Category Archives: Life

Can you identify this?

You will be rewarded by the esteem of your peers, if you can identify what this sound is.

Audio description – a scritchy scratching continous grinding burr. I’m sorry about the slight jerkiness of the shot: there’s only so much I can accomplish with my camera.

And my grateful thanks to anyone who can tell me why such a sound is made, because it seems very dangerous to me.

On saying goodbye

Our last weeks in Adelaide became frantic with effort, and any time I had for recording what was happening was lost in packing and cleaning and chasing the bank and saying goodbye and goodby and goodbye. Even then, I missed seeing some people I had especially wanted to see – Melissa and Jennie L. and Leslie and the wonderful Pavlov’s Cat. But I saw many lovely friends in the week or two before we left. My singing friends met to share a meal, and we had one last singing session together, leading the carols at a service in the church where our formal concerts were held. My husband’s colleagues, and my friend who gave me the wonderful bag, and a very special woman who has become a friend this year over Friday morning coffee and gossip sessions, cooked meals for us. I found all these farewells hard, even harder than the farewells when we left New Zealand three years ago. Back then, I knew that we would come home at least once a year, that I would be sure of seeing people again, but I’m not sure when we will be back in Adelaide again. Sometime in the coming year or two, I hope, but it will depend.

What really touched me was the farewells that my daughters’ friends arranged for them. The day after school ended, the Misses Nine had a farewell party at a school friend’s house. She and her mother had invited all of the girls’ friendship group, of lovely mix of eight and nine and ten year old boys and girls. The children organised their own games, and celebrated their friendship, and made promises to e-mail.

On the following Tuesday, Ms Twelve had been invited to spend the afternoon with a friend from her drama class. When she got there, she wandered into the family room with her friend, and “Surprise!” Her special friendship group from her drama class was there. About six or seven girls had gathered to spend a last few hours with her, outside of drama. It’s a lovely group of kids, all aged about 11 or 12 or 13, but none of them 13 going on 16. She was completely surpirsed by the party, and heartwarmed by their concern for her. The next day, her school friends gathered. Her school friendship group was spread across two years groups and two classrooms. The girls in it are notable for the way they support each other and look after each other. The group is splitting up a little at the end of this year: some of the girls are heading on to secondary school, while others still have a year to go at primary school (the South Australian system is similar to New Zelaand’s system, with eight years at primary school, and five at secndary). So that particular grouping was going to change in any case. But I think that each of the girls has been very lucky to have had that experience of friendship, and I know that each of them has contributed to the group. I never experienced friendship like that as a girls, and I can’t recall all that many instances of it among other girls at the schools I went to. I am so glad that Ms Twelve has been part of this group of friends.

The last farewells came on our last days there. I met my singing teacher for coffee in the morning, then in the evening we were looked after by my lovely friend J. and her daughters, who are friends of my daughters (J.’s elder daughter was part of Ms Twelve’s friendship group). Last of all, as we flew out on Wednesday morning, heavy hearted and rejoicing, my wonderful singing teacher, who nurtured me, and cherished my girls, came to the airport to see us onto the plane.

We’re home in New Zealand now, still in transit, as we will be until late January when our house lot arrives, and we settle into a house in Greenhills, and take the girls to their new schools, and start our new jobs. Sometime around then, I will be saying goodbye to this blog. I started it in part to record our new life in a strange country. Now that I am home again, I don’t need it so much.

But I will continue blogging. At The Hand Mirror, and at a new place which I am starting to get ready now. I’ll keep posting here for the next few weeks, and then towards the end of January, I’ll let you know where my new place is. I hope you will come by there too.

Christmas report

We had a lovely Christmas.

The strangelings are still operating on Adelaide time a little, so I didn’t hear the first stirrings until just after 6am, and even then, I turned over and went back to sleep until 7.30am. The girls danced in and showed me their end-of-bed gifts (a hangover from the days of Santa-belief), and then we made coffee and everyone shifted into my parents’ room to exchange gifts. Mostly books and CDs and DVDs. And chocolate.

Breakfast was warmed croissants filled with peaches and topped with maple syrup, with bubbly wine, follwed by eggs benedict, and more coffee. We had a light lunch, and then, the real celebration began in the evening. My lovely uncle was with us, and my brother and his partner and their children joined us, and so did my brother’s partner’s brother, and his partner, visiting from Melbourne. 15 of us sat down to dinner, all gathered around the long dining table, which had been augmented for the occasion. Mum lit the candelabra, and then lit two more candles, for my absent brothers and their families. The lamb and ham and newly dug potatoes and kumara and salads were delicious, but the real magnificence was the dessert table. This year, Mum had 13 items on offer: chocolate terrine and raspberry semi-freddo and two cheesecakes, and mixed berries, and strawberries, and icecream, and cream, and rhubarb summerfruit pudding, Christmas mince pies and black doris plum spoom and brandied fruit salad and Christmas cake. I had three helpings, and the girls had four helpings each.

What made it all so special was the shining look in the children’s eyes. Mum and Dad, with the assistance of my uncle and I, worked hard to put it all together, but for the children, it was all a magical feast, something to savour and remember. I think that when they are old, they will look back on this Christmas, and say, “When I was a child, my grandparents gathered everyone around the table, and we had a feast, and my grandmother served 13 desserts.”

It was a wonderful occasion.

As for exactly what we gave the strangelings for Christmas – one child got a drum pad and drum sticks (‘though no packet of Jaffas*), another was given a Sylvanian cottage, which she loves, and the third was given a remote controlled toy that she had been coveting for months and months.

This remote controlled toy.

(Description: large, hairy, greebly toy spider, scuttles around the floor, and then comes closer and closer to the camera, until the camerawoman disappears in a scream.)

I spent the day being terrified of that wretched thing. The younger Miss Nine was delighted with it. She tormented us all, but her best ‘gotcha’ was during dinner, when she sat innocently and quietly at one end of the table, and waited for her elder cousin to scream. Which she did, very obligingly, when Miss Nine steered the spider underneath the table and onto her toes. Ms Elder Cousin shrieked, and then laughed, all in very good grace, while Miss Nine laughed and laughed and laughed with glee. What a triumph!

What would you do when your gentle, fine boned, delicate little nine year old asks for a remote controlled Mexican red kneed tarantula for Christmas?

* My brothers and I have long had a ritual threat, to give the other’s child a drum and a packet of Jaffas.

Why we write

The vast majority of the human race drifts without record from conception to extinction. Their lives go unrecorded, and it is only theology which might make us suppose that these individual lives have any previous or future existence, or indeed, during their palpable existence on earth, that they have any identifiable significance. For most, it is a tale full of sound and fury signifying nothing; but, most significant of all, it is a tale which is not told. It is only by telling the tale that we create the illusion that there is a tale to tell. The rise of the rise of the novel in literature, which came with a great resurrection in the art of biography, a passion for journals, letter writing, personal confessions and memoirs, all of which happened shortly before or during the lifetime of Rousseau, gave to articulate beings the means of creating a shape, of holding onto words and moments which would otherwise be forgotten, of creating a barricade against death.

A. N. Wilson, Tolstoy, W. H. Norton and Co, 1988, pp. 88 – 89.


It never rains but…

… it pours!

The long term average rainfall for December in Adelaide is just over 28mm. Today we have gotten nearly twice that (so far), with most of it falling in just one hour. Here’s part of the record from the Kent Town observation station (for non-Adelaide people, that’s just outside the CBD).

Weather observations chart.  Various columns: time at extreme left, cumulative rainfall at extreme right.

Extract from weather chart

(Description: Weather observations chart. Various columns: time at extreme left, cumulative rainfall at extreme right.)

There’s a special story in this rainfall record. Time is on the extreme left, and rainfall on the extreme right. Up until 3pm today, there had been no rain. By 3.30pm, 27mm had fallen, and by 3.59pm, we were up to 42mm of rain.

Exactly when all the children were getting out of school. Yes, this *has* happened before.


1. Don’t blare your horn at me because you are behind me and you’re having to wait for a few seconds until I judge that it is safe for me to turn right across two lanes of traffic. You may be able to zip across a line of traffic in your nippy little car and rush over a pavement with impunity, but I am driving a family sedan, which takes a little more time to move. Risk your own life, not mine, if 20 seconds is such a big deal.

2. Don’t patronise me because you are a young male sales clerk in an electronics shop and I am a middle-aged woman. I may not have your technical expertise, but I still have money to spend.

3. Don’t reach over to grab more groceries to stuff into a shopping bag when I have carefully lined up my groceries and shopping bags in such a way as to indicate which items should go into which bag (per Dr Cat’s helpful hint). You may be able to lift a shopping bag stuffed to the hilt, but I can’t. You may be happy to mix up fruit and cleaning products, but I am not. You might even like putting heavy containers of milk in the same bag as soft, ripe mangoes, but I do not. And don’t cap it all off by glaring at me when I ask you to stack the items in the bags in the order in which they are presented. There are plenty of other supermarkets nearby, and I am quite happy to take my annual supermarket bill of about $20,000 elsewhere.

Grump. Grump. Grump.

And while I am grumping, a local supermarket categorises its magazines into Men’s Interest, House and Garden, Food and Wine, and Women’s Interest. Guess where I found New Scientist. And the news magazines.

On seconds thoughts, perhaps I shouldn’t be troubling my feeble lady-brane with that.


For reasons, I have been given a fabulous briefcase.

Orange bag

The colour is fabulous, even more orange than it appears in the photo. It has strong handles, a detachable shoulder strap, several compartments inside, including one for a laptop, a front pocket with a mobile phone pouch. So it is very practical, as well as being very beautiful.

It passes the “What would Megan say?” test. In spades. And then some.

Best of all, it was given to me by someone I like and admire very much. I shall think of her every time I use it, and regret the loss of the friendship that was growing between us. Of course we will stay in contact, but it won’t be the same.