Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Best Beloved asked last night if I'd written anything on The Blog recently.  And got his nose snapped off, because I haven't and I feel guilty and I feel so so tired.  And it felt like a "why haven't you done your homework?" type of question...

I'm back to my principal conundrums - how do I make time for myself and how do I stop being so damned tired?

Last one first.  I am terrified of going down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome again.  That was a long hard time and I don't ever want to feel so perpetually exhausted again.  So I must remember to listen to my body more, be aware of my mood and mind.  Rest when I need to, even if it means that I'm napping every afternoon of my holidays and weekends. And (big breath) minimise socialising.  Not that I do a lot of it (quite the reverse) but when I'm tired, anything is too much and becomes a cause of resentment rather than an enjoyable event.  It's a bit of a balancing act because friends and family are important to me and I don't like feeling I've let them down.  For the rest - eating and drinking sensibly, some exercise, the necessary supplements (kelp's a big one) - they're a given.

But making time for myself - well, start here.  Keep decluttering the house (which is basically disposing of what we don't use and/or love, emptying cupboards,boxes and trunks) because possessions, even when you love them, do weigh you down.  Think about how I can simplify the running of the household (which may mean letting go of some things - a real challenge for me, being someone who is very set in her ways).  And set aside weekend time that is chore and commitment-free, regardless of what remains undone.

Sound like a plan?

Monday, November 7, 2011

What is learning?

A recent read has been "The White Goddess" by Robert Graves.  Unusually, it took me a long time to read it.

I read quickly, devouring books, greedy and delighting in them.  But there are some that I have to really work on and not because they are badly written.  Far from it.  But because the books are dense with meaning and background and demand intellectual attention and stretching.  The White Goddess was one such.  Anything by Roberto Calasso has the same quality.  Two intelligent and thoughtful men, and I have to work hard to follow their thoughts as they work them out across the pages.  Deeply satisfying.

Neil Gaiman, Spider Robinson, Tanith Lee - equally referential, much lighter reading, equally satisfying, just not as demanding, possibly because it's fiction.  But then, all writing is ultimately about the human condition.

How much what is implicit as common knowledge changes over the years.
This got me thinking about how knowledge and learning are considered these days.  A Renaissance man (and they were generally men) might be rich with a library of a few hundred books, knowing each of them intimately.  These days, knowledge seems to be valued more when it is specialised, and there are fewer generalists, less recognition that an overview, a broad knowledge, has merit in itself.

And this totally ignores manual skills, which can be every bit as demanding as intellectual.

Not sure if there is a point to this post.... except I am constantly intrigued

Monday, October 10, 2011


When the Black Dog bites....

I am no longer aware when my reactions are extreme or way unbalanced.  "Normal" changes, and my normal becomes really very strange, very isolated, very bleak.  Self-feeding problem - I think I and my problems are worth nothing, so do not feel it right to trouble others, to seek help.  Because I am not worth it.  There is short term, emergency support if I am at risk of hurting myself or others.  Nothing for medium to long term.  There is no shame in having depression, but there is a lot of difficulty asking for help, getting help, particularly as I am a high functioning depressive and the mental health system is frighteningly stretched.


I've started, re-started, deleted, started this post anew.  I'm posting it this time.  The words may never be right, there may be no coherent structure, but here goes.

I am 45.
I have a Bachelor's degree with Honours.
I am a good cook.
I have a dodgy back.
I have supported myself from the age of 21.
I have depression.
I have a comfortable house filled with things that have meaning for me.
I have three dogs, all different breeds, all quite wonderful.
I garden, teaching myself as I go.
I have a loving husband whom I adore.

I do not want to be defined by my illness - that is only one part of me.  But it does flavour my life.  It could be said to be under control, I am on Effexor XR, low dosage.  Coming off it is not an option.  I tried, did without for some months, but a difficult boss at work triggered another episode and when I realised that I was thinking about crashing a car a bit too frequently, when I caught myself scratching hard enough to draw blood, to make the internal pain external, well, that made going back on a no-brainer.

There is a predisposition to depression on both sides of my family.  My first conscious awareness of being depressed was when I was 17.  I tried to kill myself and failed (oh great, you are such a loser, you can't even do that..).  That lasted several years - through most of my time at university in fact.  I saw a psychiatrist for a year, that got me functional, and some very good friends kept me alive and gave me hope.  They looked after me - specifically Dylan, Margaret and Sammi - you were the main ones and I cannot thank you enough.

A couple of breakdowns from overwork (IT is fascinating, IT is demanding).  Several long-term boyfriends.  Then a series of poor bosses, culminating in a truly atrocious one (now inflicting damage elsewhere).  And I started going into deep depression and I couldn't stop.

I slept.  I couldn't laugh, could barely smile.  With a few exceptions, I couldn't talk to people face to face, over the phone.  I could barely manage email.  Things like driving became too hard if there was any one else on the road.  I got panic attacks amongst people, hyperventilating, crying, ready to scream, batter them out of my way as I ran out, trembling.  No, I can't go to the Farmers' Markets anymore.

It took far too long for me to get help. None came from the workplace until I sought it, but the therapist they referred me to and the rehab worker were brilliant.  They supported me and helped me work through the mess in my head, gave me tools to use, information to read.  They listened and kept talking until something made sense to me.  I worked from home for some months, slowly going full-time again.  My doctor was truly supportive, gave me the time needed in appointments, the time off from work needed so I could sleep, worked me through medications until that was settled.  A couple of close friends who also have depression - we checked up on each other most mornings, long phone calls that reassured us that we were still in our heads and that someone else truly understood.  Black humour, shared strategies, shared stories.

Wanting to die - I'm still not sure if it was about wanting to be dead, or wanting the pain and bleakness to be over.

The Bleaks.  When it was much as I coudl do to get up, shower, dress, feed the animals, feed myself, get through the motions of living.  I remain amazed that I was generally able to function at a high level (okay, not my social skills, they were spectactularly absent), able to keep going in public and fall apart mostly at home.  Grey, unending.

For a long time, I didn't articulate at work where my head was, but I also never hid it.  I might be managing. I might be sitting at my desk, working through a problem, tears streaming down my face.  I might have run out of the building and hid for a while in the trees until I could face things again.

Outcome - there are side-effects from the meds, but I can live with them more easily than not being medicated.  I get tired easily and need to sleep.  I prefer small groups of people and very little socialising.  My concentration is shot and my memory is more erratic than it used to be.  My tolerance of noise is very low.  This makes being amongst people tiring.  But I can smile, I can laugh, I can enjoy my life.  Those are not small things.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Indulge me...

...and forgive the blurring, this is my happy snaps camera (I still prefer film when I'm really playing with the camera).


Winston and Fearghus, wrestling.

Truly.  This is them at play.

I didn't get the next section, which involves them thundering across the deck, up the yard and back again.  In about 10 seconds flat.

All you can do is flatten up against a wall and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Life in binary

...or maybe not.  Hello all you zeros and ones.  I have been somewhat bored and lacking in motivation - quite why, I'm not sure.  Actually, I suspect it is simply a reaction to being constantly "on" and trying to get things done in specific time frames.  I caught myself calculating when I can retire (9 years and 9 months, or thereabouts).  I am so tired of doing, I escape into reading about doing, which is just another way of procrastinating.

I could list all the things I've done, all the things I plan to do over the next few weeks (oh yes, another data centre shutdown, weeeeeeeeeee!) but that's just lists.  Busyness.  I will make an exception though, I've been doing an evening course called "Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life".  Guided group discussion that reflects on where we've been and where we're going.  Deceptively simple questions like "who are you", "what matters to you", "what are your spiritual beliefs, if you have any".

There is no right answer, there is no wrong answer, there is only what is and a chance to reflect on it, to discuss it, to challenge it - all heading towards a better understanding of what makes each one of us tick in our own ways and what we really want.  I have nothing Big on my bucket list.  No travel, no exciting experience.  If I had one year of life left, I would quit work and spend time with the people I love, my animals, my books and garden.  I would make sure that particular items went where I wanted them to (family heirlooms and all that).  This assumes I have reasonable health for that time.

Modest wants, and thoroughly selfish in a very good way.

By asking myself how I would live those 12 months, I have the chance to really focus on what is truly important to me.  Then I can start thinking about how I make those things more central in my life.

So there will be a discussion with Best Beloved on how we split the household chores, I've asked for formal permission to work one day a fortnight from home.  That's a start.

Monday, August 8, 2011

where did the time go?

Hmm - maybe the blog should have been called "where the heck do I find the time?" - 6 weeks have just vanished.  There is always work.  We had a data centre shutdown, which happily screws a weekend or two over for us as we have to catch up on everything that doesn't get done.

There was a dog club journal, which tends to involve an entire weekend sitting in front of the laptop, trying to stay focussed.  When everyone gets their reports in to me on time, it's achievable.  Oh, and because there's been an AGM, some office-bearers changed, which meant I also had to update the contacts on the club website.

Pet sitting for friends - not arduous, but does take some time.

Puppy Preschool with Molly.  Which was an absolute hoot - she was the biggest pup there, lumbering around and quite happy to play with the other pups or lap up attention from the humans.  She did graduate, although the bar was rather low (sit then down).

Bruce has been working on the Valiant.  He's aiming for a car show at the end of August, so has been at it, hammer and tongs, most weekends.  He's also had a couple of trips to Queensland to help his younger brother.  Which means I've been picking up a lot of his chores (don't worry, this isn't one-sided, he will be carrying the load in return when I have other commitments).

And, how could I have overlooked it - we've had MAJOR problems with internet access from home for the last 4 weeks.  Continuing dropouts, poor speed and general angst and frustration as we realise just how much we rely on it (yes, very much a first world problem.  Truly, I am grateful that this, our mortgage, Bruce's insomnia and house-training Molly are the only real problems we have to deal with).  Many techs and later, there has been quite a lot of rewiring done and changes at the Exchange.  So lots of small, cumulative problems have been resolved and the outstanding part of the problem appears to be the inverter on our PV panels.  Thankfully the system is still under warranty, so it's back to the company for remediation.

I've caught up on my paper mail, shopping/posting for family birthdays, mending (including a roughly put together cover for the outside sofa).  I need to get back into the habit of planning meals and exercising.  I am so aware of the family histories of heart problems and osteoporosis, and my own back and depression.  Exercise isn't an option, it's a necessity.

And I can feel Spring rising.  The Manchurian pear is starting to bud and my fingers are getting that itch in them.  I totally forgot to prune the fruit trees, but in a few more weeks it will be safe to plant the potatoes and prune the roses (I have to try and strike Honorine de Brabant for an acquaintance).  It is also time to start properly training Little Miss Molly Monster.  I should start thinking about what needs to be planted in the vegie patch and start the seeds in the greenhouse.

The days are getting longer and I want to spring clean!  Silver and brass to polish, timber to clean and wax, paintings to change over.  Yes, it's time.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sustainability - small steps

Canberra is a spread out place.  If you live in the original suburbs (areas now known as Inner North and Inner South), it's less obvious.  They were designed in the days before the motor car ruled, and everything was to a human scale.  Every street has footpaths, there are numerous little pockets of green space, sometimes even with seating. Bus stops are frequent and it's normally only one bus ride to work.  Each suburb has a shopping centre, with newsagent, post office, grocery store, butcher and so on.  Most suburbs had schools within walking distance.  Blocks were not built out, there was a real sense of scale and openness.  Enough land was in the backyards for you to keep chooks, a modest vegetable garden, some fruit trees as well as the necessities of clothes line, compost heap and garden shed, where things were mended or created.  Space also for the firewood that was so necessary in the winter, when the wind slices down from the mountains and through your bones.  We rarely get snow in the city, but it normally sits on the Brindabella and Tinderry ranges that surround this valley.  Back to the point - pretty much everything you need is in walking distance, and the prevalence of footpaths makes walking everywhere easy and safe.

But then Canberra started to grow, the car took centre stage and there was little, if any, thought given to what would happen when resources started to run out.  That's pretty much the way it was, the world seemed limitless in it's resources and there were only a few voices in the wilderness.

So now we have a sprawling city.  Inner North and Inner South are now too expensive for most people to buy into.  The newer areas - Woden, Belconnen, Tuggeranong, Gungahlin - they are dominated by the car.  Only the major streets have foot paths.  There is less green space - and will be even less as the public schools fence off their ovals.  Two or more bus rides are needed to get to work - and when you start adding up the time spent on the bus versus the cost of parking, parking normally wins. (3 bus runs with multiple stops, a bus stop that's 15 minutes away and almost 4 hours travelling (both ways), for $8 (so $16 for the pair of us) or 40 minutes plus $5.50 parkings and the car will carry whatever groceries need to be picked up and route diversions for specific needs are possible)  Shopping centres have been closed and converted to townhouses and flats.  Shopping is generally based around the town centres - malls dominated by Westfield and full of chain stores.  And there is no sense of community.

I had to take the car in for some work at the dealership in Belconnen.  Because I'm on holidays, I chose to walk home.  I figured it was easier and would probably take as long as waiting for a bus and then doing a cook's tour of Belconnen.  It took about an hour.  I smiled at the three people I passed.  I saw animals going about their daily business. I heard parrots bell-like calls. And there was bugger all in the way of footpaths, so I was extremely glad I was wearing sneakers.  Now - this was up Southern Cross Drive, a main arterial road.  There are footpaths and cyclepaths that meander through the suburbs, but NOTHING for a fast, direct walk.

And I thought about this and got quite cranky at the inherent short-sightedness.

We have suburbs where it's not easy to get by if you work and don't have a car.  It's not easy to add incidental walking to your day because the infrastructure just isn't there.  I've got damaged ankle ligaments from too many trips and rolled ankles.  So I need a flat surface to walk on safely.  Grass verges are not a safe option.  Between bad parking, incautious drivers, narrow roads and poor visibility, the streets aren't a safe option either.  Unless dedicated cyclepaths are built (at significant costs), cyclists are also at risk.  If you're sick, or old, or a parent with young children, or a child - the odds are good that there is no local shop in walking distance.  Which lessens the ability to build a local community.  Because so many of us spend long hours at work, home time is used for the never-ending chores that keep a household turning. Very little of it is available for hobbies, catching up with friends, meeting neighbours or (heaven forbid) going to one of the many wonderful museums or galleries in the area.

I'm fairly sure this isn't progress.

Good Golly Miss Molly!

Winston was wandering around like a little lost soul, wondering why he wasn't being told off.  He then decided that he should challenge Fearghus for dominance.  And, as I wrote, the house was empty.

So the hunt was on for a successor.  It was always going to happen, it just got escalated.

Meet Miss Molly. She's a Bullmastiff, in the traditional brindle that hid them from poachers.  At almost 11 weeks, she joined our household and Winston is finding out that payback really is a bitch...

He might be muscling in on her bed BUT she just walks off with his toys, tells him off when he plays a bit too rough for her (she initiates the games), and boldly takes over his bed.  She chews on him the exact way he used to chew on Fearghus.  The flip side is that she believes everything he tells her - like it's fine to chew on rugs, furniture, the wolfhound's tail, to urinate inside if it's cold outside (it's winter, of course it's cold!), to chew on clothes, books, the fig tree.  To bring sticks inside and chew on them.  To bring dead globe artichoke heads inside and scatter leaves and choke all over the place.  I've told Molly that Winston tells porkies, but she doesn't believe me.

Molly has been taking apples that Fearghus has dropped and eats them.  Great, I now have two apple fiends in the household.

 Bonnie is back home, in her green pottery urn.  It is comforting to have her home again, and to have the wheel turn and Molly here.

The Queen is dead, long live the Queen.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The cost of love

Our lovely Bonnie is dead and there is an emptiness in the house.

She was a rescue from the pound - maybe 2 years old, not long had a litter and so thrilled to meet me. Leaping up to hug you was an endearing habit which I could never break her of - it took arthritis to stop her.  Bonnie was the obvious name - "the child that's born on the Sabbath day is bonnie, blithe, good and gay".  She was a lovely Rottweiler, wonderful temperament and nice conformation.  She was definitely bonnie, blithe and gay - good, well, she was good according to her lights, and certainly an easy dog to live with.

Don't get me wrong, she had her quirks.  She was top dog and kept the others in their place, a busy-body who absolutely HAD to know what was going on.  This meant racing from the front porch to the back one several times a day or whenever something might be happening.  She would intermittently get gunky ears that would need cleaning and annointing.  She tore a cruciate ligament and had to be crated for a couple of weeks - and I have photos of my stepson in the crate with her.

Bonnie was loyal and loving.  She smiled and wriggled her whole body with joy.  She could also look guilty for absolutely no reason at all.  She adored her special people and would happily sit on their laps or keep nudging them for cuddles.

If you sang to her ("she's a bon, she's a bon, she's a bon, yeah, yeah, yeah" - to the tune of she's a mod), she would grin and wiggle.  Overnight visitors would be checked up on and kept warm by her, given half a chance.

Our Bonnie is gone, and we miss her.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Yesterday, my mother had cataracts removed from one eye and an intraocular lense put in.  What a bald statement.

Actually, it means I'm about 800km north of home, doing the driving and any heavy work for a week while Mum takes it quietly and we bicker good-naturedly over who should be allowed to do the washing up (hint - the winner puts the rubber gloves on before her mother notices).  The post-surgery bandage came off this morning and Mum is startled with the new clarity of vision.  Even more so, I think, because the half day of having just one fuzzy eye gave her an idea of what it must be like to be badly vision impaired.

Two things here.  One - I love my mother dearly, am fiercely proud of what she's managed to do in her life and how she has managed over the last couple of decades.  And I'm so fortunate that I can drive up to help her. 

Two - I'm not being mealy-mouthed by saying vision impaired rather than blind.  Blind is different.  Blind is no sight.  Vision impaired means a degree of sight - actually a whole range of degrees.  What Mum experienced yesterday with one fuzzy eye was loss of depth perception, loss of clarity and great difficulty reading anything other than the largest headlines.  My stepson is a wonderful young man, dealing with a range of issues.  He's in his early twenties and much like most young Australian men of that age.  But he also has retinitis pigmentosa.  Rod-cone dystrophy.  His retinas are deteriorating.  He has no night vision - he is night blind.  His peripheral vision is negligible.  He can just read big headlines, but his nose is almost on the page.  He can see recognisable shapes about 10 metres away - and will take a guess at who it might be - but he won't actually be able to see you until you are very close.  Sudden changes in light levels take him at least half an hour to adjust to.  He went a bit off the rails when the diagnosis came in.  But he's levelling out, holding down a job, has friends, a dog, lives with a mate.  He is finding his way, making his mistakes, learning the way we all learn and becoming independent.

Re-reading this, I'm not too sure if I'm trying to say anything here.  Maybe just that I'm away from home and missing it, my husband, our dogs.  That I'm stoked to be able to do something for my mother.  That I'm proud of my stepson and what he's managed to achieve.  That there is love and caring in the world, shown in different ways.  Does there need to be more than that?

Friday, April 22, 2011


Have wanted down time from the computer when I get home, so my mental meanderings have been confined to between my ears or the scribble book by the bed.  Time to move some of them.

We watched Paper Giants on the ABC, which, in case you missed it, was about the creation of Cleo magazine in the early 1970s.  Fascinating as social commentary (especially feminisim - what has changed and what hasn't), we also did car spotting, fashion, architecture and interior design and song/band identification.  And the second half had a brief cameo of a Sydney poet called Michael, who dies of a drug overdose.  Such a fleeting reference to a brilliant writer, Michael Dransfield.

       Ground Zero

       wake up
       look around
       memorise what you see
       it may be gone tomorrow
       everything changes. Someday
       there will be nothing but what is remembered
       there may be no-one to remember it.
       Keep moving
       wherever you stand is ground zero
       a moving target is harder to hit.

I wore my psychedelic stockings on Wednesday and was seriously miffed when a hole developed at the toes.  Briefly - I've had these stockings for over 15 years (!!), bought from a now defunct shop and generally worn with a mini (no point having multicoloured swirly legs if they aren't on show).  But all was not lost.  Nail polish, in the first instance, to stop the ladder getting worse and allow me to ignore the problem for the working day.  Then boots off once home and, with feet stuffed into slippers, potter into my study and open the sewing machine cabinet.  A couple of years ago I came across a box of old sewing threads at one of the local markets.  When I sorted them out, there was a mix of silks, some cotton on wooden reels and hosiery threads in different shades of browns. So I scrabble through the box and find one of these cards of hosiery threads, grab the needle book and snips and retire to the living room, where I can put my foot up on the arm of the sofa and have a lamp directly on it.  And I take an obscure delight in using what must be 60 year old thread to mend 15+ year old stockings....

One thought exercising my mind is how do we define culture?  The more I watch and learn about other species, the less certain I am of just where the difference lies, if in fact there is one.  It's not language - all other species have that.  It's not laughter, it's not tools, it's not sex for the pleasure of it, it's not song, it's not building/architecture, it's not fighting, it's not preparation of food, it's not collecting attractive objects, it's not domestication of other organisms....

The beans are finished, but we still have a glut of tomatoes, with more ripening each day.  Each year I long for the first ripe REAL tomatoes, each year I have a freezer stuffed with cherry tomatoes for cooking, bags that I give away, home made sauce and a desperate feeling of "how do I use them all up?"  And I look for the first ripe figs, watch them jealously and prowl around the tree, looking for one ready to eat.  Then a few weeks later, I'm figged out.  The tree produces more than I can eat, almost more than I can give away, even taking into account the fruit taxed by the birds and dogs.  This is the richness worth having!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wittering on

Autumn is definitely here.  The chooks are moulting, the vegie patch has finally started to subside (although we are still harvesting beans and tomatoes without end).  It is raining and I'm laid up on the sofa with a rug over my lap, laptop precariously balanced and feeling poorly.  Ideally, I'd want to take a couple more days off work, but we have shutdown of our main server room this weekend, so circumstance dictates otherwise.  Also finances.  If I want a pair of red boots, I need the overtime.

Big congratulations to the Beloved.  All the time, work and money poured into the vision for his Valiant have paid off - he took out top modified S series at Chryslers on the Murray, and Sweet Sensation was constantly having her photo taken.  Lots of really positive feedback for both himself and his mate Martin, who did most of the trim and all the fibreglass work.  I am extremely proud of him.

The dogs are so companionable when I'm ill or tired.  They just gather about and lie down on their mattresses and wait.  Winston is small enough to get up with me - half the time he doesn't bother, the other half he keeps pushing and pushing and I do give in eventually.  Or he waits until I'm asleep and the first I know of it is his elbow in my eye.  The sounds of dogs sleeping is wonderful.  Winston tucks his nose underneath him, so that's one particular noise.  Fearghus is pretty quiet - there's the odd heave or lip fluffing, but that's it.  Bonnie makes what I call soup strainer noises.  Heavy breathing but with a bit more passion and not quite snores.  Then there are the dreaming noises - the yips and scuttering of feet that mimic (presumably) flat out racing and barks of joy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vanity publishing and obsessions

I do get obsessive about things.  I read topics into the ground, until I'm tired of it or suddenly stop and decide that maybe this isn't the healthiest direction and I should have a break (that mental shake).

Horrid things are happening in the world, this hemisphere, this country, this city.  They touch me, the earthquakes, the disavantaged, the uprisings, global financial crises, climate weirding, the likelihood that the 6th mass extinction is about to take place (if it hasn't already started.  This may be a moot point).  BUTBut.  but. I have to live my life, not someone else's.  I can try to make sure that I try and touch the earth lightly.  That I accept the contradictions in my life and try to ameliorate them.  That I leave this bit of earth that I have custody of in better heart than when I came to it.  That I try to make small differences, challenge other people's behaviour/values (and have this happen in return).  If I don't concentrate on these small things, they have no chance of rippling out and maybe tilting a critical balance in favour of this earth as we know it.  If I don't concentrate on these small things, that way lies madness.

I'm sure the chickens aren't an economic advantage.  A couple of the girls have, cough, some maturity, and don't lay terribly often.  The new Sussex hens have just decided to do a first and very extravagant moult.  I'm not sure that the darling little Langshan x Australorp has laid an egg in over a year.  Yet they delight in the scraps that we give them, the left overs that the lettuce lady gives us, and they cluck and preen and make little chooky noises, glare at Winston and are generally delightful to watch and soothing to be around.  We don't normally have to buy eggs, although we do have to buy laying mix.  What price can you put on the richness they add to our lives?  Does the cost of the feed we buy for them offset the cost of buying eggs and all that is implied by that (production, travel, packaging)?  We try to grow some of our own food.  This means we get to gorge on heirloom beans and tomatoes, I can eat spaghetti squash and globe artichokes in season.  And if the weather is good, I can stand by the peach tree and bite into white Anzacs that are too soft to travel, bruise on picking and are wonderfully sweet and juicy - liquid sun.  That is - those peaches which haven't been hit by fungus (it's been a wet summer), stolen by the dogs or sampled by the birds and ants.  Although I've no objection to eating those last.  Birds and ants always pick the sweetest ones.  I can get obsessive about sustainability, about doing what I can.

I started buying second hand clothing when I was at university.  There were certainly hand-me-downs earlier:  work-shirts, moleskins, elastic sided boots.  The novelty of being able to buy new clothes when I started paid employ - yes there is still a measure of that, and I won't buy underwear second hand (except for vintage slips or petticoats), but in so many ways, I prefer to buy used.  eBay has provided a substantial proportion of my wardrobe.  A lot of my furniture is either inherited, gifted, or what one friend refers to as Victorian attic.  Not just my furniture - much of my kitchenware and just about all the china and glassware.  And my primary obsession, books - well, some of them were only ever published once, so second hand is definitely it!

So via sustainability to purchasing used to the current obsession - learning how to dress and have fun with it.  I struggle with this on a number of levels, but hope I'm getting better.  This tangled web includes: poor self-esteem (who am I kidding - absolutely mangled, working on rebuilding it), shame, fear, the belief I do not deserve nice things, the belief I'm ugly (you're stupid and ugly, no one could love you), far too much time as a tom-boy, shyness, no confidence to learn... hands up every other woman who's had those thoughts running deep in the ruts of their mind.  All evidence to the contrary.  I have to remind myself of the good things, of the friends who are wonderful - and would they be my friend if I didn't have qualities they like?

So I am working on the idea that looking good feeds feeling good and they become a self-sustaining cycle until one day the ruts in the mind are less deep, maybe even just surface meanderings that are easily skipped out of.  That it is possible to receive a compliment with a simple thank you and actually believe it.  And I am spending money (that I earned) on myself because I deserve to look good and feel good.  And if that means that I'm getting the hang of liquid eyeliner at forty four and a half - how on earth is that a problem?  And if it is a problem - wow, wish all my problems, all the world's problems were that insignficant.  And since society requires that I dress, why shouldn't it be enjoyable?  This is NOT Puritan England under Oliver Cromwell.

Although I am struggling slightly with storing the increasing amount of footwear (no such thing as too many shoes, just not enough storage.  It's a dependency, but not a critical one).

So via sustainability to purchasing used to learning how to dress well to vanity publishing.  Ah yes, it is actually called that - self published books, those volumes which you pay to have printed and bound.  It's generally used as a perjorative, in the same way as calling someone a dilettante when Renaissance man has quite a different ring to it.

But here I am blogging.  At the moment, countless others are also putting their thoughts out there in the ether for others to see. (love that sequence of vowels by the way).  Is this vanity publishing or is it something else.

There are various quotes that make the same point - if you want facts, the human condition, read fiction.  History is not in accounts, but in account books. (that one from Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time).

I choose to believe that these self-published works - whether on digital or on paper - are of equal merit, of equal value to those works which are formally published.  They display lives and thoughts, uncover art, prose, poetry, opinions, information which we may not otherwise have known.  They can provide affirmation, challenges and encourage new interests or deepen existing ones.  They are about the human condition.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spinning in circles

That's what Winston is doing right now.  In my study.  Apparently it's a bull terrier thing.

late last night, keeping me company

It's also what my head's been doing.  A few too many days of getting into work, sitting down and just being hammered by jobs until after 2, until I just sit stunned and brain dead, absolutely drained.  How the heck am I meant to get time to think about some of the bigger stuff that is also important?  I get home, then either gym (need to keep the weight down - for my heart (family history, both sides), my back (badly put together), for my self-esteem), or straight into the household chores, followed by preparing and eating dinner, maybe a little television, some time in front of the computer trying to keep on top of the inbox, a bit of time with the dogs, never as much as I would like.

Not quite straight.  Change from work clothes, toast and vegemite and blackcurrant cordial.  Comfort food right there - I've been on Vegemite and Cascade's Ultra C for over 40 years.  I've also got low blood pressure and don't normally cook with salt, so Vegemite is all to the good.  So is my much beloved coffee!  You can get meds for high blood pressure, but very little for low.  Coffee, salt, ginseng, exercise, water just about sums it up.

While so much of this is necessary, day-to-day stuff, the unexciting, keeping-the-wheels turning stuff, I find myself wondering how I ever found time to do things for myself when I was younger.  I accept that chronic fatigue syndrome and depression are part of it, even though the fatigue is now mostly in the past and major depressive episodes are throttled back with meds.  I know IT in the server sphere sucks large chunks of your life away.  Plus being married, well there are shared responsibilities, shared expectations.  I can no longer spend time brushing and walking dogs, read or embroider for hours then have yoghurt for dinner at 10pm.  He gets upset.  And to be fair, I can't last out that long anymore, plus it's a bad habit to be in.  And it's damn hard adjusting to marriage after some 20 years of living by myself, dearly as I love Himself.  So I suspect that is mostly it, but I also love my work and get on well with most of the people I work with.  Plus it pays reasonably well.  So juggling is a way of life now.

Which means the big question is how do I juggle?  Watch this space

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Life sort of resumes

The aunts are both safe and well.  Yasi did lots of damage, but only one death (and that one a candidate for the Darwin Awards), which is pretty impressive.  We had a brief and violent storm come through which was pushed way down south by Yasi - two of the big gum trees in the reserve bent over and snapped under the winds.  The magpies will need to build new nests.  Bad bushfires in Western Australia, but (without wanting to make light of them) bushfires are a normal part of summer in Australia, and it was started by accident. Oh dear - trust me, that phrasing was inadvertent, but it's one of those days when the right words are hovering just on the periphery.

And I find words endlessly fascinating.  I have a range of dictionaries (mostly from the UK) back to the 1740s.  They only take up a couple of shelves, so I wouldn't say I'm obsessive about them. I haven't read the full version of the OED, but I have read that particular book (Reading the OED, Ammon Shea.  Absolute hoot). But it is wonderful tracing a word through them, seeing how it changes.  Or just flicking through and then a word catches the eye.  Or I finally decide to look up a word whose meaning I've been guessing from context.

Slightly bizarrely, the last word looked up was pastern.  I needed to describe Winston's white markings - and he has white below each knobbly sort of knuckle thing just about the wrist/ankle.  So when you watch from behind, there's a definite flick to each movement of his paws. Fatal if they have poor movement.  I can see it, I know exactly which bit I'm referring to, but surety about the precise word has me delving into Harold Spira's Canine Terminology.  Maybe not quite a standard dictionary, but a technical dictionary is a dictionary none the less.

(crummy photo but hey, must be quick before Winston decides I have to pay him attention)
You can just make out some of the white foot business.  Actually you can see it better on Fearghus' paws. Paws are amazing.  Seriously.  If you have a dog (or a cat, guinea pig, ferret...maybe not a chicken.  Chicken feet are something else) check the paws out.  Quite apart from the fact that they now get used to having their feet handled which is excellent when clipping nails or checking for grass seeds, there is the incredible softness between the toes, the wonderful arch of the toes themselves.  And a beguiling tendency to pat you with a paw.  The tenderness I have to use for Bonnie with her arthritic joints.  The alternate flopping of feet that you can do when the dogs are relaxed.  At least, you can do it until they look at you as if you are dotty.

Life needs more of that kind of dottiness in it.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Crazy weather

Just about sums it up right now.  It's hot and muggy with intermittent rain coming down in solid waves and some high winds.  But nothing like what is happening up along the northern Queensland coast and then well inland.  Yasi is about to hit - the winds and rain are already frightening.  More here:


Like many Australians, I've relatives up there.  This is slated as potentially the worst cyclone to hit in Australia's history.  And there's nothing we can do but cross our fingers and hope.

Monday, January 31, 2011

always has been....

and probably always will be.  Truly, how do you buy books?  How do you decide which ones to check out further?  There are always particular authors I chase down (fanatically, some of them), but just think of the work that goes into selecting a title, the fonts for both title and author, the cover (and if it has a dust jacket, that may be different too).  All of it to catch your attention, reflect the contents, entice you into a quick browse and ultimately, a purchase.  And it's always been the hardest bit when writing - do you go for a plain description, an obscure allusion or an easily picked reference?  Generally, it's the last thing I write.

Mind you, I'm not sure how this blog is going to fare - I juggle paid work with domestics, try to retain contact with friends and family - all the usual demands of modern life.  But I used to write and the lack of this drives me nuts, in much the same way as I go slightly off the planet if I don't get my fingers in the earth regularly.  So I figured this might just work.  I hope so.

At the moment I'm in my study and can hear Fearghus breathing in the hallway.  Fearghus is an Irish Wolfhound - all 73 kilos, happy tail and strong nails.  Take particular note of the nails as they are responsible for some painful scratches on my toes, caused by him dashing over my feet to get to his food bowl.  Quite apart from that, the sound of dogs breathing is one of the most comforting sounds in the world.  They are content, the house is safe and I am not alone.  Beloved is in the sitting room, sprawled on the sofa, with Winston Bull Terrier next to him on his mat.  The wonderful Bonnie, Rottweiler-extraordinaire, is lying on the laundry floor.  Lest this sound harsh, I will mention that the laundry floor is lovely and cool (vital for an aged dog on a 37 degree summer evening) and with her head in the doorway, she can indulge her busybody traits to the full, as she can see or hear everything in the house from this spot.

The Beautiful Bonnie
Fearghus, snurfle hound
No one is taking Teddy away from Winston