Aug 30, 2012

I'll be baaack

Image courtesy of digitalart,

Just a short note to advise I am temporarily indisposed, but will be back before long.

11 weeks ago, I broke my arm while on holiday in Greece, and it has not healed. This week I had surgery to implant a rod and screws through my arm bone to pin the pieces back together.  So for the next week I am under orders to do next to nothing, other than sleep and take pills and do mild physio.

Well alright then, if everyone insists!

But I will be back on this blog, reading other blogs, linkys, Facebook and Twitter before long, so I look forward to reading you / hearing from you again soon.

Take care,


Aug 22, 2012

Some Beauty: Afternoon at Heide

On Sunday afternoon I went with my friend Pandora to Heide.

Heide is pronounced "Hidey" and is the Heide Museum of Modern Art which you can read about here. If you are a Melburnian or even an Australian of course you will know about Heide, so forgive the exposition for I am supplying this information for the tiny number of people here who are, as I was, ignorant of its existence.

Despite being an art lover (and a modern art lover), loving Sydney Nolan and Albert Tucker and knowing or knowing OF the work of all the famous and influential artists who kept residence at Heide, despite my love of galleries and gardeny places and historical-buildings-you-can-visit, and despite living most of my life in Melbourne - despite all that - I had never heard of the place.

I'll blame it on growing up in New Zealand.

Anyway, the place has stuck in my head in a lovely way since. It is beautiful and serene, and a living monument to what John and Sunday Reed accomplished.  They bought it as an old dairy farm in the 1930's and landscaped it for beauty and self-sustainability AND helped establish the Australian Modern art movement through their patronage and influence.  (The word "patronage" is so patronizing don't you think? It brings to mind wealthy dilletantes and is inadequate for what the Reeds did for Australian art).  Most of the literature and commentary suggests that Sunday was the stronger influence, or perhaps she was just the more charismatic.

It certainly makes a great story. Willowy, artistic and independent-minded young woman from wealthy establishment family marries similarly aristocratic young lawyer; they buy a run-down old dairy farm outside the city [as it was then] and create a working farm and inspirational gardens from a philosophy of beauty and self-sustainability. They take in and nurture the best artists, creating the hub of the Modernist art movement in Australia; they live suitably artistic lives being volatile and smashing crockery, breeding cats and having affairs with the artists who live there - most famously Sidney Nolan, who had a relationship with Sunday for many years and who painted the Ned Kelly series in their dining room.

So here is what Heide looks like now:

As we approached the original house ('Heide I') from the carpark we heard, then saw, two kookaburras flying between tall silver gum trees that flank the path to the house.  It was a lovely welcome into a beautiful landscape.

This house is a weatherboard cottage now painted pale pink with high ceilings, timber floors and white walls. The Reeds bought it in the 1930's and renovated it from Victorian farmhouse to 'French Provincial cottage', and it is gorgeous.  

'Heide I' - the Reeds' first home at Heide. 

I'll admit this house resonated with me far more than 'Heide II', the award-winning late 70's modern minimalist house the Reeds lived in later.  That house, with its narrow brick-walled corridors, open staircase and sunken lounge with built-in furniture AND original nobbly brown cushions and shag carpet, jolted back memories of a couple of swish architect-designed houses I'd admired as a child.  It was built as a house and intended to later be an art gallery, and the design is clever in that way - but it seems very much a building of its time, and feels impersonal and cramped (to me).  But it does fit in well with the landscape and the gardens designed around it.

In Heide I: a fireplace mantel with cat paintings on the tiles - taken before I was told that photography wasn't allowed (oops).

The sign near the 'kitchen garden' showing what's available when.  In my daydreams I plan to have a small kitchen garden (modelled on my mother-in-law's in her Greek village) so this little chart may come in handy for me. When? Oh, you know, never. But I do like the IDEA of it.

The oak tree behind the house - beautifully symmetrical.

Just a view looking through the tangled vines behind the house

In the garden

Hey little fella

Twig sculptures. Pandora who comes from a farming family thought they looked like giant hay bales (as they do). I who come from a watching-TV-in-the-suburbs family found they reminded me of the swirling 'another dimension' image at the beginning of the old black and white Twilight Zone shows.
But more beautiful of course.

This photo also gives an idea of the kind of day it was there - wintry and slightly overcast, lending everything the kind of romantic-in-the-country air that I am partial to. (I'm already composing a soundtrack to this place in my head).

After our little tour we headed to Cafe Vue and met Pandora's friends for lunch, which was a celebration for her birthday. Lunch was lovely, though we all agreed the ridiculously abundant high tea being served to an embarrassed couple at the window looked appealing for next time.

After lunch it was down to the paddock to see the tin cows. I'm always amazed when sculpture captures the manner and movement of a living thing. From the distance these really look real:

Photo by Pandora, used with her permission

And then it was time to go home, not having seen everything but quietly humming with the joy that comes from spending an afternoon in a beautiful place.

Next on my reading list is The Heart Garden, biography of Sunday Reed and her influence at Heide.

I also came across this blog and enjoyed this read - and the photos from Heide in summer:

Aug 15, 2012

The Olympics ended and I was sad...

The Olympics are over. Who else felt a little sad and lost on Monday?

I'm not a sports lover. At all. One of the happiest moments in my life was my last day of high school when I knew I would never again have to participate in organised sport.

But I love the Olympics. There is something so transcendent about them - something that rises not only above everyday sport but also above the kitsch and glitz of the ceremonies, the appalling economic costs and our casual, sniggering cynicism.

Usain Bolt
photo by Alexandre Moreau via Flickr

I skipped the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. They go on forever, they are cheesy and a little boring, and they make you uncomfortably aware of the astronomical cost involved in the whole endeavor.

I do like the opening ceremony where the athletes walk out with their flags and their varied uniforms, even with the realization that you (okay, I) can't locate half * of these countries on a map.

* most

"How I feel watching the Olympics" via 9GAG

But it's great when the opening ceremony is over and the Games get underway. I ignored the inevitable Hunger Games quips on Twitter and settled in.  I was in luck too - thanks to my broken arm (healing but still sore) I'm still sleeping half-propped-up on the couch in the lounge, which gave me all-night access to the TV.

Bad news first: the not-so-good

There are the usual complaints about broadcasting decisions. We only see Australian stuff in full, Channel 9 cuts and zips too often, we don't get to see all points awarded or medals bestowed. Every time I turn on the TV I seem to see basketball. How does that happen? But what can any broadcaster do? There are too many events playing simultaneously and too many competing audience preferences - you'd never please everyone.

There is the national shock at not "punching above our weight" in the medal tally. Australia, coming down abruptly from the high of Sydney-Athens-Beijing, did not win gold in the numbers expected and most of the media did not hide their disappointment. We did worse than "Team GB", worse than France, Italy or Hungary, and for a worryingly long time we did worse than New Zealand (the horror), and Kazakhstan. Thinking about this it struck me as quite likely that countries which host a Games do very well over an 8-year period leading up to and following the Games they host, as money and effort pours in and the weight of cultural support surrounds the Olympic endeavour; and in fact, this is the prevailing theory.  Last Saturday the Fairfax papers published a startling feature highlighting the cost per medal of the Olympics and the limited value in hunting gold given the cyclical nature of success.

The worst moment around this for me was the TV poolside interview with James Magnussen after he won silver in the men's 100m freestyle final, trailing American Nathan Adrian by one one-hundredth of a second. The interviewer called it "the cruellest of losses", and asked Magnussen "If there's anything you could change about your preparation now in hindsight, what would it be?" He finished, if I remember correctly, with something like "but never mind, you haven't let anyone down".

Similarly shocking was Emily Seebohm crying after winning silver in the 100m backstroke, sobbing that she had "let everyone down." (Pressure, much? You didn't let down anyone, my love. You won a medal! An Olympic silver medal!)

I do get this. I get that to be an Olympic athlete you must be hungry for gold. I get that everyone wants gold and that when an athlete has their hopes (and expectations) on winning gold, then silver is a disappointment. But that disappointment should be slight, and momentary, and not in any way encouraged by the media - because any Olympic medal in any color is an amazingly awesome and rare achievement.

The Best: Highlights

One of my favorite moments was one Day 1, when the Australian women's team won gold in the 400m swimming relay. The women's team spirit and gracious, friendly faces were beautiful:

Alicia Coutts, Cate Campbell, Brittany Elmslie and Melanie Schlanger.
Picture: Michael Dodge, Courier Mail

There was so much that was amazing: Sally Pearson's 100m hurdles gold, Mitchell Watt's silver in the long jump, Usain Bolt in everything. "Inspiring" (hate that word, but it's valid) stories for me were 19 year old Australian Stephen Solomon's cheerful last place in the men's 400m, 16 year old "schoolgirl" Brittany Broben's silver medal for diving and 16 year old Ye Schiwen's two gold medals, in their first Olympics.

My eyes popped watching the men's long jump this year, where nearly every finalist jumped more than eight metres. EIGHT METRES. Without any kind of machine to do it. Do you have any idea how far that is? If you are not sure, try and jump ONE metre. I didn't even try - I know I can't do it.

Men's Long Jump Final Results


Greg Rutherford8.148.31X6.338.31
Mitchell WattXX8.138.168.16
Will Claye7.938.127.96X8.12
4Michel Torneus8.
5Sebastian Bayer7.968.107.967.988.10
6Christopher Tomlinson7.838.077.747.768.07
7Mauro Vinicius da Silva7.968.01XX8.01
8Godfrey Khotso Mokoena7.62XXX7.93
9Henry Frayne7.637.85
10Marquise Goodwin7.767.80
11Aleksandr Menkov7.787.78
12Tyrone SmithX7.70

Men's Long Jump London Olympics 2012 - via Google

And what about Usain Bolt?

The man is a miracle. From his heats where he (seemingly) casually jogged across the finish line, to his  spectacular 200m sprint gold win, he epitomised everything people love about the Olympic games.

Men's 200m sprint final - London 2012
photo by Alexandre Moreau via Flickr

Why the Olympics are great

The New York Times has published an interesting graphic of a men's 100 metre race between every Olympic medalist of that event ever, showing how far ahead of everyone else (this year's) Usain Bolt is.  It's a startling illustration of one of the fascinations of the Games: even discounting for the drug scandals, athletes keep getting faster, stronger, better.

That's what makes the Games so compelling (and I suppose all elite sport). It's the sight of the few embodying what humanity can do. Not only are we watching the pinnacle of pure human ability, we are also witnessing the comforting proof that human ability, endurance and excellence can improve, again and again and again, seemingly (but surely not) forever.

One of my favourite comments - without cynicism - on the value and meaning of the Olympics:

umair haque
So maybe, despite all our richly deserved cynicism, the Olympics do retain the spirit of accomplishment--and how it betters us.

So the Olympics are over. What now? The Paralympics of course, and then, in just two years...

...the Winter Olympics!

Image thanks to Microsoft clip art!

How are you on the Olympics? Love, Hate or Meh?

Aug 14, 2012

Do I really have less time in the mornings than this woman?

Julia Gillard is all over the front pages today, with the news that the government is changing tack on offshore processing of asylum seekers. It's an important (and depressing) story, but that's not what I'm writing about. (Come back! It's not what I'm writing about!)

Here is the picture* I saw when I first opened The Age iPad app this morning:

*[Dear The Age, I'm sorry for stealing this photo - I don't normally do it, but this post is meaningless without it. Can we call this a "meme" and let me get away with it?]

Photo: Andrew Meares, The Age

Here are the things that went through my head, in rapid succession, when I saw this photo:

  • Oh my god, that's caught her nose in the EXACT same angle as they draw it in the cartoons
  • Wow, good photo. She looks attractive
  • Nice make-up
  • She straightens her hair every day. What time she must get up every morning?
  • She probably got her hair and makeup done for the press conference
  • But she always looks like that 

There is no way I am as busy and stressed every day as Julia Gillard. How come she finds time for good grooming and I struggle to?

I haven't straightened my hair in about ten years.

My make-up routine on work days is: wipe-on foundation, mascara, lipgloss.

If I'm meeting with big bosses or going out, I add eye-shadow and swap the lipgloss for lipliner and lipstick.

My make-up routine on weekends is: ha ha ha.

Now, I know I have kids and all, and life can be hectic. But - let's be honest here - there is no way I am as busy or as stressed as Julia Gillard.

Time to lift my game.


What about you? Had any similar self-realization epiphanies lately?

Aug 10, 2012

I'll Get To It...

God but I'm DESULTORY lately. I'm blaming my broken arm - and it has made things difficult.
It's made me realise what people with really bad, serious injuries go through. And I will admit that I have really not ever given that too much thought.

All my life I've seen people wandering round with an arm in a cast and never thought it was a big deal. Oho, it's a big deal alright! Seven weeks later I am much better, but still sore and limited in movement, and doing physio sessions to get my muscle strength back. I cannot lift anything heavier than a couple of hundred grams with my bad arm, cannot lift it higher than my waist, cannot fully straighten it out. I can now shower and dress and undress myself (that was a long first three weeks), but I still have to wake my husband to do up or undo my bra. I haven't gone so many days braless since I was 23!

The length of time taken to heal is because I have an oblique fracture where the break was jagged and the two halves are out of alignment - I've been told 8-10 weeks to heal properly with physio and possible surgery needed (though I don't think now I'll need the surgery).

Anyway, yes, it has made things difficult, not to complain or anything because god knows there are worse things, and many, many, millions of worse injuries. I'm so sorry, injured people, I never gave you much thought before, other than a brief zap of horror or sympathy. You are heroes, all!

So ANYWAY again, it has made me a little lacklustre. It gets you down not being able to do all the things you usually do, and I had a day recently where all I did was literally sit on the couch, trying not to weep in self-pity. I'm over it!

There have been nice things, I must say. I had a very relaxing five-week holiday in place of the hectic 3 week one we had planned. We spent more time sitting back, blending into village life and hanging out with close family, rather than rushing from island to island. We spent much less money on holiday than we budgeted. (Though I did blow some extra on data roaming!)
Other good things:
Husband and kids have stepped up big time to support me and tackle all the day to day. I got over my embarrassment (of, ahem, recent [fat] years) being naked in daylight in front of my husband - I had to, since for the first 3 weeks he usually had to shower me. I have rediscovered walking, and planning and doing less each day, because I can't drive. The kids and I walk to and from school 3 days a week, rain, hail or shine (except twice we took a taxi). I've topped up my Myki and I take the train to work, and I am saving a lot each week by not driving. I have resolved to carry on not driving to work, even with the extra time it takes, and the extra inconvenience of a taxi or pick-up from the station when I've missed the last bus.

On the downside, my husband is exhausted and my mum probably is too with extra taxi-duty she's put in for us lately.

But mostly (at least for me!) the downside is the frustration with not being able to do things. It's a bit of a downer, that can easily feed into other things and sap my enthusiasm for things that I am quite capable of doing.  All of which is a very long-winded way of saying I have lost some mojo for now but I will blog again soon.  I'll get to it.  I'll be back.

What are you struggling with lately?  What makes you lose your get-up-and-go?


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