Sunday, January 30, 2011

I Heart Virago!

At what point do they bring out the strait-jackets I wonder and cart you off to the home for the bewildered?

Is putting Viragos in the shape of a heart on the marital cot enough I wonder?

I do like a competition and this is the most creative contribution I can come up with for a photo of my Virago collection.

The wonderful Rachel of Booksnob and Carolyn of A Few of my Favourite Books have been hosting Virago Reading Week this week.

I'm afraid I haven't been very good at the reading bit.....more at the purchasing bit.....

But it has been an absolute pleasure to discover new blogs and fellow Virago afficianodos and re-ignite a forgotten obsessive compulsive disorder.

Long live Virago!

PS I hope you have noted the feminist colours of the bedspread.  Purple for dignity, green for hope...the sheets needless to say are white for purity.  I'm sure the Man of Wrath would have something to say about that!

Saturday, January 29, 2011


It is Virago Reading Week this week hosted by the lovely Rachel at Book Snob and Carolyn at A Few of my Favourite Books .  I was meant to be reading I Will Not Serve by Eveline Mahyere but I seem to have mislaid it - silly me - so I am reading F Tennyson Jesse's The Lacquer Lady instead.

There are all sorts of competitions this week  running in conjunction with the Virago fest and I of course love entering competitions.  One of them is to take photos of our Virago here I go.  I don't have many Viragos which is why I'll be hitting the Lifeline Bookfest with a vengeance today...

This photo, believe it or not, took a bit of work.  For a start I've got a pretty clunky camera.  Secondly I don't hold them as still as I used to - not that I'm ancient or anything just hopeless at staying still.  So it took 13 photos to produce one focussed one!!  And what I really want you to look at is the leaf....don't you think it looks like a smile or a mouth?  I do.  I took 13 photos of the wretched thing.  I found it on the carpark stairs at New Farm.  See I am really turning eccentric - picking up leaves because they look like mouths.

I went to a business breakfast yesterday morning and got into conversation with a fellow businessperson.  He asked me if I smile in interviews.  Do I?  I don't know.  I think I do.  Maybe I don't.  I don't have a mirror with me at the time.  Anyway - the point is - Viragos make me smile.  Why?  Because their familiar green cover assures me a good read is inside (and yes, I know the covers have changed) so now it is the logo that assures me - that naughty apple wot Eve gave Adam when all the trubble began.

Trubble does begin with Viragos - washing up doesn't get done, bathrooms don't get cleaned, Men of Wrath are ignored....such trubble it's a wonder the world continues to function whilst we metaphorically eat apples.  Viragos are a window onto someone else's world - I can see, feel and hear their story.  Sometimes I have to look hard or look twice, as I did with my leaf, because the author has found things that I haven't thought of or recognise but the effort is always rewarding.

What makes you smile?  I sit in an office on my own all week so delight in silly things people post on Facebook or on their blogs or send me via email.  This week two videos about animals made me roar with laughter.  I hope you enjoy them.  Animals make me smile all the time.  Aren't we lucky to have them in our world?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Costa Novel Award 2010

"The hand that first held mine" by Maggie O'Farrell

We chose this for our first bookclub meeting.  A desire had been expressed to read some of the prizes this year.  This won the Costa Novel Award for 2010 (the Costas used to be known as the Whitbreads).You can read more about them here (  It is Maggie O'Farrell's fifth novel and it is the first of hers that I have read. 

By and large it was a delightful introduction to O'Farrell's work.  Of late, I feel I have been reading many worthy books and while I enjoy being stretched outside my comfort zone, I do enjoy reading a book for pleasure too, not just duty.  This book was not a duty to read at all.  I knocked it off in a couple of days. 

There are two interweaving stories - one set in the late 50s/60s and one set in contemporary times.  The reader knows (from reading the blurb on the inside front flap) that inevitably the two stories are linked and part of the compelling nature of the book is to discover the link between the two.   

The characters are reasonably complex and engaging.  The post-war story captures the essence of the era and has a touch of "Mad Men" about it.  The contemporary story is about a young couple struggling with the demands of a newborn, complicated by the near-death experience of the mother at birth.  This event triggers deep buried emotions in her husband which manifest as panic attacks and are at the heart of the stories' connection. 

"The hand that first held mine" appealed to me because I like books about writers and writing and how having children changes us as individuals and partners.  On a grander scale, it is a novel about love and loss and how those experiences carve us out and define us. 

If there was a bit that disappointed me, it was probably pages 181-188. It would be a plot spoiler if I revealed their content so I won't, but I just thought the quality of the writing deteriorated at this point.  It's hard to define exactly what I disliked about it, but let's just say I found it too sentimental.  Lest I be accused of being a cold fish, I also loved the writing on page 315 which would also be a plot revealer if I quoted it.  It could also be described as being too sentimental.  So there you go ...go figure, as they say.

Read it and tell me what you think.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Man of Wrath

This is a bit cheeky because I finished this yesterday but I am going to submit it for the Virago Reading week anyway because it is so close in time.....

Elizabeth and her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim

You know how particular books give you phrases for life?  For example,Winnie the Pooh - "elevenses", "horrible heffalumps" or Animal Farm- "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others" and so on.  Well, this book has given me "The Man of Wrath".  I shall be using this frequently from now on!

This was my second gift from my Virago Secret Santa - the lovely Juliette07.  What a wise choice.  I was a bit nervous about reading this book as I am the world's worst gardener.  I have a black thumb - possibly two.  Cactus struggle to survive in my garden.  Weeds flourish.  The sad thing is that I really do love a beautiful garden.  I am just bone lazy and would prefer to knit or read.  So, I thought, reading about gardening could be a challenge.

I was intrigued from the outset that the author, Elizabeth von Arnim, was Australian by birth and born in the very same city of my birth - Sydney - in 1866.  She was, however, brought up in England and moved to Pomerania in 1894 with her first husband, Count von Arnim aka the Man of Wrath.  This book is the account of her forays into gardening - delighting in experimenting with planting and designing a large estate.

This is a slim volume - just over 200 pages - and this particular edition has reasonable size print. All of which is very encouraging for those readers whose eyes are just beginning to require glasses at every turn and who lead hectic lives and read in short bursts on buses or in snatches, before the Man of Wrath discovers them somewhere and delivers yet another lecture with glass of wine in one hand.

The book is framed within a year - commencing in May and concluding in April.  There are detailed accounts to be sure of the sowing et al and at times I felt the book would benefit either from illustrations or my having a Yates Garden guide beside me, being vastly ignorant of many of the species under discussion.  I persevered however and really, in the end, Elizabeth is probably a much more acute observer of the human species, particularly in the second half of the book.

This is an account for sure of a woman who leads a privileged life.  There are numerous servants and seedlings are ordered in the hundreds.  But Elizabeth's observations are always told with tongue firmly in cheek or with a sense that, to many. her life and interests may seem rather odd and unconventional.  There are many passages where, despite this being written over 100 years ago, one smiles in recognition, that some things never change.  Just substitute your favourite vice (e.g. Librarything) for flower catalogues in the following quote and you will understand what I mean....

"I am very busy preparing for Christmas, but have often locked myself up in a room alone, shutting out my unfinished duties, to study the flower catalogues and make my list of seeds and shrubs and trees for the spring.  It is a fascinating occupation, and acquires an additional charm when you know you ought to be doing something else, that Christmas is at the door, that children and servants and farm hands depend on you for their pleasure, and that, if you don't see to the decoration of the trees and house and the buying of the presents, nobody else will.  The hours fly by shut up with those catalogues and with Duty snarling on the other side of the door." p. 94

Elizabeth is a woman who craves and enjoys solitude.  At times I felt sorry for a visitor thrust upon her goodwill - the aspirant writer, Minora - whose efforts Elizabeth and her friend Irais, delight in mocking at every turn. But in the end I am forced to admire Elizabeth's own acute observation of her self....a woman not entirely without faults - but ones we all share.....

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Good Citizen

This is the mumble mumble bridge in Brisbane....I say that because I never know which bridge is which...we have so could be the William Jolly....isn't that dreadful?  I really should know...I am a grown-up for goodness sake......

It's such a bad photo that it's almost a good photo if you know what I's raining and taken from the back of a speeding bus.

Coronation Drive is now open and I think they go along it very fast in case Coronation Drive decides to fall into the fast moving Brisbane river.

It was freezing on the bus.  I think they had the airconditioning up very high because it was such a stinking hot day.  I shall proably die of pneumonia before I die of cholera or typhoid.

The dear Council sent me lovely thank you messages for being a volunteer on the weekend.  "Too easy"  - as the young folk seem to say these days.  I was glad to help.  It was frustrating sitting at home and watching it on telly.  I was glad to be doing something.

Hopefully I can do more.

What's the worst photo you've ever taken?  I do remember taking one of my poor godmother in two halves.  The top half and then the bottom half - hilarious when you think about it.  Waist up.  Waist down.  At the time it made perfect sense.  She was way too big to fit in the viewfinder.  It's all about perspective isn't it?  When something is too big...think about taking a step back and then things might fit in the viewfinder.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Here we are in Weekes Road Moggill waiting for da bus.

Today we volunteered to help clean up the rubbish left by the floods in Brisbane.

Our day started at about 5:30 - up and at 'em and off to get Thommo from Ashgrove and then to make our way to Mt Coot-tha Gardens to register to volunteer.

The queue was long but moved reasonably quickly.  They had hats, gloves and water for us - even tetanus shots - and handed out oranges on the buses.  Today's mystery tour went to Moggill.  I was glad.  They are our neighbours. 

It was a bit sobering driving down Moggill Road - a journey I have done for many years taking the kids to riding lessons and pony club.  You could see the water line way up high in the trees where the leaves were all brown.  We passed the McIntyre Centre and all the horse rugs were out to dry.  The bus left us at the local store - 70 odd people standing beside the road starting to giggle and wondering where we should go.  After a while an organised bloke directed us to cross the road and sit in the shade of the church until the next bus came. 

It did and we were taken somewhere else...and then we walked...and walked and walked....I started to giggle thinking "Does anyone actually know where we're going...all the houses looked fine. 
We got right to the end of  Weekes Road and that's where the piles of rubbish were...there were volunteers everywhere and no trucks....some of us tried to clear out gardens but a lot of it had already been done.  I was a bit reluctant to go into people's houses because there were so many of us there and we had been clearly told what our job was...get the rubbish in the trucks.. ..

So then the trucks started to come...but there were bobcats too and it became this mad game of avoid the bobcat  and then try and throw stuff into the trucks....Well I've never been very good at throwing and, let's face it...I am a short arse......but I think we did help in a weird kind of way...

Certainly Thommo and Cas got into it and were called upon to lift heavy logs and other big boy crap like carpets and what not and Cas said he feels really good about it...and so I think we done good...and my legs are sore so I must have done something :)....We were very well fed by someone - sausages sizzles and bottles of water and cupcakes......The bus took us back to the Church and then I rang my walking mate who lived over the hill and she drove us back to the Gardens.  I haven't seen her since she went overseas.  She's been without power, water or phone for four days at Bellbowire.  She was in fine spirits and waxing enthusiastic about the Queensland spirit in her thick Scottish brogue.  Bless.  

Here are the boys in their volunteer kit....they'll hate me for posting this but they really were just lovely and the kind of people I'd want around me if I needed help ....

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sandbags and Gridlock

Well they're not very good photos I'm afraid but I'm trying to capture the last couple of days here in Bris-Venice as it is now called......(as opposed to BrisVegas)

There are sandbags lying outside shops and the traffic is chaos.  It is so difficult to know what to do.  We want to help but everytime we get on the road we can't get anywhere.  Today Cas and I ventured out to Indooroopilly took us so long that we just parked the car a couple of streets away and walked the rest of the way.  We were trying to get suitable clothing for him to wear as a volunteer tomorrow to help with the cleanup.....workboots, long pants, long sleeved shirts etc....stuff that teenagers in a tropical climate DO NOT wear as a matter of course....shorts and singlets being more favoured.....

Then we went in search of a medical centre to get Tetanus shots so we can volunteer tomorrow.

Taringa Medical Centre came good - though once again traffic was at a crawl all along Moggill Road...they had already administered 50 tetanus shots by 1pm when we arrived.  I called Kenmore Medical Centre and they had already administered 25.  The Volunteer Centres have been flooded (yes a poor pun I know).

Home via Kenmore MacDonalds when the reality of the disaster finally struck Cas full force....Maccas was closed at midday on a Saturday - quelle horreur!!!

Home by the local bakery and, whilst they were open, all bread, pies etc had been stripped.  He had to make do with a finger bun.

But we are so very fortunate...we are high and dry....we have each other...we have food, power...everything really when so many have so little now.....

Have you been through a disaster?  What did you lose?  What was the worst bit?  What helped you recover?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Brisbane Flood

We are high and dry here at home but some other people are not so lucky. 

This photo is taken from North Quay just near B105.  

I made a mad dash into the city this morning to empty the freezer in my father's unit before the power was to go off at 8:30am. 

It was tricky getting in as Coronation Drive and Milton Road are cut.  Rosalie is underwater - hard to believe. 

That is the Gallery of Modern Art you can see on the right. The galleries and museum are closed.  The city was being blocked off by police cars as I left.

Take care everyone....

Monday, January 10, 2011

Green Revolution and Toowoomba Floods

I'm back at work - with the all important coffee cup to keep me going. 

What do you think?

This is my bit for the green revolution....a recyclable coffee cup which I bought at a place called Lamington in Noosa.

The Brisbane River continues to churn and boil with driftwood and looks like a big brown wide river.  Its hard to focus on Coronation Drive going home it's so mesmerising......

Poor old Toowoomba copped it today.  If you want to have a look at some amazing photos, befriend the Premier's Disaster Relief Fund on Facebook...oh and while you're at it...why don't you make a donation to all those poor families that have lost their homes...their books...their clothes...their sofas...their tvs?

You get the picture...You can make a donation here

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Navmen and other delights

I think it is important to log how much in love I am with my Navman...okay okay Bel...OUR Navman.

Bel and I went halve-zees in a Navman a month or so ago and I'm just beginning to use it and discover its delights.....

I love that it can re-direct you in the event of road closures et al....I love that it can tell you where the nearest petrol station is....we laugh at how it pronounces names - the woman says Caloundra like Maroubra***.....which won't mean much to people who aren't from Australia but I'm sure you have equivalents wherever you tells me when I am tells me where there are speed/red-light cameras.  If you've ever wondered if it was an extravagance, I say to you...go and get one now....they are a godsend for those over 40 who find street directories hard to read at night or parents of kids who have to go to soccer-fields in godforsaken suburbs they've never heard of.....

It's very rainy here....I spent the day browsing in shops's my last day of holidays before I go back to the proverbial salt-mine.  I got caught in a downpour in the city.  My shoes were soaked.  My jeans were soaked.  Luckily I could go to my father's unit and put my togs in the dryer, have a cup of coffee and borrow his shoes to drive home.  Here's the view from the unit.  You can't really see much from a mobile phone photo but I assure you that the river has broken its banks and is very brown with lots of interesting driftwood.  The City Botanic Gardens are absolutely soaked.

I was grateful to find bandaids in the unit as well...It's the little things that make a difference isn't it?...a blister on the back of your heel can be hell....

God bless the person that invented Navman and God bless the person that invented Bandaids.

And a big PS - God Bless friends who share their very special champagne with you and teach you how to do Fair Isle and take you to Noosa so you can browse in fabulous shops to your heart's content. Love you heaps girlfriend!!!

***in case you are slightly interested Australia we pronounce Caloundra as in Cal - ow - ndruh......and Maroubra as Ma- roo - bruh (the "a"s on the end of both names are short as in "up") you can understand why we giggle when the lady says Ca - loon - druh.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Yes!  I can knit a hat in a day...for charity.....

for those who care it's a Thicket design....

and I knitted it in a lovely yarn called Dream in Colour Classy and the colour is Dusky Aurora....

I found it at Peppermint Stitches.

I do like a you? 

Slip, slop, slap !

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Tisket A Tasket

I do love a good basket!

This Christmas gift was from lovely Faith...and I have just filled it with books, magazines and DVDs from Kenmore library.....I borrowed the March and June issues of Yarn magazine which I've never bought.  I borrowed The Last Picture Show and Affinity.  I borrowed Kenmore Park by Jean Stewart, Patchwork for Beginners by Sue Prichard, a V & A publication, Around the World in Knitted Socks by Stephanie van der Linden and Closely Knit by Hannah Fettig......bliss, joy, to browsing land now.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Kenmore Library

I've been meaning to say for a while how excited I am that Kenmore now has it's own new opened just before Christmas.  I didn't get to see it until after Christmas and the joint was jumping.

I don't know about your library but our library has cheerful technology that "sings" when you borrow a book - a bit like those new fandangled washing machines that sing a little tune when the load is finished.  The library was so busy the day I went all you could hear was the dinging of happy customers and their books being checked out.

There are all sorts of great spaces in the library particularly for young uns - (puts on old shaky voice) "Oh they're not like they were in my day...."  ....well actually, I remember them being pretty fantastic in my day too.....

What do you remember about libraries in your youth?  I remember listening to Elton John's Yellow Brick Road over and over again while my parents looked at books - it must have been on tape...and that would have been in a library in Canberra....I'm trying to remember which one it would have been - I think it might have been Kingston ....

Do you have a library near you?  Do you like it? What do you like about it?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

A photo a day....

I've only just caught onto this suggestion for January - a photo a day....what an excellent suggestion...I've always liked taking photos and this morning I took quite a few....let's see if I can keep going every day.....

So, this is a photo of my big splurge this week at the post-Xmas sales.....a new wreath for our front door....half price from Crabtree & Evelyn....I am very happy with it...the other one was starting to fall was my mother's and was probably at least 20 years old.

Happy New Year to you and yours......what's your new year's resolution?  Mine is not to have the same old resolution next year....i.e. lose weight!!! Wouldn't it be nice to keep it off and never have to worry about it again.....but my father makes such excellent Christmas pudding...and brandy butter...mmmmmmm.....