23 September 2011

Null Arbor

Grace's campervan with surfboard

I learned Latin at school. Mrs Jackson introduced us to the orange booklets of the Cambridge Latin course (anyone remember those?)and I got about as far as "servus, servae, servum, servii, servo, servo."  I doubt I would even have got that far without my brother's hand-me-down booklets with their pencilled-in hand-me-down answers.  How I loathed Caecilius et Matella and their dull adventures in the coquina and hortus. 

My use of Latin is now confined to thinking up pretentious blog addresses, and figuring out the spells in Harry Potter. So, it is with great tumultusque and praesumptio that our familia Sex embark on an itinere across the Nullarbor plain.

We are packing the kids and the surfboard into a six berth campervan and heading West, driving some 3000km to visit my brother and his family: a week on the road and a week in Perth. We'll be (our) four girls, (his) four boys, and four adults.  It's bigger than the Brady Bunch. 

See you all when we get back.

19 September 2011

Overly Optimistic

Those AFL footballers fronting the field the week after an arthroscopy gave me a somewhat misguided view about the realities of my own (minor) knee surgery.

The fact that my surgeon said he wanted me to weight bear immediately led me to assume that I would be able to weight bear immediately. My mistake.  As it turned out that was not possible. Nor was walking and particularly not sewing.

I don't cope with incapacity with any sort of grace or forebearance.  It's all self-pity and panic.  Thank goodness for spring days, pigtails on little girls and visits from old friends.

15 September 2011

Gutterman 297

Someone in Melbourne has been snaffling up the Gutterman 297.

This is annoying because I finally finished piecing my quilt top, based on Duyvken's design.

I got half way through quilting it and ran out of thread. Days past in my fruitless search for more Gutterman 297. Finally got the last three reels from Rathdowne Remnants this morning. I'm hoping my knee operation today won't prevent me from driving the Bernina tonight and finishing this baby off.

11 September 2011

Note to self

Melbourne at sunrise-Craig
When I was seventeen, finished with high school, deferred from my university degree so I could grow up a bit, I went travelling.  I had taken a job as a junior accounts clerk to earn some money, and with that money I bought a one way ticket to England.  The rest of the money I took to the bank and got a bank cheque made out in pounds sterling, to be deposited in England when I got there and had a chance to open a bank account.  I suppose there might have been credit cards, though I wasn't aware of them.  There must have been travellers cheques but for some reason I thought the bank cheque made more sense....There were no such things as mobile phones.

I bought the cheapest airline ticket I could find, which was on Pakistan Air.  I had a stopover in Singapore and stayed with the family of a friend I had made at work.  Her name was Hen.  Her 8 year old niece took the day off school and accompanied me on a bus tour of Singapore.  At the end of the day her parents took me out to a seafood restaurant as a special treat.  My experience of seafood up till then had been fish and chips on Saturday nights. The waiter brought a glass pot to the table, filled with live prawns.  He poured in boiling alcohol and covered the pot.  The prawns jumped around, cooking and dying simultaneously.  The dish was called drunken prawns.  Even my horrified 17-year-old self knew enough to realise that this was an enormous treat and it would be unforgivably rude not to try them. 

After a night with Hen's family, I flew to London, via what seemed to be a hundred other places.  It took 5 days to get there.  I was met in England by a school friend (I'd spent a year in England in 1985), with whose family I stayed.  A few weeks later I took a ferry to Rotterdam.  On the ferry I drank lager with some boys I met.  We napped on the ferry floor and overslept and I missed the connecting train to Dusseldorf where another school friend had moved with her family.  My friend was waiting to meet me but I wasn't there.  I had left her phone number in England and couldn't call her to explain.  Eventually I found her address and my way to her house.

I don't remember ringing my parents, except at Christmas time.  Calls were expensive and I had very little money.  I did write lots of letters.  I had my first kiss in Germany, with the ex-boyfriend of my brother's ex-girlfriend with whom I also stayed.  Later she took me to West and East Berlin about 6 months before the Wall fell and we had no idea at all.  East Berlin was terribly depressing.  We had to change a certain number of marks into East German currency, and were not allowed to change it back. I think it was the equivalent of $20 but it was impossible to spend it all in one day, not because everything was so cheap (though it was quite cheap) but because there was nothing to buy.  The shops were nearly empty.  We had lunch in a restaurant and the food was terrible.  My German friend was quite scared the whole time, especially of the guards at the checkpoint and on the Wall.

I got a job in England as a hotel chambermaid.  I lived in a tiny room and earned the approval of Irish Mary, the head chambermaid, with whom I would spend breaks discussing cleaning products and tips to remove stains from sheets.  After a while I started working shifts in the bar, pulling pints, even though I wasn't yet 18.

My school friend in Dusseldorf went to university in Paris, so I went to meet her there.  I stayed in a tiny hotel run by a Turkish woman who let me serve breakfast in exchange for accommodation.

Later I took a train from London to Athens to meet my brother, who was also travelling.  On the way an old lady pressed oranges upon me.  A young man opened up a small suitcase and took out bread and meats which he shared with us.  Later, dozing, I woke to find his hand on my breast.  I protested and he removed it good naturedly. There was some sort of strike which disrupted my plans and I was a day late to Athens.  There was no way to communicate with my brother and I had no idea where he was staying.  Our plan had simply been to meet at the train station on such and such a date at such and such a time.  He turned up the next day hoping I'd be there and I was.

Later again I took buses around Turkey on my own.  I was 18 by then and felt myself an experienced traveller.  I was invariably seated next to old women or by myself.  The women always gave me fruit.  The men smoked heavily and I developed a (passive) smoker's cough. 

One evening in Paris, I stood on a street corner, smiling with the delight of being alive and a young man stopped his bicycle and kissed me on the lips.  I was sort of shocked and sort of not.  He said "It's Paris" in English and rode on. 

Lockerbie happened while I was travelling.  The Berlin Wall came down, tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square, the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan and, shortly thereafter, withdrew from existence.

I had considered the idea that, if I didn't return to Australia I could easily be more 'something else' than I was Australian.  In a supermarket in San Francisco I heard the news that there had been an earthquake in Newcastle.   It was time to go home, I was Australian after all.

There was much else besides, but even these bare bones astonish me. I am sure that my naivety kept me protected.  My fresh little 17-year-old-and-never-been-kissed face attracted all sorts of interesting and caring and protective people and no real creeps.  I felt taken care of, often. So many incidents that could have ended up going horribly, just didn't.  I came home believing that people were wonderful and generous and hospitable.

I am so grateful that my parents encouraged me to go.  My father later told me that he had considered forbidding it, but at the time I remember him telling me, when I hesitated, that I would always regret it if I didn't go.

And when my children consider taking their own journeys into this big world, will I be as brave as my parents were?  Will I let them go with my blessing, disguise my unease, be unobstrusive in my interest and let them leave?  If this blog still exists, if the internet still exists, if I still exist, let this serve as a reminder to me.  DO IT.

08 September 2011

She says

Go way.
No way.
Me up more.
Booby more? no.
Race (Grace)
Bia (Ruby)
Ug (hug)
Arry (Harry - the dirty dog)
Oney (honey)
Ooray (hooray)
Yaysh (yes)

Lily - September 2011.

07 September 2011

The idea of a bicycle and other presents

It is true that I generally have difficulty with presents for Craig. I peaked early in our relationship when I found a first edition of "The Catcher in the Rye" in a second hand store and it's been a steady decline since. His recent birthday saw a new low - a book he'll likely not read (but I want to) and some expensive chocolate that he doesn't like (" I thought you'd know I don't like nougat by now").

So, though I reckon that father's day and, more specifically mother's day, is a bit of a wank, I was determined to try a bit harder. I asked the girls to each draw a picture of a bicycle (Craig likes bikes) and embroidered it onto linen, which I then stretched on a frame. It's a variation of an idea I've used before but I do like this way of preserving the girls' drawings.

It's so interesting (to me) how aspects of their personalities are distilled in their drawings.  Ruby's somewhat random and unequal spokes convey the sense of the wheels and the motion they are capable of. She hasn't quite got the mechanics right - those bikes couldn't actually be ridden - but the idea of a bicycle is there, right down to the drink bottle.

Nina's bike is no linear speedster, yet has structural integrity. The spokes are evenly divided, she has really thought about how such a beast would be put together and the bell looks authentic.

Grace's bike, with tag-along, has a tiny drawing of a girl on the seat which I couldn't replicate in embroidery. The bike itself seems old-fashioned. We asked Lily to draw a bike too, and she drew small round scribbles. She was delighted with herself, and especially with the great response her efforts evoked from her sisters. They were quite hard to embroider faithfully.

Drawing satchel by Nina

Nina had a birthday party to attend and, with thought about what the birthday boy liked, decided on a variation of this present I made for her, converted into a drawing satchel. She chose all the materials and did all the sewing herself, apart from the handle which I did. I've found most children, given the opportunity, love to drive a sewing machine, and, with a little guidance can do a serviceable job.  It's not perfect, but it turned out well, the birthday boy was pleased and so was Nina. We added in a sketch book and some watercolour pencils.

And finally, I knit my first pair of socks. Admittedly only baby socks, but even so it was not all plain sailing. My first attempt went off the rails somewhere and ended up like this.
bizarre chicken finger puppet sock.

But I figured out the instructions eventually. I find that when I have to pick up stitches I tend not to do it very neatly and often get gaps.  Any tips from the knitters out there? 
Again, not perfect, but a rather sweet gift for our neighbour's newest grandchild. Welcome Henry.

04 September 2011

Static Electricity Experiment

Let a small child with wispy hair run around on a trampoline.

01 September 2011

A Pinch and Punch

For the first day of the month. (no returns forever)
Ruby's spring cleaning