement of the Merge of Flying Death - to be the Coodabeens singing along to Wired for Sound.

7. My heroically super-fuel-efficient little car getting me to a deserted petrol station somewhere near Woodstock on said dark country night to give it a drink. I apparently forgot you cannot drive from southwestern Ontario to upstate New York AND BACK on one tank, and only noticed when the fuel light sputtered on. My car manual reliably informs me I then have 15 ks to save the situation, and we made it to the oasis at 12.4.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

cutting-edge political joke

Okay, are you ready? Because here it comes!

Hey, everyone! Do you think the new Norwegian government is keeping its stick on the ice?

Ha! Oh, ha ha! See what I did there?

You don’t see, do you.

Because, okay, well, the new Norwegian government that just got elected – and that is, in fact, exactly the same as the old Norwegian government except one person no longer has a chair to sit on in the Big Important Room of Shouting At Each Other any more – is the Red Green Coalition.

And the ever-popular Canadian TV show that features duct tape and men doing comical things – on which Steve Smith always says, in his endlessly loveable way, “keep your stick on the ice” as quite literally nothing less than a hockey metaphor for life itself – is the Red Green Show.

My razor-sharp socio-political witticisms are just lost on you people.

Monday, 21 September 2009

some days

Some days, grey things happen.

But one day months ago I saw a little yellow car peeking round an orange tree.

That, I said, is a picture for a grey things day.

And I was right.

Saturday, 12 September 2009


If you are changing the headlamp bulb on your car, and someone comes to offer to help, what do you do?

Because there’s only one blown-out headlamp bulb, and there’s only one spanner. So the option isn’t really ‘help’, so much as ‘doing it for you’.

It’s nice when people offer help. They’re being nice. It’s what nice people do.

But you don’t need the help. You’ve got a spanner, and a bulb, and the know-how.

My new neighbour came over when he saw me under the bonnet of the car. To help. (I suspect, when he saw the very short-haired girl who looks like a boy, wielding a spanner and capably doing basic mechanical things on a car, he may have Surmised some Things. Surmisingly.) Anyway though, we talked for a bit. He has a daughter in Melbourne, so we talked about Australia. While we talked, I changed the headlamp.

There was a pause. Then he said, “Well, you’re a handy girl.”

I’m not. I’m not a ‘handy girl’.

But I’m someone who can read instructions and learn to do things. And if I can do them, I’m unlikely to hand them over and have you do them, is all.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

the last box

When you are moving, the gods of moving decree that the final box you pack up must contain the following:

electric extension cord
box of tea bags (two thirds empty)
roll of bin bags
bicycle pump
unidentified cable that may be to do with a computer
pair of knickers
one CD without case
a fork

Here's a picture I took. It's a bird. On a rock. I didn't take the picture recently. Not very recently, anyway. Not this week, or last week, or the one before that.

But really? It's all I've got, today.

Look! Everyone, look! A bird!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

the weariness of the long-distance folky

Y'all know, I am a folky. I love folkiness. I embrace it. I would not mercilessly ridicule it if deep down I did not bear for folkiness a love that knows no bounds.

But oh.


After all this time, this is where we're at?

There were morris dancers, at our local folk festival, dancing Bonny Green Garters. This is often quite impressive (in morris dancing terms, which of course is all relative), in particular when a very large number of them dance it all together. Here, though, there were precisely four dancers. They did another one called Step and Fetch'er (o gods, ask me how I KNOW) but inexplicably, to the tune of Waltzing Matilda. Average audience: two people.

In a startling oversight, the festival organisers had not employed anyone to sell didjeridus. Luckily, some harpmakers stepped in to cater for all those with a pressing need to spend huge amounts of money on a large and unwieldy musical instrument they will never be able to play.

We must set aside that these women had clearly become as disoriented as a litter of panicked kittens as they tried to escape the Wacky Children's Entertainer wardrobe, for they were by far the most engaging and musical people there.

Food provision: as ever, a 'home made' lemonade stand. "Lemon tree, very pretty/ and the lemon flower is sweet/ but the fruit of the lemon/ is impossible to eat," says Judith Durham, so it must be true. But apparently if you sock it in a polystyrene cup with half a kilo of sugar and charge nine dollars for it, well. Suddenly possible.

Folk Miscellany Bingo; check 'em off: extraordinarily large dog gently terrorising smaller dog; socks and sandals; purposeful bearded man carrying deckchairs, camera bag and thermos; stall selling fairy costumes and staffed by women wearing fairy wings; tie-dyed t-shirt; person juggling craply and dropping beanbags into other people's picnics.

Suspicious absence of anyone playing Michael Row the Boat Ashore on an ocarina, though. Weird. I bet there was one there somewhere.

I just...people, the folk revival was fifty years ago now, and I used to find it reassuring that these things have been the same the world over since god was a boy, but this time? It made me so weary. We gotta do something.

Monday, 3 August 2009

where I am not

Cuileann over at Eating A Tangerine put up some of her beautiful beachy photos, and they made me all sunny and happy. Usually I would try to find something relevant to say that linked to a picture I put up on here, but this time, I just saw her beachy photos, and remembered my beachy photos, and mine aren't as good as hers but here are two anyway, because this is where my heart is:

Saturday, 1 August 2009

debut book covers

Because I have plenty of time right now for things that are not work-related, I allowed myself to get completely distracted by this buzzy thing going around - building your own YA book cover.

The Alien Onions pointed at 100 Scope Notes, which has come up with a winning process, involving fake-name generating (to get your author name), random-word generating (to get your title), random-picture-related-to-random-word generating (to get your cover pic), and finally mucking about with the result to patch it all together and see if you can make it look like something you might see on the shelves.

(The process, if you wish to do it yourself - which you DO - is explained at both links above, where they have links to all the randomness sites and also to the rawther brilliant picture-mucking-about-with site, Picnik, where I whiled away several hundred hours a few minutes mucking about with pictures.)

And here are my two efforts:
I had to think hard with 'Air' because I had expected to get some sort of ethereal cloud-type picture, and instead I got a bizarre Miami golf course thing. And thank goodness for picture-weirding effects, because really the image of a cute baby stick insect on someone's fingertip that came up for the word 'afraid' wasn't absolutely the scariest thing I could've imagined.

This was fun. Go do it.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Dear Author

Welcome to our Society! We are thrilled to have you as a member.

The Society for People Who Write Books About Things They Did For a Year is a thriving organisation. Since its inception in 1991, when our esteemed chairman, Peter Mayle, took off to Provence, we have been growing and growing!

You may wish to look through our catalogue. It includes titles such as Eat, Pray, Love (spiritual journey); Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (cookery; and now a major movie!); The Year of Living Biblically (following the Bible’s tenets to the letter), and Just Do It (an inclusion that divided the admissions committee, as the author had sex every day for only 100 days rather than the traditional 365). We will shortly be admitting the previously-rejected Sean Aiken, as his One-Week Job Project (doing 52 different jobs for one week each) is finally due to be transferred from an organic endeavour of youthful idealism into the proper print format recognized by the Society. We also have high hopes for the Around Oz On A Battered Fish bloggers, who drove around the coastline of Australia in an environmentally-friendly car powered by waste vegetable oil (except when they had to use diesel!).

Our selection process is a rigorous one, and we are proud to have rejected My Year Of Just Doing My Job, Raising The Kids, Getting Groceries, And Looking After My Mum Etc.

Forthcoming titles include Underequipped and Ridiculed: A Year Painting Rowboats In A Landlocked Finnish Village; Living Canadian: 365 Days, Eh?; and Twelve Months of Relentlessly Quoting the Goons.

You will be pleased to hear that both of your proposals have been accepted by the Committee! Your initial idea to take a year off to write a book, and then write a book about the year in which you wrote a book, is inspired. And your second, to spend a year reading 365 books people have written about things they did for a year, and then write a book about it, shows admirable commitment to the Society’s cause, alongside a healthy grasp of a very comical metatextual conceit! Dear Author, we are impressed. A position on the Society’s Steering Committee for the Promotion of Doing Things For A Year seems likely to be in your future.

Membership expires on an annual basis.


The Society for People Who Write Books About Things They Did For A Year

Saturday, 11 July 2009

meanwhile back in the AFL...

I am sorry to report that the Adelaide Crows have 'devoured' my new bezzies, the 'undermanned' Fremantle Dockers.

I KNOW. Try to contain your sorrow.

The only real way I have to keep up with all this pain and heartache is through WA Today's online reporting. It seems pretty comprehensive. It uses the words 'obliterate' and 'humiliated', which can't be good. I suspect Shoutah, having run through his entire extensive vocabulary of insults for his beloved team, is at the very least going to be unable to go in to work this week, and at worst has lost his everloving mind, lifting a ceremonial two-by-four of shame and murmuring a soft, sad, '...like a pack of galaaaahhhhs...' before beating himself square about the chin with it.

But look at this:

"Fremantle's final score was the lowest in their (sic) history, comfortably less than the 3.7 (25) compiled against Geelong in round 20 of 2004, and the 117-point deficit equalled a round six drubbing by West Coast as their worst loss.

Their halftime return of 0.1 (1) was the most meagre in a league fixture since Fitzroy went scoreless against Essendon in round one 1995."

I could not love these sentences more, nor be more curious. What in the name of all that is good can it all mean? What other team sport has scoring represented by dual numbers employing both decimal points and brackets? What mystical equation brings us from the one number to its enbracketed relative? It's like a freaking MENSA question: "If 3.7 is to 25 as 0.1 is to 1, then 4.5 is to ... as 2.2 is to ...?"

Just about the only word I understand in the whole of the above is "Essendon", which is only because an acquaintance's dad played for the team in the forties.

I remain undaunted. Through WA Today's report, I've picked up a few more bits of correct terminology - it seems each quarter is actually called a 'term' - and I can begin to fill in position names, replacing the English rugby/ Canadian football tangle of wingers and quarterbacks in my head with correct AFL nomenclature:

"Fremantle entered the game minus a host of big names, none more significant than that of their gargantuan ruckman Aaron Sandilands."

Aha! I shall diligently scribble 'gargantuan ruckman' in my notebook. Right alongside 'youthful hobbledehoy' (to be found in the forward line) and 'inscrutable filibuster' (on the flank).

The Dockers website is also a mine of useful information, quoting the coach:

"...an inability to move the ball forward efficiently and combat Adelaide's structures were the most frustrating aspects."

Really? Not 'moving the ball forward efficiently' was frustrating? Well, I imagine it would be, since that is more or less the entire point of the game.

I LOVE this sport.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

it's time to play the music

Sometimes, there is quite simply nothing in the entire world that is better than the Muppets.

Friday, 26 June 2009

but how much is that in weight?

I can't put my finger on which bothers me more; is it:

a) that the best quality of this is how much it weighs?


b) that the best description they can come up with is "food"? ("So, what's in it?" "Oh, y'know. Food.")

The P'zone. Presumably by introducing an apostrophe, they saved money on letters, and passed on the savings to us, the valued customer, to give us A POUND OF FOOD for ten bucks. And you can't say fairer than that.

Over to you. Fire at will in the comments; which is worse?




Sunday, 21 June 2009

too much to ask?

Yesterday, this happened. All in one go. It was so quick and fun and easy. Start to finish, straight through.

(I can't foot model, because it's sized for an eight-year-old. Although it looks a bit bootie-ish, when it's on a foot, the foldover top does that very shallow ankle sock thing that is very cool. Also, I was accused of buying horrid plasticky yarn because of the candy colour. I am here to tell you not only is this lovely lovely wool, but it has aloe vera magically infused into it by the aloe vera pixies, so it is a Good Thing and Nice Yarn and you can throw it in the washing machine to boot).

So today I started the second sock.

Now some people, when they use these self-striping yarns, don't see a need to match stripes; stripes fall where they may. I am not one of these people. Socks gotta match. They're socks. Matching is what they do. They're called a
pair of socks. And the truth is, a self-striping pattern on yarn repeats itself, so all you have to do is take the trouble to find where the repeat is, and start there. Which I did. Light pink bit, followed by red bit, dark pink, light pink. Cast on.

Yeah. You see it too, right?

I didn't see the red bit didn't match until I was way down. But, I thought, must be me, because look - further down the pink bits match up perfectly:

So, I thought. I can just unwind a bit of the top to shrink the red bit, because the rest clearly matches.

Then I got to the pale pink bit here:

So, I thought.


So I picked the incredibly wrong bit of the pattern to start at. I unwound the ball to find where the repeat really started, so I could just start again there.

I could not find it. I decided to just continue knitting, because then I would see where the repeat was, and I would make that the start, and undo the inches I already did, and carry on from there.

there is no repeat. I have knitted a thousand yards of sock, and the pattern hasn't repeated. This is completely inexplicable to me. I even turned it upside down, because I thought that might make it match. It doesn't.

Socks match.

What is going on?

What am I to do?

Friday, 12 June 2009

they keel you

I was advised by actual real Australians that I should venture by ferry to Rottnest island, home of the quokka. The idea of this animal was sold to me as a more wee, more cute version of a wallaby, and by all accounts Rottnest is crawling with these adorable bundles of marsupial charm.

I am here to tell you that empirical evidence trumps anecdotal:

Quokkas are terrifyingly gigantic beasts (check out the trees behind for comparison). They would rip your head off as soon as look at you. I did not seek them out.

Sunday, 31 May 2009


You are hereby notified that my attitude towards team sports has changed somewhat in the last 24 hours.

Somewhat - because I still can’t abide all that abject worship of overpaid manboys - but that aside. You may consider me the newest-born Fan of the Freo Dockers.

I have less than no idea of the actual Rules of Aussie Rules. Luckily, the Dockers ticket people had obligingly selected a seat for me in close proximity to A SHOUTAHHH!!!! So I can provide for you full commentary and thorough, pinpoint-accurate analysis of yesterday evening’s match against THE FILTHY TIGAAAAHS!!! Richmond.

The facts ascertained:
There are four quarters of half an hour each
Everyone is very tall
It’s a bit like rugby, only not very, because the whole thing is a lot more streamlined and there is much less biffing and pointlessness
The refs all look ludicrous, no matter what they are doing, but especially on a throw-in, where they practically upend themselves in a spectacularly comical over-the-head backwards dive manoeuvre
There appear to be eighteen players per team on the field, which seems an awful lot
There are no sleeves
The kick-off involves the ref slamming the ball as hard as he can physically manage into the ground, as if chucking a major tantrum

(The Dockers mascot, who appears for approximately nine seconds at the start of the match and subsequently never again, is rubbish. He is simply a Dockers player made out of foam. He looks like a bad children’s book superhero character who has a name composed of lots of Z’z and exclamation marks.)

First quarter
The match begins. Four seconds later:
By the eleventh second:
At approximately twenty four seconds:
Bloke sitting nearby: Mate, save some for later, ay?
Shoutah: Sorry, coach.

Seems to me offence is doing okay, defence sucks. Freo ends the quarter in the lead.

Second quarter
Much the same, but in the opposite direction. The FILTHY TIGAAAHS are a bit quicker with the ball.

Guy in the Number 31 jersey: Hello, anklebiters. I am approximately fortyseven feet tall. My whole job here is to reach over everyone’s heads and simply knock the ball towards someone in my team who can do something with it.

A bloke behind me yells at the Dockers to play it forwards, not backwards. Then yells that they’re going in the wrong direction. Then suggests they should stop playing backwards. He is so monstrously pleased with this excellent joke that it will continue throughout the entire rest of the match.

Once the Dockers get ahold of themselves, and it, they pop a few nice goals. Defence still appears to me to be fumbling like absolute crap, but they finish ahead.

Third quarter
The Dockers pack it in. Apparently there have been some substitutions that I didn’t notice so they have ‘no bench’. This is a bad thing, especially as everyone is apparently out of puff and has had it up to here with those swift-footed, glue-handed FILTHY TIGAAAHS who are zigzagging about like Harry Potter chasing a particularly madcap Snitch. It is quite impressive, but I am wearing a purple shirt (I actually was, by the way. On purpose), so I must despise it. The Dockers are playing like A BUNCH OF GALAAAAHHHSS!!! and Shoutah thinks they should USE THEIR EEYYYEESS!!! as well as KICK IT LOOOONGGGG!!! An eleven-year-old girl in the next section giggles, wide-eyed, at every increasingly apoplectic outburst. But the Dockers refuse to take Shoutah’s advice, and also keep dropping the ball. Right before the klaxon, they hoof in two field goals (terminology, anyone? Field goals? Just goals?) within about three seconds, but are still way behind.

Fourth quarter

We all start in a slough of despond and can barely muster the energy to care. But a la Tim Henman at Wimbledon in the 1990s, this appears to be the only position from which the Dockers can sit up straight, brush their hair and achieve something, because they start clawing it back and actually manage to hold onto the ball a few times. A kick that goes into the side bit rather than the centre bit of the goal brings them back within a point. This means that every time a FILTHY TIGAH so much as touches the ball, we must boo like crazy. We bite our nails. Shoutah loses his shit completely, and the previously-giggly eleven-year-old girl in the next section quietly switches seats with her dad to be further away. The Dockers somehow manage to pull ahead and even I get that all they need to do now is play for time.

And yet. They do not.

The TIGAAAAHS win it, and the match ends just as a Docker aims a kick on goal that wouldn’t have gone anywhere near. As one, we clutch our heads in despair. Shoutah digs for a heart pill.

Dudes, I am hooked.

Monday, 25 May 2009

not joking

..."including - but not limited to - death"???

Manly Council does not kid around.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

notes from the seaside

Danger! Is! Everywhere!:

Even the beaches here are trying to keel you dead.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Sydney is currrvy

Those of us who are women, but are not strictly woman-shaped; those of us who are a bit plankish up and down; those of us who don't undulate in and out where we ought to; we are those who notice a nice curve when we see one.

I suspect Sydney of blossoming from a straight-hipped past, because it sure likes to show off its curves:

Thursday, 21 May 2009

je me souviens

O, friends,

I have truly seen the best Sydney has to offer. The quality of awful souvenirage is high. The term 'Authentic' is employed both widely and inaccurately. The best of the best? You decide:

1. Kookaburras-in-a-can
2. 'Convict soap' (no, I don't know either)
3. Ned Kelly action figures
4. Authentic dot art oven mitts
5. Anything with the word "g'day" followed by the word "mate" embroidered on it

(Writers' Festival by the numbers, for those who are interested? Number of times I have moved my own weight in books in the last four days: fifty-nine million. Also, Morris Gleitzman? happily bears out the rule about the loveliness of bald men.)

Monday, 18 May 2009

Sydney by the numbers

I know. I KNOW, all right? I quite understand how my chronic, economy-sized disorganisation in the face of this trip led some of you to question whether I would get here in one piece. I do see that, despite successfully getting myself across the globe lock, stock and barrel as many times as I have, this time, my making it here seems worthy of nothing less than a set of commemorative stamps.

Worry not. I can currently be found entirely in the place they call Australia, for that is its name.

So. Sunday morning walk in the suburb of Cream Horn: discoveries.

Large trees successfully identified as Moreton Bay figs: 4

Large trees incorrectly identified as Moreton Bay figs: 40

Scary blue-black dinosaurish birds that sound like a strangled lamb with a cold: 8

Astonishingly bright, fast-moving, noisy green and red birds: 8 zillion

Successful photos of astonishingly bright, fast-moving, noisy green and red birds: zero

Spider webs walked into: 1

Spider web-induced nervous breakdowns suffered: 1

Deadly Australian spiders encountered (imaginary): 50

Deadly Australian spiders encountered (actual): zero (yet)

Steep hills descended: 3

Steep hills climbed: 6

Unexpected sudden panoramas of Sydney: 5

Unexpected sudden views of Harbour Bridge:1

Nearby pedestrians surprised by shout of "holy mother of f***, that's the Harbour Bridge": 1

Apologies issued: 1

Spontaneous little jigs of joy danced: 3

Mysteries unsolved: 1

Wax-tipped bananas.
Anyone want to hazard a guess?

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Mr Pastry

I absolutely want to kiss the internet and offer to have its babies today, because I was able to find this. If you remember Mr Pastry, well, then you will Know. If you don't, well, then now you Know.

Friday, 8 May 2009

lucky Rachel

Joan points us at this BBC report about a new book that says Van Gogh didn't cut off his own ear in a fit of crazy after all.

The Beeb says:

"[The writers] looked at witness accounts and letters sent by the two artists, concluding that the row ended with Gauguin - a keen fencer - cutting his friend's ear off.

Van Gogh then apparently wrapped it in cloth and handed it to a prostitute, called Rachel.

Mr Kaufmann said it was not clear whether it was an accident or a deliberate attempt to injure Van Gogh, but afterwards both men agreed to tell the police the self-harm story to protect Gauguin...Gauguin later moved to Tahiti, where he produced some of his most famous works."

VAN GOGH: Rachel, honey, you are both bewitching and awesome at your job. Please accept this gift as a token of my affection for your services.
RACHEL: Well, you didn't have to...I mean, the invoice is in the mail as usual. (opens it) WTF is this?
VAN GOGH: It’s my severed ear wrapped in a hanky. Buddy here just cut it off, but we’re keeping it a secret.
GAUGIN: Last one to Tahiti’s a lemon!
VAN GOGH: This world was never meant for one as beautiful as me.
RACHEL: Dude, y’all are a pair of freaks.

Monday, 4 May 2009

bonny green garters. etc.

In England, you will rarely come across so joyous an occasion as Mayday morning, when morris dancers and their cheery musicians welcome the summertime at dawn.

You can see why I miss this riotous, fun-filled occasion.

(They're 'concentrating', I'm told. Presumably on how to escape the sixth circle of hell they apparently feel they are currently occupying.)

Edited to add: Thank you to anyone who dutifully went running for their copy of the Inferno (always on the bedside table, no doubt) and wondered if I purposely picked the sixth circle because that's where the heretics go. I would like to set you straight on this score, because my translation indicates that actually the sixth circle is reserved exclusively for those who play either the accordion or the banjo.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

not my best side

How desperate does someone have to be for sugar before she seriously considers – and by ‘seriously’ I mean ‘seriously enough to actually reach the point of standing in front of the open fridge door’ - the possibility of drinking from a bottle of maple syrup? Or if not drinking from it, at least pouring from it into a big spoon to take its sugary goodness like a dose of Panadol for a childhood earache?

This is not, as you may be charitably surmising, a rhetorical question.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

parallel importing

This article, while possibly spending slightly more time on chooks and utes than is strictly proportional in the overall issue, sums up quite well what's going on in the Aussie book industry right now.

I don't do well at explaining this whole thing, which is one reason I haven’t touched it here, but the Guardian nutshells it neatly. The other reason I haven’t written about it is that every time I get into it I lose any articulate expression all that education carefully engendered in me, and start going “No. Just no. Because no. Because. No.”

So instead, you can find many thousands of spectacularly well-chosen words on this issue right here. Start with this (ignore what he says about booksellers. He doesn't mean all of us, and you can find submissions from indies too - for example, and some figures). See this. And then, this, especially because it addresses the allegation of protectionism. This, too, because it also addresses figures, or the lack of them. It’s livelihoods, and industryhoods, and culturehoods.

If nothing else, if you’ve read the US version of Don’t Call Me Ishmael you will know how maddening a North Americanisation of a novel can get. Reading it over here is bad enough. Reading this version in Australia would make me want to weep. And break something.

(This is a different-but-related thing, but I loathe that Americanisation suggests North Americans can’t access a novel unless it’s written for them, with cultural and linguistic references of anywhere else removed or changed. It’s insulting. Canadian friends, if I were you I would be spectacularly pissed off with the implication I couldn't interpret what a ute is from the fact that someone’s driving it. In DCMIshmael, the big debate was over ‘dag’. There isn’t really an equivalent over here. But I'm guessing you could probably have got it from the context.

Finally, and what I think is more worrying, is that a generation of American kids could grow up thinking the world is really like that – a) completely tailored to them and b) all the same. An American kid reading DCMIshmael would have to surmise that Australian high schools have a thriving American football culture. American kids aren’t stupid. But if they’re not given the chance to be informed, well, could you blame them if they were to grow up being bemused every time everyone isn't just like them?)

Monday, 13 April 2009

zombie ap-sock-alypse

This is how you read The Forest of Hands and Teeth when you also have a birthday sock knitting deadline. Because there is no option on not doing the socks, but there is also clearly no option to not read The Forest of Hands and Teeth. As your hands are occupied with sock, The Forest of Hands and Teeth has to be held open with elastic bands.

I do not like zombie movies. I wondered about a zombie book, to be truthful, but I heard it was awesome and must be read!! So I read it.

I had to go to bed one time in between starting this book and finishing it. Going to bed in the middle of this book is not recommended.

It is scarier than zombie movies, but in a much better way.

The characters’ world is post-zombie apocalypse, and people are hemmed in their village(s) by metal fences that keep them safe, but the zombies – (‘the Unconsecrated’) are always there. You can hear them all the time. You get used to seeing them ‘tearing [themselves] against the fences’. They can’t die; they just batter themselves into an ever-weaker state. They are the people you loved, the people you grew up with, and you want them near you even though you don’t, and you have to live knowing the only reason they want near you is hunger.

The change that precipitates the action is a breach of the fences, a village attacked; survivors head out onto unknown narrow enclosed paths through the Forest. The tension is heightened all the time, because the Unconsecrated are there against the fences as the survivors walk. Blunted, torn fingers tangle in hair if they stray too close (scratchy zombie Hands, survivable; bitey zombie Teeth, prognosis not so hot).

So unlike zombie movies when OMGsuddenlyzombiesarehappening!!! Howcanwestopthemandsavethewoooorld?? , you start out in a place where life just includes them and always has. Which is quite the paradigm shift. There are procedures in place for when a living person gets bitten and starts to Turn; Guardians and gates and ropes. The bitten have options, while they’re still with-it enough. People get used to it.

I cannot stress enough that the zombies are always there. Did I say that? Always. There. When the survivors make it to a better-prepared village, with treetop refuges, it’s clear people are equipped to just live on while below, scores and scores of the Unconsecrated shamble and crave and moan without cease.

To be a bit serious for a sec, most of us will never have to live in a world where any real level of danger becomes just part of our daily lives, and where we have to scoop bits of hope when there’s no evidence there’s any good reason for it. But plenty of people do, and that’s what’s terrifying about this book’s world – that every decision in life has to be crafted around that horrible relentless truth.

Also, rope bridges. I recommend working on them. Preferably before the zombies are actually breaking the doors down.

And also, look; the birthday socks match what Mary is wearing on the cover of this book! I made awesome zombie-fighting birthday socks!! So the birthday recipient will, if nothing else, be dressed for the zombie apocalypse.
Which may be all some of us can hope for.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

dear singers 2

Singers, you misunderstand me, possibly on purpose and for comic effect.

When I say that when you adopt a mid-Atlantic accent to sing, it beats through my skull with the thunder of a thousand fire-hoofed stallions and makes me die inside each time I hear you, what I mean is you are perfectly welcome to sing with a mid-Atlantic accent if that’s where you come from. (Though if that’s actually where you come from, you most likely have fins and scales and your singing career is limited to being attached to a wood-effect backboard and animatronically booming Take me to the River to the delight of precisely no-one).

I am not against Floating Accent Syndrome of itself, because I suffer from it. Everyone who has lived for any length of time anywhere other than the place in which they were born should suffer from it. If you’ve lived in places other than where you were born, and don’t start to sound a bit Lucky Oceans, then you probably need to get out a bit more.

In short: If you sound like that, then sound like that. But if you don’t, don’t (cf. fire-hoofed stallions, dying inside, &c).
Love, Amberxx

Sunday, 5 April 2009

unsuccessful tourism activities

I’ve been Seeing the Local Sights, because you do that when people From Away are visiting. You have to Show Them the Local Sights, and as there are many Local Sights I Haven’t Seen this was an Excellent Opportunity.

AMBER: Let’s go to the museum!
AMBER’S MUM: I am very on board with museums. I love museums. In fact, I require regular applications of local history to maintain good health. I am the Queen of Museums!!
AMBER: I know. I actually do totally know that. I used to live with you, remember?

AMBER’S MUM (confused): Is it me, or is this museum actually an art gallery with one very large piece of art in it?
AMBER: That's an excellent point. But it says here it is the one piece of art that sums up this whole artist’s life so far, including his battle with not one but two debilitating diseases.
AMBER’S MUM: I definitely got that from looking at it.

(not very much later)
AMBER’S MUM: On further reflection, this museum appears to be mostly a shop with an art gallery with one very large piece of art in it attached. But look! Here in the shop is a box of cards with paintings of the local area on them. These are painted by some Canadian artists From History.
AMBER’S MUM (to the museum shop lady): In this box of cards are historical paintings of the local area. Where can we see these paintings?
MUSEUM SHOP LADY: Well, we sometimes sell posters.
AMBER’S MUM: No, I mean, the actual paintings. Where can we see them?
MUSEUM SHOP LADY (laughing quietly to herself at the indescribable lunacy of the foreign loons before her): Oh, no! These artists are dead.
AMBER’S MUM (backing away slowly): Ah. Well, thanks for clearing that up. Ber-bye.

AMBER’S MUM: I think I’m ready to go home now.

Friday, 3 April 2009


How excited?

That would be very.

See ya there, kids!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Dear Harry Manx

Dear Harry Manx,

My sock and I are quite overwhelmed by your beautiful, musical hands. The sock hasn't got over its encounter yet, honestly.

We appreciate your indulgence.

Love, A.xx

Thursday, 19 March 2009

how not to do it masterclass, by me

Something wrong with me.

Must be kept away from those I admire.

Exhibit A:
AMBER (thinks she said, to wickedawesome author): Love your book! So funny! Like sunshine! So clever! And funny! Loved it!
(actually said something like): Um. Your husband just kinda insulted my friend, I think.
WAA: Wow. Thanks. Also, get a sense of humour. Shall I sign this for you?

Exhibit B:
AMBER (thinks she said, to talentedsmiley musician): Love your music! Want to come hear it! Too lacking in common sense and overexcited to figure out your website! Please help me out!
(actually said something like): Dude, your website sucks.
TSM: Um, I feel so lucky you will be coming to my gig. How I wish you were in our neck of the woods more often.

Exhibit C:
AMBER (thinks she said, to world’sloveliest musician): Love your…everything! Your song in my head all day…until I died of happiness! Must hear more!
(actually said something like): God, all day, over and over. Write some more damn songs, will ya? Jeez. What’s the holdup?
WLM: (fortunately, maintains radio silence)

Somebody. Stop. Me.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

seen this weekend:

1. Friday, a bloke in shorts. It was only minus three, so he had a fair point.

2. Yesterday, a shirtless bloke. I live near a uni campus, so warmer-weather induced shirtlessness happens round here approximately two weeks before the real world. A bit like the bellwether ridings in the federal election – you know everyone’s going to go the same way eventually, it just takes them a bit longer.

3. Today, people outdoors smiling at each other. The temperature was definitely, truly, plus.

4. Also, this, printed on a paper napkin:

I am mistrustful of the jaunty orange ‘a’ in ‘laugh’. I don’t get it. I think there must be some significance to the ‘a’ being orange and everything else not, but I don’t know what that significance is.

And I get that napkins come from places where you eat, so spoonfuls and forkfuls, okay. But is it only me - yeah, I know the answer to this already, it is only me - who finds the third imperative a bit aggressive? “Enjoy a mouthful (darlin’. Heh, heh)”.


Monday, 9 March 2009

go back to sleep, love, it's just a lunatic ninja

A friend pointed me at this report today:

Man Wrestles Kangaroo in Canberra Home

If you can't be bothered with the link, here's the pertinent information:

Moments later, a kangaroo burst through a three metre high window of the house's master bedroom and onto the bed where [bloke and his family] lay.
"My initial thought when I was half awake was: it's a lunatic ninja coming through the window," [bloke] told The Associated Press.

There was some kind of a scuffle; the kangaroo tore about bleeding everywhere and scaring the living crap out of everyone, including itself, and the man somehow managed to shepherd it outside without getting himself irreparably damaged in the process. Everyone safe, including the kangaroo; dad is most assuredly a bit of a hero.

Yet all I could think was: for whom, in this situation, is their first thought: “Jeez, must be a lunatic ninja breaking in my house”?

Really? That’s what you first thought?

Because I understand the likelihood of a kangaroo careening in through a plate glass window and pitching a fit all over your house is fairly slim. But surely the chances of it being that, over, say, a lunatic ninja, are at least slightly higher?

On further reflection, in fact, I can imagine precisely no situation in life where I might jump to the conclusion that it was caused by a lunatic ninja. Not a one.


Saturday, 7 March 2009


This week’s ‘I haven’t heard that for a long time’ was Nic Jones singing Canadee-i-o. (Yeah, I think Dylan did it too. You’ll be wanting the Nic Jones version, k?).

So lovely and clean a guitar tune, and the beginning of it makes me think of Joan’s research and the masses of interesting things she knows about seafaring women. Joan knows everything there is to know about that curious breed of girl who found herself wedded to a whaling ship captain heading off into the great nowhere of the south seas, surviving months in close quarters among stinking men and salt and flesh and blood. Joan also knows about those women who commandeered convict ships in Australian waters and (maybe) made it to New Zealand shores, or in any case made themselves able to fare quite admirably, thank you very much, on the high seas (until caught and hanged, obviously). And Joan knows about these women who disguised themselves as boys to get ship’s passage.

Theirs isn’t generally a happy story, to hear Joan tell it; it seems mostly one of captains who discovered the women’s treachery and let them continue working for the voyage, only to kick them off at port with threats in their ears and no pay for months of hard labour.

So in this song, a ‘fair and handsome girl’ wants to follow her young sailor-boy overseas, we assume to Newfoundland, and bargains her way onto a ship to get herself there. The crew discovers her in short order, binds her hands and feet, and makes ready to throw her overboard.

Enter the captain in a great rage, who says the girl can keep her collar of sailor-blue and be taken safely to that seaport town. Then there’s a handy guitar-solo gap of ‘half a year’ – at the end of which she ends up married to the captain who saved her, dressed in the regulation ‘silks and satins’ of such songs, one of the ‘finest ladies’ of Canadee-i-o.

Well, the song has the requisite plenary verse of ‘what have we learned today, kids?’ in which what we’ve learned is the ‘honour’ she’s gained by dressing as a sailor.

And much as I like this song, this bit always annoys the frack out of me. First of all, if we’re counting the ‘finest (immigrant) ladies’ of Canada of the time, we’d be looking to Susannah Moodie and Catherine Parr Traill, and if you’ve ever come across them you will know there’s a lot more black mud, hacking out tree stumps, starving and delivering freezing slippery babies than tripping about in silks and satins going on. It pisses me right off that this girl goes through the ship’s passage – enduring the unmentioned six months of, presumably, extreme hardship at the hands of crewmen who only didn’t kill her because of orders – only to spring into a pair of silk stockings and get all her ladyshippish. She’s all about the ‘honour’ the sailor’s uniform brought her, as long as she could ditch it at the first waft of a lavender handkerchief.

Also, what of the sailor-boy she was following in the first place? All right, I can somewhat see having your head turned by the captain, in a you-scratch-my-back-I’ll-prevent-you-from-being-murdered kind of way. But according to the song, she ‘loved him well’, that sailor-boy. Seems he didn’t live up to the potential standards of living of a captain’s wife, though.

Anyone – find me something in between the Joan and the Jones version? Any girl who didn’t get her arse kicked for trying, nor trade it for glamour? They existed in history. Why not to a mandolin accompaniment?

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Dear Large Grocery Store Chain

Ahoy! Hoist the topsail:

It’s not because you can’t spell, which doesn’t matter a bit.

It’s because you didn’t check.

(Saw it on the way home. Went back with my camera later. What?)

Sunday, 1 March 2009

doing it by halves

1. Southern Ontario. Now with 50% more winter! We had spring on Friday morning. Then in the course of five hours the temperature dropped back twenty degrees and we’re sitting at minus fifteen again.

2. The great thing about knitting is, you can get 50% through a thing and still have no idea if it is going to look great or like utter arse. Either way, knitting something this straightforward makes a pair of socks look like the enigma code. You need no more brain function than a bewildered chicken to get this right. (Still doesn’t mean it’s not going to look like crap, but at least it’s non-taxing).

3. The local uni has opened a new massive sports facility, with a great big pool, and dudes, nobody but me seems aware it exists. I show up and have a 50 m pool and three bored lifeguards to myself. The first time I arrived and there was nobody else there, I thought it must not be open, but the lifeguards all nodded encouragingly and reassuringly. I can feel them wishing I’d get into difficulties halfway up a lap just so they get to do something. However, now somebody else has caught on. Yesterday I had to turn over 50% of my Olympic-sized pool to the use of another swimmer. I may have to have words about our schedules, so we can stop crowding one another.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

is it on...The List?

My brain is working so fast and so hard at the moment, that when I stop working, it can’t handle changing gear. I daren’t read a book, because I start racing through it for The Point and forget to actually read it (“yeah, all right, Winton, surfing surfing blah blah blah. Step it up already.”) I daren’t knit, because my brain in hard-and-fast gear isn’t up to method, or patience, or allowing a thing to unfold.

My brain needs absolutely off, now.

It’s a great pity, then, that what my brain needs isn’t available here in Canada.

What it needs is The Rich List.

You will not have seen the popular New Zealand tv show The Rich List. It hasn’t travelled.

Let me attempt to recreate for you a tiny piece of its magic, so you will understand.

On The Rich List, two sets of randomly-paired people who have never met sit in big oval transparent space-pods on either side of a Plexiglass Podium of Neon, upon which stands one Jason Gunn. The whole procedure kicks off when Jason Gunn announces to the pod people a Subject.

Jason’s Subjects are wide-ranging and bizarre. He knows when he has a good’un. You can tell by his face. He cannot wait to make known to us the level of sheer wackitude his researchers have risen to this week. The pod people busily discuss the Subject. For they will have to Name as many examples of it as they can possibly imagine.

After sustaining the tension for a couple of glacial ages, Jason Gunn asks them to decide how many Test Cricketers Of The Seventies Whose Mothers Were Named Mary they think they can name.

Next, with his Soundproofing Plunger of Doom, Jason Gunn masterfully soundproofs one or other of the Space Pods. The first team confides in Jason its number. Jason unPlunges the one pair, and Plunges the other, and then immediately blurts out the secret to the previously-soundproofed pod: the first pod thinks it can name three. The second pod, alight with its new auditory function, counters that it thinks, Jason, it could name four test cricketers.

There is then Plunging and unPlunging a-plenty, as the slowest bidding auction in the history of the earth goes on between the two sets of pod people and their interpreter. Finally, the will of one pod is broken, and the people fall to their knees, sobbing, “Jason, we ask the other pod to Name…The List.”

The camera swoops up close to Jason’s Illuminated Dais of Interlocution in a way that resembles the spaceship out of Flight of the Navigator, when its big spherical eye-on-a-hydraulic-arm whizzes up to the kid’s face and goes “COMPLIANCE!!”. Jason Gunn, having almost been toppled from his Mighty Throne of Plexiglass, straightens his giganta-knotted tie, and unPlunges the soundproofed pod for the final time. He announces to the pod people their fate: “They say…Name….The List!” and everyone applauds wildly.

So the pod people proceed to name ninety-four test cricketers of the seventies whose mothers were named Mary. Every time they suggest one, Jason has a handy factoid ready: ("Played for the West Indies in (any year) when they battered England; played for Australia in (any year) when they battered England...") and finishes up with "but is he on...The List???" And then he either is or he isn't, so the pod people either win or they don't.

It’s a dramatic best-of-three scenario. So once the pod people have got through the test cricketers, the whole business starts again with naming Yarn Colours in the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Range, or Australian Lakes That Contain More Than Five Million Litres Of Water, or Famous Percussionists Born in Whangarei.

This part of the competition determines who gets to go on and try to win Some Money. The prize for knocking out the other pod, is to (waaaait for iiiiit) do the exact same thing again. This time, though, it’s not just any old list, but…The Rich List. The procedure is identical, only for this one they can win literally pence for naming Julie Andrews’s Favourite Things.

The final thrilling climax of the whole event comes when the successful pair gets the opportunity to…are you sitting down?…go back to the Space Pod and Name some More Lists.

The whole thing takes an entire hour, all told, because of the swooping Flight of the Navigator camera and the Plunging and the unPlunging and the formula with which the pod people have been indoctrinated to speak (“We’d like to add ‘Raindrops on Roses’ to the List, please, Jason.”)

It is a programme that, if you were not doing something else at the same time – such as learning the bagpipes or drafting the federal budget – would inspire you to commit some violence upon yourself to relieve the agonising boredom.

It is exactly what I need for completely rewiring the settings and becoming half-normal again.

Can anyone suggest an equivalent band-aid, before my brain does itself an injury?