Saturday, 30 August 2008

so big

Darwin was big on so many fronts.

The city has totally transformed itself in the 14 years since I was there last and is now a city full of high rise condo blocks, glam waterfront developments and lots and lots of people. In fact I was constantly being confronted by the sense that the city was full. Bursting. Every restaurant, pub and cafe seemed to be crowded all the time and the many markets the city hosts were all just packed - here's Mindil beach market on a Sunday night (the quiet night so they say). Driving to the airport at 4.30am there were pedestrians everywhere. (Especially on the roads, drunk, but still...)

What remains the same is the gloriously relaxed life of the tropics. The fabulous beach side markets and bars, the open air venues, the louvred houses with big verandas. The gardens full of giant everythings turning suburban house blocks into micro jungles. And the air which smelled vaguely distantly of cooking fires and hot grass and dust, air that made D and I feel overwhelmingly like we were back in Laos a long time ago.

Darwin also has that weird Canberra like planned growth thing, with dense suburbs broken up by wide expanses of sort of nothingness in between, so you have to drive everywhere even though in theory nothing is very far away. And big signs on the main arterial roads telling you what suburb you are in. And miles of houses that look largely the same when compared with the variety we see in the South.

It is sometimes easy to forget in the big suburban malls or residential streets that Darwin is bloody far away from pretty much everything else in Australia (except when you get to the till and have to add the 'Darwin surcharge' to the cost of everything - that really brings the trucking miles home). It's most definitely not some little red neck outpost and wild frontier any more (if indeed it ever was beyond the myths of ocker folklore). It is now a vibrant and diverse city and it's proximity to Asia fills it with many of the things we'd normally be going overseas to experience (and eat. Oh the food...).

So being a tourist was fun, if a little expensive. And being a tourist without kids made me feel like I did a long time ago, back to the time when D and I spent months at a time roaming about, doing whatever we liked. Travel. Unencumbered.

(Strangely just like then too I found myself drawn to people in public places with small children - staring, playing peek a boo, giving sympathetic smiles to mums clearly feeling past their best. I even felt again that yearning, though this time not for some imagined child that might some day be in my life, but for my babies living their lives somewhere out of view.)

But the trip was about much more than just rubber necking and reliving our nomadic days. We headed up there primarily because D had work meetings and visits to make. I don't talk much about D's work here basically because it's his not mine. But on this trip I was drawn in and now I have my own little place in that landscape. I think I've already told you he's an architect (witness our fabulous home extension) and an academic, and that our time in Thailand was at least in part about his ongoing project in a village there.

In a slight deviation from his previous specialisation, he' started working with a couple of indigenous villages just out of Darwin. Again I'll say, it's not really my place to go on chapter and verse about what he's doing but it is really exciting stuff. Hands on, with students, with locals, with residents.

So I tagged along to meetings with other architects, with builders, with academics, with elders and people just hanging around. In part I was just the background pattern, watching and listening and getting an insight into the amazing contribution D makes. But the other part of me was engaging with the situation on a whole other level, on a level much closer to the work I do.

I'm still an ignorant Southerner with only a couple of days of observations under my belt, but already I have opinions. Strong ones. And it has been a while since I felt so strongly about matters of public policy, feeling as I do that most of the time the distance between good and bad is relatively slight in government activity.

I found myself wondering if there wasn't something I could do. Some way I could contribute.

The big plan is beginning to transform into something else for me.

You see my last post was about our other reason for going to Darwin - our reconnaissance mission to scout the location for our next big adventure. An adventure based on D's six month sabbatical to do research next year. Of course it was always intended to be a family thing too, another chance to experience the wonderful time we had living away from home in Thailand in 2005. But I was seeing myself playing a supporting role in it all, perhaps picking up some opportunistic work while I kept the domestic life bubbling and smoothed over the transition bumps.

Now I see scope for something in this for me. Something beyond the laid back lifestyle, the beers on the veranda and the adventure of being somewhere else. Something big and new and possibly quite exciting.

There's a few obstacles I'm not quite sure how we're going to overcome. Like finding a furnished, well located, elevated non-air con house in an almost zero vacancy rental market (perhaps something like this?), childcare for Wil, a tenant for our own home, the money to pay for it all (and all the travel we'll want to do while we're up that end of the country). How and what to craft up there (Do I have any Darwin readers?).

Luckily we've got a while to sort it out.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

going live

There are ideas you have that come and go in rapid succession. Things you decide to do in almost the instant they first occur to you, things you decide not to do almost before you've even thought the idea out.

Then there are the ideas that gestate. The things that start as idle wonderings and then bit by bit get fleshed out as nuances and details come together.

Sometimes it takes a long time to feel confident these ones will live through the birthing process because they may not be strong enough to survive out there.

But as the milestones begin to accumulate you start to believe you might be able to pull it off. You go from idle wonderings to concrete plans.

If you are me you start thinking in terms of project plans and critical paths and barriers and deal breakers.

And at some point, almost unnoticed, you stop thinking about if you are going to do it and start thinking about how you are going to do it. And even when the problems get really big you no longer consider abandoning ship, but start talking project modification and contingency plans.

Then you know you are past the tipping point and you are committed.

I have big plans and you'll be hearing more about them in a little while. But I can tell you, we're past the tipping point.

In the meantime I am off on a plane to spend 3 whole days (and 4 nights) away from my children and my home. The longest time I have been away from the kids in one hit, and the only time D and I have left the kids and gone off together for more than a night out on the town.

We are going somewhere far away and very warm and I am a terribly excited and nervous and slightly disbelieving all at once.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

why buy expensive toys?

I can't decide which is funnier - the baby or the guy in the background helpless with laughter.

Either way, pure unmitigated joy to watch.

Friday, 15 August 2008

the festival of Amy continues

There's a family brunch tomorrow and a regular kid types party the day after.

So there are cakes to bake and gingerbread men to be made, filth to be tidied away and lolly bags to stamp and fill.

But for some reason I can't seem to shake out of my head a compelling desire to get my hands on oil cloth to make some toiletries bags and lunch sacks for Amy.

I've been thinking about this for a while, months in fact. Every time I head away from home I find my toiletries bag options enormously disappointing and hopelessly impractical, and I am tired of stuffing Amy's lunch tupperware collection into an overly large and cumbersome cool pack. In this weather it could only be called over kill.

I'd be doing my usual thing of defying common sense by trying to stuff sewing time in between party rounds and cooking, but I can't find any oil cloth that doesn't involve the internet and international shipping.

Someone please tell me they know just the place to get some locally? I'm worried I don't have enough things to do...

The camel mitts are almost done, a few more rounds and then the thumbs and it's all over. There will be pics when the weather is more conducive to letting you see all that complicated stitching in black.

Straight away I'll be casting on Amy's socks for my new commuter project and a hat I have planned for a special occassion.

I'm trying to do something hat wise I've never done before so it feels a bit like a high wire act and may be a disaster. I'm doing a lot of thinking before I get the needles going. I've already picked out the yarn and a basic pattern concept, though I think it may involve some felting and a squarer top more like this.

But really, I've got no idea about details just yet. Just a looming deadline.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

now that I'm six, I'm clever as clever

This time six years ago I was contemplating an epidural so my obstetrician could 'relocate' my cervix. I'd been in labour for about 50 hours and I hadn't dilated a single centimetre. In actuality Amy had been pushing forward, not down and so distorted the location of my cervix that it had to be physically moved around her head in order for my waters to be manually broken.

A few hours later both D and I had abandoned our card game (and the score card with the times of my contractions written down one side) and were dozing while we waited in vain for things to right themselves and Amy to get a wriggle on.

A few more hours and we were waiting while the chemically assisted contractions got stronger and stronger. A few more hours and my obstetrician was looking less than relaxed.

Before she headed home for dinner she asked the midwife to sit holding the heart monitor to my belly and call her if Amy's heart rate slowed any further.

The doc didn't even make it home to the next suburb before she had to turn around and come back. The midwife held my hand and said that Amy wasn't doing so well and it was time to get ready for a caesarean. And while she was calm the rest of the room exploded into action and it was obvious that everyone was taking the situation very seriously indeed.

I've posted Amy's birth story before but it's always good to remember it again.

Especially good to recall that shock, that totally overwhelming realisation of what had just happened, of what was coming and of what life was really all about.

Back then it wasn't so much about Amy as it was about 'baby'. Any baby. The new life. The food in food out machine. The welling up of love. The exploding of the world in which she used not to exist.

With the benefit of six years getting to know her, it is now most definitely about her. The incredibly complex little being that she is. Her insight and her observation. Her hopes and fears.

The way she has learned to respond to her dad's tricks and shit stirs, the way she expresses the things that occupy her mind, the way she analyses the things that have happened.

The way she works a problem over, the way she makes up her mind.

The way she sings all the time and with such earnest joy.

It's been a hard year for her this one gone by. There's been a lot of change and some things she's found hard to process. She's aware that she has to share her dad and me with Wil and at times that's felt like a kind of rejection.

The playground at school has demonstrated time and again that people are confusing and not always on your side. The world is less secure and trustworthy.

But through it all she has gotten back on the horse and I so admire that she is out there, even when she feels like that's a really scary place to be. I admire her bottomless energy and desire to be a part of everything that's on offer. Her capacity to articulate what's going on in her head and the way she tries so hard to bring everyone along for the journey. The way she is sweet with her brother and kind to other kids.

And her smarts. Which are considerable.

So today, at home with a baby who is sick and miserable I am walking back through memory lane and reliving a highlights package of the last six years.

And thinking over and over how lucky I feel to have her in my life. How deeply her current runs through me.

Happy birthday my darling girl.

Friday, 8 August 2008

socks and books

My first pair of socks for me. What a thrill!! They feel totally fabulous on and I'm pleased as punch. Just love that Universal toe up with a Turkish cast on.

Not totally crazy about the colour pooling up the leg of the second sock (the right),
but I'm choosing to focus on the more perfect feet.

And they aren't exactly long given that I used pretty much the entire ball of Colinette Jitterbug. Just enough left over for a little cozy for the tape measure.

The stats
Pattern: Universal toe up sock pattern, using Turkish cast on and with Beaded Rib from Sensational Knitted Socks
Size: Women's size 9 shoe (cast on 60 stitches)
Yarn: Colinette Jitterbug, charcoal brights colourway
Needles: 2.5mm addi lace 120cm circulars

Amy has requested I shelve the plan for her knitted skirt made from the delightful pear tree yarn I bought for her at the Bendigo show in favour of some self striping socks. She wants in on the action and who could blame her? I'm going to be a bit sad to knit socks she'll grow out of before she wears them out!

Even more exciting was the parcel that arrived whilst I was laid low earlier in the week. The much anticipated sequel to the Softies book from Penguin, More Softies.

It's another really really well put together book (I'm so impressed with this editorial team!), with lovely projects, wonderful photography and great instructions.

Just like last time the thrill of being included is quite eclipsed by all the projects in here by other people I am dying to make. You'll be able to get your copy in book stores some time in October.

Monday, 4 August 2008

ding ding

That would signal the commencement of round two of the hurling and the moaning and the tossing and the washing. Those members of the family sniggering for escaping infection in round one are laughing out the other sides of their faces now, I can tell you.

Sadly, no matter who it is that's sick it's still me patting backs, mopping floors, doing washing and climbing the walls. And feeling a tad nauseous. I'm not good with other people's chuck.

But in the brief interval between when my antibiotics kicked in and D and Amy came down, I did produce this wee fellow.

I bought the sock and glove book yonks ago, mostly on the strength of this pup, but I couldn't find any suitable, non acrylic gloves to make him out of. But the pattern that really won my heart was the zebra. Again, no good stripey black and white socks. On the last craft weekend Cath generously parted with a pair she'd brought so I finally got the chance to make this dude.

While making it I was moaning about the glove problem and Ellen told me that the book uses Japanese cleaning gloves! I got a little more creative in my looking and lo and behold discovered that my local insignificant shopping centre $2 shop carries them for $1 a pair in their cleaning section. Craft materials come from the strangest sources...

* Added - A little bit about the gloves, since so many people have asked. They are coarse white knitted cotton gloves with an overlocked rather than hemmed cuff. As I understand it they are used for all kinds of tasks where one wishes to keep one's skin away from the action, but where waterproofing is not required. Don't ask me any more about their non-sewing use since I don't clean and wouldn't be using gloves if I did (or I'd end up having to clean the gloves too which kind of defeats the purpose doesn't it?). For all I know they may be available in every store in the world, and I just never noticed them before. I think it highly unlikely that the ones I bought so cheaply here came all the way from Japan.

Friday, 1 August 2008

goodies for you

I've got a few goodies to celebrate the first change to my blog banner in years!

Hot off the press there's issue 5 of MixTape Zine. Another totally fantastic read from Justine and Nichola who work their butts off to get the crafty world out there on paper. As usual I've got a little article in there, but don't let that put you off. There's also great stuff by a host of familiar names and an interview with the blogger with the mostest, Loobylu.

Leave a comment with your suggestion for the article you would most like to read in issue 6 or 7 and I'll pass the suggestions on, pick a winner and send you issue 5.

A killer stitch and Dyer consequences both by Maggie Sefton. These are the 4th and 5th in Maggie's Knitting Mystery series and must reads for lovers of mystery thrillers who also like the dark yarn arts. Both books also include a knitting pattern and recipe!

Hooked on murder by Betty Hechtman. Another great crime thriller, this time a crochet based yarn (but still with pattern and recipe).

Isn't it just fantastic to see sticks, hooks and string featuring in crime novels? A big thanks to Berkley Prime Crime for the books.

So I'll be picking winners for the books on a completely random basis, but make sure your comments specify which book/s you're interested in. And please please please please leave an email address so I can contact you.