Saturday, June 30, 2012

Greatly Loved and Greatly Loving

Sprocket, Poppet, your Great Granny Anderson died this week. 
And it's breaking my heart you won't remember her at all, and she never got to know you. You met her once, my Sprocket, when you were 13 months old. She loved seeing you, but she didn't have a clue who you were. Or who I was. But she always loved children. You tried to unwrap the chocolates we brought her, Sprocket. You were inside me, Poppet, so you were sort of there. 
I wish you could see how mischievous her smile could be, how playful. How she giggled. Generally as she told some story of the mischief my dad, your Grandpa got up to as a kid. Tieing his cousins plaits to doorhandles, jumping across bonfires and falling in, tormenting his younger brother. How even when she was old, she still seemed so young at heart. 
Granny died peacefully with her family around her and the minister praying. Her memory was long gone, and she hadn't really been eating for awhile. So it wasn't unexpected. But I'd always hoped she might live long enough we'd get to see her one more time. A selfish thought I know, but still.
The time she always looked back on was when her boys was growing up, and her house was full of life and stories. Three boisterous boys? I'd have been reaching for the tranquilizers - but she loved it and came out not only sane, but happy. She doted on her boys, and later all her grandkids and great grandkids. 
I didn't know her as well as I wanted to - we live on one side of the globe and she lived on the other. She and Pappy came out to Australia a few times and we went back to Scotland when we could, which wasn't often. Distance is hard. It's easier now, with Skype and Internet, but back when I was small, distance was very hard. I'm not entirely sure she ever got over Dad immigrating. 
Distance is still hard. I'm thinking of Dad now, stuck in East Timor, so far from family. 
It's so difficult to believe you'll never get to know Granny, my little ones. That you'll miss out on so much. 
She was so lovely just to be with and had such a warm heart. 
She was greatly loving and greatly loved and if, when you die, people say the same my darlings, then you will have lived a good life. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Yay and yay and double yay.
The first (incredibly rough) draft is now done and dusted. Complete at 68,000 words (until I go in and ruthlessly cull) The Guardians of Lost Lore, Book One of the Emporium Sisters Escapades is now... done. My first completed manuscript in way way too long.
I didn't actually get it done yesterday. I finished it, blearry eyed and coffeed up at 12.46am this morning. And I wasn't actually wearing my lucky PJ's. I got back from dropping the kids off and it was so damn freezing that instead of changing back into PJs I spent the day still rugged up in the big bear coat and scarf, I'd gone out in, and even then the temperature dropped to Arctic if I moved 3 feet from the heater, so basically, I didn't.  My plans for coffee, cafe and a monster pack of minties failed, as I realised too late my Beloved still had my bankcard from when his card was less than healthy and there was no milk in the house. So I had to make do with the 3 in one hazlenut chocolate stuff I'd got from Aldi and had been thinking of chucking out until he came home and went on an emergency mission. The best laid plans!
But, on the plus side... my Beloved had remembered to cut my connection to the internet so my only form of procrastination was Foxtel. (On which subject have you seen the completely heart-rending documentary about the London girl who went back to visit relatives in Afghanistan? - I bawled most of the way through it. How can that kind of stuff happen in this world? How can people treat other people like that? But I digress.)
May I just say (again, I know!) Done. 
I hadn't thought I could actually do it. I thought I didn't have the time. I was wrong. I'd just been too scared to sit down and try. 
Of course the first draft is the easy part. Sitting down and editing it, going through draft after draft, getting fresh eyes on it and then pulling it into shape... that's the hardest bit. 
But it still feels good to have the sheer bulk of it, sitting patiently in my computer, the lump of coal waiting to be turned into a diamond. (I hope!) 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Today's the Day

Today's the day.
I've got my lucky, brand new,* pyjamas on. And while I may need to take them off to drop the kids off, I'll put them straight back on again when I get home.
There will be no tidying today. No washing. No dishes. (Okay. Okay. Maybe one load. One sinkful. One quick run through. But no more than that. Grrr. Get ye from my conscience dirty socks.)
I think (touch wood, cross fingers, walk backwards and hop three times) that I'm going to finish my latest book today.
After a long incubation, a rocky start when I decided I was writing in the wrong genre, scrapped the first 20,000 words and started again - she's finally on the homeward run. I've only got the last three chapters to write. And (thank you uni holidays and childcare!) a complete day to myself. And these chapters are the fun ones. Nell's quest  - searching for the mermaid's tear, the griffin's claw, the phoenix' feather, in order to get the ransom for her imprisoned sisters. And then the defeat of the evil merchant Mazarine - possibly with the use of latent were-wolf abilities. How fun is that?
It is possible that if I find I am procrastinating too much I will be forced (gulp) to go to a cafe to tear my link with the Internet. Sculling coffee and tapping away like a big person in a cafe, without fear of the sugar being thrown across the room or the table upended? Whoohoo. Be still my beating heart.
Today's the day. (Cross fingers, touch wood, walk backwards and hop three times)

*I do realise this means they have not been proven to be lucky, but I'm going to declare them lucky until they have revealed themselves otherwise. And of course, if I don't manage to finish up today, it's all their fault for their dearth of luckiness.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Did you hear that chattering? That's the sound of my teeth.
I've just been on the phone with the swim instructor, and our Sprocket is going to go up a class to have his lesson by himself - sans parent (O my little baby!) while Poppet still needs one of us in the water with her and will stay in the Infant class.
Which means... we'll be going to the swimming pool twice a week.
Which is nice in theory. But it's freezing. The water is (supposedly) heated and its an indoor pool, but there's a layer of heat on the surface of the water and then you step into c-c-cold. And it's not like we're swimming laps or anything. We're standing around in the shallows being a cheer squad while our wee ones amaze us with their brilliance. And my Poppet's lips turn purple.
The kid's class has been in the evening so My Beloved can come and we both have one kid to keep from drowning, and now we'll have two nights of classes... Which is... great... and exciting. But that dash from the pool, me (trying to run-with-straight-legs-so-I-look-like-I'm-walking) with all our bags and My Beloved with a kid under each arm, to the bliss and wonder of the shower is just... painful.
Recently, when I was staying with my folks in the Big Smoke, my Mum and I took the kids to the pool at Nunawading, which was enchantingly warm, and even heated to a great temperature out of the water.
On the other hand, our local pool here has a family change room, which has a shower with the best pressure and heat ever, and because there's four of us de-thawing under it, we figure we can stay in awhile. This is one of my very favourite times of the week. That wonderful, wonderful barrage of heat, instantly bringing us back to life and happiness! (It is odd how after you have been very uncomfortable, as soon as you reach comfort again the world suddenly gets a pleasant rosy glow and all-is-good)To see the little ones side by side with their little heads bent and their backs to the water is the cutest. Not so cute when they tell us to move over and stop hogging the water, but hey.
So I am excited at Sprocket moving up. I'm excited that we will reliably be going to the pool two nights a week. We really do think teaching the kids to swim and getting into the habit of exercising every week is mega important.
But brrr. I still shiver every time I think about it! 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Writing Muscles & the Science Museum

The kids and My Beloved went off into the Big Smoke yesterday to see things and meet people.
Leaving me at home to write. Yay! And... not that I'm feeling smug or anything... but I got 5,000 + words written. Which isn't a lot for serious writers, I know, I know but I'm slowly building up again. And I finally got round to doing some more crits on Scribophile.
And okay, I know it's quality not quantity that counts, but it still feels nice to be building up my writing muscles.
So while I was sitting cross-legged on the couch consuming vast amounts of caffeinated beverages and writing on a roll... here's what the kids were up to. (Again... with slightly changed colours when the lighting wasn't quite right!) Locations include the Science Museum, the Carlton Gardens and some random Melbourne Locations.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Just for the record, Fireman Sam was NOT present.

I recently started trying to explain to the Sprocket how he came into the world.
"So you started of really small inside Mummy's tummy and then you got bigger and bigger and then you didn't fit any more and then you had to come out," I told him.
"Ghee was in Mummy's tummy?" my Sprocket said. It was a concept he obviously approved of.
"That's Right. Sprocket and Poppet grew inside Mummy's tummy, but then you got bigger and bigger and you had to come out."
"Ghee was stuck in Mummy's tummy?"
Well, yeah. He really was. I'll skip that bit. Wait till he's had a few kids of his own before going down that route.*
"Well, sort of."
"Fireman Sam got Ghee out of Mummy's tummy!" my Sprocket proclaimed.
I suppose in Toddler World that makes sense. In My Sprockets Toddler World, when anyone gets stuck, or anything goes wrong, Fireman Sam comes to make it right.
But now I've got an image stuck in my head of Fireman Sam's cartoon presence in the Birth Room among the blood and serious faced Nurses and Doctors. Sigh.
Fireman Sam is coming to get me. Help!

Just for the record, there were a lot of people present when my Sprocket was born, but Fireman Sam was not among them.

*My Beloved and I were having a discussion last night about the Sprocket's birth. He's still convinced I can't remember it. His proof is, that if I did remember it I'd never have gone for a second. His theory is that the hormones wiped all memories from my brain. This is rubbish. I do remember it. I just really really wanted another baby and the chance of a little girl. On the other hand, My Beloved also believes that if I do remember it and still went for another I must be really, really daft. Hmmm. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

That Earthquake needs Quiet Time!

Last night after the great-white-wolf* chased us home from our evening walk, we were sitting in our living room enjoying being slightly warmer than when we were walking outside, when the light began to swing and the floors to shake.
My first thought, as this is mining country, was that there was an abandoned mine under us that was collapsing.
Then my beloved said 'earthquake' and I relaxed.
I've looked at the map. Australia is miles and miles from any techtonic plate edges. Earthquakes aren't really an issue. Or shouldn't be according to my basic geography-for-dummies.
The world kept shaking.
"Outside!" my Beloved ordered.
I looked at my Beloved.
Hello. It's only an earthquake. When we lived in the Pacific earthquakes weren't that uncommon, and never having experienced a big one, I've become blase.
But the light kept swinging and it struck me that our house is flimsy to the extreme so I grabbed up the Sprocket.
"Go get Poppet!" I told my Beloved.
My Beloved ran into our bedroom and got the pusher where our Poppet was sleeping and we all dashed into the front garden. And I noticed that the camellias were all moving as if there was an extremely strong wind.
Dogs were wailing their displeasure and we could hear and see neighbours up and down the street. The next door neighbour, knowing the extreme rickety-ness of our house, came to check on us.
"This is an earthquake, darling. Earthquake," I told the Sprocket.
"Call Fireman Sam!" he told me.
"If there's a fire, we will," I assured him.
"Naughty earthquake. Give it Quiet Time," he said.
"Good idea."
Then he wanted down and we had to keep stopping him from running into the still shaking house.
Eventually the world stopped moving and we deemed it safe to go inside. The Poppet did not wake up.
Inside we inspected all the cracks in the house, which we believed to be bigger, but weren't quite sure. A few things had fallen off shelves but we seemed otherwise whole.
My Beloved went online, but the geoscience site was down. Checking out twitter, he found that the quake had only been about 5.3 on the richter scale, but that we were about 19 k from the epicentre.
Now I wonder if my Sprocket will remember the night-of-the-earthquake-which-needed-quiet-time. Will it reach the memory vault, or not?

*The great white wolf is a neighbouring dog who I think is a cross between a samoyed and a wolf-hound, but I suspect is an oversized marema. He likes to go for solitary night walks. We often see him striding out of the mist towards us and I appreciate his fairy-tale aspect. He appears to be friendly, but we worry Issy will get a sudden misguided idea she needs to protect us. Once he finds us, he tends to follow us home.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Room of One's Own

"Ah. You were reading that feminist book this morning!" my Beloved interrupted my thoughts. 
And it's true. I was. I finally read A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf, which I have been meaning to read for a very long time. Now, as I have less time than ever before to write (o the glory days of high school!) I've finally sat down and done it. With a beloved daughter nursing through most of it.

And... it was fascinating.

A Room of One's Own is an early feminist book about why there were so few female writers pre 1928 (when Woolf was writing). No female Shakespeares or Donnes, no female Miltons or Wordsworths.

This has obviously changed, there are now a lot of female writers.

(And no Shakespeares, female or male. Let's just admit he was one of a kind. Sigh. But wouldn't a cyber-tech style Shakespeare be awesome)

But it was fascinating to read Woolfs reflections on the dearth of female writers through the ages. And I smiled ruefully when I took her point that the main female writers of the 19th century, Austen, Bronte et all were all ... childless...

Woolf's premise was that to write, (and by that she meant write well) you need an income of 500 pounds a year and a room of your own. Something females (and indeed most males...!) in the past were unlikely to get.

A quick google tells me that as of 2001 500 pounds in 1928 would be equivalent to about 200,000 pounds today. That's 400, 000 Australian dollars. With that you truly could devote your life to writing! Cleaners, cooks, nannies and yourself in your own (locked) and book-lined study contemplating the mysteries of the world and the perfect sentence. With occasional jaunts around the world for 'experience'.

My beloved Papa scoffed when I told him I was desirous of reading A Room of One's Own

He said Woolf was just another an upper-class snob. (Read in-bred and leeching the life-blood from the working-class.) 

And yes, sharing his background, knowing that when Woolf was demanding a room of her own and a substantial fortune,  most of our folk were working 14 hour days, 6 days a week on hands and knees down coal mines. I know she was writing for a teeny tiny minority.  

Woolf did however, mention Robert Burns as a shining example of someone from the working class producing brilliance -not only male and working class, but Scottish! Woolf admitted it was as hard for the working class male as it was for a female to produce literature. 

And if it was hard for a working class man that would make it near impossible for a working class women. Okay, I can't name a pre 1920s working-class female writer. Let's split the difference and call it impossible. (But please let me know if I'm wrong! I'd love to know I'm wrong!)

Time is necessary to writing, and time it seems, dedicated, private, thinking time, is a product you need to buy.

In the minority world, class has changed. Time has changed. Money has changed.

But to write, you still need dedicated, private time.

And it always has a price. It's still a luxury good.

My time will come. My beloved is studying hard to eventually supply me with 500 pounds a year and a room of my own. I get happy shivers just thinking about it. I can't say I'll produce great literature. But I hope I will produce thoughtful and creative literature. And I hope I remember those who are still waiting for a room of their own. Although to be honest, my  (our - ahum) money will go on schools, libraries and healthcare (particularly maternity care) in the majority world.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Would the world really go nuclear every month?

So my beloved was driving me to work today and we were just randomly talking.
"What do you think the world would be like if women ran the show?" I asked.
"You mean apart from the world going nuclear every month?" he said.
He forgot to put on his P.C hat this morning. I glared at him.
"Hey, just for three days of the month," he modified. My glare did not lessen.
He tried to be serious. "Hon, just from my observations, in general, women don't seem to take the emotion out of things that well. If you're dealing with countries, that's not good." *
"But you're assuming that if women were in control there would be countries. I'm not sure there would," I countered. For that matter, I wasn't sure if we'd have gone the nuclear route either.
And I went back to thinking about what a women-created world would be like.
Would we have moved on from tribal? Would we have moved on from tribal but decided nations were a waste of time and we were all just people?

What would it really mean for women to be in charge... or even equal?
For women to be in charge childcare would have to be better for one.
I think there'd be a national service - or worldwide service if we had forgone nations, of childcare. At 18 every one would have to do a year of kiddy-duties. Possibly two, depending on demand.
Now, I did think perhaps teenager should not be trusted with toddlers, but if we trust 18 year olds with guns and tanks, surely we should be able to trust them with toddlers and pre-schoolers. After training of course. With supervision... Think how parenting skills would be improved! I could definitely have done with more training. And I did a heap of babysitting growing up.

Nurturers would be lauded. The people who heal and teach would be honoured.
Work hours and school hours would co-incide better. Sport would be thought frivolous (apart from ice-dancing, yoga and gymnastics and bushwalking) and clothes would be serious. (Or would they?)
There would be a holiday every year to celebrate the people who invented the pill.
Would people in the majority world be better off? Or would women be just as ego-centric as men?
I'm fairly sure there would be a lot less domestic violence and murders. Work loads throughout the world would be very differently distributed...
This is a subject of interest to me at present as the book I'm working on centers around a world that has been created by the imaginings of a family of women over 1400 years. If women imagined a world into being over hundreds of years - what would it look like? What would it's strengths be, it's weaknesses?
Would it really fall to pieces every month? (Well no, they can imagine anything they want. In this world - those little flowers you eat to get rid of PMT actually work.)
It's an interesting task. Imagining perfection is odd, but it's good to have an idea as to what to work towards in this world.
Ideas would be good. Lots of ideas.
A perfect, female-imagined world - what would it look like? 

*Please note, this 'just from my observations' is from a guy who would not accept 'fire is hot' unless there was quantitative, not qualitative, evidence based on thousands of randomised-blinded trials, and all confounding variables had been eliminated. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

It's Raining, it's Pouring...

It's raining, it's pouring... and we're off to the beach!
We're taking an abbreviated long weekend to head down to the shore for long lovely windswept walks, sand-castle building... and maybe a bit of blustery paddling.
While in my youth I never let a mid-winter go by without a midnight swim, I find old-age has blunted my hard-core tendencies. I may paddle. Paddling may go thigh high. I doubt further. And it won't be at midnight. Goodbye glory days, hello days of grubby kisses!
I miss the girl I was. But I love the kids I have.
The skies are heavy and laden, the car is even more laden. Soon we'll be driving through rain and night and then opening the door to smell the wild tang of sea and coast and settling into our little coastal home.
Hello Sea, hello storm, hello open-fires, here we come! 

Thursday, June 7, 2012


"Frog went walking on a summer's day, ahum, ahum-" I sing.
We lie in the dark. A child is curled in either arm as I sing my little ones their goodnight songs.
"No! Baa!"my Sprocket demands. Unfortunately, my audience appear to think I'm taking requests.
"Baa Baa black sheep have you any wool, yes sir-" I switch songs obediently. It doesn't seem to be a big deal.
"Hum!" My Poppet requests shrilly.
"Frog went walking on a summers day, ahum-" I switch.
"Speckled!" My Sprocket orders.
"Five green and speckled frogs sitting on a speckled log eating the most -" I start again.
"Row!" my Poppet demands her song of the day.
"Row row row your boat-"I begin.
"Baa!" The Sprocket interrupts.
"Please," I interject, finally remembering I'm supposed to be teaching them manners.
"Please," my Sprocket repeats, humouring me.
"Baa, baa black sheep -" I sing.
"Hum!" my Poppet yells.
(Repeat X 3)
"Enough! No more frogs, no more hums and no more rowing. It's sleep time now and we're going to have sleepy songs!" I finally explode. I take a deep breath. Breathe out.
"Hush-a-bye, don't you cry, go to sleep now little darlings, Hush-a-bye, don't you cry, go to sleep my little darlings."
They protests and make desperate calls for amphibians and oared vehicles. I cruelly ignore them and stick to lullabyes. And soon, my little ones are sleeping.
I love a dictatorship.
It just works. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Med Student Stuff

Yay! My beloved is on holiday! Three semesters down... only five to go, all going well, touch wood, cross fingers.  We're getting close to the half-way mark. Happy, happy, joy, joy.

This is for you my Sprocket and Poppet. If in future years you want to know about your daddy's med studies - this is a little time capsule for you. The song is a spoof of one that was big last year by a guy called Goyte (a Melbourne guy - mummy is proud of her compatriot) and it references many of the current buzzes - words with friends, facebook, etc which I know you will think are extremely ancient!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Mama Bear

There is snow on the mountains near us and the morning temperatures have dipped to a brisk zero. Walking up to the gym or driving to school in the morning the fog is such that sometimes I can't see 10 feet in front. Winter has come. Loud sing Cuckoo!
Cold toes and the chill leap into the shower are not-so-amazing factors about winter. But... hot chocolate, hearty stews and soups, the welcoming lights of our home wrapped in mist, fluffy socks and winter coats are all things that make me go awww.
And... playing at Mama Bear. Our culture doesn't really do co-sleeping in the main media. But... I do love having my little ones close on cold winter nights.
I love the conversations we have in the dark as we hold hands and discuss the day and what tomorrow might bring. I could wish I didn't have to sing Five Green Speckled Frogs quite so many dozen times, (although let me put this forward as proof that at one time my kids enjoyed my singing. I expect it won't last long!) but having my not-so-little-ones tucked close, safe and perfect and funny and mine is infinitely precious.
I like knowing that all around the world other mums and kids are curled together - it is only the rich that can afford separate bedrooms for kids and adults. Us 1% of people with multi-bedroom houses are not the norm. In yurts in Mongolia and huts in Africa, in high rises in Beijing mothers and children are sharing breath.
I like to imagine my line of maternal ancestors, stretching back into the caves, mama and kidlets all wrapped up in bison fur, listening to the owls hooting and the mammoths trumpeting by. "No, Othook! We do not poop in the cave! The pooping place is 200 metres from the river. If you remember not to Poop in the cave for ten nights then daddy will give you a sabre-tooth tiger tooth!"
Warm and snug in our den, cozily cuddled, I love playing at mama bear with my two little cubs.

*Waking up in the morning, stiff from having a little foot in the small of my back and one arm numb from being lain on, is not so pleasant, but that's another story.