I'm not sure how this has happened, but we seem to have spawned one child from England and one from California.

For Evie, it's all, 'Like, totally... awesome!' or 'LOL. Rolls eyes. Bor-ring!'
For Alice, things are either, 'Absolutely brilliant, Mummy!' or 'That's rubbish.'

Evie's Littlest Pets all speak in Valley Girl voices and share Valley Girl concerns about their accessories, BFFs and trips to summer camp.
On the other hand, I have lost count of the number of times people have asked me if Alice is English, such is the exaggerated toffiness of her accent. Is it all the English audiobooks that have lulled her to sleep over the last few years? But then why didn't the American versions of the Tremaris books have an effect on her speaking voice? Is it the influence of her English grandfather (who sounds Oz as these days, anyway)? And if so, why doesn't Evie share the Brit vibe?

It's a mystery.


The 250 Word Trick: Advanced Level

I've written previously about my million dollar secret of a productive writing day, ie to start off by writing 250 words before I do anything else.

After extensive research, I can now reveal the next step of the 250 word trick, strictly for advanced players only! This is the 250 words per hour trick. At the beginning of every hour, I write 250 words. Then I stop. The remainder of the hour, whether that's five minutes or fifty, is non-writing time. I can vacuum, hang out laundry, have a snack, read a book, go for a walk to the shops, browse the internet - but I am not allowed to write again until the next hour begins.

Strangely, this is a rule that's frequently broken. I find myself writing much more than 250 words in my allotted time, or I take a short break and return to the keyboard before my 'rest' time is up, to add some words that don't count towards my total (because the counter resets to zero every hour). And even if I adhere to it strictly, I can produce 1500 words in my working day.

I think the reason this works is because it removes the pressure to churn out stuff every moment I'm at the keyboard. If I know I'll earn a legitimate break once my 250 words is done, I relax. If I'm sitting at the laptop feeling guilty and lazy, the urge to distract myself with blog-browsing or fatty snacks is almost irresistable.

Structure! Permission to slack off! Low targets! Timetables and rewards! Strict discipline!

Forgive me. I can't help it. I'm a Virgo.


Life Lessons Footy Can Teach Us
Part 4: Some Things Never Change

They have been calling Collingwood the greatest football team to have ever run onto a field. (1905)

The theory that drinking plenty of beer is good for a footballer's condition has been disputed. (1907)

St Kilda finally look like fulfilling the promise that internal conflict and lack of discipline have denied them for so long. (1913)

Boxing champ signs up with Footscray (1933)

The North Melbourne Football Club has been rescued from a grave peril by an interest-free loan of 500 pounds from the Victorian Football League. (1935)

The Geelong bubble has finally burst. After a record number of 23 wins in a row they finally succumbed to the former record holder, Collingwood. (1953)

And one I hope doesn't come true this Sunday (but I fear it will)...
The Hawks trounced a tired and bewildered Footscray today. (1961)

 From 100 Years of Australian Football 


Disrespectful Is Not Clever

Last week Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu announced that the former Labor government's policy of acknowledging traditional Aboriginal land ownership at public events would be dropped. Acknowledging traditional owners is no longer official protocol, though it is still optional.

This news is so disappointing. What harm can it possibly do, to give a brief nod to the people who have lived in our country and been its guardians for so many thousands of years, before the rest of us arrived? It's only words, just a moment of respect and remembrance. And if it makes some people feel uncomfortable for a couple of minutes, well, maybe that's not such a bad thing. We ought to pause, just occasionally, and think about our history; think about the way this land used to be; think about the people lived here, and still do.

To say something is "politically correct" is not an argument. It's a pathetic excuse for not thinking hard enough.


Reading With Alice

Alice: Mummy, can I read to you?
(Strangely, she never shows any interest in reading to me unless it's after bed time.)
Kate: Okay, but just for a little while.
Alice: Can we read that Picture book?
(A recently acquired copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray, see below.)
Kate: Yes, but it's got lots of hard words, so I'll have to help you.
(She hates being helped. Together we look at the first paragraph and I pick out the troublesome words in advance -- studio, odour, stirred, amidst, delicate, perfume -- so she can read the whole paragraph with hardly a hitch. She launches into the second paragraph and I help her out when she stumbles.)
Alice: From the corner of the divan...
Kate: Like a couch.
Alice: ... of Persian saddle-bags on which he lay was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable...
Kate: What might you smoke?
Alice:  Cigars? cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum...
Kate: Remember there was a laburnum tree in The Family From One End Street? In the village, with golden flowers?
Alice: (striking a pose) Does it look like this? Or like this?
Kate: I don't know. Keep reading.
Alice: ... whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs... (huge yawn)
Kate: Let's just finish this sentence, okay?
Alice: Okay... and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore...
Kate: I have no idea what that is.
Alice: ... tussore-silk... Is this still the same sentence?... curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of moment...momentary Japanese... When is this sentence going to end? (suddenly suspicious) Is this an elaborate plan to make me read the whole book?
Kate: Nearly there, I can see a full stop coming up. Keep going!
Alice: ... effect, and making him think of those pallid jade-faced painters of Tokio who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek? to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. Oh my God. Why did he write such long sentences??
(pause) Can you read to me now?


Library Book Sale Time Again

This time I took Alice with me, and she ended up with a lot more stuff than I did!
For Alice
Guinness Book of World Records 2010
"The best book ever in the whole world!"
Asterix In Britain, R. Goscinny & A. Uderzo
Okay, I confess, I picked up this one. In Grade 6 I used to read an Asterix or a Tintin every rainy lunchtime. Happy days.
Animal Evolution, Federica Colombo
Rhinos and giraffes on the front cover. Sold! At the moment Alice is tossing up whether to work in a zoo or to be an historian.
Cocker Spaniel, Dr Bruce Fogle
Royal Toy Spaniels, Alicia Pennington
Doesn't Alicia Pennington sound like just the perfect person to be an expert on Royal Toy Spaniels? If I'm not going to let my children buy a puppy, I may as well let them buy puppy books.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde
Alice pounces on the creepy cover. 'What's this about, Mummy?' 'Um, it's about a man who gets his picture painted, and the picture grows old and he doesn't.' 'Ooh, yes please!' Should I be letting her read Oscar Wilde at 9? Sometimes it's slightly convenient that she can't read that well...
The Zoo Story, Catherine de Courcy
Now that I look at this more closely, I see that it's actually a book about the history and philosophy of zoo-keeping. Fascinating! We picked this up because of the cute lion cub on the cover but I think I might read it myself.

For me
Picture Writing: A new approach to writing for kids and teens, Anastasia Suen
Not about writing picture books, but making your writing more 'visually arresting'. Can't hurt, and I might learn something...
The Barrumbi Kids, Leonie Norrington
I've been meaning to read this for ages. The blurb says, 'an exciting, funny first novel about children moving between Aboriginal and white cultures.' Hooray for that.
Chenxi and the Foreigner, Sally Rippin
Very pleased about this pick up, especially since I met Sally at the PM's Award lunch (oh shut up) and she was absolutely lovely. I also can't wait to read her new book, Angel Creek, which is set around Merri Creek where we live too.

For Evie
Pups 4 Sale, Margaret Clark
Thank God there are so many books about puppies in the world. If Evie is careful, she might get through her entire life reading nothing else. She's certainly heading that way...

For Michael
The Psychology of Cricket, Graham Winter
I got this for Michael as a joke but I think he was actually a bit offended. Since he's in career best form and won Man of the Match in the cricket club Grand Final, he doesn't need the help of any psychology book, oh nooo, thank you very much.


Life Lessons Football Can Teach Us, Part 3
Hang In There

So things don't always go so well. Injuries strike your best players, or you realise with horror that over the space of a single summer, that vigorous and wily team member has suddenly become a doddering old man. The game plan that worked so well two years ago has become stale, and other teams are implementing it better than you. Is the beloved coach who brought you from the bottom of the ladder to within touching distance of the top now old-fashioned and ineffectual? The senior players are starting to slow down, but the kids are still too raw. Paradoxically, being so close for so long has taken its toll. Are the players tired? Have they stopped believing, after trying so hard for so long?

Administrations change. Coaches come and go. Games aren't played at the old ground any more. Legends retire. Your favourite player busts his knee. The words of the song are 'updated'; even the jumper gets tweaked and messed around with: horrible animals might appear, or bizarre swirls of colour. The very name of the team might change. Every season there are new faces and numbers to learn; the team doesn't stay the same for even two years in a row.

All that remains true is the love of the supporters for the club - that blind, unreasoning loyalty that keeps them faithful even after years of struggle and defeat.

Only the love endures.



All her life, my nine year old's swimwear has consisted of some form of rashie+pants set: comfortable, practical, sun-protective, and age-appropriate.

Well, apparently that's all over now. Once you grow above size 8, they don't seem to make those any more. Now we're faced with buying her a) a bikini (which she loathes, and which would be ridiculous anyway, because like most nine year olds, she doesn't have any boobs); b) some kind of two-piece where the top bit is a flyaway handkerchief - basically a bikini with a flap attachment, and essentially useless; or c) one-piece bathers plus a separate rashie, which basically means buying two pairs of bathers. At around $50 a pop, this is an alternative we are reluctant to embrace.

Impasse. We're hoping there's a wider range in Queensland.

Not what Alice wants to wear to the beach


5th May

2011 (aged 44)
Evie has begun inventing jokes:
What is a chicken's favourite vegetable? Bok-bok-bok choi!
Where is it always warm? In a War Memorial!
2007 (aged 40)
Evie wanders into our room in the middle of the night.
M: What are you doing?
E: (tearfully) Cwying!
Alice sees an ad for some vile plastic toy. A: I know you won't buy it for me, but if I get someone else to give it to me for a present, then you can't do anything about it.
2005 (aged 38)
Alice, aged 3, picks up a yellow glass paperweight. 'Are these made out of the sun?'
'When I grow up, I'm going to marry you.' 'But I'm already married to Daddy.' 'Oh! I didn't know that. I thought Daddy was your friend.'
2003 (aged 36)
Robert de Niro is on Sesame St pretending to be a cabbage. These are the little treats that parenthood sometimes gives you.
2001 (aged 34)
The big news is L is pregnant too!!! VERY excited at the idea of us having babies at the same time (practically). Only now we won't get her cot and baby sling...
1998 (aged 31)
My three favourite books (most re-read): Pursuit of Love, Mists of Avalon and Emma.
Went home with MT again after the Hal & Bacharach launch. Very nice.
1994 (aged 27)
5.30am Bangkok (en route to Rome): Warm and sticky here, 30 degrees. All the girls behind the counters of the duty free shops are just sitting on the floor, reading books and chatting.
1992 (aged 25)
Bloody Alain broke the lid of my coffee pot and there's a big chunk missing - just over-use I think - it was absolutely packed with coffee. Survived 60 years till I took it to this house!
1990 (aged 23)
A million other things I should be doing apart from this, eg do the dishes, write to S or A or J, write a story, read Labour Law, read Social Security or Feminist Legal Theory, not sit here hoping the phone will ring and trying to resist the temptation to ring B again.
Turned on "All Creatures" and caught a reference to Tristan. Heart leapt - it was as if he'd rung me up, like getting in contact. He was so naughty, so much fun. I'm not a fun person really.
1989 (aged 22)
Sometimes we don't come through, sometimes we just get by. (The Go-Betweens)
1987 (aged 20)
I'm being a bitch to D... I'm so miserable I could just die.
1986 (aged 19)
 Thought FG's birthday was on Monday and embarrassed myself. Had a good calm meaty argument with P after dinner until kicked out of dining hall. Had a huge fire in the morning & burnt up all the remaining wood, C added the cardboard box & we had vr dramatic flames leaping up to the mantelpiece. Took picture down from the Quiet Room, hid it in the corridor and discussed burning it too. But we didn't.
1985 (aged 18)
Woke at 8am feeling surprisingly good. Started typing up essay. DT not at lunch. Typed. DT not at arvo tea. Typed. Had tea in front of Countdown - DT in dining hall, awful suspicion with a girl. Rang FE - stilted cryptic conversation about my non-existent love life. Stapled thumb.
1983 (aged 16)
Term 1 finishes 1.00 pm
1981 (aged 14)
Dog tired & can't wait for the holidays. Bought poetry book for 30 cents. Stuck up picture of Tristan Farnon (All Creatures Great & Small). Can swoon over him while reading the books -- unfortunately he doesn't feature largely. German test, maths test back. Did pretty badly on both.
1977 (aged 11)
MISERY DAY. Rotten scores in RA, Mrs R said we were awful. No library because of Mothers Day stall. I bought Mummy 3 paper flowers and a box of tissues. Weather: cold. See you later, Kate.
1976 (aged 9)
Went to the market and the shops. Stayed in bed half the morning. Daddy gave me a notebook.


So... Let's Talk Vegetables.

You know all those horrible vegetables that you hated as a kid? Cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts? (I tried brussels sprouts as a four year old and promptly threw them up, they were so vile.) Well, faithful reader, I have made an amazing discovery. There is a secret to making all these unappealing but oh-so-good-for-you vegies taste delicious.

It's called ROASTING.

Yes, cut them into little bits, slather them in olive oil, pop them in a hot oven and voila! Who knew?? Even brussels sprouts can be yummy. Especially when you scatter them with toasted almonds, or bacon, or pine nuts.

But it doesn't work for cabbage. I'm afraid nothing can save cabbage.