One rainy school night…

When I was a kid, I really thought that ‘No, it’s a school night’ would stop applying once I was a grown-up. Only now am I starting to work out that this simply isn’t the case. More often than not, what gets done on a weeknight is almost as restricted as it was when my parents were calling the shots, only now it’s not so much because of the morning after (which I assume was my Mum’s concern) but rather due to the day that’s just happened.

Every now and then an offer of an outing on a weeknight comes up and I make best laid plans to get there. Often the engagement is missed; it’s too reliant on how much energy I’ve got left at the end of the day (which is getting better, but ain’t what it used to be – thanks Mr. Chemo), it depends on the kids (feeding time at the zoo, and a hose down before bed), and on whether or not hubby can get away from work in time to get back to wrangle the kids for me. In saying that, I am on a bit of a crusade to make sure that I make the time and effort to get out of the house and look at clever art, listen to smart people, and hear nice tunes. This is especially important to me at the moment, after my recent stint being an invalid, as I feel it’s really time to get this restless mind and body back out into the really real world.

Given the challenges (as I see them), I’m very pleased to say that I made it to the opening of Mt Zero Cabin 1 at the Grampians, the exhibition that I’ve been talking about over the last week or so. Although I didn’t commit to getting scrubbed up and dressed pretty until Matt got home, (because I didn’t quite believe I’d actually get out the door) all went to plan and we made it over to Armadale.

Artists Lisa Sewards and Sue Picot

The Firestation is a lovely venue, and the exhibition is intimate. It includes a wonderful blend of works on paper, rough and unrefined as well as beautifully framed and presented works reading for the hanging.

Art by: Lisa Sewards

The inks and watercolours were my personal favourites, but the variety of mediums including charcoals, pastels, etchings and oils makes for an interesting little exhibition.

As Lisa pointed out on the night, it was fascinating to see the work of five different artists all working in the same space, with the same subject, at the same time. All five; Lisa Sewards, Trudy Rice, Roz Rogers, Sue Picot, and Bern Olle present  a unique interpretation of the natural landscape of Mt Zero, and all present a place of beauty – sometimes rich, sometimes sparse, and always inviting.

If you’ve a spare half-an-hour, I’d really suggest popping by – you might also like to check out the studio’s printing facilities, which are for hire to artists.  All works in the show are for sale, and very affordable. The show is on until 22 May 2011.

Art by: Bern Olle

Reading Update
A little less highbrow, but certainly no less rich with talent, I’m reading Birmingham’s Weapons of Choice at the moment.  It’s very different to the novels I usually read, but I’m surprised by how easy I’m finding it to get into – very enjoyable so far.

Further, because Weapons of Choice is such a big book, I’ve also got a travelling-read too (my handbag is big, but it’s not that big).  When I’m on the go, I’m reading Malinche, by Laura Esquivel. Two quite contrasting reads.

Keep an eye out for a review of both in the not too distant future.

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A little bit of luck, with a dash of guilt

I’ve got to admit…I feel a little bit dirty, at the very least, a little bit cheap.

I gave in to temptation today and went and had a look at one of those book clearance places, not really expecting to find myself anything of much interest. To my surprise, I walked out with a large armful of novels.

Most of these titles are a few years old now but I’ve not read any of them, so I’m happy to add them to the collection pretty cheaply.  I’m especially excited about Laura Esquivel’s novel (kisses and hugs in store I’m sure)  and the preface to Alex Garland’s Coma is pretty frightening. Overall, I think this is a pretty eclectic mix of titles, but I’m looking forward to each one.

Anyone want to pick which one I should read first?

Way back when?

Oh, the hoops you have to jump through just to get five minutes writing time. Work on this, project that, pick up this, clean up that. Lordy me…

Is it any wonder then that from time to time a gal retrospects on simpler (?), happier (?) times?

Hence my delving back into the pre-kid, pre-career, pre-thirty something days of 90s share-housing, with all its wild characters and foul odours.  And how better to get there than via John Birmingham’s He Died with a Felafel in his Hand. For those who’ve not picked this one up (or who have forgotten reading it, in a bucket-bong haze) John’s novel recalls a range of houses, housemates and various misadventures when sharing-housing in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. It is darkly funny and very entertaining.

I’ve got to admit I’d forgotten a lot my own stories about hairy house-matery (my own and others) and this collection of tales is a hilarious reminder.  If like me, you’ve let those trainee pharmacists, gamers, market-researchers, English-language students, and guitarists slip your mind – this will bring it all flooding back.

One of the most intriguing things about this book is that although the various characters; the goths, the junkies, the writers – are of course fascinating, it’s the accessories to the tales that resonate the most with me; the pets, the food and the furniture.  Share-house cats bring to mind my first time out of home, living in a house full of kittens and everything covered in fur and cat poo (i.e. not so keen on the kitty now). The repeated ‘theme’ of fish fingers and meat pies seems fitting, as let’s face it, we’d have all starved without the ready availability of this kind of fare. I myself survived on scrambled eggs for six months. Even the title of the book reminds me of many a night spent wandering (weaving?) up and down Chapel Street deliberately passing by the felafal store a few extra times to cop the free samples being handed out by some poor minimum-wager.

And who’d think mention of the old brown couch would bring back such a cascade of memories?  My own couch was brown, and was ingeniously held up with milk-crates and phonebooks.  This was only topped by my on-floor mattress, hand-me-down fridge with no freezer door, and my op-shop cooking pot (yes, singular).

So, John, thanks…Felafel gave me cause to remember all those crazy chicks, dirty boys, kitty-cats and crappy food. Fondly. It also highlighted quite nicely just how much more comfortable my new corner lounge suite is, and how nice my current housemates are (a husband, two boy-kids and a dog)… even if they do still leave dirty socks pretty much everywhere.

Look what I got!

Another nice second-hand book find – I’m on a roll. This time I came across some lovely things at a local garage sale, a very big fluke as I tend not to go near garage sales and the like, they’re not so good for my home de-clutter projects.

At least today I was a little sensible and left another half a dozen titles behind me, casual books that I would have quite happily taken home with me.

I’ve not read any of these Roald Dahl books, so I’m very pleased to have them in the collection.  And, I’m thrilled by the editions, the covers are classic.

Also picked up The Great Shark Hunt, by Hunter S. Thompson for a song, not to mention a near-new copy of The Tasmanian Babes Fiasco, by John Birmingham…a nice coincidence given that I finished my re-read of Falafel just a couple of days ago.  Nice how things go sometimes.

Tell me a story?

Last Friday I managed to get out of the house (no small task) and into the Melbourne Town Hall.  At this most impressive of venues, amongst many people (some very like me, others very not) I was told a few stories…

The Gala Night of Storytelling 2011: Voices from Elsewhere, began the Wheeler Centre’s 2011 program and also marked the centre’s first birthday.  I’ve got to say, I think that the Wheeler Centre and all who sail in her, should be given a little clap – it’s a noble endeavour and very warmly received, as evidenced by the impressive crowd in attendance.

The evening itself was a rich mix of themes, places, and people.

The program began very locally, with a generous welcome and a quiet reminder of Melbourne’s sometimes dubious history.

And then came Mem Fox.  Bright yellow jacket and a shock of red hair, a delight. In a tone typical of her picture-book storytelling she told a tale that had goosebumps up and down my arms, the hairs on the back of my neck standing straight up and cold chills running down my spine.  The contrast of tone and content was quite unsettling.  Her story, of a family, was short and powerful. When she finished, the audience was more than a little rattled.

Yannick Haenal was next, and was earnest.  He delivered in French, and I caught myself closing my eyes while he told his story and listening in much the same way as I’ve done in the past at concerts.  The French language is just a little bit musical.  I didn’t understand very much (it’s been a while since High School French), but I could sense that it was a serious story, and its translation proved this to be the case.

What, no smoke-bomb?

Next up was John Birmingham, more familiar in content and style.  The story that he told, with its martial arts theme was humorous, as you might expect, but was just as earnest in its own particular way.  I certainly found myself buying into the idea that his friend’s commitment to a discipline, and his ability to follow his own intuition was what allowed this story its happy-ending.

The next two writers, Abha Dawesar and Murong Xuecun told us stories which had lovely magical twists.  Murong’s ironic set-up was compelling, and it was great to watch him watching us as his story was translated.  He seemed to take great delight in the fact that we were laughing in the right places.

Sonya Harnett, like John, told a story that I could latch onto very quickly.  She chose a story about her Mother, and her Mother’s nursing textbooks.  My Mum was also a nurse, and I still have the little pocket-sized nursing guide that I was so fascinated with as a kid.  I knew exactly what Sonya meant when she described the fact that she couldn’t quite reconcile the grotesque of the texts with her care-giving Mum.

Dagma Leupold‘s recollection of a dream was quite lovely, and I thought her slight detachment from the room was quite fitting given the subject of the story.

Nam Le was both insightful and hilarious.  Much like Sonya’s story, he managed to capture what it is to expect one thing, and get quite another thing entirely.  A funny guy, he summed up nicely why it is so important not to act on assumptions, but also exactly why we are so inclined to do just that.

And then there was Archie Roach.  I could have listened to Archie for a whole extra hour, but alas, only one song.  It was a fabulous way to finish the evening.

I was really fascinated to see how this type of program came together, and I really was impressed by how well this format showcased the writers’ work, their influences and their backgrounds.

To finish, can I just say that if you have a chance to get to any of the Wheeler Centre events – please do.  A pure indulgence in some fine writing and new ideas. Their program for the first bit of 2011 can be found here…

Oodlies of fun.

Despite it being a little on the wet side, and the plumbing in my house sounding like Linda Blair, I managed to run a few errands yesterday. The most exciting of these errands was a quick stop at the picture-framing place to pick up my newly framed print.

The print, Josie and the Electric Cats, was a gift from my friend Fiona. It’s part of the Electric Orange Series by Joi Murugavell and it’s going to look great above my desk.

It is whimsical and it’s enticing in its repetitions and controlled use of colour.

As a gift, it’s intended to inspire, and I’ll remember that when I look at it. It’ll be a bit of a touchstone, and perhaps at times a little pictorial kick in the bum to just get on with it.

If you like the look of this work, I’d suggest checking out the rest of the collection. I particularly like Duchamp’s Hole Boy.

An update on my homework…

The other errand that I ticked off yesterday was a quick trip to the library and I got my hands on a couple more books that I want to have a look at before next week. I must say, before I go on, that I am usually very much a one-book-at-a-time kinda girl.  I take my time getting through a book, and I usually try and finish one before moving on to another. In saying this, I am at the moment trying to mix it up a bit (in a bookish kind of way) plus I’m keen to have had a look at some titles by Hartnett, Birmingham and Mem Fox.

So, I spent the evening reading He Died with a Falafel in His Hand, by John Birmingham.  Laughing out loud, and feeling just a little bit old as Birmingham so roughly and poignantly describes student life in the 1990s.  I’ve got a copy of After America, also by Birmingham to take a look at today.

Got a way into Hartnett’s Of a Boy on Friday.  Interesting story, not quite so sold on the writing itself…but I’ll come back to that when I’ve finished the book. I reserve the right to change my mind.

Lastly, selected three Mem Fox books for Oscar and I and the one I chose to read tonight was quite a hit, Hello Baby went down a treat.

So, busy busy, better not forget to use my reading glasses or my head’ll be sore…

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