What I thought in 2006

Because we are moving I’m going through piles of old notebooks and papers that have been sitting in boxes for the past six years. They’re piles of ‘I should do something with this’s and ‘I don’t know what to do withs’.

Part of why I haven’t thrown them out is that they remind me of things I’ve thought in the past and while much of it them contain shopping lists there are also gems of ideas and random observations and many, many little memories.

In one notebook I found this afternoon there is a list of themes or ‘truths’ that I felt at the time could or should pepper the novel I was trying to write back in 2006, a crime novel about a Melbourne solicitor/barrister.

They were:

Goals, Messages, Truths

  • women in business are never on the same level as men because capitalism is so dependent on the personal relationships of decision makers, usually men, who use women as currency both to bolster their own status and image (marriage, assistants and mistresses)and as soothing and because women are also used between men to ingratiate, form intimacies and bonds. (* sexual abuses among professional sportsmen were quite prominent at that time.)
  • sex in youth is one of the few opportunities for power in a woman’s life, intoxicating and dangerous and too tempting to not use.
  • justice is elusive and in corporate crime there is too little too late. Punishment is rarely commensurate with the pain.
  • good and bad aren’t black and white.
  • finding and following what you believe in is noble.
  • the values of society at present are hypocritical, corrupt and insidiously destructive
  • the people who preach economic rationalism are naive, irrational or deliberately misleading
  • lawyers are like racehorses, bigger fish bet on them
  • courts are one of the few remaining bastions of ‘rules’ left in our society
  • good doesn’t come to those who work hard just because they work hard
  • values require complicity 
  • the world is moving away from democracy
  • the real gangsters wear suits, the real cowboys ride bull markets, and the new frontier is the domination and corruption of national sovereignty
  • implosion is near and empire will crumble, feudalism will return or it will be theocracy
  • it is possible to understand all people with compassion 
  • some people are evil, will remain evil 
  • fundamentalism is evil, selfishness and greed are evil, violence and terror are abhorrent no matter who does it in what name
  • Hope may be Chinese. 


I wasn’t in a good place when I went down to the train station but being in a crowd seemed to help. I took up a waiting position, leaning on the wall. Next to me, a girl sat on a bench playing with some silly putty. It was the same kind of putty that I had as a kid but remarketed with gimmicky packaging so that when she squeezed it down a small cylinder to oozed out of a freaky face of cut out eyes and a smiling mouth made hideous.

She was about 10, shy, puppy fat and freckles, and when I commented on it she wordlessly showed me what it could do a few times; till the attention attracted her younger brother who had to get his two-bits in and show off his too. Their dad was trying to keep them contained and read his phone at the same time. And the kids were good, really. The dad, a handsome but tough looking man, seemed to be overly cultivating the image. His short sleeve shirt looked calculated to reveal his tribal design tatt and smooth sculpted biceps. The little boy was all soft edges like his sister, younger, about 7, and cheeky. He was in a coarse looking North Melbourne footy jumper and his hair was buzz-cut with criss-crosses around his ears, though it was longer at the top and down to the nape of his neck. Their cheerfulness, gentle warmth and simple ordinariness bolstered me a bit. Maybe it’s odd to feel relief waiting for a train on a stuffy underground platform but compared to the day I’d had, it did.

I’d spent the day at a writer’s conference surrounded by publishers and aspiring authors. Some work of my own had been assessed by an editor who had politely found it wanting. I was numb from a grief born of utter existential angst, confusion and self-doubt. If they were my people, if that was my world, why did I feel so alien and out of step? What sort of writer was I? How did I fit in? My brain spun with all the assertions, stories and advice, the contradictions of what gets published, the reality of what sells, the competitiveness of the market, the steepness of the odds of success.  How was I supposed to get up, brush myself down and keep going? What I really wanted was to just walk away. It was all too hard. Maybe I didn’t have ‘it’, the talent or the grit. Maybe I should give up, become a nurse, or a florist, something actually useful. I wanted to hide, from the anger, and grief, and humiliation, and insecurity. Disappearing in the crowd was as good a place as any.

When it finally came, the train was pretty full, day trippers and shoppers and fans heading home from the footy. The train was dressed with Collingwood supporters, a wad of whom stood next to me in the doorway of the carriage discussing the prospects of the team. The man closest, short, stocky, convinced of his own authority, muttered incomprehensible stats on goals up and points down amid a continuous torrent of faacks, faackin’ this and farcking that. His mobile chortling the team anthem. The family from the platform swayed next to them too, the buff-armed dad furrowed his brow, uncomfortable with the blue language. Still, his son was oblivious, as he swayed with the carriage and his green silly putty, tumbling ungraciously and playing up the slap-stick potential of every wobble underfoot.

When I finally got off, it was growing dark. The sky was a pale autumn grey. It was one of those times when the sky above seem like a silver cloche, and the air carries the lives of those around us with the clarity of a cathedral. Not a breath of wind. The twilight was the smell of mown grass and cool air.

It’s a rare moment when I am alone and can dissolve into that around me. I pondered the day. Who did I want to be? As I crossed the tracks and walked through the park on the other side toward the street I passed the local gun club. It was a Saturday night and the first time I’ve ever seen the door open. Inside were friends; their camaraderie was palpable. The rear of a skinned head nodded with that of another man of bulk as they consulted papers on a table. An old radiator fitted to a fibro wall glowed at the end of the room. It was filled with second-hand, squishy vinyl lounges and unassorted chairs. A middle aged woman sat on an armrest among the gathered men, smiling over one of their shoulders. People and their clans.

Cars slowly passed me once I reached the street. Distant kids shouted from the park, a man calling encouragement, the familiar thphwump of a footy kick. The train crossing dinged. Another approaching train sighed and squeaked to a stop. Lights came on in houses. A security light blinked to life as I passed picket fences and rear windows, someone cooking a heady garlic and oregano bolognaise, whiffs of wood fire, dampness under the trees. I smelt a woman putting on a leather jacket earlier that day, a rush of wet earth and hay and horses, that deep smell of leather. Apparently you can’t actually recall smells, you can only know them when you smell them.

Clumsily, I dug out paper and pen, compelled to note the memory, writing in the yellow drift of an awakening streetlight. I was thinking about what the hell is a literary voice anyway, my eyes drawn to the dirt where an unseen cicada vibrated within its soft earth hole.

The suspension springs squeaked loudly from a neighbour’s BMW SUV as it turned out of our street; for such an expensive car it always sounds pretty shit. The darkening sky blended with silver corrugated roofs, becoming one slate. Night gathered, drawing up its velvet. Dogs barked distantly, a peewee cawed, a Vdub van stuttered through it’s gears.

Across the street, a woman walking her Jack Russell stopped to check out a red sold banner slapped across the auction board, where I supposed a million-dollar frenzy had occurred a few hours earlier for what was a rental place of damp and decay. I wonder what it went for. Another reminder that I needed to get a real job, everything is far too precarious.  A chorus of Indian minors chirp in the gloomy branches above me, shitting on expensive cars.

Pen in hand, in the dark, I felt oddly at peace. Momentarily free from trying to fit into a predefined category.  Be yourself, they said it over and over. Tell the story you want to tell. Yet all the while what would be successful was defined and dissected. Fit through the eye of the needle, authentically. For so long I’d been trying to fit into an abstraction, like standing in a changing room trying on new identities, considered and criticised from myriad mirrored angles, a reflection of likenesses, bouncing off one another. But they were ephemeral, flickering. I was tired of it all, the second guessing. I can only be me.

I stood outside my house, knowing my children and husband were safely tucked inside. A pandemonium of smells, sounds and intentions awaited, stories saved up, garbled greetings and blurred blinks would look up from glowing screens; sensations that would bombard, overwhelm and deflect me. I paused in the quiet.

It was time to put that mirror away, to quiet those reflections, face them down on the table. I don’t need to speak into a construct. I have my own voice, even if it is only murmuring in the twilight.

I tell myself I can write. I just don’t know the story yet.

Social media ‘working for you’ what it means for content

An article in the Guardian (31 Jan 2012) Be Better at Twitter: The Definitive, Data-Driven Guide by The Atlantic’s Megan Garber and the report from which it drew highlight some of the fascinating things happening around how we use and think about Twitter.

Basically it’s about a study by researchers Paul André of Carnegie Mellon, Michael Bernstein of MIT, and Kurt Luther of Georgia Tech who analysed 43,000 crowdsourced responses to tweets from 21,014 Twitter users via their site, Who Gives a Tweet. The results are hoped to provide answers to what ‘works’ in the twittersphere. Continue reading

My blog header

This image came from me just stuffing around with a caligraphy pen years ago. I really liked the idea of these computers all swimming around in cyber space as awkward fish and creating an image of a computer that was fluid and sort of minimal.

But now, many years later they do look incongruous and, well a lot like sperm. I’m not sure this is saying the right things about my blog. Time for a change, hmm. but what too?

The fridge packed it in

The fridge packed it in over the weekend. At first it was a vague awareness that things seemed a bit warm, maybe the door had been left open. But by morning there was no doubt, it was warmer inside than out.

You think so little about fridges until they go wrong. They’re so solid and reliable. Sitting squatly, chilling. The hum in the night as the cycle keeps it rhythm, the accompaniment of insomnia. The opening window to contemplation of undiagnosed wants and needs. The treasure chest of good things, new things, temptations and treats. Boxy, white and always there.

But when they go, it’s a sudden surge of action and prioritisation. The rapid decanting of the soon to putrefy food stuffs, the ringing around to find additional cool stores at friends, relatives and neighbours, the investigation of the gloop that has accumulated in the nooks and crannies of the shelving, the butter compartment, and that have dropped to the bottom of the freezer and are now unidentifiable.

The man will come soon, so like whipping around the vacuum before guests, swiping on some lipstick, I’ve busied myself cleaning every shelf, every surface. It’s the most sparkling under-performing white-good around. Though perhaps it’s all futile. I suspect we will soon say our farewells. But now that that’s done and I await the my fridge’s fate, I can’t help thinking fondly back on our lives together.

My fridge was my first major household purchase. Nothing seemed to say ‘grown-up’ quite as much as spending hard earned dollars on white goods. Ah, the memories, the trip into Harvey Norman, considering the volumes, prices and efficiencies and fending off the salesman. Signing that hire purchase agreement.

My Fisher & Paykel took pride of place in the kitchen of the first flat that my now husband and I moved into together, our cute little second floor apartment with Harbour Bridge glimpses.
I loved that fridge, with it’s upside-down-freezerness, it’s white shiny exterior and inner gleam. Bought in the pre-christmas heat after a week of sour milk I was all the more appreciative of the invention and proliferation of home appliances. I positively cheered it’s ice making capacity.

My fridge has loyally followed us through numerous houses since. Up stairs and down. It waited patiently in storage when we had no place to put it. It survived the rough treatment of a band of pirate furniture removalists who scraped and dented it, and forever after set it to a slight incline that required propping.

It’s chilled Christmas hams and curry pastes, breast milk, bottles, purees, custards, cakes and leftovers, medicines and I suspect its held the same container of miso paste for some years now. I’ve let it be dribbled on with knocked over jams and tipped over bloody mince. The twin vegetable compartments have been soiled, grimed and survived. It’s been part of every family occasion in it’s own semi-silent way.

We’ve been together ten years, now. It’s been showing it’s age for some time. The bottom has been filling with ice rendering the fruit and veg compartment useless for that purpose. The ice grows glacial, creeping to the edge until the door hardly seals. The ice has to be hacked at, sometimes lifting as a single two foot wide piece. Almost every shelf has cracked. The fridge door regularly won’t shut properly, the seals splitting. External plastic bits drop off, like falling rocks on a cliff face..

And I’ve been disloyal. I’ve muttered at its small size, less suitable to a family than to a couple. I’ve shoved things in, forced doors open, shut, in and out. I’ve contemplated it’s replacement before now.

After all it’s all I could expect. Ten years is good in fridge-years these days. I’m sure under the powerful florescence, the hyperbolic musak, the chatter of the store I will look upon the crisp clean and new styles, the featured and glowing with enthusiasm and imagine a new life with an appliances. For the fridge is part of the lifestyle dream, the holder of so much more than food.
Alas my poor fridge. Now so still and quiet. Time to take down the magnets, pull off the notices, the drawings, the take-away menus, the last fond farewell.


Today Sunrise, the Channel 7 chirpy breakfast television show posed the probing survey question, ‘do you use the wok-burner-thingy on your barbeque?’ (http://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/b/sunrise/1184/kochie-real-men-dont-use-wok-burners ). The suggestion was that it was an unnecessary bit of over-packaging, and of course, such deep issues need discussion and analysis.

The discussion that followed suggested that it was a wifely domain, while the blokes did the important meat turning tasks, real men don’t wok apparently. Images of backyards around the country set up as catering production lines for smoking and tossing food came to mind, along with bickering and elbow knocking and tomato sauce on the toes. I didn’t get back to the show to find out the final result of the poll, maybe it will be on tomorrow. Leaving aside the gender issues, I felt more bemused by the universality implied in the question, that everyone has a barbeque with a wok-burner.

Not being the owner of a barbeque, let alone one with a wok burner thingy I felt somewhat put out by this question. I’ve long felt something of a consumer pariah for not having my own indoor/outdoor patio lifestyle area. Now I feel underprivileged for not having the barbeque either.

I confess to drooling over Barbeque Galore catalogues admiring large shiny barbeques with five burners and griddles and wok burners and thermostats on the roasting lids. They’re the Hummer of home entertaining, the lifestyle statement barbeque, and that much grunt and shine has a hefty price tag (anywhere from moderately expensive to astronomical), incorporating the levy for Acquiring Lifestyle Envy (ALE), the ‘gee what a big barbeque you’ve got’ appeal. So discussions on the marketing differentiation and add-ons that keep piling up, like wok ring size enhancements leave me holding the packed sandwiches from home in the outdoor entertaining stakes.

I’ve often looked at the wok burner and thought goodness, wouldn’t it be interesting to toss the vegetables outside, but then the thought follows but why would you? Apparently, many people who buy them have the same issue, thus the survey. Preparing the vegetables, transferring them outside, tossing them with the sauces and then serving them up seems a process that requires benches, an often under-acknowledged cooking requirement, plus the sink and easy access to the pantry and fridge. Hence, not that much fun out of doors.

The wok burner may be the barbeque equivalent of the microwave programmable casserole buttons, I know of no one who knows how to use all the functions available on their microwave or who has shown much interest in the discovery. What a job that must be, to think up functions that no one will try using? You have to ask yourself what are you going to use your barbeque for? And the answer is generally to burn sausages and steaks, especially if men with beers are left to do it.

Until this Sunrise question was posed I hadn’t even considered how many of these barbeques must spend most of their lives under the black vinyl cover on the outdoor entertaining area gathering the gritty muddy dust of the elements. Though a few seconds contemplation made this seem obvious. Loved for a summer and then left in the rain, wheeled out summers after sporadically, after the glow of new ownership has waned. Like so much stuff we don’t need, and hence don’t use it sits as statement to our excesses. Well, for some, otherwise where would the envy be?

So, while the question initially made me feel even more marginalised from 21st Century life after due consideration, maybe its okay to not have a barbeque with a wok burner in my life. Though I still think the thermostat roasting covers are cool.


Tomorrow Australia will vote on whether to give Kevin Rudd a promotion or to keep John Howard in the job. I have never felt so confused about an election. Not that I am undecided, I have no doubts about my own convictions, but I’ve no idea who will win.

All the polls have consistently predicted a huge Labor win, but when it comes down to the seat-by-seat wins necessary it doesn’t seem clear at all. There have been plenty of Melbourne Cups where the favourite hasn’t seemed even in contention on the day.

I’ve come to accept that I have a very limited understanding of the Australian people. I never understood how Howard came to govern in the first place let alone how he’s managed to stay there. He has long appeared to me a person of poor character, someone who has white-anted his way to the top then ruled with an iron fist, a brutal agent of his own self-interest. Yet apparently most Australians see him as a wise leader, sturdy, dependable, good for the country. Clearly I am very wrong.

Nor do I hold to the view that he has managed the economy well, if anything I believe we have been disastrously led. Private debt has sky-rocketed; the labour market has been radically fractured and destabilised; asset inflation has run rampant warping investment direction and driving financial circularity rather than building future growth and sustainability in the economy; the resources boom has been squandered just as it has saved us from otherwise mediocre performance.

Rather than seeing the country as in an economically good position I see it as precarious. With record low unemployment, interest rates and inflation; asset values rising as if there were no limit, and all around us wealth and prosperity? It’s the undertow beneath the sparkling water we need to look for. Whoever wins is going to have to tackle global instability and recession. Which is why the sudden change of tack in the election campaign does have some bite. I’m not the only one who thinks it’s all about to go down the toilet.

And I see just as many people ‘relaxed and comfortable’ for whom it truly is ‘all good’ as I see those obviously straining, stressed, fearful, alienated. Australians now work harder, accept greater burdens without question, are more cynical, stressed, and afraid to admit their concerns, their fears and insecurities. Yet seem muted. And I don’t understand the dichotomy. Is it a quixotic dream?

I so want John Howard and every miserable bastard on his front bench thrown out of office. I believe the Howard era will come to be seen as a time of lost opportunities, of pig headed, scandalous waste. But a hatred of Howard doesn’t automatically flow to a love affair with labour.

As a technocrat, an ambitious manager, Rudd embodies a politics of corporate culture. Not a change of government so much as a restructure and the promotion of a new CEO, a minimal impact choice. There are important differences of methodology rather than ideology. Even so the promise is that within the framework of steady as she goes, some things will be acted on, some better outcomes will be achieved. I want to believe it will be different I’m prepared to overlook the similarities. But it doesn’t feel like a fresh wind of change. I don’t even get the feeling that many people like him. They just don’t like the other guy more.

At times through this election I have had the sense that many people are yearning for the opportunity to vote, to tell someone what they really think. And I have a sense that they really care, even if they are only muttering under their breath. The trouble is I still don’t know which way they’ll go.


Well, almost a year has gone by and I haven’t updated this blog. It’s been that sort of year. 2007: the year of health and hospitals. I always thought I would write a lot about my health problems but when it came down to it, it was too close, too hard. But in retrospect I might be able to write something.
In summary, I was diagnosed with the kidney disease, IgA nephropathy in 1997 and over the following ten years my kidney function has slowly deteriorated. In March this year my results showed I was heading into the steep part of the exponential curve that kidney deterioration generally follows and my specialist expected I’d need dialysis before the end of the year, possibly even by June. We lived from month to month after that, watching the numbers go up, down and bounce around. I had a fistula operation in late April that failed because my veins were just too small, and then in June my mother suggested she be tested to see if she could be a donor. By July I was trying to mentally prepare myself for PD dialysis (I’d attended information sessions at the hospital and at the home dialysis service) or a transplant not knowing which would come first. Then in August it was confirmed that my Mum was a suitable donor and the operation was arranged. Six weeks ago we both underwent our operations at the Royal Melbourne Private Hospital and the transplant was successful. Everything is going extremely well. After ten years of wondering and certainly six months of preparing, I skipped needing dialysis completely. I have a new kidney, a renewed energy and a new perspective. So much for excuses, I hereby promise to post more.