30 July 2008

bumps, lumps, watersheds

Under the influence of the needles, I've begun to muse how my current knitting jag is a metaphor for my life right now. I’ve been clinking along something like this: knit a row, gather speed and confidence, blink, mysteriously lose the bundle, get dispirited, give up and slunk off in the direction of the habadashery. Two days ago I tried carrying on from the point of give up. Somehow, miraculously, I resurrected the critical mess I’d made. A watershed.

Since then, I’ve been knitting like a steamtrain.

Though riddled with errant purls and unidentifiable stitches, beanie is swiftly evolving into something that resembles the beginnings of a garment. And I am snowballing. For example, I mysteriously completed a row with 103 stitches instead of 100, and then identified and ditched the three extras in the following row. Just like that. For two nights in a row I have corked my needles because it was time to go to bed… and not because I’d done my blink and lose it trick.

I will try not to gloat, since the task before me now requires changing to a new pair of needles. Then knitting a whole row and purling a whole row, instead of knit one, purl one, and I'm afraid that if I can schwing the needle swap, my hands will revert to autopilot. I smell doom. (Feel free to jump in here with any advice - please!)

Anyway, perhaps the metaphorical stuff is a little subtle. Suffice to say that learning to knit, with all its bumps and lumps, is spookily similar to the pursuit of life after desk. And perhaps by the time I finish the beanie, I’ll have found the warmer climes of my dreams and can lay my hat. (Literally, because I won’t need its woolly warmth!)

27 July 2008


It’s been an a-ha! kind of weekend. Revealing. Satisfying. And not.

A-ha moment #1... Like someone with a rare disease who finally stumbles upon a name for it, I can finally, belatedly, satisfyingly, explain my current bent for baking, knitting, herb-growing, etc. (Today’s etc being learning, sort of, to prune fruit trees at the Toora Heritage Pear Orchard.) I owe this one to Michael Pollan, whose food ethics titles I’m working my way through, but specifically, to the account of his experience building his own writing studio. With his own hands. Pollan being about as tool-handy and buildery as … well, my 19-year-old arthritic cat. As a writer, Pollan mused, he is invested to his armpits in thoughts and words and purposeless abstraction. Often not even creating new purposeless abstraction, but reconditioning other people’s purposeless abstraction so it better serves its purposeless... purpose (aka editing). So when he needed a work-from-home space, he decided to build it himself. With his own hands. He explained the impulse as a lust for something grounded in reality. Like wood and hammers and chisels and sweat. (Or flour and seeds and wool and pear trees.) To create something with his own hands that he could touch and walk into. (Or eat or wear or grow.)

A-ha. As you can probably guess, after spending years writing and reconditioning purposeless puff that often as not ended up in recycling bins, many bells did ring in my general vicinity.

A-ha moment #2... Yesterday was unbelievably sunny and warm. It registered 22 degrees outside. (About ten more than usual.) I read in the sun all morning. I thawed out. I even took off my socks and rolled up my jeans. Then I went for a walk (after failing miserably for weeks to goad myself into a decent forest tramp). I walked and sang. I felt light inside. What was this strange sensation? Oh dear. Or should I say, a-ha.

You see, for months now I've been denying the significant influence the cold weather is having on me. (But this is my home state!) A little swab of sunshine and I'm able to function without internally bracing. Frolic instead of waddle (it's the 13,001 layers). Smile. I guess this is what a real winter, after six years without one, feels like. So I’ve realised – belatedly, grudgingly – I cannot function in this part of the world in winter. A far less satisfying realisation than the first. And one I must do something about. Grrr. Maybe I'll do my tax first...

23 July 2008

knitting for dummies

I’m writing in the flush of learning a new skill… knitting! (Not the most intuitive segue from the chainsaw, but a segue nonetheless, by a former desk-drone endeavouring to become at least mildly practical.)

Recently a friend in Briswegia sent me a granny pack - four balls of yarn, a pair of needles, photocopied instructions and good luck vibes. I quickly discovered that knitting is a left-brain activity and submitted to the wisdom and white hair of the Yarram Spinners – the local spinning/knitting/crocheting group.

That was last week. I emerged from their clutches with two new sets of needles, some grey tweed wool, the suggestion of a grey tweed beanie and a contact list including two Beryls.

When I got home, I set straight to work in a determined attempt to maintain momentum. That's when I discovered the super-meditative qualities of knitting and got into a positivity thought-loop that went something like: for $3 a pop, I can learn to knit, make something to keep me warm AND enhance my inner calm! I was so deep 'in the zone' that when something house-bound hoiked me back, I must've blinked and dropped a stitch… or something equally dire. Pursuing the buzz, I continued in denial, only to discover ten minutes later that my ‘knit one, purl one’ was completely out of whack. I was purling where I should have been knitting and my beanie had turned all poo-shaped. My zen calm shot to bits, I corked my needles and noted the need to learn how to un-knit.

During my Melbourne interlude, my knitting nanna called to check my progress. Since the group only meets once a month, she suggested I seek help from the local habadashery. Which I did today. The beanie is back on track. I feel confident. Because next time I fluff it, I have my knitting nanna's phone number. And the amused attention of the local habadashers. Who, I suspect, don't yet realise they've just become my personal
Knitting for Dummies support group.

22 July 2008

weekend in the big smoke

dawn smudge and a bleary-eyed bus ride.

small glitch at my accomms: no one home to let me in!

gawd how I miss this place. real coffee and real food on every corner.

light and shade. rain. sun. rain. sun. ah, must be melbourne.

tree baubles

upside down palm tree shadow in lake

laneway commissions... bah!

cheek and jowl

sport enough for me

maybe i could live here again?

16 July 2008

cousins rock*

Oh. My. Lordy.

You know your whinings about cultural/financial states have reached a new kind of pathetic when your cousin who has just returned to Melbourne after a long expat stint and is living with one of her relics and her lifelong housemate who she left back in Queensland send you a care package. With really expensive wine and six ‘every day’ wine glasses (one for every day of the week minus one dry day), Ethiopian organic fair trade chocolate, fluffy polka-dotty bed socks, Full Terry socks – exactly who is this Full Terry? – latest editions of Grass Roots and other “vego-leso”** reading material and incense specially brewed to ward off depression!

The booty came in a big box, masquerading as a water-saving shower-head. Naturally I paused to consider last week’s flurry of internet trawling but couldn’t recall ordering any shower-heads. Come to think of it, I can’t recall ordering anything online since Operation Tightwad kicked in.

My reaction upon knifing open the box went from befuddlement to glee to guilt: "This is not a shower head. This is wine and chocolate! I am not worthy!"

You see, I, dubious cousin that I am, have not called J to support her through the return to Melbourne in winter and moving in with a relic phase. I, dubious cousin that I am, even got a twitchy lip when she called last week to chat to Mum and not me... it was amidst the swathes of bubble wrap that I realised she had called Mum to check our postal address.

[pause for emphasis]

I feel like someone who drank an awful lot, made a right ass of themselves, forgot what an ass they were because they drank so much, then got a really bad hangover and whined loudly about it til someone bought them a year’s supply of Berocca to shut them up.

I love the care pack. I am so not worthy. J and L: you can ride on this for a very long time.


It’s been cousin-central around here. We just spent a lovely weekend with my Long Lost Cousin, her boat-building beau, their cute little z and my uncle. There was food. There was wine. The Wombles theme song even made an appearance. Read about it on boat-building beau’s blog or b's blog... (exactly how did two people with a small child beat me to blog it?).

Well that’s it for a bit… I’m wambling off to Melbourne for a few days to imbibe by a fireside amongst fellow editors, stalk the Slow Guides publisher, drink wine with old friends, run amok at festivals and trawl op shops and bookshops.

*housemates, partners and babies of cousins rock too, it just didn't fit so well in the title.

**kudos to J and L, this is their genius catch-all for minority groups like vegetarians and lesbians.

10 July 2008

de way forward

It’s been like a dirt bike buzzing up behind me for a while now. (An actual scenario happening with irksome regularity during forest walks of late.) The realisation, that is, that I have far too many interests to keep a proper handle on any of them. Now, I know that’s probably a very slow realisation since for the past year I have been making a conscious effort to de-specialise and diversify… that is, in a way, the whole point of Life After Desk. A few income spinners, more de-light, less boredom, greater durability.

Eggs in baskets, fingers in pies, irons in fires... I got ‘em all: blogging here, blogging there, pitching saleable writing, spreading the freelance word, doing stuff for free, filing rejection notes, photo shoots, photoshopping, card-making, notebook crafting, keeping an eye on job ads, playing Bingi help desk, keeping fires going (actual ones), tutoring, reading the gazillions of emails I subscribe to, dreaming of new ways to sustain Life AD, etc. And I haven’t even mentioned food yet. Or the other secret squirrel Grande Planne which I’m yet to commit to the page here but am squandering hours on nonetheless.

I’m not sure how I managed it all whilst chained to desk. (Though I’ll admit to doing a bit of blogging here and a bit of online banking there. During lunch breaks of course.) This diversification bizzo is also a bit scattered. Whole days get de-railed. (Though I guess that’s not so different to a morning email from the Minister’s office requesting a parliamentary statement on the reforms to social housing in discrete Indigenous communities by COB along with dot points on something else and figures on a third thing… but at least then I had someone else to blame for my day going skewiff).

It's also kind of de-pressing. But if I light enough little fires, and run in circles fanning flames... and hope and beg and PLEEEAAAD and hope and cross all crossable body parts and sing to the moon… that one will eventually catch.


Since I’m on the topic, has anyone been watching the Passionate Apprentices doco on SBS? I was completely transfixed by the baker on tonight’s ep who makes all his stuff by hand, built his own masonry woodstove and supplies his own garlic/parsley/eggs etc from his garden and whose dream is to grow his own grain, mill his own flour and bake it by hand...

De-specialisation. De-lovely. De way forward.

08 July 2008

lucie's drawers

I’ve never quite managed the whole online social networking thing very well. Born in the wrong generation or something. People must think I’m immune to their free beers, baked cakes and thrown sheep. I try, but I’ve always felt time spent Facebooking etc is time not spent doing real stuff. But this morning, something turned. I spent a good half an unplanned hour ambling through a friend’s Flickr photostream. While I should have been doing other things. It was like peeking through Lucie’s drawers. My, she has style to burn. I was so inspired (and ashamed of my own disorderly drawers) that I spent the rest of the morning organising and updating my photostream. Well, it’s a start. Since that dispensed with the morning, and I'd remembered Donald's last name, I did some more trawling and tracked him down to either being a traffic consultant in Perth or a minor league baseball player!

07 July 2008

newspaper neck

Monday morning. Still a free woman. (By the skin of my teeth.) I should be more impressed than I am. But I’ve arisen with newspaper neck after spending a very large part of yesterday hunched with my snout in the papers. (With any luck, there won’t be much call to look/turn/swivel to the right today.) And I’ve got no idea what to do about the competition (possibly the worst idea I’ve ever had, along with drawing in black pastel on the carpet in Prep*) since one MOTH has started pretending that the rest of the household does not exist. Oh the extreme joy of living with one’s parents. Those stores of positivity I boasted are threatening to leave the building. And I, too. For it’s high time to get cracking on something new. Somewhere new.

But let me recount the MANY reasons to be positive: 1. I’ve started tutoring. 2. Dumbo Feather winter issue is out, featuring two small pieces by moi. 3. Surprise gift in the mail from Ren – knitting needles and wool! 4. Op shop thermals from M. 5. Wangling myself a coffee introduction with the Slow Guides publisher. 6. Upcoming trek to the city for the Melbourne Festival of Travel Writing and Melbourne Design Market, on the same weekend... I may need an oxygen supplement. 7. Anticipating the ONE year anniversary since Life After Desk began (not to mention the fancy bottle of fizz that’s been patiently waiting in the back fridge for an occasion).

I’ve been very much admiring Leunig’s meanderings of late. Especially since he meanders so well about frustrations with modern life and the interminable depths of a southern winter. I marvel at his ability to muse so gently and endearingly about the stupidity of contemporary social conventions and the impossibility of human relations and the bristling cold, etc. And sound deeply sensitive and intelligent while getting his gripe on. At the risk of adding envy to the list of unbecoming traits I’m airing… I want to be him!


*Dear Mrs Walker. That big black mark on the carpet in your Prep year in 1980 was my fault. I don’t know what came over me but I do recall feeling kind of demeaned by being asked to get on my hands and knees and pretend to be a vacuum cleaner and pick up craft litter from the carpet. And the pastel remnant was just there. Apologies to Donald (can’t remember your last name), the snot-licking class clown who copped the blame for it. But you are now probably some hot software entrepreneur with a little off-the-grid pad up in the Daintree where you grow mangoes with your woman while I envy from so very, very far away. (For international readers: the ‘preparatory’ year is in between kindergarten/pre-school and school.)

04 July 2008

week one update

I’ll start with a small clarification, since my thought loop (a few posts back) went directly from a gripe about Life After Desk to an apology to Members of the Household – the link between which was probably not sparklingly clear. Probably because my brain seems to have frozen over in the struggle to continue functioning through my first proper winter in six years.

For some time now, the relics and I have been nudging the maximum duration for successful offspring/parental cohabitation. Noted through excessive grumbling, sniping, etc and aggravated no doubt by my growing frustrations with Life AD. Hence the cartwheel from general gripe to apology to MOTH. Which then kind of tumbled with a half pike into a competitive bid to calm domestic relations.

So, now that is all clear, an update. All MOTH willingly entered the competition, though with not quite the enthusiasm or robust start I imagined. Day One began with strong winds, a power outage and Domestos-clean floors. My hard won Domestos-clean floors, the icing on the previous whole day's cleaning binge. I crawled out of bed in the dark and got the woodstove burning. The elder relic arose and (in the dark) fetched buckets of water from the tanks. Creeping through the kitchen like an overgrown hairy Vietnamese woman, he promptly spilled a bucket all over the kitchen bench, chairs, chair pillow things and... my Domestos-clean floors. And every inaccessible, unlit crevice within a three metre radius. (And, since my bread-making efforts began, I have been astounded daily by the inordinate number of flour/water/seed-retaining crevices in this kitchen.) Naturally, this was followed by much grumbling and mop/bucket action by us both. Then, instead of giving up like any normal person and retreating to his cornflakes, he went to fetch wood (still dark), and shimmying back through the house, dropped a log... sprinkling bark and log dust all over my increasingly un-Domestos clean floors.

Since he had not yet read and accepted the invitation to compete – and I was still too bleary-eyed to be aware of the date – we turned a cheek on the morning’s grumblings.

I'm loathe to admit that the household has turned many cheeks since then. Grumblings have continued with much the same frequency and force, but are now followed by earnest murmurs from at least one MOTH of "but the competition". We are all supposed to be judges in this quest, and as we are each reluctant to annoint anyone else a loser, our lenience in this regard indeed reveals highly sophisticated diplomatic skills.

See? Silver lining, or what?! I have stores of positivity! Stores, I tell you!