Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve funeral

Well it was the last thing I expected. Got a facebook message yesterday from Patrick. For long-time readers, with a good memory, they will know 'Patrick' was my first boyfriend and featured heavily in my Bad '80s Diaries, which I have since publishing here, put back into drafts so they aren't public anymore. At least I fucken hope not.

Patrick and I aren't facebook friends but somehow he can message me. I'm not sure how that works, as it didn't come with a friend request. Who the fuck knows. Anyway, he said his mum died and the funeral was this morning. Gave the address and time and I messaged back thanking him for letting me know. And said I'd be there.

So. I went. It was hard, not just because his mum was a lady I loved and a special person and so there were lots of tears, including Patrick struggling with his eulogy. And his daughter standing beside him, in tears. It was harrowing.

It was hard for all these reasons, but also because:

1. when I hugged Patrick I smeared my invisible zinc all over his pristine white shirt. Invisible zinc is not fucking invisible. So there was that.

2. When I said hello, by tapping on the shoulder, to P's sister's husband (who I think in the past sent me a bunch of flowers and anonymous romance card) I said hello and called him by the wrong name. His wife's name.

3. When I was leaving, after service, after car had driven away, but before light refreshments, I was doing my sunglasses-spectacle changeover, like a fuss-pot granny and dropped my specs on the ground and had to stop and get them, bum in air, in the middle of grieving friends and relatives.

So I'm home, after stopping at Danny Murphy's on the way. We are now stocked up with wine, vodka, champagne, apple cider and beer. I have to go and cook three chooks (and do stuffing) and make a trifle and cook rice for rice salad. And get tables and chairs out of garage and set up. And go down street one more time to get those things forgotten.

So to everyone, Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Wonderful Everything.

Take it easy, take care. I'll be around.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Contract is through




After five weeks of waiting, negotiations, and a bit of to'ing and fro'ing, the hard copies of book contract arrived in mail today.

So tonight we drink a leetle champagne (it's the season, after all. Last night we had sparkling, because we were setting up the Christmas tree!) But tonight, it's real Champagne, for the signing of the contract. It's been a hardish longish road, though when I think about it, it was only 2008 when I got a bit more serious about my writing, and 2009 when got really serious and did the year-long course with the aim of producing a completed first draft of a novel by the end of it. So, what's that. Six years. and it's been hard work, I have really worked hard, and it's been fun and wonderful, and I've waited a lot too. But I am lucky because my persistence has had results.

I know people who aren't trying to do this (that is, publish a novel, in this country, with a conventional publisher) probably don't have any idea how hard it is, how it's not just a matter of good work being rewarded, or hard work being rewarded. There are so many other factors involved, that I had no idea about before. Until I learned about them. Things like thick-skins, patience, determination (read sheer bloody mindedness), luck, resilience, stamina. And people who don't know about publishing wouldn't realise how SLOWLY things move, even when going well.

They say it's always been hard to get published, and they say too that it's never been harder than now.  Also what I'm writing - literary fiction - is the hardest genre of all. Publishers balk at it, it doesn't sell much.

But this is the best Christmas present I've ever had. Better even than my new purple Malvern Star when I was about ten. Better than the Totem Tennis. Better than the game I got when I was about nine, where there were a bunch of marbles and you set up this plastic channelling thing and a mechanism drew up the marbles and then pummelled them down onto three or four drum things that bounced them in a pattern. Better than the Crystal Cylinder two-tone windcheater; the brown bikinis with palm tree design, the board shorts. The skiffle board that got lost on its first outing at Waratah Bay. How do you lose a skiffle board? You leave it by the water's edge and run back to the towel to eat a sandwich or have a drink or dig in the sand. And then when you go back, it's just gone. Buried.

Today I floated in the bay for a while, with a friend, and we each had blow-up rings. She gave me the orange one, her favourite she said, but it kept deflating. When we walked back to the car there was a tumble weed rolling along the footpath.

It felt like it came to meet us, to find her. It had travelled from the country and was rolling along. I told her she needed to take it, and think about it. That it had a message for her.

Sometimes I get very hippy when I am with her. We met at teacher's college years ago, and travelled together for five weeks in Indonesia in 1986 I think it was, not knowing each other that well. We don't see each other often but when we do it's great. She's having a hard time, with her kids, her husband, the rest of her family, including siblings and mother. We talked about our lives and shared our pain and good stuff and it made me realise, again, how much I have to be grateful about. When I talk about my family shit, at least my sister and I are talking and affectionate most of the time. We push through our negative stuff.

I'm not sure whether I'll post again before Christmas or over New Year (though I do fancy a bit of a New Year's Eve here on the blog, if I don't go out. Haven't had a party since the election that time.) So, what are you hoping for, in your wildest dreams? For yourself or for someone else. I'd love to hear it.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Sick, and tired

It is that fucking time of the year. I have a head cold. I don't know if you remember but last year, at this time, I fell in a heap. Had laryngitis, couldn't teach my final sessions for the year, and it then moved into my chest, then up to the sinuses. I am hoping this head cold just stays in the head then fucks off without spreading anywhere else.

I'm trying to rest as much as possible.

P came back from her beach sojourn yesterday, she had a ball. At one stage there were 19 of them all in a house, having fun cooking together, chatting, playing games, swimming. I remember being young and in a big group and how much fun it was.

On Friday P has laser surgery on her eyes. She's worn glasses since she was about 5 or 6 and contacts since about 11 or so. She is so over them, so on Friday her eyes will be lasered and hopefully she will have good eyesight, at least for a number of years before they start to deteriorate again.

Today is Clokes's daughter's bd, she is 19. Tomorrow is my birthday. I will be older than that. December is filled with family and friends birthdays, it's kind of annoying. But anyway.

I've got the contract from the publisher, have worked my way through making notes. Will talk to agent this week. Things have been slowed of course: for two weeks agent and pub were each expecting the other to send it through. Hah. And then it's just been the Thanksgiving weekend in the US so nothing has happened from that end.

So many delays. I can't imagine how non-patient people cope. I have a friend who also writes, she's a bit behind me in the process. She is so impatient. She is already talking about self-publishing and she hasn't even submitted it to publishers; and has submitted it to maybe two agents and gotten good feedback but ultimate knock backs. She is going to drive herself mental if she can't find some patience and the ability to sit with ambiguity, be still with uncertainty. Also it astounds me how people don't realise that to get published you have to submit, and submit to a shitload of places, and often over a long period of time. We all have stars in our eyes that we will be the one who snaps it in a single go. I'd like to know how often that happens, out of all the traditionally-published authors, how many approached one agent, say, and they took them on. Or one publisher and they said yes. Because if the amount of published novelists (traditionally) sits at 1 in a thousand manuscripts (I've seen publishers say they think that's way too high) then of that amount, what percentage have had a 'smooth run' ie 1 for 1 in terms of pitches.

So my head is hot and I'm going back to bed. My final teaching is tomorrow, two hours in the middle of the day. My voice is holding up so far, I think I'll be okay. And then I'm off for the summer, yay.

Oh, and I wrote 3,000 new words last week, which is pretty good considering I hadn't worked on that project for months. So I'm about 3K off my target for completed first draft. Also need to go back to the first one, and rewrite, but that will be a big project. So want to get this shorter one done first so it's ready to show pub when the time comes. Then if I have two in the pipeline it buys me time to get the third one how I want it.

What are people's plans for the summer? Anyone doing a big Christmas? A small Christmas? A no Christmas?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Exams are done

Yesterday P had her final exam, another History paper with three essays. She was pleased with it, thought the questions good, and was happy with what she did. I wasn't working, so picked her up, we got DVDs and burgers and sat on the couch from about 3pm watching Freaks and Geeks. I had heard about this show, knew about it, but never investigated. P watched it about 3 years ago and had told me that I should watch but I didn't. Until yesterday. I like it.

We also got some movies. She wanted depressing, tragic stuff, so we got Atonement, Bright Star and Legends of the Fall (we've seen all of these; they are revisits).

I'm struggling with reading at the moment. I'm waiting for the contract to come through. My agent rang me yesterday - an unscheduled phone call. It was on the work phone and I answered in my professional voice, which was a funny moment. She laid out how things will move from here. About the contract, about how my relationship will work with the publisher, a timeline for next year, working backwards. I told her I'm away mid Jan to mid Feb and we agreed it would be best for me to do any edits before I leave. Even to approve proofs, I'm not sure how quickly it will all move, especially at this time of year. We talked about the advance, and how her commission works (which I knew anyway) and how she will hand me over, really, to the publisher so J (publisher) and I can establish our working relationship without agent V in the mix. But she's there if I need her, have any questions etc. SO I'm happy about all that, I did have some questions but I like being clear.

Today I'm calling an old teacher who is published and established and is going to give me some advice. It's important I know the 'score' she said, and 'at the beginning'. I kind of wonder what that means. She's been a published author since the early '90s or even late '80s, so I'm hoping she doesn't have a lot of negative stuff to say (I don't think so) but I'm also hoping she can give me some practical advice, which might help me avoid making some mistakes. Especially things like: How Not to Piss Off the Publisher, also How Not To Be a Complete Pushover.


So the next few months are going to be busy. Which is exciting but also a bit scary because I'm pretty tired. I'd like a quiet summer but it's not going to happen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A good week and it's only Tuesday

1. Princess is probably half-way through her exams. English = finished. Biology (a huge content subject, the biggest stack of cue cards, etc etc) = FINISHED. She has Maths, French and History to go. History will be the next biggest load but she's pretty much learned it all. She felt happy with all the exams so far and has really worked hard to get on top of the Bio content. She's got a good brain but is a very visual learner so I was making flash cards for certain things, and we used mnemonics, and it all helped.

2. My teaching is winding down, and that is really good. All the primary programs are done, so no more full days. Just some skerricks here and there.

3. I got my frocks out of the cupboard and tried them on. I love a frock and in summer it's what I pretty much wear. Frocks and thongs or Dr Scholl cloggy things OR sometimes heels, if going out. But really I am a cave woman and my feet don't like shoes. We would like to be barefoot all the time (well, maybe Uggs in winter.)

4. Getting excited about our trip in Jan/Feb. We've booked flights and accommodation in Budapest, just need to get onto everything else. But it's low season so shouldn't be a problem leaving some stuff until later.

5. This is the best snippet. Something is happening with the book. I can't say what yet, have to be very careful on social media, but it's good and it's exciting. More soon.

Monday, November 03, 2014


So. It's the day before Melbourne Cup Day. Tomorrow something is happening and I hope it has a good result. It's something bookish and I will let you know if it pans out.

Tomorrow also P starts her exams. English Paper 1 or something. It's a poem or a piece of prose, unseen. They have to read it, and annotate and write a commentary. So we've done a bit of work on the language used to describe author choices and literary devices. Cue cards and everything. I think she's pretty well prepared.

She said that her friends' mothers aren't helping them, and I know it's not 'normal' for me to be doing it, or not the norm is probably a better way of putting it. I'm not sure why I've made myself so available to her, wanting to help. Perhaps I have more invested in these exams emotionally than I thought. I'm the first person to be critical of other parents who do too much for the kids, and don't encourage them to be independent and make their own decisions and mistakes. Maybe I need to think about it, but whatever. I told her it's a one-off, and I won't be helping her with anything else like this in life. Not study-wise.

She's applying to go to college next year. You know: Animal House. I'm a bit conflicted but I stupidly said yes, and I do think it would be good for her as long as she's happy living in. Get her out of her comfort zone a bit more; force her to open up social circles. Get her off our couch. I need to find out whether they accept payment per semester in case she fucking detests it.

We just spent time out the back, in the sun, armed with scissors and dog grooming tools, attacking the Gigi. Gigi loves to lie in the bushes and is a licker too. She licks (vet said maybe allergies; maybe boredom, stress. I think the latter myself.) This means she gets very matted around her 'pantaloons' - bouffy hair that grows exponentially between her legs. She also gets matted on her tummy and well, anywhere really. So we did some chopping and now she looks like some poor kid who gets a home haircut. We're going to take her for a walk too. We haven't walked her for ages cause: 1. she's too slow, 2. she always wants to stop and sniff, so we've worked out a plan. We take her for a walk around the block, slowly, and she can stop and sniff. Then we drop her back home and go for our fast, longer walk. We will see how this goes.

Haven't been to yoga for a couple of weeks. Just too hard with the study and everything else going on. But I'm going to get back to it once P is finished. It's something I feel is really good for me.

Clokes has started in a new position at work. He's still in IT but he's doing twitter and facebook for the bank. Which is kind of funny because it's what he likes to do at home too, so I guess not many people can say they do for paid work what they do in their spare time. He has to shirt up though. Before, he was with a team that were very casual: polo t-shirts, jeans even. Now he's back in shirts and the ones he's wearing he tucks in. I've never known this man to tuck, and he does, and it's hilarious. I call him Tucky when he comes home at night. Mean but funny. Before that I called him Stripey, because he wears those striped polo shirts. Mean, I know. BUT FUNNY.

Last night I cooked lasagne. There was a Neil Perry recipe I got online. Not that I love NP or anything. I don't, but this version had buffalo mozarella and white sauce. Clokes is the lasagne maker in the family and he makes a fantastic lasagne, that has superseded my own very good one. His has ham in it, no white sauce, lots of wet meat sauce and lots of cheese. The way he puts it together, lots of layers of fresh lasagne sheets. Delicious. The one I made yesterday was beautiful. White sauce on top with parmesan cheese and dotted with whole basil leaves. It bubbled and browned, and was yummy but I had to say to him that I still thought his was tastier.

We are still watching Gogglebox. We are right up against the present it seems. Last night's episode (which was the last ep of a season) had them all sitting around watching their Logies equivalent, and Gogglebox won! It was more meta than usual. Then the first episode of the new season, about half of the families had new couches/armchairs. Obviously got a cheque. Also last night, they were watching a Downtown Abbey episode that P had watched just that afternoon on her laptop, while she took a break from cue cards.

So it's all happening in our place.

On Saturday night I went to a friend's birthday and it was upstairs at an Italian restaurant in Lygon St. Lots of people I didn't know, and a few I did. Clokes was there (untucked but striped) and they had a quiz and I won a medal and got a little loud. As I do. Then on facebook next day, lots of pictures and I was tagged and I really don't like the tagging thing. It just draws attention. Annoying. But how do you ask people to untag. I thought you had to give permission for tagging. Annoying.

Well, that's about it. Teaching wise we've been pretty busy. Finished a primary program last week (series of three lessons of three weeks) and finish another one this week. Also have been doing Year 5 sessions at a school in two parts; we have a few more bookings and then finished for the year on 2 December (my birthday). P has eye laser surgery on the 5th, then she goes away to the beach with friends (instead of schoolies) and then we are having a big family Christmas here (except for my dad, and my sister and her family, they will be OS), and THEN P goes OS 9 Jan. And I go 16 Jan, so that will be good.

What do you have on for the rest of the year, over Christmas/New Year?

Monday, October 20, 2014


This is the newest thing to hit our lounge-room. It's the most meta show ever. Clokes found out about it on a tv show about reality shows. The premise: install a camera in people's houses, that films them watching the same shows on the same night in Britain. Some of the people are fantastic and hilarious. Here are the funniest (probably); Stephanie and Dominic, B&B owner-operators in Sandwich:

Constantly pissed (it seems, especially him) they are the posh ones.

There are the Siddiquis, a father and son group (top left; but we have lost the son on the far right, he only appeared in first season); the Tapper family (top right; the wife has the shrillest voice you've ever heard. It makes you want to kill her. It makes you wonder how her husband can stand her. Their daughter is about 14 and sucks her thumb and regularly seems to spiral into hunger-rage); couple Christopher and Stephen bottom left, hairdressers and caustic, well Christopher is) and June and Leon bottom right, married more than 50 years. Leon gets a bit sleazey, keeps talking about seeing women's 'nicks' and wanting June to bring him a cracker to eat. He's been on a diet since we've been watching.)

Another favourite lounge-room is the one belonging to Sandy and Sandra,  long-time friends:

They often have a heap of take-away food and Sandra (on the right) gets very loud and shouty and occasionally has jumped out of her seat because there's a mouse or some other unwanted visitor in the room. In an episode we watched last night she used a shoe to squash something we couldn't see that was climbing on a wall. They are really entertaining.

We call this the 'German family' although it's only Ralph, the man above, who is German. He's married to the woman, and we think the daughter is hers only but aren't sure. You only get a slow drip-feed of background info across the seasons and I love that. You get to know them in the way you might get to know acquaintances in your real life, without the info dump which seems to be how we learn about people through the media nowawadays, including tell-all memoirs and blog posts. The funniest thing about this family is the way they all seem to wear metal t-shirts, and the boyfriend's face (and coif) which the camera zooms in on the most regularly. He never talks and is always just staring at the tv, and conversations happen around him. I think last night we saw him react with anything resembling animation, and he said something. We're in season 3.

The family we hate is this one:

Parents and son all living together in their overstuffed couch. They have no coffee table which is weird but the son has an even more annoying voice than the Tapper mother (it sounds like he is from Monty Python, like a put-on voice, but not funny). The father often falls asleep and the son often contemptuously corrects his mother's dumbness.

A recent couple just appearing in season 3 is Rev Kate and her husband, a man we think would prefer to be married to the dog. He is always fondling it, while the Rev lays her feet across his lap, tries to touch him all the time.

Oh, and also this couple, who have a painting of boobs right behind them:

It's all so funny.

You sit on the couch, like they do, and you get to see bits of what they are watching, plus their reactions and commentary, and often we find ourselves pausing so we can make our commentary. We react to the shows, like them, and we say things about the shows, like them as well.

If you think too much about it, you'll go nuts. But get on it, it's fabulous, I recommend.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

She's eighteen

Yesterday was my girl's birthday. We had a family gathering last night, and all day I worked to tidy the house, organise food, and (at the last minute) decided I wanted to put together a scrap book type of document for her, with some photos and comments, something that everyone could write in, memories of her, that sort of thing. It was a great success, the whole thing, except my speech.

Earlier in the day I'd been thinking about what I would say. I'd told the fam there would be the opportunity for speeches. My mother came prepared, with a folder, no less, of  'props' as she called them. She wrote in the book and then when it came to talking, after cake, she was eloquent and loving. My sister read out what she'd written in the book, and it was poignant. My brother spoke really well too, he's a natural. And then me. I'd been teary during the day when looking at photos and thinking about how much I love her, so maybe that's why, when it came to speaking, I kept it fairly business-like. I spoke about how I tidied her room yesterday, probably for the first time in ten years. I forgot to say why I did it, which was as a surprise for her (it was a real mess, a typical Year 12 out-of-control mess); the window ledge hadn't been cleaned in years, so much dust. A truckload of books beside the bed, little piles toppled. Her bedside table, also uncleaned for ages. And clothes everywhere. She was thrilled when she came home and saw it. She's got friends coming tonight and I thought it would help her to have it tidied, and so even though it's against my principles to tidy teen bedrooms, I did it this once, and in a weirdly emotional way, it felt like the last time.

In my speech I talked about the books that were beside her bed. How different they were to the ones I would have had beside my bed, at eighteen. For me it was Jackie Collins, Sid Sheldon, Stephen King. For her, I tidied up Middlemarch, War and Peace, several Henry James novels, an Anne Bronte one (the lesser-known sister); Crime and Punishment, that sort of thing, as well as a few non-fiction titles. Then I said it's been a very quick journey from The Lion King, Aristocats and Lady and the Tramp, to David Attenborough, then vampires and zombies - how quickly time has flown. That I was going to find her baby book to look up her first words, but that I knew the very first one was 'more'; and that somehow I would have been surprised not to see words like 'Mussolini' and 'Munch' and Oberfuhrer. That there probably has never been a thirteen-year-old girl who could give you a three-hour talk on the evolution of fashion and accessories from the Dark Ages through to the 1950s.

I didn't say anything I wanted to say, which was how proud I am of her, how much I delight in her company, how she feeds my intellect and how much I value the conversations we have. How fun she is, how thoughtful and mature and patient and loving. How she had quite a few difficult emotional things to deal with when she was little and through her teens: her dad not living with us, and living overseas; her beloved grandmother's cancer and all the trips to the hospital, through traffic along the diabolical Punt Road;  needing glasses at five; her best friend moving interstate; struggling with learning to read; becoming part of a family of steps (I think she's done best out of it; it's given her a group of people to be with, even though as an only child, she was maybe a bit lonely at times; she likes a bunch of people around her); breaking her ankle in Year 5; not seeing her dad for almost four years at a time when she needed that connection. This has all made her resilient and flexible, aware and able to manage her emotions in a healthy way.

Anyway, I will write these things in the book and if it comes to 21st speeches, I'll be better prepared. She knows all this, though, doesn't need some speech to know how I feel about her. I've told her frequently how wonderful I think she is.

Tonight she's got friends coming over. There'll be a brazier in the back yard and candles and lanterns and fairy lights. The theme is 'nostalgia' and I hope she has a lovely night.

Hope you are all well and making sure that you tell the people you care about that you love them, and why they mean so much to you. It's so important.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

You have to watch


Lately we've tried a few other shows.

The Following with Kevin Bacon as ex-FBI drunkard on the trail of charismatic serial killer cult leader. It's worth a look if only for the weirdness of the cult man. The episodes can be very jam-packed with unrealistic events and the pacing is too much.

We had a look at Banshee and after a few episodes I pulled the pin. It's really not very good. While the premise was kind of interesting - criminal gets released from gaol, wanders into situation where he ends up killing and then taking the identity of the new sheriff in town, only to be embroiled in, well, everything.

And then now we are in the midst of Orphan Black. All I can say is watch it, it is so fucking good. I reckon it's up there with Walking Dead, Game of, True Blood (before it went not very good)... In a word, it's clones. That's not a spoiler cause you kind of find it out very quickly. But the actor playing the clones is so good, you really forget she is the same person. It's so clever. The acting is excellent across all the characters, and it's compelling viewing, well-paced, developing well (we are 3 eps from end of second season). And it's possibly the first show I've seen where not just one female leads, but all of the main characters are females. It includes this particular character, Helena, who grew up in a Ukraine nunnery. She is amazing and we love her:

She is disturbed and violent and unpredictable. She is smart and snaky but also sentimental and calls her twin sestra, which I'm guessing is Ukrainian for 'sister.' This tv has amazing acting and amazing scripts. It's dark and dramatic, at turns funny and moving. It's been a wonderful surprise though it did come highly recommended by 'people who know about this stuff.'

The other thing is that sexuality is kind of a theme. Sarah is the central clone character and her foster brother is Felix, a gay guy. Then one of her clone 'sisters' is a lesbian (or at least is in a relationship with a woman) and then, just in the episode we watched last night, a trans element was introduced. Did not see it coming, but it's great. I'm wondering whether they are going to make a comment about genetics and sexuality in any way.

I cannot recommend highly enough.


Nothing else much to report. Am teaching, am writing. Melbourne Writers Festival is coming up, I'm going to a few events.

And I'm going overseas again next year, for about 4 weeks in northern winter. That'll be fun. More about that later.

Hope you are all well.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

These are just *some* of the questions I was asked today in my Year 5/6 class of kids

So the topics are puberty (next two weeks) and today was conception, pregnancy and childbirth. We talk about sperm and egg and fertilisation; we go through the male and female reproductive anatomy, plus some extras (clitoris, bladder, etc). We covered sex (intercourse) and semen and choice and then it all seemed to spin out with the second group. The first inkling was when one of the Year 6 boys (we're talking ten or eleven) said (when I asked what are three things that can come out of a vagina, expecting: period blood, a baby and vaginal discharge if he remembered from last year) he said: Excess semen.
I'm thinking what the fuck has he seen? We had talked about how the sperm that 'miss out' on fertilising an egg will dissolve and leave the body (I didn't say 'hey, the semen drips out guys!) Then there was the bit that with sex there should always be choice and that pleasure is good. We'd talked about the clitoris and the penis and that they are the main parts of the bodies that will have the 'sexual feelings'.

Then the questions started coming. I sort of guessed the 'anonymous question box' would be kinda empty in week 3 but no, as I was leaving there was a boy scribbling down a question on a piece of paper.

The questions. They've never met me, I obviously put them at their ease, but I also wonder again: what the fuck have they been watching? These are verbatim.

- so if there's a sexual assault, would it be possible for the woman to have an orgasm?
- if there was a dildo and there was semen on it and a woman used it, could she get pregnant
- what's a condom? (and then after I explained, briefly) another boy: so if a man used a condom on his penis to stop the semen getting into the woman's vagina, and then finished and then took it off and turned it inside out and put it on again and there was semen on the outside of the condom, and he had sex with another woman, could she get pregnant? (this was dildo boy.)
- so we know sex is not for children, but is oral sex illegal for children? (I'd already explained that sex is something adults do (we don't get into ages with the kids) and then later, when I said yes, that any sexual activity is illegal for children (in answer to the oral sex question) someone asked: what's the age? Is it 18 or 16? So then I said it was 16 in Victoria but that didn't mean 16 year olds wake up and start having sex, I said that most don't, we have research to show that.

I'm wondering whether I need to have a chat to the Year 6 boys. Seems to me they've been watching porn? Or hearing stuff from older kids?

Couple of years ago at another school, one of the anon questions said: 'What if a kid was looking in their parents' bedroom and found a dildo? Is that normal?' So we had to have a conversation around what's 'normal' but mostly about the fact that adults can expect to have their privacy respected, and kids shouldn't be in there snooping around (I know, I did!).

It's like Year 6 kids are the new Year 9s. Unbelievable. And I reckon it's all down to porn. I'm noticing a difference even in the last five years.

Friday, July 25, 2014

This has been floating around for a week or so

It's been a long time between drinks for Weird Al. This is great though. Love it.
Happy weekend everyone.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


The Tour has been killing me. We've started yoga and it's great. I've been teaching this week. And writing. Otherwise all is well. How about you?

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Writing update

Hello, ahoy.

I've finished my rewrite, part of the reason I've been quiet lately. Have been reading heaps, watching Big Love from the beginning. I'd caught a few eps years ago and liked it so went back to the beginning. It's amazing how you can be drawn into it, and think it's an okay way to live. Watching it makes me want sister-wives. Crazy, I know. And we've been watching some old Peter Sellers movies.

Have sent the novel to a reader, someone who saw it in very early stages before it was a proper story. See what she says about it, and then back to the agent for submissions.

Am also determined to finish first draft of short novel (the Blade Runner Weather x Spare Room Premise one, is how I think of it, but it's not really.) I have about another 7000 words to write on that one. Last few days I spent working hard on the structure and so it won't take long to fill in the gaps and then move to the next stage.

Tonight we have our annual Tour de France meal. The first stage is in Yorkshire so THANK FUCK we are having a break from French cuisine (running out of things, actually, it's quite a limited range of dishes). We are having it here and I am doing main meal, roast beef with all the trimmings, including Yorkshire puddings. I've never been much of a roast beef cooker, and had never done the puddings so last weekend was a test run. The puddings were stodgier than I'd expected, and I think it's because I used the wrong tray to cook them in. The oil needs to be smoking hot so will use metal tray instead of silicone one tonight. We have Yorkshire beer, and my sister/husband is doing some sort of pudding, not sure if sticky date or similar. I've also got lollies that are originally from Yorkshire: licorice allsorts, jubes, Kit-Kats, etc. And a bottle of Ginger Beer. Bet it's disgusting, so we won't be having lashings of that I don't think.*

So the bikes. Love it, but it means some late nights coming up. Not sure who I'm going for, but not Froome who won last year. Maybe Contador but he's a drug cheat. Quintana who came second last year isn't riding (he won the Giro) and I would probably have gone for him. Cancellara I quite like, but don't know how much of a contender he is. I don't like the Australian team - Orica GreenEdge. There's a German, Marcel Kittel but he's not a General Classification rider. Will be going for him in sprints, don't like Mark Cavendish at all. Funny how you get drawn into it. Sister-wives and men in lycra (hate them on the roads in real life.)

Happy weekend all.

* can anybody pick this literary reference? The mention of tongue sandwiches might help. And 'jolly' and 'smashing' and 'ra-ther.'

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Apologies for being AWOL

My excuses:

- been really busy with teaching
- been really busy with daughter, in support mode for her school work, reading over assignments and she likes to debrief and tell me what she learned in history
- tonight is her Year 12 formal, so been busy with that as well. It's mental how out of control these girls get. It's a bit like a wedding. I shall be glad when it's over.
- have been really busy with the rewriting as well
- have been social, a lot of writery stuff on which is nice but I don't really like being so busy. I like to nest at home.
- this means I'm behind with Orange Is The New Black and Alex is waiting for me to catch up and discuss. Sorry Alex. We watched one last night, I hope to finish sooooon
- finished watching Game of Thrones, loved the season but haven't had time to discuss with Alex properly. SORRY!
- still struggling with being sick and it's getting really fucking boring going to the doctor and having tests all the time but I'm feeling better in some ways (the cough) and I had a colonoscopy and gastroscopy on Monday and the doctor said he could see a hernia and evidence of reflux. The reflux is no surprise - I've had that for years and was on the Nexium and then off and self-managing the last 12 months of so, GOD THIS IS BORING YOU DON'T WANT TO HEAR THIS anyway I still have back pain but the other day I noticed something on my back YOU REALLY DON'T WANT TO, IT'S SO FREAKING DULL but I might get the GP to have a look at that. I'm booked for dermatologist for skin cancer check later in the year but maybe something's going on there. [SNORE]
- but my finger is ok (ie the meat-TB-whatever that was!)
- I have to go. I've baked an upside-down pear cake to take to the formal parent 'pre-drinks' and we are staying on for dinner which will be nice. But I'm really tired.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

I don't like the new look

I wanted to keep the old one but also wanted to install that google statistics thingy and you needed an updated blog blah blah. I can't find a template like the old one and can't even find a neutral looking one so went all dark. It's a shock every time I come here. The old one felt like home.

When I have more time maybe I'll try and see what I can do but I did spend a few hours looking before and with nothing better than this it seemed.

Nothing much else to report. Reading. Teaching. Writing. Wrangling. All as normal. Going out for dinner tonight with Clokes and another couple to Indian, so yay for that. Caught up with a friend I had lost touch with for 5 or 6 years, saw her Tuesday. Yay for that as well, happy to be back in touch. Princess finished her Maths IA, and is almost finished her History IA, Extended Essay and TOK Essay. So they will be massive things for her to cross off her (our) list.

Weather had turned chilly but it's ok. Our heating has been fixed and so we won't freeze.

And my tax return is done AND I have a big bill cause of capital gains AND Clokes asked about it (we keep our money stuff pretty separate) and when I told him how much he said it was wrong. Seems the accountants don't know it was my primary residence, it wasn't a fucking investment property. So I shouldn't have to pay so much. Seems they have fucked up. Seems I will be changing accountants (and not having to pay so much. I really hope. Let's all cross fingers together and I'll take you all out for dinner, okay?)

Other than that, well, yeah. I'm tracking with my morning constitutional powders and vitamins, and my evening ones too. Feeling I'm over the mucous, or nearly, with just a little sputum coughing in the morning. Got my energy back, mostly, although this week have been stuffed, really tired. Had two periods in a month, one after 19 days and another after 18. Great.

It's been a really long week, not least because Game of Thrones wasn't on Monday night. Bloody Memorial Day in the US.

So what's your news? What are you reading? What are you eating and drinking?


Bob Ellis reckons Abbott will be gone by end of next week. Party here if so.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A balmy week in Melbourne

Seems like all I am talking about at the moment is the weather.

Last night I took my mum to see two Wes Anderson movies at The Astor. The Astor, for those who don't know, is a wonderful old-time movie cinema in Chapel Street, just this side (south side) of Dandenong Road. The address listed is Melbourne but I'd say it's St Kilda East or maybe St Kilda, not sure where the boundary lies. I always thought Chapel was the boundary.

The Astor does double billings and their choc tops are really good. Old style as well, and big.

So we went along, it was busy. Lots of Wes fans but also, curiously, quite a few older people, like my mum's vintage. They can be Wes fans as well of course. People can have a drink, it's pretty relaxed (though there is a man on the microphone who introduces each movie and woe betide you if you think you can still be looking at your phone after the lights have dimmed ready for the film. Last night he came back on the mike and said 'Still waiting for some of you who still have your phones out.' I reckon he was up the back in the box and could see the lighted phone screens. And there used to be a cat Marzipan who would slink through and sit on people's laps, walk along the top front ledge of the upper seating area.

The Astor Cat

Marzipan died in March last year and her facebook page is still up with more than 2,000 friends.

The double show cost $15. I don't know of a cinema in Melbourne where you can get to see ONE movie for that price. The first show last night was The Grand Budapest Hotel. I'd seen it already with Clokes a few weeks ago when it came out. Like with all Anderson films so far*, I LOVED it. There is something about Wes. His colour palettes, the whimsy and quirk, the nostalgia. The symmetrical framing. Some people, who like to be all serieux with bearded chin in hands and talk about filmography and major versus minor artistes say Anderson is not a major. Well, good then. I think there's something too playful and childlike about his movies for some people. I think possibly they are confronted by, and taken surprise by, the intense emotion that can spring in your eyes when watching these films. You recognise yourself, or you recognise a better self, and either of these realisations can be sad in a way. You miss things about your younger self, or if not, are glad to not be in that place anymore. You meet characters you can admire, but they can be heroic one moment, like M. Gustave in Budapest standing up against the 'Nazis' for Zero the Bell Boy and then in another scene, berating the dogged, faithful Zero for forgetting to bring something, and then lapsing into a nasty tirade about refugees staying where they belong and not getting above themselves by seeking a better life. It's wonderfully nuanced and reminds me of the way Chris Lilley manages to set you up to think one way about a character, lulls you into a false sense of comfort by encouraging you to think it's 'just a comedy' (although some people don't find any of it funny at all) and he lets you think you know that character on the screen because so far it's only a stereotyped view and we can't get away from preconceived notions and then showing Jonah, say, vulnerable and motherless and showing you why he is so angry, reactive and well-defended with all his tagging and swearing and hostile behaviour. He is seeking attention. He is craving someone to show him love and patience and affection. All he gets is the opposite of those but of course it's because he provokes it. (I know there is criticism about Lilley and his cultural appropriation in the Jonah character and storyline. Some people have said it's offensive and I get that. Everyone's going to have a different reaction to this as well as film as well as books. But for me, Jonah is the character with the most pathos about him. And he's realistic. Maybe not a realistic portrayal of the way Tongan boys would behave in general, but surely there's one Tongan boy out there off the rails and in pain like Jonah? Sometimes when people accept stereotypes they expect to then be fixed but that's the very thing about individuals. Maybe Jonah is an example of a boy, just one, and if there's truth in one then that's worth showing. And what's true in Jonah might then be true of other boys of his circumstance, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, and so you get commonalities across large groups of people.

I'd love to hear what other people think about this.

Anyway. Back to Wes. Mum loved Budapest too. Then we watched The Darjeeling Limited, which is possibly my favourite if I had to pick a favourite but it's too hard to separate the joy of Rushmore, Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom. The Life Aquatic I love but maybe not quite as much as the others. I'm not sure maybe I have to look at it again. I cried again in Darjeeling. I see it as a beautiful, sad and real portrayal of family with comments on competing birth order, grief over lost parents, messy relationships, and how people want a spiritual experience and can do all the things, visit the temples, wear the beads and flowing clothes but it's not deep in the end. It's only things that happen in life, the full-on real things, like birth and death, events like these that can cause real transformation. Also that you might be looking for something and you won't find it; it's when you're not looking that things sneak up on you.

I think another reason people poo-poo the Wes is because he uses humour, his films can be so funny, and of course you can't have serious themes and commentary if there is humour, right? No, you must be all self-important and grave. Also his strong styling and occasional use of very fixed and fake-looking sets, in Budapest there were quaint little funiculars and a very faux ski scene which to me was hilarious but others might go what the fuck, it's so fake, couldn't he be more realistic about it? Another thing is actor faces are very blank, they deliver their lines with little affect often, so the whole feel is artificial and stilted (apart from Owen Wilson, in Darjeeling. He is the 'animated' elder brother.)

Me, I love it, all of it. I think Anderson is a genius. I think he was either like the guy in Rushmore or wanted to be like the guy in Rushmore. And the boy in Moonrise. And he is possibly one of the brothers in Darjeeling (although I just looked up an article and it seems that movie came from him travelling around India by train with Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola. Article here). But yep, he's got two brothers.

24 Things About Wes Anderson

* Apart from Fantastic Mr Fox. I didn't really like that. Not sure why.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Cold and quiet

Hello. It's cold and it makes me quiet. I just want to curl up and read in bed with my hotwater bottle. I know this is feeble but I'm still trying to shake off my 'whatever illness thingy' it is that is hanging around. I've had tests, all negative so far. Need to do poo tests for parasites, the doctors are 'seeing so many parasites at the moment.'


Quiet weekend ahead. The week has been fine if a little busy. Taught Tuesday afternoon/evening, a parent-child session at a school nearby. It went really well so that was good. A huge group in the first session, about 40 people, which is big for these types of things.

Then taught Years 9s at a secondary college out east yesterday and Wednesday, covered six sessions over the two days, so I'm pretty tired. Then went out to dinner last night with my Dad and that was nice. It was the restaurant we used to go to as a family in the late '70s and through the '80s, and the same people are running it, a bunch of Lebanese brothers (it's an Italian restaurant, you know it, it's quite well known, there was a big food poisoning case a few years ago, big fines etc but so well patronised because the portions are so huge, I'm supposing, and the food is not bad.) Anyway, the guys all remember my dad and they just love him. He's like the big man walking into the place, feted by everyone and we hadn't been there for probably 15 or 20 years before we went once last year and then again last night. They kept coming over, telling him how good it was to see him. Brought us port (blech; they are still living in the '70s man) and it was a fun night especially as my daughter spotted a man at a table who looked like Hitler would have, if he'd lived to mid-sixties. he had the moustache, he had the facial features, so then of course we were saying that Hitler had a son, to a French nurse when he was a soldier in WWI. That kind of thing. And here was the secret son. And then we were saying imagine growing up with people telling you that you looked like Hitler; imagine growing up with you not knowing who your father was and then you work it out somehow.

That's a story. Dinner with Hitler. Maybe it's already been done. So. He was there, he ate fried calamari and took a doggie bag with him when he left. They didn't stay that long, maybe they heard us talking about Hitler.

In other news, there isn't any. Not really. So. Am writing (revisions) and rewatching GIRLS (again. I just love it.) We finished watching Puberty Blues, it wasn't terrific. I am not investing in Master Chef, those days are over. Am loving Game of Thrones but only one a week: deprivation. Have started the second book but am having a break and reading other stuff, including at the moment I just started We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler which I'm really enjoying so far. Yesterday I finished The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker: very badly written but I could not stop reading it. It was compelling, annoyingly so. So, what is the mark of a successful book? It has to be that people read it and finish it. That has to be the first mark of whether it works or not. So I suppose in this case, it is true. There is so much buzz about this book, I get it but I don't get it.

Hope everyone is okay, and keeping warm if you're down south.

Friday, April 18, 2014

What I'm reading, and what I'm reading next

Hey, it's Friday, and the family is all here. I went and sat with my husband and his two kids in the kitchen for about four minutes to discuss the day's activities. We have a ritual on Good Friday that includes: walking the dog off-lead at the park, having a feast-brunch, playing a board game as a family and, in the evening, watching Life of Brian. We're not having brunch, because we're doing it on Sunday instead, with my family including bro who is down from Canberra. The weather looks pretty shitty, so not sure about dog walk as we just washed her the other day. Board game: well, I don't think the 18 year old will do it, she's been not into it for a few years. But the 17 and 15 year olds will. And Life of Brian? It might just be me and my daughter and Clokes.

But sitting with 3/5 of my immediate family for four minutes was hard. They have these silly in-jokes that are exclusive and, well, silly. It's something I've noticed creeping up. It does make me feel excluded and annoyed in an adolescent way. I should be happy they are bonded and having fun, and I am. I'm also happy that I don't have to be with them, they can get on by themselves. But it's still annoying. And strange. We are a strange situation. Two families in one house. I have fantasies of leaving; going away under the guise of writing retreats and workshops in other countries, and just not fucking coming home.

But all my books are here.


What I'm reading. I'm back on the first book of the Game of Thrones series. I've decided I just want to read ahead. It'll take me a while to get past where the series is, and my daughter tells me that the series is not in the same order as the books. I'm also reading Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. And I started The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane. It's on the Stella shortlist I think. Lined up I have Pnin by Nabokov, as well as his memoir Memory, Speak. Both of these have been highly recommended by people whose opinions I rate. And I'm going to re-read Love in The time of Cholera because  Gabriel Garcia Marquez has just died and I've chosen it as one of my favourite books for a short piece I was invited to write.


There is no publishing news, but there is some movement. I spoke with my agent on the phone earlier this week, then gave the novel to someone else to read. There's a huge story behind that, but I can't say much about it here, other than things lined up quite extraordinarily, and I am seeing this person - a published novelist, quite high-profile, established and establishment - tomorrow to discuss it. Which means she's read and has something to say. So I feel like I'm inching towards *something* but I also feel like it's all pretty impossible.

My dear, supportive, writer-friend, the other day over coffee, drew me a picture. It was something like this:

And I'm like: yeah.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Sleepers Almanac is launched today

So if anyone's interested in my poem, which is in the latest Sleepers Almanac No. 9, it's the one about cricket, but not really about cricket. You know how poetry is.

The Sleepers online store is here:  No HERE.

Launch is tonight, I'm taking my sis and old work friend. Then we'll have dinner somewhere in Carlton. Except it's Monday and restaurants are often shut on Mondays.

The other thing is tonight the Episode 1 of new season of Game of Thrones and I have to be back not too late to watch that. I've spent the day in bed reading the first book and last night we refreshed with the last 4 episodes of the last season, including the Red Wedding again.

It's all a bit exciting.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday report

1. The rugs are gone
2. The ex is gone
3. He got his visa but only for a year
4. Which means he will be back, within a year
5. The weather has gone dark
6. I don't like that
7. My mum's dear old school friend's dog died. I wrote her a card to say how sorry I was (I knew how upset she was, because my mum told me. This is a woman without a partner and without children. Her dogs are her family. You know the type.) In the card I said I'd written a poem about her dog, but that I wasn't enclosing it because I didn't want to presume. But if she wanted it, now or in the future, I would send it to her. The day she got the card she rang and left a message saying she would love to have the poem. I sent the poem, it took me a few days because at the moment everything is taking me longer than I'd like. The day she got the poem, yesterday, again she rang and left a message on my phone. She was sobbing, saying how much it meant to her, how beautiful it was, that even though she was crying, the poem helped. And that she loved it, and loved me for writing it. This filled my heart.
8. I have been sick for months now but am starting to feel better. Coughing up less gunk, coughing less generally. Feeling less sinus'y. But headaches still. Chest x-ray clear. Nose swab for whooping cough clear. (Fuck, just on that, the doctor measured my index finger length against the probey stick, then shoved it up my nose to that length. It was horrible.) Also sputum sample, tested for parasites: clear. (A friend of mine had a gut parasite, he's the airline dude who gave me his flying benefits. Has been to Hong Kong a lot, thinks he got it there. But he was using tap water to brush teeth and rinse. We didn't.) So next is blood tests. I'll do those next week. Also am seeing naturopath again next week, to do more work with healthful living, ie maybe a liver cleanse thing. My liver has never been cleansed/detoxed; I'm sure it needs it. I've been avoiding alcohol, and am feeling good about that. Sleeping really well. Waking up feeling good especially when I remember I didn't have X glasses of wine the night before.
9. Am going to P's school musical production tomorrow night with my Mum. P will be there as well, not sitting with us, but with a friend. Looking forward to that.
10. Need to get back to the walking, plus Alex has given me some exercise tips for strength building. Will start on those as well. Did I mention my bone density test? Spine = fine; hip not so. Haven't been back to doctor about that yet.
11. While on health issues, my daughter has got Supra Ventricular Tachycardia. It's basically the heart's electrics oversupplying and she can get palpitations. There are three options: do nothing (it's not dangerous); go on medication for the rest of her life; have a procedure called a catheter ablation. We are seeing doctors at the moment and looking into the ablation. There are risks. This scares me shitless. But one doctor said that they could get worse, and she could have episodes that go for days, and if she is travelling overseas like all good Aussie-backpacker-younguns, and is somewhere remote or somewhere with hospitals you would avoid, it could be problematic. He also said with pregnancy,  it could be another strain on the body. I went back to see him yesterday to clarify a couple of things and talk to him about getting a second opinion. So we will do that.
12. Nothing has happened with the MS.
13. I have gone back to the first one and am radically revising it, just playing around with it to see what it would look like with major changes. It's a bit exciting and scary cause I really liked it as it was. But it needs a contract. Also it's years since I wrote it and came up with the story/structure. My question to myself was: How would I write this story now, with the development I've had since I wrote it. It's an interesting question.
14. Then I have a Plan A and a Plan B depending what happens with the current MS (let's call is SUGAR). If it gets a contract, I go to Plan A, which is writing a new book which is 'in the style of' the first two MSS. If SUGAR gets shelved, then I go to Plan B which is one of two project ideas, that are different. Different in voice, in focus and in aperture of the lens. One I have about 30,00 words of what will be 49,000 words (this is the one I described earlier as Helen Garner's The Spare Room meets Bladerunner, which is a very poor description and got Alex a bit excited.) The other one is something completely new, which I've done nothing on other than collect news clippings. Let's call this one GOD. Then there's another project idea which could fit into Plan B, called BIG, but unlike GOD it would be very long and very complex. GOD is pretty simple, the idea of it in my head. Sorry. This is boring but it's helping me process it all.
15. TGIF
16. On Monday, my work partner and I are teaching a group of Year 12 girls, and the topic is sexual assault. With this school we were running sessions on pornography at Years 11 and 12 (as well as another session at each year level, Year 11s on contraception - yes, we do do contra earlier, then we recap) and Year 12 the other session is all things pregnancy. We realised two sessions on porn wasn't necessary so have replaced the Year 12 porn session with a new program on sexual assault. It will be interesting to say the least, but luckily we recently did some training, so are more skilled and confident to discuss, especially around things like disclosure, and the language to use. And activities. I'm looking forward to it.
17. I submitted an essay to Overland journal and they declined it saying it wasn't polemic enough. Interesting.
18. The dog needs a bath and I need to cut out the matted hair underneath.
19. Yesterday I got a text from Sarah Toa about a tiger snake that had taken up residence in her bush hut. And also that she is up there at her bush block to kill a Queen bee (she has started bee-keeping.) So she is up there, sleeping in her car, because of this snake. Man I love that woman. When I was with her, and we were out of Albany, looking around, going to beaches and caves, we walked up a river and the track was pretty bushy and grown over. At one stage there wasn't much of a track at all. When we walked, Sarah was stepping heavily. I am not such a city-slicker that I don't know what that means. So I was fucking stomping, very uncool. She was much more considered about it. Then she told me she'd been up there with a friend, and as they'd walked they'd scared a dugite which had rushed up the branch of a shrub to get away from them and then dropped out of the plant and fallen back onto the path. Just imagining this makes me feel strange. I'm ok with snakes if they're not going to bite me and aren't poisonous. I've held snakes, they don't freak me out I think they're wonderful. (Spiders are my freak out, but only big ones. I can hold Daddy Longlegs and move them outside). Anyway. I only recently found out dugites are snakes. For me, they were always an '80s band. But at least I knew it before we were on that path and I didn't say to Sarah: What's a dugite?
20. Am finishing reading a book called A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, by an Irish writer Eimear McBride. This book took 6 months to write, and 9 years to get published (I love the way these things can become part of a marketing plan.) Part of the reason it was considered unpublishable, or unsaleable, was the voice. It is a Joycean stream of consciousness and pretty hard to read. Hard to sustain over a long period. The book itself is not that long, I'd say middling. And the narrator is a young child in the beginning, and as she grows up, so does the voice a little. It's very disjointed, you are inside her head, and inside her head is not a great place to be because the other thing is the content is pretty confronting. Lots of pain and sadness in her life, some might say the 'typical Irish family story.' Here's a sample of the writing, the opening page:

For you. You'll soon. You'll give her name. In the stitches of her skin she'll wear your say. Mammy me? Yes you. Bounce the bed, I'd say. I'd say that's what you did. Then lay you down. They cut you round. Wait and hour and day.
          Walking up corridors up the stairs. Are you alright? Will you sit, he says. No. I want she says. I want to see my son. Smell from dettol through her skin. Mops diamond floor tiles all as strong. All the burn your eyes out if you had some. Her heart going pat. Going dum dum dum. Don't mind me she's going to your room. See the. Jesus. What have they done? Jesus. Bile for. Tidals burn. Ssssh. All over. Mother. She cries. Oh no. Oh no no no.

This is the voice of the very young protagonist, whose name we don't find out. There's her mother, and the 'you' she mentions is her older brother.

Here is some text from later in the book, where she is about 19 or 20:

I pace chew. Jesus. Does he know a thing? You did always. Yes you. Always had. Your hand your foot a bit. No problems please her and nothing new. Hear Ahhh. Hear open wide. Hear squeeze my hand. No. Harder than that. Now the hardest you can. Both at once. Now right then left. Don't wig I say to myself. You'll soon know full well. Wipe the kitchen over. This j-cloth. This scouring pad.
          Above I hear her turning. Hit her headboard with her prayers. Why don't you shut up? No now. You're here to care I say. I say so don't complain. You're clean here. You're calm and kind. I hear. Her shuffle. Her move. Across the floor. Are you down there? she shouts. Did you get the door? Yes. Did the doctor come in he? Yes he's with now. Put that kettle on. I'm coming down now to see him. He's. I'll talk to him when he's done. Yes Mammy. Don't. He'll not I'd say be in there long.

What I want to know is how she wrote this? Did she write in more standard prose and then move everything, cut things, put in full stops, create this effect OR did she write it like this, first time? Either way, it's pretty amazing, but it does feel a bit tricksy and it is definitely a one-time-only kind of deal. This book is on the prestigious UK Bailey's Prize longlist (formerly known as the Orange Prize) and has been on other lists and won prizes. I'm not sure that I think it should win. I don't think it will.

Anyway, that's it for me. Over and out, have a good weekend.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nothing to report really

Other than this:

Embedded image permalink


And this. What do people think about the recent cyclist dooring incident in Melbourne, that is people who know about it and people who give an actual fuck?

To me there's something about this that seems odd.

Check the video and see if you notice anything:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday, phew

So my week has been very messy. Rugs, annoying exes and their even more annoying (is it even possible?) partners. Still battling my sinusitis, there is work going on in our street (someone is building a swimming pool. SO MANY TRUCKS, SO MUCH NOISE). Plus the Grand Prix has started with its helicopters and fly overs. PLUS I can't write, am in a holding pattern. Have pottered with some short stuff, but really, it's no go.

Today I plan to go and hide out at my mother's place and read. It's the only way I can get some peace today. I had written more paragraphs about this but have deleted. It was just one big boring whinge. So I'll keep this short but I did want to mention the Budget Rent a Car scam they tried on me at Perth Airport. I returned the car, but it's a long way where you park it to where you hand over the keys. So they don't go and check it, and sign off on the condition report. This works in their favour. When I picked the car up in Perth, I saw a dent that the guy hadn't put on the outgoing CR. I pointed it out and he circled that area on the form. Two nights after I'm back in Melbourne I get an intimidating and rude text message about me filling out an accident report immediately otherwise I'd be charged for the full amount of repairs.


So I email the address in the text:

Dear Sir/Madam,

There was no incident or accident while the car was in my possession. You give no details as to what the damage purportedly is. I have all my paperwork including the ‘quality control document’ given to me at the time of pick up. It details two areas of pre-existing damage.

Please advice more fully what this issue is about.

Thank you.

Best regards,

This is the reply:

Ms Melba


We refer to your query & empathise if you were not aware of this new damage however Section 8 of the Terms & Conditions (t&c) states the renter is liable for all new damage. All relevant evidence is attached.

The existing damage you mentioned is on the driver rear door & the drivers rear bumper.

It is not necessary for you to complete the Accident Report Form as being unaware of this occurring, there is nothing you can complete.  Your email is statement enough, thankyou.

  • Check-out qcd is completed by Budget staff when the vehicle is parked for the booking.
  • Customer receives a copy to check against the vehicle themselves & must advise us promptly if there is any differences.
  • Receiving the check-out qcd shows that vehicle checks are done by Budget & if a check-out is done, then its reasonable to expect that a check-in will be done as well.
  • All customers know if check-in was done with them or if they just returned the keys before leaving.
  • Budget does the check-in asap however exact time depends on many factors.
  • Locations are predominantly for collections & returned vehicles are dealt with after bookings.
  • Staff receive the check-in qcd & compare it with the check-out qcd.
  • If there is new damage, the rental Excess (or lesser estimate) is charged for each & Budget does have desk signs to highlight this for customers.
  • Check-out & check-in may not be done immediately or with the customer at some locations, due to the property owners restrictions* &/or staff availability#.
  • Customers choose their collection & return locations & can change a return to be at an open Budget office if they prefer the check-in is done while they are present.
  • The rental period in t&c ends on the day the vehicle returns to Budget.
  • There is no time stipulated due to */# which may cause a check-in delay.
  • Due date & time on the rental agreement document are only a guide & for Budget overdue vehicle reports.
  • All charges are debited immediately (per 11.1 & 11.5) & auditing & any adjustments (per 11.2) are done as soon as possible & advised to the customer wherever possible.

I hope the above answers your questions however if there is anything else you require, please contact me at any time.

Thankyou for your business, we do appreciate it.

So I check the attached 'evidence' and see that  their copy of the form (I suppose the 'original') doesn't have the circled dent. How can this be? My copy is a carbon copy, so how did they manage that?

On their scanned and attached 'quality control document' they have circled the dent as being to the right of the number plate, not the left. This was inconsistent and I pointed that out. I also googled and very quickly had three links about scams like this one. I replied with three emails over the period of the next day or so.

The first one sent at 10.23pm, Tues 3 March (I'd received their text message that evening):

Dear Ms Simpson


I do understand the renter is liable for all new damage, however in this instance there was no new damage. I am aware of previous scams that Budget Rent a Car (and other car rental companies) have enacted, particularly at Perth Airport. The internet gives several indications where this has happened before. Here are three instances found in one minute google search:

This is testimony that your company has done this before.

Another thing is that your documentation does not even match up.

1.       On the copy of the ‘quality control document’ that you have attached to your email, the indication for the dent is to the right hand side of the number plate, but in the photograph, it is to the left. How can this be correct?

My copy of the quality control document shows a circle in the correctly corresponding place to the dent in the photo, which was pre-existing and noted as such.

2.     Your statement that the two pre-existing damages are “on the driver rear door & the drivers rear bumper” is also incorrect, as neither of these spots are marked on the quality control document. How can this be?

All the information above is in my legal favour and shows that your organisation has been derelict in its documentation.

I will not be paying any excess or extra charges (which incidentally, you don’t detail either). If charges are made to my credit card, I will instruct the bank to reverse them. There is no authority for you to make charges, based on the erroneous documentation you call evidence.

Tomorrow I’ll be ringing people at Budget Head Office and elsewhere to complain about this matter while I wait for your response.

Yours sincerely


Dear Ms Simpson

Further to our communications yesterday I wish to advice you that I’ve contacted my credit card to dispute the extra amount of $300 your company has charged to my account, and they will be mounting an investigation in the next week or so.

I will provide them with all my documentation and testimony (including a statutory declaration if necessary) to say that the damage you are trying to charge me for on the car was pre-existing. I will also provide them with your paperwork and highlight for them the instances where your photos and documentation is contradictory and therefore suspect.

I am requesting that you reverse the $300 charge to my credit card, as it is a fraudulent charge especially considering this is something that has happened several times before at Perth aiport.

I will not be contacting you again about this matter, rather will be leaving it to the credit card company’s representative.

Yours sincerely



The second one, sent 11.43pm that night after checking my credit card statement:

Dear Ms Simpson

I’ve just seen that a charge of $717.38 was made to my credit card yesterday (3 April) before I was even contacted by your office this evening, with the text message coming through saying I had until 17 March to provide an accident report.

Can you please explain why these charges were made before even contacting me?

I will be taking this matter further tomorrow with my credit card company, and will request a chargeback. I am extremely unhappy with this level of customer service from your company. Please provide me with your manager’s name, so I can follow up with him/her as well.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely


And then this one,  sent 2.13pm the next day, Wed 5 March:

Dear Ms Simpson

Further to our communications yesterday I wish to advice you that I’ve contacted my credit card to dispute the extra amount of $300 your company has charged to my account, and they will be mounting an investigation in the next week or so.

I will provide them with all my documentation and testimony (including a statutory declaration if necessary) to say that the damage you are trying to charge me for on the car was pre-existing. I will also provide them with your paperwork and highlight for them the instances where your photos and documentation is contradictory and therefore suspect.

I am requesting that you reverse the $300 charge to my credit card, as it is a fraudulent charge especially considering this is something that has happened several times before at Perth aiport.

I will not be contacting you again about this matter, rather will be leaving it to the credit card company’s representative.

Yours sincerely


Then this, from her at 2.29pm that Wed:

Ms Melba,

I have seen the 3 emails you have sent me but I just have not got to replying to any of them yet.

You’re of course within your rights to have your bank investigate for you however we do not charge for pre-existing damage as that would be a waste of everyone’s time.

I will of course double check the matter as you have requested & please note that I am not the one who solely handles damages. There are many steps to the process with hiring & returning a vehicle & many staff involved at different points.



Then I got this, from her Wed 5/3, 5.38pm, in red:


Thankyou for giving us an opportunity to review this for you & I’ve answered your 3 emails below, section by section in red as per herewith, for easier reading.

In short, we are happy to refund you & Accounts will get the $300.00 +taxes ($341.55) removed from your rental invoice in the next day or so.


Dear Ms Simpson


I do understand the renter is liable for all new damage, however in this instance there was no new damage. I am aware of previous scams that Budget Rent a Car (and other car rental companies) have enacted, particularly at Perth Airport. The internet gives several indications where this has happened before. Here are three instances found in one minute google search:

This is testimony that your company has done this before.

Another thing is that your documentation does not even match up.

1.     On the copy of the ‘quality control document’ that you have attached to your email, the indication for the dent is to the right hand side of the number plate, but in the photograph, it is to the left. How can this be correct?

My copy of the quality control document shows a circle in the correctly corresponding place to the dent in the photo, which was pre-existing and noted as such.

2.     Your statement that the two pre-existing damages are “on the driver rear door & the drivers rear bumper” is also incorrect, as neither of these spots are marked on the quality control document. How can this be?

All the information above is in my legal favour and shows that your organisation has been derelict in its documentation.

I will not be paying any excess or extra charges (which incidentally, you don’t detail either). If charges are made to my credit card, I will instruct the bank to reverse them. There is no authority for you to make charges, based on the erroneous documentation you call evidence.

Tomorrow I’ll be ringing people at Budget Head Office and elsewhere to complain about this matter while I wait for your response.

Yours sincerely


There is new damage on the vehicle & in this instance, the person that has completed the check/in document, has noted it on the incorrect side of the number plate.  Of course that is our error & we are therefore happy to refund you.  I would have done this yesterday except I simply missed that error myself.

With regard to the links, I have not read them. The internet is full of half-stories & many customers just don’t bother to read their Terms & Conditions so when they do get charged for something, quite legitimately, they go online without checking it out properly, or they tell only the part they want everyone to hear.

If there is ever an anomaly with a Budget rental charge – as there is here - we will always err on the customers side as we do value their business & we want to encourage them that if we make a mistake, we will accept that without reservation, once review has taken place & the situation been made clear.  We are a business though & in order to provide the competitive rates we have that inevitably are part of the reason many customers choose us, we must ensure our costs are covered where possible.

I myself saw the 2 pre-existing damages on the door & the rear bumper, on the vehicle & in carbon on the copy of the check-out document that remains with us. Nevertheless, without seeing your actual copy, I cannot really talk further about this point.

I do hope you have allowed us at least 24hrs to reply to you before involving another office. They have nothing to do with WA as a Licensee & it just involves a lot of people in a query that can be handled easily here by one person, which is what has happened today.

Dear Ms Simpson

I’ve just seen that a charge of $717.38 was made to my credit card yesterday (3 April) before I was even contacted by your office this evening, with the text message coming through saying I had until 17 March to provide an accident report.

Can you please explain why these charges were made before even contacting me?

I will be taking this matter further tomorrow with my credit card company, and will request a chargeback. I am extremely unhappy with this level of customer service from your company. Please provide me with your manager’s name, so I can follow up with him/her as well.

Thank you.

Yours sincerely


The $717.38 is the rental & damage charges in full & of course your refund will be the damage Excess only which will be done in the next day or so & you will see this in your statement in about 7days (even if it leaves us tomorrow). If there is any delay, speak to your bank first please as they often hold your funds to earn interest of them.  Thankyou

 Dear Ms Simpson

Further to our communications yesterday I wish to advice you that I’ve contacted my credit card to dispute the extra amount of $300 your company has charged to my account, and they will be mounting an investigation in the next week or so.

I will provide them with all my documentation and testimony (including a statutory declaration if necessary) to say that the damage you are trying to charge me for on the car was pre-existing. I will also provide them with your paperwork and highlight for them the instances where your photos and documentation is contradictory and therefore suspect.

I am requesting that you reverse the $300 charge to my credit card, as it is a fraudulent charge especially considering this is something that has happened several times before at Perth aiport.

I will not be contacting you again about this matter, rather will be leaving it to the credit card company’s representative.

Yours sincerely


There is no need to concern your bank Ms Melba. I have reviewed & I am happy to refund based on our error of marking the damage in the incorrect place. The photos do show the new damage on the day of return & that damage is not on your check-out condition report, but we do accept that we have a responsibility to mark damages correctly & we will therefore wear whatever consequences occur due to our failure with this.

So don't you love the swipe she takes at the bank? The way she backpedals, saying that no one else needs to be involved now that the money has been refunded? 

Who the fuck lives like this? 

Anyway, do not mess with The Melba, especially not at the moment. I am so close to snapping about a few things. Just saying.

PS And then the next day, they send me this:

Dear Melba May,
According to our records, you recently rented a vehicle with Budget.
As part of our ongoing commitment to customer service, we would greatly value your feedback on your experience. This quick survey should take no longer than 2 minutes of your time.
To complete, please click on the following link:
Budget Customer Feedback
If you have problems accessing our survey please copy and paste the link located at the bottom of this email into your browser.
HOTMAIL USERS: Please copy and paste the URL into a new browser window.
Thanks in advance for your participation.
Budget Customer Service
PLEASE NOTE: You have to paste the entire link. If the link is on more than one line, you have to reform it into one complete line when you paste into your browser.


The money has been returned to my account too. 

So, should I bother taking this further? I want people to know about it so they don't get caught. I also want to expose the FUCKERS to their senior management. But I kind of can't be fagged.

What do you reckon?