The workspace hijack

In light of recent developments, mostly on the study front, I thought about issuing a statement amongst friends along the lines of: I’m going underground for a bit. By way of apology for being a bit shit. Shit at being sociable and keeping in touch. And just a bit shit in general. And then I remembered that I’m pretty much underground already, as far as extracurricular stuff goes. And probably more than just a little bit shit at all the stuff I’d like to be less shit at. So the memo’s sort of pointless.

I remember a while back my sister saying her personal comms fell by the wayside when a small person entered the fray. I commiserated, sort of, in an abstract way.

Please don’t consider this a blanket apology if you’re in any way on the receiving end of my shitness. If you are, I plan on one day joining you (maybe one day soon!), one on one, for one or several beverages in an adult-only environment, and I will issue you with your own unique, highly personalised, how-shit-am-I apology, retrospectively. Once I am less shit, less frazzled, less covered in shit (and by shit I don’t mean actual shit, just shit of the toothpaste and Weetbix variety smothered all down one arm unbeknownst to me until I’m sitting in a mid-morning meeting and happen to extend my peripheral vision beyond its usual bleary myopia), more Zen and more generally open-minded to happenings beyond my inbox/the kitchen/baby lunchbox/bill schedule. It’s gonna be awesome (and you may need to see me to my taxi afterwards, and possibly even pay for my taxi… and then I’ll issue you a whole new apology some time after).

Although I’m ever-resistant to baby pimping and mommy-blogging (but – disclaimer – I do love me a good mommy blog), please accept the following photo essay as an explanation of sorts.

Here is my home workspace, and a fairly good indication of its regular (read: daily) hijacking. Here is my excuse for every “What are you doing this weekend…?”  and “Are you still writing?” (Although admittedly the latter is a question  that gets asked less frequently these days.)

So your laptop's out of action. Big deal. Want a pen?
So your laptop’s out of action. Big deal. Want a pen?
So this email you need to send... just how important is it, really? I'll trade you 5 minutes of email time for an hour of YouTube Peppa Pig. Deal?
This email you need to send… just how important is it, really? I’ll trade you 5 minutes of email time for an hour of YouTube Peppa Pig. Deal? (Okay, kiddo, deal.)
So what do you call this, then? Notes for the next novel? This isn't a patch on that's not my puppy...
What do you call this, then? Notes for the next novel? This isn’t a patch on That’s not my puppy
So this is Windows 8? That's all very well, but how the hell do you log into this thing?
So this is Windows 8? That’s all very well, but how the hell do you log into this thing?

the world on a Friday night


This is what I get up to, home alone, on a Friday night. Digging out old Moleskine diaries and colouring in the world maps. I do it every year, and it means I’m forever destined to pay about 5 x more each year for a diary (than your trusty Collins option, say) because I want to keep the maps consistent. I think this was last year’s effort (if not, then the year before – things get mighty blurry round here these days).

As I traced the outlines of the world and then turned it two-toned — first black ocean and then black land mass — I thought about loved ones in various places. And then I thought about things like Syria and refugees and nuclear weapons. I also accidentally (due to the thickness of my pen and the thinness of numerous flecks on the globe) obliterated a fair number of the world’s more meagre islands. I felt omnipotent and a bit cruel. I also listened to a lot of The Veils and drank some vodka. But let it be noted I was killing off small islands before any vodka effects set in. And I have a remarkably steady hand, so even deep inside my Veils-and-vodka fugue I was respectfully firm of hand. Even the most jaggedy outcrops (e.g. the right hand side of Iceland) came out on top.

Tomorrow will be full of chlorine and tunnel-chasing. Also, I have run out of maps to colour in for the year (any donations of old Moleskine maps most appreciated), so must divert my attentions to more trifling things than charting the world. Cartography be damned; I think I’ll turn my hand to locating the best darned tunnels in town and then maybe top it all off by attempting to conceal small pieces of vegetable in masses and masses of mince. Don’t picture Martha Stewart because it will be nothing like that at all.

end of the American deodorant

2012 in pictures


So I needed a reason for coming here, however arbitrary. New Year’s giant boot upside the ass gave me one good reason. But, apart from the tyranny of unresolved resolutions that prey on my mind each year around this time, the thing that’s really been giving me pause is the all too foreseeable end of the American deodorant. (There are workarounds to be found, though — mere millimetres from the end of its life, I recapped the deodorant — out of respect, I guess, and also it had started crumbling the final shards of its being all over the carpet (it is — or was — deodorant of the retractable stick variety) — so it will be forever immortalised, never completely spent.)

You may have thought that the end of the American deodorant would turn out to be an allegory about American life — an allusion to a masked stench associated with fiscal cliff-hanging or the political quagmire of proposed gun reform, maybe…  But it’s not, sorry. For all the possible soapboxes I could stand on, that’s not one I would feel comfortable debating from. Also, my little bro goes in for all that stuff far better than I ever could. Here.

No, I’m talking about an actual stick of deodorant. I bought it in a Walgreens in Grass Valley in late May of this year. It was super cheap. I think I paid less than US $3 for it. Plus it was damned good quality. I got nearly six months out of that deodorant. That’s less than US 50c a month. Not that I make a point of working out what each of my toiletries costs me on a monthly basis… but I’m fairly confident that’s a bargain like no other on my cosmetics shelf. (I just calculated… daytime moisturiser = $5 per week; night-time moisturiser = $5 per week. My moisturisers and my American deodorant wouldn’t even fit on the same chart.)

I don’t know why I felt so sad about it coming to an end. All good deodorants do. (And bad deodorants, probably.) I should probably point out that as part of the Walgreens deodorant purchase I also bought a spectacularly shitty, eye-gougingly bad eyeliner: the worst, most crayon-like, eyelid-incompatible eyeliner I have ever had the displeasure of gouging my eyes with. So it’s swings and roundabouts… and there’s some consolation in knowing that.

Also in my nearly six months of American deodorant use, I have been reminded of many happy times in Walgreens, a lot of those spent buying Junior Mints. The best memory, though, gave us much to speculate on for the rest of our time in America, and I still don’t have a conclusive answer. Overheard in a Walgreens in San Francisco:

[So and so] to shaved meats, please… Or… [So and so] to shave needs… There were three of us hearing this (four if you count Oscar), and for some reason, although we couldn’t agree which was correct, we still exited the Walgreens without seeking out empirical evidence. And the more opinions we solicited from knowledgeable American folk, the more divided things became.  And although I frequented many a Walgreens after this, I never did find a shave needs or a shaved meats section.

As luck would have it, I found a new deodorant under my bed. It’s about five years old — not that you’d know it — and this time it’s spray on (I note from the packaging that not once is the word aerosol used). And now I have written myself into a strange little cul de sac, realising I have just spent 500 and something words talking about deodorant, with no witty segue making itself apparent, and not an allegory in sight.

So. In cases of no segue, photos of small children (or cats) work a treat.

Oscar, playing with designer toys this week at the New Dowse:

Osc in a box

for the love of vegetables

I think the secret to me continuing to come here will be keeping things simple and brief. For the time being, at least.

This is a celery flower I made today, just by chopping a bunch of celery at the stump. Before today I never knew celery could be pretty. I also tried to make a stamp out of it. That didn’t work so well. It also earned me some strange looks.

But what can I say… I spend a lot of time these days with vegetables. I turn weekend pureeing sessions into soup-making extravaganzas and all of a sudden it’s not the weekend any more, and all I can remember is the things I did with vegetables, nothing else.

The other night I had a dream and in that dream the only thing I remember (I think possibly it was actually the only thing in the dream) was a broken Pyrex jug (I also spend a lot of time with Pyrex jugs). It was kind of Dali-esque, only in a domestic setting (instead of lunar-looking empty nightscapes picture an expanse of marble benchtop – equally unsettling in its own way). The image of it stuck with me for ages. I spent more time thinking about it than I probably should have. It has changed my relationship with Pyrex jugs. Maybe not irrevocably. But for now it feels like I will never look at Pyrex jugs the same way again.

Three other things of domestic note:

1. The other day my stick blender started smoking. You know what I mean. (It didn’t cave under the immense workload demanded of it and head down the road for a packet of B&H.) And I kept using it, desperate, determined to see every ounce of swede (or whatever it was) pulverised beyond recognition if it was the last thing I ever did. And, billowing with smoke, it honoured its commitment. And it hasn’t smoked again since.

2. The other day (actually it was a few weeks ago now, but I don’t get here often) the Sodastream machine exploded everywhere. It was cataclysmic and traumatic and fortunately I didn’t have a small child in the kitchen with me at the time.

3. Recently, for the first time, I experienced Tupperware rage. I caught myself in the throes of this rage and made myself walk away from the cupboard. So much Tupperware (seriously, so much) and so few lids. I don’t get it. All I can think is that somewhere in some parallel universe there are a bunch of Tupperware lids, missing bath plugs and orphaned socks hanging out having a damn good laugh.

And that is also why I should keep things short here. There are only so many domestic encounters a person can handle being subjected to second-hand.

I like hanging out with vegetables, though. It’s a total conceit but it makes me feel at one with things. I think of colonial New Zealand women with giant shelf-bosoms (I don’t know why I had to include that detail, but it’s all part of the conceit) preparing meals and it makes me feel like maybe nothing much really changes (outside of everything always changing, that is). That there will always be women (men too, probably, but not with shelf-bosoms) standing at sinks, accidentally wet around the tummy mark, accumulating piles of peelings, caught in very prosaic reveries (has such-and-such a bill been paid… where have the parking tickets disappeared to, etc). I like vegetable time the way I imagine I might have liked gardening if I had come into genetic possession of a green thumb.

Anyway, this isn’t particularly brief.

So, to end, a quote from Ann Patchett, from her Kindle Single, The Getaway Car.

Leaf Magic


Today is Margaret Mahy day in our house. We started with my 34 year-old copy of Leaf Magic but had to retire that one pretty quickly on account of it being completely spineless and because Oscar’s eight month-old reading habits have more to do with tugging than any kind of actual reading. I let him attempt to lick the leaves on the front cover for for a bit, though, before we moved onto his shiny new Margaret Mahy storybook compendium. To be honest we didn’t get too far with that one, either, although Oscar did fixate on a teddy bear in The Witch in the Cherry Tree for a while. His book interaction usually involves him singling out an object (in this case the teddy bear), making a big kissy mouth at it, trying to eat said object and yelling at it, with his dribbly little mouth affixed to the page.

Also we moved on from reading time because I got weepy reading to him and trying to explain Margaret Mahy’s passing, and also because he spied the shiny bin in his room and wanted to marvel at his big warped reflection in it.


Margaret wrote this inscription when I was three months old. And some years later (hopefully not too many years later, because my attention to detail is rubbish) I used it for writing practice. Interestingly enough I corrected the spelling of my name and reciprocated by misspelling hers (as well as introducing a few extra misspellings). Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all.

In happier literary news, four new Katherine Mansfield stories have been discovered. I learned of this shortly before I learnt about Margaret. It was an emotional rollercoaster of an evening.

And here’s Oscar practising his reading on a more durable target: my brother’s Listener article from last week.

the penguin talisman

School’s back from summer and Aro Valley is abuzz with the beautiful bright-eyedness of youth. As I purposefully pace the streets in my probably very uncool gym gear (which is either on a par with or fractionally worse than my post-pregnancy predilection for all things cotton knit) I get to overhear conversations like this one (fresh off the streets, only three hours old):

I made my first gay friend today.


I know! I was so excited!

Kinda sweet, and a hell of a lot better than bigotry on the streets of Wellington, for sure. I guess it just makes me feel ancient, especially when my conversations go something like:

ME: I made it to the supermarket today!

SIMON: Yay. (Actually, yay is not a word Simon uses particularly often. Or ever, come to think of it.)

ME: I know! I got you new batteries and shaved chicken, and baby wipes were on special!

I usually catch myself midway through these conversations and think of the get better work stories ad campaign the Police ran a while back.

And speaking of work. I think I’ve only got four weeks before I re-enter the workforce. I’m a bit excited, which I definitely wasn’t expecting. Not that it will give me better work stories. I never really had good work stories. Or probably it’s more that I never really had the energy or inclination to discuss work-related things after hours. Periodically Simon asks me to explain what I do. He still doesn’t really know. And, to be fair, I’m not particularly good at explaining. But I’m not very good at explaining anything (unless you give me an hour and a piece of paper), especially if it’s something I should be good at explaining. Like my book. Back in the day when it was still an occasional subject of conversation and people asked for a précis, I would look blankly at them and defer to Simon, who would always dutifully step in with the Cliff Notes.

I wonder if I’ll look back on this time as a haze of Downton Abbey and detective fiction. As an almost-summer with a tiny little baby who has suddenly become a giant big lump of baby. It’s all blurry already. I tried to capture some stuff on film and when I watch it back it’s 20 versions of the same thing: Oscar lying there gurgling and me squeaking out my inane narration (mostly: Oscar! Oscar! Good boy! over and over). I guess it’s all fodder for the time capsule.

So March is the month of me spending small parcels of time away from my little possum so that I don’t fall to pieces on my work days or spend all my time calling home for updates and staring at a bigger than life-sized screensaver photo of Oscar’s head when I should be working. It’s all very strategic. And so far, so good. Mind you, to date I have only had two night time outings without him, and a handful of hour-long stretches outside of the house on my own. Tomorrow is an epic exercise in *me time* — three Readers and Writers sessions during the day and an Arts Festival gig tomorrow night. It could quite possibly blow my mind. Right now I feel like I did the night before I went to Rainbow’s End for the first time as a small child.

This week I unearthed my penguin talisman (above). I kept spotting it tucked away high on the laundry shelf. Many years ago my sister Amy made it for me out of a milk bottle, a bunch of stones, some papier mâché, paint and lacquer. I’ve had it about as long as I’ve had James’ pieta. Maybe 19 years? I think it was supposed to be a doorstop. But it’s pretty flimsy, never doorstop material, really, so now it’s a talisman. Maybe it’s dumb to bestow supernatural qualities on inanimate objects, or to pray to spotty penguins. Whatever gets you through, I say. God, penguins… I look at the penguin and I think: It will all be okay. I think it and I believe it. And somehow the penguin helps with the believing part, whacky as that may be.

I also have my worry dolls. They’re not de rigeur at the moment. Or, they fell out of fashion and now I can’t remember where I put them.

Oscar and I like to walk around Te Papa. It’s one of those things you never do as a worker. I’ve spent some time standing in front of this painting lately, drawing strength from it.


I am scared. I stand up. Seems like the bravest thing to do.

A month in images

In the rash and heady early hours of this year I cut myself what I thought was a pretty cushy deal: one blog post per month, minimum. And so today’s leap day leapt upon me and now here I am, working to deadline, watery White Russian in hand, trying to scrape together enough words and stuff to do justice to the February that Was.

Trouble is, I can barely remember February. The pressure is humungous. Plus the White Russian is making my arms ever so slightly floppy. Also I am a newly-converted early-to-bedder and most useful thoughts swiftly exit my head about the time the six o’clock news kicks off, and it’s a slippery slope into sleep mode from there. The upside of this is that I read a grand total of six (adult) books in February (Goodreads kindly keeps track for me). The downside is that nighttime is now almost exclusively for rest. Not making stuff. Unless making stuff includes sandwiches and fruit salad at ~5.30 most mornings. (And that in itself is just downright weird. It feels weird just writing it. But it’s true. This is life now.)

Here are some February photos/images. I thought I would talk my way through them and maybe find/remember something/some things of interest as I go. Figure 1 (above) I made while Oscar was napping last week. I think the internet has done it to me. I have a thing about thumbnails and how they’re pretty. Or how they can be pretty if arranged the right way. (Speaking of pretty, I went to see the new(ish?) contemporary collection at Te Papa last week and eavesdropped on a group of students talking through the meaning of one of the paintings. How the white signified freedom and the black signified societal pressure or something. And I thought: bullshit. And I thought: I just want to look at things that are pretty. I spent a lot of time entranced by an early Peter Robinson, taken with it because one of the objects looked like a giant truffle and another was studded with ruby-like gems. And they were shiny. And pretty. A major in art history (admittedly earned some years ago now) and that’s the extent of it. I like art because I don’t have to attach words to it. That’s what words are for. I will attach words to words ad infinitum, no problem, but art lets me be dumb.)

Anyway, I’m in the process of turning the black and white thumbnails into postcards. If you want some, message me or something. I’m not going to do the Felt shop thing any more; it’s too much like hard work and hard work means staying up past my bedtime.

It’s a lot harder to head for the hills with a 16 week-old in tow. Tomorrow we hit the road and tonight I wander around the house making mental lists of stuff Oscar needs and then promptly forgetting… Man, for a chilled out wee kid who demands nothing of the world but food and smiles, that boy is high maintenance. To better reflect the state of things, we have renamed our den/library Oscar’s cloak room. I should probably mention, too, that his cloak room is merely an anteroom to his bedroom, and for now his bedroom is only used for costume changes and the admiration of dangling objects. Between the hours of 5.45am and 7.55pm, our living area is Oscar’s play area, our bedroom is his bedroom 24/7, and the kitchen table hosts his (increasingly messy) bath each night. And, needless to say, he dominates the laundry. By my reckoning, it’s only the study and the bathroom he hasn’t got his paws on yet. Which might explain why I can count on one hand the number of times I have been into the study in the past four months.

Road trips are cool, though.

This is a photo of a painting of the Canterbury Plains. It’s by Pauline Trengrove, who I believe is Sir Miles Warren’s sister. It lives above my bed and has followed me around the country for the past 14 or so years. I guess it’s not without irony that in the case of an earthquake it could be the first thing to scone us. On the anniversary of the February earthquake I stayed in my pyjamas for the morning and reunited myself with the internet, reading earthquake blog posts and crying my way through the comments. I thought a lot about all my Christchurch family (and, thinking about them, cried some more) and how they’re dispersing. How I’m glad my grandparents, who both passed away shortly before the February quake, didn’t live to see it. On the night of the day it happened, needing to do something to occupy myself, I stripped the apple trees in my garden and made trays and trays of muffins. Now I look out at the garden and the apples are there again (my need for muffin rampages is long gone, though). That day Oscar wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye and now he’s nigh on four months old. I know 2011 was downright ratshit for so many people. But for me it was wonderful. And I guess, in a roundabout way, the earthquake helped it to be wonderful. That’s a pretty vague statement, I know. Sometimes you realise life is too short to be spending it worrying.

And this needs no explanation.

I love my street. It’s full of meatheads and bohemians. Not sure what whoever wrote this was on about, though. Every time I pass it I try to work out what it’s meaning to say. A solution? Not knowing is really bugging me.

Earlier in February, with the Piri Weepu bottle feeding incident, I thought about the furore a lot. With my work hat on, I tried to understand it from a PR perspective, as a reductive media portrayal of hero (Piri) against villain (La Leche et al), and as an abject failure of public service messaging — before and during and after the fact. With my mommy hat on I paid close attention to the outpouring of public sentiment. Having recently failed pretty spectacularly at breastfeeding myself, I had a vested interest in the debate and my own views on the matter (which have since softened as the memory of all that angst and frustration — and guilt — fades). And then when Facebook banned pictures of women breastfeeding I thought about breast stuff even more. And I remembered how in intermediate we used our calculators to spell out BOOBLESS. (Or 55378008 turned upside down.) Now it just seems pointless and juvenile and insensitive. Back then it was a naughty revelation. Wanting to channel my inner tween or something, I found a caculator font (since we don’t have a single working calculator in the house) and replicated it (above). And I saw something I never saw back then. When I look at it now I see GODBLESS as much as I see BOOBLESS. That tripped me out for a bit. Mind you, in recent weeks I have also been known to absentmindedly pat a pair of scrunched up leggings, mistaking them for a cat (WTF? I’m really not sure why that happened, or why I continued to pat them even after I realised my mistake). And one night at about 3 in the morning I sat up in bed marvelling at the fact that thicken rhymes with chicken. In hindsight I don’t know what’s so mindblowing about this, but at the time it was pretty significant.

Now there are only 28 minutes left of February, which makes it very late indeed. It’s pissing down. I’ve meandered for long enough. In March I will make an effort to wear clothes that aren’t always cotton knit. I will continue to hone my extremely rubbish one income budgeting skills. I will sleep more and will not go to bed in lasagne-encrusted pyjamas. I will not watch lunchtime Emmerdale. But I may sometimes allow myself the occasional 4pm Murder She Wrote treat. All lofty goals. And that’s all nothing compared with the month of new and exciting adventures Oscar has in store. Such fun! (As Miranda’s mother would say.)

this domestic life


Finally the house is quiet, glass of wine poured, a perfect sunset happening just outside my window, the new (well, I guess it’s not so new now) Radiohead album playing at an acceptably mellow volume, all child paraphernalia hidden from view. And it feels like my head is full of sand. Or sawdust. (Yes, I think sawdust… that horrible, fibrous, cork-coloured stuff they used to heap on top of spew in the playground back in the day, although it never seemed to do the full trick of masking the spew’s uneven chunkiness or its eyewateringly foul odour…) 

I have planned this time all day, pictured it, right down to the detail (wine glass to the left of me, baby monitor to the right (here I am, stuck in the middle with you… um, what?), dishwasher purring in the background… okay, the dishwasher’s sloshy accompaniment didn’t actually feature in the original plan, but I don’t begrudge its presence one bit — it just adds to the texture of the house’s glorious quiet). I even pre-loaded images to pay it forward to myself — no pesky blog admin, just pure, unadulterated typing. Imagine it! And I am a sublime two-finger typist, if I do say so myself.

And now I’m here and, well, I’m not sure I’ve got it in me. This old night owl is a night owl no more. I never thought I’d say that. The wall has been hit. Just a soft hit, mind you, a limp-ish, anticlimactic thud, nothing bone shattering. It happens every night around this time. Too tired to put my brain to anything useful, too light outside to sleep.

So, some stuff, all inside-out and back-to-front, piecemeal and probably a bit phoned in and/or abbreviated…

mass loquacity

I’ve had this phrase stuck in my head since the weekend. Reading Martin Amis’s Experience, he proclaims this the age of mass loquacity. The old fifteen minutes of fame now passé when any old Joe with an internet connection can spark themselves up a blog and start unleashing on the world their laundry list of passions, peeves and peccadilloes. So much noise, so many gems, and a hundred thousand digital landfills’ worth of untold rubbish.

Found stuff

My brother recently unearthed this story, written by seven year-old me to mark the passing of my grandmother, Dorothy.

This is Dorothy, better known to me as Granny. I didn’t inherit her legs. (I mean I didn’t get those leg genes passed down to me… that sort of came out weird and got me to thinking a bit about the be-socked-and-be-shoed prosthetic limb that lived in Matt Couper’s room once upon a time… I’ve forgotten the leg’s particular back story, though.) I remember Granny as a gentle woman. She taught me how to tie my shoelaces by pretending they were bunny ears.

Speaking of grannies — this time not mine — today the world farewelled Nana Morrow. I only met her a couple of times. She was an awesome woman and a huge part of my brother in law’s life. And as far as final requests go, to ask for a Black Russian, take a few sips and then go to sleep is pretty awesome, too. Right up there with Mr Wilde and his famed wallpaper ultimatum. Cheers, Nana Morrow.

my backyard voyeurism

In my last post I might have mentioned a spot of backyard voyeurism and then not gone on to explain myself. Which may or may not have left you wondering about my moral character. (Or not. It may have actually done something for my blog stats, considering the most commonly searched on thing on my blog is a variation on the words: LITTLE GIRLS IN BATH. Which never ceases to make me feel fucking sick and dismayed about the internet’s grubby underbelly, although I still haven’t pulled down the photo of me and my sisters and brother in the bath some twenty-six or so years ago. It’s a cute photo. Perverts be damned.)

I shall explain myself. It’s perfectly legit. (Or legit enough.) At the bottom of our garden is what I presume to be a student flat. One young tenant, a male in what I presume to be his early twenties, has a room overlooking our garden. I cannot help but notice him. I spend a lot of time at home these days, you see, and he also probably cannot help but notice me (doing baby front-pack aerobics to Viva Hate up loud at 11 on a Monday morning, even… which is probably only just preferable to glimpses of me hiding behind a strategically-placed Christmas tree hooked up to a breast pump). His daily activities have become kind of curious to me. He has become symbolic of a much younger me. So — there we have it — my voyeurism is purely symbolic, which immediately removes my fascination from the realm of the pervy and gives it pseudo-mythic status, which is perfectly acceptable, I reckon. During the day he sits on his window sill with the windows open, smoking cigarettes and playing his guitar. I think the guitar is more of an accessory than anything else, though, since I’ve never witnessed much more from him than the guitar equivalent of Für Elise. By night he cranks a whole lot of video games (do you still call them video games in this day and age, or have I just gone and exposed the closet luddite in me?). To me he embodies all the unencumbered, idle luxury of youth… the durries, the aimless breeze-shooting, those heavy-headed day-long sleep-ins. It takes me back to what really does seem like a lifetime ago.

And that’s all there is to it. No photographic evidence or anything like that.

my domestic spaz-ness

I can’t think of another word for it. Motherhood is most excellent. Cleaning is not. I had hoped that by right I would have got a package deal where, along with the new mother starter pack, you also got the clean freak/suburban housewife on crack module as well. But not so. So, accepting my lot, I then tried to trick myself into thinking it could be fun!!  Bull. Not fun. Cleaning the house from end to end/top to bottom took the better part of a week all up (with all the requisite baby things and a little bit of sleep interspersed) and cleaning the toilet in particular had me seriously considering punching someone. I channelled Mary Poppins, sucked it up, thinking that when everything was spic ‘n span it would all be worth it. Total let-down. I felt like I had wasted time that could have been better spent on the internet/in my head.

And when I say in my head I just mean doing the lifetime’s worth of stuff I’ve become accustomed to doing, which has more to do with my head than my new mop (which still remains in its box, although I sometimes look over at it and fantasise about how I might fall in love with it and how it might completely revolutionise my life).

I have just enough head stuff to be getting on with. Mostly just for sanity’s sake. Just so I don’t wind up punching someone in a fit of toilet-rage (?!). And my current editing task is conveniently chunked up into 1000 – 1500 word pieces that can be slotted, one at a time, in between the occasional feed cycle. Nothing like weilding a red pen to make the synapses sizzle, 15 minutes at a time. 

In my last post I also — semi flippantly — mentioned dusting off the 73% complete second novel. This comic from Sarah Laing says it all, really, about Confronting the Beast. It cracks me up.

I did dust it off, and now the manuscript lives in the bottom of the pushchair, along with my new walking jacket. One day last week Oscar and I walked down to Aro Park, found a shady spot under a tree, and I did the unthinkable: cracked it open and actually read some of it. It’s not a beast, not exactly. More like perfunctory and aimless. I handled this realisation just fine.

The next day we walked down to Aro Park. We settled in a shady spot. I pulled out the manuscript. But Oscar was just too cute and far too awake to be concerning myself with booky things! So we played on the rug in the grass as the world walked by, I managed to earn myself about five huge grins, and then we walked back home, happier than either of us would have been if I’d ditched playtime for a ten-page stretch of wincing averageness.

But to return to domestic life, just quickly, to qualify… It’s really just the cleaning part that blows big time. There are big upsides. Like discovering Ellen (who, I just found out today, dances in the aisles at the start of her shows — so liberated, so liberating!) and the mere idea of opening the bottle of Rosé in the fridge at three in the afternoon and drinking it, by myself, on the deck in the sun (I’ve yet to actually do this, but the fact remains that I could). Emotionally charged laundry sessions with Lighthouse Family at high volume. And opening the door in my dressing gown with a small person attached to me and watching as the door knocker immediately resolves not to sell me anything. (Especially good was the Telstra guy coming round, although I wasn’t holding Oscar and I wasn’t wearing my dressing gown, because I got to unleash about the astounding total shitness that is T-Box and pretty much everything Telstra-related by association. But that is another story.)

And the best part of all is the Oscar (here featured at bathtime).

the cut of 2012’s gib

Last time I weighed in here (precisely a month and one day ago) I said something about making an appearance once a month, thinking that was cutting myself enough slack. Being one to honour my commitments, I have been toying with this post all week, pushing it forward in the tiniest of increments, managing a small handful of sentences at a time before being called away to more pressing things (usually involving milk).

Now I have exactly 20 minutes (or possibly 24) to wrap up and hit publish or this is going straight to the blog trash heap. So I may resort to note form, which probably isn’t a bad thing.

Tonight holidays end. Not mine (having no paid work to do for a wee while yet), but real life resumes first thing tomorrow. It has been lovely. It has felt like a holiday. There has been family and friends, some snatches of sunshine, road trips, kids, good food, broken sleep, books read (but mostly haphazardly dipped into), laughter, common illnesses and the day-by-day adventures of a small person who only gets more beautiful by the day (I don’t know how that’s even possible, but it is). 

Tonight there is Andrew Bird (who, I have concluded, is a very clever man and probably also ace at Boggle), much housework and unabating rain.

I think I have more than what follows to talk about. Like my backyard voyeurism (maybe next time) and my full-blown exposition on happiness (maybe one day when I have time to write at leisure). But it’s a start. So, for now, some unrelated thoughts.

On pottering

Nothing like a sleeping baby whose bout of shut-eye is about to come to an end to force some haste upon a hopeless potterer. (And the small hours ahead may or may not include projectile vomiting, but it doesn’t pay for me to dwell on that now.)  I had hoped that dearth of free time that comes with motherhood might have given me a belated dose of what in my family we have come to call forward thrust (a quality possessed chiefly by my mother and to this day woefully lacking from my, um, skill bank). But not so. I make lists, just like I always have. But I amble my way through them. I treat certain items as optional. I do the best stuff first and, because there’s just so much shiny and fun stuff to concern myself with — these days just an ever-replenishing supply of domestic distractions (although I may be using the word ‘domestic’ far too liberally) — the bottom of the barrel never quite gets seen to. I write down things to do like ‘internet research’ (which effectively = unbridled web browsing) just so I have something to cross off my list. I like pottering. I can report that motherhood has done something for my slow reflexes — all it takes is the merest hint of a baby-mewl for me to bolt upright — but nothing at all for my inability to achieve anything whatsoever at speed. Including, it seems, this post. So…

On Oscar (abridged)

Oscar is almost nine weeks old. He looks like a real boy and an old soul. That’s the general consensus, anyway. When he was born and we first met each other he looked up at me with an expression I can’t really explain. It said: There you are. Like, I’ve been waiting for you, and now here we are. There was nothing babyish about the look. It was entirely knowing and sort of wise. That probably sounds dumb. And every so often, when he’s not giving his gummiest smiles to a dangling orange animal of unspecified nomenclature, he still gives me the very same look. It’s unnerving in the best possible way. And he’s awesome. Projectile vomit and all. (It was just the once but it scared the bejesus out of me. To quote my brother in law, it was like he was spewing up a lightsaber.)

Sylvie’s still coming around to the idea of it all. And also trying to emulate baby behaviour (crying, coveting any available baby blankets/toys/transportation receptacles, prostrating herself at any opportunity) in the hope of being mistaken for a baby and winning back some attention, however she can get it. (As we [I] speak she has fashioned a hut by burrowing under Oscar’s play gym.)  Baxter went on strike for a bit and then, realising the pointlessness of even bothering, threw in the towel. Now he just looks at Oscar with all the cat disdain he can muster, as much to say, You again, you little fuckwit.  

On parking and grammar.

This note, placed under my windscreen wiper outside my house, kicked off our summer road trip. It was a fair call… I was pretty much parked in the middle of the road. If I had been able to identify the car of the note’s anonymous author I might have reciprocated with a note of my own, saying something like, I will indeed practise my parking. Perhaps you could also practise using practise as a verb. Note the ‘s’. [Smiley face.] Actually I would never do anything of the sort. I would only entertain vague fantasies about it. Besides, if my said parking manouevre had a literary equivalent it would be much, much worse than a misused practise. It would probably involve the incorrect use of several apostrophes, to instead of too and the word ‘alot’. So I didn’t have a leg to stand on. Plus I liked the civic concern. It felt neighbourly.

My father in law proclaimed the note “very Aro“. I think he maybe meant non-confrontational or diplomatic… or pacifist with the slightest streak of passive aggression.

On happiness and resolutions. Or resolutions and happiness. (Or just whatever works, really, when it comes down to it.)

I could go on about this, and possibly one day I will (when I tackle my aforementioned exposition on happiness). I made some resolutions. Not many (I can count them all on one hand) but they’re sizeable and just scary enough to be interesting. But mostly I just wish for happiness, for loved ones and myself and the world in general. And achieving happiness, it seems to me, is no small feat. Better than dramatic weight loss or life-altering upturns in material fortune. So as well as making my list, I spent some time thinking about what does and doesn’t constitute happiness. Because grand to do lists in themselves are sort of silly, especially when they’re penned, individually but en masse, just because we’re all looking down the barrel of a new year hoping that a woolly and yet predictable plan will see us right. Until all the resolve wears off a month or two in, just like every other year. Or maybe that’s just me being cynical.

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to dust off the unfinished novel and crack back into it. So I got Lily straight onto it. I figured a two year old would bring a much-needed freshness of perspective to proceedings. She accepted the challenge, put my yearly word count to shame in a matter of minutes, and took things in a whole new direction.     

I wrote my resolutions down on my I HAVE NOTHING TO DECLARE EXCEPT MY GENIUS notepaper. I thought that was funny. I have wedged them inside my diary along with this month’s bills. I figure it’s a good way of keeping things real. Or at least making sure I can’t help but keep bumping into them. 


So I have written what follows in between feeds and am posting this in anticipation of the next — imminent — feed, in the calm before the next milk frenzy. One needy cat sulkily blocking access to most of the keyboard (= one handed typing) and one eye on the clock (= a semi-permanent limbo and state of distraction).

It has been a month (well, a full calendar month yesterday) since Oscar came into the world. And this is where, with a head somehow full of so much and so little, all at once, I write about everything and nothing, go off on strange tangents, share some photos and then bugger off again to hang with Oscar (along with the stuffed toy brigade, the Very Hungry Caterpillar et al) for another month or so.  

A lot can happen in a month. Right now we measure progress in grams. Since time began in the outside world for Oscar, he has got a double chin, a birth certificate, his first Christmas decoration. He experienced his first earthquake, huddled nude with me under a doorframe. He outgrew his first onesie (although his granny later pointed out to me that we had in fact shrunk it in the dryer). His repertoire of whimpers and gurgles grows by the day and his signature gesticulations become ever more determined and insistent (some of them even have names… the Randy Orton, the woodpecker, the homie…).

I don’t really know who he looks like. Mostly I just look at him (for hours on end, it seems) and just see him. But in itemising the possible flickers of genetic resemblances, so far we’ve ascertained he has my mouth, Simon’s colouring and Didy’s chin. There’s an air of Poppa Dennis about him. But it’s in the darkest, smallest hours of the morning when I really know he’s all mine. It’s when I’m forced to cajole him into wakefulness for food only for him to unequivocally resist my ministrations – expressively and with every ounce of his being – that I see our greatest similarity so far. Being woken unnecessarily, prematurely, is an outrage. I have felt this strongly all my life. Full, complete and unbroken sleep is one thing I have always fought hard to protect, and I’m proud to see the same force is strong with the little one. (Funnily enough, though, given life’s new Oscar-ness, these lifelong sleep rules have now been rendered null and void. And oddly enough I’m almost completely okay with it.)

There was so much I was going to write about. Like being blindsided by the blizzard of love and anxiety and sheer confusion that comes with new-parentness. Like staring out the hospital window looking at the rain in a state of teary awe, wondering how I would ever explain to Oscar how rain happens, or even what it is. How I would ever explain to this perfectly uncreased blank canvas in my arms what anything is. How for a week, choked up with wonderment and an exquisite sort of pain I’ve never before felt in such madly high doses, I cried just to look at or hold him. (And then when one day I stopped crying, feeling guilty for not crying.) How, in the dead of night, having talked Oscar to sleep by translating a BBC News story on the European financial shitstorm into an allegory about the modern-day fall of Rome (mostly gibberish — a conflation of stories of Trojan horses and grapevines featuring toga-clad heroes and 21st century greed and collapse), the electric breast pump spoke to me. It did. It said the same few words over and over in its whiny motorised incantation — some sort of proclamation about a universal currency (the antipodean equivalent of the Euro, I think… heaven forbid). But it’s all a haze now. And, besides, there isn’t time.

Amidst the chaos, venturing out into the world is a big, big deal. Leaving the house means I get to see great things, like this particularly animated television set, a mere 10 metres from my front door.


And my favourite other discovery, in the week before Oscar was plucked, wrong way round (coming into the world like a rotisserie chicken, according to Simon) from the area below the oilcloth partition (I’m sure there’s a medical name for it, but it looked like good old fashioned oilcloth to me): Salamanca Road artwork.

In the face of so much change, it was wisdom well-timed.

Getting out of the house is good for other reasons, too. It stops me from turning into the Breastpump Whisperer, and from staring at The Sound of Bread album cover and wondering what bread — actual bread — sounds like.

It also gives me more to think about than my extremely prosaic dreams (the best recent examples of which include me finding a rockmelon in the freezer and wondering why anyone would ever think to freeze a rockmelon, and someone referring to Seinfield and me yelling SEINFELD! SEINFELD! at them).

Other distractions have come in the form of Christmas merriment and an attempt to create as many opportunities for reading/story-related media consumption as possible. I have craftily hand-picked magazine articles I always meant to read in my working life, but never found the time (although my relationship with time of late has got particularly strange… so much of it and yet so little), and have positioned the magazines at various stations around the house. I have at the ready on my Kindle a Cleopatra biography (ordinarily I’d find the link for it but I just don’t have the stamina or inclination) and an audio book of Philip Roth’s The Human Stain, which I listen to on the night shift (purchased mostly because it’s 19 hours long, which I felt represented good value for money… although I’m four hours in and starting to wish I’d spent my credits on something a bit more fast paced). By my bed I have Jeffrey Eugenides’ new book, The Marriage Plot (most excellent so far, and a nice wind down from/antidote to a year of studying heavy poststructuralist argument) and Garth Cartwright’s Sweet As, which looks like a good kiwi summer read. Although 30 pages in I’m already wondering if his editor has taken their kiwi summer holiday early and gone fishing… It makes me twitchy and wish I kept a pencil by the side of my bed. But interesting subject matter, nonetheless.

And in the interests of Oscar beginning to appreciate the delights of storytime (poor bugger has no say on the music front though, and has already been forced to take in a random array of musical concoctions), we have been reading stories to him. Not kids’ stories, so much. Things like David Sedaris’ The Santaland Diaries (from Holidays on Ice). Which has made me remember and start to dig out some of my all-time favourite read-out-loud stories. Like David Foster Wallace’s Girl with Curious Hair (from collection of same name), Rick Moody’s The Mansion on the Hill (from Demonology) and Emily Perkins’ Barking (from Not Her Real Name).

And I think that’s all. I know this has no discernible structure. But Oscar stirs and I must away.

Happy Christmas!