Monday, February 28, 2005

Thank you for the purrs

Marcus was talking to Gizmo, our old cat. "Thank you Giz. Thank you Giz. Thank you Giz. "

We asked why he was thanking Giz. "I'm saying thank you for the purrs".

Such a good idea. I've had him about 13 years and I've never thanked him for the purrs.

Stripy Birthday

Today is Marcus's 3rd birthday. We had a Stripy Party on Saturday down at the South Hobart Community Centre - there were a lot of stripy people, stripy food and stripy balloons. Elf did a magnificent job sewing, cooking and generally excelling at stripy home economics. Everyone had a great time. Marcus got piles of presents that we have to somehow fit into the house. Michael fell off the portable mini-roundabout and grazed his face a wee bit - my fault for putting him on it when he was too tired to hang on properly.

Yesterday we backed up for more parties. Elf took Marcus to Liam's 3rd birthday, while I took Michael up into the mountains to Big Ben's going away party. Ben is a programmer at Roar and one of the finest gentlemen its been my privilege to work with. His family live at Collinsvale above Hobart and they put on a terrific spread. Ten of us got a minibus from work. Michael was very well behaved, charmed everyone and demonstrated his various tricks.

Michael is now miaowing like a cat (where appropriate) and also singing the EIEIOs to Old Macdonald Had A Farm. He is also a dab hand on the saxaflute - Sally's present to Marcus. Marcus built a very impressive spiralling saxaflute this morning then played a short honking composition on it.

Friday, February 25, 2005


I saw the moon rise over the Meehan Range while I was bringing in the washing last night. I looked up and where there had been nothing there was a bright orange sharp-edged blob. My first thought was it was the tidiest bushfire I had ever seen. It rose so fast - it was entirely above the horizon in about 2 minutes. I am extremely urbanised and only very occasionally do I have such a strong feeling of being on a spinning planet looping through space.

We are looking for a new house at the moment, to have more space and hopefully a flat back yard for the boys. But we are going to miss our first house. Will we see the moon rise over distant hills from the new house? I hope so.

Elf brought home a roundabout/carousel thing from the toy library. Its amazing what that woman can fit into a standard station wagon. The boys love it. Michael just sits on it, going nowhere and and grinning. He lights up when he plays with Marcus.

Elf's father Bill arrives from Canberra today, for Marcus's 3rd birthday party tomorrow. My mum and dad will be driving down today as well. I think we are all getting together for dinner tonight down at Kingston Beach - at Citrus Moon as it happens.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Police Car

We have just returned a police car we got from the toy library. Michael and Marcus take turns climbing inside and pushing themselves up and down the hall. I have also seen Marcus pushing Michael around in it quite gently, which was sweet.

I was in a very lazy parenting mood last night so I subdued a minor ruckus by putting on a video. Michael cruised to a position where he could see the TV, then sat back in his vehicle quite comfortably, with his foot on the dashboard, to watch Little Robots. He just needed a takeaway coffee and bag of doughnuts.

Fantastic Factoids

From a project Manuel, Rob, James and I are cooking up. Remember "fantastic" means "belonging in the realm of fantasy" not "really really good" as it is used these days.

• Taiwan is the only country with a national holiday to celebrate the invention of a synthetic fabric - Rayon Day on February 28th.

• The Burmese 3 wa and 6 wa stamps of 1938 became instant collectors items when it was realised that due to a printing mistake, instead of the Bhudda they featured Australian cricketer Stan McCabe.

• The bolivian stumpy duck is the only bird in the world to migrate by train.

[Further factoids removed on legal advice from Elf].

We are illustrating them (like the old Ripley's Believe It or Not) and hopefully we will find a newspaper who wants to run them.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


We went to a snazzy open home on Saturday, 30 Swan Street in North Hobart. I took a dislike to it though because the kitchen was so self-consiously Jamie-Olivered up. It sold while we were there to a fat chain-smoking guy, so I hope they'll be very happy together.

But - there was a nice big tree shading the back lawn. I could see it was dropping fruit which had got squished into the grass. When i got closer I couldnt believe my eyes - this was a GIANT BLACKBERRY TREE. I tried one and they were fat and scrumptious.

Later Nick told me it was a mulberry tree. He and Anna lived next door at no. 28 for a few years.

Why has no-one told me about mulberries before?


Paean to the RCH

Its roughly a year since Michael came home from his three weeks at the Royal Childrens Hospital. I havent recorded here why he was there, so I'll do that briefly.

Michael was born with Transposition of the Great Arteries, which means the aorta and pulmonary artery are reversed. The aorta normally takes red (oxygenated) blood from the heart around the body. The pulmonary normally takes blue blood to the lungs to be re-oxygenated. In Michael the red blood circulated from the heart to the lungs continuously, while the blue blood was pumped around the body again and again, progessively reducing in oxygen. A few hours after he was born, a midwife at the Royal Hobart Hospital noticed his bluish skin, and did some tests to determine the cause. About seven hours later he, Elf and I were at the Royal Childrens Hospital in Melbourne.

We can't really express our gratitude in words, to the RHH, the RCH, and the Tasmanian State Government's medical emergency procedures. Also to our mums who teamed up to look after Marcus for two weeks until I could fly home.

The prompt action at RHH saved Michael's life. The State Government pays for evacuation, medical treatment and accommodation of anyone who has a medical condition that can't be treated within Tasmania. We had no idea this existed until we needed it. A man called Terry who works in a tiny office in the bowels of RHH organised Michael's transfer by air ambulance, seats on a commercial flight for Elf and I, and our accommodation. We did not have to worry about any of those details, which was great as our worry brain cells were fully occupied.

Michael had a temporary operation immediately that allowed some mixing of red and blue blood to happen in his heart. This bought some time until the "arterial switch" could be performed. We thought it would be done straight away, but for a variety of reasons we had 5 days of nervous waiting. The operation was a success. It was a difficult day for us - we ran out of ways to occupy ourselves, and ended up walking in circles around Parkville waiting for the mobile phone to ring.

Michael spent several days in ICU after his initial minor op, and another stint after his major op. A year on I think of the other children who were in ICU at the time and hope they have had successful outcomes like Michael.

The RCH is regarded worldwide as one of the best children's hospitals. People who can afford to, send their children there from Japan, Singapore, the Middle East. We were asked to pay just $75 towards the costs of Michael's treatment, our flights and accomodation. The RCH is a marvellous thing to have in our region. People (including Tasmanians) who say that we have poor facilities or that we are remote and unloved, should remember that if the worst happens with your kid, they can be at the RCH in two hours getting world class treatment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Peg Boy

Michael is standing up without wobbling pretty well now. It took me by surprise though when I set him down on his feet yesterday and instead of letting himself flop onto his bot, he stayed right where I put him. I felt like I had put a peg in a hole or planted a flag in the snow.

We went to a puppetry day at Tolosa Park yesterday, which was great. Everything from Punch and Judy to those spooky silent 12 foot tall ladies. We went with Anna and Lily (my god-daughter) and it tickled me to go off for a wander with Lily and Marcus - she's a great little girl and I enjoyed looking after her for a little while. There was a tiny 5-kids-at-a-time jumping castle. They get them out at the end of their go by using lollipops as bait. Marcus went off exploring on his own quite confidently which is a great development.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Vegetarian Beer

Well, I never knew there was such a thing. Then I was looking at pictures of sturgeon for work, and one of the uses of the poor old late sturgeon is his swim bladder lining is turned into isinglass which is sometimes used for refining beer. For those who are appalled here is a list of vegetarian- and vegan-approved beers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A country that starts with "Thene"

As we drove this morning marcus was looking through the flag book for france - I told him the flags were all in alphabetical order, so just go through the alphabet until they start with F then you'll see a red, white and blue one. I was wrong, i forgot that in that little book they are in some arcane order I don't understand - maybe in order of GNP or something. He was gamely paging through looking for red, white and blue flags that start with F - and he started reading out the names of all the flags he found with the right colours. He spelled out D O M I N I C A N R E P U B L I C, P A R A G U A Y , and T H E N E T H E R L A N D S.

I was puzzled for a while by THENE.

I can smell buildings

Lately Marcus has been saying occasionally "I can smell something?" "What can you smell buddy?" In the car the other day "I can smell buildings". Yesterday in the lounge room "I can smell videos".

Last night at dinner he asked "When I put some food in my mouth and my mouth is full, and I shovel more in, thats OK isnt it?" I was laughing too hard to say "no".

We hopped onto the tall ship Windeward Bound yesterday for a look - its a sail training vessel. I am totally un-seaworthy and have no boat-sense at all, but I strove to dodge ropes and hop cat-like from poop to prow to impress Marcus. We both had a go at the helm. I imagined myself in a souwester, a lone hand at the wheel in a force ten gale, the rest of the crew below decks with scurvy etc etc. I don't know what Marcus imagined.

Michael is bursting into jolly laughter at the first line of almost any nursery rhyme. Which is handy.
"The grand old Duke of York..."
"Haahahahahahah HAH!"

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Mouse Lesbians

A story by my sister Sally from a few months back, when she visited Lourdes:

At this time of year Lourdes is a ghost town. More than half the town is closed and the religious fervour is considerably lessened. The hotel I thought I had booked over the web turned out to be closed so we got the taxi driver to drop us off at Hotel de la Gare instead. The train station hotel. TL, being vegan, can not always find places she can eat that are 'kosher' so carries a lot of food wherever she goes. She was awoken by a leaping (actually jumping!) mouse in our room, chowing down on her organic pumpernickel and anything else he could find. Despite her screams I of course slept through this as because of her weird 'white-noise' sleep machine (set to 'running stream') I have been wearing earplugs. I did however examine the evidence with concern the next morning and we agreed to find a new hotel. I also agreed that TL, with a better grasp of French, could try to argue a cheaper or free price for the night.

So it was for the first time we assumed our bad-cop, good-cop roles. I'm the good-cop which means I stand in the background feebly pretending I don't understand French while TL does a maginificent line in "le souris, le souris! Combien pour le souris qui mange sour ma tete!" We still had to pay. They threatened to call the police. TL left her mouse nibblied bread and stuff on the counter and told them to serve it up in no uncertain terms.

Cue the Hotel Flandria, closer to the grotto, cheaper, warmer, bigger room but a piddly shower that you have to hold in your hand. TL suffered for my sake! What a through-and-through Catholic! She is officially WARTIME. Other hotels offers of extremely close twin beds led us to beleive that the entire town believed us to be lesbians. The strange looks we received in some places also led us to believe that the mouse story had quickly spread and that we were being referred to in the Lourdes hospitality industry as THE MOUSE LESBIANS.

Why we call Raef "G.P."

A story from Raef's wedding. Years ago Raef had a more self-expressive fashion sense than he does now. He favoured puffy white shirts and sometimes sported a fairly big bangle-style earring. One day a car broke down near Raef's house, and he helped the guys out with jumper leads or something.

A friend of Raef's was arriving just as they drove away - he heard one say - "That guy was really kind to help us out" and the other said "Yeah, but didn't you think he looked like a gay pirate?"

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Woken by grizzling

I was woken at 5am by the sound of Marcus grizzling "I want to go back to the place with the water!"
He was really quite upset.
I picked him up and said "its OK, you're just dreaming"
He was more upset. "No I'm not dreaming, I want to go back to the place with the water."
I carried him back to our bed so he wouldnt wake Michael. After a few more repetitions he suddenly and lucidly broke off and said "You're right dad. I was dreaming."

Michael has a bad cold and touch of fever - I looked after him at home yesterday. Elf has got him all day today - hopefully he'll be well enough to go back to daycare on Wednesday.

Marcus ran around with a big round balloon hanging from a xylophone donger this morning saying "its a lantern" and was miffed that I wouldnt let him take it to "school" to show the carers.

Michael is saying "duck" and also "bear" I think. He has had very little book time compared to Marcus at the same age.

I'm back to work on Dust on my Shoes at Roar Film now. I have some help from Sean and Will for the next couple of months which will hopefully get the timeline back on the rails. I have a poster to do for Anna's exhibition and I must get back to the Factoid project as well.

And I'm worried about a new car. I want leg room but I don't want to drive a monster around town.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Mr and Mrs Sawford get down

Raef and Leah's wedding went off well - they seemed to have a great time which is always the most important thing. They booked out a pub for the night instead of a regular sit down reception which was fun. Jeff, Robbo and I pushed back the boundaries of modern dance. The bar tab was rung up on the registers - it was up to $1870.65 or something by the time we left. The boys went to sleep on cue for Georgia but she didnt give them a fresh nappy beforehand.

Chonk bought us lunch on Saturday at Citrus Moon, Kingston Beach. They have a kids room which is pretty basic but amused the ladsfor a while. I had a brainwave that I might try out on Wednesday - to drop the boys at Allisons at 8.00 then have a swim or a run on the beach before work. It will cost half an hour a week maybe.

Then Chonk flew back to Canberra and we'll not see him now for a long time - Elf quite sad.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Uncle Chonk

Elf's brother Chonk arrived last night to stay a few days. He's an engineer working in Switzerland. Their other brother Fred stayed for a few days after Christmas too - he's a scientist working in Sweden. I've already used the joke about sending their other sister imp to Swaziland to complete the set.

The boys had a great time climbing all over Fred and it seems like Chonk will be just as popular. We are going to Raef and Leah's wedding tomorrow so he might even get a bit of solo uncle work.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

As Easy as Falling off a Blog

The D of D surges back to life! Hopefully this will work, and hopefully someone or other will read it.

This will be a brief but hopefully regular journal about family life, recording what our boys (Marcus is nearly 3, Michael just turned 1) are up to.

Marcus: Has mastered small talk. Interrupted Elf and I in the car to say "So Daddy - what have you been up to this morning?"
Has a bad cold at the moment and is barking like a seal. Can we talk about phlegm here? I believe in expelling phlegm from the body (by the spit method, preferably down the drain, quietly and behind closed doors) - Elf thinks you just have to get it out of the lungs and let the stomach do what it likes with it. So - Marcus has had contrasting advice about what to do with his expectorations.

Michael: Is getting curlier and curlier. Says "yes" to questions which Marcus didnt for a long time. He's a top chap. he enjoyed his birthday party weekend before last - which is good going for a 1 year old. Most of them don't stay awake and work the crowd the way he did. He's resisting the cold so far. Marcus is very fond of him and hugs him a lot, but will abandon words and just scream if he is doing something "important" and Michael moves even slightly towards him. Michael is standing up frequently but doesnt look inclined to walk anywhere yet. Teeth are taking their time, still only has the 2.