Feb 27, 2014

Words for Wednesday: Winter

'Words for Wednesday' is a writing prompt held by Delores at Under the Porch Light.
Use some or all of the week's words, write a poem or a story or a fragment, and visit Delores' current week's prompt to let her know you've joined in.

I've only ever spent two winters in snow, once in Boston as a child (magical) and once in Fussen in Germany in my twenties (first couple of days magical, thereafter just a long, cold winter). So I have limited to zero experience living with snow and ice.  I've had a go at describing it here, hopefully it's not too laughably wrong. 

This week's words were:








The winter was like an incarceration, trapped in the house and everywhere you looked out the window was white. It was not silent. There was the wind and there were snapping twigs and icicles and sometimes the groaning and creaking of ice on the roof.

Inside the house the heater was on all the time, and the air grew thick. Our breath hung in the rooms, stale and close. There was constant illness, the rattle of phlegm in damp chests.

Spring sliced through all this like a knife. The sun was not warm but the season had turned and the gleaming wet of melting ice was like a blessing.

Feb 24, 2014

Breaking the magician's code

The kids are eight and are into magic tricks at the moment.

Do you want to see a magic trick M. showed me?

Here it is:

Pick a card, any card.

I picked this one:

Then I had to put it back in the deck (without M seeing it of course), and M. mixed up the cards.

"Okay," she said dramatically. 

"Is THIS your card?!"

How did she do it?


Feb 22, 2014

Things that threw me off course

Golly gee, look at me: a blog post after almost a month. It's been so long that I've put it off even longer thinking about how I should start a new blog post after so long. Apologise? Explain myself? Just blog a new post as if nothing happened?

I personally yawn and roll my eyes when I read a blog post that starts with "Wow it's been awhile, I'm so sorry, I hope my readers are still here?!.."  So I won't do that.  Except I kind of just did.

I was on a good roll in December-January. I was pretty organised, life was rolling along, and blogging was fun and easy. So what dire things happened to throw me off?

Here they are:

1. School started again. I know, I know - I work, my KIDS are in school, what's the difference? But it makes a difference. Lunchboxes. Homework. Notices. Trying to attend meet-the-teacher events. Somehow school holidays can be easier to manage while you're working than school is.  I love our kids' school, and it's very exciting having the kids in Grade Three - but there has been a flurry of busy-ness this last month.

2. Heat. Oh my god, the Melbourne Heat Wave of 2014 will surely be written about in history books. If this is what our kids and grandkids will be living with every day due to global warming, then can I just say to them all, I'M SORRY!  I know, it's summer, and summer is hot. We get taken by surprise by this fact every year. But as every Melburnian knows, though summer starts in December, December and January are variable, and the real heat hits in February. Except this year it hit in January, and it kept going all the way through February, until ... three days ago when it suddenly turned cold and rainy.

Literally three days ago I was sitting slumped at the kitchen table saying to Y, "I'm so sick of the heat!" - and verily the gods heard my call of despair, for the next day, weirdly, it was suddenly over.

But the heat, my god, the heat... it affected everything, sapped our energy and left us discombobulated for weeks. You couldn't do housework - it was too hot. You couldn't go out - it was too hot. You couldn't blog - it was too hot.

3. Broken door. I'm saving this story for next time, but suffice it to say for now, we had an incident, and our door got broken and needed to be fixed. These things take up time and mental energy!

4. Telstra. F...ing Telstra. Ever since we've been in this house, we've had recurring phone faults. Usually after rain, sometimes after nothing at all. Our phone will go crackly for a couple of days, and then dead. It has happened easily six or eight times, and each time I have to contact Telstra and go through the same old crap to get it fixed, until next time. Last year in June our phone was out for two weeks. This January it was out for a week. Then it was fixed and two days later it went out again, for another 3 days.

Last June I "escalated" the problem and insisted the history be looked at and the underlying problem addressed... yeah, that clearly didn't happen.  This time, when I reported the fault, I escalated it straight away and every time I called I asked the operator to look at our phone history and please fix the underlying problem.

All up technicians visited our street or our house four times. And that's not including the time one came round unknown to us while we were at work and Telstra sent me a text saying "A technician visited but was unable to gain entry to your house to fix the problem. If you still have a problem please report the fault to Telstra."  I got that message and just about went through the roof. I called them - sitting in my car, melting in the heat - and honestly I struggled not to cry huge fat tears of rage and frustration and self-pity, while still being polite and fair to the operator, because the phone operators are young and keen and always lovely and helpful, and it's not their fault.

You might think a dead landline is not a problem these days, but it is. For one thing, what about people who don't have mobiles? There are still some. How on earth do they get on if this happens? What about older people living on their own?  For another thing, it knocks your ADSL internet out, and being without the internet these days is unreasonable! I complained to Telstra about having to use our mobiles to make local calls and they adjusted my mobile to landline rates for the duration, but what if my mobile was with a different carrier? Our broadband is through a different carrier, so we still had to pay for our internet while we couldn't use it. Also, when you lose your mobile, you can't use the landline to call it to find it!

As it turns out, we had two problems: a faulty outside line (duh - we knew that much) and a faulty phone socket.

But finally, after the last technician visited, I was happy. Do you know why?  Because that fourth technician finally told me the truth. It turns out our street has a very old, frayed phone cable that really needs replacing, and Telstra have no immediate plans to replace it. At last! Honesty. It was a kind of relief.

So those have been my first world problems this summer. 

How have YOU been? 

sixninepixels / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Edit: unfortunately, I accidentally deleted this post last week, and lost all the lovely comments!  I recovered the post from Google Cache but had to re-post it, so I will try and recover and copy the comments below as I find them.
Thanks to everyone who visited and commented and welcomed me back!


Feb 2, 2014

Sunday Selections #157

It's time for Sunday Selections!
Sunday Selections is a weekly meme hosted by River at Drifting Through Life. 

The rules are very simple:-
1. post photos of your choice, old or new, under the Sunday Selections title
2. link back to River somewhere in your post
3. leave a comment on River's post and visit some of the others who have posted and commented: for example:
    Andrew at High Riser
    Gillie at Random Thoughts From Abroad

This week it's random again.

Apologies if I've posted a couple of these before; I can't remember whether that was here, or on Instagram / Twitter / Facebook. Anyway it's still 35 degrees in my house and I'm too hot and weary to check.

This is how my daughter insists on wearing a jacket. And hair over her eyes too. So frustrating. I'll be telling her to stand up straight next.



A rainy night in the city back in winter. How long ago that seems now.


Zener cards I made for M.

My little niece's gorgeous chubby foot

These lovely sea creatures were painted by the girls when they were in daycare and they've been blu-tacked to the bathroom wall since then. I have just taken them down, in case visiting little friends might tease over them - and I only felt a tiny bit sad for a short while.

Something tells me the kids found the Nutella.

A gadget from A's spy kit: a tiny receptacle for secret messages.
What message did she write for me?

Meanwhile, things are quiet at M's hamburger restaurant.


While the last few governments have been racing to the bottom on treatment of asylum seekers, church signs like this one are a welcome sight.

This is St Paul's Cathedral on Flinders Road. I took this just before Christmas, but the banner is still there (and will be for some time, I think). You can read about it here.

I'm not a religious believer at all, but I do like it when churches focus on humanity and looking after people instead of moralistic guff.
The Dean said: “I am convinced that future generations of Australians will judge this policy for what it is: inhumane to those seeking our protection, and demeaning to Australia as a nation. These actions will not only be judged by our children and grandchildren but by God himself. Christ's judgement will be based on a simple measure: 'What you have done to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you have done to me' (St Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 25 verse 40).”   (Link)

Why do we need stories that ask why do we need scary stories?

The feature article in the 'Life and Style' section of the paper today was this:

Be afraid.... The enduring power of ghost stories.
THE HAUNTING From ancient tales of mythical creatures to the unspeakable crimes of modern cinema, the ghost story holds us in thrall.In this spectral world where sorrow dwells, why are we unable to look away?

I love scary stories and I love anthropology, cultural history and mythology, so hooray, even though I think this topic has been well and truly covered. It's actually a promotion for new Australian film The Darkside, but still, I feel like this is the fifth article I have read in the last couple of years asking "why do people like scary stories?"

Do a Google search for "why do people like scary stories" and most of these articles will come up, along with a good bunch of blogs and forums answering the same question.

I don't actually think it's that mysterious, is it?  Stephen King answered the question in On Writing, and all these articles, blogs and forum posts answer it too.

People like (or are drawn to) scary stories because:

  • they are cathartic, allowing us to feel and release pent-up tension and fear
  • they help us manage our fears of the unknown and death
  • they allow us to rehearse scary situations
  • they provide the adrenaline rush of the 'fight or flight' response which we need to keep us safe
  • this adrenaline rush, as a by-product, provides a thrill which is (kind of) pleasurable
  • or, encapsulating all of these: as Older Single Mum commenting on this post of mine so succinctly said, they "still the mind".

New Scientist, in its recent Night issue, had a great article called The night: Things that go bump... which says the paralysing terror we feel at noises in the night (and during horror stories) is our animalistic fear of predation, of being hunted and eaten.  That gives me a shiver just re-reading it (and reminds me how horribly stressful the life of many animals must be).

So that's pretty well explained, from my point of view.


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