Mid-October




The anemones are making me happy.

The mug I never liked seems perfect now for the dawn cuppa.
I’ve seen every dawn since 2 August. Thanks, Miss Puppy.

Is the Chinese pistachio all right? Did the leaves do that last year?

Lightly salted almonds from the markets are quietly delicious.

Snails can’t live without their shells.
I wish the dog would stop eating them.

In my dream there were Brussels sprouts, lightly steamed, glistening in butter and black pepper.

There are coral bells and white daisies aplenty in the front garden.
Thanks to the rain and the mild winter.

Monday was awful, but on Tuesday three seemingly insurmountables were surmounted.

Some wisdom I stumbled across: Just because someone carries it well doesn’t mean it isn’t heavy.

It took nine months to get a quote for the roof then two roofers showed up on the same day. Roofers are like buses.

I’ve failed the horticulture test twice.
Just when I’ve decided to let go of perfection I’m expected to get 100 per cent.

Breakfast is the best meal of the day. Discuss. Especially when you’re working from home.

The Macquarie Dictionary blog has a list of beautiful words and one of them is ‘Machiavellian’.

What’s your most beautiful word? I can’t go past mariposa.

The jasmine smells divine.
If it flowered all year, would we get sick of it?

I’m haunted by a German film I watched: In the Fade. There are no words.

There’s a pobblebonk in the pond.

The hills are covered in Paterson’s curse.
I know it’s a weed, but the purple carpets sing to me of heather on the North York Moors.
Who’s Paterson?

Something and nothing


Crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch. The puppy gnaws away at the bone. I go inside to make a cuppa. Puppy and bone follow me. “Out! Take it outside!” I say. She looks at me, ears up, head on one side, not understanding a word. On our walk at the lake she sits and poses beautifully when a girl takes her photo, this dog who grumbles and barks whenever I try to do that.

I look at her toys—sprawled with an air of bewilderment—and know how they feel. It’s that kind of year, isn’t it?

At the shops a souped-up Mini convertible in metallic blue hoons into the car park. The driver has a semi-shaven head and her flop-over pink hair clashes with her red glasses. Her loud yellow shirt clashes with everything. White, lumpy legs poke out from her shorts. She dresses to please herself. “Good on you,” I think, me all dressed in black and wearing a scarf to hide the imperfections.

I open the car window and call out, “I just voted for you!” I can’t help it. She’s a local politician and she doesn’t give a toss how she looks or what people think of her. In her speeches she spills her guts. I know almost everything about her. On her birthday she wore a yellow patterned jumpsuit and huge green furry coat. She looked like a cross between a Play School presenter and a Wookie and she did not care.

The days seem quiet. Some days it feels as though nothing has happened, yet when I tot up the activities and observations there are a lot: a possum still in the tree at daybreak who’d gone when we got back from our walk. Walked twice, made the bed, did the washing, worked, studied, went to the shops, played with the dog, tidied up, prepared and ate three meals, wrote for a bit, watched TV, took photos of an iris, knitted, looked at my phone too much, messaged a friend, read, inhaled the scent of jasmine (and thought about the jasmine blooming last year, when life was different and so was I), did Qigong twice while looking at the hills, noticed the birds, appreciated the new spring leaves.

At night, though, I lie awake for hours with an aching back and a racing mind that won’t be stopped and all seems dire and insurmountable.

Two friends and I wanted to start a regular video chat. We’re at the same stage of life and feeling all the strangeness of it. A general blah session seemed a good idea. I set up a meeting then found I couldn’t let them into it. “Hello? Hello?” I said to the only participant, me, while they sat in an inaccessible waiting room in cyberspace.

Eventually one of us worked out a different way to see each other and there we were, live, across the continents, talking face to face for the first time in 14 years. It was lovely and sad at the same time. “Why didn’t we do this years ago?” we said.

Last weekend the hills were covered in snow. This weekend I’m going swimming in an outdoor pool and I feel like eating salad again. I pick out some yellow fabric from my stash and start to sew. Something and nothing. Everything changes eventually. We’ll get there.

Books, cake and a bit of chat

Cucumbers must be stopped, apparently. Were you aware of this? I wasn’t. It’s one of many tips to be found in the “new” (circa 1950s) encyclopaedia of gardening that I picked up last weekend. The book makes me sneeze (who knows when it was last opened?) but each time I flick through it, a new fact catches my eye.

We were helping Mum pack up the house. Forty boxes done; probably 140 to go. For her, each book or piece of china had a story that needed to be told. We kept packing while she talked. “I don’t have that much stuff,” she said. My sister’s eyebrows shot up.

Some books, like The Life Cycle of the Kangaroo, were obvious candidates for the charity bin. It was given to my parents as a joke when we emigrated 40 years ago and they’ve lugged it around ever since.

As well as the charming gardening encyclopaedia, I came home with a 1950s book of French grammar and a German phrase book from the same era. The difference between them is very funny.

The French grammar reads like a thriller:

I was twenty, I was in love, I was loved.
She hit me in the knees with a hammer. That is not a nice deed. I threw it out of the window. For fear of being captured, we ran away
.

The German phrase book is haughty. “Please” doesn’t make much of an appearance. Neither does “thank you”:

I am British. What do you charge for servants’ board and lodgings? Bring some more toast. I should like some marmalade. Have some sandwiches packed for my journey. I want to see all that is worth seeing. I shall not have time for museums. That does not interest me.

I don’t know what happened to this week. I blinked and it was over. There were double rainbows two mornings in a row. That much I remember. Yesterday I went to visit a friend near Lake George and it snowed, big flakes falling like wet petals.

Having not checked the weather report, this week I gave in to a long-held wish and bought a jaunty yellow and white banana lounge to loll on when the heat hits. I didn’t know whether such 1970s icons were still being made, then I saw it while I was in a shop looking for something else. There’s no outdoor lounging right now, though. Instead, the pup and I are snoozing in front of the fire and one of us has a lot of jumpers on.

I won’t miss my parents’ house. I’m glad for Mum that she can move on. There’s been a noticeable absence for the past two years and I’ve dreaded going to visit. Too many memories. But I will miss the garden very much. With the warmer coastal climate and regular rain, it always looks glorious.

Daisy dog is now 10.5 kilos, has graduated from puppy school without disgrace and still does not consent to having her photo taken. She can get on to the sofa if she takes a flying leap. This is bad news for me, as I’m the one being flying leapt onto. My house is never clean and tidy now. Most of my clothes have teeth marks, and let’s not talk about shoes. I have to negotiate to go into the bathroom without her, and someone’s dug a crater in the backyard. But I wouldn’t change any of it. As a wise friend said, “Life with dog is better.”

Last but not least (because cake is one of the fundamentals of life) here’s that pineapple boiled fruitcake recipe I mentioned the other week. My obsession with this cake started when a friend came to visit. She brought a pineapple boiled fruitcake that she’d bought at a country market. I thought the addition of pineapple was genius and was determined to recreate it. I also wanted to be the person baking and selling at a country market. That’s the life!

This recipe is a hybrid of several others, plus is gluten free out of necessity. I’ve made it three times now and it’s the perfect accompaniment to a pot of tea beside the fire. (Excuse the layout. I couldn’t work out how to finesse it.)

Pineapple boiled fruitcake

Grease a loaf tin and line it with baking paper. Heat the oven to 160 Celsius.

250g mixed fruit (I used a version with figs and cranberries. Much nicer than the bog standard mix.) 227g tin of pineapple.
1/2 cup soft brown sugar. 1 1/4 cups SR flour (mine was gluten free). 75g butter. 2 medium eggs, beaten. 1/4 tsp bicarb. 2 tsps vanilla. 2 tsps mixed spice.

Put the mixed fruit, pineapple (plus juice), sugar and butter into a saucepan. Bring it to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Take it off the heat, add the bicarb and enjoy the chemical reaction. Then leave it to cool for 10 minutes.

Add the flour, mixed spice and vanilla, mixing in well, then add the beaten eggs and give it several good beatings with a wooden spoon before tipping it into the lined loaf tin. Bake for about 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. If you overbake it and it becomes a little dry, nuke each slice in the microwave for 10 seconds then daub it with butter and all will be well.

Bon appétit and bon weekend!

Holiday at home

Sitting in the garden, watching blossom fall, I wondered if there was a word for petal snow storm. Of course the Japanese have one: hanafubuki. That led me to this blog and a video of petals falling at night. I’ve been staring at blossom under the moonlight, wishing I could capture it, and someone has!

Holidays go too quickly, don’t they? There is still one day left but already I’m mourning the end. I’ve cooked some delicious food: Pooji’s sublime chicken (lives up to its name), from Vicky Bhogal’s Cooking Like Mummiji; sabzi polow (Persian herby rice); an excellent fruitcake with pineapple (will post recipe soonish); and biscuits.

The biscuits were little lemony shortbreads with lemon buttercream filling, from Graziher. When I first discovered that magazine, on a work trip to deepest darkest Deniliquin, I thought it was hilarious. Several years later, the joke’s on me. Here I am in suburbia, reading it along with Country Style, Grass Roots, Pip (permaculture mag) and English Country Living and wishing I lived on the land. It’s still my ambition to join the Country Women’s Association one day.


I picked up a copy of The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul from our community bookshelves. Everything else on there is a whodunnit. A review on the front cover said, “As if Maeve Binchy had written The Kite Runner,” which is accurate and not as odd as it sounds. While it’s written in a lighthearted way, the difficulties of living there are starkly apparent. I enjoyed the fictional trip to Afghanistan.

Since March, apart from food, the only things I’ve bought are a painting, a puppy and books. My next book purchases are likely to be based on recommendations from Anna, who’s started a sea library in her town in Latvia. You can read about it on her blog. It’s such a lovely idea.

A couple of non-sea-related books arrived yesterday: Isabella Tree’s Wilding and Mark Boyle’s The Way Home. I’m supposed to be doing horticulture assignments, and I am but slowly. I’d rather read or walk or cook. It’s funny, isn’t it, that we rebel against even the things we’ve chosen to do when there are deadlines involved. There’s also an element of not wanting to get it wrong, fear of failure, which makes me put it off. I’ll have to address that or I’ll drive myself a bit nuts. The course goes for a year.

Anyway, I’ve plunged into Mark Boyle’s book and can’t put it down. As someone who’s been questioning their lifestyle for the past couple of years, this sentence really spoke to me:

The question concerning each of us then, the one we all too seldom ask ourselves, is what are we prepared to lose, and what do we want to gain, as we fumble our way through our short, precious lives?

It’s a good reminder that no lifestyle offers perfection. There are many things I’d happily forgo to live a more contemplative life, in touch with everything that’s happening outdoors. But it would also mean giving up other things (having friends close by, for example) and I’m still thinking about how to do that. Hmm.


The recent puppy school lessons have been about impulse control and not being scared of new things. I’m learning a lot!

We went for a walk the other day in some horse paddocks next to a chain of hills. An older woman in a sensible hat came striding down the hills, cheeks flushed and eyes bright. Not knowing that area well, I asked her about the walks. She used lovely words like spur and lee and saddle to describe the landscape. “Basically,” she said, “you could walk forever.”

In the gardens hereabouts the hardenbergia is blooming a royal purple and the dainty eriostemon flowers are peeping out. It’s been a cool week and I’m longing for warmth. I’m also wishing for a longer break. The next few months feel like time that needs to be got through before I can start the next part of The Plan. There’s no fast-forwarding it. I just hope I can hang on to some of that holiday feeling and spend the occasional afternoon on the verandah with a good book, a sleeping puppy and the scent of flowers on the breeze.



Made it



In March, August seemed SO FAR AWAY that I didn’t know how I was going to stay sane in the meantime. I saw five months of too much pressure ahead. Many times since March, the thought that’s been front of mind is: “This is the second hardest year of my life.”

Ooh, that sounds dramatic, doesn’t it?

I called on all sorts of tactics to get through it, most of which I can’t remember now. Looking back through this blog reminds me of some of them. Anyway, they worked and here we are, at the end of August. Made it.


Writing this blog cheers me up or changes my focus or gets me out of a funk. When your blog is called small, quiet, pretty there’s an expectation about what it will deliver. However awful or tired I feel, starting to write something here lights a creative spark and always lifts the mood.

Earlier this week, when I was out of my tree with tiredness and work stress, I thought I’d write a quick post. When I opened the blog and found that WordPress had “improved” the template, I nearly cried. It was another change to cope with when I craved familiarity. I don’t really know how to use it now, but I’m figuring it out as I go along. A bit like life, I guess.


The one tactic that I do remember from the blur of the past five months, the one remedy for all that ails ye, is this: going outside is still the best option.

Last weekend Daisy doglet and I walked up the hill to see the snow on the mountains. It was a blue-sky morning and the snow sparkled. Most of it has melted now, but the memory of striding up to the ridge and breathing in lungfuls of cold, clean air stayed with me through the week.

This weekend we found tree-lined paths that meandered past a community vegetable garden (How do I get a plot there? Must find out.) and down to the lake. We didn’t reach the lake because even short walks are sensory overload for a puppy, but we will eventually. She walked for quite some way with a huge piece of foraged orange peel in her mouth and was very pleased with herself.


I’ve been inspecting the plum trees daily for blossom. I think some popped open just as I wrote that.

I’m learning to look at plants in a new way. Part 2 of The Plan was to study something I’ve always wanted to learn about but have never been able to. Thanks to COVID, pretty much every course can be studied online, which meant I could enrol in horticulture without having to beg work for time off. Starting a course at the busiest time at work while also getting a puppy has made for an interesting month.

The course has changed the way I see the world. I used to walk around appreciating the beauty of nature in a general way. Now I know that there’s a whole new language to learn and I’m bowled over by the detail.

I used to walk around naming plants in my head. Now I walk around looking at leaves and flowers and thinking, “Monocot, dicot, parallel venation, calyx, pericole.” These are words I didn’t use a month ago. When I’m driving along the street I look at tree shapes and think, “Broad dome, narrow dome. Is that fastigiate?” To look at the plant world with new eyes is wonderful, and this is only the beginning.


Puppy school started this week. I reckon we were top of the class. It helps that labradors will do anything for food. A cavoodle called Simba was terrified of everything. A retriever called Bill barked all.the.time and I was very glad that he didn’t live at my house. Winnie the tiny French bulldog was my favourite (and Daisy’s) for her snuffliness and silly noises. We were all exhausted at the end, pups and owners alike.


Someone at work thanked me this week for making life easier for them over this crazy time. While it was nice to be thanked, I’ve been thinking a lot about the cost. To me, I mean. After the intensity of these months, I’m pretty burnt out. Was it worth it? What drives us to keep the ship afloat when it’s a ship we don’t much care to be on anymore?

I had planned a week’s holiday in Tasmania soon. Obviously that’s not happening. It’s become a week off at home instead. I don’t really mind. Rest and home comforts are in order. I could sleep for a hundred years. There won’t be any of the usual spring cleaning or sorting out happening. The aim is to do less and just sit in the warm air, watching the garden wake up.

I’m so glad to have made it.

Lessons from the book of puppy

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I’m sharing my house with a baby bear. Or sometimes a shark or a Jabberwocky (“the jaws that bite, the claws that catch”). For a few days I wore wellies indoors to protect my poor feet and ankles from the bitey munchkin. The most fun thing, if you are a puppy, is to hang off someone’s ankles when they walk downstairs. If the person is also carrying stuff or a cup of hot tea, you win extra points.

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The book of puppy says that you should eat everything: snail shells, furniture, curtains, power cables. Possum poo wins the highest points, with a bonus if you can sneak it into the house and munch it on the rug. Cardboard is to be prized above dog toys because it shreds more easily and makes a brilliant mess.

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If your human is trying to toilet train you in the rain, you are perfectly entitled to pee indoors. You should also pee when they are sitting down to dinner. Why should humans eat hot food when you can’t?

Humans do a very boring thing called work. It is your duty, as a puppy, to distract them while they are trying to work. Asking to go outside a hundred times is a good tactic. Eating things you know you’re not supposed to is another. Try grumbling and barking too.

If all else fails, leap up and try to eat their computer. At the very least, you might succeed in munching their internet dongle. What even is the internet, anyway? Why would they need that when they have you?

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Be so impossibly cute that they don’t really mind getting up three times a night to take you outside. Be sure to stop in the doorway, looking puzzled, while they stand out in the freezing cold trying to coax you into the garden. Once outdoors, spend as much time as possible sniffing around and munching sticks. If it’s 3 am, take extra long so that the human has time to appreciate the stars.

Learn to sit on command as soon as possible. This makes your human think they have trained you. Thereafter, sit only when you damn well feel like it. Don’t let them know too soon that you understand them pretty well. They need to work harder.

If your human starts talking to someone you can’t see, they may be singing. Look at them quizzically or whine if you don’t enjoy the song.

If your human is talking into a little thing in their hand, this is called being on the telephone and you must do everything in your power to distract them. Pull out all the stops. Be the wild animal you know you are. They will soon give up and pay attention to you instead.

Finally, even though you aren’t allowed out of the garden yet, spend a lot of time at the fence, endearing yourself to the neighbours. While there, take a good look at the big world and start planning mischief. Extensive mischief-making on walks will be covered in later chapters.

Well done, little puppy. You’re doing an excellent job.

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Just a short note

Writing that title reminded me of the lovely, haunting song from 1980 by Matt Finish. A minute later, I was listening to it. Aren’t we lucky that we can do that?

It’s a cold, rainy day today. I slept badly, coronavirus still rages, nothing appears to be different from yesterday…yet I feel a corner has been turned. Life feels like it’s on the up. Do you feel it too?

I’m enjoying the impossibly bright colours of our winter visitors, the king parrots. I’m enjoying the rich jewel tones of the handmade crafts on display at Craft ACT, on the odd occasion that I have to go into town.

I’m enjoying making chunky chicken and vegetable soup with lots of harissa and a fair shake of cinnamon. I’m enjoying making yoghurt bread (3 cups various GF flours, 1 cup seeds, 2 cups yoghurt, 1tsp bicarbonate, 1tsp honey, 1tbsp psyllium. Bake in oiled loaf tin until nicely browned. Thank you, Grass Roots magazine, for the original recipe.)

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I’ve enjoyed The Dutch House. A treat to read, it demanded nothing from me but painted an engaging picture of lives in a different place and time from mine.

I’ve enjoyed listening to a couple of short clips from the School of Life: How to simplify your life, and How to get through this crisis. Alain de Botton’s delivery on the second one borders on spoof, but the message is still good.

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I’m enjoying crocheting the Halo shawl from Annie Design crochet. The wool is Malabrigo sunset. Isn’t it a glorious colour? I got a long way into crocheting my pink poncho then realised I’d gone quite wrong somewhere because it was turning into a huge scarf, so I’ve set that aside and taken up the Halo shawl instead. It’s very quick and should be finished soon.

Most of all, I’ve enjoyed sitting down with a piece of paper and coming up with The Plan. Remember the jigsaw pieces of life that I was trying to make fit a few weeks ago? They seem to be slotting into place.

There are only four things on The Plan. Top of the list was a dog. I thought I’d have to wait a long time, but suddenly everything shifted and there she was. She’s coming next weekend. The other three things can slowly be worked towards. No rush.

I’m enjoying the daffodils blooming at the end of the street, and the puffs of golden wattle that are starting to appear. I’m enjoying the winter blue of the sky on my lunchtime walks and the pink stripes at sunset.

What’s bringing you enjoyment right now? I hope you have a good week.

Four acres

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First walk: turn right at the lemon tree. “Coffee? Sit down? Walk?” my friend asked. “Walk,” I said, feeling crumpled from the drive. We went to inspect the macadamia sapling. Over in the neighbour’s paddock, an alpaca watched us, especially the dog, with curiosity. What does a fluffy black alpaca think when it sees a fluffy black dog? “Me, but not me?” The grass was green and damp. As we walked, I blahed, letting all the stresses out.

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Second walk: inspect the new plantings, the grevillea spilling down the bank, the hardenbergia flowering dark purple, a low-growing wattle and some young waratahs looking healthy. “I want the birds to come,” my friend said. I told her about the spinebill.

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Third walk: out on the road the creeping fog softened the street lights. “I love it when the fog rolls in,” my friend said. In the middle of the grass we looked up into the night sky. The Southern Cross lay on its side above our heads. The Milky Way swirled around the constellations like astral fog. The dog went to look for wombats. We called him back and swapped wombat stories.

Fourth walk: the dog scratched at my door and invited me to join him on his morning inspection. I walked anticlockwise for a change, which didn’t meet with his approval, so we switched direction. My boots were blue. The moss patches were brilliant green. I thought of a girl at school telling me: “Blue and green should not be seen without a colour in between.” I think they go together just fine.

Fifth walk: past the flowering photinias and along the boundary to the creek. Tall gums, ferns along the bank, black-faced sheep in the paddock across the water. My friend blahed, letting all the stresses out.

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Sixth walk: raindrops clung to the tips of pine needles. “What’s this tree called?” I asked, but my friend knew only the German name. Nearby, a protea flowered, felted pink and haughty.  Lichen and liverwort spread over the bark of an ornamental cherry like countries on a map.

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The rain fell. We moved to the verandah for cover. The dog curled up under a rhododendron and snoozed. We dunked too-hard biscuits in coffee as we talked. Meanwhile, all around us, the trees whispered their own secrets.

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On the drive home, the world looked brighter. Twenty-four hours. Four acres.

The thankyous

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Thank you to the rock and the view. Just sitting on a rock is enough, sometimes.

Thank you to our excellent health services, and to nurses with a sense of humour. “I’m supposed to be at a surprise birthday dinner,” I said to the man inserting a probe into my nose. “Surprise! I bring you a virus!” he said.

Thank you that I don’t have THE virus.

Thank you to THE virus for forcing flexibility where previously there was none. Thank you that now, when we are sick, we don’t have to “soldier on” like we used to.

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Thank you to the back garden, framing the view and the ever changing light.

Thank you to the front garden, flowering and flourishing despite my lack of attention.

Thank you to the new morning ritual of unlocking the front door and stepping out to smell the air, to listen to the magpies.

Thank you to flannelette sheets for keeping toes warm.

Thank you to pets for your adorable furry faces and for being smarter than we are.

Thank you to the people who make my life hard and teach me to be different. When you demand, I no longer jump. When you resist, I change course and flow elsewhere.

Thank you to ideas, the good ones and the crazy ones, and the trails you lead us along.

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Thank you to the makers of music, all music, anywhere, for tapping into that part of us we can never quite express in words.

Thank you to the body for being able to dance and lift the spirit even when the head doesn’t want to.

Thank you to toast and butter for your uncomplicated perfection.

Thank you to tea. Really, there aren’t enough ways to thank you.

Thank you to the blank page and the good pen.

Thank you to Qigong for mesmerising flow.

Thank you to the needle pulling the thread, slowly, decoratively.

Thank you to the hook winding and looping the wool.

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Thank you to the moon, sinking into the mountains, bright as day, ending the night.

Thank you to sleep, more precious than diamonds.

Thank you to the new day for showing up. Always.

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Motley

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This is one of those themeless posts, a collection of thoughts skipping about. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Jonquils have been flowering in the garden since the end of May. They are pretty and I love them, but it’s all wrong. They’re spring flowers and we’ve barely started winter. I was so surprised to see them that I emailed someone at the Climate Institute. There was no reply, perhaps because they’re busy monitoring glacier melt, but this citizen scientist thought it was a small yet important sign of Something that Someone should look into.

Then I found out that jonquils are flowering in Melbourne too, which made me accept the oddness of it. We’re having a topsy-turvy year anyway. Who knows what’s normal anymore?

On a Zoom call last week, in which people I would never socialise with were suddenly looking into my lounge room, someone said to me crossly, “I can’t see your face very well.” I was flabbergasted. Stage lighting has now been added to all the other things we’re required to be expert in. “This is my lounge room, not a movie set,” was what I wanted to say but of course didn’t.

I went outside at dusk to watch the cockatoos (flockatoos) fly in. I was taking a photo of an interesting cloud when two neighbours, Jerry and Suzanne, walked into shot. I’m very fond of these two. Jerry is Czech and has a healthy disregard for authority. Suzanne, in her 70s, has decided to sell up and move on. When I asked where to, she said she didn’t know. Her acceptance of uncertainty is something I admire very much.

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The pomegranate appreciation society has  arrived. King parrots are so beautiful it’s hard to be cross. To be honest, I prefer pomegranate molasses to the fruit, so they’re welcome to it. Excuse the blurry photo. I wasn’t allowed to get very close.

I noticed last week that I have come to accept the monotony of my days: work, eat, sleep, work, eat, sleep…yaaaawwwn. To no longer be mentally at war with my job is a good thing, given that we’re all a bit stuck at the moment. BUT I do want to keep some of that fire that I felt in the first weeks of isolation.

When everything else was suddenly taken away, I came face to face with the long-term compromises I’d been making and found them unacceptable. I felt enormous grief and anger. It was like waking up. So when, last week, I realised that I’d slipped back into dull compliance I almost shouted out loud: “No! STAY AWAKE!”

People talked a lot at the start of lockdown about how different things will be afterwards, how this is our chance to change things. Will they be? Will we? It’s very, very easy to slip back into old patterns—much easier than forging ahead with something new. What was it that we wanted to change/do/be? Let’s keep our eyes fixed on that. Note to self.

I bought another cookbook. Okay, I saw that eye roll. If you think I have a lot of cookbooks, you should go and visit my friends S and J. They have half a wall full. I think I was secretly hoping that Giorgio Locatelli would deliver Made at Home in person. It did come in an awfully big box, but he wasn’t in it.

I’m making eggplant parmigiana first, in memory of a little restaurant in Glebe (name now forgotten) that used to serve an excellent version. When I was a uni student and lived down the road, it was a treat to go there for dinner. The restaurant was in a converted terrace and diners had to go upstairs to the serving hatch to collect their meals. There was always a risk, as you walked back down the steep stairs to your table, that the eggplant parmigiana would slide off the plate onto the person in front of you.

In the past fortnight I’ve been to someone’s house for dinner and to someone else’s house for lunch. How strange that this is noteworthy. At the lunch, a couple of people were talking a lot, butting in or starting side conversations when I was trying to listen to someone else. At first I was annoyed, but then I realised that they were extroverts and hadn’t been out much. They couldn’t help it.

It was tiring to be in the company of several people at once. I’m out of practice.  With the isolation and now the colder weather, I’ve started to go into hibernation. What about you? Have you been out and about again, now that restrictions have eased a bit?

If you do go out and about, be careful what you wear. A letter written in 1927 and reprinted in the recent NRMA Open Road magazine made me smile, so I thought I’d share it here. Bestockinged gals, take note:

I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t safe for girls to wear any but light-coloured stockings. My headlights failed to pick out fair pedestrians who were wearing dark stockings, and on several occasions I missed them by inches. Those who favoured light stockings could be seen 100 yards away.

The only other thing of note that’s happened in the last little while is that I went to buy some looseleaf tea (inferior teabags now finished) and was temperature checked by a person wearing a mask AND full face visor before I was allowed into the shop. 2020: the science fiction novel that keeps getting weirder.

Bye for now.

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