Thursday, December 24, 2009
Security Classification: Personal
Corbett Family 2009 – Executive summary
Total – continued to create value by focusing on core business strengths, strived for best practice processes, maximised leverage and synergy opportunities to meet 95% of key deliverables in budget and on time
Ø Key successes – wrote 24/7, 52 blogs, 259 twitters, passed TAFE, 4 book reviews, 1 Short story prize (1st out of 1700 entrants) 1 publisher reviewing novel draft
Ø 2010 challenges – write 24/8, get publisher contract
Ø Key successes – Parliamentary placement, snow, beach and Vietnam holidays, caught a fish, offered PhD scholarships at Melbourne Uni and ANU
Ø 2010 challenges – exchange Public service tailored work suits for Uni style tweed coat with sleeve patches. Get a pipe.
Ø Key successes – Work promotions, holidays (refer Jack) Junior soccer coach and Senior Premier player and trophy champ, Melb shopping trips.
Ø 2010 challenges – support uni bum husband (refer Jack)
Ø Key successes – traveled to Switzerland, finished uni, got married (refer Andrew M), emptied bedroom, back feeling a lot better
Ø 2010 challenges – start Social work masters, marriage adjustment and cross cultural move - outer Melb suburbs (Z2) to inner suburbs (Z1)
Ø Key successes – kept job in GFC, paid down credit card, Tassie hiking, got married (refer Phoebe)
Ø 2010 challenges – keep job in GFC, make room in wardrobe for Phoebe’s stuff, keep credit card down
Ø Key successes – finished first yr Uni, got a girlfriend - Monique (Note: punching well above his weight)
Ø 2010 challenges – Asia holiday, work out a way to spend more time with Monique
Ø Key successes – joined a drama production group (2 great performances) joined a new church youth group, watched 2,250 hours of TV/DVD’s
Ø 2010 challenges – go to school each day
Ø Key successes – kept job in GFC, paid the bills, OS work travel, 9 weeks on jury duty, Prom hiking, some nice gigs and song writing, solo bike ride Adel-Melb – ‘1000 kays in 7 days’
Ø 2010 challenges – keep job in GFC, pay the bills
Ø Chooks – production down due aging workforce. 2010 will see some older redundancies and possible new grad hires
Ø Dog – did nothing, needs to stop chewing own feet and start cleaning up own pooh
Mission – maintain some semblance of order, amidst chaos
Friday, December 18, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
You know you've lost it when you ask your daughter to move her car from the driveway - then, while she's getting her keys, you start the engine and back into her car.
You know times are tumultuous when you drive your youngest daughter to the railway station - but forget to drop her off.
You know you're under pressure when you drive to the airport to pick up your mother - but miss the turning and end up in the carpark of Maccas Melton, thumbing desperately through the Melways.
You think maybe they should lock you up when you go to Eastland, shopping - then can't remember where you've parked the car.
You know your sunk because all these years you've been winging it - and your daughter, who leaves tomorrow, has been keeping you afloat.
And you think perhaps marriage isn't such a good idea and you wonder how you'll ever manage without her.
But you know you have to but, God, you're going to miss her and you wonder when the ache in your heart will cease.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Now supposing you won an international writing competition and your success was reported in a number of publications, including the Melbourne Age. Supposing, as a result you had a call from a publisher, asking about your novel. And supposing you sent six chapters and a synopsis to the publisher, and they really liked your work and wanted to see more.
Yes, wonderful, I'm sure you'll agree: a recipe for ecstasy.
But supposing your novel is currently pulled apart with track changes and comment boxes throughout. And you tell the publisher, look I've only re-written the first twenty-two chapters, but give me a couple of months and I'll show you all I've got.
And they agree.
Then you might have to do a great deal of work to do.
But what if you lied?
Not a real lie because you really have re-written the first twenty-two chapters – barring all but one teeny- weeny scene in chapter twenty-one which you have been putting off ...
And supposing you kept putting it off, pulling the individual chapters into one document, making decisions, reading and re-reading, everything neat and tidy, until there is nothing left to do but re-write that one tiny scene in chapter twenty-one?
And now it is time to write it and you feel sick.
Yes, that's right: sick.
New stuff always makes you icky. There is the excitement, the challenge of re-working old words to make the same-but-a-better story. There is doubt and fear of failure, your long time companions. And all the while you are wondering, hoping, praying that you will be able to give life to this vague sense of meaning that has formed in your mind.
So, you start because, let's face it, you have to.
And at first, you feel like newly washed hair all mussy and twisted. Then slowly creation's conditioner seeps into the fibres. You put a comb to the knots and begin to tease out the words. Very gently, lest you change too much, you work back and forth, in and out of the document. Does this move the character forward? Is he meant to be failing the character tests in this chapter? Or passing them? Who is this character, anyway? Maybe I should delete him? Cut the scene completely? Write a different novel?
Oh no, you think. Where am I going?
Of course, at this point when you are in deep crisis, there is always family: a school meeting, an art exhibition, a sick kid, or a husband you have to talk to.
But … you can't you possibly stop writing at this stage.
Except, you have to.
And quite frankly, it's what you need, because while you are away from your computer, the problem resolves itself (normally in the middle of the night, or a desk shift at the library). And you write the idea down in your notebook, or send an email to yourself.
And enjoy a brief interlude of peace.
Meanwhile, a dear friend is reading her way through the other twenty-two chapters of your manuscript, patiently editing and making suggestions. And she reaches chapter twelve and sees a need for some structural changes.
Oh God, you think. This is only chapter twelve. You quickly extrapolate this particular change against all other possible changes you might have to make, and realise that one small scene in chapter twenty-one is the least of you worries.
You are sunk.
Horror churns. You lose sleep. You never really liked that friend anyway. Who does she think she is?
She is right, damn it! The changes must be made – and right away, not a moment to spare. If you leave them they will burn a hole in your manuscript.
So, you make the changes – and all the other alterations your dear friend suggests, and the story is better for it. So, you delete the hate mail you have so carefully drafted.
Then, with gut wrenching, you re-visit chapter twenty-one.
The scene is before you, a poorly patched garment. You decide to be brave. Make sweeping changes. You work in a fever, nerves like violin strings. The whole document altered, chapter by chapter, like dominoes, falling, falling, falling ...
But it's not a waste.
The scene is strong and resonant, full of symbols and hidden meaning.
My God, you're a genius. Why did you put this off for so long? All that talent, finally flowering. A Pulitzer Prize in the making.
And you think, perhaps you will sleep tonight – maybe all the way through to six o' clock in the morning.
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Sometimes, I worry about humans. They don't understand priorities. We are heading towards an important familial occasion, a busy, once in a lifetime, precious season, when certain formalities must be observed – and buying the Mother of the Bride outfit is of utmost significance. Yet, Liz spends every waking minute hunched over her keyboard.
'Please,' I beg. 'Don't leave it to the last minute.'
'I have to submit by the end of November, Biskit.'
'But Liz, your daughter's getting married. You are the Mother of the Bride.'
I have visions, terrible visions, of Liz entering the wedding chapel in work clothes with a badge that says – didn't have time – hanging from her lanyard.
I suppose, when a respected Melbourne publishers calls and asks to see your novel, a certain amount of work is required. But in my opinion, she ought to be focussing on important things – like permanent rinses, waxing, eyebrow tinting, and clothing.
I don't wish to misrepresent Liz (after all, she feeds me). Occasionally she does interrupt her writing - to read a book, for example, to work at the library, or attend TAFE Novel classes. Sometimes, she even remembers the grocery shopping.
But for the most part … she is in another world.
How to motivate her? That was the question. How to tear her away from her desk, just for a minute? Priya and I decided guilt was the best strategy.
'Mum,' Priya said, 'I need a wedding outfit.'
'We'll go shopping next month.'
'But Mum, the wedding is in December – I need to start looking now!'
'Not now, Priya. I'm busy.'
'You don't care about me,' Priya wailed, stamping her foot, 'only your stupid book.'
Liz and Priya went shopping the next day. Liz wasn't in the mood for shopping (and didn't we know it). But I knew once she hit the shops, temptation would take over. She would start flicking through hangers, holding up items and trying things on … just quickly. I wasn't there, of course. It's one of the injustices of my canine disposition. Quite unfair, I'm sure you'll agree. Fluffy white dogs are bred for their beauty, not their brains. We have a natural affinity towards shopping.
But this is how the plan unfolded.
First, Liz tried on a red dress. It made her look round and chunky, like a pillar box. Next she chose something a little more subtle – a pewter dress. She looked more like a tankard than a goblet. A black skirt with a paper bag hem looked frumpy. Hot pink made her feel like a Rhododendron and, as for the purple dress, well, what can I say? A New Age nightmare!
Fortunately, at this point the shop assistant intervened. 'Can I help you?'
'My daughter's getting married,' Liz said. 'And I'm too fat for anything.'
The assistant eyed her appraisingly. She fetched a pencil skirt, a soft non-crease top, and a cropped satin jacket, from the difficult figures section, and teamed it with a pair of gorgeous black high heeled shoes. Liz disappeared into the cubicle. Priya heard huffing and puffing. The shop assistant answered a few urgent questions about belts and zippers. Then Liz tottered out looking magnificent.
'Wow!' Priya said.
'It doesn't get better than this,' Liz said, laughing.
'No,' Priya agreed. 'Are you going to buy it?'
'What do you think?'
Liz bought the lot: skirt, top, jacket and shoes from Dianna Ferrari. I'm not going to reveal the colours, nor divulge anything as skanky as prices. But Andrew has seen the Mastercard statement – and he is still recovering.
Monday, September 14, 2009
At three years of age, Phoebe said: ‘when I get married, I’m going to wear your wedding dress, mummy.
‘You'll look lovely,’ Liz said smiling.
I wasn’t there, of course. I wasn’t even a pup in the belly. But trust me, I am a dog-of-the bride, I know these things.
Now Phoebe is in her twenties and the day of her wedding approaches.
Florists are being been booked, cakes tasted, deposits on reception centres made, and a great deal of discussion about suits, dresses and fabrics is being bandied about. Phoebe’s whimsical childhood promise of wearing her mother’s wedding dress forgotten by all but Andrew. He returned from a recent business trip to Adelaide with the dress in its mouldering packaging.
‘What’s that?’ Phoebe asked as he laid the box at her feet.
‘Mum’s wedding dress,’ he said. ‘You said you wanted to wear it.’
Everyone laughed, except Phoebe. She knew he wasn’t joking.
As I lay on my medium sized fully washable pet pillow, I heard a story in her silence.
Every mother wants to her baby girl to wear her wedding dress, and every mother is determined her adult daughter will have a new dress. I mean, it’s all very well to wear a matching collar when you are a pup. But once you are a mature hound, ready to leave home and manage your own household, you need a collar with some gravitas.
Dogs understand this, even if fathers don’t.
‘Go on,’ Andrew said, ‘try it on.’
‘It won’t fit,’ Phoebe said.
‘Mum was pretty skinny when she got married.’
Everyone turned to look at Liz, trying to imagine her with Phoebe’s waistline.
‘I might still be able to fit into it,’ Liz smiled, nervously.
There was a polite silence.
‘Phoebe’s skinner than I was on my wedding day. But I think the dress was altered for Wendy’s wedding. I'll try it on after you, Phoebe.’
I sat up, my nose twitching. This was the opportunity I'd been waiting for. Like all good investigavtive journalists, I’d been working undercover, sniffing out potential stories, waiting for the time to swoop. The pricking of my paws, told me that moment was now upon me.
As Phoebe clumped down the hallway her arms swathed in yellowing fabric, I made a dash for the camera cupboard, thinking of headlines, such as Wedding Dress Scoop or Heirloom gown for Zone Three Wedding. I drew the camera out of its pouch and took up my position behind the couch. This would be bigger than Wills and Kate, the world in a frenzy. We’d have to hire security, keep the gown under lock and key.
The dress was loose on Phoebe. She turned like a model, the not- quite-white- ruffles swirling prettily. I had quite a lump in my throat as I crouched, low to the ground, the shutter clicking repeatedly.
Next it was Liz’s turn to try on the gown. I saw her smile slip.
But she walked bravely to the bedroom and came out a few minutes later grinning. 'Not bad,' she said, holding out her hands and curtseying.
My lightly furred underbelly clenched painfully. I thought of the cupboard full of Oinkers, Beef Chews and Dentastix. Perhaps it was wrong to exploit another’s weakness? To climb on anothers back, and win acclaim from it? Then I thought of words like hard hitting and responsibility, duty to society. I remembered how it felt to Fail Alpha Dog Training. Scruples be damned!
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Today, I am going to blog about MWF. Not because I think you will find this particularly interesting but because I have to write about it for a TAFE assignment. It's Saturday afternoon, however, and the idea of staying home and doing a TAFE assignment is not appealing whereas the idea of updating my blog is always exciting.
Before I begin discussing the 2009 Melbourne Writers' Festival, I would like to start by pointing out the apostrophe on the word: writers'. For it is by such small things I measure my progress. Once, I would not have known where the apostrophe should be placed. But I am a fair-dinkum, bona fide writer now and I know that writers is the plural of writer but, in this case, it is also a possessive noun, therefore the apostrophe goes sat the end.
Why do I tell you this? Please, read on.
When walking to the train with Priya on Friday, the morning of The Whole Shebang, Priya kissed me goodbye and said: You look like a writer Mum. As the bells for her train were ringing, I didn't have time to ask what she meant by this. Whether it was the go-get 'em aspect of my writer's demeanour she referred to, the stuck staring at the keyboard for hours part, the wake up at the crack of dawn with snakes in your tummy feeling, or that heady moment of discovering a powerful new simile. I hoped she meant the latter and, keeping my progress with apostrophe in mind, I struck out bravely.
By some strange process of osmosis (probably called Euan Mitchell) a number of Box Hill TAFE students who barely knew each other had worked out that we'd be Shebang-ing together. We met on the train and at various stages during the day, and finished the evening with a drink in one of the Bars at Fed square. It was a nice collegiate feeling.
But what did you learn at the Whole Shebang? I hear you ask. Surely that's necessary for the assignment?
Funnily enough, I have been avoiding that part of the assignment because, after listening to authors, publishers and various writing organizations throughout the day, my primary take home message from The Whole Shebang was: publishers are looking for writers who are reasonable and sane. I think at least, three speakers made direct reference to sanity.
Most of the others implied it.
Look, I don't want to be neurotic or defensive about this but, I ask you, is it sane to sit hunched over a screen for hours on end wondering whether stillness of the night sounds better than quietness of the night, scribbling in notepads in the middle of movies and concerts, reading aloud to hone your dialogue, or relating to characters that feel more real than your own family?
Exactly. It wasn't very encouraging.
On the Saturday, I rose, donning sanity like a school uniform, and caught the train to Flinders Street. Unfortunately, I had failed to check the Connex site and had therefore missed the all important message about work on the line. I was therefore a little late for my masterclass with John Boyne (a perfectly sane and reasonable excuse).
The Past is Not Dead, involved writing exercises (in which everyone but me came up with pithy and polished writing, no matter what the subject), and discussion of issues close to the heart of historical fiction, such as: defining the historical novel; recreating historical figures; and finishing with the question of how much responsibility a writer has to the truth. It was an interesting day, but not earth shattering. Although John Boyne was an excellent presenter, my friend Marina, a fellow Historical Novel Society member, and I agreed that we didn't learn anything that we had not already heard discussed in various HNS publications.
I did however make a valuable contact.
Last year, I met Marina and was given an opportunity of writing feature articles for Solander. This year I met a MWF volunteer who works in the library at the Koorie Heritage Trust. We had been asked, for one of our exercises, to write about a real historical figure. I chose to write about the execution of two aboriginal men, Bob and Jack, in the early days of the Port Phillip District. An MWF volunteer heard my short piece and, in the next break, told me about the Koorie Heritage Trust library. She also gave me her business card. I was thrilled, as the execution of Bob and Jack will probably be the opening scene of my next novel.
On Sunday, I attended Focus on Kate Grenville. I was particularly keen to attend this session, as I am writing a profile on Kate Grenville. I had heard Kate speak previously. In recent months have listened to or read every one of her recent interviews and read all of her novels, so I wasn't sure how much I would learn from the session. But as in the past, it was a privilege to listen to this warm, intelligent, human being talk about various aspects of the writing life. The session ended far too quickly.
So that's my wrap of the Melbourne Writers Festival. Tomorrow, I go to my last session, The Place for a Village, which is a two hour walk with Gary Presland. We'll walk around Melbourne and Gary will talk about the natural history of Melbourne and how it might have looked prior to the arrival of Europeans. This session will also be useful for my next novel and, as I know Gary from Balwyn Writers, I am looking forward to it.
So why did I tell you about the apostrophe? Oh no reason. It was just a hook, in the end. But I do think it is improtant to take note of the small things. It's like the little white pebbles Hansel and Gretel left strewn along the path. It shows how far you've come.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I didn't take the photo, by the way. Andrew took it after I had done the weekly shopping. But he cheated.
I didn't buy all those bow-wow treats in one week.
Besides, Biskit needs those things. The denta-stix keep his little teeth clean. The mini-treats are a bedtime incentive. As for the porkettes and oinkers. How would you like to be locked outside while everyone is at work?
Okay, so home brand peanuts is a tad bleak. But I was pressed for time!
I'll make sure I buy Andrew the most expensive ones next time.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Inside the sack was a brown cardboard box.
My story is the first in the book (okay, so a little freaky). Then are all these other amazing stories. I've been reading some this evening. They are really I good! I don't know how I won this thing?
But I did. There's my story, at the front on the book and it has First Prize written above it.
The whole thing feels real, suddenly.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
It’s the question of the week. I have been searching my cache of memories for an answer. But I can’t remember the event. Andrew says he remembers it clearly. He watched it on TV. It was night time, he says, someone roused him from sleep.
I always believed him, until this week. Until I found out the moon landing took place at 13:50 AEST, which is ten to two in the afternoon, if my time-zone converter isn’t lying.
So what was he watching? Remembering? Who roused him from sleep?
We may never know the answers to those questions. It’s a black hole in our family history. But it set me wondering. Where was I when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon? Why can’t I remember the momentous event?
I would have been five years of age at the time. I did a quick finger count. Yes, five. The catechism of my family history says I came to Australia at the age of four and a half. That means I must have been in Geelong on July 21st 1969 at 13:50 AEST.
But why can't I remember? And when exactly did we emigrate? For some reason, that date is also missing from my cache. I don’t know why? It was the AD of my childhood. The beginning and end of everything.
I remember my Aunty Jean crying at the airport and Mum being airsick. I remember Dad eating Mum’s airline meals. Ian walking up and down the aisle of the Boeing 747, even at that age unable to sit still. I remember Darwin airport, too, with its high ceiling fans. Mum being take away for re-hydration. Soldiers from Vietnam. I even remember pulling up in front of the Carrington Hotel in Geelong. It was Khaki Green and located next to used car yard. Mum vomited in the gutter at the sight.
I remember everything – except the moon landing.
I decided to ring Mum.
‘Hey Mum,' I asked. 'What date did we emigrate?’
‘We left the 31st of August, 1969,’ she said. It was a bank holiday. You were four and a half years of age.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘That’s strange. I must have been in England for the moon landing?’
‘Yes, dear, you were.’
‘But I came to Australia when I was four and a half, didn't I?’
I had a strange kaleidoscope feeling at this point. My identity breaking up an shifting. Last week, I did my first ever author interview with a magazine called Venue. It has a readership of around 20, 000. I told the interviewer Mum was Welsh and Dad was English. That we emigrated to Australia when I was four and a half years old - had I lied?
‘But, Mum,’ I said. ‘I would have been five years of age on 21st of July 21st, 1969.’
Silence on the end of the line.
I did a quick finger count.
‘Are you sure you’ve got the date right? Mum, can you hear me?’
‘I might be seventy two, Elizabeth. But I know when we emigrated!’
I did another finger count, slower this time. Mathematics has never been my strength. But I know I was born on July 3rd 1964. I’ve seen the birth certificate. I also know that nine take away four equals five. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but that makes me five years of age the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. It would have been 3:50 on July 21st, GMT, and I would have been tucked up in bed.
No wonder I don’t remember the moon landing? I was asleep. Mum and Dad were preparing to emigrate, selling furniture and packing boxes. About to embark upon their own momentous journey, leaving home, family, friends, and flying to the other side of the world. Henceforth to communicate with loved ones by infrequent letters and breathless three minute phone calls. The moon landing would barely have crossed their radar. Let alone an insignificant detail such as their daughter’s age.
But it matters to me – I was five years of age when I emigrated. Did you hear me, five!
Why has it taken me forty five years to work that out? I can’t answer that question. It’s a black hole in my experience. But I do know where I was when the moon landing took place, even if I can’t remember it.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
You tell yourself. I won’t win, over and over, because you don’t want to be disappointed. But all the time you know that the award ceremony for the Bristol Prize will be at 8pm GMT, on July 11th at Waterstone’s. It’s like one of those little black boxes orthodox Jews wear strapped to their forehead.
No matter where you are, or what you’re doing, you can’t forget.
At work, when harassed mothers phone the library to find out whether there are any vacancies for the school holiday activity on July 3rd, you think: that’s eight days before the Bristol Short Story Prize is announced.
When an elderly gentleman calls to ask the due date of his books, you check his card, and tell him the due date is July 11th, you think: how could you possibly forget that date?
On Friday 10th, when workmates ask what you're doing over the weekend, you say, ‘Oh, we’re having friends for dinner Saturday night,’ but in your mind you think: I will be waiting.
On Saturday July 11th you rise late, have breakfast, go for a jog, bath the dog, make dinner and enjoy the evening with friends. But you don't mention the competition, and no one in the family mentions it, and you aren't sure if they’ve forgotten or just are just being kind. But you can't get it out of your mind. It's like one of those subliminal messages on Beatles records: Bristol, Bristol Bristol ...
You go to bed knowing, while you sleep, people will gather at Waterstone’s in Bristol and the award will be announced. You don't mention it to your husband, because, if I you don't win, and by this point you're convinced your story is rubbish, you want to be able to mourn in private. To be able to say casually, without a wobble in your voice, ‘well, I didn’t win the Bristol Short Story prize.’ But at the same time you're calculating the difference between GMT and Australian Eastern Standard time, and trying to remember whether Joyce has a mobile phone and, if not, how long it will take her to get home, and you know the call will come around 8’o clock in the morning.
And the phone does ring!
You leap out of bed, annoyed at yourself for caring, and thinking how silly you'll look if was a tele-marketing call and hoping, fingers crossed, for second or third place, maybe ...
Then you hear the loveliest accent in the world on the end of the line, and it's Joyce, and she's even more excited than you are, and she says you've won the Bristol Short Story Prize, and you can't believe it.
You just can't believe it.
Even now, sitting in bed, in your old green pyjamas, with your laptop resting on your knees, you can’t believe it. But you close your eyes, and lean back against the pillows, smiling, and think: yes, someone liked my story.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
‘Go on,’ I said, ‘snuffling up to her with the idea. ‘You could call your blog the Mother of the Bride (MOB) chronicles. ’
‘No,’ Liz shook her head. ‘I want to focus on my novel.’
‘Yes, but sometimes you need a break,’ I said.
‘I’ve had too many breaks,’ she said, scratching my ear just the way I like. ‘I want to finish this draft. Besides, it would be unscrupulous to capitalise on Phoebe’s happiness. Look what happened to A. A. Milne. Christopher Robin ended up resenting all those Winnie the Pooh stories.’
‘But, Liz, I said, ‘How will the world cope without the nitty-gritty of our pre-wedding lives?’
She laughed and said: ‘The world will cope, Biskit.’
I went away and thought about this, stretched out on my mat beside the fire, my legs twitching with doggy dreams. But even after a long nap, I woke up worried. For a start, Liz writes about everything. Finishing the novel must be weighing on her terribly.
Secondly, I thought: Liz is wrong – the world does need to hear about our wedding.
Then, I had another thought. Perhaps I could help Liz. She wants to work on her novel, and I like to write. In fact, if I’d done better at Alpha Dog Training I might have gone on to be a journalist. I have a way with words, the other dogs tell me. They like the way I whine at the door, and bark at the window. When I moan with a squeaky toy it is apparently breathtaking.
But what about this scruples thing?
I had another nap (you have no idea how hard a dog’s life is), and woke up still worried. I mean, is it wrong for a dog to capitalise on its owner's happiness?
Fortunately, at that point, Liz suggested a jog.
I’m not a great jogger (although, I’m faster than Liz), but I do find it clears my head. As I raced around the streets, with my ears back and my tail streaming, wondering if I might have a touch of greyhound in me, I began to feel more confident. Never mind Winnie the Pooh, I thought, I am a wordsmith – a Dog of the Bridie. The world needs me. As for scruples, I couldn’t think of a single case in which an owner resented their dog blogging about their wedding. Why would Phoebe be any different?
I stayed awake for a long time that night, wrestling with my destiny. I have great owners, I thought, they are like a litter of puppies. I have a warm bed in the laundry, fresh water in my bowl and an endless supply of Porkettes to chew on. But it is not enough. I want to do something with my life. Give a canine view of things. I want to be the first dog in history to keep a blog of its owner’s wedding.
Yes, I thought, that is my destiny.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
I simply had to buy it.
Last night I wore the cardigan for the first time. That's one week and two days after the initial purchase. In between I have operated according to my standard, how-to-roll-a-new-cardigan procedure of which I thought the world might benefit from hearing.
Firstly, I must point out that to a librarian a cardigan is a most important accesory. I mean with contact lenses and permanent rinses, the profession has been in danger of blending with the general population. A tendency towards cardigans may be our sole distinguishing feature in the twenty first century.
Secondly, I would like to say that I work part time and write the rest of the time and, quite frankly, I should be shopping at Dimmeys. But when it comes to cardigans, the queen of all garments, I sometimes lash out no matter how badly the price tag reads.
That's the way it was with Cherry Ribbon and me.
Anyway, back to the roll out. It's a four step process and you must follow it exactly, or it won't work. It's like one of those post-cards-from-all-over-the-world, chain letter things.
Step one: throw out an old cardigan. Now I know that sounds harsh. But even a librarian can have too many cardigans. Fuschia Pink simply had to go. I bought her nine years ago. She no longer did up at the front. Well, she did at a pinch,but the effect wasn't flattering.
She is now at the Op-shop, readjusting.
Step two: talk nicely to last year's best cardigan. In this case, Tealy Ruff. Tell her how much you've appreciated her contribution to your sleek professional appearance. But now you've found a new cardigan, things have changed, she will no longer be your best cardigan anymore.
I advise, a strict, no nonsense tone. Cardigan's on the way down have a tendency to whine. Tell her the news is not all bad. That a second-best cardigan gets worn more than a best cardigan. Tell her you'll still be friends, that there will be a new freedom to your relationship.
Step three: wait
Now, I expect this step is a surpises. You imagined, having made such a signifcant purchase, I would leap out of bed Friday morning and don Cherry Ribbon immediately.
But that isn't how the program works.
You must wear your newly demoted second-best cardigan the morning after purchase. It sets the tone, demonstrates the benefits of her new role, and proves what you said about freedom and friendship.
Don't for a minute think I didn't consider Cherry Ribbon that first Friday morning. Taking her out, standing, head to one side, smiling at my good fortune. I did. But you can't wear a new cardigan the morning after purchase.
You have to wait.
It's one of those law-of-the-universe things.
Then you have to wait, and wait some more - until you've almost forgotten you have a new cardigan.
So that one day you step from the shower all fresh and steamy, wipe your feet on the bath-mat, towel your hair, walk still dripping from the bathroom, and fling wide the wardrobe door, and think: What shall I wear today?
You scan scan the hangers, going from black, to green, to blue, then purple, pink and red (yes, it's important to colour code your wardrobe), then your eyes alight upon it and realisation floods you anew, and you think, yes, this is it. I will wear my new cardigan.
Step four: You pull it gently from its hanger and lay it on the bed. You pick out the skirt that'll match it best, the stockings and the shoes. Apply make-up and blow dry you hair, never rushing, though your heart pounds and anticipation flooda your senses.
Then, when all is in place, you don your new cardigan - and the moment is deeply satisfying.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘Andrew who?’
Phoebe had this little smile playing about her mouth, seeing straight into my trying-not-to- appear-too-curious mind, knowing she was about to deliver a bombshell.
Well, I knew exactly who she was talking about. Peter and Cathy always sat on the left hand side, just in front of us when we went to Crossway. Cathy always helped at the Vermont Secondary College text book sales. Peter was on school council. Bec was Amy Comben’s friend. Dave used to be Seth’s Kids Church leader. Oh yes, I knew exactly who she was talking about. But unfortunately, I didn’t knew anything about Andrew McCann.'
‘A bit more,’ Phoebe said, a little smile skipping across her face.
Well this was news! I was having trouble balancing my coffee. For some reason my hand was shaking.
‘What’s he studying?’ I asked, aiming for nonchalance.
‘He’s not studying, he’s working.’
‘Oh,’ I put the cup down. How old is he, then?
‘Twenty seven,’ Phoebe said, he smile breaking into a grin.
I kept my composure (until Phoebe left for lunch) then I raced out to the studio where my husband Andrew was working. ‘Phoebe’s got a boy friend,’ I said. ‘His name’s Andrew McCann, you know Peter and Cathy McCann’s son, he’s twenty seven, working, place in St Kilda – he’s got his own dog and everything.
Now I must say up front, neither Andrew nor I were worried about Andrews’s age. But its implication was not lost on us either. This was a young man from a loving family whose faith and values would match Phoebe’s, someone who would believe in marriage, someone whose younger brother and sister were, in fact, already married.
She might be old enough – but I wasn’t sure if I was.
From the first, Andrew felt like a good fit in our family.
This is a sentiment Peter and Cathy have both echoed. When Cathy and I were talking on the phone last week, in preparation for tonight’s party Cathy said, she felt like Phoebe had completed their family. When I chatted to Peter about the speeches, I asked if there was anything in particular he wanted me to say on their behalf, he said, only that we’re delighted – absolutely thrilled.
We are thrilled.
In Andrew, Phoebe has found a man who is honest, sensitive and kind, someone who will walk beside her on life’s journey. In Phoebe, Andrew has a young woman who is caring, compassionate and true. They will seek God together. Take their place as a couple in the life of the church and in the wider community.
Andrew, Peter and Cathy and I, are immensely proud of them. Of the choice they have made in each other, their belief that marriage is the framework in which they want to make that commitment, and that their relationship is part of their wider faith journey.
It is everything we would have wished for them.
I would therefore like to conclude this speech, by inviting Peter McCann, Andrew’s father to lead us in prayer. On our behalf, Peter will thank God for bringing Andrew and Phoebe together, and seek God’s continued blessing for their engagement and their marriage.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
At Balwyn Library we have a magazine called the Writing Magazine. It's a British publication, and I read it avidly. It has articles on writing, short stories and competitions.
A few months ago, I entered one of these competitions. It's called the Bristol Short Story Prize. This year in 2009, they had 1,729 entries from around the world - and my story has made the shortlist!
Yes, that's right - and it's quite a short list.
I am in the top twenty.
Top twenty - do you hear that.
I am very excited - and scared! It is one thing to sit in your office and dream about being a writer - but now it is actually happening. Yikes!
My story is called: Beyond the Blackout Curtain. It is going to be published in a British anthology - I even won fifty pounds.
I am going to post the link here so you can all smile with me.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Actually, I may get chucked out before my time because, quite frankly, I stink.
Why do I stink? I hear you ask. I am not going to tell you yet.
It is a hook - one of those clever writerly things.
I hope you keep reading.
I got down here about 3 pm Saturday. After shopping at Brentford Square, Safeway, I belted down the freeway singing. Actually, I didn't belt. My car isn't capable of belting. But I arrived, eventually, with my throat hoarse, set my computer up, loaded my food into the fridge and started writing. Yeah!
When dinner time came. I had an number of appetising choices. But I opted for fish.
As well as writing this week, I am doing the health thing. I had bought one block of chocolate - fair trade, of course - to last me the whole week.
I had my first piece at 4pm.
My second piece at 7pm (admirable restraint, you will all agree)
By bedtime the whole block was finished - yes, I know pitiful.
I brought a bottle of wine with me. I opened that at 5pm (sort of a family tradition)
But I didn't have any until 8pm because I wanted to be able to type straight.
I had one glass, followed by another and went to bed smashed!
Actually, that's a lie (but I always wanted to write it - one of those alter ego things).
I only had half a glass of wine and went to bed stone cold sober - Phoebe would be proud of me.
As I said, as well as writing, this is a health week. I have come up here to Curves in Wonthaggi. that is one of the reasons that I stink - but not the only reason.
So keep reading.
I also had to send a short story to the editors of a new Melbourne writers magazine [untitled]. They are going to publish my story and I have been busy re-writing sections. I'm completely snowed under by editorial deadlines.
Actually, that's a lie, too. The editor of [untitled] said there was no rush (but I always wanted to write the deadline thing).
I meant to go to Curves after my Internet session.
But I mistimed the journey and got lost in Wonthaggi (is that possible?).
So after a rigorous workout, I slunk into the library, stinking. I wouldn't smell so bad if last night, just after I went for a jog, a house pipe hadn't burst. If I hadn't had to turn the mains water off and go to bed without showering. If I hadn't got up this morning, to let the plumber in and, looking at the clock, thought no point showering before I go to the gym.
Yeah! That's right disgusting.
But here I am with 13 minutes remaining - and no one has kicked me out yet, although, for some reason the Internet room has emptied, rather suddenly.
Oh well, I wrote my blog, sent my story, now I'm going straight home. I am not even going to think about going into Safeway for another block of chocolate!
Are you proud of me? I am finished. With only seven minutes remaining.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
But I have something to tell you. Something exciting. It is about my new friend: Mia McCann.
And she is very pretty!
I like it when Mia comes to visit. We run up and down, around, the house sniffing. We gambol in the garden, with our tongues hanging out, panting. We drink out of the same water bowl and stare through the glass doors waiting.
Yesterday, Liz told me some very good news – she said Mia is going to become part of the family. I wasn’t sure what she meant at first. Was she moving in? Was I moving out? Was it going to be one of those weekend access kind-of-things?
But now, I have it all sorted.
You see, I love Mia, and Mia loves Andy, and Andy loves Phoebe and he … has asked her to marry him.
Yes, that’s right.
Phoebe has a ring on her finger and a smile on her face. She is like a rose in spring, a wattle in winter, the soft red tipped new growth on a gum tree.
She is engaged.
This means Liz will be Andy’s mother-in-law and Andrew will be Andy’s father-in-law. It means Jack, Seth and Priya will get a new brother-in-law and, of course, Ness will still be the best daughter-in-law. But, most of all, it means Mia and I will be related.
It is, of course, a little sad because when Phoebe gets married she won’t live here anymore. She will live with Andy. When she gets up in the morning she will have coffee with Andy. When she goes for a walk it will be with Andy. When she goes home … it will be with Andy.
Liz says it’s ok, that she will visit … sometimes, that when she comes to visit, she will bring Mia. Sometimes they will stay for lunch. Then Mia and I will race up and down the house with our paws skidding on the wooden floorboards. We will go in and out in and out of the back door, not sure whether to run in the garden or to stay with the family. We will tussle over toys and stand by the laundry cupboard begging for treats.
I think it’s love actually.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I just wanted to share my 'almost' good news. I entered my Welsh wartime story into the Phoenix Park short story competition. It didn't get a place, but it was one of those competitions that offer an assessment for $6.00 extra. Well, I have just heard back from Stuart Reedy (my new best friend). Here is a summary of what he said:
It just missed out on being short-listed (yeah! or is that booh?)
He enjoyed the narrative voice
I captured the character's innocence
I used enough detail to create an authentic picture
Metaphors like, a Guy Fawkes without stuffing, gave the character a really unique voice and took the story and event beyond cliche
That I obviously had a good feel for my subject matter (thanks to Doug and Joyce fore their drives around Port Talbot).
Characters are well drawn
Dialogue covered accents and personalities well.
Dear, sweet wonderful man this Stuart Reedy (I could kiss him)!
Here is why it wasn't shortlisted:
The story didn't take off until after page two (ok, so it's only an eight and a half page story).
The early stages were not quite powerful enough to grab the reader.
That's all! Two itty bitty little pages.
I should be able to bust my brains and fix that up - then it's the Bridport for me!
I bet you thought I was slacking off.
But rest assured the pursuit of bilingual proficiency is still gyda fi - with me.
Last week I learned about how to respond to phone calls. Now this is a great relief because, when I grow up, I want to live in Wales.
I plan to work in a library.
Now, I am presuming old ladies are the same all over the world. That somewhere in Wales there is a library, like my current branch, that specialises in services to the antiquarian female of the species.
Just in case you are not familiar with the antiquarian female. They are renowned for worrying about their fines - even when their seniority makes them exempt. They chase up their reservations with terrier like tenacity. They also like to speak to their favourite librarian - which can be a problem when a library service employs a new phone system, and their call no longer goes to a specific branch.
But not to worry. Now I have done Gwers un deg tri - that's lesson 73, I reckon I am now employable anywhere in the Welsh speaking world.
Here is how I think it will go:
It is 10:01 am. The library opens at ten, and if the antiquarian female is not pacing up and down outside the library door, she will be on the phone.
Bore da, ga i'n siarad gyda Rhiannon, os gwelwch chi 'n dda? - Good Morning, may I speak to Rhiannon, please.
O (that's, Oh, in Welsh), mae Rhiannon yn mewn y cyfarfod, bore ma. Ga i chi helpu chi? - Oh, Rhiannon is in a meeting. Can I help you?
Nage, unig Rhiannon - no, only Rhiannon (you gotta hand it to the elderly, they are persistent).
Ga i ymryd neges? - May, may I take a message
Wel, dw i 'n eisiau yn gwybod a Rhiannon wedi ffeindio fy llyfr - Well, I want to know whether Rhiannon found my book.
Beth ydy y llyfr enw? - What is the name of the book?
Dw i 'n ddim yn cofio enw. Roedd e'n enw doniol - I don't know the name. It was a funny name.
Gadw Rhiannon yn llyfr i ti? - Did Rhiannon reserve the book for you?
Wel, dydw i ddim yn gwybod! Dw i 'n eisiau gofyn Rhiannon - well, I don't know! I want to ask Rhiannon.
Ydych ch yn cael y card llyfragel? - Do you have a library card?
Wrth gwrs! - Of course!
Fe fyddi di 'n darllen y rhif yn y card cefn, os gwelwch chi 'n dda? - Will you read the number on the card, please?
Here, you must bear in mind that I have had to repeat these quetions a number of times, in a very loud voice, but I am not sounding harrassed or impatient. I am impeccably polite. It is the first thing we learn in library school - especially in regard to old ladies.
O, mae 'n dau, sero, sero, wyth, pedwar, sero, sero, dau, pump, naw, un, pump, dau, saith - Oh, it is: 20084002591527
Ydy y llyfr enw y Guernsey literary ac tynnu croen taten cymdeithas? - Was the name of the book, the Guernsey literary and potato peel society?
Ydy enw yna! Sut oeddet ti 'n gwybod? - Yes, that's the name! How did you know?
Fe welais i 'n ar y cyfriadur - I looked on the computer.
Wel, dyna deallus! - Well, there's clever!
That's it folks, five minutes in the life of a bilingual libararian.
I will not tell you how long it took me to write that crisp and rivetting piece of dialogue. Nor will I let myself think of the possible number of mistakes, contained therein.
I will simply sit back and await lucrative job offers from all around Wales. I will probably get Llareggub (that's buggerall backwards, in case you were thumbing through your dictionary).
So I won't be giving up my daytime job, just yet.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Many denominations fast during this time.
Some give the money they have saved to the poor.
I go to a Baptist Church. We are not doing Lent (heaven forbid that we would be involved in something so ecumenical)! But we are doing a programme called 50:50. Which has a strong social justice focus – I have found myself really challenged by it.
Last week we had a message about consumption. The speaker challenged us to: Consume fairly; Consume ethically and Consume sustainably.
We were given a huge wad of information.
We were then encouraged to make small steps.
The two products that grabbed my attention most keenly were: chocolate and coffee.
My two vices – my two favourite things (apart from Andrew, of course)
These primary products for coffee and chocolate are cultivated primarily in developing nations. Child slavery is common. People are paid an unfair price for their beans. We saw a DVD on some Fair Trade companies.
It was inspiring.
This week I changed my coffee brand to Fair Trade. I am also looking at alternative chocolate sources. A student who is doing a placement at World Vision explained that Cadbury UK are committed to sourcing Fair Trade cocoa beans.
I Googled Cadbury Fair trade and found this link:
The opening message was as follows:
"100 years ago William Cadbury chose beans from Ghana. A year ago we founded the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership. And from Autumn 2009 Cadbury Dairy Milk will be Fairtrade certified. Welcome aboard."
Let’s hope Cadbury Australia will follow suit.
Imagine eating chocolate guilt free. I could get religion on that!
In the meantime, we can put the pressure on our supermarkets to stock Fair Trade coffee and chocolate, in fact, Fair Trade everything … Apparently Coles supermarkets stock Fair Trade Chocolate. I couldn’t find any at Safeway (and I searched pretty desperately).
I haven’t tried my Fair Trade coffee, yet. I am still finishing my previous, before-I-got-religion, packet. But last night, Andrew asked me what I was going to do if it didn’t taste nice.
‘Hey, this is religion,' I said. 'I’m not even going to think about it.'
I have blind unquestioning faith.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Roedd e n penblwydd am mis Chwefror dau deg wyth – It was his birthday on February 28th
Mae fy mlog yn hwyr achos mae fy chyfrifriadur wedi cael yn firws ‘da fe – My blog is late because my computer had a virus.
Ond, fe gwnaethon ni yn dathlu! – But we did celebrate!
Fe aethon ni allan ar ginio – we went out for dinner
Rydyn ni ’n wedi teimlo yn soffistigedig – we felt very sophisticated.
Mae fy merch Priya yn diflas, tipyn bach – My daughter Priya was a little bit bored.
Pen bywydd hapus, Seth!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Now, I am not Hermione Granger. I cannot be in two places at once so, for one year only, Welsh will have to take second place. I will not give up on the language entirely. I have an iPod and audio lessons from BBC Catchphrase and the Rosetta Stone language program.
I will not fall behind!
In an effort to reinforce my progress, I am going to publish some of my lessons. Now I know this may alienate the majority of my readers (you know, my husband and my brother), and confound others (that’s you Fiona). But fortunately it will not seriously impact my blogging income ;-).
In the past, when I have put Welsh on my blog, I have had it corrected by my teacher, beforehand. But seeing as I now have no, official, teacher, you will see my linguistic skills in their pure and unadulterated form.
If anyone out there would like to correct my work, please leave a comment in the comment box.
Otherwise, be prepared for awe.
I am currently studying: gwers saith deg dau (that’s lesson 72 for the uninformed) It is: trafod y teulu (about the family). My prose may get tipynbach (a little) repetitive. But overlook that and – gollwch i ti, (lose yourself), in the poetry (or butchery) of the language.
Dwy enw Lisabeth – my name is Elizabeth.
Mae fy ŵr enw Andrew – my husband’s name is Andrew.
Roeddwn ni ‘n briodi am dau deg pump blynyddoedd – We have been married for twenty five years (Andrew that is your cue to make a loving comment).
Rydyn ni ‘n cael yn plant pedwar, dwy ferch a dau fab, gyda i ni – we have four children, two daughters and two sons.
Mae fy mab hynaf enw, Jack.
Mae fy merch hynaf enw, Phoebe.
Mae fy mab iau enw, Seth.
Mae fy merch iau enw, Naomi Priya.
I think you can work that out. Here are some clues: enw = name; hynaf = elder; and iau = younger.
See, Welsh is easy!
Mae Jack ‘n dau deg pedwar flwydd oedd – Jack is twenty four years old. Mae ei wraig enw Vanessa – His wife’s name is Vanessa.
Rydyn ni ‘n byw o Canberra – they live in Canberra.
Mae Phoebe yn dau deg un flwydd oedd. Mae hi’n ddi-briod. Phoebe is twenty one years of age. She is not married.
Mae Seth yn un deg naw oedd a mae Naomi yn un deg pedwar oedd– Seth is nineteen and Naomi is fourteen. Mae nhw yn ddi-briod, wrth gwrs! – they are not married, of course.
Mae fy Mam yn byw o Adelaide – my Mum lives in Adelaide.
Mae fy mrawd yn byw o Malawi, canolbarth Affrica, gyda ei deulu – My brother lives in Malawi, Central Africa, with his family.
Mae fy Mam daeth yn Gymru yn wreithiol – My Mum comes from Wales, originally.
Mae fy mrawd a i fi gawson ni ngeni yn Loegr – My brother and I were born in England.
Roedd ein Tad yn Saesneg –My Dad was an Englishman.
Fe symoddon ni yn Awstralai ym mil nawr chwech nawr – We moved to Australia in 1969.
Are you confounded?
Yes, so am I!
Mostly by the mistakes I'm certain I have made.
But I am going to put this on my blog anyway.
I hope some of my Welsh class take pity on me (an exile for the arts) and respond with corrections.
Monday, February 9, 2009
Oh God, we are shocked by the fires that swept through areas of our state, indeed our nation.
As we sit in the comfort of our lounge, watching a flickering TV screen, we experience a roller coaster of emotion.
We feel gratitude for the roof over our heads. We feel horror at the way people have died. We ache for those who have lost everything. Words can't express the sorrow we feel for those who have lost dear friends and family. Because in our anguish, we need to feel something bigger than ourselves, we come before you on our knees.
For those who have lost people they love, we ask for comfort and a time to grieve.
For those who have lost their homes, we ask for material benefits.
For those who are even now fighting for their lives, we ask your blessing.
For those facing a long and difficult recovery, we ask courage.
For those who have only been affected from afar, we pray generosity.
For those frightened by own narrow escapes, we ask peace.
For those who may have unwittingly contributed to the damage, we ask mercy.
For those who have knowingly caused harm, we ask justice.
Lord, we cry out over the still warm earth, and ask you to hear us.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
I have been talking about it, and thinking about it, ordering books and articles and reading about my topic for months.
This week I started writing. You know that moment, when you suddenly realise that all those thoughts, feelings and inspirations, suddenly need to be trapped, like rare butterflies and pinned to the page.
Anyway, like I said. It was time to begin and no amount of, pencil tapping, mind-mapping or finger flexing was going to improve things.
I spent half of Tuesday writing an introduction (crystalizing what I wanted to say).
I spent all of (and I mean all day) Wednesday banging out a first draft. It is woeful, of course (first drafts always are), and finally scribbled a conclusion after lights out (a-not-tonight dear-I-have-a conclusion-to-mull-over sort of affair).
But as I sat alone in my room today, ready to hammer my rough ploughshare into a sword, I had a clarifying thought:
I don't have to do this article, I thought.
It probably won't be accepted.
And ... I certainly won't get paid for it.
The sun is shining, the birds are singing. I could be shopping, or having lunch with friends. At the pool or the botanic gardens or the museum or the movies. Playing draughts, or skittles or monolpoly.
But I am not.
I am doing a 2,500 self imposed essay … and I am enjoying it.
Do you think there is something wrong with me?