Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 31. Day 243. Swamped

What a glorious day. The calender says Winter is officially still with us until tomorrow but a calendar is, after all, just a number on a piece of paper or in my case the thing on the bottom left of my computer monitor and top right of the iPhone. Bright blue skies and hot sun = Spring regardless of what the date would have us believe. Anyone with half a brain would have been out enjoying it but was I? No I was not. I was being tanned by the soft blue light of the laptop, drowning in cesspool of marking, preparation and administrivia. All of which made me a very prickly character indeed. By late afternoon, I'd had it so I dragged myself out of the swamp and took the fur friend for a much needed walk. The temporary reprieve was most welcome but short lived. The tsunami of paperwork has me again up to my neck in it. Sighs

Saturday, August 30, 2014

August 30. Day 242. Charity begins at home

The whole charity fundraising thing is intensely interesting, fascinating even.
Find the right colour, the right gimmick or the right slogan and the buckets of charity gold could be coming your way. Right now your problem might be to find a bucket to collect your gold in because every many and his dog seems to have seized every available bucket and filled it with ice water to pour over his or her head. The whole thing started out as a very high ideal - to raise funds for and awareness  of motor neurone disease. My guess is, however, most of the people now challenging and being challenged have no idea what it is all about, it's just a Facebook or YouTube thing.
Even for those who do
know is it really activism or slacktivism - is pouring a bucket of water over your head a easy way to make you feel you are taking a stand on an issue without actually having to do anything terribly much. For some, possibly. No matter my Drama Teen and his mate George today joined the ice water challenge and for an added degree of difficulty then poured hot water over their heads AND jumped in the pool (which both agreed was far more uncomfortably cold than the single bucket of water). And just in case you are thinking I am taking the high moral ground on this one, not so. There is no cold bucket of water involved but I will be jumping off the Goodwill Bridge and swinging underneath for charity in October. You can sponsor me if you like. I dare you

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29. Day 141. Competitive by nature

 There were not, as far as I could tell, any sheep stations up for grabs but with the level of competitiveness and determination on show you would never know it. Had it been the All Blacks and the Wallabies fighting it out for the Bledisloe Cup, the level of commitment would not have been any stronger (actually the level of performance was probably no worse than the Wallabies of late but that's not saying a lot). While on the beach at South Bank most were lazing about in the sun and more than a few were catching up on a few zzzs before a big Friday night, in the water the action was already on for young and old. About 20 young men were playing full contact footie with an added degree of difficulty created by what in golf would be called a water hazard. For the players I'm sure it was more like a refreshing change. For all it was a pretty cool way to get this weekend party started.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

August 28. Day 240. Of birthdays, birds and bees

The special cuddle. It has the power to make you a parent, it is not, however, the thing that makes you a parent. Being a parent isn't about donating genetic material, it's about every day after that. Parenting is a tough gig. It's mopping fevered brows, its fighting over homework, it's the sleepless nights when they start to drive and it's having "those" talks. Even today on her 73rd birthday my mum was still being my mum (although she didn't have to explain to me what the lorikeets were doing on the clothes line. I'd worked that one out all by myself). But just because I'm big enough and ugly enough to look after myself doesn't mean I don't get a bit of mothering from time to time, which is just the way I like it. "Have you seen anyone about that cough," she said. "Are you sure you've had enough to eat," she said. It was her birthday but she was still worried about me because that's what mothers do. So happy birthday mum and in case I haven't said it enough, thanks for everything ... oh and I will see someone about the cough, eventually.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

August 27. Day 239. Coming of Age

You know that saying about how you can choose your friends but you can't choose your family? Happily that doesn't apply to me. There is no member of my family I would trade for the world (I might like to kill one or two occasionally but those nearest and dearest know how to push all the wrong buttons, right?)
In any event, being an aunt is one of the best roles in the family - something like Grandparents - you get to be there for all the fun bits but avoid the day-to-day drudgery of homework supervision and fighting over room cleanliness. It's all care and no responsibility. Today was one of those good times. Today was my niece Scarlett's 18th birthday, a milestone that could not go un-noticed. So I arranged to meet her when she finished university at noon and we did lunch at one of my favourite restaurants at South Bank. And then we trundled up to my favourite cocktail bar for a drink. A girl should have her first drink in the company of a responsible adult (or me if you can't find one). I told the barman the occasion so he made a big deal of checking her ID, just to make it official. We had one quiet cocktail and caught a cab home. All very civilised. It's hard to believe that it was 18 years ago just a few hundred metres from where we sat that she had her first actual drink in the Mater Mothers. She was a beautiful baby but baby look at her now.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

August 26. Day 238. Tradition, tradition

Traditions are important. This applies on a grand scale and for far more local things. Countries with a Christian heritage, for example, have a huge catalogue of traditions around Christmas and Easter while the Jewish faith has coming of age traditions (so do we if you count getting drunk and behaving badly as a tradition). Schools have traditions as students move from one level to another and of course families have them. Traditions are important for identity, cohesion and, of course sometimes just for fun. Many, as it happens, involve food and alcohol and if you have to have a tradition these are two very fine places to start. Whether it be the Sunday roast, pancake Tuesday or the champagne toast at weddings; there is a special place in my heart for the tradition. Of course, many of these tradition are as old as time but some much more modern. Some have caught on. Some not so much. So mince pies at Christmas are a thing. Mince at Margaret's after the haircut probably never will be. But it is a tradition just the same. After every haircut, Rumple goes next door to visit Margaret to show off his new do. She rewards him with mince. As soon as the car pulled up in the driveway today freshly cut Rumple was pulling on the lead. As soon as he arrived at the front door, she had the mince ready. And as the photo shows, Rumple thought it was lip-smacking good. If I turned the camera around, it would have been clear Margaret was as happy with the arrangement.
And then we left and Rumple went and ate dirt. Hopefully that doesn't become a tradition .

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 25.Day 237. Sulking

Puppy dog eyes: enlarging your eyes over dramatically with a sad face to get whatever you desire. (most of the time.
I'm actually not sure which of the "children" in the household does the puppy dog eyes thing the best., the one with fur or the biological offspring And, as it happens, both are pretty adept at the incredible sulk (a manoeuvre filled with as much raw emotion but less green bits as the Incredible Hulk).
But both the fur friend and the drama teen know how to act mortally wounded they feel the world has wronged them.
This is Rumple's impression of neglect. About three minutes was the total time he was left tied up outside a restaurant at South Bank while I walked in and made a reservation. I was in line of sight the whole time but you'd swear he's been left outside the casino while I "invested" the week's wages on the poker machines. It's a wonder no-one called the RSPCA. Still he only employs this tactic because he knows it will work. Everyone knows that you should stand up to a sit down strike - and I would, I really would if the protest didn't include the puppy dog eyes. That's something I just can not stare down.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August 24. Day 236. Riding high

 If finding a needle in a haystack wasn't an insurmountably difficult task, there wouldn't be a saying about it. The fact that there is suggests that it is universally accepted that this is not a simple operation. The fact that there is no similar saying about finding the haystack suggests to me that "normal" people don't consider it challenging to find a thing of such substantial size. But in such matters, I am not normal. I am special. When it comes to an inability to find places and things I am, in fact, quite gifted. Such as today. This weekend four of Brisbane's most beautiful parks were taking in a Parks Alive event filled with awesome family activities. I decided the City Botanic Gardens and the free circus skills would be the one for me. So with the dog, the teenager and the camera, I set out. I found a wedding, I found a duck pond, I found council sustainability tent with free trees and a children's playground. But circus performers? Nope. Because I am not male I even asked directions both at the council tent and of the two 16-year-olds practicing their skateboard skills nearby. I rather thought disappearing acts were more the business of magicians not circus performers but perhaps I am mistaken as well as directionally challenged. Although skateboarders Connor (in the black shirt) and Luke (in the white) couldn't solve the mystery of the missing acrobats they were eager to help and not short of a few tricks of their own so they agreed to let me photograph them instead. I consider that a fine deal if for no other reason than I had already found them.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

August 23. Day 235. Bucketing down

August 22. Day 234. Light and shade

I'm a slow learner but finally I am seeing the light. It has only taken me about 200,000 photos over 965 days (yes I have been counting actually) to realise the true importance of light. Not the obvious things like stand with your back to the sun or that variable light will most likely lead to variable (read ugly) results. Not even that it's harder to take photos in poor light or artificial light or that the harsh midday light is unforgiving. But that the kind of light really makes a difference. South Bank is one of my favourite places to go when I have nothing else and I have learned that the time of day and the kind of weather plays a huge role in the type of photos. Sure the pool is more likely to be empty when it's raining like today but it's not just that. The lighting quality varies and so does the image according to the time of day and the time of year because of the light. All of which has nothing and everything to do with today's photo. Sure it was taken from South Bank (not of South Bank but from South Bank) and sure the highlight is the city lights on a rainy old winter's night. But it's not that. This photo was taken at the intermission of the Last Confession starring David Suchet. And what a beautiful thing that was. Wonderful set, top class performance and a tight captivating script. I'm pretty sure every person in the Lyric Theatre tonight would have noticed and applauded those things. But on top of that the lighting person needed a round of applause. It was a beautiful thing and while it is not often appreciated good lighting like good sound can make or break a production. Yes, finally I have seen the light.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

August 22. Day 233. A bit of perspective

Too many emails. Not enough hours in the day. How many times have I wished that they would all just go away. But be careful what you wish for. A catastrophic system failure at work killed the email server and several other bits of the university IT system today. What was still operational was tragically, pathetically slow. The fact is, a modern university copes very badly without modern technology. It all makes for a very frustrating and most unproductive day. I could have screamed (in fact I probably did about the time the fire alarm meant walking out on about the only functioning piece of equipment in the place). Telling myself to try and keep it in perspective while trying to sort out an online exam without the online was completely useless. But now, like the Story Bridge from this angle, it doesn't seem quite so big with just a bit of distance. It's all water under the bridge. In any case, without a functioning email system no-one at work could email me either. See there is an upside ...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 20. Day 232. Turning heads

There are rules we all must follow in a polite, orderly society. Rules my mother taught me. Rules I try to teach my son. We are told to say "please" and thank-you", to not speak with our mouths full and that it's rude to stare. Mothers are, of course, always right but there are exceptions to every rule and thus I today declared that the don't stare rule needs qualification. Some people are just do striking that I actually believe it is rude to not admire and not just in a fleeting, furtive way. On occasions, you do need to take a good hard look. So it was today when I met Jesse. It was Jesse's job to apply the colour to my regrowth, a polite word we all know means grey hair. Immediately I was transported back to the Underground Nightclub in Brisbane in the early '80s, a somewhat strange reaction given that young Jesse would not even have been born then. But that was the era of Boy George and Marilyn where the men wore as much make-up as the women and were often better at applying it. That was the era Guy Liner first came to my attention although I don't remember it being called that at the time. Funnily enough, that was also the era of UB40 a band which Jesse told me was one of his musical inspirations. Modern music, he said, was noise and the saxophone player added most of the music he chose to listen to was by people now dead. Behind an ear was the tattoo of a treble clef which he said represented his love of music and at $30 cost more than any of the other tattoos on his body. All of his family are musical and inspired by that tattoo most now have a musical note behind an ear. The other tattoos were were all done by tattoo artists who are family and friends - the first for his 14th birthday. In New Zealand, where he is from, he explained no-one seems to have the same "problem" with tattoos. He only realised it was an issue when he briefly went to school in Australia. He recalls sitting in a school office with his mum and the principal - a man with little style and a bad comb-over job. The family was told they would need to do something to cover up the tattoo on Jesse's calf because appropriate standards needed to apply when you entered the school gate. The enraged mother replied "and how, exactly, is that haircut appropriate. Mum said she would "do" something about the tattoo - get another one. And so she did, because as I said mothers are always right, just not about the staring thing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 19. Day 231. High flyers

You know you have to fight it. No matter how overwhelming the urge is, you can not give in; you have to push through. Nothing totally throws a human body in quite the same way as the jet lag from a long haul flight. Many a wise man has come up with a jet lag solution but today I discovered a group of international exchange students recently arrived  in Brisbane who had one of their own - a competitive game of park Frisbee. It was the middle of the night in California but rather than hit the sack the students decided the best plan was to remove all temptation and hit the park. That should get the blood pumping if nothing else. It was a strategy I was applying in my own way. My body clock was totally whacked from sleepless nights due to coughing followed by hours of day time sleep. Then repeat. Either I needed to beat this or become a shift worker. So at afternoon nap time, I was also in the park with the dog avoiding the call of the pillow. Let's hope it works - for all our sakes.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18. Day 230. Lead by example

It's taken me almost 50 years but I finally worked out what I want to be when I grow up. Actually not what but who. I want to be Peter Pan. I don't want to be a grown up.
I am fully aware that this is the snot talking. This is the cough talking. This is nights of interrupted sleep talking. But sneezy, wheezy, drowsy Susan just wants someone to tuck her up in bed, rub Vicks on her chest, feed her chicken soup, read her a bedtime story and turn off the light. Being an adult and having to make adult decisions can be tough when you are on top of your game but downright tiresome when you just want your mum. Who want to be a grown up? Not this little black duck. Right now I do not feel like being one of life's lollipop ladies. I want others to check the road is clear and hold up the traffic. I just want to skip across the road knowing that it is safe to do so. Of course this will not last. When  the snot and cough and sleepless nights disappear the control freak who doesn't much like being told what to so will surely re-emerge. Until then, anyone want to make me cup of tea? I'll be in bed. It's past my bedtime.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17. Day 229. This place has gone to the dogs

 It was all about the dogs today.
1) There was a beagle sized hole on the bed this morning with The Fed going home with my brother last night after his holiday with us. A beagle, I have to tell you, can take up quite a lot of space on a bed and a beagle pup is a fur covered weapon of mass destruction. I will miss him, I already miss him, but rather appreciate the quiet and order that has returned to the home
2) Margaret got to resume her puppy love with Rumple. The two dogs were too much but it was clear Rumple and Margaret were well overdue for a contact visit.
3) It was RSPCA cupcake day so Rumple and I headed out to the dog park for the big fundraiser. As I remain sick as a dog, I probably should have opted for the canine treats but instead invested in a box of human cupcakes and came home to bed. Neither Rumple nor I felt much like a hydrobath either

August 16. Day 228. A bit of drama

All of fiction's best tragic heroines seemed to fall victim to some form of lung disease.
The consumptive cough, the fevered brow, the vigil of the loved ones at the bedside. That could have been me today - except for the loved ones bit. The dogs hung around but the humans - rather tired of the death rattle - preferred to keep their distance. To tell you the truth I would have run a mile too, but I didn't have the breath to do so. Okay, I am exaggerating a bit quite a lot but the hacking cough is really starting to give me the sh*ts (and those around me too). I know I'm a bit of a drama queen, but frankly being able to breathe is, I believe, a basic human need. Anyway while I might have an award winning cough I prefer to leave the real performance arts to the professionals and tonight I managed to enjoy most of Fame Theatre Company's annual drama recital. Theatre etiquette meant I missed bits because the person with the phone they refuse to turn off is about the only thing that gets up my nose more than the audience member with the annoying cough who stays to put off everyone. But I got to see my baby perform from the Ugly One, about a man who is unspeakably ugly. I may be his mum but clearly this was not type cast. But if they are looking for someone to play Fontine I can do a very credible performance of death by TB. Speak to my people.

Friday, August 15, 2014

August 15. Day 227. Great Scott

Friday 10am. This is where I lecture first years in the fine art of newswriting. Most weeks the little darlings get to hear from me but sometimes special guests are invited to take the podium. Today there was what I could only describe as a "special" special guest. Fronting the room in packed with students and television cameras was ABC managing director Mark Scott who was giving a keynote speech about what a future ABC might look like in a changing media environment and in an era of funding cuts. It was a broad ranging and insightful look at the industry into which our graduates will head which provided comfort as well as reason for nervousness. I found the prepared speech compelling but the answers to questions from the floor even more so.
For example, a very frank Mr Scott talked about the issue of piracy of television content saying that in a worldwide media environment Australian audiences would simply not tolerate a program being released in the US in September amid a flurry of social media hype and then wait until the Australian ratings season in March to be able to watch it legally. Media organisations that failed to learn that would suffer.
He also offered an explanation for why Game of Thrones is the king of illegal downloads in Australia - people will not pay $600 to watch it legally. The itune music model has shown audiences are prepared to pay but the price point must be fair.
The speech highlighted he need to innovate in order to stay the same and flagged program content cuts and outsourcing outside the ABC's core business - IT and real estate looking the most likely contender.
While I will never accept that the ABC should be on the funding chopping block the reality is no-one died and gave me access to the nation's finances and a lot of noisy interest groups have far more say in this than I.
Given that it appears the cuts are inevitable I felt reassured at least that the man at the top was going to tackle the challenge head on.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 14. Day 226. Little splashes of colour

One side of this image represents this morning. There you see a dry crackly bark with green bits. The dreaded cough is back making for a very unpleasant sounding and fairly unpleasant to be around Susan. You'd hope that my bark was worse than my bite because the bark is fairly woeful. In these parts we refer to this mid August lurgy as the Ekka flu. Hundreds of thousands of people converge on the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds for the mid winter show or Ekka as we like to know it. So many people in one confined place and you create a hot bed of infection. But here's the thing. I haven't been to the Ekka this year and at this rate I shall not be going. Many would argue that a virus is a reasonable price to pay for a day of rides, showbags, dagwood dogs and strawberry ice cream sundaes. That's a fair call but it's totally unfair to pay the price without having experienced the reward. So I'm grumpy. But like the photo there was one big bright colourful splash in the day. I got a call from the tailor who had made Drama Teen's semi formal shirt. He said although the shirt was a perfect fit for now it didn't allow much growing room. He'd been thinking about it and decided he should gift us another shirt for free. After all we are neighbours (the shop is just around the corner and it turns out his home is only a few houses down the road) so he'd like to be sure we were happy for a long time. Some may argue that's just good old fashioned service. I say it was a colourful splash in an otherwise very grey day - also the new shirt has paisley detail which I love. It's a nice result for someone just hanging on by the claws

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13. Day 225. The semi formal

Like someone on conditional bail, there are strict limitations on my blogging activities.
It goes like this. For the first year of what was supposed to be a one year project, my family indulged. They would let me photograph every mundane moment of our daily lives and blog about it.
But it got old, at least to them. In the second year, a partial ban was implemented which basically meant if I could get it in one shot fine, if not too bad.
This year more conditions. I think the official ruling is that I am only allowed to photographs occasions where "normal" people would bring out the camera (not the camera phone which would be considerably less of a restriction).
So I can do birthdays, Christmas, a graduation, public performance or special moments on holidays etc but the rest of the time no deal.
Tonight was considered a "normal people" photo moment.
Tonight was the school's semi-formal and I was allowed to photograph Oliver and the delightful Miss Ashley.
Some moments need to be recorded and even 16-year-olds recognise this.
It's a mum moment as well as a teen milestone and I must say how proud of my "baby" I was tonight.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August 12. Day 224. Not on a school night

Perhaps its a gold star and an elephant stamp I deserve. Or perhaps such conduct is more worthy of a psychiatric assessment. Either way I said no. I was right there at the door of the Powerhouse Theatre and a free ticket was proffered to The Removalists and I turned it down. Like the goody two shoes I am, I declined saying I really needed to spend the time waiting for Drama Teen and his school group to see the show having a hot date with a pile of marking. And so I did, stopping only to indulge in a hot chocolate. Mind you, my reaction may have been different had I had a ticket in my hot little hand to one of the other events on at the Powerhouse tonight (no I'm not talking about the eisteddfod downstairs - that I was happy to give a big fat miss). I'm talking about the glittering Prom Night event to launch the next three month's of the Powerhouse's program. There was some mighty fine finery on display, the bubbly was flowing and there was a glitter ball. What more could a girl ask for? Well nothing, and I did happen to notice by the time I got there there was no-one guarding the entrance. I could have walked right up and grabbed myself a drink. But again, I did not. Red pen in hand and scowl on face I marked. Frankly, I have enough trouble working out what day of the week it is already without partying on a school night (even if tomorrow is one of those rare, totally awesome and totally confusing mid week public holidays).

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 11. Day 223. Take you under my wing

In the dictionary, under the entry Helicopter Parent, there should by rights be a picture of me.
I am a hoverer of the worst type. I can't help myself. I (s)mother. I (s)mother all in my charge. My husband, my son, my dog(s) sometimes even my students, anyone in my care could experience it at one time or another. I am sure at times they find it incredibly frustrating but they all also understand how to play the system to their advantage. Just a small hint of hopelessness and the nurture gene kicks in and I tend to step in and help. The boys also understand that "let me help" can become "come on I'll do it" if you play your cards right. A medical professional (who happened to be a complete cow) did once tell me one useful thing in an otherwise patronising $500 consultation. She said "being a teenager is about learning to let go. Being the parent of a teenager is about learning to let go". I wonder what book of cliched phrases that came from. In any event she is right. My little ducklings really no longer need to be sheltered under my wing. It might not be time to fly the coop yet but there has to be somewhere in between.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10. Day 222. Sunday, bloody Sunday

 It's not that I hate my job - most assuredly I do not - it's that I enjoy the weekends more than the work day week. It's true that the lines between them have blurred with the phrases such as flexible workplace and work/life balance creating added freedoms during the week but added burdens on the weekend as a consequence. But while I often work on the weekend - it's a choice and I very often choose to prioritise family time. This is time to treasure and make the most of, except I often don't.
Sunday afternoon, every Sunday afternoon, I get a sense of clouds descending. Instead of making the most of the final hours of the weekend I feel the shadow of the working week creep across the sky. I feel the bad moon arising. I really need to look for a silver lining in those clouds. Let's face it, most people in the world would kill for the sort of job opportunity, conditions and pay I have even with the marking. Remember that, Sunshine.

August 9. Day 221. Everything old is new again

If I call myself Vintage will it make me feel better as though I am a treasured piece of clothing or a fine wine? In so many things - food and fashion leading the charge - everything old is new again. I am all in favour of this, especially if it means voluptuous female form and cranky old women are considered "fashionable". Some things never go out of style. Unfortunately I'm not cure fat women with bad attitudes are on that list
Grace and good manners and good company, however, can and should remain timeless.
Well that's what I decided at a high tea at Clayfield College this afternoon.
The age of ribbon sandwiches and cup cakes should always be with us as should a leisurely afternoon tea with the girls. Sure some of the fashions in the parade were labelled Vintage but the truth is when the girls changed into their street wear not all the styles were radically different. Annoyingly, when you are young and beautiful you look good in anything. There may only have been tea and pink lemonade on offer but I'll drink to that with whatever beverage is available.

Friday, August 8, 2014

August 8. Day 220. Uphill battle

The working week over, the first place the masses tend of head is the nearest watering hole or for a bit of a graze at the trough. This week was a bit of an uphill battle so after "quittin' time" was called  by me I grabbed the fur friends and set off for a walk to the dog park. Already there was signs of the city taking an early mark and easing into the weekend - well most of them were. On a steep grassy slope some young ones were certainly not taking the path of least resistance. As if interval training up up the hill wasn't enough, the young women each had a handicap - one was wearing a weighted jacket, the other towing a weighted cart. Over and over they repeated the hill sprints, carefully checking their times with their coach when they got to the top. While the girls caught their breath, the coach told me one of the girls wanted to be a triathlete, the other a sprinter. The young man just wanted to keep up with the girls, have a bit of friendly competition and laugh at the footage on the tablet computer once he got to the top. Also, the weighted trolley made an excellent sled to get back to the bottom of the hill, the kids said. Yeah, it's a long way to the top  but the view when you get there makes the climb worthwhile