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.