Tuesday, 25 August 2009

how the other half lives

At home in our real life we live very comfortably. Our home and its trappings are neither flash nor overly scruffy, neither cramped nor overly large. We have only one bathroom without a separate toilet or laundry but it is large and light and has a view from the shower. We don't have a trophy kitchen, but we have appliances that work and a dishwasher and none of it is really ugly. Our kitchen floors show the wear of nearly a hundred years of existence and many chomping bora jaws and we don't have central heating or air con or undercover parking. Our main bedroom is very large and quite spunky, but we have a single living/dining/kitchen space and the entire house at around 160m2 is not much more than half the size of the average family home.

I've always felt happy to live in our house. More than happy, I've felt lucky. Lots of people who visit us comment on how nice the place is, that it has a nice vibe and I always agree. It is a lovely house to live in. A bit untidy perhaps but it is a happy, relaxed place and the door is always open to visitors and neighbours and kids who make mess.

And while I have never felt ungrateful for what I have, I have occasionally wondered about how the other half live. What the super big, super flash minimalist palaces are like to inhabit. They certainly have an aesthetic that appeals. All clean crisp lines and open spaces. Simplicity, coherence. The promise of something seemingly unattainable to me when the clutter and mismatch and make do get me down.

So here I sit nearly 4 weeks on living in such a place. A great big huge newish 4 bedroom, 4 bathroom, pool and carport place. A white walls and lovely matching furniture place. A place largely devoid of excess furniture and stuff, without any peeling paint or unfinished details, with no patchwork or idiosyncrasies.

And I'd like to say my conclusion is that it isn't worth it. Not in the financial sense - we're only paying a smidgen over what we get for our place in Melbourne - but in so many other ways. It should be said too that unlike in Melbourne up here we are both working from home, often when kids are about so we do need more space, and rooms we can disappear off to, and space for visitors to stay and so on.

But still. Both David and I are living in a kind of high pressure craziness in our efforts to maintain this level of perfection. There's an extraordinary amount of cleaning for a start, even though we don't use most of the bathrooms and it isn't like our kids are drawing on the walls or anything. But they do touch the walls (especially to get up and down the many many stairs), and on the endless expanses of white every fingerprint shows. The 100s of m2 of well lit wooden floors also show the inevitable sand, dust and assorted detritus of everyday life, along with every single scratch and drip of water. We have covered the best soft furniture with cloths and the dining table with place mats and coasters (pet hates of mine) to prevent any marks and we keep eagle eyes on the kids to ensure no feet on the couch and no this and no that.

And it is exhausting. Exhausting, and limiting. In the end it places far more importance on protecting the stuff and keeping the place looking nice and clean and untouched than it does on actually living. There is no where that Amy can happily do making, or where Wil can crash cars without fear of damage. And when we are all tired and cranky the no and don't seem to be all we say to each other.

Wil has even started putting his trucks in occasional time out, even though all they are doing is just being trucks.

I don't know how people live like this for real (instead of just on sabbatical), or why they would want to. If we were just adults without kids, perhaps. With a big budget for cleaning, maybe. And no care for the environmental costs to build and run of all these rooms. And no desire to be close enough to hear each other in the few hours we have together.

I get the beauty part, really I do. The house is indeed beautiful. And I admire that beauty on a daily basis. Glossy bathroom tiles and the deep matte stoniness of the shower area. All the glass that provides stunning views as well as excellent ventilation in the heat.

But in the end, seeing the effect we have on the house just by being here - the smudges on the glass louvres, the salt water drips on the 'invisible' pool fencing, the covers over everything - makes me feel like we are ugly. That human activity and what it generates uglifies the beauty of inanimate objects, lumps of wood and stone and glass. I don't like feeling that way and I really really don't like needing to give that message to my kids every other moment. The you do not deserve this beauty message, this everything you touch turns to shit message. The hands off, keep still, don't touch message.

I'm doing my best to savour the beauty while we're here, and knowing that this experiment won't last forever makes the stakes so much lower. But this is definitely the death knell for any home beautiful lust I ever had. Give me bullet proof any day.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

do you know someone who may know someone who has been diagnosed with hepatitis C?

My fantabulous sister is conducting research as part of her Master's degree and she needs some volunteers to answer a questionnaire. She works bloody hard and she's very smart and her work is really important. If you can help her by passing on the word I would be ever so grateful. Here's the deal:

Understanding distress in those with hepatitis C: My research project.
I am looking for people who have received a hepatitis C diagnosis who would be willing to complete an anonymous online questionnaire about the impact that hepatitis C has had on their life. I am interested in looking at different things which may make having hepatitis C more distressing and which things may make it less distressing and how they may feel about life with hepatitis C.

The online questionnaire takes about 20 minutes to complete. There is more information on the introduction page, it can be accessed though this link. Responses are valued and completely anonymous.

This project is part of my Master of Psychology studies at Swinburne University of Technology (Victoria, Australia).

If you are interested in participating in the questionnaire, it can be found here.

Many, many thanks to those who generously share their experience.

Please point anyone else who may be interested to this post.

Best regards, Margie Fry

An update from Margie: Please forward my heartiest of thanks to your blogging friends who put the call out for my survey.

Although I will continue to gather more survey responses, I have reached the minimum survey number now, which is fantastic for two reasons: one: it's a great personal milestone in my research, but secondly, and more importantly, it means the potential for real findings and dissemination of information which I hope will benefit people with hep C via improved understanding in the healthcare field.

Let me know if anyone wants to read the publication I presented at the Australian Psych conference, and I will email it on. (you can contact Margie at mfry@swin.edu.au)

Many thanks from me for all your help everyone - the internet rides high.

tomatoes all round

tomatoes all round, originally uploaded by Soozs.

Off to the farmer's market for the weekly shop.

Expect deliciousness.

PS - I am looking for more contributors to the other blog, which has been a big quiet of late. Can I press anyone into sharing? Just drop me a line if you might be interested soozs[dot]com[at]gmail[dot]com

Friday, 21 August 2009

indigo slack arse oven mitts

Indigo slack arse oven mitts, originally uploaded by Soozs.

Can you believe our super flash house didn't come with oven mitts? There is one silicon glove thing, but seriously I can't pick up a hot pan with one itty bitty layer of silicone between me and the local burns unit.

Rich people clearly don't bake, but I do.

Another set of mitts using the tutorial over here, made with indigo cotton from Thailand I happened to have on hand.

Monday, 17 August 2009

as requested

There hasn't been much knitting going on here, which is hardly surprising what with one thing and another. Like the climate and all.

But I am persisting with the Stonewall and since it was requested here's an updated pic of progress to date. I am nearing the end - I think I'm about 85% done and I can't bear the thought of leaving it till next year to go the last bit. Plus I've memorised the pattern and it is enjoyable to knit and I very much like the finished fabric. All of which leads toward completion. So far and unblocked it measures 56 x 134 cm which is pretty big, but not quite big enough. I've still got about about 80gms of wool I think and I intend going till it's all gone, but I am enjoying seeing it disappear! And then I'm going to block the begeezuz out of it.

And just to keep me going in a hot car driving to Brisbane and back I started the Clapotis in bamboo. Jury is still out on this one - I'll let you know.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

a work in progress

It's been hard to sufficiently condense the learning curve for blog purposes. Relocation necessarily involves being inside a 3D learning cube - from the colour of the sky to the varieties of avocados you buy and a million other things more significant. A good deal of the tasks normally allocated to auto pilot need to be rethought, relearned, reconsidered. Often lots of them at once too. So it's been a bit intense. And school readers and notices and sometimes lunches get forgotten. Blog posts come a distant last.

So forgive the scrappy post, I figure it's better than no post at all.

The vegetation at times reminds me of Thailand and others of an iconic aussie outback, sometimes simultaneously. And that just doesn't seem like it should be possible, but the thought occurs to me daily.

The weirdness of living in a rich people's town, a tourist town, a beach town and a retirement village all at once. Wrinklies, surfies and backpackers mixing it with the Prues and Trudes. Not many people like me.

How virtuous I feel about all the walking I'm doing. The school drop off is a 3km round trip with hills, half of it pushing a pusher.

Wil is also big on walking, and running. Usually in the opposite direction to everyone else. I'm kind of over it to be honest. Makes us want to leave him at home as often as possible.

I planned on visiting the beach daily. I am not. I thought I'd use the pool everyday too. I have not. I'm not at all sure what to make of this.

Working from home, remotely, is like trying to direct a play from behind a big black curtain. Especially when there's a bit of turmoil and change going on over there. And here is so relaxed and, well, sunny.

The farmer's market is seriously inspirational. The veggies and fruit are plentiful, affordable and fresher than anything I've had since O'Connor's farm used to deliver us a box. Today I cooked a bunch of silverbeet I bought two weeks ago and I didn't even need to trim the leaves for age signs! I am loving eating salads everyday and I've been making up some great combos if I say so myself. Haven't looked at a single recipe. So much for thinking I needed to take on a culinary challenge. I'm thinking I might make it six months without spaghetti Bolognese.

The new childcare centre is nothing on the old one. But Wil seems happy enough and so far they haven't asked us to pay so you can't argue with that can you? I'm okay with scruffy so long as everyone is happy.

It's getting too hot for a doona at night, but not really hot enough for just a sheet either. This situation hit Wil first and hard since he's a hot kid and somehow scored the hottest doona in the new house, so I took to a bit of heathen quilting and added a new panel to his old sheet and monk robe cot quilt to make it suitable for his bed. Very happy with the result. I am now all in a rush to get quilts made for Amy and then D and I. I brought with me the gear to make our grown up one, but I've had to source as much stuff locally as I can for Amy and fill the gaps by leaning on some friends to shop and post on my behalf (thanks guys!).

We took a trip to Brisbane yesterday so D and Amy could see the dogs thrash the lions. I got to visit funky fabrix (for the aforementioned quilt sourcing) which is a fantastic little fabric shop. I mentioned Twitter and got 10% off! I see a few online purchases in my future. Thank the internet gods for Google Map directions or we would never have found it. Not so great were the tips on fabric buying here - it took me several kilometres of walking to discover it is hopelessly out of date and most of the shops moved or closed down. If it hadn't been for funky, the whole fabric buying foray would have been a total bust.

I was also thrilled to bits to visit GOMA, something I've wanted to do for years (starting about here). The building and adjacent library are stunning, absolutely stunning. Totally my kind of architecture (Al - wow!). I could have spent hours there - well hours more than I did spend there.

The library is a fully people oriented space with great, fun and beautiful areas for kids and playing games and using the internet and hanging out. Visionary. I tell you if I lived in Brisbane I'd be there a lot.

And over at the gallery I couldn't believe my luck to catch the current floating life exhibition which showcases indigenous fibre art. There were a couple of other exhibits I loved too, but the fibre stuff as always caught me in its magic spell. Such amazing work in such everyday items, I took a billion photos and still barely captured it (they are over on flickr, starting here).
While D and Amy were at the footy I slipped into the cinema and saw Balibo. A fabulous film featuring amazing music and wonderful performances and much to think about. I want to visit Timor more than ever and have renewed respect for Jose Ramos Horta and (some) journalists. And Mr LaPaglia, who in this role more than once reminded me of a friend or two in different ways and made the whole thing so much more real and moving. I cried a bit and have spent all day revisiting bits and tearing up again.

In stark contrast to the Timor experience was the flash hotel experience. We took a punt on a 'mystery' hotel deal on the internet and landed in the heights of luxury at the Sebel (bonus!!). You should have seen the valet parking dudes trying to work out how to deal with the Kingswood. Hilarious. Took them forever to get the car back to us and they stalled it twice right in front of us. Yoof have no idea what a choke is or why you need one.

And in amongst it all my darling girl celebrated the beginning of a whole new year. Luckily we organised presents before we came and brought them with us, and with grandparents all in residence it wasn't quite the shamozzle the rest of life has been. (How amazing are these candles with flames that match the candle colour?)

Such an event is worthy of a more substantial post. Another thing.

But I'm off now to watch Stephen Fry doing his thing in America. Love his thing.

Monday, 10 August 2009

must see

I watched this doco, well, most of it, yesterday on the ABC.

It was so so so fabulous - if you get a chance to see it, please do.

Makes me want to fold fold fold...

Saturday, 8 August 2009

I would be posting

But I've been shaped. Such a gracious term for such a limiting condition. Internet circa 1996.

Plus, I'm feeling, well, kinda lazy.

New billing cycle on Tuesday. Catch you then!

Monday, 3 August 2009

sunshine school

starting sunshine school, originally uploaded by Soozs.

Without a bang or a wimper both kids started at their respective places of care today. So so glad our kids are happy to leave us to our own devices!

Saturday, 1 August 2009


No matter how much you think something through before hand, it's always a surprise what hits you hardest in a new place.

I simply cannot get my bearings. A lifetime on the Melbourne rectilinear grid has not served us well in the swirl of curves and courts up here. There's more round abouts than you can poke a stick at and hills and dales at every turn. We have to laugh a lot when we are out in the car because we keep thinking we are somewhere else, should be somewhere else. Oh well, there's always the next round about to take us back. For two map lovin' direction oriented types who have done more than our fare share of travel and place finding, it is unexpected.

There's a reason they call it sunrise beach.

Both D and I have extraordinarily sore calves. So so sore. Lots of time in bare feet on hard floors and lots and lots of stairs and lots of loads of luggage and shopping to carry up all those stairs. We have to laugh about this too - our funny stiff walks and desire to not bend if we don't have to.

A larger house has encouraged both kids to run and shout a lot more. There is a constant squeal and thud thud thud. They don't seem to be suffering from sore calves.

Along with a significant increase in size, the house contains exponentially more white and pale surfaces. This doesn't bode well for getting our bond back if Wil has anything to do with it.

There is also a lot of very nice furniture and a bit of good art, way nicer than we have at home and I can already see the return to normality next year will feel more than a little like expulsion from Eden. I'll get back to you when I work out what the sins involved are.

I spend a lot of time looking for light switches, turning on lights then turning off lights again. Big houses are a whole different beast and I suspect the bils could very quickly get out of hand. I can't imagine having to heat this monster and I think the cleaning may kill me. On the upside it's great exercise just walking around to find each other. Stair master.

It only took D a day to get a step ladder on a table on the deck to allow him to get on the roof and hang our hammock. The man knows no limits when it comes to taking in a sea view in comfort.

Wil has taken to saying (after a sharp intake of breathe) Wow, would you look at that now. Cracks me up every time, and I have to agree there is a lot to wonder at.

There are sharp shadows in the orange morning light. It gets light much earlier in the morning, and yet it gets darker at about the same time. And the light is so much stronger - that expression 'weak sunlight' so describes the winter light in Melbourne, but not up here. When you don't wear a watch and use the general ambient light to give clues about the time you are often up the garden path.

Technology has been our greatest friend and sharpest enemy. Skype, until now not much more than a scratchy phone line and chat server, has totally come into its own. Taking friends and family on guided webcam tours of the new house and letting Amy wave to everyone has been a real delight.

Entirely undelightful has been the multiple and frustrating problems with the giant plasma/DVD/set top box set up. Everything is supremely complicated. The TV doesn't seem to like staying the right dimensions and cuts the bottom off the screen so every time we switch it on we need to work out all over again how to make it the right shape via the set top box. And when Wil wants to watch fishy right now I can never seem to get the fricken DVD to show on the TV. You'd think if you pay that much money for a whole entertainment suite the thing should not require an engineering degree to operate. At home we have a giant box with a small screen from the jurassic era and even though Wil occasionally programs it into Chinese all it really does is change chanels and volume. There's something to be said for that.

Similarly I spent a good two hours this afternoon trying to get our new printer to connect to our network so both D and I can use it from our respective offices. In the end I caved and gave up. I'll regroup tomorrow when I can get some assistance from someone who's smarter than me. Yes, I'm talking to you James. I'd be calling James for help except we can't seem to make outgoing calls on the landline. Apparently we're not authorised. I am dreading the next mobile bill and counting down till the 10th when the landline moves over to our plan and presumably starts working for us instead of telling us off.

We had a market outing today and amazingly the change of states hasn't diminished Wil's desire to run away, grab stuff off random stalls and generally try us all. Shocking.

I am completely loving the local strawberries and passionfruit - cheap, sweet and really tasty. And today at the market Wil found bubbles and I found a hand made curry paste for Khao Soi, my favourite Thai curry soup from the North and a rarity here in Australia. There was also raw honey, sushi, balloon animals and a merry go round ride.

And I drove the car for a short burst twice today. Maybe perhaps one day I might consider this unworthy of comment. Right now it is right up there with three headed fish.

One of the stall holders at the market today (who was selling very nice clothes) stopped me to ask about the embroidery on my skirt and what label it was. I very much enjoyed saying I had made it myself. I gave her my blog address - hello if you are reading this! - and felt like it was a first step into the local making scene.

I am being woken by birds each morning. Such a lovely sound. But still feel like I need to catch up on around 5 hours of sleep from the last week.

The air smells different. Nicely beachy and vaguely smokey.

Amy's new school is veeeeeery different to the old one. They cut down the regular book list so she only had 3 scrap books and half a dozen exercise books instead of the usual quota, display books and folders, regulation colour pencils and 'low mess' crayons, as well 2 kinds of glue, a mess of gray lead pencils, a wooden ruler and a calculator. Oh and a dictionary. And while uniforms are all the rage in some schools, they were the rarest of sightings at the old place. Here they are compulsory, as are sandshoes, a sport uniform (in house colours), a hat with no ties or straps and a library bag printed with the school logo and motto. And get this, her class has a permaculture garden and they sell the produce to the canteen. The grounds are also covered in trees and foliage with a tonne of shade green spaces to play. Amy is going to absolutely totally love it.

We took Wil to his child care across the street where he instantly found a truck and a slide to push it down and had no further use for us. It was a joy to see.

It would be fair to say that both D and I are keen to see Monday come and get the kidlets out of our hair.