28 August 2008

score one, the regions

Last night the relics shouted me to dinner and a movie. Which on its own would be notable, given the extreme notability of any type of cultural excursion I make these days.

But this occasion belongs in the realm of Wonderful.

By some bizarre act of mercy, Son of a Lion came, for one night, to Yarram’s Regent Theatre. Which despite its potential arthouse allure (balcony seating, pressed metal ceilings, Bud Tingwell photographs on the walls) generally only shows crap.

Not only is Son of a Lion not crap, it is a beautiful story with stellar acting, gorgeous one-liners and a brilliant soundtrack. (And the story of its making by an Aussie paramedic is facscinating.)

That this subtitled flick featuring jellaba-wearing Pashtuns shooting guns and praying to Allah in Al Qaeda country screened the day before it’s national release, in the land of dairy farms where ‘F OFF, WE'RE FULL’ bumper stickers prove your manliness, was unfathomable.


I am further impressed to be able to label this post 'bingi' AND 'movies' (who woulda thought?)... and possibly creating a new category for my recent favourite list discovery: Stuff White People Like. (Think sushi, indie music and threatening to move to Canada/New Zealand.) I don't think there's a post yet for Middle Eastern Tribal Culture!

24 August 2008

potatoship to the camembert moon

Two weeks before departure for Cairns. Less, actually.

From my bolthole in the virtual Antarctic (aka southern Gippsland), I can’t quite grasp the subtropics. My disbelief starts somewhere around my ugg boots. And tapers off around my beanie. T-shirts and shorts sound about as appropriate right now, as, well… flying to the moon in a hollowed-out potato.

[Gah! Potato rocketship + moon-as-cheese = brain preoccupied with stodge! I know those moon mythologists have dibs on Swiss but I'm going for camembert. White rind. I think it works. Mmm, camembeeeerrt…]

Which brings me to my next challenge: getting my head around summer food.

To explain. I’m joining Pelican again (as cook) for a project with the Hopevale Aboriginal community. The itinerary goes something like this: Cairns-Cooktown-Cape Flattery-various islands-Cooktown-Cairns. Four weeks, a bit of sail training, a splash of kayaking, some turtle/dugong monitoring, digital storytelling, traditional craft-making... and boatloads of cooking.

So. I’m kind of hoping my kitchen mojo reappears. Soon. And in summer mode. About a month ago, some kind of evil winter slump repossessed my food inspiration. So I’ve been getting by on tofu stir fries and steamed vegies. Which I love. But not in a daily way! I suspect the mojo walk-out was in response to the freak-it’s-cold/regional-food-supplies-are-crap/why-am-I-in-this-puposeless-pit blues.

Am also hoping the four-hour flight triggers a reversal of hibernation-lethargy and reinstates former physical glory in readiness for the slog that is four weeks of creating food-love bounties from a rockin’ sweatin' galley.

But I guess this is all small fry. I'll be shootin’ for the camembert.

22 August 2008


I’ve just returned from two days at Churinga, where the Relics and I lunched last week. Churinga’s guardians are part of the WWOOFing fraternity and had invited me to come back for a bit of hands-on. I was told I’d be planting walnuts. Naturally, my rose-coloured urban brain imagined me begloved, kneeling in dirt, sunshine beating down, digging a few holes with a trowel and asking, ‘What next?’ with the satisfied glow of a woman who has just planted walnuts.

Naturally, it wasn’t like that at all. What it was like, was plotting an entire orchard of walnut trees. No, cancel that. A plantation of walnut trees.

Two of us spent the best part of one and a half days measuring and staking out where 50 walnut trees should go on a very large, steeply sloped, bracken-covered plot of land. We couldn’t even get a proper line of sight since there were trees to be felled. We got 26 in the ground. There were no trowels in sight.
Clearly, I still have a way to go on this urban to country curve.

But for now, you can call me Walnut Queen.

17 August 2008

inspiration and anti-kindness

Last week the Relics and I made an inspired house call. Up through the hills of Jack River went the little van, dodging wallabies and wedgies*, to Churinga: 85 acres of bush and home to a couple of Landcare-Greens renegades.

The vegie garden overflowed with artichokes and mountain pepper and raspberries and garlic and chestnuts and warrigal greens and rosemary and kaffir lime and grapefruit. Its views and bounty made me green. After a tour of the river, during which we released an anti-kindness**, witnessed the pulling apart of the turbine which provides them their power (!) and stuck our heads in on the nearly-complete cool storage cellar and fire bunker… we were fed an amazing home-grown lunch in a house made from reclaimed materials! Warmed by a glass of red and a kick-ass woodstove with a fandangly system which pumps hot water underneath the concrete floor!

We left with a heaving bag of lemons and grapefruit and John Ralston Saul's On Equilibruim, which is kind of like brain-citrus: a little hard to get down but good when you know to just approach it in small bites.

I have been invited back next week for some hands-in-dirt experience.


*Wedge-tailed eagle, an Australian bird of prey.

**A small native mouse. I suspect this is not its real name but this is what I repeatedly heard.

13 August 2008

old-school cool

When Safeway publicly apologises for its short supply of brocolli due to extreme cold weather, when the entire world around you scarfs sausage rolls for lunch, when the best thing about waiting for a train at Flinders Street is the passive ingestion of potato cake/salt-n-vinegar smells… perhaps it’s time to ditch that halo and get thee some old-school comfort.

Sometimes in life, the only correct answer is:

1. Risone with tuna and loads of melted cheese. My conscience was lurking from the sidelines so I had to put some green things on top – freezer peas are old-school good.

2. Butter-licious jaffles with baked beans. From a can.

3. Hot chocolate. With a choc royale on the side.

4. Peanut butter on toast. Forget chicken soup. This is the old-school antidote to just about anything.

Nanna blanket. Hottie. Couch and ... (still thinking old-school?) the Sesame Street Classics DVD set... which I won from the very cool folks at Three Thousand! It came today!

An excerpt from their review: "
A mood-disordered green hairy homeless person hanging out with a gay worm, a bird who lives in a vacant lot in Harlem, hallucinating that his best friend is a woolly mammoth, children going home with a strange man named Bob for "milk and cookies". A monster smoking a pipe while hosting a TV show - then eating the pipe."

The inhumanity of it is that Bird et al will have to wait, since I must make a hastily arranged day-swoop to Melbourne tomorrow - a seven-plus hour return trip. I will be a mood-disordered green hairy homeless person by tomorrow night.

12 August 2008

oh glorious productivity

Yesterday was about the most productive day I have had in aeons. After dropping the pee-anywhere cat off to the vet bright and early, I had three whole hours to fill before my knitting class. After a quick look in the opp shop (and another el cheapo woollen jumper score), I headed to the Federal Coffee Palace and plonked myself by their open fire. With laptop and caffeine I proceeded to work like a madwoman. At home, despite being stationed behind a closed door, my day would be about one part work to two parts tending fire and sixteen parts engaging with domestic life that refuses to believe in my ‘absence’ (a Snuffle-upagus case in reverse?). Then there’s time spent in the thrall of the kettle, which, thanks to its perch on the always-on woodstove, graciously affords a constant stream of little breaks. (Much like the always-on internet.)

FCP is my saviour. I did a full 'Bingi day’s' work in two hours. I will come back often. So what if it’s a 40km round trip? So what if they don’t have wifi (actually that’s a good thing, since internet access would’ve thwarted my blitzkrieg). At the very least, I will move my homebound workspace to the big caravan on the property.

But that’s not all. Yesterday I also finished my beanie – my first knitted project EVER! (Every time I enter her orbit, my knitting yogi apologises for starting me off on such a not-quite-straightforward project.)
See here.

On the whole, I'm quite chuffed. I'd like to wear it with the roll-up bit rolled down, but because it's got a bit more headroom than I can use, wearing it like that makes me look Smurf-headed. So I plan to tweak the design and make another.
After I finish the scarf I also started yesterday.

10 August 2008


Today is special. It may lack the ring of 080808, but today is my one year anniversary of Life After Desk. Woohoo! I have survived a WHOLE YEAR unrestrained by desk shackles! Before I march off to knitting class - it is also 'd' day for the beanie - I thought I'd share a few kernels about the quest for meaning, purpose (and income)* beyond the desk. Forgive me, this is about five different shades of nerdy. But I am in high celebration mode.

1. Do what you love (but don’t plan too much!). Never before has the universe responded so well to my lack of life direction and planning. I leapt into the fresh unknown with the unshaped idea to do what I enjoy. There were vague dreams of star-lit skies and open spaces. I bought a guidebook to Western Australia. Then mysterious planetary stuff happened and I stumbled onto Pelican. Literally. I spent almost the rest of the year at sea. Sailing. Travelling. Working for Indigenous and environmental issues. And of course, cooking. Kooky! All I did was fire off an email and two weeks later stepped aboard. The important lesson was to take the leap. You need to make room before new things can grow, etc.

2. Amazing starts are just that: starts. Equilibrium is nature’s genius. It's not all croquet and cloudwatching. I guess the past few months’ battles to gain a toehold in the freelance world were inevitable after such an effortless start.

3. It’s difficult to turn a lone cog. Come with me on this journey: we’re all cogs, we were born to turn. As a lone cog, you can no longer just turn up and submit your jagged little edges to the wheels of the great machinery. No. Like all cogs, you must turn, but you must find a way to turn yourself. And in the depths of winter, when you’re bogged in philosophical quandries about the purpose of cogs, when there are no other cogs for miles around, when you’ve been rejected by the big cogs, when you’ve exhausted your self-turn talk and even your cog-mojo gets disgusted and leaves… being a solo cog is No Bloody Fun.

4. Prosperity has little to do with numbers. (Beyond a certain point.) My income is a sliver of its former self. As is my consumption. Not to mention my ‘productive output’ aka the number of widgets I have birthed in the past year. But I have become so much more rounded, I am the essence of BALL.

5. I’ll have the …………………………………….. ? Too much choice confounds decision-making. For me, anyway, who can barely decide what to order for dinner (when I used to go out for dinner). Choice is like money (see above): you only need so much to be happy; the surplus conspires to remove your happiness. (It’s like we got smitten by money and choice and suddenly forgot about the law of diminishing returns.) Anyway, removing myself from a widget job was cake. Compared, that is, with choosing an alternative… and pursuing it with intent to attain self-sufficiency. Though I've narrowed it down a whack, I’ve been bogged of late in philosophical quandries about the purpose of work. Sometimes I think the answer is lurking at the other end of the sentence: what the world needs now is…

6. The nomadic thing sucks. Unless of course you have your own yurt, which would be cool, though not without its troubles if you wanted to pitch it in, say, Collingwood. After 18 months of living in other people’s spaces, what I miss most is my own. Life After Independent Habitation (I started cohabiting again six months before the desk divorce, for anyone paying attention) has flung a latent dream to the fore: to build my own house. Out of reclaimed materials. With my own hands. Where I will sustain myself by the freelance life and the bounty of the land. There is a bit more to it, but that’s the nutshell version. This is the oft alluded to Grande Plann.

So there you have it. That's what I learnt loosing the desk shackles. Maybe it doesn't look like much. But it's more than I had a year ago. And this is just the start. Now, where are those bubbles?

*My first learning should have been: 'Never Put Income in Parentheses', it is alphabetic feng shui. Or was my lack of income a result of my giving away my jade (aka money) plants when I purged myself of accumulated material crud?

06 August 2008

blog and a hard place

I find myself in an awkward position. And not just because I’ve forced myself to resume pilates – after a lull – against the every scream of my wintering body. There are roughly four weeks until the next Pelican job begins. And my need for purpose (or in its absence, something to do next) grows kind of desperate. You will heed my desperation when I say...

I’ve been reconsidering a temporary return to The Desk.

I know. I know.

I could not have planned this to be any more ironic than it is. Next week is the first year anniversary since Life After Desk began (timekeepers can be assured the desk-shackles were shed after the first week in August 2007, I was just a bit tardy setting up the blog). And what do people usually mark first year anniversaries with? Paper! Which, to the desk hound, is as nails are to the chippy. I am sitting amidst so much irony I could be a laundry-wench.

There is no question that I will still be liberating bubbles to mark the occasion. Even though it is not bubble drinking weather. And even though I may will have to drink them on my own, since no one here is fond of bubbles, and this could will be messy.

And I will still be sailing with Pelican. (For as long as they'll have me.)

I am not giving up the quest for an alternative existence. This is just me rationalising my need to squirrel away a few more acorns for Le Grande Plann (I will share very soon), by submitting to a temporary return to that forgotten shiny world where you can wear a dress and order coffee. Where you have somewhere to be and people expect stuff from you. Where it is not OK to wear ugg boots every day.

Maybe it will be called Life And Desk. Hehe!

04 August 2008

ding! dong!

The orchids are out, the wood ducks are a-nesting, the mornings are lighter. This can only mean that winter is on its way out. Ding dong to that! Both rain tanks are full and I harvested my first handfuls of coriander – planted from seed aeons ago – for a bowl of pho ga. Small things worth celebrating. I thought I would do so by sharing some recent finds/surprises:

1. Cousin J’s home-made bircher muesli, replicated by me but not as good as the original. Oats, dried fruit, water, fridge. Genius!

2. Yacon: like a crunchy, super-sweet potato. Perfect for my fave fast food: bowl of steamed veg.

3. Kangaroo simmered in a dashi-soy-mirin-sake combo with stir fried vegies and brown rice. How did I get into my fourth decade (ARGH!) before tasting dashi?? Probably the same way I left it until my second last day in Vietnam to discover jackfruit.

4. A 100% Shetland wool jumper in the throw-out bin at the opp shop, 50 cents. Hooray for the regions.

5. A sheath of dusky meringue light falling on the peak of St Paul's Cathedral with the boldest, thickest rainbow I have ever seen arcing over the building's side. Lines of people taking photos. Me? No camera! One of those 'I don't have my camera so I'll just have to appreciate the moment' moments.

6. The tax office rocks. These words are a meaty surprise, no? They have just rescued me from taking another slice off the top of my acorn stash. Never before have I witnessed the heaving cogs of bureaucracy work so swiftly in my favour. Never.

7. Someone I used to work with has packed up his family for instalment two of We Do Love to Sail Around the Med. Their modus operandi seems to be work for six months; sail for six. I do like it very muchly!

8. Natasha Pincus interview in the winter issue of Dumbo Feather (call me a nerd if you will, I'm rationing my reading to prolong the joy) which has made me think even more deeply about callings and creativity. Anyone seeking Purpose Angst resolution should read it. Though it may cause further angst. But you’ll be much better informed. Or something like that.

9. Always smile when there are cameras around. You never know when a previous employer will
stick your mug on a website banner.

10. Who the? What the? Gggghhh! Mwow. I was dreaming about moths and celery stalks...

How cute is he with his face all twisted like that? And I am posting this after cleaning two puddles in one day... one of which I unwittingly pushed a broom through and walked in. Ick! Either I am extremely forgiving... or I find this photo highly amusing.

a name for swollen knuckles

I may have been harping on about the cold. In case you missed it, my first southern winter in six years has been debilitating to any kind of forward momentum. (Except the forward momentum required to repeatedly reach into packets of chocolate covered Butternut Snaps.)

My acclimitisation has been made more tricky by certain household philosophies concerning wood and fossil fuel consumption. Philosophically I am the Queen of Conservation. I recognise the forests of timber required to keep the house warm. I try to participate in its getting. But I am physically struggling with limiting its use.

Since my return to Victoria, I’ve been the owner of several extremely swollen, extremely tender, extremely blue knuckles. Which have been recently accompanied by an itchy skin thing. The knuckle thing has been an on and off concern for a few years, but never this bad. Thinking I’d acquired a nanna disease to go along with my nanna hobbies (oh my god she can knit and drink beer AT THE SAME TIME), I trundled off to Melbourne to see a rheumatologist who did a good job of channeling House. With powers of deduction executed at the speed of light, I left with the happy verdict: not arthritis, but a legitimate aversion to the cold which manifests in swollen joints and chilblains. Raynaud’s disease – repeat, DISEASE – can be managed by maintaining one’s core temperature and avoiding exposure to the cold.

Let me say it another way.

I paid a very large sum of money to learn that after donning my indoors attire of beanies, scarves, multiple layers of thermals and armies (not quite fingerless gloves-not quite socks for arms), I have a medical reason to make greater use of the household’s available heating systems.

I also suspect that the management of my DISEASE might also require a minimum daily intake of chocolate. Chocolate being the food of choice for mountain climbers and extreme cold weather adventurers and all.

03 August 2008

on justice and coffee

I have just ploughed through The Tall Man - intelligent and restrained reportage of the 2004 Palm Island death in custody and resulting inquest and trial. The telling of these events is a small victory against the heavy sadness of their fact. It is an important book. I won't critique it for fear of doing it injustice, except to say that it is a must-read for anyone interested in the state of this country. Now, before you start imagining me in long socks and sandals hoisting a flag in my yard, I will segue into a little lounge-room boogie to mark another national triumph: this one of local culture over global corporate blandness. Goodbye Starbucks, you don't make sense here. Thanks be to little victories.