Monday, May 31, 2010

You might as well live

The thing is, I need a list.

I have a list on my desk every morning. I write it last thing before I go home the day before. My list can include simple tasks like "read papers", "file" or complex tasks like "check appeal - details Dom after 2" or cryptic things like "Day Adv inq - LFM June 16 - pros for AStatF".

I have lists for my my home life too. My grocery list says things like this:

*cranberry cereal
*work milk
*narnas (aka bananas).
*geggs (aka eggs)

My wardrobe list, which I write about every six weeks and is supposed to guide me effortlessly and stylishly through the upcoming season, says things like this:

*Blue pinny
*Beige pinny
*silk cotton crew neck
*Narna tee (aka Banana Republic tee shirt)
*wool tights
*Bally boots
*other Bally boots

..and so forth. It reminds me what I have and what I like wearing. It enabled me to get up extremely early the other morning to go to the Trash and Treasure market, all kitted out in a frock I had tucked away at the end of last winter:

Here's a close up of the pinny (or pinafore, if you will). It's a corduroy number I bought off a local ebayer for about eighteen bucks:
Here's a list of what I was wearing that day:

Tee shirt: Banana Republic
Dress: Cue, from eBay
Tights: COS
Bag: Mulberry
Boots: Bally , second hand, eBay

My clothing list at the moment is big on tights, boots and dresses. I have a work version and a home version. It was thrown in to chaos today when I was wandering around Sydney's CBD and came across this on sale (in a very big way - $40 reduced from $150) in a local chain store called Witchery:

That's a pretty tragic photo of what is actually a rather lovely blush-coloured rayon dress. Here's a close up of the smocking panel on the front:

It's a very soothing flattering colour and a wonderful shape - straight up and down, loose, suitable for strolling around estates with a parasol, playing croquet with my chums and Charlstoning. I will be wearing it for none of those activities, instead opting to team it with rather rugged plain accessories.

When I finally get my head around this dress it will appear on a list thus:

*peach smocking dress
*peach silk slip
*brown wool tights
*brown Marc Alpert boots
*cream crew neck
*red faille bag.

It might take a month or so though.

As I recovered from the chaos of an unexpected dress I went scouring for a copy of Harpers. US and UK magazines are available in Australia, but the up-to-date ones (that is, available here about a week after they hit the newsstands in Ohio or York) are zipped over the globe by air mail and cost a bomb - up to twenty dollars. I limit myself to Real Simple, Harpers, British Vogue and Lucky. Today, however, my list was challenged again when I found this:

It's a new British magazine with a very different attitude and much more stark copy than the usual run of magazines. It looks distinctly smart and not at all patronising. I am inordinately excited - I rather fancy myself as a bit of a gentlewoman. The proof, though, will be in the printed pudding: I will report back directly.

Oh, and I also got this with Some Blonde on the cover:

I had to. It was on the list.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

There's no other word for it

It's been a busy week. I write my firm's newsletter and by the time I finished that this week I could barely bring myself to sign my credit card receipt when I bought a small bundle of distracting magazines at Borders yesterday. I've recovered and have even been thinking.

One of my favourite things-to-think-about are the eBay purchases I'm expecting this week. Mostly they're wool dresses (one cherry, one navy & black, one brown pinstripe pinafore, all bargains) but I also bought a copy of Bill Bryson's new book about the history of all the things we have in our home - forks, pepper, wash baskets. I love those kinds of inconsequential details. Thinking about home got me thinking about the Brontes who shared such love and did so many amazing things in their humble homes. It got me thinking - why haven't I read the Tenant of Wildfell Hall? I surprised to learn I didn't already own it so it's due here this week too.

I kept thinking about home, the love you can have in homes and the form that love takes. Then I thought about the specific things that are in my home that I love: flowers in vases, a fresh cup of hot coffee, having a shower, fresh sheets, my favourite pasta in my favourite bowl.

And that leads me to why I hate Valentine's day. I refuse to celebrate it and long ago banned my spouse from even buying a small dandelion on February 14. I hate seeing love presented as a sickly infected package, one that anyone can have provided they pay inflated prices for inbred roses and a fatty over cooked meal. One that requires effort only one day a year.

Real love, the proper kind, takes effort and thought and sincerity. It doesn't come in the shape of some noisome teddy with a battery operated heart throbbing on his cheap nylon chest.

To my mind real love is the quotidian details. It's sharing the housework, watching the news and sharing outrage or relief about the same story, making the bed you share together, sharing the care of your noxious and ungrateful cats, knocking on the door and saying good bye when you're leaving for work and your partner is still in the shower.

It's remembering to buy their favourite fruit for the week when you buy the groceries.
It's making their dinner, not just for tonight but enough to ensure two generous helpings for lunch this week:

It's buying the morning papers which your spouse has to read in order to start their day and coming back with a bunch of multicoloured rosebuds:

All these things happened for me this weekend, all without fanfare and without prompting. They mean more than a than a million of those forlorn teddies and their finite battery-operated hearts could ever mean.

I think love like that stays in a house even after the acts have been played out. They had that love in the Bronte house and I've seen that kind of love in lots of houses. You can feel it when you walk in.

The only other thing I want to add here is that my cat Ellie is turning out be a far greater pervert than I suspected. This week I caught her on three separate occasions, hiding in the bushes. Exhibit a:
Exhibit b:

She was watching the printers who work across the lane arrive for work. It one of the things she loves about living here.

What kind of love do you have at your house?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

But sometimes you do

You don't get any real signs that seasons are changing in Sydney. Summer starts making its intentions known in October and it's still pretty emphatic well into April. Right now, in late May (which is technically the third month of autumn) big patches of coloured leaves are only just starting to show up in parks and in my mother's new back yard near Lake Macquarie.

You don't often get real rock cakes either, but you can in the cake shop in the quaint shopping strip of my mother's new neighbourhood. You definitely don't get photos of these rock cakes because, so rare they are, we devoured them all before I could say, "where's my camera again?"

You never get to see bellbirds - they're very paranoid little birds - but in my mother's new backyard you can hear them continuously. Here's a couple of seconds' worth:

And you never, ever, go into charming little second hand stores and find a magnificernt wool crepe peplum jacket with a beautiful spray of coloured beads for fourteen dollars. You might find a silk scarf or an old bone buckle or a needlepoint glasses case perfect for holding lippies and hairclips ...

.. but the likelihood of finding such a beautifully preserved garment, one that you can wear tomorrow with a pencil skirt and snub nosed ankle straps, one that looks like it floated across the decades from the wardrobe of Julia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited straight in to mine is very remote.

But not impossible:
I had to do some photo manipulation to ensure you got the detail of the cut and shape. Note the built-in brooch of beading, which I feature in close-up:

There's not one missing, and they're all applied by hand.

I wish I could travel back in time to spend some time in Adrian's store. I bet he (or she) had some fabulous dresses and heard some excellent gossip from some of London's best parties.

I'm going to an afternoon tea party tomorrow afternoon, hosted by one of my learned and erudite friends who also is a fabulous cook. I will be making my entrance in Adrian's glorious peplum top. I am hoping I don't go unnoticed.

And finally, you won't find yourself surprised to learn my insolent cat Kate has found a new way to insult me without even opening her eyes.

I'm certain she is giving me the finger.

Monday, May 17, 2010

O Daisy of all the world!

Yesterday the inspiring Dorky Medievalist over at In Professorial Fashion very kindly bestowed on me a happy shout-out shaped like like daisy. It is her Eye of the Day award which brings me great tidings of giddy pleasure not only because I love her writing and style but because I really like daisies too.

Thank you Dorky!

I got up early on Sunday to go to a trash and treasure market in western Sydney. This had mixed blessings:

*I lost a very dear brooch, packed with sentimental rather than monetary value, somewhere amongst 500 stalls. Sigh.
*I had an egg and bacon roll for lunch.
*I met these two little guys, both of whom were for sale:

He's really enjoying that apple. This is a rainbow lorikeet - you can see them in flocks all over Sydney. They are even more beguiling in the flesh (or in the feathers, if you will).

Later we drove down to Port Jackson for a walk and possibly a soft serve ice cream but he bacon and egg roll was sitting in my stomach like setting concrete so instead I took time to admire this bloke - or possibly this sheila - wearing one of my favourite colour combinations:

I admired this bloke too, mostly because he doesn't moult or nip my fingers, but also because he's a great cook and makes me laugh frequently:

He blends in well, non?

All this fresh air and the lost brooch made me made me a little wistful so I came home determined to build a replacement for the brooch. I remembered a jacket, lovely nipped-in-waist coarse woollen 40s jacket I bought when Nat and I went on out on our play date. The jacket is very close fitting but a beautiful shape, all hour glass curves and sharp tailoring. The angle of the pockets are particularly pleasing and the colour! It's a lovely wintry moss colour with a matching lining.

It was made for someone with less inclination for egg and bacon rolls than me, or at least someone with an industrial strength corset. However, I'm not the kind of woman to let my waist line stand in the way of a fabulous jacket. Thus I headed for my What Do I Keep In Here Again? box and fished for a solution:

This is a lovely old enamel belt buckle that is aching to be used and loved again. Here is my plan:

1. Dry clean jacket.
2. Sit in front of TV, quaff a pot of tea and sew buckle on fresh green jacket while watching Stardust for the 58th time.
3. Wear jacket at earliest opportunity.

I will keep you posted. Literally.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

If only they came in threes

Not long ago my friend and esteemed colleague Nat sent me a charming email that said: Would you like to go on a play date to Surry Hills market this Saturday? A play date! The perfect way to spend a Saturday. Here's Nat at the markets ..

..and later enchanting a well mannered little dog who assisted in a rather outre boutique. He liked her grey Topshop silk dress and Mark Jacobs bag as much as I did.

We had a grand time.

There's nothing quite like Saturday. Thursdays come close and Fridays are nice because you can smell Saturday in the wind, but only Saturdays offer the full technicolour spectrum of rest, recreation and getting the washing finished that is unmatched by any other day of the working week.

And on Saturdays you can eat and dress a little more leisurely, more adventurously. During the week I wear black and grey suit things and eat my gravel-like breakfast and dull low-fat lunch at my desk while I curse all the newspapers (ALL of them) and answer my phone. On Saturday I favour floral frocks and boots and big vintage purses. I can eat breakfast twice or not at all, I can drink so much coffee my muscles twitch or I can take my time getting to a cafe that I knows makes an excellent beetroot, ginger and orange juice (you'd be surprised how nice that is). On Saturday you can take your time over dinner. You can stay up late.

There's a lot of choices available on Saturdays that aren't as practical during the working week.

Here's my Saturday breakfast which a lovely young woman in a Newtown cafe prepared for me at a very reasonable price:

Did you know cholesterol is that exact yolk shade of yellow?

And here is my Saturday night statement dinner. It says "No one can stop you eating a whole beetroot on Saturday":

Can I just add that this photographs includes evidence that proves I shelled one and a half kilograms of peas which of course you can only do on Saturdays.

Flea markets and Saturdays are always closely intertwined for me. Most Saturdays will find me a flea market sending out positive vibes for a liberty scarf, an Hermes belt and a pair of fabulous Maud Frizon wedges from the 80s. Actually, that's not quite true - I am usually sending out vibrations of thanks because I have found one of these things:

This belt was $30! I was shaking with excitement when I realised what I had found (and not because of all the coffee I had for breakfast either). Hermes issues a new African animal charm every year. They can be attached to bags, necklaces or belts. I am yet to find an Hermes bag (well, one that I can afford) at a flea market but I was thrilled to find this gorgeous dog collar belt complete with the elephant. I am hoping to find an Hermes tiger one fine Saturday.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frankly there might be hundreds

Not all my poems were turgid and angry.


The air sparkles with ice,

There’s a cattle dog on the doorstep.

She made a film of herself

storming down King Street

tearing her clothes off,

hurling them at strangers.

When she was in the facility she

grew obsessed by the bench

padlocked to the garden fence

she could see from her window.

She planned a film of that too,

with all her friends, one by one,

“Relating to the bench,” she said.

All of us, relating to the bench.

As if we could have her pain.

She comes in every shade of magic -

pigeon pink and green glimmering

teal with an orange shadow,

the grey and creams and red of sandstone,

the heavy bruise colours of Hobart when it rains,

singing with that voice of crystal and syrup.

I don’t know where I got her.

I can't remember when she wasn't there.

I do remember the flowers she carried

tiptoing down a corridor while I watched

from a distance at the shapes and colours

camaraderie might take as it approaches.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Pin it up

Brooches! I love them. I own dozens - enamel, marcasite, plain silver, a couple of gold, some prim, others are great big hand-print sized things. I am indiscriminate about where I will pin a brooch. Sometimes you'll see them twinkling on my lapel, other times I use them as a kilt pin and if I am lucky enough to go somewhere demanding sparkle at night I'll pin one to a head band.

My friend, work neighbour and colleague took this extreme close up of one of my favourites last week. He has a new lens for his camera and calls it a "glass". I find that expression charming. Later he enhanced the photo on his computer so my scar is gone. I was quite excited to see me scarless.

Mon brooch:

The vest I have pinned it to is a favourite, not only because it is merino wool and the perfect boxy shape, but because it cost me four dollars at the Newtwon Markets. The two necklaces are also flea markets finds from Surry Hills.

Monday, May 3, 2010

That's no lady, that's my cat

The other night I posted a picture of Kate wearing her die-now-and-bother-me-no-more-with-your-worthlessness face. I mentioned that I have another cat and I do, a much nicer sweeter little dumpling of a cat who reminds me entirely of a woman who works in a cake shop.

Her proper name is Elvira but it just doesn't adhere. She is Ellie mostly, but will answer to Elwood, Elephant, Elton and Eldorado. She had a brother Thor but they don't keep in touch.

Ellie was one of four kittens left in a carton in a car park in western Sydney. A kind person turned the homeless family in at a local vet, and he sent them to the Unwanted Cats Unit at the local council. They in turn farmed them out to the Co-ordinator of their Look After Ill-treated Cat Families department and she advertised Ellie and her siblings on the Internet.

Clickety click and she came to live with us. For her first three days she lived on top of the skirting board in the dining room behind a huge cupboard. I don't know how she did that except she was very small. At any given time of day I could walk past and find my sweet spouse or Kate sprawled out flat, peering in under the cupboard, trying to coax Ellie out. She took her time, adapting to her living environment inch by inch: first she slunk out and sat near the leg of the cupboard, then she extended her patch to include the dining room table, soon after she walked around a chair and a month later she ventured into the lounge room.

These days Ellie's quite the traveller and also, I suspect, a pervert. She spends a lot of time on the front verandah hiding behind pot plants, ogling passers by. She is not a big cat, her legs are quite short and her nose is the colour of a pencil eraser. If Ellie were a person I suspect she'd look a little like Sherilyn Fenn in Twin Peaks and a little like a lady who works in a cake shop, all perma-wave hair and a full pouty mouth full of lipstick but not suggestive and not, well, sex-kitten like. Ellie would wear floral shifts and kitten heels, a pinny when she was in the kitchen and a scarf around her head, knotted under her chin British Royal family-style when she went to do the shopping. She'd carry a hand bag and not a shoulder bag. In her purse there would a be a lipstick - probably Max Factor - and a clean hanky.

She'd volunteer at the local Church too. Church of England, possibly.

Here's one I prepared earlier

I used to write poetry. This is one of them.


1. Your Last Letter

It said you’d arrive on the twenty sixth

So we got the room ready, the wine,

The loaves, washed the dense cream cotton sheets.

I bought fresh flowers.

On the Sunday there was a picnic for you with

coloured cupcakes while the leftovers from Mass

headed home, children rooted by silence

In that clear May day that stretched across the park.

Everyone was glad to see you, thrilled by your

outcomes, arms outstretched, the gaudy icing,

admiring the baby.

I left early to walk home around the ribs of a bay

filled with fat fish tense as fists, tuning their

colour to the pumice grey of the silt

in the oddly clean salt water.

When I stopped they flicked away but if

I made my observations walking they ignored me.

I was their landscape.

All the way home it bothered me that I’d

come to your party laden with cheer and cakes

but no children, nothing to offer but

an opportunity to hold and observe that

loathsome vulnerability. Then I decided those fish,

they could swim out to deeper cold water

but they choose not to, or they can’t.

2. Checking the Future

My Tarot reader dealt the Empress

and crossed her with a Knight

then asked me, nervous, was it possible

I was pregnant from that loaded winter night?

All afternoon the cartoon images are with me:

crossing calm waters, nine empty glowing cups,

the holy glitter of the moon, a pretty woman

with flowers in her hair turning her sad face

Ffom a decent younger man.

Death, the Hanged Man, peals of

flames ringing from the Tower,

a thousand shiny grubs weaving

sticky strings around my womb. My tarot reader snaps

The last card , says the produce is spoilt.

Ditch it, she advises from her shrivelled mouth.

The waste, that waste, ditch it.

3. The Contract

For the last time, it makes no difference.

Phrase the question any way you choose

and the answer is still the same.

There are no children and there will not be.

True, we filled our lives with other things

but some ugly nights I lie along

your heavy hot back and think of all

the things I deny you. You don’t stir

from precious private sleep as I drag

my nails tenderly down your spine.

If I die beside you, drinking your scent,

cooked in your heat, basted with oils of your skin,

our friends will perform the autopsy. They’ll

scrap you from the rubber of my lips

and find your perfect cells under

the horns of my fingers. That’s love,

they’ll say. I’ll stink of it.

4. The Birth Notice

We’re due for a baby in our family soon.

No blood relative of mine but bonded by law.

Still, I see your skin in his skin

your eyes confuse me, you laugh his way.

Such a simple thing. It’s in all the books.

I’m contemplating your growing dome and the

fast slick cut with opiate as I wander the graves.

In the corner the pinwheels spin.

St Gerard Majella takes benign watch

Over scores of small tended plots. I’m in the

burial ground of another culture, cheerful slaps of

colour and epitaphs that read like pleas,

pinwheels stuck at random like wild flowers.

St Gerard has a prayer for desperate women to

beg for strength in the pale hours of birth but there’s

nothing he can do if no one hears. So the pinwheels spin,

False buds hopeful amongst a yard of unanswered prayers.

In the awful silence of the eerie crèche everything

recalls the first cry that couldn’t be crushed from the tiny chest -

the closely cupped head flushed with lustral waters,

the tiny who stayed for six weeks or nine days

or three hours, the pitiful bleak who never stirred.

The parents made ink marks of their cold feet and

still hands, gave them names, rocked their cribs, visit them yet.

Summer’s coming, you’re thinking of trousseaux.

You show me the small knitted jackets you made

with sugar coloured wool. I pray to St Gerard

as I walk away from the pinwheels

and praise your skin and laugh, how it will live on.

How powerful blood can be. How lucky and blessed

You are to bear your first baby in a hot Australian Christmas

when the flannel flowers bloom and cicadas shrill in the yellow heat.

copyright baxter 2009