Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Back to Reality

So, after Big Brother last night, I caved in on my mission to never watch Channel Nine again (more on this another day), and caught the last half hour of Survivor XII. In one of the most brilliantly realised coups ever, Cirie managed to convince Danielle to vote out Courtney and, thus, was able to throw a spanner in Shane and Terry's respective game plans. Each of them was convinced that Courtney was so unpopular with her fellow survivors that if they 'took her to the final two' they would inevitably win. Only Cirie was savvy enough to recognise Courtney as a threat to her, Danielle and Aras's chances.

How often have I watched Survivor and marvelled that they just don't vote out a particular person? Remember when Jenna won? Why? How the hell did that happen?

It's too bad that while searching for these pictures, I managed to completely spoil the outcome of Survivor XII for myself. Heh, I guess that means I can stay firm in my resolution re: Channel Nine.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Open Season At Sarsaparilla

Well, who knew that Gretel Killeen was so reviled? I feel I've learned something from the responses to my inaugural post over at Sarsaparilla, a new group blog that considers literature, media and culture from an Australian perspective.

But wait, there's more. Gossip on Gretel, that is, from the folk at Pomona Larvatus Prodeo.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Swing of Things

This week I returned to the University after my 2 ½ week self-appointed holiday. On Monday, I still wasn’t fully well, but I was determined to turn up and sit at my desk to mark my official return to thesis work. No sooner had I sat at my desk when a whole host of doubts assailed me. Before I went away, I had reached a point of peace where I’d realised that I had a great deal of basic research to do in the form of watching a lot of television, taking notes and reading, reading, reading so as to thoroughly acquaint myself with the field of television studies. I had accepted that I would just have to chip away at the mountain before me.

Upon my return to work I began to worry that I didn’t have a clear idea of my project. Instead of simply resuming work on the mountain, I began to wonder how to connect the idea that had originally instigated the research project with the concepts that I was encountering through my reading. I am really interested in the relationship between particular production contexts and narrative forms, and then there’s the relatively recent developments in viewing platforms for television that in turn have an impact on various things at the production level. But what does any of that have to do with ‘representations of psychotherapy in quality television drama’?

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you will by now be well and truly bored with my references to my Master’s thesis, but as an experience it looms large in terms of the hopes and fears, especially the fears, that I bring to the doctoral project. I guess my anxiety about ‘not being focussed’ arises because for so long during my Master’s I was unfocussed during stages when I should have been far more organised than I was. That’s putting in mildly. Oh help, I can’t take twice the allocated time to do this thesis, as well!

After a day of running around in circles and going off on random walks to buy absolutely necessary stationery products—because all my pens had decided to stop working, through lack of use I suppose—I finally stopped to remind myself that I have only been enrolled for just over three months. I decided to email my supervisor to set up a meeting for next week, because knowing that I’m having a meeting with him seems to miraculously calm me down and allow me to become focussed on what is possible. Arranging the meeting had the desired effect. I was able to remind myself of my supervisor’s very sage advice that at this stage I should be keeping my thoughts open rather than narrowing them down and attempting to come up with the last word in a thesis statement.

Another beneficial development arose out of having lunch with a friend. It’s hard to trace the genesis of the connection I ended up making. We were having a conversation about ‘benign racism’—if there’s such a thing. Someone I know frustrates the hell out of me when she repeats ridiculous things such as ‘I don’t like Chinese people’ without thinking that someone very close to her by marriage is in fact Chinese Malaysian. I don’t think she even believes what she’s saying, but maybe someone said something like it where she works, so she brings it up in conversation. What the f—! Somehow this conversation segued into a discussion of literary criticism à la Harold Bloom, which then turned into a discussion about the relationship between ideology and aesthetics, and when you’re doing a thesis everything is connected to it in some way, so I decided I would have to embark on some intensive reading about the visual aesthetics of television, which I sort of already knew I had to do, but the thought wasn’t concrete until that moment. After that I went to the library twice and I placed a whole stack of interlibrary loan requests, as well. I felt relieved that I’d have something to babble on about at my forthcoming supervision meeting.

With my thesis anxieties allayed for the moment, I decided I could afford to indulge in some collegial activity and went along to a newly formed reading group. I had worried (yes, again) that getting too involved in tangential activities would be counter-productive to the progress of my thesis. At this point, even I want to shout at myself. Relax!

Finally, today, the final day of my first week back, I was able to calm down. I allowed myself to sleep in because my cold is still lingering, and what do you know, all this anxiety has given me a sore shoulder and neck. Go figure. I decided to give myself permission to only go in to the University to attend a presentation by my supervisor about research contexts for the Humanities. He addressed various issues, including those he described as ‘gossip from Canberra’. On matters related to all the pressure that postgraduate students and early career researchers have assumed in our quest for those elusive jobs, he essentially encouraged everyone to revel in the experience of doing a doctorate. He said that if we’re any good, then our doctorate is probably the worst thing we’ll ever write, so we don’t really want to get any more than an article or two out of it. While that isn’t perhaps the greatest thought to contemplate while you’re writing a thesis, it made sense to me. When you think about it, a doctorate is like grade four in an academic career, so who wants to put their primary school work out en masse? He also said something that recalled a question posed by Tseen about the professionalisation of the postgraduate experience. Tseen had wondered what GT thought about this development in postgraduate life. I can report that he thinks it’s inappropriate for the publishing and other demands which are placed on academics at the middle and top of the hierarchy to be expected from those at the postgraduate and early career levels.

All in all, the presentation was just so level-headed and without the usual hysterical demands upon postgraduates and early career researchers to publish, publish, publish, all while writing a thesis/book and doing acrobatics as well, that everyone just about collapsed on the floor in relief. And then we all went off to a late lunch, where we pronounced to all who enquired that we were engaged in the practice of appreciating our postgraduate lives.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Gastropod Thursday

Gastropod Friday has come early this week!

Porcini stock cubes are a girl’s best friend (Thanks, dogpossum).

I can’t believe it’s not porcini!

More truthfully, I suppose, this Gastropod Day has been quite a long time arriving, considering I made a commitment to do it every week.

I did mention that I was going to cook an Indian banquet for everyone the night before my sister’s wedding, but, alas, it did not come to pass. I had premonitions of getting upset with people, who would almost certainly offer to assist me, if they happened to cut the carrots the wrong way. In the spirit of avoiding unnecessary distress, I thought that if I wouldn’t be able to easily overcome my frustration with inept vegetable preparations, then it would be better to do away with even the thought of my over-zealous catering proposal. Since the bride-to-be’s motto had become ‘avoid stress at all costs’, she happily agreed that we would go ahead and order Thai take-away.

The take-away turned out to be very nice. I had wondered whether Thai was as readily available in the UK as it seems to be in Australia, and we found out from H and S that it isn’t; they’d never had it before. I was reminded that I had read somewhere that there are a disproportionately large number of Thai restaurants in Australia in relation to a small Thai population.

Even if I didn’t end up making the Indian banquet, I thought I might redeem myself a bit in this forum by providing the potato recipe that dogpossum mentioned in her comment on my first (only) Gastropod Friday post. The recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian, which is one of the best cook books I own. When I first bought it, I don’t think I cooked from anything else for at least 6 months. And I discovered okra, but that’s for another day.

Potatoes cooked in a Punjabi village style

3 tbsp oil, 180g finely chopped onions, 1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger, 3 cloves crushed garlic, 115g finely chopped tomatoes, 1 finely chopped green chilli, ¼ tsp turmeric, ¼ tsp of cayenne pepper, 1 tsp salt, 450g peeled and diced potatoes, 1 tsp garam masala.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Stir fry onions until medium brown. Add garlic and ginger, cooking for one minute. Add tomatoes, chilli, turmeric, cayenne pepper and salt to pan. Cook for two minutes.

Add potatoes and 350ml of water. Bring to the boil, then turn heat to low and cover. Simmer for 20mins or until potatoes are tender.

Remove the cover and turn heat to medium, cooking for another 10 minutes or until sauce has reduced and is thick. Mix in garam masala.

Serve hot with green vegetables.

Bon Appétit!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Throne Room

Five adults and a 3 year old girl are sitting at a table in a plushly decorated café. The girl, H, turns to her Aunt K, who is sitting on her left.

H (squeezing her legs together, pressing her hands to her knees and jiggling): I really, really need to go to the toilet.

K: Would you like me to take you?

H: Yes.

H and K get up and walk out of the café hand in hand. They approach a set of escalators.

H: I don’t like escalators, you will have to pick me up when we go on it.

K: Alright, but we’re not going on the escalator, we’re going behind it. See? We’re walking past it. But if we were going on the escalator I would have picked you up.

H looks up at K, absorbing this last statement. K notices smiling glances from passers-by as she guides H in the direction of the restrooms.

In the cubicle, H declines any help and very ably climbs onto the toilet herself.

H (pointing to the sanitary disposal unit): What’s this?

K: —. (thinking rapidly) Umm, it’s like a kind of big bin that grown up ladies use...

H nods.

K: ...because so you can have babies you have periods and that’s where the rubbish goes.

H continues to nod. K gives a sigh of relief that her garbled explanation has been accepted so readily, briefly wonders why this is so, but is hesitant to provoke any further questions of this nature by pressing the point.

H announces that her visit to the toilet will be prolonged.

H: I will need my privacy.

K: Oh. Shall I turn and face the wall?

H: Yes, you can look at the door.

K turns and looks alternately at the bend in the Laminex coated cubicle and the hinges on the door.

H (to K’s back): I like your shirt.

K: Thank you. It’s new.

H: Where did you get it from?

K: Myer.

H: It’s a nice colour. Pinky-purpley! Do you need to use the toilet after me?

K: (turning) Yes.

H: (nodding) This is a public toilet.

While H waits for K, she examines the range of colours on the tiled wall. H points at one in particular.

H: What would you call that colour?

K: Hmmm. I’d say it’s a kind of khaki green. There are lots of different kinds of green aren’t there?

H: Yes. This is a very nice toilet, isn’t it?

When they have washed and dried their hands, H and K make their way back to the café table, pausing to identify the various characters and creatures on the cakes in the display cabinet of the café.


Later that day, H and K are in another toilet, this time at home.

K: Would you like some privacy.

H: I would rather you help me than give me privacy.

K: Okay.

H: (Pointing at the toilet paper roll holder) Look at this colour.

K: What colour is it?

H: It’s silver. (Pointing at the wall). What colour is this?

K: Hmmm. It’s a strange colour isn’t it? What would you call it?

H: I’d call it grey.

K: And maybe a bit brown as well. It’s a tough one.

H: I like your curls. How did you get them?

K: My hair is just like that. I didn’t have to do anything to it.

H: What colour is your hair?

K: What would you call it? A sort of red?

H: Yes, and there’s some brown too. A reddy-brown, I think. (Crinkling her nose in concentration and nodding). What colour is Grandma’s hair? If you don’t know, I will tell you.

K: Okay, you tell me.

H: It’s a sandy red.

K: Ohhh?!

H: What are they? (pointing to the bottom of the door)

K: (Peering down). Ummm, they’re screws?

H: They’re not screws, they’re holes!

K: Oh, I see. It’s where some screws have been?

H: Yes. You don’t need to go to the toilet here do you? (Shaking her head)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Don't Speak

One of the biggest frustrations I have with my new brother-in-law (BiL) is his conviction that while families may squabble, at the end of the day, when the chips are down, we’re all there for one another, through good times and bad. Perhaps it is not so much his adherence to this sentiment that bothers me—for if it is an ideal that any group of people can achieve, then that is surely a good thing—but that with his belief comes a refusal to countenance alternative narratives, ones where members of families do nothing while others endure difficult times, where they actively walk in the opposite direction, pausing only to enjoy the spectacle of the other’s suffering before they leave, or even to add to the pain. BiL’s refusal to even contemplate the fissures of human interaction, especially those which he knows run through his new wife’s family, feels to me like a kind of violence all over again. And it is one that will not dissipate no matter that BiL’s sister declared us a ‘close family’ in a post-wedding speech. (You should have seen the look on my other sister’s face when that corker hit the ceiling of the reception centre!)

In response to this casual re-narrativising of my family’s history, I’ll admit to being consumed by a level of rage that leaves sanity well behind. My reaction is corrosive. Principally, I think my response arises because declarations of familial unity are usually followed by the expectation of a demonstration of such unity. So, when BiL declares that ‘She’s your mother’, like some cure-all salvo after which everyone will embrace, I am infuriated. On one level, there’s the frustration that I’m speaking to someone who hasn’t really listened, accompanied by the suspicion that he just can’t comprehend the extent to which the lack of nurture has obliterated nature as any basis for a loving relationship.

I’m aware that there’s nothing I can do about BiL’s listening skills, there’s no point expending any further energy by fruitlessly explaining the basis of my antipathy towards my mother. And on the question of his lack of comprehension, I think I have to recognise that there are greater stories in the culture than mine which mitigate against the possibility of any easy acceptance that mothers can be abusive. It’s Julia Kristeva in Stabat Mater who reminds us that in Christian societies, which make up the West, the prevailing model for motherhood is the Virgin Mary. Every mother is bound to be a failure in comparison to this sexless paragon, and that is a feminist issue, but Holy Mary, Mother of God, also renders the existence of the abusive mother unthinkable. To even contemplate a mother that touches her child only to strike her or taunt her is the stuff of horror films; to admit that someone you know is an abusive mother would surely pitch your world view. From this perspective BiL’s determination to preserve his equilibrium can be viewed as a matter of personal survival, and that I understand.

One of the most significant consequences, for me, of BiL’s determined approach to family harmony, however, is that it has empowered my mother to demand exchanges of affection at family gatherings. She had been emboldened previously on occasions with my other brother-in-law’s family. While J. himself is not particularly demonstrative, whenever I greeted his father and mother they would pull me into a body-length contact that, after a life-time of little physical affection, I found quite confronting. Amidst all of the greeting and farewelling, my mother would take the opportunity to draw me into a hug and a kiss on the cheek, which I did not demur in an attempt to avoid any embarrassment to her and, if I’m truthful, any perception of churlishness on my part. Before V. and P. met, I think my mother’s confidence had waned on this issue, but perhaps that had more to do with my decision not to go to any gathering at which she was in attendance. After Hannah was born—not too long before V. and P. got together—maintaining any distance from family occasions became less tenable. I wanted to see Hannah grow up, so I began to attend Christmases and birthday barbeques and picnics. I love to hug Hannah, we have a special squeeze that we do, but I always ask her before we embrace if it’s okay, because surely there is no-one whose personal space is more infringed upon at family gatherings than her’s.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been reminded of a realisation I had once when I was sitting next to my mother on a bus. Her thigh was resting against mine and I became aware that the contact with her was making me physically ill. I moved away from her, recognising the connection between her physical proximity and my experiences of being hurt and belittled. Even now as I write, the thought of her touch, especially the movement of her hands with those sharp, dancing nails, provokes a visceral response, a queasiness that I can feel, a constant movement between my solar plexus and my throat. It is these feelings which are aroused every time my mother touches me, even when she gestures while she talks I am reminded that for so long she thought her and others’ treatment of me was appropriate and deserved.

My visiting Uncle, who insists we call him ‘H’, has also been somewhat nonplussed by my mother’s demonstrativeness. I have discovered he is a diplomat, and so he jokes with my mother, on every arrival and departure, ‘Have we got to do this again?’. He and my Aunt (S.) have entered into the ritual, but noted that it’s not something they normally do, and certainly not without any pre-existing affectionate relationship. The importance of this last point seems to have been missed by BiL’s and J.’s family, while my mother and even my sister V. now seem to interpret any unwillingness to participate in this group hugging as irrefutable evidence of a lack of family togetherness. Well, the fact that I don’t want to hug my mother is evidence of a lack of togetherness, but it won’t be solved—if it ever can be—with insincere expressions on my part. And I love my sister, V., as much as I ever did before all this ridiculousness started. How does the hugging thesis account for my undemonstrative Aunt and Uncle’s 30+ year marriage?

Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday and the last day of H and S’s time in Brisbane. We are all going to a high tea where I will not hug my mother, where I will squeeze Hannah (permission pending), where I will likely press my cheek to my sister F.’s, and where I will exchange an affectionate hug with both H and S because I’ve enjoyed meeting them and have found them to be lovely, thoughtful and generous people.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Soup and Grapes

The Bridal Bouquet

The excitement of family gatherings and wedding celebrations has done me in. My brother arrived from Melbourne with a cold, and in his words ‘Don’t say I never give you anything’. Yeah, nothing but schtick. So, it was soup and grapes for me today while everyone else around me embarked on their various travels.

One of the joys of having a brother who's a chef. He made this for breakfast the day after the wedding. I took the photo before a balsamic reduction was drizzled around the plate. Underneath the rocket salad is, from the bottom, sweet corn pancakes topped with slices of brie, bacon, and a perfectly poached egg. Around the side are oven roasted cherry tomatoes with thyme. Observe the surplus bridal chocolates in the background.

The newly weds went on their honeymoon to the Sunshine Coast. My brother and his wife returned to Melbourne. My other sister and her husband, not forgetting the adorable Hannah, invited everyone else to a Mother’s Day picnic hosted by his family at some seaside location.

The Adorable Hannah

Lest you think I might have felt upset by missing out on all the fun, I should reassure you that I was only too pleased to be dropped off back at home with enough soup and fruit to ensure my recovery. Even if I didn’t have a cold, I was already looking forward to getting away from all the mayhem. Another day of being grabbed and crushed by people to whom I am only peripherally related would have tipped me over the edge. To say nothing of the effect that this newly discovered hyper-demonstrativeness has had on my mother.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Fancy Dress

I still haven’t bought anything to wear to the wedding this Friday. I had vaguely thought about what I might wear, but wasn’t too concerned until my mother started quizzing me with the assumption that I would buy something specifically for the event. She even suggested I spend the gift card she gave me for my birthday on a new outfit for the occasion, under the illusion, one can only assume, that $50 at David Jones would buy more than a sock. I told her I’d already decided to buy a couple of pillows since I’d just realised that I’ve never bought a pillow myself—the ones on my bed were all second-hand ten years ago and by now they are well and truly soaked with drool. In fact I was lucky to get two pillows from David Jones; did you know you can spend $130 on just one pillow? Maybe if I’m creative and cut a few holes for my head and arms from a pillow case (extra-large European size), David Jones can outfit me for my sister’s wedding.

Anyway, I knew it wouldn’t do me much good to think too seriously about any clothes purchases until I got paid. I had done a half-hearted tour of my usual haberdasher in anticipation of a shopping expedition, but for once they disappointed me. I think it’s that the dark colours of winter fashion don’t seem to be appropriate for an afternoon garden wedding. Going back there today, ready to part with some hard-earned cash, my disillusion was confirmed. I want something light and floaty, yet not too hippy-ish, something stylish and reasonably priced, that doesn’t provoke a fat-day when I try it on. They had very nice ‘lounge suits’, one of which I bought for use as a pair of the much needed pyjamas I mentioned a few days back, but unless I go to the wedding as J-Lo... No, I’ve rechecked the wedding invitation, fancy dress is not an option.

I successfully diverted myself from the schmancy clothes dilemma by getting my hair cut. I went to the hairdressing school and signed a form relinquishing the students of any responsibility should they accidentally set fire to me or even give me a bad haircut. Happily, I had a very competent and personable student hairdresser. After she cut my hair, I agreed that she could straighten it. Now, I’ve had my hair blow-dried straight before, but I have these screw-curls on the underneath of my hair that tend to revolt three minutes after I leave the hairdressers. When the threat of the scalding heat of the hairdryers and the pulling torture of curling brushes has abated, my hair usually turns itself up in contempt at my wish for a few hours of manageable, glossy hair. Today, however, the student hairdresser wielded a hair straightener and, seven hours later, my hair is still quivering in fear. I think it may continue to be scared until tomorrow, at least until my sister doesn’t recognise me when she comes to pick me up. My hair is so flat, I don’t even recognise myself. I have the look of Courtney-Cox-Arquette-Jennifer-Aniston-Pitt-after-she-got-the-hair-cut-that-ruined-her-marriage-and-career. It’s not a look I consciously strived for, but until I hit the shower then ‘I’ll be there for you, doo-doo-doo-doo-doo’.

And then it’ll go completely haywire when I tear it out as I resume the search for the wedding outfit.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Megalomaniacs Inc.

Sometimes, as I travel through the blogosphere, I wonder whether every blogger is a Taurus. Of course, they’re not, but it does seem that an inordinate number of the blogs I read are authored by people who are born in the late April to May part of the year. Or possibly it’s because that’s when my birthday is, so I’m more aware of other people who are celebrating at the same time.

Quite often, over the years, my birthday has coincided with the long weekend created by the celebration of Labour Day in Queensland on the first Monday of the month. Like everybody, I suppose, whose birthday falls on a public holiday, I have liked to joke that the holiday is in honour of me. More recently, other public celebrations around the time of my birthday have only encouraged my megalomaniacal tendencies.

Take this past weekend for example. It was Buddha’s birthday, and the whole of the South Bank Precinct in Brisbane celebrated.

There were banners lining the streets.

There were red lanterns across the cityscape.

There were images of Buddha everywhere. They even broke out a Ferris Wheel.

For a long time, I was quite content to know that I shared a birthday with Audrey Hepburn.

I was convinced that I shared her iconic beauty and grace, even if it was imperceptible to others. Philistines!

But now that I know I share a similar planet alignment to a deity... Oh, now you can identify the physical similarities? To the fat, laughing Buddha, you say?

FYI, there are some Christian astrologers who have calculated the birthday of Jesus Christ as falling on the 7th of May.

That’s two deities. Keep laughing and I may have to use my clearly not inconsiderable powers to strike you down.

Other early May birthdays:

5 May: Karl Marx
6 May: Sigmund Freud

Friday, May 05, 2006

Gastropod Friday

I think I've just made the deadline for Dogpossum's meme, Gastropod* Friday, in which participants must cook something and show it off. It was sheer luck that Dogpossum's meme challenge coincided with my hosting of a bridal shower for my sister, so this is a slightly more interesting response that I might otherwise have posted.

For a few hours this afternoon I went along to a day spa, had a massage, drank champagne in a spa, and served this high tea fare to my sister and various friends and family members.

First on our plates were these smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches. I took ThirdCat's advice and made sure I bought a good quality bread. I'm not sure if you can pick it up from the photo, but it was a light coloured rye bread, with a nice firm texture that wouldn't become soggy during transport. Purists might insist on white bread, but it has been instilled in me since childhood that white bread is not good and I didn't want to be responsible for anyone's future bad health.

The rye bread transported well. It didn't become mushy. I placed the sliced cucumber on some paper towel to remove any excess moisture before I put it on the sanwich, so that probably helped control the moisture.
I took a picture of the dill and lemon butter I made to spread on the bread, because I figured you wouldn't see it all that well in a photo of the completed sandwich, and it really added something extra to the taste.

Next on the menu were these Leek and Goat's Cheese Mini-Quiches. It seemed to me that they were the hit of the day. They were all devoured (3 x more than pictured here). I received at least 3 requests for the recipe. So if you want people to think you're a great cook, follow this link to what really is a very simple recipe.

For the sweet part of the high tea, I served what every body identified as mini Pavlova's.

The truth is that I intended to make a kind of meringue biscuit, by sandwiching two discs of meringue together with some fresh whipped cream with strawberries through it. First of all strawberries were $7 for a punnet, so I decided to have passionfruit instead since I could buy eight of those for $2.99. Then, either I didn't make enough meringue or the egg ring was larger than the recipe intended the discs to be, because I ran out of mixture before I had made enough discs. I decided to put one disc on the bottom, top it with passionfruit cream and then place half a disc on the top, like a wafer. Voila! Mini Pavlova's. They went down a treat.

The second sweet item was a rich chocolate cupcake. I had tried to buy Green & Black's Organic Cocoa to make these, but no one seemed to have it in stock. I ended up using a regular cooking cocoa and they still came out rich, and chocolatey.

By the time I got to the cupcakes, I was feeling a bit queasy from all the sugar in the meringues. But what else is tea and coffee for, if not to help you eat more sweet things? It helps you dilute the blood. Other's were not as successful in overcoming the sugar high for one final hurrah, so a few of these were left over. Oh dear. Looks like it's chocolate cupcakes for breakfast tomorrow.

* It was meant to be Gastroporn Friday, but one really has to admire a mind that can produce a Freudian Slip that goes straight past the sexual and onto exo-skeletal life forms.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Calm

Last night as I walked home from the bus stop, the brewery smelled like a giant loaf of bread. It’s toasty, yeasty smell put me in mind of another warm smell, one near the other university. There, when I wander to the bus stop, I can smell fabric being ironed at the commercial laundry. I find it comforting, like walking through sun-dried sheets.

I probably dawdled a bit too much for someone who was walking by themselves in the dark, but the streets of Brisbane aren’t exactly mean, and I was in a kind of reverie after two very intense days of RA work, working to meet the grant submission deadline. I have been in a vortex of meeting, referencing, editing, paginating, photocopying, repaginating, re-photocopying and delivering, and I’ve emerged slightly shell-shocked but with the sense, not only of a job well done, but that I’ve had an invaluable learning experience for someone at this stage of academic life. Is it too presumptuous of me to say that I think I was able to contribute something tangible to the project, aside from my stellar command of the photocopier? The partner support letter initially rambled on for three pages and was full of strange outmoded words like ‘mankind’. Well, not on my watch, people! And I’ve come to realise that one of the benefits of being a Professor is that you can hand over a too-long, poorly referenced, overly technical description of your 25+ year career with complete certainty that an eager, bright young thing will make you sound as though considering funding anyone else for a project of this kind would be against the national interest.

At the moment I’m gathering myself in anticipation for the next storm, which begins tomorrow. Today is the first day of my self-appointed two week holiday and when I finally get out of my pale pink ugg boots and my matching robe, I’m going shopping for ingredients for the high tea party I’m throwing for my sister on the occasion of her bridal shower this Friday (I will post photos as part of Gastropod Friday). But first I will buy myself a birthday present in anticipation of Thursday. I need some new winter weight pyjamas since I had to throw out the last pair, when I felt a chilling breeze from buttock to calf down my left side. I need a haircut too.

Tomorrow is momentous for other reasons. My Aunt and Uncle, whom I’ve never met, will arrive in Brisbane from the UK, via Cairns. Most of my family will be there to greet them at the airport, then we’ll go back to V’s, where, according to a slip of my other sister’s tongue, there will be cake and other birthday-related things. I am looking forward to seeing the adorable, little Hannah in person. We had a long phone conversation recently, where I learned all the names of her kindergarten teachers; of her excitement at one day being lifted by a male ballet dancer; of her disappointment that she would not be throwing blue flowers in addition to pink and orange rose petals as part of her duties as flower-girl—because blue is her favourite colour; and, of all the sparkly colours that would be in heaven.