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I pledge allegiance

I was reading a post from Geekergosum – who incidentally seems to think starting a blog post with ‘I’m’ is lazy – about the daily post. I think I may have posted on the subject of the daily post only once before, but I thought, what the hell. The girls have firmly planted themselves in my lap and I’ll let them enjoy cuddletime for a bit longer since they have managed to do it today without impeding access to laptop! So off to the daily post I go, only to find that the prompt of the day is “Are you patriotic? What does country mean to you?”

Firstly, I think it’s a little unAustralian to be overtly patriotic but secondly, we are in the final stages of an election campaign so it’s bloody hard to feel good about much country-wise.

Take this for example – our two major parties are trying to out-tough each other on the subject of people arriving by boat and then claiming asylum. All the figures show that the number of refugees Australia takes in from boat people is small comparative to other countries. More people arrive by plane and overstay on their visa than arrive by boat. Yet I don’t hear anyone crying ‘stop the planes!’ while ‘stop the boats’ has become a tiresome mantra of both parties. Has anyone in politics considered recently that how they got to Australia? I’m pretty sure that Tony Abbott – our probable next PM – came here by boat as a 10 pound pom. My ancestors ALL arrived by boat – at least one of these was at her majesty’s pleasure (a convict who arrived in 1814) and the rest were ‘free settlers’ arrived throughout the 1800s. Of course, the traditional owners of this land we now call Australia didn’t invite any of these boat people but no one is talking about that right now.

Meanwhile, one of our smaller political parties which sits on the left of the political spectrum, is campaigning for a more humane approach to people seeking asylum in Australia. In doing so, they seem to have lost all sense of logic, as they are reportedly directing preferences to the Palmer Australia Party. For my overseas readers to give you some context, this party – the Greens – has as a key belief policies which benefit the environment. Palmer Australia Party is founded, and led, by Clive Palmer, a man who has made his money from coal. Palmer was a member of our conservative party for decades. According to Wikipedia – the gospel truth – Palmer supported the campaign to have Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen elected as Prime Minister of Australia. Sir Joh was a long serving premier of Queensland who, was finally forced to resign amid corruption allegations. Gee, wouldn’t he have made a fantastic PM?

So in answer to the daily post’s question – am I patriotic – today, the answer is definitely no. I have decided that Australia’s politicians have all gone barking mad!



God Help Us

I don’t normally write posts on anything to do with politics. When considering this post, I actually asked myself, is this even about politics?

I think the answer is no.

I think what this post is about is the frightening idea of one particular man becoming Prime Minister of Australia.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating, has said is Tony Abbott becomes Prime Minister of Australia, then God Help Us All.

Here are just a few of the things Tony Abbott has said over the years.

This is a man who says, that if his answer is prepared and scripted then you can take it as Gospel, but if it’s said on the fly then maybe it’s not really true.

And on gay marriage (and note once again, oh he chose his words poorly when he said he was threatened by gay people)

and just one more: Tony Abbott said this of a terminally ill man who was a fierce advocate for justice and compensation of Australians exposed to asbestos at work.

“I know Bernie is very sick, but just because a person is sick doesn’t mean that he is necessarily pure of heart in all things.”

Oh and the next day he once again said he chose his words poorly.

I don’t think Tony Abbott chooses his words at all. I think he says what he really thinks (which is frequently quite offensive and disrespectful of certain sectors of society) and then when he gets pulled up for it, he apologises.

God Help Us All Indeed.

Economic Stupidity

Sometimes I just don’t get the economic decisions of government. In Tasmania, a leading Australian charity runs a program to keep youth out of detention. Instead of stealing cars, it gives youth at risk the opportunity to work on cars and gain skills. It costs $130 a day to do this compared to $900 to keep them detained. So what does the government do? Cut the program. (For those who are interested there is a facebook page to try to rally public support to get the government to reverse it’s decision:

PS: I’ve taken my laptop to Andrew’s today as I was having internet withdrawal.

Fog ‘n’ rain

Fog and rain

So far our holiday has consisted of lots of fog, rain and whale song. The first two are courtesy of mother nature. The latter is thanks to Andrew pretending to broadcast whale song through the car.

I cannot recall what started him making this noise a few days ago, however, now, whenever he is lost for words, the whale song noise comes out. I’ve said he sounds more like a cow; he thoroughly refutes this claim. Either way, he’s insane.

At the time of typing he is deriving an unreasonable amount of joy from a wind-up torch and randomly shooting the light across the room. His practical joking streak is apparently not new. I’ve arrived today at his parents place. (The first time I’ve met his parents). I was sitting on the couch and I heard a ‘ding’.

‘Did someone’s phone go off?’ I ask.

‘No, that’s Andrew’s clock.’

I check the clock on the wall it is 7 to the hour. Andrew made the clock when he was 14. He set it to ding at 7 minutes to the hour… as you do.

I’m hoping that he is going to come up with something amusing (better than his torch dance) to keep me awake. After a couple of days and over 1,100 kilometres I’m fading. To make it worse, I’m in the land of Queensland, where we can’t have daylight savings for fear of fading the curtains, or upsetting the cows. So while I think it’s approaching 9pm… which is a vaguely acceptable as a bedtime, it’s only approaching 8pm. (Unless I could convince myself I was in the Whitsunday’s and not Brisbane. Apparently the Whitsunday’s has decided that daylight savings is good enough for the rest of Australia so it’s good enough for it despite being in Queensland).

Alas I am in Brisbane and thus it is only approaching 8pm. My usually delightful fool also appears to be failing me tonight.

Just as I was about to click ‘publish’, I heard a ding. It’s 7 minutes to 9. Or 7 minutes to 8 depending on where I truly am. Thank you Andrew.

Road games

Less than 24 hours before the 9 day adventure begins and I’ve been researching road games. I’m meaning games for the car, not the 1981 Australian movie of the same name, which I’m ashamed to admit I have watched to its completion. Several hours of my life wasted for the slim reward of discovering the dog wasn’t a dingo.

This all started when Andrew mocked my attempt at some entertainment. I created a playlist in my phone with songs from movies we had watched together and titled it Guess The Movie. Ok, so it’s not the most fascinating attempt at entertainment but with his memory issues it could be humorous. If nothing else, it’s got to be vaguely romantic. As he did not concur, I googled ‘games for road trips.’

The first article came up – top 10 road trip games of all time – headed as you would expect by I-spy. I skipped entry one and had an expectation of something decent as I proceeded to games 2 through 10. Well, I’ve never read a more lame list of activities in all my life. My Guess The Movie was revolutionary in it’s excitement factor compared to this list.

Top 10 road games of all time and it features games where you get to punch your travelling buddy when you see something first? Hmm… an Australian teenage boy came up with that one when his sister was whining about him ripping the head off her doll.

This brought back memories for me. Not of doll decapitation; for I was not a doll girl. Rather, of my mother’s method for separating my brother and I on long road trips. We punched each other all right. It wasn’t part of any game though. It was just us. So mum put a giant esky in the middle of the back seat between us. It was red and orange toned, another relic from the 1970s. While I was born towards the end of that decade, my youth is peppered with orange, green and brown. I can only think that my mother acquired all her furnishings and household items from her wedding in 1972 and thus we lived with orange throughout my childhood.

My childhood road trips did feature I-spy and 20 questions. I think there may have even been some adaptation of the number plate game. Counting VW’s was not among them. Perhaps a reflection of my family’s lack of ‘car passion.’ (A car is something which gets you from A to B, right dad?).

Gobsmacked by the pathetic nature of the road games top 10, I dialled the google dice again and came up with a link attached to two Australian comedians. Surely, there had to be some decent offering there? Nope. It was actually them calling for suggestions. Among the replies were dozens and dozens of entries suggesting ‘road cricket’. Bloody cricket! My first thought was that this was like street cricket. (You know, the kind… where a garbage bin is the stumps, a plank of wood for the bat and hitting it into Mrs McGillicuddy’s front yard qualifies as a six.) But no.

That’s vaguely more imaginative than road cricket. Are you sitting down? Road cricket is where you assign a number of points for each car colour or type. These count as runs and you add them up. I can only think this was conjured out of nowhere by a parent desperate for his or her children to develop their math skills. Only in Australia would that count as a game!

Other common mentions were ‘roadkill’. Andrew said to me, ‘Roadkill? What? Do you guess what the animal was?’

No Andrew. The edition online presumes ‘gentle’ roadkill. As in gentle enough you can still tell what it was so you can award 2 points for a kangaroo, 4 for a wombat and I’d think that a numbat or an echnidna would surely get you a triple word score. Sad thing is, this game is common enough that there are different versions of scoring it!

After all this googling, I’ve decided that my partner in crime will have to settle for guess the movie. It’s not so bad after all.

Packing the high school exam

My boss is going to Peru in 3 months. He’s already started buying supplies for the trip. I’m going away the day after tomorrow. I haven’t finished packing.

Why is it that packing is like studying for a high school exam? Packing a week in advance is only for the nerds in this world. I can normally count myself among the geekery. Not this time. I seem to have slipped into holiday mode too early.

Last minute princess line dress

Delighted by not going to work on Monday, I started making a dress. But I couldn’t even finish my distraction properly! I had intended to complete all the facings today so it only left the hem for tomorrow. Did I do it? No! [80% completed dress pictured left].

Delighted that it was the second day of my break, I started compiling pictures for Andrew’s Christmas photo book instead. Yes, making Christmas presents in February! He says he is going to start calling my BTF. I racked my brain hard to think what that TLA meant. Big tall female? Brown truffle feet? Bristly touched face?

‘Back the Front’ apparently.

Fair call, I should be packing, I’m cropping photographs instead. I should be tidying; I’m making a dress!

The girls have been safely delivered to mums for their little ‘vacation’. Licorice has apparently explored the house (while the 3 cats in residence were outside) and found the bed to her liking. Saffron hasn’t emerged from under the chair.

Tomorrow it’s time to round up the boys and ship them off for cat boarding. Fortunately the boys don’t mind car travel. The girls on the other hand wailed in unison; as irritating as C-3PO but without the off switch.

As I try to write this blog, Andrew is complaining that the blog is getting more attention than he is. I roll my eyes at him. He replies:

‘One day your eyes are going to roll all the way back like a poker machine and never come back.’

9 days together in a car. A small car at that. Do you want to start taking bets on how many kilometres we get before the first debate about the appropriate speed at which the car should travel?

Fortunately we have a camera each and I’m on a mission to actually do some travel photography during February. Given I declared it the theme of this month’s challenge, I think it would be quite useful if I could come up with a few pictures myself.

Our first stop is Coffs Harbour. Someone asked me, ‘why Coffs Harbour?’ They stopped short of adding ‘there’s nothing there but a big pineapple.’ I at least I think it’s a big pineapple. Maybe it’s a banana. Or a lobster. I know it’s not a big sheep. That’s at Goulburn. I digress! No, I have no secret passion for Coffs Harbour. The answer is very simple. It’s about half way up the coast and the only place I could find a disabled hotel room. It looks like it may have some gorgeous 1970s furnishings to match. I’ll let you know in a couple of days. If they run to wireless in Coffs Harbour that is. If you hear nothing, just imagine: exposed brick with brown and orange soft furnishings. Yum.

PS: If anyone is more prepared than I and has February travel photos done, you can leave a link here.

In honour of Australia Day

I’m not particularly patriotic. In fact I look back on a time, a decade or so ago, when it was, I believe, un-Australian to be patriotic. I don’t mean to say that Australians aren’t a proud bunch. It’s just that I the latest craze of flag waving seems out of place in our national consciousness. I’ve always felt that Australians are only patriotic in the face of criticism. So put a group of Australians and Kiwis in a room together and Australian pride comes out in the form of bagging our neighbours across the Tasman. Then, put a group of Australians, Kiwis and English in a room together and the Aussies and New Zealanders are best mates all of a sudden… anything to gang up on a pom.

I’ve never been too fussed on Australia Day (our national public holiday), far preferring ANZAC day which honours Australians who served in various wars. I think because my grandfather spent 6 years of his life in the army during WWII, this day means something to me. It’s often very personal and simple. My mum and I both think that we should clean our shoes on ANZAC dad as grandpa, after those years in the military, had a thing about clean shoes.

Sir William Deane

Despite all that I’m going to write a post in honour of Australia Day. It seems each Australia Day we give out awards of great Australians. Much to my annoyance, these are often for sporting personalities. It frustrates me how much attention sport can pull in this country. Have you ever seen the evening’s television viewing cancelled so they can show a concert, an art show, a play? No! How often does the cricket, tennis and football (rugby) take over… frequently. So here’s my list of noteworthy Australians.

Sir William Deane

I have fond memories of Sir Willie. For my international readers, Sir William Deane was the 22nd Governor General of Australia. The Governor General is a figure-head position who represents the Queen. (Strange system that we have as we are not yet a republic). For the most part our Governors General are not particularly memorable – except for 2. The first, John Kerr, ruffled just a few feathers when he used his ‘figure-head’ powers to sack the Prime Minister of Australia, Gough Whitlam, in 1975. The second is Sir William Deane. Now many people would probably only name Kerr as a Governor General people remember… were it not for that minor little dismissal, we may forget him entirely. Yet, I remember Sir William Deane. He was a gracious, eloquent man, who while not directly criticising the government during his term of office as Governor General, certainly nudged at them on the issue of Aboriginal rights. (After leaving office, he was a little more overt). I actually felt sad when Sir Willie’s tenure ended. To make matters worse, he was replaced by a man I think of as colourless; indeed a bore.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch

I know that the Murdoch name is often not synonymous with a feeling of happiness, unless you’re thinking about Dame Elisabeth, one of Australian’s most well known philanthropists; a woman I cannot imagine with anything but a smile and for some reason a flower. I know that she has a great fondness for her garden, which in the past she has kindly opened up to charities to use. Her enduring love for her late husband is also something striking, heartwarming and beautiful.

I felt that any list was incomplete without Dame Elisabeth Murdoch.

Malcolm Fraser

Malcolm Fraser

I have no doubt that this inclusion will surprise many who know I’m certainly not a fan of many Liberal politicians. (We shall not mention names.) I include Fraser as I find him quite remarkable, not so much for his term as Prime Minister but for some of his activities in retirement.

Bravo for his criticisms of the Howard’s government asylum seeker policies.

Hats off that he supported the push for the republic.

I find it ironic, that the Prime Minister he replaced (the aforementioned sacked Gough Whitlam), in retirement, he sometimes agrees with!

I think he is a remarkable man for he is a reminder to me that one shouldn’t always judge: some people really surprise you.

Ruth Cracknell

Ruth Cracknell

Ruth, I think was one classy, elegant woman: except when she was playing Maggie Bear of course. Mother and Son is one of those shows which I think leaves it’s mark on a nation. As someone whose grandmother experienced dementia (and ironically my father is named Arthur), Mother and Son hit a chord in our family. So much so that as my grandmother’s dementia progressed, mum could no longer stand to watch the show. A shame really as it is so rightly an Australian classic. Brilliant scripts and even better acting; it deserves all the kudos it gets.

I did have the pleasure of seeing Ruth Cracknell play Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest. A woman not blessed with beauty, she made a suitable gorgon. What she lacked in looks, Ruth Cracknell made up for in style.

Last on my list is Cathy Freeman

Cathy Freeman

I know, I know. I said that sports people are often overrated. I’ll make an exception for Cathy.

I recall being home with my father in 2000 when Cathy Freeman won her olympic Gold medal in the Sydney games. Even I, one of the most disinterested sports people of all time, cheered when she crossed that line.

I recall the controversy she had sparked earlier in her career when she carried an Aboriginal flag and an Australian flag in her victory lap. Beautifully, she ignored those who said she shouldn’t and consistently carried both. Including that night. And so she should!

If you had to name 5 notable Australians, who would you include?

My 2011 in photographs

It’s only natural to reflect on the year as it comes to a close. So here’s some highlights – and lowlights – of 2011.

New Cats

It’s hard to believe that Andrew has only had Pickle a year! He arrived in mid-January 2011 and was a playful and bitey kitten.

Bitey pickle

Now look at him… all grown up!

I can see you!

Then came Gesso! Much smaller than Pickle had ever been and far more sooky from day one.

His deafness has brought a few new challenges. Getting Pickle to steer clear of walksticks and wheelchairs was difficult enough. Gesso has taken ‘challenge’ to a whole new dimension; culminating on Christmas Day when he got too close to Andrew while he was standing and ended up being trod on. He sunk his teeth in to Andrew’s foot in protest. Fortunately, Gesso was unharmed and although left with a nasty bite, Andrew’s foot is healing. I’m hoping that after that experience, Gesso will learn to dodge feet, walking sticks and wheelchairs as well as Pickle does.

My girls, Licorice and Saffron, continued to be good company; for me and for each other:

Licorice and Saffron kisses

The learnt how to get food from their new three-tiered cat toy; how to get nibbles from the treat ball; plus basic targeting skills using clicker training. (Short videos hyperlinked)

New Art

There were few surprises in the artistic area. I continued my pattern of putting things in paintings and then removing them. (The daschund below first had a skateboard; later replaced by stilts.)

Daschund issues

I rediscovered an old canvas and turned it from this:

textured background

to this:

Self portrait (unfinished) 23.5.2011

Andrew started art school (of which I am more than a little jealous). I don’t have many photographs of his work… I wish I had more. Here’s just three from this year:

These two oil paintings are still in progress:

New Sewing projects

Some things never change. Saffron continued her dressmaking assistance into 2011. Her favourite habit is sitting on the fabric one is trying to sew!

Saffron doesn't want me to sew

I embarked on some heirloom work for a white cotton sateen slip:

Heirloom work

and completed a thoroughly indulgent silk slip.

Silk bias cut slip

Somehow I quickly forgot how difficult it is working with slippery and lightweight fabrics, for I moved on to this 1940 pattern:

2 dresses in one

which, as at the time of writing, remains incomplete (needs sleeves, facings and a hem!)

1940 dress in progress

New places

I explored some other parts of Sydney in 2011 and we ventured a little further afield. First to Fitzroy Falls (reasonable disabled access):

2011-02-25 Fitzroy Falls Gardens

then to Mogo Zoo: (access was a bit dodgy due to uneven and steep paths combined with recent rain!)

2011-02-26 Mogo Zoo Giraffe

Tiger eats his chop!

To Balls Point Reserve in Sydney: (inaccessible!)

View from Balls Point Reserve of Sydney

Of course, I couldn’t forget the Dubbo trip! (Dubbo Zoo is wonderfully accessible and we had such great experiences photographing countryside on the way there and back).

Between Wellington & Orange

Near Dubbo

La Perouse was not new but offered up some beautiful sunsets for us.

2011-01-29 Kite Ship and Sun

New Wheelchair

Looking back on this, I have to laugh. Below is a cake I made to celebrate receiving news that Andrew would get a new wheelchair.

Celebratory cake!

We received confirmation we would get a chair back in April. Naively, I made this cake in May thinking the chair would arrive any day! We finally took delivery in September!

For anyone wondering why the mm’s on this cake are lime green and orange… well that was the colour choice being debated. The triffid, as I like to call it, brought much needed relief in the form of a more lightweight chair. It also caused a crisis by being too wide to fit through the bathroom door.

New home

Once it became clear that the bathroom door could not be widened, after much drama, it was time to move house! Now I can only be thankful that Andrew has nowhere near as much crap in his place as I do in mine. Even so, packing was not easy. Pickle helped by packing himself in a crate.

PIckle packed himself

New family

Not content with expanding our feline family, my brother and sister-in-law, gave me a niece as well!

Io I

Lysh & Io I

New job

A minor little thing that happened this year!

New ‘disabilities’

This is one ‘new’ thing 2011 brought that my family could have done without. However, we don’t get to choose these things, so I went about learning what I could about MS and being as supportive as possible.


Well, put like that, it was one hell of a year. Here’s to 2012.

2012 Genre A Month Photography Challenge

365 day creative challenge? Umm… no. Postaday2012? Too adventurous. But after my moaning about my 80% completion of the Alice painting, the knitting, the sewing and many other things, I feel a target is order. I was recently reading The Complete Photographer by Tom Ang. He details a number of different photographic genres. It gave me the idea that choosing to focus on one genre each month was probably achievable. This is a personal challenge but if anyone else would like to join me for moral support, I welcome you. (Andrew doesn’t know it yet, but he’s already joining me!)

So here’s my plan:

  1. January: Wildlife & Nature Photography
  2. February: Travel Photography
  3. March: Landscape Photography
  4. April: Event & Milestone Photography
  5. May: Fashion & Nude Photography (I’m opting for the former!)
  6. June: Sports Photography
  7. July: Portrait Photography
  8. August: Documentary Photography
  9. September: Abstract Photography
  10. October: Macro Photography
  11. November: Urban Landscape Photography
  12. December: Pet Photography

If you are participating in the Genre a Month Photography Challenge, please post a comment including a link to your efforts on this page.

I almost made that last one ‘cat’ photography as they are the only pets I have!

Many of these subjects are in Tom Ang’s The Complete Photographer, a few are ring-ins.

I’m already doubting how I will achieve this. Is it ok just to have one photograph a month on topic? Yes, I will allow myself this! If I have several, all the better! I keep thinking that Wildlife & Nature Photography may not be the easiest to select in January. Firstly, it’s usually stinking hot in January (I’m in Australia) and most wildlife is well served hiding under a rock. Secondly, I’m not going to a zoo in January so that means I have to find some wild wildlife, so to speak. I made February Travel as I am going away for a short period. I could have equally made it Event & Milestone photography as it is Andrew’s 40th birthday.

The only one I think may be near impossible is ‘Sports Photography’. I really don’t do sports. When Andrew reminded me that his place is very near a football oval, I decided to retain the genre. It may be good for a laugh!

So, I think my Canon 550d is going to have a workout in 2012. Wish me luck!

January: Wildlife & Nature Photography

My first  and second efforts at wildlife lead me to pursue more of the nature route as at least it didn’t move as much (windy days aside). My three favourites for the month:

Sunset over the Redfern towers

Nature meets man

Insect Kuringai Chase National Park

The ethical noodle

Buy free range eggs. Choose fair trade. Boycott palm oil and save the Orangutans. I’d love to make more ‘ethical’ decisions with regard to my consumption, yet, often I felt I haven’t had the information. Yes, I’ll gladly buy tuna from a company which engages in more sustainable fishing practices if only I knew what brand that was.

Well, at least 100,000 Australians do. That’s how many copies The Guide To Ethical Supermarket Shopping (2012) has sold to date. To my surprise, this handy little book is up to it’s 5th edition. While I like being able to flick through the book, it seems there’s even more information online at the Ethical Consumer Guide.

What I like most about it is that it names brands. Companies are often so large you don’t realise what brands they market. Andrew was surprised to read that Deep Spring, Ecks, Kirks and Shelleys are all from Coca-Cola Amatil.

Similarly, Maggi, Uncle Toby’s, Peters, Carnation, Skinny Cow, Perrier and even Pet food brands like Fancy Feast, Friskies, GoCat, LucyDog and Purina are all owned by Nestle. While the Ethical Consumer Guide doesn’t call the boycotts, it certainly provides information on who has and why with both Nestle and Coca-Cola Company on the list (as at date of writing).

Yet it’s not just about the companies. I’m delighted that someone has taken the mystery out of ‘Product of Australia’ and ‘Made in Australia’ for me. That there is information out there which makes it possible for me to buy more ethically. Instead of trying to figure out which company manufactures the product, or whether the ‘vegetable oil’ listed is really palm oil, this guide tells me plain and simple – right now in 2012, buying La Gina canned tomatoes is better than Val Verde. Better yet, it tells me this in areas I hadn’t even considered. Choices of eggs, meat, coffee or cosmetics – I’m aware there are ethical decisions here. Yet, I’ve never thought about noodles in terms of ethical choices. When I looked at those 2 minute squares in crinkly packets, I’ve not previously thought – who made this, what did they put in it and how did it affect the environment getting on this shelf?

The information even comes in an iphone app. I encourage you to check it out.