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17 May 2020 @ 01:04 pm
Hi Friends, LJ Users, Nigerian Scammers, Russian Bots and sundry others!
Thanks for taking a moment to read my sticky post on friending.

On the whole, there's no need to friend me if you just want to read my fics, since they are posted unlocked. In fact, most of my locked posts are me ranting about the state of the world (usually from a politics or media slant) or some such.

Generally, I am a ready friender. If you friend me and you have entries in your livejournal or have commented on some of my posts, you can usually expect to be friended back, unless:
* There are no entries in your LJ.
* I do not recall us ever having 'spoken' online (given how selective my memory is, you should probably assume this.)
* Your LJ is written wholly in a language I do not speak (pretty much anything that is not English, or French or Italian (both of which I speak poorly), or German, Spanish, Latin, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Welsh or Irish (all of which I have a smattering of and enough reference books to get the gist.) (Though if your journal is in actual Latin as opposed to Lorem Ipsum, I will probably immediately friend you on principle.)
* Your journal consists of several entries a day concerning My Little Pony, school and whether your hair looks better in plaits, pigtails, or with a fringe pouf. You are probably adorable, but should not be subjected to my occasional flocked rants.

SO, if you've friended me (thanks!) and I've not friended you back, just drop a brief line saying 'Excuse me, oh vague and neglectful one, could you friend me back please?'

I can't guarantee that I will ever have time to be a good lj friend, but I will try and provide you with amusing content and I always try to read my whole flist. Well, the stuff before the cut at any rate.
01 January 2020 @ 04:42 pm
For me to keep track of!Collapse )
16 September 2014 @ 12:31 am
Only a few dozen more boxes to go … I have no idea how we actually fit into the old house, and can only assume that we solved a complex physics problem involving space folding one weekend, but were too tired to write it up, then forgot about it.

The lovely illereyn popped over and took some glasses and magazines, it was fab to meet her, so clever and interesting! She met two of the cats, and was able to pay a heavy patting tax. Rusketus was having one of his Muppet afternoons and running around like a fox terrier on espresso. 'I've never seen a cat do that!' she exclaimed. 'Why is he doing it?' 'No-one knows,' I told her, 'and yet, do it he does.'

If anyone in Sydney wants old New Scientists or New Yorkers, or a nice set of teacups and saucers, let me know, all reclaimed space is good space! I'm keeping the psycho kitten, he's adorable in the five or six minutes a day he's not causing mayhem.

The weekend's other highpoint was a lovely long ride along the river. It was my first long ride for a while. I can still walk and sit down afterwards. Mostly. I was about 45 minutes in before I realised that the reason Mr B was leaving me for dead on the offroad bits was that I had swapped out my knobbly tyres for city slicks. He was unsympathetic, I sped off and left him once we got back onto pavement.

I was also swooped by a magpie! Mr B called my attention to it, just as I was riding ahead of him and it was swooping for the back of my head. This was not an intelligent decision on his part. Happily, the maggie was still a bit up in the air and he aborted his swopp when he saw me looking at him, rather than scratching out my eyes, which was the other option. I had a word with Mr Magpie (quite possibly Mrs Magpie) and he stopped swooping me – it really does work, if you talk to them in a calm and friendly voice, they leave you alone. He started swooping at Mr B instead, and Mr B was not calm and friendly. He's more of a cat person … We left Maggie to guard his tree and possible nest.

In more important news, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, iamshadow! May your summers be cool, your winters warm, your fireplace cooperative and all your pets splendid. I know your girl will be super, so that's sorted. Here's to a year of things working easily and well for you both!

And also for kriscat, I think it was your fault I checked out Agents of Shield, good grief did that ever come together in an unexpectedly exciting way! A very happy day for you, may the present fairies sprain their wings lugging things to your door!
04 September 2014 @ 10:50 pm
Happy Birthday, montjoye! May all your brews be true and may you never be confused as to the vessel with the pestle!
04 September 2014 @ 01:29 am
We have moved.

Empires have been lost in less time and with fewer aching arms, I am convinced. If you live in Sydney and would like old cooking magazines, New Scientists or New Yorkers, do let me know, I apparently own a ridiculous amount. Let us not speak of the books. And the plants in heavy pots. Nor the actual weights, which I foolishly failed to factor into my thinking … 'Why does this box feel as though it weighs 30kg?? Oh. Because it has 30kg of iron. And a pillow. And a note saying "weights, heavy".'

Many things are still in boxes, which means I cannot find my spare wax for my Barbour, and after being thoroughly soaked several times while lugging heavy objects, it is in desperate need and I am a sulky cold grump, because the weather has turned awful again and it is my favourite coat and all the house is organised differently and there are no good local cafes and the one bus that I can get to work or anywhere really is simply a disaster.

On the upside, there is more actual room, the neighbours are lovely, and the natural environment is a massive improvement on Erskineville, with a lovely rock scree for scrambling up and down just a street back alongside a nice park with reading trees and a 'castle' and then the river with its long cycleways and huge parks only a quarter mile more down the road. There is a good cafe in one of the parks, only a mile and a bit away, and they sell jaffles and hot chocolate in winter, which is a very fine combination. And the organic market is on at the other end of Marrickville every Sunday, with delicious broadbeans and heritage carrots and salmon last week, and I will ride there this week to drop out the horror of the bus. There is a neighbourhood spare cat and we had a kingfisher sitting in the back garden, and all my hellebores and dendrobium orchids have bloomed to cheer me up, which is very thoughtful of them.

Cookie and Monster keep giving us the look of 'Well, this has been fun, but when are we putting everything back in our normal house and getting the cat run back?' Oh cats, I hear you. Building a new cat run is a high priority! And a garden. This house has a single cypress and 'lawn'. I'm thinking of viburnum for a hedge, but may need something faster growing if Mr Brammers wishes to continue his lifetime habit of no trousers unless there's company. Or, just wait till summer and let the neighbours opposite plant a hedge instead …

We have the big bookshelf in the bedroom in this house, it's about 2.5m at the top shelf, and I've not yet found all the history books that are meant to go on it, so Rusketus the kitten/cat keeps leaping onto it from the top of the giant dresser beside it and using it as a Place To Survey His Minions. This is all well and good when he goes back the same way, but last night we were lying in bed and watched him look at the dresser, look at the bed, then jump out into empty space.

I tell you, I have never been so grateful for the fact that I am often too slovenly to put away the spare duvet – he used it and the pile of clean blankets that I had carefully washed, dried and folded then not been arsed to get the stepladder to put away in the top drawers of the dresser as a crashmat and landed without a problem.

Why we decided to get the kitten whose life mission is to understand the workings of gravity is something I have never been clear on. 
21 August 2014 @ 01:33 am
Picture a short, dark-haired woman, smeared with dust and newsprint, with a right ankle roughly the size and shape of a softball (old injury, reminding me it hates me), a back that was great a month ago, less so now, bruises that make me look as though I have taken up some strange sport that involves throwing small, hard balls at one's limbs (not those balls) and STILL MORE BOXES OF MAGAZINES TO MOVE!!!!!!

Whatever you have in mind, I am grottier, tireder, and still coughing more like the heroine of a 19th century opera (I seem to have just avoided bronchitis, but all the dust means the post-viral cough has had free rein).

However, tonight, in the new house, we turned on the heater, the toaster, the electric kettle and the dryer ALL AT THE SAME TIME. It's been 14 years since we could do that without flipping a fuse breaker.

The cats are all a little weirded out, but coping; I am desperate to finish moving the last stuff so that I can sleep and sleep and sleep.

With this in mind, my birthday greetings for ravurian are woefully inadequate. You are a scholar and a gentleman, good sir, and as Katherine Hepburn would say: more power to you! I hope you have a fabulous year, and that we both find cause to say something nice about a politician over the next year. Oh, that's too unlikely, I hope some nice billionaire develops a mad crush on you instead.
14 August 2014 @ 02:04 am
Bad timing: mid conversation with a lot of interesting and lovely people, I am finishing up the move, on deadline for three mags at once and crawling back to health from Plague. Hope to be back tomorrow, if not, very shortly thereafter!

So sorry for my crapitude with birthdays and everything. I blame the kitten. Did I tell you about his successful escape the other week? He made another bid for freedom the other night and I had to crash tackle him at the door. SUCH a knee bruise! Though I suppose it's better on me than on the kitten …
12 August 2014 @ 11:23 pm
This post discusses mental illness and the death of Robin Williams.

Like many people, I've spent the last 12 and a bit hours feeling a loss. Brilliantly talented people are rare, and their work lifts us as a culture. Sometimes it lifts us as human beings. Sometimes, as with all the laughter Robin Williams provoked, it just lifts our days.

So when the news of his death came across this morning, we stopped getting ready for work here and felt what we would both now miss, and then felt even sadder as we remembered his children and his wife.

And then the newsreader said 'It's believed Williams committed suicide. He had struggled with depression and alcoholism.'

And he didn't have a voice of judgement, and he sounded sad, too, and he was about a million times better than those dickheads over at Fox News, but at the same time, I thought, 'But that's not how you would have said it if he had cancer.'

Because the thing I've realised is that we have a different public language for mental illness and for 'real illness'.

In the main evening news, the presenter had different language. She said, 'Robin Williams has passed away after a long battle with depression.' And I thought, yes, that's it, because mental illness is like cancer.

It's exactly like it. Some cancers and some mental illnesses are discrete – they take up a certain space, are treated and then are gone. They are something you had, but that are now over and done with. After them, you treat yourself a little more kindly: eat more organic food, go for a run or a walk every day, work a little less, live a little more.

Others are ones people live with. You need treatment, and you need to keep watch, to make sure it's behaving, that it's keeping to the limits you can live with and letting you lead your life around it. You still have so much life around it, you just need to be vigilant, and to jump on top of things quickly if it ever looks as though it might be getting the upper hand. You can live a life like that, you can live a great and long life like that.

Then there are the ones that go to war with you. The treatment will be liike a battle, but you can face it down, you can win. And maybe you do win. Or maybe you win once, twice, a dozen times, but lose in the end, because it came back stronger, or because you were worn out. But you fight for as long as you need to, because that's what we do, and if you run out of strength before you run out of disease, the people who loved you will understand.

And then there are the diseases that devastate, that destroy swiftly and wholly and leave you astonished as to how your body could have turned on you like this and that leave your friends and family floundering, lost, because you were just here, and now you're gone.

And when any of these ARE cancer, we have this whole public language that we trot out. He fought bravely. She struggled for many years. He succumbed at last. She was suddenly struck down.

But when it's mental illness of any sort, he is said to have taken his own life. Police on the scene say there were no suspicious circumstances to her death. He committed suicide. She was found alone with empty pill bottles, viewers who are distressed by this information should call …

As a professional journalist, you receive training. For a long time they told us, 'Never say suicide. It encourages others to copycat.' But at the same time, we were told, 'And when a famous person has or dies from cancer, the one good thing is that you can encourage a massive spike in screening and treatment by providing health information with the story.' In a moment of deep common sense, a few years back some of the major mental health groups went out and spread the message – 'We have screening, too!  We have symptoms people should look out for, we have helplines they can call, we have systems that can save.'

And those messages do save: we know for a fact that people call the helplines listed at the end of news stories, and they get help, and many nip their illness early, before it can grow strong.

But I am left wondering: why do we have the different languages? Why do we have one way of talking about all the things that go wrong with the body outside the brain, and another for most of the things that happen inside it?

I had a friend who thought she was going mad. She found out she had a brain tumour. She was relieved. What kind of world is this that brain cancer was preferable? It's a question she asked later, cognizant of the fact that her diagnosis had come with words like 'operable', 'curable' and 'early', but in honesty, she said that she understood cancer, she knew what the support networks were, she knew her friends would stand by her with cancer.

I think we need to start thinking of mental illness as just illness. It's like cancer, it's like heart disease, it's like the flu. It's like so many other things that we are less scared of, and that make us less frightening to other people. I think we need to do this so that we remember that it IS an illness, and that people suffering from whatever form of it need funded and accessible help, and ongoing care, and support, and that if they die of it, they die of the disease – not by choice, or despair, or 'cowardice' (you're so predictably awful, Fox News), but simply because they were sick.

Because if we remember that it is illness, people are faster to seek help. And doctors are more straightforward in what they look for and what they can offer as treatment. And all of the employment entitlements that come with being sick will be there, and there will be less fear.

And there will be less to be frightened of.
01 August 2014 @ 01:24 am
Reading the Harry Potter books will help to make you a more tolerant human being, according to this story.

In other news, moving is awful, but better than so many other things happening in the world that comparatively it is fine. Let us not talk about the landlord, who may yet end up being taken to the tribunal. And my plague has come over all mediaeval, but after a third day in bed, I think I have turned the corner. Which is a relief, because the alternative was tremendously 14th century.

One day some brilliant person will come up with an important engineering application for snot, and my unwanted superpower of mucous will earn me a FORTUNE. Until then, I am going to have to plant three trees in a bid to balance out all these tissues …
28 July 2014 @ 12:02 am
It started on Friday: what felt like the entirety of a cold descending upon me in 30 minutes. I bargained with my body: 'Body,' I said, 'this is moving weekend. You need to be in tip-top form! None of this near-death for you!'

'I don't feel at all well,' my body replied.

The magnificent editorial assistant of fandom excellence (who is going to be in Florida in a few months – all tips re Harry Potter tourism will be gratefully received) dragged me out of the building to look at Harry Potter pyjamas. In a febrile fit, I managed not to buy a Hogwarts sleeping shirt (old gym gear will keep me in cold weather sleepwear for at least the next three years!), but I did buy the first two series of Once Upon a Time, and I am not ashamed! At the end of my wander round the shops and a spot of lunch, I had perked so considerably that I began to hope I had dodged the lurgy.

I had not dodged the lurgy.

Saturday saw me wake without a voice. We had to take the train up to the mountains to borrow a car from my magnificent boss, I sat and shivered and read Caitlin Moran's new novel (startling amounts of masturbation, on the whole funny, convincing and very Decent Human) on the train up and then peered anxiously through walls of rain on the drive back down.

Happily we got back to a sunnier city than the one we had left, and picked up the keys without incident.

And drove the first carload of bags and boxes to the new house.

And were horrified.

There was one thing wrong with this house when we inspected it: one of its rooms had been remade into a sound studio, with thick insulation on the walls. We had an agreement that this would be fixed before we moved in.

It's now worse. The landlord's own condition report lists the state of the walls as 'stained, scuffed, mouldy …'

The good news is that NSW law is very clear and that a mouldy premises is a clear violation of the tenancy agreement on the part of the landlord. There is ample precendent for this situation, all of which agrees that the tenants can walk away if the problem isn't fixed. So I have written to the agents and sent photos, expressing disappointment and dissatisfaction and asking that the situation be remedied and the room re-walled (it's just painted plasterboard, so this is not a huge expense). I'll also compromise and take a rent reduction and agreement that we can remedy the situation ourselves. Otherwise, we're back to bloody house hunting! ARGH!

Hoping for the best, we took some more boxes over today. At one point, I noticed that Mr B had left both the front door and the gate of our current house open. I shut the door and ran through the house conducting a quick cat census. Two girl cats. No boy kitten cat. I looked in the cat run. I looked through the house again. Mr B came back in and I whispered to him that Rusketus was revisting his Houdini impersonations. He told me that there was no way the cat could have got past him and went to find him.

Five minutes later, he accepted that there was indeed a way, and that Ruus had found it. He then abandoned me to take another carload over to the new house. I did a few laps of the front lane, talking to several pedestrians and a cyclist. This was made more difficult by me not having a voice.  A man walked by with two big dogs: I consoled myself with the fact they looked like nice big dogs … I peered into my neighbours' yards, no neighbours and no kitten. I checked the Thai takeaway on the corner, where cats have been known to beg for chicken. I squinted at the road and the railway: no still grey-and-tan forms.

Accepting he was lost, I went over to the vet to report him missing. We do have a good system here, and microchipped cats are often returned. The vet nurse was reassuring and talked me through the report steps, then suggested I walk the whole block and doorknock as many people as possible so the word would spread and more sets of eyes would be looking. This was my plan, but as I walked back to start, I saw a jaunty little creature padding his way up through the nature strip that borders the railway, very pleased with himself.

'Ruus!' I whispered. 'Come here and have a cuddle!' There followed a few minutes of muppetry, which ended in him being caught. I decided to shut the gate as I brought him in, he took advantage of my one-armed hold to fling himself upside-down and sink his rear claws into my face.

I can apparently whisper 'You fiendish little fucker!' really loudly. The nice lad walking past was very sympathetic.

To top things off, last night, laryngitis morphed into ghastly plague, so I have spent the whole day packing, shaking, writing cross but reasonable letters and berating myself for not spending less over the last 10 years as I could easily have bought a house with what I have spent on travel, books and quality moisturiser alone. Well, at least a third of a decent house in Sydney, but a whole house in Tasmania or parts of the mountains!
21 July 2014 @ 12:54 am
I have a lot of complex analysis to offer on current world events, but most of it boils down to this classic sign:
In other news, we have a house! It's, er, odd. It's weatherboard, which will be a first for me, but it is large and light and has a massive covered deck at the back. Or, as I refer to it, my future tapdancing studio. It might be fabulous or we might be moving again in a year. I have an agreement that next house WILL be an Edwardian treasure. We move next week, I apologise in advance for the whining.

In other other news, HAPPY BIRTHDAY queerbychoice! I hope that this year is nothing like last year. May you be surrounded only by sane people and may all your plants thrive.

Happy birthday, too, to ellie_nor. I hope that all the present fairies are catching a cab to your place, too laden down to fly!
10 July 2014 @ 12:33 am
Happy Birthday, nenne! Your life always sounds so full of joy and love, and I hope that today is especially so! I hope that this year is splendid for you, you delightful human of insight and kindness!

You would be dying of laughter at me today: it is 12 degrees C and I am freezing. Oh, for a Scandinavian house with insulation and draughtproofing!

09 July 2014 @ 02:03 am
A far too quick for the pages of love she deserves Happy Birthday to oldenuf2nb! From the first time I met you, I was pleased to know you and that has naver changed. You are so talented, kind and brilliant. I hope this birthday is one of your best and heralds a year of things going exactly as you want them to or only enchantingly awry for you and those you love.

And now to bed. Two hours late. Because we noticed there were some new local houses listed, so we donned coats, gloves and beanies (it is actually cold in Sydney at the moment!), stealthed our way to a few nearby addresses, then enacted the ritual of me standing with one hand up at one end point of a structure, while Mr B stood at the other and shone the glowing red dot of a laser measuring device at my hand.

We had done this twice when I caught his eye and saw him starting to giggle. 'That's right,' I said. 'We are hardcore. Nighttime Ninja househunters!'

And then we had to run away before anyone thought we were either burglars or assassins. Or, more likely, he woke them with the cackling.

One prospective is 40m from here. We could finally move via handtrolley and cargo bike, which has been a lifelong dream of mine! Soon. Soon it will be done!
05 July 2014 @ 06:14 pm
We had plans to be in Canberra this weekend. Alas, househunting it was! But only three, because we had pre-culled our list of potentials.

The first place ticked a lot of boxes: quiet streets, four minutes from the train, three minutes from the bus, lovely big verandah to sit on at the front, sunny garden at back, front and side, plain but large rooms. The current tenants were still there and we had just started to chat with them about their magnificent dog when a plane went overhead. The house shook. We looked at each other with a wild surmise, silent upon a peak in … no, hang on, with abject horror. Yes, that's the one.

Seeing our expression, he leaned forward and whispered, 'ALL DAY!' His partner checked to see the agent was well out of earshot and added, 'And the next-door neighbours shriek and stomp.'

'Oh dear,' I said. 'We are a quiet people …'

'Us too,' they replied. 'That's why we're moving.'

So no to that house, but I would have loved to take the dog: Great Dane crossed with black laborador. Huge and huggy!

The next house was brilliant. Classic Edwardian with leadlight glass, mouldings and railings throughout. Good garden filled with epiphytes and woodland plants. Small kitchen and bathroom, but wholly usable, second lavatory, a glassed-in verandah at the front that would be perfect for the cats, a mad warren of rooms that would fit in all our bookshelves and allow for everyone to have space for everything – and every one had doors opening onto each adjacent door, so endless games of Find the Cats or Human. There was even a massive reception hall, which baffled Mr Brammers: 'Why is this room tiled?' 'It's a reception.' 'What do you do in a reception?' 'It, er, receives!' Now that I think on it, they are not an Australian 'thing'. But ample room for three or four bikes on top of everything else!

The one downside: transport. The nearest train station is a 17-minute walk, with the nearest shops a minute beforehand. I know this sounds like nothing to most people, but we don't have a car, and on days when my foot is bad, anything over 10 minutes at a time can be a bit of a struggle. Normally I would just ride, but it is on a very busy street, without straightforward alternatives.

I'm still on the fence about that one, though Mr Brammers has it as a no. But there were several couples with young children there who would adore growing up in such a crazy, wonderful home. If we decide against it, I hope it goes to one of them! Especially to the nice ones who clued us in to the presence of the Light Rail nearby.

Mr Brammers later took said Light Rail out to look at the outside of another house near that one. 'Let me know how it goes,' I said. 'Maybe it will mean the crazy house is possible?' He texted me shortly after. The tram he was on had broken down. Oops.

Today's third option was clearly designed for Oompa-Loompas, as the stairs were too small for even my feet. Easy no.

I have found the perfect place in theory, but it is yet to be shown and we have no details for its opening days. I am, therefore, acting as though there is no hope of us getting it. Obviously, I am still hoping like wild!

And now, off to pack a few more boxes. Oh my fascinating life!! (I am so sorry! I promise to write something interesting as soon as things are more sorted!)
I have remembered why we have spent the last 13 and 3/4 years not moving. If only I had spent the same amount of time not buying books!

I have packed four boxes, culled another box-ish of books I can let go of, and wrapped up all the kitchen pans we use rarely so they can be tossed into a box easily.

And looked at SO MANY HOUSES! As yet, there has been no perfect house. There was one that was rather good, but it is expensive, and the kitchen is frankly rubbish. The genuinely pleasant agent is  wooing us: they are redoing the kitchen and the rear decking, we should commit! But Mr B is balking at the price despite the fact I will cover most of it. Probably wise: my spare dollars should be spent on travel! (And possibly the occasional book.)

The places we are looking at this week are all further away from Erskineville, which makes me sad when it comes to my beloved village, but they have room for vegetable gardens and perennial borders! Which is one hell of a compensation!

Naturally, it is now that my snowdrops have all burst out in the front garden here. I wonder how they would cope with me digging them up and slapping them in a pot?

House-hunting does make you worry about your fellow human beings. There was the wonderfully converted old shop that had a magnificent bathroom that you reached by going into the main bedroom. It is a three-bedroom house.

'Sorry, guests, no weeing for you! We are shagging and while you will be protected from the view by a bit of wall, the sound effects will forever destroy our friendship.'

Then there was the one where every large room had been transected by a fresh wall. MORE ROOMS! With, er, less room in them. And a piano in one. Which is staying.

I admit, it was a tiny bit tempting.

The 'huge entertaining space' that would not have allowed for the kitten to be swung, let alone either of the cats.

The beautiful period masterpiece that had a splendid garden and sensitive renovations that integrated smoothly and was open to the idea of pets, but $100 a week more than even I could really think sensible. I really should have just rung around to find a regular freelance gig for that one.

The 'close to transport and shops' location, with 'inner city vibe' that is in the suburbs, and admittedly five minutes from the train or shops by motorway, but about half an hour by foot and 20 terrifying minutes by bike.

Anyway, we are in no rush and have several good prospects with no need to leave here before late September. Which gives me WEEKS to offload some more books.

And if you know anyone 5'10" in Sydney who wants to buy a late 1980s Miyata for around $300 (less for friends of friends), do send them my way!

I've just remembered that I owe a great deal in the way of kitten posting …
28 June 2014 @ 01:25 am
We are house hunting.

Surely there is no sentence that evokes such a combination of life-enhancing hope and soul-destroying horror?

Sadly, this means that my life outside work is filled with viewings, and the subsequent gentle chastisement of agents: 'No, I am an editor. The word "spacious" definitely has a different meaning to the one you are giving it. Let us not speak of "affordable".'

But, pollymel and sinden, Summer Hill is on our list of possible/probables, so more regular ukulele dates could be a thing!

And I watched White Nights for the first time in about 28 years. I saw a video of a recent Mikhail Baryshnikov performance and he is still grippingly brilliant, but back then he was simply astonishing.

It occurs to me that of the best male dancers of the 20th century, he is the only one we were able to see really grow old. Nijinsky died far too young and Nureyev was not strong in the last years of his life. Misha onstage as a man in late middle age changes what you think a dancer should be, and expands our definitions. I need to hunt down the name of that filmed performance: it was less than four years old and contained a table and a wonderful mature ballerina. Sounds less than thrilling, I know, but I was spellbound.

Back to the packing. Stay well, you lot! 
09 June 2014 @ 12:47 am
Horse: Neeeeeiiiiiiigh! My friends have all left me! I am bereft! NEEEEEEIIIIIIIIGGGGHHHHH!

Brammers: Hello, horse. I have been told by your owner that it's fine for me to come and pat and groom you, so here I am! Come over here and let me pat you! If we get on, I will find a brush and brush you!

Horse: Do you have an apple?

Brammers: No.

Horse: Carrot?

Brammers: Sorry.

Horse: You've got grass, haven't you?

Brammers: 'fraid so. But it comes with pats and chin scratches if you get close enough!

Horse: OK, I come closer. Yay, grass. Whoopee. Note my sarcasm.

Brammers: And now, patting!

Horse: Come closer to the fence, little human!

Brammers: Come closer to the fence, big horse!

Horse: Hee hee hee! I have my revenge planned for the grass! Come just a little closer to the fence! You will love it, little human. Heee!!!! Oooh, you can reach me. Ooooh, you have nails! And you have got that bit on my chin, and neck nuzzles, oooooohhhh … I am just going to come a little closer to you …

Brammers: And I will come a little closer to you …

Fence: ZAP!!!!!!

[Which went straight from my hip out my hand and into Mr Horse]

Brammers: Fuck! I cannot believe I fell for that!

Horse: I feel betrayed. Mostly by myself.

In happier news, I got to play with a hand-reared barn owl and barking owl. Barn owls are ridiculously like kittens, with soft everything and insatiable desire for pats!
07 June 2014 @ 09:12 pm
I am in the country, and typing on my phone, so this is the lamest birthday wish ever, but I hope you are having a thoroughly fabulous day!!!
04 June 2014 @ 11:04 pm
If you're not an Aussie or Kiwi, you may not know of Doc Neeson, lead singer of The Angels.  You've probably heard one of his songs, several of them have featured on famous soundtracks over the years.

He died today, as a result of brain cancer, at the age of 67. In interviews, he had said that he sometimes did appalling things, especially when drunk. But everyone who met him had positive stories about him, and I have two.

Years ago, one of my first Sydney jobs involved working in cultural heritage. One of our buildings was down at The Rocks, and had a little garden at the back, with a popular walkway going through it.

One day, Sophie, one of my coworkers, came running in to tell me there was a fire in the garden. I looked around quickly for the fire extinguisher: it wasn't where it was meant to be. So I grabbed a bucket and a mobile phone instead (in those days, they were precious enough that we shared one between three) and ran out after her. Sure enough, there was a little fire in the dry summer mulch that covered the garden, with a lot of smoke but only a medium set of flames leaping up so far. I ran back a few steps, to the tap on the side of the building, filled the bucket, then came back and threw it over the flames. It was enough to deal with most, but not all, so I gave Sophie the bucket and told her to refill it.

While she was off managing that, I walked in with my big, heavy size 4 work boots and started stomping out little flames, muttering about bloody smokers who threw away butts in droughts. A deep voice rumbled nearby, 'Want a hand?'

'Sure,' I replied, without looking up.

A size 12 boot started stomping with me. I looked up and saw a good-looking dark-haired man, grinning a little. I grinned back and we stomped out the fire together. Sophie re-appeared with the full bucket, and stood still, gaping.

'Tall, dark-haired stranger to the rescue!' I told her. 'Thanks, stranger. Excellent stomping!'

'Not a problem,' he said.

'You're, you're, you're …' Sophie said.

The man grinned, and the attractive woman who was walking with him rolled her eyes with affection.

'That's Doc Neeson!' Sophie told me.

'He's awesome!' I said and turned to him. 'Even if I have no idea who you are aside from being a fabulous helpful kind person. But I'm foreign.'

'So was I,' he said, laughing. 'And I will totally take fabulous.'

He stayed and chatted with Sophie and me for some minutes, and was a general delight. For all the rest of the time I knew her, Sophie never stopped telling me what an ignoramus I was about the important things.

Years later, a young journo friend of mine was off on an armed forces tour of Afghanistan covering the musicians. Doc had organised much of the tour, and had been incredibly helpful to Joey before they left. While on the tour, Joey found himself suffering from the triple stresses of first time in the desert, first time in a war zone, and having to really stretch himself as a writer. But when he came back, he was enthused and calm.

'How did you deal with it all so coolly?' we asked him.

'Doc,' he replied. 'Whenever I started to have a minor freakout, he was just so generally together and cool that I decided it would be embarrassing to not try and follow suit.'

There is a brilliant programme here called Australian Story, and Doc was its subject recently. One of the people interviewed was Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, former Head of Army. I'm simply going to C&P the relevant section from the transcript below, where he talks about Doc singing in East Timor after the Australian troops had been involved in significant peacekeeping actions there in the late 1990s, because it is another fave story relating to Doc.

VOICEOVER: Whenever Doc Neeson sang the words to the The Angels classic love song 'Am I ever gonna see your face again', back came the ingenious response: 'No way, get fucked, fuck off.'
DOC NEESON: The Australian audiences in their inimitable fashion added their own part to it which is what I call the chant or sometimes the response. And it suddenly became international in its own way. It now gets sung in pubs in England. I took a band to the Middle East, they were singing it there.
SIR PETER COSGROVE, COMMANDER INTERFET 1999: Bishop Belo lent forward and looked around Jose Ramos-Horta and said to me, he used to call me ‘Mr General,’ and he said ‘Mr General, what are they singing?’ and I said my Lord Bishop, I really can’t quite make it out. And then Ramos-Horta looked at me, and I could tell that he could make it out.

Sometimes famous people also make the world a better place in small or large ways. Doc was one of those, and I am sad that he is gone, while glad he is free from pain now. He put on an unforgetable show.
03 June 2014 @ 12:02 pm
I am in New Zealand and it is as staggeringly beautiful as ever. So far I have accidentally bought the world's cutest ukulele, fed pigs, rescued a calf, chased goats and helped with maths homework. I wanted to groom something, but the calves were skittish and the sheep wholly against the idea.