Tuesday, August 19, 2014

1984 was 30 years ago

Every now and again I feel surprised about how life races by so quickly.

I'm a bit sad and nostalgic because my job share partner of the last 12 years has decided to retire in two months time. Recently I've been thinking quite a bit about the fact that it's been THIRTY YEARS since I moved out of my old family home and started my first library job, in a library in a school in South Yarra. I was 21 in 1984 and it really was a different world.

I earned the grand sum of $215 every week and paid $60 rent for my little one bedroom flat in Domain Road. I walked to work every morning, rain hail or shine (10 minutes away), and wore a skirt every day. I never wore jeans to work in that job: contrast that with this past winter where I've worn  two pairs of black jeans on rotation with only skirts occasionally because it's been so cold. I ate out a lot, went food shopping only every couple of weeks. I had a lot of fun:went to the movies constantly - look up the list of popular movies from that year: I saw nearly every one of them. I went  to nightclubs in King Street before it became violent and terrible and took public transport and taxis everywhere because I didn't learn to drive until I was 24.

In those days I hardly visited an op-shop ( unlike during my student years) because I worked full-time and never had a chance. I read much less, and hardly watched TV because I either worked or was out. Again, look up popular tv from that year: I didn't watch any of those shows.

At work I was an "Assistant Librarian": didn't go to library school until the following year when I started post-grad study part-time.  I typed ( on a typewriter) index cards for the wooden card files and covered the books and stuck all the labels and stamps on them. No computers in libraries I worked at until about 1988.  A couple of years later when the Senior Librarian retired very suddenly due to ill-health  I was promoted and at 23 was the Acting Senior Librarian, in charge of the budget and buying all the books! At the end of that year I graduated in Librarianship and trundled off to work in public libraries where I've pretty much spent my working life ( three different local government areas), 27 years! with some years off to have babies and do the garden and read all the time ( not joking, in my old diaries I see I read over 100 books every year).

Anyway, that was me 30 years ago. I'm aiming to stay here for another 5 years and then stopping to get stuck into major gardening again, maybe in a new garden somewhere...... and read another 100 books per year. I've no intention of working until I'm 70, despite the government's plans for us all.

Where were you in 1984? Were you even BORN? (Zara, I'm looking at you!)

Friday, August 15, 2014

friday books: we were liars and the convent

I went to sleep very late last night: the book We were liars was the culprit.

The last 25 pages reveal the mystery: the secret which is the core of the story. I finished the book, in shock, and then immediately turned back to page one to go over certain passages again, to look for hints about the ending. They are there, once you know what you're looking for.... the answers are there, hidden in plain sight.

The most important thing about this book is not to reveal too much of the plot and so spoil it for others. The author builds a fabulous, tense novel where you know something is not right with the storytelling, but you just can't quite get there in understanding it until the big reveal at the end.

In brief, the story is about a family of rich Democrats, an elderly couple and their three daughters, who spend every summer off the East coast of the USA, on a private island. They are rich, the adults arrogant, and the eldest teenage grandchildren Cady, Johnny, Mirren and a friend, Gat, spend their time avoiding their parents while still observing their dysfunctional relationships. During the summer of Cady's 15th year, she is involved in a terrible accident, which gives her a brain injury. No-one will tell her what happened: all she knows is that she was found in her underwear washed up on a beach.

In the summer of her 17th year, still suffering from massive gaps in her memory and from migraines, she returns to the island for a family holiday and tries to solve the mystery of what happened to her.
This is a suspense novel aimed at the young adult market ( High School) but which can be happily enjoyed by people like me, much older than the target audience. It's well written, sophisticated - a little like the very early books of Bret Eaton Ellis (Less than zero) and Shakespeare's King Lear gets a bit of a nod, also. Wonderful, suspenseful read.


The other book I read was also excellent, Maureen McCarthy's The Convent. This is what I would call a New Adult book, a genre aimed at a slightly older age group, dealing often with people who've just left school, who are coping with university or first serious relationships or moving out of home.

It's a very Melbourne based book, almost a modern-day family saga concerning four generation of the same family who have either been residents of the Abbotsford Convent, or who have worked there in its modern incarnation as as an Arts and Cafe precinct. Some of the details of the tough lives of the nuns and the girls who were incarcerated there to work in terrible conditions in the laundries made for harrowing reading and really opened my eyes about an important institution and time in Australian history. My mother would have loved this book: definitely for all ages.

The author interviewed many people who had gone through the convent at different times and who had different experiences so used oral histories, including that of her own mother, to write her novel.
Wonderful Melbourne history come to life: I love this book!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

two movies and a bag of tea-towels

The end of last week completely sucked, as the young would say. Things going wrong, more health things to worry about (endlessly). We are a family, truly, who hardly saw the inside of a doctor's waiting room for about 16 years and now it's the reverse - I seem to constantly be making appointments with the GP, some specialists, scans, for blood tests, for wisdom teeth extraction.... it's exhausting and makes me anxious and I'm getting pessimistic too, wondering if it's ever going to end. I want us all to be well again! Just so tired of illness, so tired of it.


I saw two films last week: Still life at the cinema, and at home we watched the DVD Gravity.

They were very different sorts of films: Still life (2013) was quiet and heartbreaking, telling the story of a public servant whose job was to track down next of kin for those who had died alone, with no visible family connections and often in very basic circumstances. Very thoughtful and sad, although not a depressing film, it made me think a lot about life and the different people you meet through different stages and ages: some quite fleeting, but everyone would have a memory or a story to tell about you, to make a complete picture of an otherwise unremarkable life.

Gravity (2013) is a big budget, edge-of-your-seat thriller set in Space. Very different to things I usually see, and tense, but I liked it very much. The ultimate mission into space gone horribly wrong: S's boyfriend, the robot engineer, dreams of going to work at NASA one day: we think this would put anyone off that particular dream!


I had a little op-shop tour on Saturday and came across a load of brand new old-style tea-towels. Of course I bought them all: beautiful linen for 50 cents or a dollar each. I have a bit of a tea towel situation and probably have reached Peak Towel in the drawer so may have to cull a few older ones to make room. I also bought a skirt and a shirt: the shirt I bought for the nasturtium print on it because it's beautiful, I don't think I could wear something quite so busy, being pretty short.

I will post tea towel photos when my camera decides to co-operate: this morning it is playing up for some reason.....


I'll keep my book chatting for Friday's blog post. I finished reading The convent, Maureen McCarthy's wonderful New Adult family tale that features the Abbotsford Convent; and I've started We were liars which Is a Teen Read that people rave about.... I'm not sure about it yet, we shall see.

I'll also write a little about the difference between NA and TR genres because  - you know - being librarygirl and all that.

Saturday, August 9, 2014


The last part of the week really went down the drain on a number of fronts, and with it went my Friday bookish blog post. Yesterday was a particular corker: it started with some crazed driver on ice or something attempting to push my car into two lanes of oncoming traffic. Also my daughter is still suffering ill effects from the FILTHY DIRTY hospital she spent 12 hellish days in last December. Back on yet more drugs. AGAIN. 

Going out to do some retail therapy ( in op-shops) and will write my book post later.
Over and out. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

golden syrup biscuits and the winter garden

Today I am sharing this recipe for the easiest biscuits in the world: the recipe has four ingredients and none of them special. It makes 36 biscuits per batch and they are so delicious I made them twice in three days because we couldn't stop eating them.

The biscuits came from one of those books that schools put out as fundraisers: they have recipe names like "Lorraine's chicken casserole" or  "quick lemon slice". I look for these (often) spiral bound books in op-shops and this particular book had just one recipe worth saving and this was it.

In the book the biscuits were called Caramel biscuits, but I have re-named them Golden Syrup biscuits.
(They do taste quite caramel in flavour).

Golden Syrup Biscuits

125g butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 dessertspoons of Golden Syrup
1 cup of self raising flour

Cream the butter and sugar, mix in the golden syrup and flour making quite a wet doughy mix.

Place teaspoons of the mixture on a lined tray, flatten slightly with a fork.
Bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees) until you can see the edges starting to brown. This is about 12 minutes in my oven. They can go from caramel to BURNED in the blink of an eye so you have to watch them.

They must cool down completely on the  baking tray and harden up: if you try to lift when warm they crumble into pieces!


We had actual blue sky and sun over the weekend so I wandered around the garden and took a few photos.


broad beans

new bulb bed under the crabapple

the willow finally lost its leaves

not many bulbs out in this bed: I think they need to be dug over and divided

new leaves coming out on a Maple

bottom garden level: mossy and weedy

bare wintery branches
 Winter has been short and brutal this year: two months or less of bitter cold. Longing for Spring now.


Friday, August 1, 2014

friday book: The silkworm ( and baking, and tins)

I finished The silkworm by Galbraith/Rowling.

I really enjoyed it: if you like well written detective novels you will, too.  It is almost a modern "cosy" crime novel, despite the particularly  gruesome murder which is the heart of the story.

 Ex-soldier detective Cormoran and his secretary assistant-in-training Robin are great characters and I'm looking forward to reading more about them - will Robin marry her annoying fiance, Matthew? Will Cormoran's nutty ex-girlfriend re-appear to wreak havoc? Will the next book in the series be set in the pop music world with Cormoran's rock star father somehow involved?
Rowling is so good at writing real people: the creepy publisher Rupert Chard, the vain author Fancourt, the needy would-be girlfriend Nina, the victim's long-suffering wife and his disabled daughter and their kindly neighbour Edna: all these and many other believable characters appear in the book.

Over on Goodreads a few of the reviewers have a tendency to look for Harry Potter type characters in these books, and because of the way Cormoran and Robin are described physically they make the Hagrid/Hermione comparisons which I think is a bit silly and un-necessary. I can understand why Rowling wrote the first Strike novel under the Galbraith pseudonym, to avoid these sort of comments.

I think it's a great series. Looking forward to reading the next one.

My next book is one about the Abbotsford Convent! I've only read a few pages and am already finding it harrowing. It's in the Young Adult genre, which I love, so I'll report back next week.


Today has been bitterly cold. I left the house only once, to go and buy fish for dinner.

It smells pretty good  here today: I've made soup, and a quick and dirty chocolate slice and some caramel biscuits to fill up the tins for the weekend. J has been at a school ski camp at Mount Buller all week and gets home later tonight, I thought he may need to fill up after camp food all week.

I've written before about the family cake tins: I am a bit of a tin collector, but I've actually thinned my collection down over the last six months, and have only kept a dozen or so ( I'm not counting). I have quite a few on the kitchen windowsill at the moment because I like looking at them. There are only a few which are purely decorative, the others are all being used for something: pens, tea, biscuits, bulldog clips, whatever.
That tin above with the fruit on it is the one which sits most often on top the fridge with cake or a slice or something in it. I actually don't like it much: someone gave it to us filled with shop biscuits more than 20 years ago and it's just sort of hung around. S loves it and wants to take it when she leaves home ( not on the cards at the moment) so she'll take it with my blessing and I'm pleased the sooky tradition of tins/family baking/ memories is being passed on.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

why I love The Tour

image via Getty Images

This morning at work, we were talking about television and different people spoke up about their favourites: The Block, Masterchef, Offspring and so on, and I confessed my obsession with the Tour de France over the last 3 weeks, and how sad I am that we won't see it again for another 49 weeks. One workmate said she could not think of anything more boring than watching men wearing lycra on bicycles, for 21 days, so then I had to explain my love for it, so enthusiastically that she said next year she'd give it a go. I'm going to explain myself here too, because I know most people don't understand how a non-sporty, non-cycling person like me can love this event so much.

I started watching the Tour the year following our trip to Paris. I knew the last leg was the ride into Paris and then various laps of the Champs Elysees and I watched  to see the Parisian landmarks. Husband had been watching on and off over the years and I started watching with him. I didn't understand much at first but you have to realise the blokes on the bikes are only a small part of why it all fascinates me.

In no particular order, here are reasons I watch:

  •  the cyclists and the different personalities. Marcel Kittel, the rockstar German cyclist ( young, handsome, great hair, huge shoulders); Tommy Voeckler, the actor and Miley Cyrus of the peloton, sticking out his tongue and hogging the camera; the quiet and hard working Australians ( Richie Porte and Michael Rodgers); humming the theme from 24 whenever the New Zealand cyclist Jack Bauer got a mention. The winner Nibali, "the shark of Messina" who ate up all the competion; my favourite, Jens Voigt, who retired this year after 17 tours. What a hero! Around 180 riders start the race, they don't all finish. I don't know all their names but I love all the nationalities that race, not for a particular country but sometimes all mixed up in teams.  A very multicultural event where you can be barracking for a Polish rider to win one day, and a Spaniard the next. Not like the Olympic Games with its emphasis on nations and countries against each other.
  •  the drama: grown men sobbing when trying their hardest doesn't mean that they will win something. The crashes, the arguments and elbows jabbing in the peloton when someone rides in the wrong line or causes a pile-up. The death-defying descents and speed coming down mountains and around corners. The rain and the cobbled roads. Cyclists riding injured, being treated, bandaged and patched up while still cycling, by the doctor who is standing up in a moving car alongside them. The fact that this goes on for 21 days and is a race of 3500 kilometres. It's not over quickly, not a sprint or a football match or a swimming race. There's nowhere to hide in the Tour de France.
  • the sight and sounds on the side of the road: the sunflowers; the displays of tour sculpture and art; children dancing in formation and multiple tractors driving in circles in the shape of bike wheels; people riding horses alongside the peloton. The cows and sheep ( sheep dyed yellow) This year there was also a light plane and someone brought an elephant to look over a fence. In the Alps, the excited fans dress up in all manner of fancy dress, costumes, team colours.
  • the commentators. I didn't hear Phil Liggett say "well done, that man" this year or hear him say the riders needed to dig into a "suitcase of courage", but he DID talk a couple of times about He Who Must Not Be Named (Lance Armstrong). Very brave, I thought.
  • Gabriel Gate's cooking segment: then I go and visit the SBS website and makes some of the recipes: this year - a tart, financiers and lava cakes.
  •  the beauty shots: the helicopter leaving the peloton and swooping in over churches, castles, grand houses, vineyards, rivers and mountains. 
  • understanding more of the tour language every year: the peloton, the echelon, the flamme rouge, the maillot jaune, the feeding stations, the nature breaks, the broom wagon, losing contact, the breakaway, the domestiques. And so on.
 Last and probably most importantly, it's something husband and I both love, and it is lovely to be sitting up together on icy Melbourne winter nights, chatting and watching this fabulous European summer race. It makes the longest, coldest, darkest month simply fly past. Next year, give it a whirl and tell me if you become a tour tragic.


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