Showing posts with label home. Show all posts
Showing posts with label home. Show all posts

Monday, December 21, 2009

The old locked trunk in the attic

How will it get there? Take a boy, a messy bedroom, and a friend who is having a clear-out as she moves house. She gives the old trunk to the boy, and he fills it with toys and games he no longer uses: old note books, perhaps, and comics? Intrigued to have something that locks, he locks it. Several years later, as he is, himself, having a clear-out of sorts, he realises he has (a) lost the key, and (b) forgotten exactly what's in the trunk.

I'm reluctant to force open the lock: it's a beautiful old trunk. It's just possible we will move it upstairs to the storage space in the roof behind our bedroom. It will go nicely with the boxes and boxes of Lego that have recently been moved up there, boxes into which J has tucked a note to his future self: a kind of time capsule.

And there — voilà! — we will have our very own old locked trunk in the attic.

Monday, May 25, 2009


Such an odd thing. After two months of apartment living, using the loathsome dryer, or draping clothes from hangers and on the tops of doors and benches, and after months of drought, I've just had to run outside and bring a load of washing in off the line. The rain isn't heavy, but I bet after all the dust and dryness in the air, it's filthy, so I'm pleased to have everything dry inside. And then I heard a little rustling in the piles of autumn leaves, and the little cat Mima was also making a dash for indoors.

A lovely domestic routine, breaking up a day of writing on Chapter Three. Time to stop soon, anyway, to be a good mother and make raspberry friands to serve at the Middle School production of Grimm's Fairy Tales tonight. Joel and Meg, cast for their twin Germanic blondness, I'm sure, have to play Hansel and Gretel very straight, as the witch, a less than German-sounding boy called Paddy, is apparently show-stealingly hilarious.

But such a pleasure to be writing, and really feeling I am starting to finish some of these chapters. I've sent the Preface and the first two chapters to friends to read, too; another sign of finishing.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Home; or, a friend in the supermarket

It was a long day. Flights and connections were smooth, and we travel enough to benefit from (or pay for) tiny increments of ease and comfort: shorter check-in queues, access to the British Airways club at JFK, seats at the very front of economy with an extra two inches of knee room. Travelling Qantas all the way also meant we had only half an hour at LAX before we started to board. Travelling with each other meant no one had to think twice about climbing over, or being climbed over by family members for trips to the bathroom. We all slept for a good chunk of the LAX to Melbourne flight, and then I watched the surprisingly good Twilight over breakfast. Even so, there's no denying that 21 hours of flying, plus all the packing, waiting and queuing (especially at Melbourne: it took ages to get through all the queues), makes for a very long day.

Being home again is just lovely. I walked into my pale green study and sighed with happiness. Joel headed straight to the piano. Paul headed for the garden. And then I found the little cat, drinking fish-flavoured water from the pond in the back garden. She's so old, now, she doesn't bear grudges any more when we go away: she just seemed happy to see us. We went to visit Jean, who is quietly awaiting the results of tests last week. We went to bed at 9 and slept through till 7.30 (well, those of us not getting up at 4.00 am to go back out to the airport, that is).

This morning, as I promised myself, I worked on my Garter book, then went shopping. And the first person I found when I walked into Piedimonte's was my friend Paula, home from work to look after Lucien, who'd just had three teeth extracted, the poor thing. There's nothing like the comfort of finding a friend in the supermarket to make you realise how much you miss the networks of friends and family.

My new resolution is to write and revise in the morning, but in the afternoon, to read and do chores. So now I'm going to process some bills and write some emails, then have another look at Paul Veyne's Did the Greeks Believe Their Myths?

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Well, it's a long flight home, but a happy one. Avoiding the drama of the plane with the big hole in it, our flight was on time and without incident, touching down at what would have been the civilised hour of 8.00 p.m., but for the fact of my case being on the very last trolley load off the plane, and me being at the wrong end of a 25 minute queue in the quarantine check-out. So I didn't get home till 10.00. Peter brought Joel home ten minutes after that (Paul is away for a bit: back very soon), and it was wonderful to see my boy, so tall and strong he nearly bowled me over with his bear hug.

We had hot chocolate and exchanged stories for an hour or so, then I slept, woke at 5.00, and then again at 8.00 and walked up to Ceres to let the chickens out (a fortnightly commitment to a co-op in an environmental park). It was lovely to be on the creek again, to see it full of water, and to see the golden wattle in bloom. In the garden at home, the hellebores and daphne are flowering, and best of all, last night I heard the little "cree cree cree" of a frog. I didn't blog when next door's cats caught Herbert last year: just too sad. But this was definitely the same species, so it seems as if Herbert's mating calls did have some effect... I think this one's probably called Herbert, too.

It's too wet for tennis, so it's a day for laundry, sorting out the travel receipts and preparing for the week ahead.

Friday, July 25, 2008

From the Heathrow lounge

So I wonder what demon made me open up my laptop and check the news while I wait to board my plane, so that the first thing I see is a picture of a Qantas jet on the flight I am about to board, a day later, with a dirty great hole in the fuselage, and a report of a terrifying 20,000 foot drop. I'm kind of pleased, now, I wasn't able to change my flight and go home a day early...

It's been such a mixed trip, with the first week of misery and homesickness and depression gradually giving way to the pleasures of intellectual and social exchanges, some productive research, two intriguing conferences, and a good chance to throw around some ideas and plans with various folk. I've had lots of good ideas, and was treated last night to an Australian barbeque with my sister's family in Barnes: fantastic steaks, sausages, salads and Taittinger (courtesy Tom, of course!), and then a concert from my incredibly talented and lovely niece and nephew. Imogen and James are both accustomed singers, but just stood up and sang for the group with such aplomb: I thought I was bursting with pride till I looked over and saw my sister's face.

I've bought Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake to read on the plane, and am not going to do a skerrick of work. I'm going to watch a movie or two, listen to music, and just try and chill, as it will be a busy week next week catching up.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Picking up the phone for the planet

I've just made a great phone call. Within five minutes, all our domestic electricity is now solar powered!

We've always gone with green options for our domestic power bills, but yesterday we got a leaflet explaining the difference between accredited and non-accredited green power, saying that for the same modest premium we were paying we would have our accredited green power increased from 20% to 25%, but that our 80% non-accredited renewable energy (i.e. hydro energy from plants built before 1997) is no longer considered as helping to develop sustainable energy programs, and so is no longer part of the scheme.

So for an extra 5.75 cents per kilowatt hour, all our electricity will be provided from solar energy. We feel quite elated! It's not just the computers and our music and lights that we love: we also run two filter systems for fish, one inside and one outside, that pump water all day. It's wonderful to know that these are now entirely sun-powered.

We had planned to put solar panels on the roof during the recent re-building, but the cost was just too much for the final stages. We do have solar hot water, though, which has been great, and has cut the gas bill substantially.

The night after the federal budget, we had also been to a meeting in Fitzroy with a man who had left his executive job to start up a company that was gathering households in groups of fifty and ordering solar panels from China in bulk. With the government rebate of $8000, it would cost just over $1000 for a small house to have its own solar panels. But now that the rebate is means tested, it is just out of our reach again. We'll start to save, but in the meantime, we are happy to pay this extra premium. We'll try and keep reducing our usage, though — and now that we are paying more, we might be even more scrupulous about turning off the lights...

Here's the website of this government Greenpower scheme:

This move has come at just the right time. I have started to feel quite unaccustomedly despairing of our planet's future in recent weeks. I know that one household is small beer, and that industry and agriculture and air and car travel — and the general proliferation of ... stuff — are much more serious issues. But it seems impossible to do nothing, so trying to lighten one's ecological footprint seems a good idea.

Want to measure your ecological footprint? Go here. (If everyone lived as I do, we'd need 2.7 planets to sustain us: I was probably doing ok till they asked about air travel...)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Vigilantes R Us

Well, it was like this.

Yesterday evening I was out in the old studio in the back garden, helping Joel with his cello practice. As we came back into the house I heard a noise and headed down the corridor, and saw a man standing just inside the front door. The lights were off and it was still light outside so I couldn't get a good look at him. I said, with increasing volume, "Who are you? What are you doing in my house?" whereupon he froze, then turned and ran. Without thinking, I set off after him (in my socks) screaming at the top of my voice, "Stop that man! Thief! Burglar! Stop him!" He was much younger and running much faster than I could, and he crossed the road in the middle of the traffic, and headed towards the city. I didn't see anyone rushing out of the cafés and take-away places to grab him, and almost gave up, but since I'd stopped outside the pizza place, I asked them to phone the police.

There are always a couple of Italian boys hanging around La Sera, and I think they must have headed off after him. I was still on the phone when someone came back to say the guy had been caught, so I told the police and then within 5 minutes I could see the flashing blue lights of the police car, several blocks down. They told me later there were 3 or 4 groups of people who had grabbed the guy and were just holding him till the police arrived, and who have made witness statements. The cops then came back to our place, and examined where he had just shouldered the old wooden door (there is a security door, but because we were "home" it was open). We then went down to Fitzroy and made a statement, and the man has been arrested and charged.

What went through my mind? Nothing. It was a case of sheer maternal protective instinct. My house and my child were at risk, and Paul wasn't home: if I didn't do anything, nothing would have been done. I don't know what I would have done if I had caught him, but I am really thrilled that people on the street (it is a main road) stepped up and helped me. I remembered a story my parents told me about being at Victoria market one day and hearing all the stall-holders yelling out in chorus "thief! thief! thief!" as a man ran down one of the aisles until someone grabbed him. Honestly, it felt downright neighbourly around our inner-urban neck of the woods last night.

When I was on the phone, the constable said repeatedly, "Don't put yourself in danger", but my heroics were over by then. And the senior constable, and the constable who took my statement both said they normally counsel you not to get involved, but in fact they said "well done!" and "good on you" and gave me the thumbs up, so I was very pleased. I was also pleased I was able to shout. It's always my fear that if I'm attacked I wouldn't be able to shout or scream, but I was so angry that it was easy.

Joel was quite rattled, though, and so was I. We called in on a family who live a block away from the police station, just to make contact with friends, with warmth and food and a cup of tea. Thanks D and S: you are life-savers!!

Of course, as a textual scholar, I was intrigued by the production of text. The constable sat in front of a computer and asked me questions, and typed up "my" statement. Reading it, you'd think I was a completely coherent subject, whereas in fact Joel and I were full of nervous asides and doubts as we were talking. (I could see how medieval inquisitorial testimonies might be produced.) She asked me to look it over — we'd already had the obligatory conversation about her English teacher — and it was really terrific. Oh dear, though: I did correct a "were" for a "where". Oh well. I made up for that today by going on line to the Victoria police website and registering a "compliment" to the cops.

I'm going to nip down to La Sera tonight and thank them, too. What do you take the owners of a pizza place to show your gratitude?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Wade's Boat, Summer in Melbourne, and Four White Flowers

Another burning hot day in Melbourne. I spent a pleasant few hours this morning, though, in the State Library, comparing three — count them, 3! — copies of Thomas Speght's 1598 edition of the works of Chaucer (from 1598, 1602, and 1687); and for good measure, John Urry's dreadful but lavish edition of 1721. The Library has an excellent range of early Chaucer editions: a page of Caxton's 1478 Canterbury Tales, and six other sixteenth-century editions of the Works. I'm writing up a discussion of Speght's annotation to the mention of "Wade's bote" in the Merchant's Tale, and so I'm not really looking at the pre-1598 editions. The Baillieu Library at the University has another two copies of the 1598 imprint for comparison, too.

It's a lovely annotation. Chaucer's rich old man January determines to marry, but won't take any older woman.

I wol no womman thritty yeer of age;
It is but bene-straw and greet forage.
And eek thise olde wydwes, God it woot,
They konne so muchel craft on Wades boot,
So muchel broken harm, whan that hem leste,
That with hem sholde I never lyve in reste.

Speght comments: “Concerning Wade and his bote called Guingelot, as also his strange exploits in the same, because the matter is long and fabulous, I passe it over.”

In the paper I gave at the London Chaucer conference last year, and again in my response to Carolyn Dinshaw in Hobart in December, I looked at the responses to this annotation, particularly the vexation of commentators who cannot help reveal their frustration at Speght, so much closer to Chaucer than we are, but unwilling — or unable — to fill in this unknown gap. Robinson said, "it has often been called the most exasperating note ever written on Chaucer”. Various scholars have explored traces of the story of Wade, but the Merchant's meaning here remains relatively obscure. I myself think that's part of the point: I read the Merchant as alluding to women's knowledge, lost beyond all traces of official (written, scholarly) culture.

I am writing up this part of the two papers, which are both really more about multiple temporalities and the relations between medieval studies and medievalism, for the La Trobe Journal of the Library, so I am really focussing on Speght's edition and the kinds of knowledge it presents about Chaucer.

How lovely that these books are only a bike ride away (well, they would be if I could get around to fixing my puncture).

I got home early afternoon, to find Joel still in his pyjamas, playing his gameboy with Holst's Planets Suite roaring away at top volume.

Paul came home soon after, regaling us with the Kafka-esque tale of the day he had spent at the Customs Office, the Quarantine Office, and the Ports office, filling out a thousand forms, and commissioning an agent in Queensland to fax the forms back and forth, to take delivery of the large egg-shell laquer panels he had bought in Vietnam. Here's a glimpse of a lotus flower:

The sun is still really hot, as I'm writing at 6.30; and it's still about 34 degrees outside. I took these photos just a half an hour ago: here's a pile of white table linen, bleached and soaked and sun-brightened after the Christmas and New Year festivities, awaiting the iron.

These range from the long rayon cloth that I think was part of my mother's trousseau; the length of damask she bought at the Victoria market and hemmed up for me; and the round cloth she embroidered with white flowers for my 21st birthday. This photo was taken inside, but you can get a glimpse of the bright sun in that line of light along the floor.

Outside the garden is struggling, and I'm amazed to see the gardenias are still able to put forth their flowers. They last about a day each, flaring up in the intense heat and light of the day, and softening into a heady perfume at night:

And finally, the crowning glory (etymological joke): the stephanotis plant we put in last year has just started flowering.

Again, you can see how harsh the sun is, but these flowers have been out for several days now. Their fragrance is more delicate than the gardenias, but I have always wanted to grow these, ever since my father told me I was named after the Greek ho stephanos, "crown, garland". And there's the link to Pavlov's Cat: Y is it so? Naming Australia's women, 1950-1955. Yeah, she says I'm out of her chronological range, but I still want to play.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Man in the Moon

In our new upstairs bedroom, cunningly built into the old roof space, there are several windows that don't have any curtains or blinds on them yet, so we wake very early. It's a little easier, now that daylight saving has begun, but still extraordinary to wake in bright daylight around 6.00 am, after the relative gloom of the old downstairs room. I guess we'll put blinds or something up at some stage, but for the moment, I'm revelling in the pure bright light of spring, flooding one half of the room very early in the morning. I can lie there and look out at the chimney pots and tree tops and the enormous Norfolk pine two doors down.

But this morning I woke in a little alarm, feeling someone was watching me. It was about 4.00 a.m., well before sunrise, except for a bright moon, just on the turn to gibbous, shining directly onto the bed. I looked up, and for the first time, I think, could really see the man's face watching. It was too uncanny to dwell on, so I just went back to sleep, but the vision stayed with me all day, reminding me of the beautiful moons we had seen in the desert.

I mentioned it to a friend at work and he started musing about how lovely it would be if our planet had more than one moon. I mentioned that trashy movie Stargate, with its vaguely Egyptian styling, and the three moons that fell into position for some significant thing or other. He confessed he had even watched the trashy TV series, and, emboldened, I admitted I was watching Idol. But we all have our weaknesses, and this wasn't one of his, so we couldn't have a proper Idol conversation. But if you are watching, you might want to check out blandcanyon for a hilarious running account of each show. Brilliant.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Room - and a Bed - of One's Own

I spent the oddest morning chasing up bills and papers and receipts and passwords and forms. They were scattered all over the house — and that's after making sure I had gathered everything I needed from the office at work. OK, some people are good filers, and know where everything is. I admit I am always rather haphazard. But could someone who was a good filer experience a tenth of the joy and satisfaction that was mine when I did finally find the membership renewal form - in one of the dozen special piles of important papers around the house?

And in my defence, life is particularly chaotic at the moment: my work places are scattered between the dining-room table, the spare bedroom, the tv room and our bedroom. And why? Because I have no room of my own, temporarily, at least. Part of the house re-building we are doing involves my study:

you can see how deeply they have dug down below the level of the hearth. This is more than just re-painting; rather, proper re-stumping. These floors have been here a hundred years, and you can perhaps make out fragments of the original roof tiles that dropped to the floor as they were building.

I've also just now signed off on the upstairs room with builder and architect. Peter and Shannon have lifted the bed up the stairs and I'm about to spend a happy weekend, when I should be reading biographies of Shakespeare and his wife for a review I'm writing, moving our clothes and bedlinen and all that odd bedroom stuff upstairs. I have in mind a resolution to try and find a few things I no longer wear and no longer wish to keep. Paul is away, though, so I'll do it on my own and have a week up there before he gets home. How odd that seems; in that we have been sleeping for 14 years in a most ramshackle, run down old room with plaster falling off the ceiling, and yet he is not here for the big move. Upstairs is so grand I can't bear to move our random old bedside furniture up there.
Here are snaps of the ceiling in the old bedroom:

A serendipitous connection leaps to mind, though, between the work I'll be doing and the work I should be doing, in Shakespeare leaving his second best bed to Ann Hathaway. I'll try and find out more about this in between armfuls of clothes.

P.S. Here's what the other side of that pile of books looks like. Click to enlarge. What do you have on your bedside table?