Saturday, February 28, 2009

Incarcerated at Wentworth Gaol

As My One True Love said, the old Wentworth Gaol wasn't as spooky as we hoped it'd be.

Oh, it had its fair share of shackles and stocks and whipping posts. There was an ancient dry gum tree trunk with chains hanging from it, the links as thick as my thumbs. There were single cells where 14 women at a time were squeezed inside, with a lidless tin bucket for a toilet and a tiny window high up in the thick brick wall, which hardly let in a breath of wind.

The exercise yard was bare and dry and dusty. One lone peppercorn tree stood in the middle of the square, its leaves hanging down limply in the sun. But it wasn't planted until the gaol was decommissioned, and became the local school in 1935. So convicts of the time wouldn't have had a single inch of shade to stand in.

The large granite block in the courtyard had a chain attached to it, and that's where punishment took place. Like a carcass on a spit, prisoners were left to roast in the burning sun. They'd have slowly succumbed, and wilted ... in both their body and their resolve. Blistered, they were returned meekly to their cells, and left to toss and turn in fever and infection.

Guard towers marked the four points of the compass, and there was nowhere to hide from their gaze. There was never a single escape from the Wentworth Gaol. The walls of the male cells were 22 inches thick, of rendered brick, and the cell doors were solid boilerplate with enormous sliding bolts and locks. Food went in through the tiny slot in the door.

Imagine spending seven years hard labour there, as one man did when convicted of horse robbery. Seven years in a space the size of my bathroom - even smaller, perhaps.

Interestingly, one inmate had a sentence of five years recorded, but reduced to 12 months hard labour, "on account of the questionable reputation of the woman involved" when he assaulted her. Isn't it tragic that these days, over a hundred years later than that conviction, the same standard still seems to apply?

It's said that there are eerie goings on at the gaol, and a paranormal investigation company once recorded strange shadows and electromagnetic indications. Black shadows ran up and down the wall, and the video cameras stopped recording, even though they were fully powered and batteries in working order.

My One True Love stood at the doorway to the cell block, and his frame cast a shadow on the floor, and the light played against the thick metal plates, and the sound of pigeons fluttered through the building as the sun beat down hard upon the roof.

A day in the country

My word. Whoever knew that Mildura was going to be such a fabric mecca?

It's certainly not something I expected. Over the past 24 hours, I've bought 2 queen size vintage 70s sheets in orange and red flowers ($2), 2 metres of pink and white candycane striped cotton ($1.50), the previously mentioned coral and white polka dots, 2 metres of peppermint and pink argyle drill cotton ($4), 3.5 metres of fantastically flowered canvas ($4), a purple and white drapery snippet (50c), a handbag patterned aqua cotton (50c), a madras pintucked rainbow stripe (50c), furry art deco patterned flannel ($3.50), a pretty peony cotton ($2), a pink and green Chanel-ish tweed (50c), and what looks like a Kaffe Fassett floral in pink, salmon and chocolate ($5.50).

Yes that's right. All of those fabrics cost me a little under $25. Hoo-bloody-ray!!!

I have also found some lovely vintage tins in secondhanderies and op shops - there are a little clutch of them in Merbein, all on Commercial Street: Clairgate's PreLoved has wonderful tins, as does Garland Antiques, Merbein Buy and Sell and the one next door whose name I can't remember. Absolutely fabulous stuff! I love trawling through antiqueries, poking through the rubbish and extracting the treasures.

And the antique shops out here are stuffed to the gills with fantastic trinkets and china and bottles, and oddly, one shop seemed to have over a hundred rolling pins. It also had a beautiful big green glass jar which I am currently cooing over in my mind, trying to justify the price of, because it's beautiful and I love it and it's my anniversary weekend after all, isn't it?

And I can't begin to go into detail about the immense amounts of vintage and antique furniture, which - if we'd driven here instead of flown - I would have stuffed the car full of. We'd have driven back to Melbourne with me cackling manically all the way home!

A hearty country breakfast

Country breakfast, mmm ..... there's something lovely about a country breakfast, isn't there?

Oh, don't get me wrong - breakfasts in city hotels can be wonderful, with their summer trifles in shot glasses, and their little fruit compotes in adorable little ramekins, everything so perfectly arranged and presented. Scrambled eggs with dijon mustard and chives; smoked salmon eggs benedict ... miso and red bean and eel, sometimes, too.

But they're ever so much more engineered than their country counterparts.

Here in Mildura, the honest country breakfast is very well looked after. In the Chandelier Dining Room of the Mildura Grand Hotel, breakfast sausages nestle closely to smoked bacon from local pigs. Poached eggs gleam alongside scrambled. Mushrooms sauteed in hot butter steam gently beside wilted spinach and grilled tomato.

Mmmm .... and the fruit arrangements are like memories from my childhood. Big bowls of tinned peaches, sliced pineapples, stewed blueberries - after all, the Sunraysia region is known as the fruit bowl of Australia, and our breakfast buffet would certainly seem to confirm that. Strawberries, plums, apricots, apples and oranges as far as the eye can see.

There must be some serious irrigation in Mildura to produce all of this, because the earth is red and dusty and unforgiving, yet here is a veritable feast here in front of us. On the way in from the airport we saw the biggest prickly pear ever, and it was absolutely covered in fruit, all red and orange and spiky.

So for me? A large fruit salad generously heaped with prunes, which I absolutely love, and it feels like I'm five again.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mildura, your time starts now

Today I'm hooked on Fridays, totally and completely - because today My One True Love and I are on holiday!

It's our first wedding anniversary, and we have celebrated by flying to Mildura, in far western Victoria. What's in Mildura, you might ask? Well, first of all it's the Mildura Grand Hotel, which is a grand old dame on the banks of the Murray river - I quite feel like I should be wearing a crinoline and My One True Love should be in a top hat and spats, to do our sweeping staircase and grand architecture justice.

And secondly it's a restaurant called Stefano's, which has two hats (under a measure of three hats being the most prestigious) and so I decided I'd surprise him with a long weekend away featuring dinner at said restaurant, for tomorrow night. I even went to the trouble of getting his day off secretly approved by his boss.

I booked the flights, and booked the hotel, and booked the restaurant, and tucked everything away in my Secret Present file inside my head. Everything was going swimmingly until a few months ago, when he logged into his Frequent Flyer account a few months ago and noticed the flight to Mildura listed there. And then I had to confess - which spoiled the surprise somewhat, but at least it had the benefit of giving him something unusual and interesting to look forward to!

But here we are and it's splendid so far. The weather is wonderful - 37 degrees celsius today and the heat has wrapped itself around me like a blanket - I love it! I'm in a sleeveless top and a short skirt, and the feeling is liberating.

So far we've been to the local op shop, where I picked up some wonderful polka dotted fabric for $3.50, and we've seen a movie, and we've had dinner at the restaurant that purports to be the best steakhouse in Victoria. I've had some steaks in my time, and I have to say that the one I ate tonight definitely tops the list. It even beat the wagyu I had in Dubai, which is saying something. We couldn't even squeeze in dessert, and for those who know me, they will realise just how much significance this carries.

However the internet connection in the hotel is as slow as a wet week, so I'm afraid I'm unable to upload any of the photos I've taken so far. I suppose there are some things which can't be helped though, especially in the wide brown country.

I promise to rectify the situation once normal service is resumed.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What do you call a baby tantrum?

Is it a tantette? A tantino? Or a tanticcolo?

Let me know your thoughts, because I just had one about the fridge.

There's this shelf where My One True Love stores his bottles of home brew, and right now it's jammed full of my ginger beer bottles as well. So every time you pull one out, the rest crash and roll around on the glass shelf - and it really sets my teeth on edge.

I decided to restore the bottle-cooling gadget that came with the fridge originally, but which we removed for I'm not sure what reason. And could I fit it back in? No I could not, no matter how hard I tried.

I jiggled, I juggled, I squeezed and twisted and bent, and nothing worked. In the end I got so frustrated that I stamped my foot and growled at the damn thing, and I think I scared it, because it went in smoothly and without a fuss after that.

So now I can reach in and pull out a bottle of ginger beer without the entire fridge falling apart. Ahhhhhh.......

Naughty headache

Ha! So I went to the doctor for my follow-up and she says (not surprisingly) the CT scan was completely normal, which we all knew it would be, and THEN, instead of giving me a lovely migraine prescription, she sends me away with nothing but a referral to a neurologist! In three months time! Because that's the first appointment available!


The cutest culprits ever

I tried very, very hard to be creative when I finally got home last night after the stultifying training day.

First though, I went to my bedroom to placate my mobile phone. It took some effort, but after a decent amount of stroking and patting and soothing, I think it forgave me.

Of course, there was the moment at first when it refused to listen to me, went flat and shut itself off in a mark of protest, but this morning we seem to be back on an even keel again.

I've promised to always, always check my bag for it before leaving the house in the future.

After setting things to rights, I decided it was time to do some sewing as a way to decompress. But when I went to my sewing area (that's what I call the unholy pile of crap on the dining table where I keep everything I'm working on, and a good deal of stuff that I'm not working on but which seems to need to be piled up around me for total effectiveness) - this is what I found.

And he seemed very comfy indeed, all curled up on my fabrics. How could you disturb something so gorgeous, and fast fast asleep?

So I chose instead to work on a project that's already halfway through. And that's when Grimth decided to help me. He loves to help.
Look at him helping me here, with his little paw on the needle and his loving eyes gazing up at me, half-lidded.

You couldn't be angry though, when the culprit is so very, very cute. I decided to read a book instead.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wherefore art thou, mobile phone?

Lordy, I'm in all-day training today, in a tiny little room, with no air, and I think my blood has stopped circulating to my brain.

It's the continuation of a great day, actually, and I'm being super sarcastic when I say that (just in case it doesn't come across in text).

I started out by forgetting my mobile phone. Now, in order to make sense of the desolation this is causing me, you need to know that I work in a field where I am permanently connected to my mobile phone. I live through it. The world reaches me through it. I do my job through it. I practically breathe through the thing.

Without it, I am nothing. Nooooo-oooothing.

As we speak, it is sitting at home on the furry rug on my bed, chirping dolefully to itself and wondering sadly why I am not there to pick it up and cradle it between my ear and neck. I'm sure it's very lonely - we haven't spent this much time apart for a *very* long time. Perhaps it was the last time I travelled overseas and I had to switch the poor thing off for nine hours while we flew into smoggy, smoky India. It took a while to recover from that - refused to connect to the local network in a fit of pique, until I spoke soothingly to it and twiddled its numbers until it giggled.

BUT, (and this is the very, very small mercy that I am grateful for) at least it has my office building pass to keep it company. Yes, I also left that at home today, and so I am confined within my hermetically sealed building and unable to leave as a consequence. I have to borrow a friend's pass just to get out to the bathroom.

So it's just as well I'm in this godawful training, because without my phone I can't do any work, and without a building pass I can't leave!

There's a silver lining to every cloud.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bombs in the Khan al-Khalil

I heard this morning about the bombing at the Khan al-Khalil bazaar in Cairo.

My One True Love and I visited the Khan back in January 2004 - we were on a short trip to Egypt, a break from work in Dubai (me) and a chance for some exotica outside Melbourne (him). The Khan was simultaneously one of our favourite places and one of our least favourite. For me, it was the place I found Islamic Cairo at last, and one of the places I felt the most relaxed, and comfortable.

The taxi we caught downtown was driven by a man with no English at all. When we got into it outside the Citadel, the man who got out of it had to interpret the directions for us both.

Not a word passed between us on the short and extremely frightening drive between the Citadel and the Midan Hussein (Egyptians have a way of driving six lanes deep across a three-lane road). But when we handed the driver a twenty pound note - for a seven pound journey, the equivalent of about three dollars - he broke into a huge and toothless smile, and waved it at us happily before screaming off into the traffic again.

The Midan Hussein is a famous square in the section of the city they call Islamic Cairo. It's a square surrounded by mosques. I counted four, all with different stonework and decoration and beggars out the front. This was the place we were trying to get to when we were dropped off in the wrong place and swallowed up by the crowds a few nights earlier.

We didn’t immediately turn left towards the Khan al-Khalili. We turned right instead, and not two minutes later we found ourselves in an entirely different world.

The winding alley in front of us was packed earth, not bitumen. The buildings around us were built in the 15th century, in the traditionally ornate Islamic style. The old women tending their stalls were craggy and weather-beaten; brown as berries with sunken mouths and gummy smiles. They watched over wicker baskets filled with oranges, or flat bread, or limes.

Dogs were yapping at the heels of stonemasons cutting enormous pieces of stone with crude axes – making the same marks I’d seen on the pyramids a few days before – to mend the crumbling buildings.

There were vegetable shops, including one that sold just cauliflowers stacked up to the ceiling, and as we wandered past one open store I noticed the bleeding pigs trotters, brain and intestines laid out enticingly on a plate on the front step. Mmm… brains….

There were piles of flat unleavened bread as high as my waist, and old men sitting on steps sucking shisha pipes and coughing through the gaps where their teeth should have been. Sacks of spices crowded up alongside the live chickens and roosters, and over on a table in the corner of one shop a huge turkey fanned out its tail and turned haughtily round in a circle, bobbing its head regently and fluffing its feathers.

I took a few pictures, anxious to document this part of the city, the part I’d been looking for and finally found. I took some pictures of the chickens in their cages, and the man who ran the store was completely taken aback when I tried to give him some money (just fifty piastres) in thanks. As we wandered along the alleys I found a few people craning their necks towards me to try and get into my photos, and a few people pulling their hijabs, keffiyahs and abayas over their heads to make sure they didn’t.

Eventually we were joined by a girl who wandered along beside us without saying anything, but who was clearly filled with intent. She had dark eyes, and dark hair, and beautiful olive skin.

Eventually she asked me my name, and when I asked hers in return she smiled and said “Dhasmila”. She held a child in her arms, a fat baby boy about six months old with the oddest looking eyes I’ve ever seen on a baby, eyes that were pale and round and fixated on the cucumber he kept trying to grab from Dhasmila with his fat little fingers.

Dhasmila and the baby posed for me while I took their picture. This girl couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven at most, yet she seemed clear and calculating in a way that was unusual. She unbalanced me slightly, and I wondered if she would remember us the way I knew I would remember her.

I don't expect she did. I suspect for her, I was just another tourist in the alley of her home, just someone else who wanted a photo.

Slightly unsettled, we wandered back over at the Khan al-Khalili, fending off hawkers and beggars and hustlers, and just ambling up and down the streets looking at all the tourist tat. We didn’t buy a tote bag decorated with Egyptian hieroglyphs. I didn’t buy a belly-dancing costume. My One True Love did buy a fez for our friend, one of The Renovators, back in Melbourne – we looked through a huge pile and chose the best one we could find, with decoration on the inside; and I bought a mug covered in hieroglyphics for my father The Scientist.

We ended up in a great café right on the edge of the Midan Hussein square, drinking hot milky chocolate and smoking shisha – helped along by the over-attentive men who ran the place, who enthusiastically kept the charcoal burning and often pulled the pipe away from us and sucked on it powerfully “to make sure it was working properly”. Very kind of them. But it was great fun anyway.

As the evening drew on we waved away the cigarette sellers who kept approaching us among our warren of chairs, and soon the café owners got the idea and started shooing them away on our behalf.

They did, however, urge me to engage with the tattered man who was selling beautiful wool wraps – and in the end I bought a gorgeous red one for 50 pounds (outrageous! Worth no more than 30, but never mind) which I’m very taken with. Though there was little call to wear it in Dubai of course – I hardly needed anything woollen the entire time.

Sitting outside the cafe though, the one quite near to yesterday's bomb, I was also chatted up – I think – by a Saudi in Western dress, who kept me in occasional conversation while his wife looked out from under her veil and said nothing.

She kept a gentle hand on their little boy’s arm, and the only emotion she showed took the form of an invisible corona of ice that flamed from her, fiery and cold, like a comet burning up at the edges, when the Saudi pressed his phone number on me.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Firstly, an aubergine trench....

So it's 35 degrees outside, but here, inside the Bendigo Art Gallery, it's cool and dark and quiet.

We're standing in front of the aubergine silk taffeta trenchcoat (sharp collar, double-breasted, seamed at the waist, the arms and back panel cut from a single length of fabric, the astonishing mastery of both form and function), created by Christian Dior in 1947.

And I'm marvelling at the timelessness of the piece. At the enduring style and classicism. At the beauty of the work, and the precision of the cut, and the deep matte richness of the colour.

I lean over to My One True Love and I whisper to him excitedly: "That is extraordinary - amazing - I could wear that today!"

Meaning, of course, because of the way the coat transcends all notions of momentary whim and trend; stepping elegantly sideways, away from such frivolous and fleeting concerns, and standing firmly in the pages of fashion history instead.

And he looks back at me, and then at the coat, and then back at me, and he pauses, and he says thoughtfully, with a small crinkle of concern in his forehead:

".....I reckon you'd be hot."

Ouch, the beauty is hurting me

Just back from Bendigo.

Cannot (gasp) blog about Golden Age of Couture exhibition yet (pant).

Dresses. Too. Beautiful..... (gulp, wheeze) ... Tailoring. Too. Exquisite.

Must rest, and shield eyes of memory from extraordinary beauty. Visions of silk faille overwhelming me. Drowning in remembered pleats. Cannot scrape image of Hardy Amies fuschia wool coat from imprint on inside of eyelids.

Need recovery wine - a lot - now. Must numb all nerves currently screeching with exhilaration.

Lying down. Cold compress placed on hot and bothered forehead.

Promise to blog further tomorrow, when pointillistic painful effect of overwhelming beauty has receded.

(Postscript: at lunchtime in random cafe, had amazing coffee with face of Zephyrus - god of wind - etched in crema. Was quite astonished by esoteric mythological reference. Picture attached as proof. Nearly as incredible as exhibition itself.)

Further recovery wine definitely required.

Ever so quickly .....

.... a little post before My One True Love and I head off to Bendigo to see the Golden Age of Couture exhibition which I have been longing to see ever since it came to Australia.

I just wanted to say that the market went very well yesterday and Love went home with someone else before lunchtime! I was so pleased.

It was a couple who came past, and the bloke noticed it first, but then his lady grabbed it up and cuddled it in just the way it made *me* want to cuddle it once I'd finished it (always trust your instincts, girls, they're usually right) and they said how perfect it would look on their sofa, and they handed over $50 and that was that. Hooray!

And the rest of the day followed that example pretty well. Never mind the gale force wind blowing like a hurricane down High Street, never mind the drizzly bit of rain that made me worry about all my bits and pieces, never mind the fact that there were only six stalls and that most of them appeared to be manned by members of the Hippie Household who actually live across the road from us ... it was a really good day with lots of lovely warm energy, and I think I'm going to make it my second regular monthly market.

But now I must eat toast, for we are going To The Countryside momentarily, and verily we must be off.

(Sorry, went all formal and 19th-century there at you for a minute. I must be excited about the dresses.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Falling into Love at Home

Love Fridays …. Who doesn’t love Fridays? I mean, really? There are SO many things to love about a Friday.

First and foremost of course, is that it's the last day of the working week. So there's no work after today. In fact, there's *two* days of no work. Which ordinarily would mean two more days of sewing, except tomorrow I have the Northcote Market out the front of the Uniting Church on High Street. Which means lots of chatting to people instead. And hopefully some sales! (if it’s not spitting with rain like it is today, and there are people wandering along the street and feeling inclined to browse).

Today I’m hooked on Love and Home, my two new cushions. I think they’re beautiful – I made them up out of Warwick upholstery fabrics and used patterned cotton prints for the lettering. They're going onto the market stall tomorrow - let's see if other people Love them as well ....

Love has the vibrant colours that make me feel like I’m bursting with life. There’s Alexander Henry and Tina Givens and Heather Bailey cottons in there, plus one random print I picked up somewhere, it's a vintage 50s polished cotton. It's cheerful and happy and optimistic and glowing with warmth. It makes me want to hug it!

Home though has Liberty print cottons. Aren’t Liberty prints gorgeous? They make me feel more refined than I really am. Like I should be drinking an elegant cup of tea and lemon with a perfectly arched pinky finger, and living in a perfect home and being much less loud and obnoxious than usual am, not to mention much more polite and patient. They’re such English prints - my half-Englishness (courtesy of my mother) really rises in my throat when I’m around them.

Each cushion has got a feathery-downy insert, which I much prefer to the polyfil ones that go squashed and flat after a while. There’s something very depressing about a sad old cushion with all the life squashed out of it. Feather ones though, they stay plump and fat and purposeful – all the better to fall gratefully onto at the end of a long day.

I think I’m going to continue this series with Smile, and Laugh, and Joy and Relax. Any other suggestions are welcome!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My creative space

My creative space is more like a creative mess today ... sigh....

As you can see, it is filled up with half-completed doorstops for the market on Saturday (outside the Northcote Uniting Church on High Street, between 11 and 4 if you're passing) - as well as a cute owl I just finished last night.

I'm really going to have to get my act into gear and complete all of these off; except my sewing machine is making the most godawful clunking noise at the moment, and I'm sure it needs a service. The only problem is that it takes TWO WEEKS to get it serviced, and I think I may shrivel up and die if I can't sew for a whole two weeks. So I'm putting it off, and putting it off, and the machine is getting sicker and sicker, and soon enough it's going to need emergency surgery and I'll have to rush it in anyway.

Speaking of sicker and sicker, I'm at home today, having had a CT scan to make sure I don't have a brain tumour/aneurysm/long slow stroke that is causing this ongoing headache.

Once the doctor reviews my film, she's pretty sure she's going to diagnose migraine (and then she can give me some sweet, sweet drugs); but like all good doctors she's ruling out all the other options first.

I'm no expert, but I looked at my film when they handed it to me, and I couldn't see any menacing dark shadows in it. I thought I did at first, but when I looked closer it just turned out to be my nasal cavities. Oops.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The second great love of my life

It’s time to reveal the second great love of my life.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to Podae.

How to pronounce that name? Say POE-day, and you’ve got it correct. Or, like us, you could call any one of the myriad of nicknames we’ve got for him:

Podder, Podlet, Pod-a-Pod, Poddle, Podger.....

Podae is a Russian Blue, so he’s sleek and silvery and elegant. His fur is deep blue-gray, and burnished with magnesium edges around his paws.

He’s got a tail that he wags like a fly-fisherman, in great balletic loops; and you can always tell how he’s feeling from wagginess of his tail. If he’s happy, he wags chirpily. If he’s sick, he doesn’t wag at all. If he’s being chased by Fatpuss or the Grimth, it’s arched and pointed and stiff! If he’s curled up on my lap, it’s tucked in over his nose.

We got him on the same day as the Fatpuss, from the same dodgy breeder.

Out we went to the big cat runs where litters of kittens tumbled over each other. She opened up a gate and we handled a few, all warm and soft and purry. My word, I wanted them all! How could anyone resist such delicious little bundles of kitteny goodness?

One pale, pale silver male stood out to me, and I gave him a test cuddle. Eh. It was like handling a beautiful, empty vase. So he was cute, but didn’t have a lot more going for him. Resting on his pretty laurels, he was, like so many other cute boys do.

I tried a few more. The female one went stiff and stuck all her legs out like prickles and wouldn’t let me hold her. So, not her then!

I don’t know what it was that made me reach for the Podder … maybe his giant ears, rotating like satellite dishes to pick up every sound within a radius of ten kilometres.

Or maybe it was his beautiful sea-green eyes, looking longingly out at me through a veil of tears as I stood at the entrance to his cage.

As I picked him up and brought him to my chest, he bobbed upwards in my arms and gave me a great big smooching kiss on the cheek, which made me laugh. We had a little pat and then I handed him to My One True Love, and he immediately smooch-kissed him as well. Podae I mean, not my husband – I’d have been slightly disturbed if my husband smooch-kissed a cat.

We ummed and erred for a minute – the first pale silver male was SO beautiful – but the Podae was so friendly – god, which one to choose? A beautiful but empty-headed boy you have no connection with but would be able to show off and parade around, or the one you feel a deep and instant connection with? Ah, it's just like picking a boyfriend when you're a teenager, isn't it?

I think I already knew the answer, but it wouldn't be lying to say that I was also ever so slightly seduced by the temptation of owning a cat with the beauty of an alabaster statue.

I took the Podlet up again into my arms, and he sneezed all over me, bits of snot flying out left, right and centre, and the cat breeder assured us that oh my goodness me NO, under no circumstances did he have cat flu, heavens to betsy, it was just a little cold, nothing to worry about, never you mind, clear up in a couple of days, just due to the sudden cold snap. Ha! We learnt differently on our first vaccination visit to the vet.

But then this little kitten kissed me again. And I looked at him, with his beguiling green eyes gazing up at me through the pearls of yellow snot beaded on his pale grey whiskers.

And I knew I wasn’t going to have to make the choice, because he’d already chosen us.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Stress less, my darlink


So today I finally had my delayed stress reaction to the high pressure of last week.

I forgot my laptop this morning and had to go home to get it, thereby missing my 8.01 train to work. Work was ordinary, if slightly annoying, and at the end of it I managed to catch a train that was remarkably empty (and therefore got a seat, wonder of wondrous wonders), and came home.

Podae refused to say hello to me, perhaps because My One True Love and I spent twenty minutes trying to catch him this morning so we could walk to the train station unassailed by a mischievious puss doing his best to catch the train with us.

I came inside after the Podder dissed me completely, and the steam valve blew when I couldn't get to the recipe book I wanted because of the godawful mess on the kitchen bench.

See, if my external world is in a chaotic heap and my internal world is happy, then it doesn't matter. Everything's fine, and I just tidy up. But when both worlds are cross and irritated and out of control, then I am not a happy girl.

So I paused. Went outside to photograph some of my tote bags. The camera gave up the ghost with a dead battery just as I finally had the perfect angle all framed up. Of course.

I whistled air through my gritted teeth.

Came back inside. Grimly set about tidying the kitchen. Cut potatoes in half. Steamed bloody asparagus. Grumped at My One True Love. Had a beer. Got over it.

The Amateur Actress says that sometimes she finds it difficult to tell how stressed I am, because I manage (hide?) it so well. And it's true - my worst days are still pretty rosy and chirpy, because I'm a natural optimist.

And that kind of made me glad, because at least if I'M having a crap day, I'm not necessarily showing it or taking it out on the people around me.

But that damn kitchen bench? It's gleaming tonight, to within an inch of its darkly laminated life.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

To market, to market ....

There's nothing quite like the feeling of coming home from the market on a day that you've sold the bejeesus out of your stock, because it makes your wallet heavy, and your heart as light as air.

Today was one of those days, and it was very, very welcome.

I only do a market once or twice a month, because it's about what I can manage in amongst the full-time job, the sewing, the sleep, the relationship, the housekeeping etc (not in order of importance, by the way, clearly).

I mainly do the Shirt and Skirt Market at Abbotsford Convent, and sometimes the Northcote Town Hall markets when they're on. And I love them!

I love the whole set-up, and the process of getting my stall looking just right. I love arranging and re-arranging all the tote bags, and the doorstops, and the cushions, until it looks perfect and proper.

I love the first sale of the day, and the feeling of the notes in my fingers as I put them into my cash tin.

I love chatting to people about the weather, the economy, the political situation, gardening, skirts, and the wedding guests trooping past in a bizarre array of bondage footwear teamed with far-too short skirts and and odd assortment of suits.

But most of all, I love the compliments! If I'm honest, it may well be the real reason I do the market.

I love it when people tell me the pencil rolls are cute as pie (and they were a big hit today),
and when women stroke the cushions lovingly, and tell me
they're beautiful, and I especially love it when men buy something
for their girls. That's a big compliment.

I get a kick out of watching small children handle my soft toys with their sticky fingers - okay, maybe I don't love the sticky part that much, but I love that they like the toys themselves. Kids are honest - if they're not fussed on something, they're not shy about telling you.

I sold one of my Ellyfumps today, the orange one just here, and I sold Hoot the Owl to a fellow stallholder, and even the strange red cat (photo at the bottom of this post) got snapped up really early.

And I only made the cat last night, because I bought a new wicker basket to put the toys in, and I didn't have quite enough to fill it up ... there was a big cat-shaped hole left over, and so that's what I made (in somewhat of a panicked and sweaty hurry, I admit).

Ah, it's such a feeling of fulfilment to see it go.

I think there's something truly wonderful about receiving a compliment for something you've made with your own hands. Something you've chosen the fabric for, and designed the pattern for, and sewed together, and embellished with ribbons and buttons and bobbets.

It's a straightforward and honest compliment. There's nothing underhand about it. There's no scent of backstabbing glory-hungry colleagues (to quote The Sister Of My Heart, proto-primal friend that she is).

A compliment from a customer is a true and honest one. It comes without malice, or agenda.

And I think that's the reason I like them. In my sewing world, it's a place where things ARE as they seem.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The headache returns

Just saw Rachel Getting Married. Was not overly impressed, even with Anne Hathaway's big cow eyes, which I ordinarily think are beautiful.

I think it's because my headache has returned. It's in exactly the same place. My right eye feels fat. And as though it's filling up with blood (it's not, don't worry). My right-side sinus is throbbing.

On Tuesday when this happened the first time, when I crawled into bed in the afternoon, I consciously kept twitching my hands and feet - because I thought it I suddenly couldn't move an arm, then I was *definitely* having a stroke, and I would therefore be prepared to do something about it immediately.

Today I'm wondering if maybe it's a really sloooooooooooow stroke that's been slowly leaking blood into my brain since Tuesday.

I hope not. I'm probably just catastrophising.

But I'm going to bed now, and if there are no more posts ever to this blog, you'll know what happened.

Making every day your best

Our Father of the Internet, it's been two days since my last confession, I mean, post.

And what a couple of days it was. Yesterday the sun went blood red in the morning, from the bushfire smoke drifting across from the state, and there's a smoky smell in the air.

The Amateur Actress had her washing out and now she probably has to do it all over again. The pussins are lying around indoors because they don't like the smell. Is that anything to complain about when 181 people are known to have died, and over 1800 houses destroyed? No, it is not.

The media interest let up a little bit yesterday, so I finally had time yesterday to make a donation. My One True Love and I decided to donate to the fund set up by Wildlife Victoria - because over $100 million has been raised for the human victims of the fire so far, but there are lots of little creatures out there who lost their homes as well, and who need looking after just as much.

Sam the Koala has gone global - and while her story is a very sad one, it's good to know that even a little animal is helping to raise awareness of the scale and magnitude of the tragedy in Victoria. (If you watch the video, it gets a lot clearer at around 1 minute in, so persevere ... or fast-forward.)

YouTube - Koala drinking water from the Bush Fire Tragedy Crisis, Victoria - 7/02/2009

We also did a massive grocery shop at Coles last night (I know, grocery shopping on a Friday night, what wild and exciting married lives we lead) - and Coles was donating all the profits received on the day to the Fund, so that's another few hundred we contributed.

We got a pretty gruesome request at the office too, which came from Mission Australia .... there are lots of people affected by the fires who need suits, ties and shoes, they said, please help.

Suits? I thought. Why on earth would you need a suit?

And then I realised it's because people need to start going to funerals.

So I took in one of My One True Love's old suits, and two ties, because who could refuse to help with a request like that. Later this weekend I'm going to edit my wardrobe and donate everything I haven't worn in 12 months to the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Today I am wearing a dutch blue and white striped dress. It has a halterneck, and a full skirt, and I feel a little Marilyn Monroe-ish in it. I've accessorised with my vintage pearls and white sandals; because life is too short to keep things "for best".

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

MIGRAINE -graine-graine-graine ..... it turns out that phenomenal headache I developed yesterday was actually a migraine.

Migraine sufferers everywhere, I have felt your pain. Kudos, people, kudos.

I didn't realise migraines came with constant, gut-wrenching nausea .... seat of your pants, any-minute-now-I'm-going-to-heave-my-kidneys-up nausea. Or a stiff neck. Or weird visuals that curve the world disturbingly.

Or a specific, localised centre of agony in your skull that flames with every movement, rendering you helpless and limp.

I fled from work early yesterday, catching a cab home and wincing with every jerky stop-start tap on the accelerator/brake/accelerator/brake/accelerator. Why do taxi drivers always, always drive like that??

And the light was too white. Even the light on the tv hurt my eyes.

I took two panadeine tablets and went to bed, pulling the covers up over my head. I slept, in brackets of time, and when I woke up this morning at 4am I knew it wasn't over yet.

Checking the blister pack, I was surprised to find the panadeine was actually panadeine forte left over from my broken arm last year - the really good, really strong stuff - and yet it didn't make a dent in the blanket of pain at all.

So I texted the boss and worked from home today. I was fine as long as I didn't move or have the lights on, so I did my radio interviews from a set position on an uncomfortable chair, and it was okay. Podae sat on my lap for around four hours (he never sits on my lap, he hates it, and so of course it's what I constantly wish for).

I even worked out a quote in case the Fathead came out and miaowed loudly while I was on air. I wouldn't have put it past him.

I was going to say And that's my puss Fathead, trying to get to the phone so he can send his own message of love and support to all the poor cats and dogs and other animals out there who are living through this devastating experience.

In the end, it wasn't necessary. But I think it would have been kind of cool.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Responding to the Victorian bushfire crisis

I've developed a crippling headache this morning, one that's fixed on the right side of my forehead above my eye, and it's a piercing pressure inside me.

The numbers keep going up in the bushfire toll - 173 at last count this morning - and I think I may be starting to respond in a physical way to it.

Work is busy, we're doing a lot through our employees and communications, so that's occupying my mind and my time. There's a lot of pressure of course, and we even have people who've lost their homes but still insist on working through it, so I can hardly complain about my little headache in the face of that kind of solidarity.

People respond in so many different ways to tragedies of this kind. Some cry, others hit things, a few lash out, others collapse inwardly.

Me, I get right in the zone. My emotional range narrows to the sharpest of sharp points. I become very cool and detached and unemotional; and focus on executing the task at hand. This channels my emotions into actions instead, which actually energises me and provides me with the bounce and resilience to do what needs doing.

This can be a good thing. In becoming dispassionate and re-directing the energy (and it's not something I actually think about, it just happens naturally) it gives me enough room to do what has to be done and not get teary/angry/upset or otherwise lose the ability to perform. I am, after all, a perfectionist.

However, it can also be a bad thing. In not displaying any emotion, and sometimes actually seeming ruthlessly efficient, others can think me cold, and that I lack compassion or sympathy. The uber-professional comes to the fore.

But of course I'm feeling it, it's just that my conscious mind pushes it deep into my subconscious until I have the right situation and ability to deal with it.

It does mean that I have to make myself consciously aware of my feelings at times like this.

When doing radio interviews, for example, I need to deliberately moderate my voice to reflect the seriousness of the situation. Earlier in the week I recorded a bunch of news grabs for a radio station in Sydney, and about 15 minutes after I'd hung up, I realised I sounded far too cheerful for what I was saying. So I rang them back and re-recorded them all, this time making sure my voice was much more appropriate.

And in writing about the bushfires, I'm conscious that I probably haven't yet come fully to grips with the reality of the situation. It's difficult to express my thoughts without sounding saccharine, or insincere, or melodramatic.

It's been so good to see other members of the blogging community do what I always fail to do in this kind of situation, which is to spring into action on behalf of the victims.

While I'm busy using the mainstream media to give messages to customers and people who want to donate to the Victorian Bushfire Relief Fund (BSB 082 001 Account number 860 046 797), others like Curlypops and Meet Me At Mike's and SillyGilly are rounding up volunteers, holding charity auctions, and doing lots of other useful, helpful things that give us all the opportunity to contribute meaningfully.

This is why we need people with different attributes in our lives- because some get on with the job, some show kindness and compassion, others think of practical ways to help.

Together, we all do something that someone else can't.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The raging inferno

Yesterday, 26. Then 35. Then 65. 76. 96.

Today, 108. Then at 4pm this afternoon, 131.

That's how many people have died in this fire catastrophe so far. 750 homes destroyed.

There'll be more to come of course, the fires are still roaring across the state, and there are so many razed houses that they'll be finding more victims for weeks underneath the collapsed rubble. People on outlying properties who stayed to fight, people who tried to run in the cars but couldn't go faster than the flames -

I'm profoundly disturbed by the newspaper photos of cars sitting on roads, mangled and burnt out, sometimes crashed into each other. There are dead people in those cars, and those pictures are actually images of tombs.

I don't like thinking about the poor animals in the forests and on farms who would have been terrified by the cataclysm, frightened out of their lives as they tried desperately to escape. Or the people who only had two seconds to run and couldn't grab their dogs or cats. The mental horror, guilt and anguish for them is unimaginable.

And then there's the Age, which tells the story of a man who stayed with his horse (and survived) and sent his brother away on his prized 1993 Harley Davidson to escape the fires. He doesn't know if his brother is okay.

In the Herald Sun there's a photo of a Harley Davidson lying on a road, on its side, and the story says the body of the rider was found nearby.

Are they actually two halves of the same story?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A new epoch

This morning I woke to the sound of the sky growling with thunderstorms. It was punctuated by fat raindrops thwacking sporadically against the roof, but they soon dried up.

The early edition newspapers told the story …. 26 people confirmed dead, and another 15 unaccounted for, in the worst day of bushfires in living memory. 100 homes destroyed at last count and they’re readying for more to go up today.

I’m at work now, though it’s Sunday, preparing material on the relief measures available to our customers. From my eyrie here at the top of the building, I can see lacy threads of smoke drifting across the horizon – it’s beautiful and horrific at the same time.

It’s clearly going to be a year of extremes in 2009.

Extreme temperatures, extreme fires, extreme droughts, extreme floods. And of course the ongoing global financial crisis – or, as people are calling it now, the GFC; which makes it sound all cute and anodyne and reminds me of Roald Dahl’s story about the lumbering BFG (Big Friendly Giant), only it's not – the worst period of economic activity since the Depression, the stockmarket fluctuating wildly, and companies all over the world collapsing and cannibalising each other.

It feels as though there's a commanding force afoot, recalibrating the world for a new age.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I'm melllllll-tiiiiinnnnggg

Okay. It's 3pm in the afternoon and outside, it's 46.4 degrees. Celsius.

The wind is gusting at around 85 kilometres per hour, which means there's no point running out in a hat to try and fix up the bedsheets I pegged hastily over most of the plants in the garden this morning, because they will just fly off again.

If my camellia survives this onslaught, I'll be amazed. It's already burnt beyond recognition. And my orange jessamine hedge, the one I've been carefully babying for two years now, ever since the plants were six inches high? I think it's a goner.

The succulents I crowed about yesterday are probably being boiled alive in temperatures close to 70 degrees.

And - well, it's probably better not to speak about the herb garden at all. Rest in peace, herb garden.

The cats are all inside, stretched out much longer than you'd think possible. Podae's under the bed, Fathead is in the hallway, and the babypuss is hiding in the laundry.

In our sitting room, The Renovators and the Amateur Actress are flopped wordlessly on the sofa. My One True Love is spread out on the floor next to Dan the Pizza Man, and LÁuteur has retreated to the relative coolness of the front room.

The floorboards are hot under our feet. All the curtains are pulled shut and still the glass in the windows reflects radiant heat into the room. The air-conditioning doesn't make any difference.

And I'm just waiting - because I dread it like a Monday morning - for the terrible moment when the power goes out.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hooked on loving succulents

Today is Love Fridays …. I am totally hooked on succulents right now. Fat, squat, fleshy succulents.

These troopers battle on valiantly in the apparently never-ending hot weather that we’re enduring at the moment. Tomorrow’s going to be another scorcher – ye gods, 44 degrees - and I think it's safe to guarantee that the succulents will be the only plants in my poor bedraggled garden that will emerge unscathed at the end of it.

I have succulents planted all the way along the rear of our back verandah, massed in amongst river stones, where they get the best of the afternoon sun.

Our horrible red pavers reflect the heat as well and it can end up very burny-scorchy to walk on them barefoot (I have learnt this through bitter experience, oh yes I have).

I once measured the temperature at ground level once and it was 56 degrees Celsius. I don’t know how our pusses manage with their tender little paws … mind you, they do tend to scamper across the pavers quickly before making a giant leap onto the wooden planks of the deck. Even the Fat One hauls ass quickly when the pavers are hot.

I also had black aeonium succulents in the bouquet I carried when I married My One True Love last year.

My bouquet was fantastic, it was all orange and red and black – in the photo here it’s next to the cake, if you can make it out?

Part of the reason I had succulents was because I wanted to keep something of my bouquet, but I didn’t want to dry it out and hang it on the wall as some brides do, because I think that is just weird and creepy. I know some people love it, but I think it's truly morbid to hang dead flowers on your wall as a memory of your wedding day.

Succulents though... they last happily through the heat and excitement, and at the end of the day, you just pop them in the ground and voila! Instant plants.

So now I have pots and pots of growing, thriving, vibrant, living memories from our wedding, including one ginormous tree of aeoniums near the back fence, which came from the huge and stunning arrangement in the foyer at our reception. Every time I look at them, I think of My One True Love. And my bridesmaids have planted the succulents from their bouquets as well, so they have living memories too.

I also have two massive urns that are filled with succulents outside the back door - but these ones came from Bunnings. One is the classic sempiverens Hen and Chicken. At the start of summer it blooms with long, slender flower spikes filled with tiny pink and orange bells. The other is a fuller-leaved echiverium which sends out fingers of pink and blue flowers.

When I planted them they were just little babies in amongst the white stones, but now they are starting to mass up beautifully and drip over the edges. I love the look of urns overstuffed with succulents.

These little beauties give me hope that even with the ravages of climate change we’re bound to experience (weeks of weather over 40 degrees - hello, people?!) , I can still be a gardener, and have flowers in my life.

Okay, as evolution progresses and the water continues to dry up, they might morph into sharp, poisonous, pointy flowers that can kill you, but they will still be flowers. And I will love them anyway.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Unblocking the writer's drain, I mean brain

Walking to work this morning, I realised that - for the first time in a very long time - I've written something creative nearly every day for a month.

I used to be a writer, of sorts. Through primary school, high school and university, I wrote poems and stories and essays and speeches and debating notes and plays and all the rest of it. I won the odd prize here and there, I was proud of my talent; and I may very well still the only person at my very sport-centric high school who had their photo displayed in the administration building for achievements that were not sport-related. In the town I come from, that's quite something.

Then I graduated from university and set about having a proper life. And with it came all of the responsibilities and botherations that trouble adults every day, and somewhere along the line, my inspiration dried up.

For years now I've thought longingly about the way I used to be able to sit down and dash something off, or alternately work on it for weeks and months. I remember a series of poems I wrote, and story triptychs, and plays that used to just run out of the end of my pen and onto the page.

I also remembered what my high school English teacher Ms Roki said to me. She said "Be careful. Be mindful. Keep writing. Don't let your passion be left behind in the flotsam and jetsam that washes up on the stony beaches of our lives."

Inevitably though, I did.

Over the years I've wanted to write since then, really really wanted to, but I could never find the time - or the idea - or the style. Everything I created felt torturous, and sounded self-indulgent.

I even started working in communication roles, and something that used to be so fluid and natural to me started becoming my bread and butter. The daily grind.

And so I ground to a halt, and stopped. My writing slept deeply inside me, a dormant creature through a long, bitter winter.

But now, it's as though I can feel the first faint stirrings of spring.

To mix my metaphors even further, and push the analogy just one step too far, I think starting this blog has poured Drano down the sink of me, and dissolved the writer's block.

Last night I sat at the computer for about an hour and a half, and tapped out an 1800-word short story about Podae and the Fatpuss. It came really easily, there was no force involved, and what I wrote felt true to me. That's the first time in a very long time.

So perhaps this blog is starting to do what I hoped it'd do - it's helping me re-centre, or at least find my way forward. The act of writing a little something every day has helped to reconnect me with a past passion - one that used to be what defined me, but instead became my history.

It's also you, the invisible audience, who are directly responsible. Thank you!

Knowing that somewhere, there are people reading my words, is the perfect amount of pressure and expectation to keep me chewing my nails and regularly updating these pages.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Two silly pussins

Oh, the cheeky pusses!

I'm at work this morning - of course, because that is where I am *every* weekday morning - and I receive a call from a private number on my mobile phone.

It's the headmistress of the primary school at the end of our street, and as she says in a serious tone "I think I have two of your cats ....", my heart pounds hard against my ribcage and I catch my breath as she goes on " in my office at the school" and I breathe an enormous sigh of relief as I realise that she is talking about two live cats and not two squashed ones.

She explains that some of the children saw Podae and the Fatpuss wandering up the laneway next to the school, and Fatpuss was doing his massive caterwaul - you've never heard a caterwaul until you've heard the Fat One doing it, it sends shivers down your spine. It sounds like he's starving to death, or being slowly cut up into a pile of tiny pieces, or something equally horrific.

In fact, this caterwaul usually means one of two things. It means either "Hello! I have missed you! And I'm hungry! Give me a pat!" or it means " I am hungry! And give me a pat!".

Usually Fathead does his caterwaul when he greets me on the street after I return home from work in the evenings. I can only guess that if he was doing the screech next to the school, he was in fact not distressed, but seeking attention. Silly Fathead!

And of course Podae would have been along for the ride, and he would have been all "Hello children! How are you? I'm Podae, I live up the street and this giant beast beside me is Fatpuss, he's my fat friend. We live in the house together with another puss, but he's not here today. Are you having a good morning? What's happening? Are you having fun? Can I play too?" etc etc. He is a very sociable creature, the Podder.

So the headmistress scoops them both up and gives me a call to explain they were worried the pusses might have wandered from a far distance, and they wanted to make sure they didn't get run over, and so she has secured them in her office and would we like to come and collect them?

I explain that we actually live in the street and she asks if perhaps we've moved in recently and that might be why the cats are upset? And sheepishly I tell her it's been nearly three years and in fact it's just the pusses' way of being friendly. Ooops.

I ring My One True Love and while he sighs heavily, knowing he'll miss an important meeting, he jumps into a cab and goes back to Northcote to retrieve our furry babies. Once home, he locks them inside for the day so that they don't repeat the performance.

On one hand I'm seriously relieved that the pusses are ok - because as a long-time cat owner I've been through the horror of car-related deaths - and on the other hand I'm a little cross at them for misbehaving. But on the third hand (I am turning into Ganesha now) I'm also just a tiny bit proud that they are nice cats and wanted to make new friends.

Most importantly, I'm very gratified to know that the headmistress is the sort of person who cares about little creatures - which I suppose is to be expected given that she looks after a school full of what are effectively baby animals - and I'm pleased that now, having made their acquaintance, if the pusses wander down there again the school administration will know what to expect.
Apparently as My One True Love was carrying the pusses out of the school (Podae over his shoulder and Fathead crammed into a carrying cage he's really too big for now), he was mobbed by the school population who all declared their undying love for Podae and the Fatpuss. It's nice to know they've got friends there now who'll look out for them.

God bless feline-friendly headmistresses and all the children they command.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A false Autumn

Dying of thirst in the desert, men are said to conjure up fantastical images of verdant oases, with lush greenery and deep dark waters to slake their craving need.

And on the country horizon a puddle of water shimmers temptingly at the end of a hot road, only to vanish into dust as we approach.

The heat draws strange pictures in our minds.

Here in town though the mirage is slightly different. Autumn has come early to Melbourne, courtesy of the recent baking temperatures.

From a distance the trees are cloaked in autumnal colours of red, brown and yellow. It’s pretty, if slightly curious to see in the middle of summer.

On closer inspection, it’s not the changing seasons that have transformed the picture. Trees are scorched and brown, their leaves turning to ashes as I touch them. They’ve crisped in the heat. Their branches are burnt.

Drifts of dead leaves have fallen to the ground, expelled in their last dying breaths and shaken off; and walking to work I kick my way through them, crunching my way to town.

The damp warm air moves across my skin like a swarm of flies, gently sucking as it goes. Beads of moisture form on my top lip and my backpack feels heavier and heavier with every step.

The sky is overcloudy, filled up with the ash from country bushfires.

A cool change is due later today, but it comes too late for our scorched plants and gardens, for our distressed animals, for our patience and forebearance.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

And then came the darkening

It's 6.25pm on Friday night and instead of going out to the Australian Open with My One True Love - he's taken the Amateur Actress instead - I'm (slightly ashamed to admit this but it's true) sitting at my sewing machine, finishing up an Ellyfump for my upcoming February market stall.

Now, this is not as lame and sad as it might sound. It's actually quite good. I've got the house to myself, the air-conditioning is protecting me from the 45 degree weather outside, and I think I probably have ...oooh, at least five long, lovely, quiet hours of happy sewing to myself, before the other two return home.

I've settled into a nice rhythm. Beside me there is a glass of clove cordial with ice gently creaking and cracking and clinking. I've finished making the flappy ears - this is an African ellyfump, so the ears are gigantic - and I'm just starting to sew the two body pieces together.

When all of a sudden the machine stops, the air-conditioning stops, the tv goes off, and the lights go out.

Now I'm sitting in complete darkness.

It's obvious what's happened, of course. On the tv news they were talking about the immense power demands through this heatwave, and clearly, Northcote has guzzled more than its fair share of electricity. Greedy, greedy Northcote.

I can't sew, clearly. And I can't open the blinds or the back door to let some natural light in, because then of course the lovely cool air will escape and the sun will blast in and I'll fry to a crisp in the heat. So what to do?

I push back my chair, take up the glass and drink down my long cool river of cordial. I go to the fridge. I extract the Duvel beer I've been saving for a special occasion, and I pour it into the cordial glass. It froths satisfyingly.

I scoop up a book I've been meaning to read but somehow never got around to, and I wander up the hallway and out through the front door. It's ever so slightly cooler here, because the front of the house is protected from the sun.

People are milling about, suddenly freed from their semi-comatose states in front of the tv. They're calling to each other about the blackout, and everyone agrees the timing couldn't be worse. The man down the street has taken on the role of neighbourhood Oracle, advising people as they pull up in their cars arriving home from work; The power's out! Not a volt! Nothing works! He sounds really excited about it.

I settle into the deckchair out the front. I make myself comfortable on the cushion Podder usually sits on - it's covered in cat fur, like a small furry hide, and I watch the world go by for a bit. The New Parents down the road are taking the baby out for a walk, it's too hot to keep him indoors in this weather. They're thinking about going to the local cinema, but of course it's blacked out too - so, just a walk then.

I sit back and read my book, for over two hours, but the book's engrossing and I don't even notice the time passing. I sweat quietly, without worrying, and just enjoy the free time.

Eventually the power comes back on and I retreat back indoors, and so does everybody else, and the unusual sound of neighbourly conversation eventually stills, and I can hear the hum of airconditioners powering up, and the faint sounds of a radio floating down the street, and doors slamming as people close up their houses again against the summer sun.

I assume my previous position in front of the sewing machine, and so it goes.