I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


It's nearly three years since I blogged about my gorgeous ex-brother-in-law, Gow. I mentioned there his having come through a major health scare. Alas, there is every sign that his disease has returned.

Two days after I arrived in London, I met my sister after work at Green Park tube station (she works in a small investment bank in Mayfair) and we travelled north to Belsize Park, where he was in hospice care. It was a balmy spring evening, and it was a pleasure to be out of my usual Bloomsbury haunts and out into the leafier suburbs.

Gow was thin, and being medicated for pain relief, but his usual good humour and grace were shining through, though there were a few moments, I have to say, when we were all conscious of the gravity of his situation. His room was full of flowers, and he was having lots of visitors. He'd been out in the garden that afternoon, too. The hospice was clean and bright, and his room was lovely, but he had been there for a couple of months, while the doctors worked out what the next steps might be, and while he gathered strength for the next round.

He showed us these extraordinary collages he'd made, images of his internal organs and the weird eruptions the body produces: really, the art therapists must have fallen all over themselves when they met him...

 A close-up, to show you how he made these assemblages from rolled threads and twists of fabric:

 And my favourite, which I'm calling "self-portrait with giant medications."  In this one you can particularly see the influence of the blue and white Japanese textiles amongst which he has been living and working...
 And here he is, smiling through...

Gow is keen to go back to Japan, if he can, but at least the first step of that journey is complete, as I heard last week he had checked out of the hospice and gone back to his own flat in London. And his brother is moving back to London to New York to help care for him.

It was wonderful to see him, and to see how strong the friendship between him and my sister still is, after all these years. We are now facebook friends, and I said I would load up my pics onto facebook as well, which I'll do now, too. Keep on shining through, darling.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rejoice with us, for we have kittens

This has been a plan in the making for a month or two, now. I still feel the presence of dear Mima, and her photo is still attached to my computer screen. I also looked for her when I came home yesterday, after nearly three weeks away. But for a while now the house has seemed to lack a certain something; and yesterday we brought home two wee kittens, just three months old. One is dark brown, whom we have called Orlando, though I am already thinking of her as "the lady Orlando", as in Sally Potter's film. Here she is:

And her brother we have called... well, here's a question: should it be Wulf, Woolf, or Wolf? Which is the least naff? He has a tremendous appetite, so Wolf may be the most appropriate. But should we indulge the medievalism of Wulf? Or the link to Orlando of Woolf? Votes welcome!

And just in case there were any doubt about their utter cuteness....

Friday, April 22, 2011

Imogen and I go shopping

OK, I have been a very terrible blogger. Something about finishing my book, then really having to work hard to finish a big lecture for the Piers Plowman conference in Oxford (it may not sound it, but it was a huge gig for me), and various other tasks, have made it less likely for me to blog. Though I feel I may be getting back to it.

Starting with photos. Today I have spent a very pleasant day. It's my last day in London, and I slept in after getting in late from Rome last night.

Then Imogen, my niece, and I went out. We bought sandwiches and strawberries and had a lovely picnic in Kensington Gardens.

and then went shopping for her long-delayed birthday present. First I tried on a pair of shoes. You can't quite see how enormously high they were from this photo: they looked fantastic; and felt great too, except when I actually tried to walk around the shop in them.

Then we bought a pair for her. The poor darling has feet that are hard to fit: long and thin, like my sister's, and with the same long toes that she and Joel have, too. But look what we found: they are fantastic, and being worn tonight to a party with purple socks.

A very satisfactory aunt-niece day, concluding with an impossibly rich cold iced chocolate on the bus on the way home.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Friday night is pizza night

Most Friday nights, for the past sixteen or so years, we have got together with our dear friends: our mirror family, as I call them. Two academic parents, one blond child, and a bunch of similar interests, politics and lives. When various family members are away, we meet anyway. We eat pizza (or sometimes cook), we drink an extra glass of red wine, we eat chocolates and lollies. We argue, we laugh, we tell jokes. We look forward to it from Thursday evening, sometimes. Joel has his last lesson (piano) at 5.30 on a Friday. Once we pick him up, the weekend begins as he starts to relax, too. And when visiting scholars come through town, we love to welcome them along and induct them into Friday night pizza.

Last night was a mega-version of this ritual. The six of us were there, plus two of Paul's research partners and their partners, plus our neighbour, plus a visiting Candian, her partner and their twin daughters. There's a head missing from this photo, but this was fifteen people sitting down to eat pizzas from Al Albero (tiny pizza bar down the road: ring ahead and given them plenty of time, and pick up from the shop; ask for thinner base than usual, if you don't like a light but turkish bread-style base; recommendation? slow cooked lamb, or marinara with giant prawns and scallops). We had the twins on the old piano stool at the end, and you can see Joel and Eva, his Friday night sibling, on the left. Friday night bliss!