Monday, December 19, 2005

Merry C and Happy NY

This morning I received a nice invitation to buy Viagra online, from Demographic F. Cellophane.

This will be my last blog of the year. I have two days and nights of solid work ahead then we drive to Devonport, get on a boat to Sydney, get off and drive to Canberra, rejoice in the birth of the Messiah, drive to Melbourne, get on a boat to Devonport and drive home.

So I hope you will all have a nice break from routine, somewhere you like with people you like, and don't eat too much. Go for a walk and when you get back there will still be plenty to pick at, that's my advice.

Cheers.

Cheese camera

Marcus was crafting this morning. I gave him a tray out of a chocloate box and a few other things. He taped the tray to a sheet of paper, held it in front of his face and said "Look - its a cheese camera". Then he explained it wasn't really a camera. it was actually for hiding behind so people can't see you. He said offhandedly "I don't know why people call them cheese cameras".

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Shanes 16 d Sisters of Sincerity 15

The Shanes' finest hour. A tight tussle with the old enemy. Blown open when a lucky shot knocked the jack into an off-target clump of Sisters' bowls, suddenly they were six up. Backs to the wall. Plucky resistance. Spirit of Anzac all round. Five down when the bell rang for last end. Best hope to salvage some pride and cut the margin.

All Shanes stood up under pressure. Your correspondent, Hunter, Dave - we all delivered good solid shots, nothing amazing though. Suddenly we were holding 4 bowls and only needed to improve a tad to tie. The Sisters' no 3 put her last bowl in the gutter - choked. We held five - good enough to tie.

Our skip stepped up and got his bias wrong. As his bowl scooted at 90° to the intended course the Shanes each retreated into our inner worlds of calm in our own way. Hunter smoked furiously.

Their steely skip Geraldine had defused bombs of this sort all night and I expected she would steer them home. Her first attempt was a cross between a draw and a drive and missed the jack by a whisker. Our skip got back on the horse, set his jaw and delivered a quality bowl that gave us six, good enough to win if Geraldine failed to demolish the whole shebang with her final bowl.

Time stood still. All other matches were over and the clubhouse was full of people waiting. Geraldine gave it her best shot but under pressure her bowl went wide, failed to connect with even one of ours so the six points stood. We had snatched V from the Js of D.

Once again, bowls, Australian Lawn Bowls, was the real winner.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Bogged blog

Blog bogging down presently due pressure of work. Will save time leaving out prepositions. Sounds like Superman vis a vis kryptonite. Must finish Western Front book, CD-ROM before Christmas. Otherwise family wave to me bye bye from boat to Sydney.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Some goats, some raspberries and a ukelele

We visited our good friend, neighbour and goat farmer Melinda yesterday for brunch. I am a big fan of goat kids and always find them friendly, happy and just that little bit mad. The boys loved them and Marcus wanted to gambol in their paddock. Melinda lives in the narrow strip of South Hobart on the western side of the rivulet at the base of a nearly-vertical hill, and goats are probably the only animals that would be happy in this particular precipitous field. Even they have been provided with little ladders to help them get up and down.

Melinda has an excellent crop of fat raspberries and she made us pancakes to wrap them in. Michael found a ukelele and was hard to seperate from it, even to play with the goats. I went outside with Marcus at one stage and then saw, through a window, Michael attempting to play Melinda's cello with her special cellist's screwdriver. We smartly reintroduced the ukelele and there was no more trouble. He strummed it, he hugged it, he talked to it. The good thing is its exactly the same as the one already put away for Christmas.

Goalkeeping

Marcus is a keen and talented goalkeeper. When we play soccer in the backyard we only have room for one goal, so one of us is the keeper and one takes shots. He likes the diving about, so he usually contrives to stay in goal as long as possible. Our "goal" is a long upturned table. Our ball is a soft foam thing he was given before he could walk. I ping it at him from a fair way out, and he leaps about like a demented antelope. Obviously if it hits the table, its a goal. "No, that's not a goal - it bounced off" he'll say.

Mammoths

Marcus has really taken to a show called The Way Things Work, which is set on an island populated by people and benign wooly mammoths. We think (and hope) he was quoting this program when he bellowed at Elf "Get moving, you shaggy beast!".

Two lumps

Marcus got into an altercation with his friend Campbell at school on Friday. Then as Campbell tried to jump over him he collected Marcus with a sandshoe to the eyebrow. Caroline the carer did a fabulous job with the ice pack, and what was initially a golf ball threatening to split, was only a mauve shadow the next day. Caroline needed the ice-pack so Marcus and I went to the soopy for frozen peas.

It so happened the school Christmas party was on the next day. It coincided with torrential rain, so it was a bit like downtown Hong Kong - wet, steamy, crowded and manic. [I have never been to Hong Kong.] Santa had sweat streaming off him. He had presents (smuggled in by the parents) for all the kids. It went for about an hour and Marcus was 3rd last to get his loot, but he was very good about it.

Then as we were assembling ourselves to go home, Michael walked into a table and smacked himself just-not-quite-exactly where Marcus had. Caroline fetched the ice-pack with an air of resignation. He scared us by going very pale and not breathing for a little while but he shrugged it off very well. He has a smallish lump and is scamping normally.

Yoghurt and pencils

The breakfast stuff was on the table this morning; cereal, two-fruits and the tub of yoghurt. Michael is a big, big yoghurt fan. Usually theres also a wide range of junior arts and crafts materials, but we tidied the table on the weekend. Marcus got three-quarters of the way through his cereal and said "I've had enough - I want to do a drawing of a monster". He hadnt even looked around for the bucket of drawing things when Michael asked politely "Put pencil in yoghurt?"

Marcus composes

Guest blogger Elf writes:

After playing a particularly moving and 'sad' sounding piece of music on the piano with Chris, Marcus said
"That was about a beautiful flower that was picked and died and the person who picked it was trying to put it back together but he couldn't. It was very sad because the flower didn't want to die and didn't need to die."

A little later, after another pretty play: "That was a bell that woke up the flower."

There followed a few other pieces (undoubtedly in response to our great encouragement) among which were the explanations: "That was about a pickle who was lost." (Upon question, a pickle is "green and crisp...and sometimes purple".), and later "That was when somebody found the pickle and took it home."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Falabella


From Guide to Horses of the World "...it cannot be regarded as a serious riding pony". No kidding.

Western Front

I'm working on a CD-ROM for the Dept of Veterans Affairs at the moment. It's a school resource about the Western Front in WWI, designed to be useful for teachers from kindergarten up to grade 12. Some of the written accounts are very disturbing indeed. One nice little oddment stuck out though - from this list of the occupations of Australian men and women who enlisted.

Professional 15,719
Clerical 24,340
Tradesmen 112,452
Labourers 99,252
Country callings 57,430
Seafaring 6,562
Miscellaneous 14,122
Nurses 2,063

Isn't that nice? All the roustabouts, shearers and general hayseed farmhands come under "country callings".

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Sexy celery

I noticed the corner shop here has got celery, set out in the box it came from the wholesalers in. The box features a clumsy pulp-style illustration of a bikini-clad raven-haired beauty, seductively munching a stick of celery. I think she's winking. Photo soon I promise.

Clueless 15 d Shanes 9

The Bowling Shanes are an enigma. The Bowling Shanes are to lawn bowls what cold pizza is to breakfast. The Bowling Shanes are a lucky dip. You can never step into the same Bowling Shanes twice.

We went out hard and eked out an early lead with some loose but adequate bowling. Then the underrated Clueless combo started to click. Their slow-talking no 1 was outpointing Dave. Paul was bowling a fine line and length but Margaret (age 67) was just shading him every time. She was like Glenn McGrath, a bowling metronome. Often her two bowls ended up cheek-by-jowl. Their 3rd man was giving me a lawn bowls lesson, and when they occasionally strayed into trouble, their silently sinister skip would eerily pilot his bowl to just where it was needed, leaving our valiant leader no space to work his magic.

I got my bias wrong twice and watched helplessly as my 4 and 15/16ths went sailing across neighbouring greens. I'm proposing we introduce a fine [like perhaps five star jumps] for this, but since I'm the only one who ever does I'm not proposing it very hard.

In compensation I did deliver the bowl of the evening, getting into an impossible spot to steal an end that looked sewn up for Clueless. Over the next hour Margaret said "gosh, that was a nice bowl" maybe six times. I let the cat out of the bag when I admitted that the jack was nowhere near where I had thought it was, so it was entirely accidental.

Clueless ran away with the fixture and were comprehensively the better team on the day. Hats off, but as our skip always says, bowling was the real winner.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Dirt

I got dirty in the garden for a while on Sunday, grubbing out blackberries and nailing up a trellis for the roses. I'm finding I really need to find something, anything, physical to do on the weekend to really relax. TV and books aren't doing it for me at the moment. I am really enjoying tackling a mundane, measurable job, even if i can't do the whole thing. Pulling out weeds, washing dishes, whatever. My work life is so sedentary, I think my body is crying out for activity to make it tired. My head is tired pretty well all the time but that's different.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Poor moon

Yesterday was Adrian-from-next-door's 4th birthday, down at the South Hobart Community Centre. It went well, everyone played nice and there was a nice bunch of parents. We all conform to the modern parenting style, everything is very moderated and calm, all the children have to speak nicely to each other. I heard "Liam, if you disagree with Alexander you say 'That's your opinion, and I respect that, but I have a different opinion.' YOU DON'T SHOVE HIM".

The peaceful mood was shattered with the arrival of the piñata. Hit it! Smash it! Poke it! Break it! I can see a weak spot - SMACK IT THERE! It was a proper craftsman-made piñata, in the shape of a man-in-the-moon. Michael, who was too small to take part, said to me "Poor Moon." I had to explain that he had been a very, very bad moon, as the larger children smote it like South Korean riot policemen.

After the moon succumbed and gave up the lollies, it was back to standard middle-class niceness all round.

I still like you Giz

Gizmo likes to flop onto Marcus' doona at bedtime. Marcus usually asks me to remove him. I had to scoop him off one-handed last night, as I was holding Michael who still sometimes needs to be squeezed off to sleep. As Giz left the room in a huff, Marcus called after him "I still like you Giz!"

Nick and Anna and Lily and Katherine came by on Saturday for lunch. The kids largely did their own thing and it was very pleasant to sip the Shiraz Cabernet Merlot Pinot Gris and talk to grown-ups. We took photos of each other's families (this is one of Nick and Anna's annual duties, for our Christmas newsletter).

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Carlton Beach Evening News


I have omitted to mention a family visit to Carlton Beach in October. We invited ourselves out to Jeff and Anita's place. They tried to put us off with deliberately obscure directions. They live down a gravel lane that branches off a sandy track that is an unsigned continuation of unsealed right-of-way that appears at first glance to be a private goat-path. Gazanias were flourishing everywhere - extremely bright and cheerful flowers that the local Coastcare group are exterminating one by one.

Once we found them Jeff and Anita were extremely hospitable. They live in a very interesting bits & pieces house that used to be Anita's dad's carport. They have a widescreen TV sitting on the sink as there is nowhere else to put it. In about five minutes Anita tossed together a superb mediterranean al fresco lunch. It was an unseasonably hot steamy day. Jeff has several threequarters-finished gazebos so we pulled a tarp over one and ate lunch in the shade of it.

My work colleagues Melinda and Paul were there too and Melinda's daughter and a friend of Jeff's and her little girl. Marcus buttonholed the little girl and followed her everywhere giving her detailed instructions to play various games he invented [which she disregarded].

J and A have dogs. The boys love dogs, so much so that they (the dogs) were eventually fenced away for their own protection.

As we were "at the beach", obviously we had to pop down and put a toe in the water and play a bit of beach cricket. Again, Jeff's sense of the curvature of time and space came into play. When he said the beach is just through there he left out the various hills and dales of burning sand that had to be traversed in between.

After a brief innings or two I spat the dummy and refused to carry an increasingly heavy and tired nearly-two year old back over the scorching dunes. To his undying credit, an impressively fit Jeff Blake ran home and drove our car to the surf club carpark, a short stroll away. We drove home in that mullet-brained mood of too much sun, sand, food, beer, immoderate exertion, patting of dogs and admiring of chickens.

Class Clown

We started calling Michael the class clown when he was only about 12 months old. He seemed to delight in making people laugh. He still does, sometimes intentionally but sometimes not.

At his daycare they crack up at the things he says, particularly when he doesnt want to do something. He says "No, I can't do it". He says it with such feeling, like a bad actor on Days of Our Lives in a moral quandary. If you say "Yes, you can." he replies "No! I can't" and may empahsise this by falling to the floor like someone who has just come second in a marathon.

Anna, one of his carers, is a dab hand on the camera and has taken many fetching pics of him, such as this one.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Sisters of Sincerity 11 d Bowling Shanes 8

My first outing with my new bowls didnt go well. Maybe the four and fifteen-sixteenths are a tad small. Might need fives. But a poor craftsman blames his tools - I just didnt have the magic that I had last week. It was 8 all when the bell rang, we had just started our last end. The girls held up under the post-bell pressure and we cracked.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Pineapple headache


Look at this pineapple! Marcus drew it last night on some scrap paper from Elf's work, a cover sheet titled "Childhood Headache". If you didnt know it was a pineapple, it would make a pretty good illustration of a headache.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Comedy Junk Mail

We get online pharmaceuticals junk mail addressed to our "staff@" email address, which means we all get it. Lately they have come from some very amusing senders. Last week Snowflake L. Spermicide dropped us a line. Today we had a note from Curse H. Recuperation, and his colleague Selection R. Uninspired also got in touch.

**STOP PRESS**
All staff received correspondence on the subject "Penis Launcher" this morning from Legation R. Olympiad. I think we'll leave it at that.

Green Letters of Evil Intent

Marcus arrived in our bed at about 4.30am. It was already full as Michael had woken up laughing and wouldnt stop chatting loudly so Elf had brought him in.

When Marcus comes to see us now it is usually because of a bad dream. This morning he said "I don't like the green O. Its going to kill me". His nappy was pretty wet so I changed it (he still wears nappies at night). As he snuggled down I said reassuringly "Don't you worry about that green O, I'll look after you". He said "There's also a green E".

He did wake up to go the toilet earlier in the evening, a very welcome first step to abandoning the nappies altogether. It feels strange to put a nappy on someone who can set up a chessboard correctly.

10kgs of tiny tot whooshing to certain doom

Today we went to the Parliament Street park where there is a long, long slide. I went down with Michael on my lap. Its a long hike back up to the top - for some reason instead of steps you have to pigeon-walk up the hill on sunken koppers' logs. Attention council landscape designers - this is very very hard on the old ankles. Next time Michael decided to go down on his own which he did with some style. Onlookers gasped as our 10kgs of tiny tot whooshed to his certain doom, only to skilfullly brake with his shoes and glide to a madly grinning halt. Elf and I had to endure the log torture about eight times each until finally Michael was seduced away by lunch.

This afternoon I finished pulling down the frame of the shed. Now we have just a concrete slab, where we are planning to erect a new cubby house for the kids. Unlike the old shed there will be no spiders and I will be able to stand up without copping a beam to the head and a rusty six-inch nail in the ear. I had to evict a few interesting looking spiders who I think had been in there since the late eighties.

Santa and Peter Garrett

We took the boys to the Christmas Pageant in town. We met up with Nick and Lily through the magic of SMS. We had a pretty good position (people were sitting in folding chairs an HOUR before it started, just to get a close up look at some trucks covered in tinsel). Anyway it was excellent. A nice balance of the incongruous, the Christian, the tatty, lots of dogs, a couple of donkeys, many, many miniature big rigs and finally, Santa. Marcus loved every minute of it, jigged about to the music and really popped his cork when The Man went past.

The miniature trucks were wierd. They take a ride-on-lawnmower, and skilfully encase it in sheetmetal until it looks like a truck, about 1 metre high and three long. They are so realisticaly finished that the brain does backflips at the sight of a man walking alongside towering over it.

There were giant puppets of Peter Garrett and I think Cathy Freeman, although it looked a bit more like Nova Peris-Kneebone. Later two more came bobbing past, a balding man in an akubra and a lady with red hair. Perhaps they were supposed to be the Eurogliders - remember them?

Later we went to Northgate and they had a Santa too. Marcus was enthralled that this Santa gave him a wave - the Pageant Santa had just looked over our heads majestically.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Shanes 9 d Hijack 7

Forgot to mention I was on the winning side for the first time on Tuesday night. The Shanes applied tons of scoreboard pressure and left the well-credentialled Hijack outfit (one of whom was wearing a Tas Institute of Sport fleecy top) playing catch-up lawn bowls. Personal stats are meaningless of course, but I think I notched maybe 5 of our points. I'm hooked.

Which reminds me...

Listening to the old 92FM (before Triple J came to town) - sometimes the clock radio would go off on Saturday morning, and I would find myself listening to the Chinese Show or the Hmong News Hour or somesuch. You would hear this sort of thing:(apologies to anyone who can actually read the Chinese below)

香港荫权上任以后 Moonah Community Centre. 推行的政制改革措断5 o'clock 受到港 Number 101 bus. 民主派的批评。随着十二月二 mah jongg 十一日立法会投票审议 table tennis 政改方案的日期越来越近,香港泛民主派也将在十二月四日举行民主大游行,加强争取普选的斗争努力。对于这一切,最后一任香港总督、现英国牛津大学校长彭定康在接受澳Tuesday, 广记者兰侬采访时称. Ladies Bring a Plate.

Nius Blong Nau (Latest News)

Sometimes I like to view current world events through Papua New Guinean eyes. Radio Australia has a radio service in Tok Pisin and a website that reports the news in this language. Reading serious news from the "real world" via this warm and very casual means of expression is very, very odd.

Strongpela askim long ol Komowelt Kantri gad agensim terorism [16/11/2005 8:36:53 PM]

New Zealand Praim Minista, Helen Clark, i mkeim strongpela askim igo long ol Commonwealth kantri i gad agensim terorisam long taim bilong Head of Gorvernment miting long Malta long wik bihain.

Malta bai rereim na hostim ol lida bilong 53 Commonwealth kantri long taim bilong Summit, namel long ol Miss Clark, British Praim Minister tony Blair, Australian Prime Minister John Howard na General Pervez Musharraf, President bilong Pakistan.

I gat ol ripot i wok long go raun olsem, al-Qaeda i plen long kamapim birua, na oli bilip olsem Btitish M15 nau i wok long painim wanpela Sudanese Refugees husat oli tok i wok bung wantaim al Qaeda antap long dispela Meditgerranean Island.

Sunday Telegraph newspaper bilong Britain i ripot olsem, Maltese polis i bin reidim haus bilong dispela Refugee long mun igo pinis na painim military training videos na maps.

Phone courtesy

Michael loves talking on the phone, as long as its a) not really a phone or b) switched off.

Michael: "blah blah blah, rhubarb rhubarb, OK, Thank you!"
Elf (talking into TV remote):"Thank you!"
Michael: "Thank you very very much."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

if it glows, throw it

Are your pork chops glowing in the dark? Don't panic, but its probably time to pop them in the bin. See the linked news story.

Goooooooal!

I watched Australia beat Uruguay in the World Cup play-off last night. It was a terrific game, and Australia dominated it. It went to penalties. Our keeper Mark Schwarzer made a wonderful save, which put us ahead. Then our captain Mark Viduka fluffed his penalty, throwing away the advantage. Schwarzer dug deep and saved again. John Aloisi nervelessly put his penalty away and that was it. The relief!

I've watched us fail in home and away sudden-death ties like this against Scotland (1985), Israel (1989) Argentina (1993), Iran (1997) and Uruguay once before (2001). Thank God we've finally done it.

On SBS the commentators left it until near the end to invoke the name of Johnny Warren (recently deceased Father of Australian Soccer). After the winning spot kick all Craig Foster could say was "Johnny Warren". Beautiful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Nyctophilus geoffroyi

Seems to me we might be enjoying the company of lesser long-eared bats which "occur in towns and suburbs". Do bats occur? Are bats an event?

Pidge and Bretty

I took the boys to the pool this morning. Allison was sick so they couldn't go to family day care, which sank Elf's plans for a big no-kids day. So I took a few hours off and whisked the boys away to let her do a few things at least.

First we scamped about in the Aberdeen Street playground where the green parrots browse in the grass. Then we went to the pool. The lads went very well. Marcus attached himself to a learn-to-swim class.

As we were leaving some tall men in yellow and green caps were coming through the turnstiles. We waved to Aussie fast bowlers Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee and they waved back quite happily. I thought "Pidge" was looking a bit tired though. The Windies are quoted at about 14-1 for the next test match - I say get on board those odds before word gets out.

Zombie ninja state government

Hobart is a lovely place. Quiet, serene, sunny. Birds tweet. However on my way to work, I walk past the sites of two murders from recent years.

In 1998 a martial arts instructor was smote with a sword in his driveway, by one of his students. It came out in court that he was trying to brainwash his hangers-on into a zombie ninja army, who would kidnap the Premier and take over Tasmania. I think the state government stuffed up buying the third big ferry, and waiting lists at the hospital are out of hand, but think what a zombie ninja army would have done.

A few doors down from my work is the house where Rory Jack Thompson killed his wife (early 90s?). It doesn't seem like a particularly evil neighbourhood. Outside the shop on the corner there is a bucket of water for dogs.

Murders do happen, and they have to happen somewhere I suppose.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Proxy Dadness

This report from one of my Brothers in Dadness across the strait. Thanks for your contribution Michael - your hair is beautiful.

"Kenzie has taken to naming most of her drawings. She recently composed a lovely looking "landscape" that without prompting she decided to call "Challenge on the Land"!! (far too grown up for a young artiste). There was also a very interesting animal and some orange "rain" that she titled "Baby Dinosaur with Fire Mice" - I'm not sure what goes on in her head?!"

The Bowling Shanes

I have taken up lawn bowls. I am 2nd man for the Bowling Shanes. I scoffed when this idea was put to me, but here I am, three weeks into the season and really looking forward to hitting the greens tonight. Dad is a bowler, and has at his diposal three sets of bowls, one of which he is sending down to me on the bus today.

When we first rolled up to the Derwent City Bowls Club we were directed to the kit room where a character named Len gave us each a high-five by way of measuring our hands. I was a 5, so were most of the blokes, a few ladies were 4s. So when Dad asked me what size I was, I confidently said "I'm a 5 Dad". Dad said he could offer me 5-and-a-quarter, a 5-and-five-eights or a four-and-fifteen-sixteenths.

Our first game was on a lovely warm evening. As we were playing in fours, often there wasnt much to do except watch the sun set behind Mt Wellington, sip the cheap beer, munch the free sausages and think fondly of Elf at home wrangling the two boys through dinner and into bed. Ahhh. I could easily get used to having a night off each week.

Go Shanes.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Cricket Commentary of the Week

As Australian batsman Matthew Hayden spanked the West Indies around the ground last week, on the radio Michael Slater observed "Matt Hayden is literally on fire." Thankfully, he wasnt.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Here be bats


We have bats. Bats in the trees on the reserve behind our place. I didn't actually know there were bats in Tasmania. My natural history knowledge is pretty thin. They flap about battily in the twilight. More news as it comes to hand.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Raids

Yesterday morning I was listening to Radio National as I walked to work. Fran Kelly said there had been "simultaneous terror raids" in Sydney and Melbourne. I freaked - imagining bombs, death and mayhem in two places I know and love. But her tone of voice just didnt quite reflect that scenario. Later it transpired they were counter terror raids. The story is alarming of course but I was annoyed at wasting a surge of adrenalin and panic that I might need another time.

I was annoyed enough to send a feedback message on the RN site (also chiding them for their general sloppiness in research). And surprised and pleased to get a personal emailed apology from Ms Kelly this morning promising to try harder to get things right.

The police involved in the raids, especially the officers in the shootout in Sydney, must be pretty dark on the Prime Minister for announcing raids were imminent. If you thought you were going to be raided, had expressed interest in jihad generally and martyrdom in particular, you'd probably approach your domestic arrangements a bit differently after hearing those comments on the 7.00 news. Like sleep with a gun.

Another aspect of this is the coverage. Crikey.com says the footage we have seen was shot by various Police Media Units. And in their opinion these units are actually the most powerful players in the Australian media. This is a story with a lot of angles and I hope a lot more light gets shed on them over time.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Lost notes from a week ago

28 Oct

Spinal fluid is leaking out George Clooney's nose. I heard it on the radio.

I have started a drawing of Vincent and Andy's house in Carlton, my first drawing in a long time. I made some sketches when I stayed there 12 months ago. Unfortunately, you need sketches AND memory working together, and my memory let me down. It was not until after I had finished drawing a nice rounded VW-shaped shrub out in front of the house, that I realised it actually was meant to be a VW.

Marcus and I went on what he still likes to call a "baby walk" this evening. We often go down to the old Female Factory and play ball on the big concrete slab there. On the way home we talked about daddies. He said I'm mummy's daddy, and I corrected him and said Baba Bill is mum's daddy. Then he wanted to know who was Baba Bill's daddy. I told him a bit about Elf's grandfather, who was actually Chief Justice of Victoria. Marcus asked lots of questions and stuck with it through an explanation of what judges do and why it is a very important job.

3 Nov

On Saturday - we went swimming. Elf has promised to buy a new swimsuit so I don't have to mind both boys at once. They always paddle off in opposite directions. Previously Marcus has then bellowed to me from a distance to COME HERE, while I'm trying to keep Michael upright and above the waterline. On Saturday he scamped alone quite happily, and got into deeper water than before without any histrionics.

After the pool we visited the top of the big concrete water tanks on the Domain, and the boys rode bikes around, and through the puddles. There are nearly always puddles. Its one of my favourite spots. Most of the actual city centre is out of sight from there, but you can watch the freighters on the river, clouds drift over the mountain, and traffic on the big bridge. The spot also overlooks Government House (home of Anna's Uncle Bill) with its 26-or-so variously carved chimneys. On weekends there is usually a C grade cricket match on down below.

On Sunday we went down to South Arm, to visit Monica and Jonathan and their girls. Nick and Anna and their girls came too. Its quite a crowd these days when the families get together. We had a lovely time, ate a lovely cake and scamped down to the beach. Marcus stripped off and jumped about in the cold water. The girls were skeptical but eventually joined him.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Casting vote required

Every night when its my turn to run bedtime, I ask the lads if they want to hear me recite The Owl and the Pussycat. EVERY time I get the same answer.
Marcus (excitedly): YES!
Michael (plaintively): No.

I always ignore Michael.


Marcus with his "gun". Groan.

Katherine Rose christening

Nick and Anna's little girl was christened at St Mary's yesterday. It went off very well. For some reason while all the other kids there were sitting demurely in pews ours were bouncing, running, laughing maniacally and generally lowering the tone.

Afterwards we had a lovely garden party in their lovely garden - Nick has done a backyard blitz over the last few weeks. He has been inspired to make little windmills out of tin cans, that spun around with a unsettling CREEEEEEEEEEEEEEAK when the wind blew.

Marcus disorganised a cricket game that was shambolic but fun. At one stage 4 or 5 girls with dolls wandered in like Brown's cows, then stood at short midwicket and just sort of mooned about. Play ended when i bowled a fizzing leg break that buried itself in a bush densely populated with bees.

Cricket tuition

Marcus is very keen to learn about cricket. We had a bit of a game with a tennis racket in the back yard. I don't think I've pushed him into being interested - although the cricket is always on the radio at our place, its rarely on the TV. He seems very good at perceiving the things we are interested in and being interested too.

This is something I was told before I had kids. Just stick to doing what you love, the kids will automatically love it too because they relate it to you. However it happens, I will enjoy it while it lasts. It will be great when Michael is a bit bigger and the boys can play cricket, soccer, or whatever together without too much refereeing from me.

Awards

Awards nights are so similar, in any age, in any discipline, at any level. The Burnie Municipal Band end of year trophy night in 1985 resembled the Nobel Peace Prize in many ways. These two august events resonated also with the Tasmanian ICT Awards I attended on Friday night. Roar Film were nominated in two quite nebulous categories and won both. We now have a couple of very heavy jagged glass mementos. I think the jaggedness is meant to suggest the "cutting edge". Oh, ICT stands for, er, damn, I keep forgetting. Computers and stuff.

Sally, (our house manga specialist and illustrator) had a buddy working at the venue who kept up a conveyor belt of free bottles of frosty chardonnay. I usually drink pretty moderately but I am a sucker for extremely cold white wine. I woke feeling mildly bad on Saturday morning but by mid afternoon I was in a bad way. My children were charmingly oblivious and delightfully loud, and comically interested in jumping on my tummy when I lay down to try and stop the hammering in my head.

Michael vocab update2

Michael is one and three quarters now. His speech is really gathering momentum. This weekend we heard the following;

"Come on everybody, lets go!"
"Its Christmastime."
"I need dummy very very soon."
"No hitting!" -to Marcus during rowdy session in the car
"Miaow! Miaow!" Are you a cat Michael? "No, I'm a squiggle"

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Email me

I am very keen to know who is reading this thing. Click on "email me" to send me a short note. Please?

Or try one of these handy click 'n' send shortcuts.

Sorry, too busy
My anonymity is precious to me
I am actively antagonistic towards your blog
Your blog is my primary news source

Friday, October 28, 2005

House progress

We just got a quote for $300,000 to build our new house, which is beyond us. We await more quotes.

There was a spot of good news this morning- the surveyor has finally done the survey, so now we can get drawings for the foundations. This was followed immediately by a correction - no, the surveyor has done a detailed and painstaking analysis of  xxx Strickland Avenue, instead of our block at xxx Cascade Road (it is one long road with a few name changes).

Easy mistake to make, IF YOU'RE AN IDIOT.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Silly Streets

Do you live in a Street or a Road? An Avenue? Something fancy like a Court or a something nouveau riche like a Chase? I just registered with an Australian site that offered (among many many others) the following:

Amble
Anchorage
Bowl
Brace
Brow
Colonnade
Copse
Circus
Corso
Cruiseway
Elbow
Follow
Fire Track
Meander
Nook
Pocket
Pursuit
Quadrangle
Ronde
Right of Way
Rosebowl
Tarn
Triangle
Viaduct
Wynd

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The way they taught in 1912

Races of Mankind
The economic importance of race, as of religion, is very great, For instance, in the case of the Negro, climatic influences – acting direct and through the typical food – lead to the early closing of the 'seams' between the bones of the skull; and thus the development of the brain is arrested, and the adult is essentially unintellectual. On the other hand he is naturally 'acclimatized' against numerous diseases and other conditions of life and work which are very adverse to the White man. He is, therefore, of great use as a manual labourer in a 'steamy' climate e.g. on a cane-sugar plantation.
School Economic Atlas by J.G.Bartholomew, pub. Clarendon Press 1912

Its pretty handy when you have a colony to run and you can comfortably assign the native population to do the spadework as they are "essentially unintellectual". If young Brits were digesting this stuff at school, it is no wonder when they grew up and fanned out to do the work of the Empire they took a sense of innate superiority with them.

I'M the allies, YOU have to be the Germans.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Patch therapy

Marcus will be wearing a patch for an hour each day for the next eight weeks. We might have to get him a cutlass, a parrot and some sort of corsair or perhaps a small barque. I guess Michael, Giz and Hattie and Dog will be his crew. Elf can be the British Admiralty and I shall be the unpredictable Spanish fleet, carrying golden treasure (Snack Right biscuits) from the New World (kitchen) back to Old Spain (our bedroom).

Double cheese entendre (with fries)

Mum and Dad stayed with us Friday and Saturday nights. On Saturday evening Sally and Matt came up for a big family dinner. Elf made fantastic lasagne. Marcus was objecting to it, so Sally decided to emphasise the positives. He likes cheese, he likes peas, so her approach was obvious. "Come on, its chock full of cheesy peaness!" The assembled family spluttered, squawked and snickered, while Sally went back over what she'd said in her head to work out why it was so funny.

What's the matter darling?

Marcus had his knickers in a twist about something yesterday and was sitting on the floor blubbing. Michael has observed and listened and knows what to do in this situation. He patted Marcus's hair and said "What's the matter darling? Its OK. Its OK."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Walking to work


I've walked three days in a row, all lovely mornings too. Its like climbing over a W - lots of steep ups and downs. Here is a picture of one bit (no photoshop work at all).

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Stuff they say

This is becoming a straight "kids say the darndest things" page. Its not the intention, honestly. Anyway - yesterday Marcus was carrying on about one of his recent interests - boxing.

Marcus - "People can get hurt doing boxing can't they?"
Elf (driving) - "yes"
Marcus - "They can get cut and fall down can't they?"
Elf - "yes"
Marcus - "We don't like boxers"
Elf (thinking it is unfair to blame the participants)- "well.."
(long pause)
Marcus - "But we like cardboard boxes".

Monday, October 17, 2005

Vocab update 2


Michael: "Door!" "Window!" "Capsicum!"

Michael comes in holding a video cover and grizzlingg.
Elf: "Did you snap your fingers in the cover? Or are your teeth hurting?"
Michael: "Ummmmm.... not sure."

Marcus: "Michael is inconsiderating. Inconsiderating is when you do something and someone else doesnt want you to".

We bought a digital camera finally on Saturday, then took it for a stroll along Marieville Esplanade in the daylight-savings twilight.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Jigsaw Queen

Elf was tidying up, putting jigsaw pieces in place prior to putting it all away. Michael was awestruck by her jigsawing abilities. He stared fixedly at her magic hands, saying "Clever mummy. Very very clever mummy".

Dadness at the Beach

I had a day of full-time Dadness on Wednesday. Allison was on holiday and we forgot about it. It was Elf's Wednesday on (she works a 5 day fortnight) so I looked after the boys. It was warmish so we hit the beach with the two giant earth movers from the toy library. They turned out to be duds in the sand - couldnt get any of my slurry out of the toy cement mixer, and couldnt dig any decent holes with the backhoe/bulldozer. We did what we could manually but the beach looked pretty much the same when we left as when we arrived. The boys were good, Michael didnt even consider scamping down to the water.

Later that day I took Marcus to the opthamologist. He said Marcus won't need glasses after all which is great. But he has a very slight turn which might need to be corrected with some patch therapy. Pirate time.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Cannibals

We came across some cannibals in a silly rhyme book. They met someone called Hannibal, but they said they were going to call him Stew. Having explained this to Marcus, we are now fielding questions daily about cannibals and cannibalism. Why did people eat people?

I have stressed that this doesnt happen any more, [although someone just told me that its a social problem in the Congo still.] I dodged the general question of why. Marcus answered his own question thus: "I suppose they didnt have any carrots or anything".

He returned to the subject yesterday. "Why didn't they just go to the shop?"

Miscellaneous weekend verbiage

Marcus at breakfast "You're my friend dad. You're my big toasted friend. You're my toast puddle friend".
Marcus at 5am "Wouldnt it be funny if greens turned into beans?" - He has no memory of saying this
Marcus looking at photo of young Cam and Adrian from next door: "They are good men arent they?"

Friday, October 07, 2005

Skiing

Lots of chat from Marcus about skiing this morning. First water skiing - how do you do it? I told him what I know, but I have never done it. He chipped in with a few details that made me think they've been reading a book on it at school. Then onto snow skiing. How do you do that? I've actually never snow-skied either (am I sounding like a bit of a stick-in-the-mud?) but I told him what I know. I mentioned that Grandma Ruth had done water skiing. She grew up in Sydney where they go in for all that hedonistic stuff. Has Grandad John done water skiing? No, I don't think so. he grew up here in Tasmania where its cold.

Marcus said that he would ask Grandma Ruth, next time he was visiting, to let Grandad John have a turn at water skiing.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Wyllie-Watsons

We dropped in on Lynn and Scott and their kids Tom and Isobel in Launceston on our way south on Sunday. Marcus and Tom are similar ages and seem to have heaps in common. Isobel is 5 I think, but all of them (Michael too) played nicely out of sight while mums and dads yakked. It was great. They are exceptionally nice people, both primary school teachers. I have known Lynn since we were about 14.

Tom is a collector, and very fond of flowers. Marcus also loves to pick flowers, often pulls them apart but seems generally interested in them and excited by them. He did a really A grade drawing yesterday of some geranium blossoms. We TRY to praise the method and not the result (as advised by our parenting seminar) but when the result is really quite surprising its hard to just brush it aside.

Anyway. It was a lovely short visit and we need to get the boys together some more. I have a crazy half-scheme involving a picnic at Campbell Town.

Getting a handle on "dead"

A conversation can last years. I have been having the same conversation with Joe about the haplessness of the Tigers, since 1983. We used to chat in person, sometimes on the phone, for a while wrote letters, and got into email while he was living in Germany. Paradoxically, now he is only 250km away, we exchange terse SMSs every couple of months.

I have a feeling that the conversation I have with Marcus about the meaning of "dead" will go on until the hereafter. His latest contribution was delivered in that singsong way you might recite a long list. Except that it was a list of just one thing.

"...Food is dead when it comes out as poo..."

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Effective Parenting

We resisted temptation to go to bed at nine last night, and instead went out to hear Michael Grose talk about Raising Happy and Confident Kids. I started skeptical, but ended up scribbling copious notes. After an evening with the boys I'm back to mildly skeptical. He made some very good points. One was that the role of dad and the role of parent are different and can clash. Dad is a caring role while parenting is essentially administrative.

He thought kids were raised today in a risk-free environment. I can see that people like me are scared to have more kids than they can monitor minutely, feed lavishly and educate to doctorate level. So the one or two kids we have get micro-managed by their folks and aren't allowed to make mistakes or solve problems themselves. it all rang true.

Paradoxically, it sounds like the people who read the least Good Parenting bumpf, but just get on with yelling at their kids, grounding them and occasionally cuffing them over the ear will end up with better adjusted and more resilient children.

Big plans

Elf: "When we build the new house, you might have your own desk!"
Marcus (excitedly): "When I've got a desk, I'll get a paper and I'll animate.. do you know what I'll animate?"
All: "What?"
Marcus: "Animations!"

Catching up with grey power

We stayed with Mum and Dad either side of our night in Melbourne. They enjoyed seeing the boys, the boys had a lot of fun and didnt miss us too much. We have brought back about 10 varieties of sea sponge and some not-terribly-interesting rocks.

Exhaustion2

As I typed the title above, the browser remembered I have used this title before. Trip to Melbourne for wedding - tiring. Daily life with boys - draining. Software problems at work - confounding. All accompanied by a strange bug in head and tummy that won't go away.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Wedding time

Its about time for another wedding. Elf's old friend Nick is getting hitched tomorrow in Melbourne. We are driving up to Mum and Dad's tonight, leaving the boys there and flying over tomorrow morning, then flying back the next day. We packed for all four of us in about fifteen minutes this morning, so it should be interesting to see what everyone is wearing by the end of day three.

Work is mad. I am simultaneously doing stuff about Uluru, WWI, and Bernard Otto Holtermann the 19th century gold miner and photographer. This is not the time to be blogging.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Reindeer

Marcus: "I know about reindeer. Santa pulls them in his ute".

Monday, September 26, 2005

Splinter drama

Marcus picked up a splinter from the back steps handrail on his way in to go to the toilet yesterday morning. He actually had his pants around his ankles already, the loon. I let him keep going inside and told him I'd pull it out when he'd finished. That was a mistake, as I didn't actually get a decent look at it until breakfast this morning. He went completely gaga about it and would not let us near it. I managed to get some Magnaplasm© on it over night which seemed to help it come out this morning. We held him down and prised his fingers from his palm and I eased it out with my fingernail. After blood-curdling screams rent the air for many minutes, he stopped and said to Elf "Actually, that didn't hurt at all."

Sympathy from the high chair

I was feeling a bit washed out at dinner the other night, and passed the time waiting for Michael to finish his dinner by staring at the table and massaging the back of my head in silence. Michael said "Daddy's very sad". No, Daddy's very tired. The scamp has been waking regularly at about 3am for no reason we can isolate. When we put him in our bed he immediately goes horizontal, headbutting Elf and scratching me with his toenails.

Swans Break Drought

Footy is over for another year, after a magnificent grand final, the Swans by four points. When you've grown used to grand finals that are all over at half time, it was enough to bring on a few heart attacks I reckon. For Aussie Rules novices, 4 is a very narrow margin, closest since 1966. Leo Barry saved the day with an heroic pack mark in the last moments. Interestingly the photo of the huge pack shows two clear infringements worth free kicks to West Coast, happening simultaneously. I'm very happy for a grand old club to win their first flag since 1933.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Kindergarten

Marcus had an evaluation at South Hobart Primary on Wednesday, to see if he can start kindergarten a year early. His birthday is two months after the cut-off date, but he's a bright spark and pretty on the ball socially. We thought Leslie, the coordinator, would see if he recognised any words, could add on his fingers and RRR stuff like that. Apparently she didn't ask him anything of that nature. Elf took him in, and when he said he was happy for her to wait outside, she did. She popped her head in 15 minutes later to check on him. He was quite happy, doing various puzzles. He said some of them were quite hard. Then he said "Mummy, can you go away again?"

Leslie (for that is her name) rang yesterday to say she was impressed with his intelligence and confidence (particularly when he sent Elf away) and she is recommending that he be allowed to start next year. We will know for sure in December.

Finals fever

The AFL Grand Final is on tomorrow. I love that it is "Grand". I wish I was watching the Grand Final from the grandstand but like most people I will be watching at home on the box. One day Richmond will make it to the GF and when that day comes I will move heaven and earth to be there for it.

I was discussing it with Marcus this morning. I told him that my team hadnt been in a Grand Final since I was 14. He asked why not, so I gave him a brief summary of the Tiger's chronic failings over the last twenty years. "But" I said, returning to happier things, "tomorrow the Sydney Swans will play the West Coast Eagles to see who is the best team of the year. I'm going for the Swans". Marcus said "Maybe the Swans can teach the Tigers how to play better".

Monday, September 19, 2005

Bang

Marcus did a drawing this morning. It was quite interesting but the explanation was breathtaking. "This rocket is blasting into this car and this car is going BLAM and the fire is whooshing out of this into there and then he is exploding and then this bit goes BANG!!"

We saw the boys from next door on their front doorstep this morning. I said to Michael "wave to Cameron" and he yelled "HELLO CAMERON". Which delighted me. He's around 20 months and its a great age. He was dancing in his highchair yesterday. He started just like Marcus used to - with a silly smug grinny face looking left, looking right, then waggling his head then he said proudly "Dancing!". What a champ.

Michael is making up and singing little songs like this one:
Pine cone, pine cone, ev'rywhere
Pine cone, pine cone, ev'ry pi'cone

Thursday, September 15, 2005

New Zealand journal 2/5/2001

This is a day from my journal of our honeymoon in NZ. We had arrived at Queenstown airport on the South Island a couple of days earlier to pick up our Maui Campervan, only to find we needed to post a $2000 deposit. Airhead clerk suggested we just run it up on our credit card - we didnt have one. So we took a sedan instead to get us as far as Wellington, withdrawing the maximum $1000 at ATMs each day as we went.

Levin, North of Wellington, Wed. morning. Had a big night. Got off the ferry [from South Island], rang the Maui [campervan] agents who are in Paremata, miles north of the city. They had no idea who I was. Freak time again. Canvassed options such as staying in a hotel in Wellington, another hire car etc etc. When I rang them back everything was sorted. Caught a shuttle bus to Paremata through heavy rush-hour traffic. (Saw sign for Bunnythorpe). Shuttle guy was into vintage cars and steam engines - showed us photos. Also had vintage moustache c. 1920. Driving through N. suburbs Poriura etc he said "This is where the, ah, darker personnel live".

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Marcus has mice in his tummy

Marcus has taken the "butterflies" idea one step further. He has had an upset tummy lately and he claims he has mice in there. He says they'll be there forever. I said that they'll dissolve like all food that gets into his tummy from his mouth. But apparently "the food in my tummy bangs around like a tumbledryer".

Michael has been saying "Great idea Marcus!" a lot lately. Also "Sorry Daddy. Sorry Mummy. Sorry Marcus." He was into this routine the other night while I changed his nappy. Giz walked past at that moment so "Sorry Giz" was added, then he spotted Dog. "Sorry Doggy".

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ashes gone, sun came up

Australia has lost the Ashes to England for the first time in 16 years. In an unexpected twist, the sun came up as usual this morning. Looks like it wasn't the end of the world after all. After being comprehensively beaten by them, our captain Ricky Ponting has conceded that England are "a danger" to Australia's world cricket supremacy. How perceptive.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Choc frog

Michael quite often blurts out "chocolate" at unusual times. At the pool yesterday he joined Marcus and I in the water for the first time. He was tentative but very keen to try the giant frog slide. The giant frog is actually a Freddo - it is sponsored by Cadbury and has logos etc on it. I thought Michael was saying "Froggy frog! Froggy frog!" but unfortunatey he was saying "Chocolate frog! Chocloate frog!" Luckily he didnt try to bite into it. He had a few slides on it and generally scamped about the shallows pretty well.

He is not sleeping too well at the moment and consequently neither are we. We need to iron this out before we leave the boys with Mum and Dad for a night while we pop over to a wedding in Melbourne. I know they are going to be thrilled with the boys' progress since they last saw them but if Michael does what he did last night it might detract somewhat from the general effect.

The anonymous praise keeps coming

Boy, those automatic web-bot things sure love my work. See the comment attached to the previous post.

It has rained in Noah's-Ark-like proportions this weekend. Appropriately enough Marcus has taken do describing things as "two-by-two". When the four of us go down to the car to go out, we go two-by-two.

I've been off-colour for a week now. I've still got whatever it was that struck me in Melbourne last week. Its undermining my will to do things. The mower has been out in the rain now fior nearly two weeks. Aggggh. I'm a bad person, I am ruining my mower. The shower is all mouldy and I know the mould will stain, probably already has. I know its my turn to clean the bathroom. But - gee I think I'll have a little lie down. Again.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Michael enquires

Yesterday Michael (now about 20 months old) rode his quadcycle up and down the hall, into the kitchen, then suddenly stopped and got off. He walked into the loungeroom doorway, and said to Elf "Could we just... could we...just..." We were both completely flabbergasted. Its possibly a direct quote from Marcus, or one of us. Michael looked puzzled himself. Then he saw a toy truck he wanted to scamp around with and the moment was over.

Glasses

Marcus is going to need glasses. At least for a while. I feel quite sad about it. I hate to think of any part of our perfect little sausage being defective. I was told when I was about 9 that I would need glasses and I was very unhappy (I still wear them today). Hopefully we have caught his sight problem in time to correct it before it sets in permanently. In tests his right eye is quite weak, his left is perfect. Its amazing his reading and drawing and everything are so good when his vision is not.

He and I look very much alike. Now its going to look like we're taking it just a bit too far.

Monkey names

I have never been a big fan of the Spot books, but now I am. Spot (who is a puppy) has a friend at school called Steve, who is a monkey. That is the best name for a monkey. Steve and Spot do paintings of each other. Spot's painting of Steve looks just like Lou Reed. So Spot is on high rotation at bedtime.

The rear stairs

At Hobart airport, you walk out of the terminal across the concrete and climb up some stairs to get on your plane, just like the Beatles did in 1963 (not in Hobart, but you know what I mean). To get anywhere, in time to do anything, you have to leave Hobart on the 6.20 when it's still dark. Twice lately I have been told to "enter by the rear stairs" as I file out into the darkness.

First, your plane is not the one right in front of you, you have to follow a straggly line of other "guests" across the dimly lit concrete to the furthest plane. Then, there are no rear stairs. No problem for your wide-awake Red Bull-drinking young people I suppose. But maybe you are tired. Maybe you are from Oatlands and had to get up at 3.30 to actually get to the flight on time. Maybe you are old. Or maybe you just have an unshakeable belief in the truth as received from flight attendants. You might be wandering about the arse end of a 707 in the dark for some time before Janelle, Skye or Bindi notices you are missing.

How to annoy DJs

Here is a handy tip for flummoxing rappers, DJs, base-jumpers and the like. If they call themselves DJ EZ, or CrayZBoy, or Mister LayZ - insist on pronouncing it Zed. They hate it.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Sick

We've all been sick. I was at another interstate meeting yesterday (lah-de-dah) and I had to excuse myself to go and throw up.

But on a brighter note - I'm really pleased to see Peters Original Ice Cream is now "New and Improved!" as well. That Original ice cream just keeps getting better and better.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Canberra

Back to Canberra again tomorrow! My first "business trip" for about 5 years, we are off to talk to the Department of Veterans Affairs about a CD-ROM we tendered for and won. 2 planes there, 2 planes back, all in one day. Apparently public servants come out and hold their meetings at the airport sometimes for the "convenience" of interstate guests. We will be on the ground for 8 hours so I hope that's not the deal tomorrow.

Slackness, bloomers.

Blog slackness has set in. I am not dropping in every morning to mooch over things like I was - work is in a bit more urgent and various phase after 18 months of pushing DOMS uphill every day.

Marcus was drawing on the whiteboard the other day, dotting many dots in that annoying way that ruins the pens. But I was amused to overhear, as he worked: "dot, com, dot, AU, dot, com, dot, AU..."

This morning as I walked to work a schoolgirl did a cartwheel on the other side of the road, a little ahead of me. She had no idea I was there, I'm sure. She seemed to be wearing large floral bloomers, which made me think she had planned ahead. Still, I have no problem with outbursts of joy, even when they are not quite spontaneous.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Confidence

"Everything I do is good, every day!" - Marcus

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Rubgy Chess

On Saturday we played Giant Chess at Salamanca Square. MIchael slept in the stroller while Elf and I took turns matching wits with Marcus. I've never actually played with one of these giant public chess sets before. Its a funny experience, especially when you are playing with a 3 year old who is curious about the rules, but not interested in being bound by them. And when a whole outdoor cafe's worth of bored effete art-admin types are watching you. SO MANY women with Serious Glasses and Bright Red Hair.

After a while it got more and more physical. I imagined a game played on a much larger board, preferably turf, or even sand. The pieces would stay the same size, so they could be tucked under the arm and run with. They would have to be inflatable, but with solid bases so they stand up. The key point: if you were trying for instance to move your kings' rook's pawn to KR4, your opponent could rugby tackle you.

Histrionics

A difficult day on Friday. Marcus seemed fine on the way to school, then cracked up when we got there. I left him howling and he apparently kept it up for some time. When I picked him up it happened all over again. He gets very wound up, can't get words out, and it takes a while to get to the bottom of what his reason is.

He seems to have worked out his own coping mechanism, that sometimes he remembers to use and sometimes doesnt. He will manage to gasp out between sobs "Maybe next time we can..." [take a leaf home, or stay at Lily's house forever, or whatever has been denied him]. Having said that he starts immediately to calm down.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The sixties

"When you do a handstand, everthing goes crazy". - Marcus

I am regularly dipping into an old book called Tasmania Yesterday and Today. Ok, I'm reading it on the toilet. It was a high school textbook in the 1960s, and it is a fascinating read. It describes a past that is obviously long gone, but the present it describes is gone too. In a lot of ways I would never want to live back 40 years ago, but in some respects it seems like a very good time to be alive.

I don't mean "the Sixties" in the Woodstock, Women's Lib, miniskirt sense. In Tasmania in the 1960s there was an awareness of all of that, but to me the sixties was about keeping chooks and growing vegies. Local footballers were the kids heroes. There were less choices to make all the time. The highway went through every town, and the passenger trains were still running.

I woudn't want to go back but I enjoy visiting from time to time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Drawing progress

Marcus has been banned from the computer for a couple of weeks for cat infringements. It might be a coincidence, but his drawing has really flowered. A few times before I have drawn a circle for him to add features to make a face, but he's never taken the idea on board to do it himself. Now he is doing beautiful people, with big bodies, small heads, nose, mouth, beautiful ears and belly buttons. They have all got the same finger-in-the-powerpoint hair, and beautiful individual fingers and toes on the end of conventional stick-arms and stick-legs.

Yesterday he drew a family of birds, based on a simple litttle drawing Elf did. Marcus's birds have great schnozzy beaks like Jimmy Durante, clumpy tails, and beautifully avian legs and feet. There are striations down the side that represent the wings.

He also designed a lovely "machine" with repeated shapes, like modular components, that is actually a vehicle with a driver. He is drawing with a fine uniball pen, and making intricate little details.

We are very proud! Until last week he had been drawing lots of "caves" which he made by making big circular loops of every colour in the pencil box, until he had a morass of colours that was very dark in the middle. And while they had a certain post-modern appeal I am really rapt to see him observe and illustrate too.

Jumpers

"I'll just get you a jumper, Michael". Michael starts leaping about, little wombatty two footed vertical hops.

Friday, August 12, 2005

What are jokes?

Marcus asked us this morning "What are jokes?" We tried to explain, and I gave him the example of "My dog's got no nose" my favourite tame joke. (How does he smell - terrible). Elf emphasised that it is often a play on words. Marcus unfortunately picked up and ran with the "smell" concept - his first joke was "What if eight people all called their dogs pooey gooey? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HAAA!!!"

Snow

It snowed in town here yesterday! Proper snow, settling all over our yard, all over South Hobart, all over most of southern Tasmania and a lot of Victoria as well. It was amazing. It hasn't snowed in the suburbs of Hobart since 1986, my first year living here. I thought it would be an annual thing, how wrong I was. No-one yesterday was skiing to work like they did in 1986, but it was still pretty exciting.

Snowscapes are beautiful in the same way twilight landscapes are - the colours and shapes are all smoothed out and modulated by the snow (or the dark). We took a few pics, hopefully we'll have at least one good one to remember it by.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Blog Responses

I've had a few strange responses lately. Two girls from the States contacted me the same afternoon, and welcomed me to look at their blogs too. Their blogger profiles both list such hobbies as "porn" and "titties" so I think they will probably have lots of customers without me joining their fanbase.

I just got an anonymous one that said "I've seen many blogs and yours takes the cake! Keep it coming!"

Fantastic! But it follows up with:

"There's a new wave networking site that's really great! It pretty well covers new wave networking related stuff. Worth your time!"

Ah, and as I'm typing I just received another that says "Excellent blog! I give it an A+ with a Gold Star!! " then encourages me to check out how i can earn over 90k a year from home.

So - no more anonymous comments. I'll see if I can filter out porn site webmasters masquerading as loose women. (If you really are loose women, well, sorry).

Small sentences

Michael says the following.

Yes can.
Go out.
Got it.
Seat belt!
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10.
Septic New York! (meant to be Central Park)

And he has just started bestowing whole-body hugs complete with his head on your shoulder. He started with one for Marcus when Marcus was upset. It has to be said he was upset because Michael was trying to snatch something from him. it also has to be said that Michael surreptitiously tried to grab it again during the hug.

Hmm, theft disguised as compassion - the boy might go far in Centrelink.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Zero: A philosphical disagreement

"Is zero a real number?" asked Marcus last night. I think in the specific mathematical sense of "real" that it is. If I remember rightly.

Elf disagreed. She thought it was like black and white which are reputed to not be colours. Marcus thought it wasn't a real number because when you add it or subtract it nothing happens.

I pointed out that its very important in telling the difference between 1, 10 and 100. But also, 0 as an amount is very important. If someone says "Before I visit you I need to know how many tigers you have running loose around your house" - well, the answer 0 is very reassuring.

We sat around the table discussing the conundrum that "nothing" is actually something. It was, for our dinner table, quite intellectually bracing.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Stuff the winter trip, what about the cricket?

Er... I'm a bit bored with rewriting stuff about the winter trip out of my little book. I might write it up one fine day and then drop snippets in on slow news days.

Absolutely corking end to the 2nd cricket test last night. England beat Australia by two runs, and I had to have a stiff drink. If I'd had something to mix with the gin I would have had a few more. Heroic deeds, the best team won in the end, and fine sportsmanship to boot.

One thing that is really special about cricket is the sight of professional sportsmen doing something they are not best at - tail end bastmen. For those who don't know much about cricket, your team is made up of roughly half specialist batsmen and half specialist bowlers. Everyone must bat, but not only 5 or 6 players usually bowl. The less proficient batsmen come last in the batting order. This means that in a tight game, highly skilled and sometimes lethally fast bowlers are pitted against batsmen who range from capable to comically incompetent. Last night Australia's last three chased more than 100 runs with a spirit and bravery that brought a tear to the eye. That they didn't quite make it will probably make this game even more memorable than if it was just another Aussie test win over the hapless Poms.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Winter Trip days 4,5 and 6

Good sleeps all round. Met Lorraine and Ray who run the cucumber farm. Fed apples to horses. Drove up to Albury via thick fog until Yackandandah. Up the Hume to Gundagai where we intended to stay but it was too early in the day, and there wasnt much to do, so pressed on to Canberra to stay at Imp and Ed's house.

Boys are having fun with their cousins Karri and Miah, who are a little older than Marcus and Michael respectively. In Canberra you hang around the house until the frost melts, apparently. Then out, chip ice off car and get on with the day. Drove to Belconnen Market, kids scamped around, had lunch in the sun. Belconnen Biodynamic Meats blackboard "Beef. Pork. Lamb. Possum. Buffalo. Emu. Kangaroo. Crocodile. Mars Bar Cheesecakes." Back to I & Es, kids played in the (flat) backyard for ages. Marcus ran me through his rules for playing totem tennis, then wandered off to play in the cubbyhouse, saying over his shoulder "Work hardly!"

Went to Questacon, the science and technology museum. It was great (but quite hot under a perspex roof) and the kids loved it. On the ground floor is a 0-6 room, with lots of role-playing and a great water play area, complete with high chairs for littlies to get right into the action.

Drove out of Canberra after usual frost wait. Marcus was explaining something too complex for me to get my head around while I was driving, and I asked him to tell me again when we got there, as I couldnt concentrate on his story and the road.. "Try thinking, Dad"

Stopped in Harden, wheat town. All quite flat. Lauraleen's Hair Studio. Real country faces. Utes with huge antennas. Angle parking, wide street. Very flat from there to Junee, following railway, wheat sidings, galahs in flock, see for days and days. Cootamundra, lovely verandahs. Lots of empty shopfronts in these towns. Stopped for night in Junee. Sunset behind passing wheat train. Beautiful town like a Russell Drysdale painting. 2 storey verandahed pub. Stayed at nice family motel, let the boys watch a maisy mouse DVD while Elf and I had leisurely dinner.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Winter Trip Days 1 2 and 3

Day 1: Drove up to Mum and Dad's vacant house at Turner's Beach. (They are in Broome area roadtripping also).

Day 2: Mooched about, walked on the beach etc until evening then drove over to Devonport and into belly of large boat.

Day 3: Woke at 5.45 to PA talking about getting cars off boat. Ah - no breakfast. Bad crossing, very rough, boys unsettled. Air cond. bung, very hot all night. Tasmanian Premier Lennon and scrum of advisers standing around waiting to disembark - one lady advisor gave me classic down-nose look as I walked past with baby Michael. Drove north via Tyaak, Yarck, Yea (sounds like a coughing fit), lunch at Mansfield. Stopped at Power's Lookout - great views down valley as enjoyed by Harry Powers (bushranger) looking out for troopers. First night at Myrtle Creek farmstay near Myrtleford, hometown of Gary Ablett. Unusual 2 storey sheds for tobacco drying. Tobacco refiunery smoketack painted like giant fag. Walked about farm like townies and said hello to horses, goats and sheep. Stars eye-hurtingly bright and full moon.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Our mighty voyage

Hello! I forgot to say we were going away for two weeks. probably because I was trying not to think about it too much while I was at work. Anyway, we had a great time, and travelled all over the bottom right hand corner of Australia. We caught up with lots of Elf's far flung family and showed off the lads. I kept a journal on the trip and will be putting bits in as after-blogs.

Probably the best snippet was when we arrived in Canberra, where we were to stay at Imp and Ed's. Elf rang her parents across town to tell them we were at Imp and Ed's, and her father Bill thought she had said we were in Inverness. "That's in northern Scotland!" he spluttered indignantly. Not till some time later in the conversation did he realise we were actually at his other daughter's house a few miles away, as planned, and not shooting grouse on the moors of the highlands.

Friday, July 15, 2005

La la la!

Elf to Michael "OK, now let's put on your singlet" Michael to Elf "La la la!"

He is also reaching up to plonk some notes on the piano then announcing "A song!".

Marcus has been playing beautiful slow and thoughtful piano pieces in the last couple of days. REALLY beautiful not just I'm-his-dad-and-I'm-so-proud beautiful.

I dropped off Marcus at school this morning with some trepidation - he has made a major scene the last 2 times Elf has dropped him off. Somehow it didnt happen this morning, he happily went over to look at seashells. This made us very happy. We know Marcus has been worried about one particular boy who has pushed him a few times. We've been saying all the right things, like he just hasn't learned not to push people yet, and the carers will look after it. Marcus floored us by saying "Its because his brain isn't working properly". Ahhhh. Apparently that was the carer's explanation - and I don't think I could do better in their position really.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Going to Mount Wellington's house for dinner

I just remembered this story. We paid Manuel and Rhonda a visit on Saturday evening, and had a fabulous and extensive dinner. We took the boys along. Marcus had a few goes at saying "Manuel" on the way. As we walked up the street from the car he said "Is this Mount Wellington's house?" (Mount Wellington is the small mountain that dominates Hobart).

Michael's vocab is growing exponentially. He seems to just love saying words and finding new words. He answers questions now with a clearly enunciated, no-nonsense "Yes."

Monday, July 11, 2005

Top sneezes, bottom sneezes

Marcus sneezes a lot. He sneezes in the sun like Elf does. He sneezed in the car this morning and after I cleaned it up, he said "my sneezes are great!" Lukewarm agreement from Mum and Dad. "My sneezes are really, really, really (etc) great!" Mumbled assent from Mum and Dad. "My top sneezes and my bottom sneezes are great!" Er - what? "Top sneezes come out of THIS nostril and bottom sneezes come out of THIS nostril."

We saw the model airplanes at Richmond yesterday. Marcus is at the age now where he is very interested. Michael just loves having a big green paddock to run around in, and of course always runs towards the little gate where he's not allowed to go. Around 12ish someone yelled from the hut that lunch was ready. The last plane came in to land and the remote control aviators (all blokes) shuffled off towards the hut. We drove off to feed the ducks. Marcus said "I think the planes will have sky and grass for lunch".

At the Richmond bakery they have many blue, red and green ribbons from baking competitions, at the Royal Hobart Show I guess. I noticed in 2003 they came 3rd in the 7 inch unfilled sponge. I like the idea of each year, really FOCUSSING and giving your all to carry off the blue ribbon in the 7 inch unfilled sponge - its the sprint of sponges.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Black playdough

The red playdough and the green playdough have met and mingled. Now we have.. black playdough. Great for making witches, ravens, deep sea fish, 8-balls, er...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

MJR vocab at not quite 18 months

When Michael thinks he's had enough of something he says "Finished!" If you say "Finished?" He says "OK!" with a tone of agreement that says he's pretending "finished" was your idea in the first place.

He started saying 'thank you" quite early - we loved that. Now its "thanks" as he takes the toast or bottle or whatever. No fuss, just 'thanks" and on his way.

When he see the ABC logo on a book or video now he says "SHOP!" because he pointed to it downtown the other day and Elf said "That's the ABC Shop".

Also - when Marcus bellows something to us from the other end of the house, Michael knows the correct form for the occasion. "OK... COM-ing".

Frozen Rat

"There's a mouse in the loungeroom" said Marcus. No, actually a headless rat. Elf put it in a bag and put it in the freezer.

We have had a lot of rat action, probably something to do with the chooks and their chook pellets freely available a couple of doors up. Our loquat tree might have attracted them once but it hasnt fruited lately. Hobart City Council sent a small officious man to inspect. The rat nests are over our back fence on council property so we can't do anything ourselves. Will the council help us? No - they are "native rats" and protected. Elf has inquired and the two species of native rat are the water rat and the swamp rat - neither of whom would be likely to live burrowed in a hill methinks.

So - the rat is frozen and Elf is going to drop it into the boys down at forensic (or something) who will do all that CSI stuff, recreate the scene of its murder and hopefully tell us that is a plain old rattus rattus. Then we'll see if the council can do something useful.

[The small officious man is the same one who visited our Amnesty stall at Salamanca and said we had to stop selling Graham's marmalade until we have it labelled with full nutritional information].

Thursday, June 30, 2005

One day in India, 1998

15/9/98 AGRA Hotel Safari
We were up at 5 and on the road to the Taj Mahal at 6. We walked for half an hour through a sort of military reserve area and then through Taj Ganj to the Taj gates.
We were stalked by a few trishaws. Bree and PJ were taunting them in various ways. I thought up a new one: I just stood behind the trishaw while the driver was trying to talk to me. They are in a little enclosed shell. As he spun it around looking for me, I just jogged after him, staying right on his bumper so he couldn't see me. I ended up chasing him down the street as he fled.
It was overcast, so rather than pay 100R extra to get in for sunrise, we backtracked and had breakfast at Joney's, nice cheese parathas and great masala chai (spiced milk tea). Colourful, plastic Pepsi décor, with black velvet paintings of English cottages.
Back at the Taj a few guides approached us. We engaged a Mr. Hashmal, who cost us 250R between three. It only costs 15R to get in to the Taj Mahal, about 60 cents.
Inside the entry gate we walked 100m to a central square filled with Indian tourists, many in large groups. Mr Hashmal showed us where to stand to take all the classic photos. On our right as we came in was a huge gate, and through it was a tantalising glimpse of white. We took turns to occupy The Spot, as people in front of us obligingly ducked and people behind us grumbled good-naturedly.
We were searched on our way through the gate. PJ was carrying a carton of cigarettes for bartering, and they were seized. We waited for her, so we would all see the Taj together.
My first sight was a magical moment. It is very, very, very beautiful. We entered a large open garden from the right, with red sandstone colonnades on three sides. The Taj sat at the far end, with the Yamuna River behind it. On the left and right facing one another were two ornate identical buildings, the mosque and the guesthouse.
Mr Hashmal led us to the next Photo Spot for the famous symmetrical shot. Bree had with her a tray with cotton-wool kittens under glass, given to her as some sort of punishment by her work colleagues, and I had my Richmond Tigers sponge bag. We took a few silly photos featuring them. Indians are very fond of trick photos where people are leaning on/eating/wearing on their heads the Taj.
Most people know the story that Shah Jahan built the tomb for his beautiful wife who died. He planned to build an identical black one across the river, but his son Aurangzeb deposed him and locked him in a tower, with a tiny window to look out on the Taj.
Everywhere were crowds of Indians from all over the country. There was a large group of Communist convention delegates wearing green scarves. A group of women called Bree over to be in their photo, and she dwarfed them. A group of teenage boys asked us to be in their photos too - the girls especially seem to be a huge novelty. We got a few shots of the lads with the kittens and the sponge bag.
I met and talked to a couple with a little 2 or 3 year old boy. He was very shy and they scolded him for it. They kept picking him up and placing him back in front of me. I played pat-a-cake with him for a while. It was lovely and cool, sitting in the shade on the damp marble. It was their fourth or fifth trip to the Taj, I think they were from Ahmedabad.
We took our shoes off to go up the marble steps to the tomb. There is a large terrace around the main building, with a slightly sloping tower at each end. In case of earthquake or bombardment, the towers were supposed to fall away from the Taj. There was a welcome cool breeze up on the terrace - below in the garden it was quite hot and muggy. The foundation of the planned Black Taj can be seen on the opposite riverbank, and the red Agra Fort looms among the newer city buildings.
Up close to the walls you can see the pietra dura, inlay of semi-precious stones. The different colours came from all over the world; black marble from Belgium, red garnet from Zimbabwe, and jade from China, blue lapis from Afghanistan and yellow something from somewhere else. There are four-sided half-columns that have an Islamic chevron design that makes them look eight-sided.
The whole thing is so wonderfully designed, by Persian and Turkish architects. It is quite small inside. Mr Hashmal ruthlessly shoved Indians aside to let us see the wonders close up. There are natural draughts created by geometric pierced marble screens placed to catch the prevailing winds. The tomb, the doors and the gate in the distance line up perfectly. The glimpse of the outside world through the gate makes the profane world outside seem like another beautiful aspect of the Taj itself - I was quite affected by it. I found a quiet corner of the garden after we thanked and paid Mr Hashmal, and just enjoyed being where I was.
On our way out we saw a lawn being 'mowed' - a line of women and girls on their haunches with hand scythes, inching their way across the grass in the hot sun, and carrying the cut grass in their skirts.
Outside was an amazing ruck of trishaw touts and souvenir sellers. Everyone asks where you are from, where you're staying, what you're paying and where you are going next. One kid wanted to sell me tickets to Jaipur. I said I already had tickets, and why would I buy them from a total stranger like him? He said 'You spend some time with me, I buy you chai, you buy me chai, then we'll be friends and you buy ticket from me'. There were bright plastic cameras for sale that looked too cute to be real.
We engaged three pushbike rickshaws to take us back to the hotel. We wanted to have a race, and the drivers obligingly overtook one another so we could all take photos of each other. My driver calls the squirrels 'gillies'.
A friend of Bree's had raved about a site outside Agra called Fatehpur Sikri, an abandoned city. We found a taxi driver who agreed to take us for 350 R, guaranteed no shopping stops. Taxi and trishaw drivers seem to make a high proportion of their income from commissions. Merchants pay them to bring passengers to them, whether the passenger wants to or not, and it can be a major pain in the neck.
The taxi was comfy, and the driver was a really nice guy with nine fingers. We saw a lot of small thatched huts in the fields. We were shocked to see captive himalayan bears dancing under coercion by the road. We took a short cut that is also used by big trucks. The road had very soft edges and the trucks were heeling over at alarming angles. I shot some very jumpy super 8.
The taxi broke down in the middle of nowhere. Nine Fingers flagged down a covered jeep, and he and we got a lift to Fatehpur Sikri. He roused a few passengers out to make room for us - some were hanging on the outside and some were left standing on the road waiting for another hitch, while we looked out the back guiltily. Soon the jeep was flying along, overtaking and veering around bears. It was not at all scary since we were oblivious of each oncoming vehicle until we had already survived it.
We tumbled out at the village of Sikri. Nine Fingers pointed the way to the site. He didn't speak much English, but I think we agreed to meet in two hours. Two boys were labouring up the hill with a big market barrow called an 'Indian trolley'. PJ and I thought they were slacking, so we showed them how to do it, sprinting to the top with it and leaving them and Bree behind.
Fatehpur Sikri was really impressive at first sight. Guides came out of the woodwork and the girls engaged one while I was staring open-mouthed at the huge steep flight of steps that led up to the main gate. [Banana lassi has just arrived.] He asked where we were from in Australia. When Bree said Sydney, he said 'SCG - very good for Allan Border'.
We foolishly went off and wasted one hour on a fairly nasty lunch in a flyblown dhaba (truckstop). I had a mughlai paratha, thinking that for 40R it must be delicious (they are normally 12R - 20R. It was just a big fried crispy mess with no filling, very bad value. Yuk.
Fatehpur was a city built to commemorate a Mogul war victory. Sikri was a town of Rajput warriors on a hill. Our guide Ataullha had a great gesture to say 'fighting' - clenched fists pulling apart and banging together. 'Fateh' means victory. Another story says that the king Akbar came here to ask the local saint Chishti for a son. When a son was duly born, he built a city here in thanks and installed Chishti in a beautiful mosque. It was all abandoned after only sixty years. Ataullha says Chishti told Akbar that a holy man and a fighting man (the gesture here) could not live together, so the king would have to get out of town. Our guidebook says the water supply was unreliable. Whatever.
We wandered around the outside, the walls of beautiful red local stone. This is where the stone for the Red Fort in Delhi was quarried. There were a lot of smaller less important buildings going back to the jungle, their walls crumbling and the stone blocks disappearing for houses and cow pens in the villages around.
Then we entered through a side gate and found ourselves in an enormous open square. I had to wear a little sarong arrangement to cover my knees, as we would be going into a mosque. I was in a bad mood because my camera had mis-loaded so I was out of film. Ataullha said 'I am unhappy because I don't think you are happy today'. We saw the saint's tomb, which was opposite the main gate. We stepped over many tombstones of other holy men. Ataullha led us into the mosque, where prayers were just finishing. The crowd were all men and boys. As they filed out a couple of the boys practiced their bowling actions. I did one too and they grinned. One man had blue eyes - very odd.
The view from the main gate was (again) breathtaking. This hill dominated a vast flat plain, you could see for miles. I was soaking it up as much as I could, on account of having no camera, while a youth tried to sell me a sandalwood chess set. He understood and spoke English quite well, so when I said it was the ugliest chess set I'd ever seen and if he didn't beat it I'd push him down that flight of steps I mentioned earlier, he got the message.
Ataullha took us out behind the mosque through the modern village built literally against the wall of the old city. He was after a commission by taking us to a souvenir shop, but we were running late so we just marched back out again. The blue eyed man was running the shop. On the way we saw the grave of a prince, with a tiny grave next to it of his beloved parrot. An old man in the village had a grey beard fringed with red henna. Mr Hashmal had told us that henna in the hair kept the head cool, but it seemed to be largely a cosmetic thing.
Nine Fingers and his brother were waiting for us at the bottom of the steps, in a different and very flash taxi. On the way back we stopped to buy some old bike inner tubes, which became a towrope when we got to the stricken taxi.
Unfortunately, a bear-man was there. I tried to ignore him, but we had to have the windows down or we would have suffocated. It wasn't just the bear, the guy was a maddening bastard, so I had a go at him, and if he'd had somewhere handy to tether the bear I think we would have ended up toe to toe. I was having a surly day.
We finally got going, then stopped after nightfall in a no-tourists part of Agra to drop off the first car. On the way into town there was a broken down trishaw blocking a narrow market street. We somehow squeezed both taxis through.
What I saw today from the car; tin trunk shops, boys sliding down an upturned cart, a play fight, a real fight, loads of goats, some pigs, a moped graveyard, people squatting and talking right in the middle of fields, a beautiful house painted blue and green, walls painted pepsi pepsi pepsi pepsi pepsi, a female soldier, a huge railyard, a stationary train out in the country, lots of stuff.
Lots of small shops; goods are piled in front, then the shallow shop, then a long yard behind. Water is everywhere and people shitting in it. Barbers, electrical repair shops, lots of STD/ISD phone shops, baby clothes. The barbers have a picture of sixteen standard haircuts on the wall to choose from.
I am drinking plenty of chai as advised by Arian. Joney's masala chai is my favourite so far. I have spent 20R on clothes-washing soap, 150R on Relaxo thongs that don't fit, a little on drinks and food, and the rest through the kitty on meals, travel and accommodation. I have 800 rupees left from the $US50 I changed at the airport.
Geckos on the walls, squirrels on the ground.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Don Scott

1970s Hawthorn ruckman Don Scott is "a smelly bottom" according to Marcus. There is a picture of him on the back of a big football book that actually was a gift to Elf from her mum. The Fullagar family have a talent for quirky gifts. Have I mentioned the oxo cube wrapped in tinfoil? Best not.

Anyway. The back cover is a montage of old footy cards and so on, and this one has a caricature of big Don with his blousy long hair and big lips - he famously turned up to a tribunal hearing one evening carrying a manbag. And Marcus has taken one look at this outlandish caricature of this outlandish man and nailed him for what he always was. A smelly bottom. Perhaps the brown and yellow Hawthorn guernsey is to blame.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Miscellaneous

Its mild today, I just walked to work in shorts. Yesterday the frost was inches thick on the shady sides of streets.

Tumbledryer psychology: I find that I set the timer dial according to how badly I want the items dry, rather than how long it will realistically take. Eg - pair of socks/running late for work = set timer to 80 minutes.

A friend of a friend won $500,000 on Millionaire last night. Its the first time I've watched it in ages. I knew Yemen, I knew Jaques-Louis David, but I didnt know lugubrious. I might have come away with a few grand though.

Idea for a cartoon - friend says to upper classy looking wife, "How is George going with retirement?" Wife - "Oh, you know, he sits on a few boards and so on". (Friend can't see George in the shed reading newspaper and sitting on a few boards).

Monday, June 27, 2005

Piano-like

I have a very strange old piece of furniture. It has had a long happy life in an office at some time. It is a kind of hutch, with a few little square pigeonholes and large open area supported by turned wooden pillars like miniature chair legs. There once were six but by the time I bought it second hand, one of the central ones was missing. Marcus was looking at it the other day and he said "This is like a piano. There's three, then there's two". I thought it was an excellent observation - the remaining pillars look like the pattern of the black keys on a piano.

Michael is dancing beautifully now. A bit of foot stamping, some spinning and gyrating - he's quite a mover.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

White water

I walked to work this morning. It's stopped raining after about five days - so not quite biblical proportions. We really needed it too. The little rivulet actually had white water rapids this morning.

I went to Jeff Blake's solo show Cancelled by Popular Demand last night. I was very impressed and urge everyone to get along. I think I'll go again on Sunday with Elf. The saga about Bob de Niro falling in love with a zebra and being mauled by lions was superb.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A rare picture of our lads


Are they plotting world domination? Probably.

Japanese

Marcus had a bad dream last night. "We were flying to Japanese on a plane, and a bad man took our white bag so we missed our plane. Then another plane to Japanese came and we were going to go but a lot of people came and took our other bags".

Michael is saying "I running!" "I spinning!" etc as he does them. He can point to or waggle his; ears, nose, eyes, hair, fingers, hands, feet and head. He calls Marcus "Marcoose" and he calls Giz "Giz". He said "daddy" when I picked him up from Allisons on Monday - the first time he hasnt come running to me yelling "Mummy!"

It was the boys last day at "school" yesterday. A little traumatic but only for me. I was surprised no-one in the office had told the ladies who actually care for the boys. I told them and they were disappointed but understood it was unavoidable. Elf's new job starts next week and the boys will start at "New School" then too.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Beach

We went to the beach on Saturday. Sounds mad doesnt it? It wasnt all that cold, probably about 12°, and no wind. We were visiting the Cruikshanks out at South Arm, and all the kids were a little bit stir crazy so we went for a walk. Its a lovely little beach, just down the lane and across the highway and down another lane from their front gate. The kids all dropped daks and skipped about in the water, mad little loons.

Marcus was right about Tingletree. It was the worst school in Australia. We have found somewehere else though, quite close to Elf's new job and quite close to mine too. The boys will have a visit there on Thursday with Elf and then start there the following Thursday and Friday.

I took the boys to the boat park yesterday, and my old soccer team were playing on the ground adjacent. I reckon I could still hold down a place in defence - they looked pretty pedestrian. I got out our soccer ball and both boys booted it about quite enthusiastically. I really enjoy taking them to wide open spaces because they so obviously love it.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Harsh judgement

Elf is changing jobs. Well, her old job was a maternity leave position, so we knew it would end around now. Her old job was Monday - Wednesday, but the new job is Wednesday - Friday. This means we have to find new childcare places for the boys as the current place is booked out and can't just swap days. They are both enjoying what Marcus calls "school" so its a shame.

Elf is taking Marcus and Michael today to see "Tingletree" which is a daycare place in New Town. I mentioned it to Marcus (who has never heard of it before) that we were hoping it would be a good "school". He said, "It's a bad school. Its the baddest school in Australia!"

So - we'll see. I hope its like when he won't come to the table, and says he hates dinner because its yucky, then when he eats a bit he wolfs it all down and asks for more.

Leaves

There are a few hardy leaves still clinging to trees. The sun is very low now, and this morning as I walked to work it was making the usually dark leaves a translucent red-brown. It looked beautiful against the blue sky.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Go taxonomists, go

The scientific name of the lowland gorilla is gorilla gorilla .
Don't confuse this with the western lowland gorilla, which of course is gorilla gorilla gorilla. They get extremely pissed off if you mix them up with one another.

Scratcho

Marcus: "Mum - Hattie scratched me!"
Elf: "Were you playing biffo with her?"
Marcus:" Yes, I was playing biffo with her, and she was playing scratcho with me".

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Rees scores!

Marcus and I kicked a soccer ball around on the big soccer ground yesterday. We kicked a few goals, but Marcus got the idea in his head that to really be a goal the ball had to end up tangled at the bottom of the rusty chain-link fence. Unfortunately this ruled out one or two of my spectacular half-volleys from the edge of the penalty area.

Marcus dribbled a few through but he got the hang of running up to a dead ball to get more oomph, and then scored a beauty from outside the 6-yard box. Rees scores - Rees United are one up!

Another game Marcus devised required me to stand still on one side of the ground while he dribbled towards me from so far away that he was a mere speck in the distance. When he finally reached me I was bawled out (in oddly familiar phrases) for standing in the wrong place. "Next time listen to what I tell you!".

Quotable quotes from the weekend

"So, we have seen two planes today - one jet plane, and one prr, er, pell, er.. one other sort of plane." - Marcus
"Fire!" - Michael
"3 plus 3 plus 3 is nine!" - Marcus
"Water!" - Michael
"Have you got any... kings?" - Marcus, who has taken to playing cards
"No - MINE!" - Michael

Happy birthday Betty

Queen's Birthday long weekend. Usually long weekends are pretty hard work, but I felt like we got through this one pretty well. I have such a cushy job in such a convivial atmosphere that it is very hard to think of even ordinary weekends as "rest" anyway.

We went to Bonorong Park on Sunday to pat and feed kangaroos and wallabies. Marcus got to pat one of the koalas too. We go out there at least once a year, this was the first time both boys have been ambling around. Marcus took Michael's hand and led him down towards the first mob of wallabies - then left him and ran up to the first one, squatted down and said "Good morning". I thought that was hilarious.

We had a lot of roo poo on shoe and stroller wheels by the time we left, and I'm sorry to say (from a public health standpoint) that we tracked a lot of it into the Royal Hobart where we went to meet Nick and Anna's new baby Katherine Rose. Everything went well with the labour and she is bonny, sleeping and feeding well. Anna is tired but, one must say, radiant.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Space

I've been re-reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. Everyone should read it.

Did you know if you sat Pluto on top of the USA it would only cover about half? Its tiny. Its smaller than our moon. I thought Pluto was the edge of the solar system, but there is actually stuff orbiting our sun that is fifty thousand times further away than Pluto.

I thought that the diagram of the solar system in the front of my Jacaranda atlas was to scale. I have always pictured it being this way when I read about space stuff. In fact, if Jupiter was the size of a pea, Pluto would be about 2km away and it would be the size of a bacterium. I would quite like to make a proper scale model. But if the biggest planet was a pea and the whole shebang was 4 or 5km long there would have to be some big arrows pointing out the planets.

I'll get back to you on the scale model.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

September 11 explained

I was talking with Marcus about an old postcard from New York, and somehow we got onto the World Trade Centre being "knocked down by a plane". Actually it was my fault for saying they "used to be" the biggest towers in the world. Why did they get knocked down by a plane? "It was a big mistake" I lied.

Then a day later - were there people in the buildings? Were they at the top or the bottom? I told him lots of people were in there. They are dead now, they're gone for good. [We are trying to teach him not to lightly bandy around the words "kill" and "die" by teaching him that it is permanent and very serious].

"That's a little bit sad" he said. Probably empathising with the building - he hates it when the towers he builds get knocked down.