Subtlety

Subtlety.
It is like elocution and good posture; the makings of elegance.
And something I’m yet to attain.

A friend suggested we set ourselves the challenge of remaking some lamps, with the help of this blogger.

My previous attempts at restoring furniture have been about loud patterns.

Clash and colour.
This time I was aiming for elegance.

The project did not help my elocution. Especially not when I started dismantling the original lamp shade and years of Grandma’s ciggie smoke came crusting all over me. Eughhh.

It did nothing for my posture. But to be fair, I did nothing for its either. Other than drop it. So now it stands a little wonky.

But subtlety. It helped me appreciate subtlety. Understated and delicately complex.
And also helped me happily appreciate that I’m really not either of those things.

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Dear Fatty

Do you remember the first time you got to the end of the Harry Potter series?
Or that time you finished all 10 seasons of FRIENDS in only approximately 7 hours and 23 minutes? Do you remember that strange mix of nostalgia and grieving you get when you realise there are no more moments to share with the characters you’ve really, truly become quite good friends with, actually.
I had that feeling finishing Dear Fatty.

Dear Fatty is Dawn French’s own brand of memoir. It is structured as a series of letters, addressed to people who have been significant in her life.
Naturally, the first letter is addressed to me.  You can download it here.

I borrowed the audiobook during the pledge because I was craving The Vicar of Dibley.
It was sensational!
I laughed.
A lot.
I also cried at times.
But mostly I listened and listened and listened, incorporating it into as much of my life as I could.

French is a fantastic writer, with her conversational style probably at its best being listened to. Essence of French Fantastic emanates from every sentence.
While much of the book is thoroughly fun, French’s controlled writing also allows her to speak honestly on topics on which platitudes are expected. With the articulation of a seasoned comedienne, she writes with equal candor on curtsying, sneaking, snogging, remembering, body image, death and love.

I felt so sad and nostalgic after finishing listening to Dear Fatty that I got my hands on a copy of the printed version to help the mourning process.
Joy of Joys!
The recording was abridged! I still had a book full of pockets of new Dawn French memories to enjoy! So I read it cover to cover.

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Thieving

Melbourne’s winter has been sunny and bitingly cold.
The other day my husband and I went for a walk.

When I was a kid and it was sunny, I went walking.
Walking through paddocks, walking in bush, walking on the beach.
Even better than walking was riding my bike.
Absolute bliss was riding a horse.

I have a memory, from somewhere between 10 and 12, that includes each of these elements.
There was walking, biking and horsing.
And thieving.

The memory involves myself and two friends; lets call them Beth and Maya.
One sunny day, Beth and I rode to Maya’s house.
The ride to Maya’s house was quite a journey.
Steep hills of sandy gravel to be flung down.
Actual intersections to navigate.
And the last, monotonous stretch of corrugated road to rattle down.
We were committed to the journey because of what was at the end.
Ponyboy and Sexy Boy.

Ponyboy lived on Maya’s road.
He was scruffy with brown hair that was always falling over his eyes.
He was a Shetland pony. We named him ‘Ponyboy’ in honour of S.E.Hinton’s character in The Outsiders.
Sexy Boy was a dappled grey Arabian horse who lived in the same paddock.
We called him ‘Sexy Boy’ because compared to Ponyboy, he was.
We were balmy for horses and would spend hours standing at their fence.
We would click and offer handfuls of grass.
We stared longingly and then quickly averted our eyes when we had their attention, taking the submissive stance necessary for an introduction to a horse.

This time, the standing, clicking, offering and staring was not enough.
We decided that we really should climb into the paddock so that we could pat them.
‘It’s not bad,’ we reasoned with ourselves, ‘It’s not like we’re stealing or anything.’

We had a great time.
We patted them until our hands were caked with dust.
We plaited their manes.
We took turns trying to heave one another onto the back of Sexyboy for a ride.

But eventually we felt the patting, plaiting and heaving was just not enough.
We decided that we really should have a proper ride, complete with all the tack.
‘If we ask very nicely,’ we steeled ourselves, ‘and maybe mention how many Pony Pals books Maya has, the owners will definitely want us to ride their horses.’

We walked down the long driveway practicing our scripted request. It demonstrated our perfect manners.
Alas, the owners were not home. We knocked on the door three times and pressed our faces up against each window just to be sure.
How disappointing.

After all our practicing, knocking and pressing we could not just give up.
‘If we happen to find the saddle and bridle, and only ride them in their paddock,’ we hypothesised, ‘it wouldn’t really be stealing. We wouldn’t be taking anything, just rearranging.’

We found a shed that looked perfect for happening upon horse riding gear. There were barrels of grain and hay bales galore. Very promising. I noticed a fridge in the corner of the shed. In the name of being thorough, I decided to check the fridge.
The most splendid sight met my eyes.
Row upon row, stack upon stack, of beer.
The repeated pattern of green and red made quite a visual impact.
My two friends came to stand with me in awe.

‘If we nick one,’ we schemed, ‘they probably wouldn’t notice.’
And so we thieved.
Quick sticks, I grabbed a can. Like lightning, we fled the vacant property up the driveway. We pummeled our bike pedals up the road in search of a hideout.

Squashed between two rows of hay bales, we shared out booty.
One third of a can of froth each, and what lager hadn’t been transformed from our get away.
I’d seen the ad.
Apparently, you can get it horsing.

After that little episode I got back on the straight-and-narrow.
No more thieving while out and about.
That was my motto.

And then the other day I inadvertently broke it. I was having a little jog and had to jump over a pile of rubbish, spilling over the pavement. An office chair in bits, cardboard flying about and a pretty tile. I rescued the tile and carried on my merry way.

It was only later that I looked at the back of the tile and realised I must have pilfered someone’s attempt at a roadside stall. Oh dear.

Melbourne’s winter has been sunny and bitingly cold.
The other day my husband and I went for a walk.
While walking I found this tile sitting on the side of the road.

It was amongst a pile of broken bathroom tiles and garden cuttings.
I recited my motto.
I asked my conscience and my husband.
It was cleared as a freebie find. Not thieving.
Phew.

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Julie and Julia

On the night that it was announced that Nora Ephron had passed away I finished listening to my first audio book.
Nora Ephron
was a writer and film maker.
If you have ever sat at home on a Friday night watching whatever movie is on TV,
there is 99% chance you have experienced her work.
She created ‘Sleepless in Seattle.’

The last movie she made was Julie and Julia.

After the pledge, I had been listening to a recording of the book that the movie is based upon.
The book is read by the author, Julie Powell.
In 2002, Julie Powell set herself the challenge of cooking the 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. As the cooked, she blogged.  This blog turned into a book deal and that turned into Julie and Julia: My year of cooking dangerously.

Julie Powell

The Good
Much of the book consists of descriptions of preparing food, glorious food.
There is something very satisfying about taking part in this process, even just as a spectator. Especially when it involves so much butter.

The book is roughly structured as a series of reflections, inspired by what Powell is cooking.  Having extracted marrow from a bone, Powell considers the “essence of life”.  Cooking potato and leek soup shapes her understanding of the difference between simple and easy. These connections between food and life are sometimes a little laboured, but are written with the quirkiness that accompanies honesty.

The Bad
Powell’s writing has a tendency to be self-indulgent.
There are many tangents to the narrative, concerning how comfortable her shoes are or giving the background on where her underwear came from.
Riveting.

The Ugly
The constant swearing is a little tiresome.
Powell shouts swear words.
She sobs swear words.
She hisses swear words through clenched teeth.
I feel that if any of us really wanted to listen to someone emotionally cuss at us, we could make that happen.
It’s nothing something I look for in an audiobook.

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Smashing

I’m sure you’ll have been in a café at some time and heard a glass smash.
People reflexively crane over their shoulders, as if expecting a life-threatening situation. The more collected lean back and call something smug like “Taxi!”

I know these responses well.
I have heard the smashing and more often been the smasher.
In my time I have worked in two cafés and smashed many, stacks, trayfuls of glasses.
And always the responses are along the above lines. It is pretty embarrassing.

There was a preppy-dressed golf instructor swanning about the first time my husband took me to a Driving Range. Three times I belted a ball into a side pole, causing it to *PINGGGG* off into the rough on a 30 degree angle. The golf instructor made some comment likening this to a smashing incident in a café.
He knew that I was a smasher.

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But then I realised there was very little chance he had been in South Gippsland many years ago, drinking coffee in one of the cafés I blundered about in, smashing things to save up money to go to Uni.
More likely, he had good-naturedly assumed I wasn’t a smasher. He was trying to make me feel ok about the *PINGGGG* X3 thing. He was suggesting that this type of thing happens all the time.

And I wasn’t embarrassed. Not even for a second.
Possibly even without the good-natured, preppy-dressed golf instructor’s comments I wouldn’t have been embarrassed. I wouldn’t have wanted to waste the time.

I had just spent a semester huddled over a desk. It felt really good swinging a big stick around. It was really satisfying smashing a seemingly endless pile of little balls into a green field. The sun was out, the clouds were pretty and I was with my husband, smashing things in a productive way.

Smashing.

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Bagel

Lately I finished listening to the audio book of Julie & Julia.
It is about a Texan living in New York learning to cook French Food from a book written by a Californian living in Paris.

It has really confused my appetite.

I’ve been snacking on jalapeños from the jar.

We ate lamb with cauliflower and potato bake with a side of sprouts and beans.
It felt French because butter, sour cream and cheese were all seriously involved.
I also baked bagels.

The process was a very memorable one.
It reminded me of beer. [1]
It reminded me of the bible. [2]
It reminded me of baking with our babysitter.

I used this this recipe.
The bagels turned out ugly and a bit too golden and oh so delicious.

1. I knew that the end result of baking smelt good but had no idea about the mid-process bonus! The yeast-sugar mixture smells delicious!

2. I have been reading through 1 Corinthians with a friend and remembered how yeast is a tactile reminder of God saving people in chapter 5. I like tactile reminders.

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Time

The first hour that I learned to read from an analog clock was six o’clock.
It had a competitive edge over 12 o’clock for the following reason.
My older sister had a pink woollen jumper with a smiling clock on the front. The poor guy had different length arms that sprang from his nose, the shorter always pointing straight down, the longer straight up. Significantly, I noticed that the less smiley clock on the wall struck a similar pose when The Simpsons came on.

The Simpsons provided incentive for me to learn to tell the time.
It was during this episode of The Simpsons that I learned what “sarcastic” means.
The Simpsons also taught me that one way to tell a story is to start completely off topic, and then transition into the key story.

So I’m sharing how I learned to tell the time to say that I’ve given up TV for a month.

I like TV.
It has taught me many a thing.
However I started this blog to help motivate me to be more creative with how I spend my time during university breaks. I feel taking a break from TV is another way I can do this.

I was a little nervous about my pledge. It was to be enacted the first Monday of my holidays. The Sunday night before, we watched Hot Fuzz. Butterman teaches Angel that one of the best ways to unwind is to zone out to a double feature of action. “So true” I thought and hoped I’d have the self-control to see it through.

I shamefully shrewdly waited until now to make the pledge public.
One week down!
Three more to go.
Expect some posts on what I’ve been up to, instead of watching TV.

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