Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry Christmas...

Let's face it I've been a pretty rubbish blogger this year. I feel I've been going through one of those massively transformational years where the groundwork for the future is being laid out in strange and mysterious ways. I imagine it will be the kind of year I'll look back on and see definite endings and beginnings but at the moment it's still a bit blurry so I've decided to enjoy the present and leave the past and the future to their own devices.

The terrible events in Connecticut this week make me want to hug my children tighter and escape into a better child-like world where fairy bread is still requested for celebrations and Santa is still a very real presence in your life. This will be our last Christmas in this house and surely for one little girl the last Christmas before someone tells her 'there's no such thing as Father Christmas' so I mean to enjoy it with all my heart, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour.

To those of you who have continued to check in on the off-chance I might have something to say, I thank you and to those of you who have just stumbled on this site I promise to do better next year!

To each and everyone of you I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Safe New Year.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Resistance is useless...

Is is October already? How did that happen? I feel this year has really run away from me as I look down the barrel of birthday celebrations (so many!), ballet concerts, a much anticipated visit from my sister and preparations for Christmas. My ongoing struggle to balance domestic and intellectual creativity continues to occupy my days but I've come to realise it's not a battle I can ever win outright so I've started my own resistance unit of one and read, think, write guerilla-style whenever I can.

With that in mind, this extract from Sylvia Plath's journal which popped up in my Twitter feed this week had special resonance. Written in 1957, Plath admits she is worried about 'becoming too happily, stodgily practical: instead of studying Locke, for instance, or writing --- I go make an apple pie, or study the Joy of Cooking, reading it like a rare novel.' She finds consolation, however, in the diary of Virginia Woolf where she finds Woolf cleaning out the kitchen and cooking haddock and sausages to overcome her depresssion at being rejected by Harper's! (There's another good piece about Plath and her cooking here).

What is it about cooking especially baking that makes it so diverting? I know I still get a kick from the strange alchemical reactions in cooking - putting together ingredients that seem like strange bedfellows yet happily co-exist in the finished product (see recipe below - where's the flour?). I often find it difficult to 'stick to the script' so there's also an element of uncertainty to my cooking which adds a certain frisson.

So although 'La Resistance Lives On', I'm the first to concede that even revolutionaries need snacks (and the odd burst of procrastibaking) so if you are just depleted from the battle (any battle) you might like to whip up a batch of these Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies. They are ludicrously easy and gluten-free to boot but be warned - one will not be enough.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies


400g (14 oz) crunchy peanut butter
200g (7 oz) caster sugar
1 egg
180g (6.5 oz) chocolate chips


1.  Preheat oven to 160C (320F) and line two baking trays with baking paper.

2.  Mix peanut butter, sugar and egg with an electric mixer. Add chocolate chips and stir with a spoon to distribute.

3.  Place walnut sized, slightly flattened balls on the tray and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

That's it. No flour. Not much mess and ready in a flash. You can thank me later...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nigel Triffitt and the Theatre of the Impossible

Set model for Momma's Little Horror Show (1978). Devised, designed and directed by Nigel Triffitt. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection.

Yesterday I attended a very special gathering to honour the life and art of writer, designer, director Nigel Triffitt who died recently, aged 62. You may know Triffitt from his work as director and designer of the international smash-hit dance show,Tap Dogs, but he was so much more than that. In fact, his collaboration with choreographer Dein Perry and his work on the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games opening ceremonies were among his last theatrical endeavours.

During the 1970s and 1980s Nigel Triffitt was Australia's No. 1 enfant terrible, a badge he wore loudly and proudly. His pioneering visual theatre productions, Momma's Little Horror Show (1978) and Secrets (1983) marked a turning point in Australian theatre. In an industry still dominated by traditional text-based, plot-driven works Triffitt's wildly imaginative fusion of black theatre, puppetry and soundscape was a revelation. Boundaries meant little to Triffitt and he moved easily between performance genres displaying the same ingenuity and meticulous attention to detail whether designing for theatre, dance, opera, musicals or rock bands.

In 2002, I was lucky enough to hear him speak at the National Puppetry and Animatronics Summit held in Melbourne. By that time he had assumed the role of tribal elder and spoke with great wit and humour about the industry he helped to jump-start. You can see even from this edited version what a remarkable mind he had.


If you're in Melbourne you can see some of Triffitt's exquisitely assembled balsa wood set models currently on display at Arts Centre Melbourne, if you're not then you can admire them here.

You can also enjoy Triffitt's non-theatre related writing at Triffitt (family history) and The Great Stumble Forward (travel).

Friday, August 10, 2012

National Bookshop Day, 2012

Collected Works bookshop, Melbourne. Photo by WithoutWings11 via Flickr

Tomorrow, Saturday 11 August is National Bookshop Day so don't forget to go out and support your local bookseller! The National Bookshop Day website for further details on all the events and activities happening across the country but in the meantime you can read more about my favourite Melbourne bookshops here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

This moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment to pause, savour and remember.

Linking with SouleMama

Friday, July 27, 2012

This moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

Linking with SouleMama

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Seasonal Adjustment...

"Street blogging may be considered to be a modern phenomenon, but a series of images unearthed by Kensington and Chelsea Libraries prove that the practice may date as far back as the early 1900’s." Mail Online

Aren't these images wonderful? When I saw them yesterday I was immediately struck by the way the women look so purposeful. The first one seems to me the epitome of the 'New Woman' - no frills, no fuss, shorter skirt and a fob watch that suggests she has no time to waste. Then we have the two women, possibly students, caught in conversation (possibly about those very books) and a woman described as a 'Shopgirl' trying to fit a little reading into her day.

Perhaps it was ever thus; women bustling along trying to fit everything into their busy day. Of course, that's just my interpretation from where I sit in my increasingly hectic life. This year wasn't meant to pan out this way. Both kids at school, only working part-time, this year was going to be a blast - reading, cooking, blogging , movies, finally learning to meditate - so why are so many of those things still on the 'to do' list? Two reasons really. The first is that I wildly under-estimated just how much I was doing when I was 'just minding children'. Turns out they were really just keeping me company as I cooked, cleaned, and ran countless errands which unfortunately still have to be done now that they are at school. I also underestimated how much time would be taken up in supporting children while they are at school - teaching children to read, to dress themselves, helping out in the classroom, introducing them to the joys of music, dance, competitive aerobics (I know, who knew?).

Then there's this damn fool idea I got into my head that now I had some 'free time' I could finally get around to doing some 'real' writing. You know how they say everyone has at least one book in them? Well, I'm one of those poor tormented souls that really believes the fairytale. So I've put all those other lovely things on my list to one side to give myself the time and space to flex my writing muscles and see whether or not I have the talent, and more importantly the stamina, to write something longer than a blog post. But time is a slippery devil. Every week as I try and carve out a time to sit down and write, something else comes crowding in (I have a sick child at home today, I've been working days I usually have off, there's been doctors and dentist appointments, school holidays...). So here I sit more than halfway through the year and what do I have to show for it? Well, I have children that are well on the whole (with nice teeth), an interesting job, very few blog posts, a growing pile of unread books and pages and pages of noted for a novel that's struggling to find it's way. Perhaps six months is not such a long time to find your feet when you are entering a new phase of your life? I'm not sure but I do know that I'm not going to give up now. I'm going to keep walking and reading at the same time just like 'Shopgirl' and hope and pray that I don't fall down a big hole.

How about you? Are you where you thought you'd be at this time of year? Have you revised your plans? Perhaps you don't do 'plans'?

PS: If you enjoyed the photos at the top of this post you can see more of them by photographer Edward Linley Sambourne here.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Virginia Woolf - Practical Joker

A relaxed Virginia Woolf with her friend Lytton Strachey. Image via

Things have become a bit bookish around here lately haven't they? With both children now at school and a precious few hours to myself every week I've felt the strong resurgence of my inner bibliomaniac. The poor thing really has been on her best behaviour while my focus has been elsewhere, running around after toddlers for the past several years, but now that she is back I'm finding her hard to control. Everywhere I look there are new books I want to read and old books and writers I want to reconnect with especially those whose work cannot be enjoyed in brief moments snatched from a busy household routine.

One of the writers I find myself thinking about a lot is Virginia Woolf. I have loved her work from the moment I read the opening lines of Mrs Dalloway as a young student:

'Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumelmayer's men were coming. And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning - fresh as if issued to children on a beach.'

'Fresh as if issued to children on a beach', what an joyful phrase. And yet when I think of Virginia Woolf I like many other people think of her as a woman haunted. Haunted by the loss of so many loved ones and haunted by the spectre of what she described as her 'madness'. Do a basic image search under her name and you're confronted with a wall of photograph portraits showing a sensitive, pensive woman staring off into the distance but that line 'fresh as if issued to children on a beach' speaks to me of another Virginia so I was thrilled to find a number of very different images that reveal a more playful side to the Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf and Clive Bell on the beach, 1909. Image via

And what about this outrageous photograph that accompanied the recent article in The Guardian entitled 'How a bearded Virginia Woolf and her band of 'jolly savages' hoaxed the navy' 
Virginia Woolf (left) with the band of 'jolly savages' behind the Dreadnought hoax of 1910. Image via
Here was a side to Virginia I had not expected. The tale of how Woolf and friends hoodwinked the Royal Navy by posing as Abyssinian princes recently came to light when a letter from one of the group was offered for sale. In the letter Horace de Vere Cole noted that 'the idea was mine, but the carrying out was the work of six...It was glorious! Shriekingly funny - I nearly howled when introducing the four princes to the admiral then to the captain, for I made their names up in the train, but I forgot which was which, and introduced them under various names, but it did not matter!'
Just the thought of Woolf laughing and carrying on like a teenager as they planned and executed this prank makes me unaccountable happy. To be reminded that Virgina Woolf  - genius was also Virginia Woolf - practical joker is no small gift.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Too Young For Poetry? No way!

It's ANZAC Day here in Australia today, a sad public holiday. It's cold, wet and windy. A day for poetry if ever there was one. I've been planning to introduce more poetry to the kids for some time now but wasn't really sure how to do it without boring them or freaking them out. After reading a little First World War poetry to myself this morning I decided that although apt they really weren't ready for that kind of emotional carnage! Luckily I happened to stumble on A Poke In the I, a great children's book about 'concrete poetry', at the library yesterday. Do you remember learning about concrete poetry (calligrams) at school? It's that lovely visual poetry that uses a blend of placement, typography and words to convey meaning. You can see Isabella's balloon example in the photo above and some other great examples here

Henry found it too hard to contain his poetic muse and dictated the following to me all in one go (he's 5).

Marching With The Band 

Think about marching in your poetic deafness
of lemon drops and sugar.
In your flavoured mouth
poetic things dance to your deafness
Then you begin to feel sleepy and you fall asleep
and taste the deafness
and nobody knows your deafness is dead.

I swear that's just what came out! I just wrote it down and formatted it. Ah, to have the lack of fear that would just let me spew things out like that...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

'Fiction and poetry are doses, medicines'.

'...when people say that poetry is a luxury, or an option, or for the educated middle classes, or that it shouldn't be read at school because it is irrelevant, or any of the strange and stupid things that are said about poetry and its place in our lives, I suspect that the people doing the saying have had things pretty easy. A tough life needs tough language - and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers - a language powerful enough to say it how it is. It isn't a hiding place. It is a finding place.'

Jeanette Winterson

A number of things have happened over the past couple of weeks that have made me re-evaluate the place of poetry (and literature) in my life. First, I read Jeanette Winterson's wonderful new memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. I'm always amazed by Winterson's ability to find words for feelings I share but could never articulate. Although not strictly speaking a poet she has the sensibility of one and it was interesting to read about her early experiences of literature - The Bible, Shakespeare, Thomas Mallory's Morte d'Arthur, T.S Eliot and the contents of the Accrington Public Library 'English Literature in Prose A-Z' section.

Other things that kept me thinking along these lines were Twitter conversations I followed about finding good poets to excite older kids on one hand and the draconian cuts to libraries (and museums/ community services) in the UK on the other. To top it all off and bring it all home we had the announcement yesterday that the new Queensland Premier had axed the Queensland Premier's Literary Awards (during The National Year of Reading no less!).

What's going on?! Has the GFC (not a real excuse in Australia) created or unleashed some form of universal, contagious mean-spiritedness? Is it arrogance or is it just a spectacular lack of imagination? When phrases like 'waste of taxpayer money' start being bandied around it becomes patently clear that there has been no real thought given to the knock-on effects such decisions set in train - disaffection and isolation within the community being something that should matter to any government. I suspect Winterson is right and that it's been a long time (if ever) since those making the decisions have done it tough. Words can be empowering just ask any rapper.

If there is an up-side to all these confronting events perhaps it's that it has forced me to re-evaluate and try and articulate why I value the place of literature in a world where things may otherwise by 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short'. On a micro-level it has sent me (children in tow) back to the local library to support their work and has encouraged me to revisit the poets who have inspired me in the past - T.S. Eliot, John Donne, William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Dorothy Porter, Gwen Harwood, Sylvia Plath, Seamus Heaney, W.H. Auden, Robert Lowell and so many more. It has also made me realise that my poetry reading is woefully out-of-date so if you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them.

You just can't take anything for granted can you?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Let Me Tell You A Secret...

Set for Punchdrunk Theatre's Sleep No More. Image via Ida C. Benedetto's blog

Secrets. Secrets keep us safe, set us free, bind us, intrigue and infuriate us in equal measure. I love the idea of secrets but I'm equally enamoured with the idea of discovery. I get excited when new archaelogical finds are announced and I love it when caches of personal papers/ artworks/ manuscripts are suddenly unearthed. Unravelling mysteries and sharing secrets seems to be part of our DNA - the lure of secret lands may have been the spur for Marco Polo's Asian oddessy but the need to impart those secrets is surely what brought him home.

In an increasingly digital world, uncovering secrets (think Wikileaks) and finding the answer to life's mysteries often feels as though it could be just a Google search away, but let's face it, it can be a bit of a hollow experience when you're home alone nursing your laptop. It's not surprising then that people are flocking to more communal experiences like those offered by Secret Cinema and Lost Lectures in London, events shrouded in secrecy the better to entice/engage their audiences. Tickets are hard to come by but those who do manage to procure one do so in the knowledge that the location and substance of the event will only be revealed to them slowly through a series of clues - some online (using both social media and interactive games), some involving actors.

The use of actors and unusual locations to create an immersive experience is taken to even greater heights by Britain's Punchdrunk theatre company whose Sleep No More, a radical retelling of Shakespeare's Macbeth/ Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca has been wowing sell-out audiences in New York. What is remarkable about Punchdrunk's approach is that it provides the opportunity for each audience member /participant to have a completely different experience of the same show depending on the choices they make as they explore their surroundings. Clues are everywhere but it's up to you to recognise and interpret them.

I'm not aware of any projects like this in Melbourne (perhaps it's a secret!) but I'm not sure how I'd go anyway. Maybe it's not for everyone. I'm a bit of an armchair explorer myself and although I love the idea of these projects I'm one of those people who freak out a bit when an actor breaks the Fourth Wall and encourages audience participation so my anxiety level would be pretty high! How about you? Have you been to anything like this? Would you like to?

P.S: If you're in Melbourne and keen for a spot of detection this weekend you might like to take part in the Melbourne City ROMP this Sunday 25 March. The event is described as part treasure hunt, part amazing race and aims to raise funds for the Burnet Institute of Medical Research whose focus is on finding cures for the 'Big Three' - HIV, TB and malaria.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Looking Back on The Year of Reading Backwards...

I know it's a cliche but can you believe it's March already! Before the year runs away with me completely I thought I might do a bit of a year-in-review to round up last year's Year of Reading Backwards . Some of you may remember that my aim was to:

- read more of the books already on the shelves
- catch up on some modern classics
- have a go at re-reading some favourites

So how did I fare? Well, I'd say it's a bit of a mixed score-card. I read 26 books in total (not including about a million kids books!) of which 14 fitted into the 'Year of Reading Backwards' category. Of those I'm particularly glad I finally caught up with The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins, 1984 by George Orwell and I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. After reading such gems of course I wondered why it had taken me so long to get around to them!

As for the re-reading well I'm afraid to say the year just served to confirm my suspicions (or so I thought...). For much of the year I just couldn't bring myself to pick up a book I'd already read. It just seemed like such a waste of time. For the sake of the experiment I did re-read, A Room With A View by E.M. Forster and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera but I must say that as much as I enjoyed them I didn't enjoy them as much as I had on first reading (perhaps that's because I was in Paris just having visited Florence when I read the former and read the latter when it was a much anticipated and acclaimed new release). Perhaps my pleasure in reading, like many people's, is tied up with time and place? Having said that, my year in reading ended somewhat surprisingly when I found myself so engrossed in Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus that having finished it I immediately flicked back to the first page and read it through again!

I'm still intrigued as to why people choose to re-read (or not). In her article, The Pleasures and Perils of Rereading , Lisa Levy discusses quite of few of those reasons chief among which seems to be the pleasure and security derived from returning to a book as an 'old friend'. For others it is the satisfaction that comes from pulling apart a text to really get behind the authors craft and intent. The perils include the very real possibility that you may return to the 'old friend' only to find that it no longer 'speaks to you' bringing to an abrupt halt a life-long love affair (perhaps this is my secret fear?).

So this year I'm challenging myself in a completely different way and have signed up to the War Through The Generations Reading Challenge. The theme for this year is World War I so I'm giving myself another chance to finally read Pat Barker's Ghost Road trilogy which was on last year's list. I'm also planning to read Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, Vera Brittain's Testament Of Youth and Max Egremont's biography of Seigfried Sassoon. Perhaps you might like to join in too? You can read as little as one book if you like and there is a great reading list to help get you started.

P.S: I mentioned in a previous post that I am now 'tweeting' as well so if you would like to follow me you can find me @Birdwiththegold.

EDIT: I've just discovered the Australian Women Writers 2012 Reading and Reviewing Challenge and signed up for that too. More details soon...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Letting it all go...

Wildlife in suburbia!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Out there in the Twitterverse...

Image via Broadsheet

Dear little blog,

It's been a while since that last cuppa hasn't it? I've been waiting for that fabled day when you and I can spend some time together alone but just as I catch sight of it it slips away. When I have had any spare time it's been away from the computer with iPhone in hand and without really knowing it I've allowed myself to be seduced by the sexier, faster world of micro-blogging that is Twitter.

Now, I know what you're going to say, 'isn't Twitter that place where people let other people know they're thinking about maybe having a coffee'? No, that's Facebook. Yes, there are people who tweet about the minutae of their lives and people selling products, ideas and ideologies but there are also eminent cultural theorists, artists, authors, musicians, film-makers, publishers, journalists, critics, historians, archeologists, educationalists, designers, celebrity chefs, home cooks, crafters, digital mavericks and just about anyone else you can think of. You and I have been getting a bit complacent lately and I really think it's time we started seeing other people. I think it will be good for us and then we can come back together and share what we've found with our blog-friends. What do you say? Not convinced? Well, here's a couple of interesting blogs I'd like to introduce you to.

Look at this great post about an amazing art bombing project that captured the imagination of the people of Edinburgh last year. Throughout 2011 an anonymous artist left a series of 10 exquisite paper sculptures at various museums, libraries and cultural agencies around Edinburgh. There are still no clues as to the identity of the artist outside the notes they left with each work, a love-letter 'in support of libraries, books, words, ideas'. I found out all about it and saw all the wonderfully intricate paper sculptures on the Central Stn blog, you might like to start there.

Or what about Flavorwire :Cultural News and Critique ? I've found lots of really cool things there including Five Recipes Inspired by Your Favorite Novels.

Then there's Retronaut: The Past Is A Foreign Country. This Is Your Passport.
I don't even know where to start with this one. Such an incredible source of historical photogarphy and imagery, you'd love it there.

Looking for something easier to navigate? You could try Paper and Salt: 'part historical discussion, part food and recipe blog, part fangirl-ing'. It's a new blog that 'attempts to recreate and reinterpret the dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries, essays and fiction'. Maybe we could make Elizabeth Bishop's Chocolate Brownies ?

And once you're really limbered up and feeling like some brain food why don't you head over to Brain Pickings where Maria Popova is 'curating eclectic interestingness from culture's collective brain'? You never know what you might find there, everything from Vintage Valentines to A Brief History of To-do Lists.

See there is life outside these pages and it's time we got out amongst it. Be brave little blog, be brave!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fancy a cuppa?

Is it strange to have your recently deposed Prime Minister design a cup of tea for the nation? I'm not sure but I must say Mr Rudd makes a damn fine cuppa. Rudd was one of 40 prominent Australians asked by Twinnings to create an original Australian Afternoon Tea. Like many Australians I like a strong brew and this one certainly hits the spot with its blend of Irish Breakfast, Russian Caravan and Ceylon Orange Pekoe (although for me it's a bit more of a breakfast tea).

I do realise it's all a big marketing ploy and it won't tempt me back from my daily Dilmah tea but sometimes it's nice to try something new isn't it? What's your favourite tea for daily consumption? Do you make a distinction about what you drink morning, afternoon or evening?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Monkey Man!

Happy New Year everybody! Did you have a lovely festive season? We certainly did. Relaxing has the been the name of the game at our place, so much so that I've had trouble convincing the kids to leave the house! We've had several 'pajama days' and I've played more board games in the past few weeks that I've placed in my entire life leading up to this point. We've also been enjoying having the time to make things together including this fabulous Design Your Own Superhero Cape kit my sister sent Henry for Christmas.

The Seedling brand kit came with a ready-made cape and lots of great things to decorate it with including felt, foam and glitter-glue. Henry is already a bit of an eco-warrior so he quickly decided he wanted to be Monkey Man, a superhero who encourages people not to buy products that contain palm oil (which ruins the habitat of the South East Asian orangutans)! Quite a specific superhero I agree but he saw something on TV about the Melbourne Zoos Don't Palm Us Off campaign last year and ever since he has been my supermarket vigilante always asking if things have palm oil in them. Bless...

NB: If you're a bit of an eco warrior too you might like to watch this short video about the plight of the South African rhino.