Friday, December 31, 2010

Come in, sit down, have some cake

The clock is ticking fast in Sydney; 2010 is slipping out under the front door for all time, while the Year of the Rabbit has snuck in around the back and is about to undo the latch.

I started this blog back in February with the sole intention of posting travel photos for a couple of colleagues. It turned out to be a good deal more fun than I envisaged, and the communication with so many clever people was an added bonus. That these delightful clever people have publicly declared their allegiance as followers is a never ending source of pleasure to me: that eight of you follow me is at least eight more followers than I expected. Thank you all for coming by, and thank you too for not only reading the posts but taking the time to comment. Your thoughts are regularly the highlight of my day.

Allow me to offer you a rainbow lorikeet as a token of my esteem and gratitude:
And to you lurkers - thank you also for taking the time to read! Few things can remind you of your place in the world as quickly as noting that someone in Germany, Brazil, Malaysia, Slovenia or Lithuania has taken time to read about my dresses. (Seriously - Brazil! Lithuania! Slovenia! Brazil! Germany! Wow!)

Please accept a lilac rose with my compliments.
Special thanks to and, both of whom have posted links to the Shillings on their blog. I send you a magical singing chicken with gratitude:
I hope you, the lurking countries and Charlotte, Shybiker, Sheila, Lawyerdoll, Jenarcissist, E-Dubs, D-Med and my learned friend Luke will now join me for some cake. It's made with real cream.

But just excuse me a minute while I unlock the back door.

Gravity and waggery

Christopher Smart is one of my favourite poets (ticks all the boxes: complex, given to madness and visions, wildly competent with metre) and his piece for his cat Jeoffry (his spelling), from the Jubilate Agno, is one of my favourite poems. I also like cows and was reminded of this the other day when I met four - the two up there, and their neighbours across the road who wandered over to see what all the fuss was about.
And it got me thinking of cows, and one thing led to another and I next thing I know I'm writing poetry like I swore I never would again. I thought I'd sneak in here on the busiest night of the year when no one is watching.

For I Will Consider the Importance of Cows (after Christopher Smart)

And their ready-made suede.

For they are large and imposing.

For they have no desire to impose.

For they stare at you benignly.

For they chew their cud with care.

For they bring forth little cows.

For they share their thick milk

Hot, shiny, and capped with fat cream.

For they stand with full dignity.

For they do not resent the sun.

For they will move for the barking dog.

For they will not budge in the rain.

For they are often the perfect chestnut colour.

For their delicate feminine legs more than amply support their ponderous weight.

For their tails swing like fine chains.

For their udders hang like church bells.

For they are utterly unconcerned.

For their eyes are black and dull

Yet they notice all things.

For they are peaceful and meditative.

For they have always been.

For no time has been unhindered by cows.

For they are sacred in some lands.

For they, the cows, do not care either way.

For they live on farms.

For they are too docile to be feral.

For they are civilised and composed.

For they have an expanse of teeth.

For they choose not to bite each other.

For they prefer harmony and bliss.

For they become a vast range of foods.

For they become stock in soup.

For they are the meat in curries.

For their butter covers breads.

For their cream thickens custard.

For they are in pies.

For you can serve them hot or cold.

For they become clothes.

For young people learn to walk in shoes borne of their skin.

For older people stay warm in their supple skin.

For most people carry their goods in their skin.

For some people lay their skin on the floor, near the fire.

For they are large and can moo.

For they moo to communicate.

For they will not moo in malice.

For they are gentle and gracious.

For they graze, and sleep still on their feet.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

So various, so beautiful, so new

We took a day trip down to Nowra on the South Coast. The South Coast is serious dairy country covered with cows and studded with lots of little seaside villages that are currently filled with people making summer holidays.

I kept my wardrobe very simple.
The jeans are J Brand (the style is Steve), the Birkenstocks came from eBay, the white blouse was on the five dollar rack in a local hippie store. The bag, which is hard to see but nonetheless sitting on my right is a Vivienne Westwood and one of the great thrift store finds of 2008. It cost me $12.00. My swimmers (just visible under the blouse) are from the Land End catalogue, a document which brings me great joy now that our dollar has parity with the US dollar.

I'm chilling in black and white next to the old Culburra lighthouse. Sadly this lovely building is abandoned; the trash inside suggested that it provides privacy and shelter for local teenagers.
For me it provides a bit of fuel for the imagination wherein I somehow magically inherit the old building, restore it and spend the rest of my days preventing shipwrecks.

Oh, and here's a better look at the bag. For those of you who love Vivienne Westwood, note that she even gives a waist line to the simplest messenger bag.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Every baby rat counts

From an early age I was adamant I'd never get married. My views were cemented in my teens when I stumbled across, and managed to comprehend mostly, books including The Female Eunuch, The Women's Room and The Feminine Mystique. I was lucky enough to meet a decent man early on who was keen to get married but not keen to push an issue to which I was so opposed.

So we lived together. We had a tatty couch, lots of spag bol dinner parties and sardonic cat called Biskitt who liked to set up her own indoor safari parks. We were forever tracking down and releasing some terrified piece of wild life Biskitt had brought home for her hunting pleasure. (For the squeamish amongst you I hasten to add that well-fed, middle class Biskitt never managed a kill.)

One evening it was an infant rat, trembling behind one of my chatty chain store cushions. My partner fetched his heavy canvas work gloves from the car, the pair he uses when working in the bush, and retrieved the little rodent from its hiding place. He held it up gently, smiled at it and then carefully turned his cupped hands to me so I could see it too. "Isn't it beautiful?" he said softly.

I knew there were few men so kind and so gentle who would see the value, purpose and aesthetics of a baby rat before releasing it safely down near the flour mill at the end of the lane. I decided that if I were to sign a legally binding contract to declare my exclusive alignment to anyone it would be such a man.

That he turned out to be the kind of man who would order from London a rare Mulberry Bayswater, the elusive one designed to carry the Macbook his clumsy disorganised wife lugs to and from the office on a regular basis, is an added bonus.

And as for his perfect choice of stocking stuffers - well, sometimes you just get lucky.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What's not to like

Christmas was a very happy affair in my corner of the world. It started on Christmas Eve, when we had the first feast with my sister in-law, her husband and three sons. My oldest nephew - just turned ten - made excellent biscuits that he served us with coffee after his mother had fed us a beautiful meal of pork and vegetables.

This young man is promising to be a great cook as well as a prudent housekeeper. Here he demonstrates a perfect use for the leftover chocolate ganache that filled the biscuits:

As always we celebrated Christmas Day at our house with many portions of both our families. It was bright and sunny but not too hot to make quaffing kilos of roasted meats and plum pudding difficult.

The highlight of Christmas for all of us is my mother-in-law's pudding. My brothers start inquiring about the pudding from about September onwards.

You have to be quick to see the pudding in all its glory. It doesn't last long.

If you look closely you'll see the washing up piling up in the sink in the background. Here's where I make my Christmas confession: I actually enjoy the clean up.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas in what ever way you chose to mark the day. Tomorrow's post will be about the gifts Santa left; as always he met and exceeded my expectations.

Did you have a lovely Christmas? What happened?

Monday, December 27, 2010

There's a pawnshop on the corner in King Street east of Petersham

I have always wanted a gold toe ring but the few I have seen are garish, ugly, too overpriced or not really gold. To compensate for this tiny gap in my life I often have my toenails painted gold, especially in summer. I once read a woman describing gold polish as making her toes "into ten little jewels".

Last week I had my toes gilded and later, hurrying to meet my spouse, stopped short at the window of a pawn shop. I've passed this store many times but have never been charmed by the jewellery in the window. To be fair, they've never displayed a gold toe ring.

It was twenty five dollars. I thought it was worth that alone for perfect match it made with my toenails.

And grateful too for sunlight on the garden

To describe the last couple of weeks as hellish would be to call the Titanic a boating accident. Suffice to say I am very glad to have a few quiet days ahead of me.

There will be tea, at least three books and an assortment of magazines that feature little text and many coloured pictures:

I expect the occasional visitor too.
This chap showed up in the bathroom last night. Several minutes' discussion ensued as to his heritage. In the end we agreed that neither of us have a clue what kind of spider he is. Mr Multilegs was escorted gently from the premises and introduced to the enormous tree up the yard.

My only other task during this lovely holiday period is to re-educate Kate about sleeping on clean washing or on my clothes. This effort is working out great for her ...

Not so much for me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

When tunnels meet beneath the mountains

This time of year is gorgeous. If only all my current circumstances matched the weather.

I worked yesterday (is there anything more drear than watching Sunday slip by through your office window) and today I faced the consequences of some bad decisions not once, not twice but three times. I ask you: is it better to say sorry too late than never say it all?

I'm not certain there is a right answer for that. There is, however, the remnants of a rather wonderful Saturday to consider:

Milk, no sugar.
My new silver pendant from Etsy. I love Etsy so much that I sometimes fantasise it's a country I might emigrate to one day.

The skirt I wore on Sunday as compensation for having to spend a glorious day at work. I love the colours.

It was a $4 find at the Buddhist op shop. I only bought it for the colour, because the shape didn't suit me - at least not until it occurred to me that I should just have the skirt hemmed. Sometimes the truth is hidden, but when it comes to cute vintage skirts I believe the bleeding obvious is the often the right answer.

My hydrangea, which has survived some of the most awful attacks from my over-zealous gardening brother. (One of my brothers makes random visits to my house when I am at work and tidies my garden for me. He has nearly killed this plant three times. Each time it manages to right itself and goes on to bloom like this, although lately I fancy that it stares at me from under its leaves, muttering "You people are PEASANTS.") (But yes, my brother is fabulous.)

And I started a new journal. It was supposed to filled with sharp, tender, wry and entirely original observations and yet today - six pages in - I find it filled only with the poems I swore I was never going to write again. I don't know how that happened; I keep thinking I should file a report about it with someone.

But seriously - is it better to say sorry too late than never at all?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

So many miles before I get to sleep

The holiday period is approaching. I can't quite see it in the distance but I can hear it. It sounds like a clean house, decidedly un-suitlike clothes and impractical handbags covered in roses.

I love needlepoint purses so badly that a while ago a few of my friends planned to stage an intervention. It would have made no difference. This one is a particular favourite. The woman who sold it to me insisted the original owner/maker was an airline pilot in the Second World War. Sometimes the thought thrills, other times it seems unlikely.

No matter. It is a wonderful purse.

These grand old purses frequently include a small coin purse of matching taffeta tucked inside. Not this one. I like to think the owner stared defiantly at her needleworking mates, squeezed her mouth very tight and declared, "The hell with your taffeta! My coin purse will have roses too!"

And it does.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The kind you hope for

This is my new boxy black blazer from the Cat Protection Society Op Shop. It is made from a lovely dense wool, is fully lined and features real buttoning cuffs and patch pockets for handkerchiefs and emergency liquorice all sorts. I would dissolve into a small gelatinous mass if I were to wear it in this current weather so it's on ice, so to speak, until at least next May.

I buy something from the Cat Protection Society Op Shop whenever I can, partly because they have good loot but mostly because they do a sterling job in caring for cats. For many years I was the chief carer of Chloe, a lovely talkative calico cat who was also entirely deranged. She once took up residence in the wood cooker and could be rarely persuaded to step outside. At the height of that particular bout of madness she even took to taking her meals in the oven.

Once she moved into a disused factory nearby and no amount of coaxing, fish snacks or warm cosy beds could keep her home. She seemed to adopt a strange new homeless cat persona and would take off, back to her cardboard box in the factory, as soon as my back was turned. Eventually some nearby workers, unaware of my efforts to keep my cat in her own home, assumed the mental cat was a stray and took Chloe to the Cat Protection Society. I didn't know where she was for two frantic days. I called vets, some entirely uninterested police stations and a lost cat service. I tried the Cat Protection Society in desperation. The lady who answered was very kind. "Yes, I think we have your cat," she said. "We certainly have one who talks a lot! !" When I arrived to collect Ms Fruitcake I found her in a very swank top floor cage apartment, laying back and smiling like Lana Turner might if someone turned her into a cat.

"She's treating it like a spa holiday," another nice volunteer said. Chloe greeted me with mild condescension, as if I was a service worker she might have employed years ago but could could barely remember.

For all Chloe's lunacy, I was grateful for her safety, and grateful too that she had been cared by people who liked and understood her so well. As discussed yesterday, Mr Zucchini has a new home but here are others who are in need of some assistance:

It saddens me that I can't gather up all the Darias and Soda Pops and rush them all home to live with me, but it's nice to know that they are being cared for with patience and kindness.

And here's Chloe in the early stages of her mind-over-matter phase, sleeping on rocks.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Devils, rocks, deep blue seas and hardplaces

My apologies for the delay - I was trying so hard to post regularly. Sadly my day job was dishing up twelve flavours of stress and unhappiness for a few days; happily it is mostly resolved now.

In my last post I said I'd talk about kindness and I intended to hinge this on Mr Zucchini, the optically challenged homeless cat. Mr Zucchini was in need of kindness soon.

I've have been the recipient of a lot of kindness this week - nice friends who excused me when I wasn't' able to make dinner, sweet colleagues who called with genuine concern in their voice to help with an ugly workload. It makes a difference. Today my boss kindly gave me the day off so set about issuing my own forms of kindness in the form of some comfort food
and a bit of human contact.
Summer has started in earnest so while I ate my body weight in Vegemite toast, I sorted out the clothes that afford the most comfort in Sydney summer humidity. So tomorrow I'll be wear this
.. a polished cotton Jigsaw shirt dress the colour of rockmelons, fresh from the dry cleaner's plastic. Shoes undecided but I'm hoping for something that mismatches my angel-wing toes completely.

And this afternoon, I went to check on Mr Zucchini and to my horror his photo had been taken from the window. My fear was short lived - the nice woman at the Cat Protection Society told me Mr Zucchini went to his new home on Saturday. He was very taken with his new owner and jumped from his cage straight to the their neck. It sounds like the start of a beautiful relationship.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And I wore a trench coat and all

Here's what I didn't look like today, which is a pity, because I adore this look.

No amount of lacquer, threats or patience would persuade my hair to adopt that soft tousled perfection.

But I can guarantee that this is the bag in which I take my clothes to the dry cleaners. It's also a very handy fleamarketing bag, and one that interests a lot of people. Its origin is a frequent topic. Sometimes I say I bought it in a market in Ohio, other times I claim it was my mother's, depending on how irresponsible I feel. In fact I bought it on eBay for four dollars. The postage was eighteen dollars, and that satisfies me enormously.

I didn't look like this today either, which is simply unfair.

That smashing, early Wonder Woman pose on the right is expertly executed by Norma Shearer in The Women, one of my all-times favourite films. If you haven't seen it you must, not only for the razor sharp dialogue but for the fabulous clothes.

I have limited patience with films unless everyone gets to the point very quickly and has an interesting wardrobe.

It is ridiculously wet in Sydney at the moment; I have a range of early summer frocks hanging sadly in my wardrobe, waiting for their break while my black trousers are working overtime. Tomorrow I might wear a boxy jacket I bought at an op shop and if I do, it will give me the opportunity to rabbit on about unexpected kindness, how much I like pockets and this bloke: