crazyjane: (eclipse)
After being very, very low for the last few weeks, I finally got to see my shrink today. It was a bloody awful experience; I felt like I was letting him down by saying that the medication cocktail I'm currently taking has stopped working. Or rather, it keeps me from cycling up into a manic state, but does nothing to deal with the depression. And I had to tell him that, and felt bad about it. How stupid.

He's decided to put me back on Zoloft, even though it caused a manic episode way back when - in fact, that's how I first got diagnosed as bipolar, when he prescribed Zoloft for the depression. He's pretty sure that the mood stabilisers I also take will counter the tendency to switch up.

Although I almost want to switch up. I can't stand the crushing weight that goes with being in such a bad down cycle, and it doesn't help to be told that it'll end, or that a bit of sunshine or 'doing something nice for myself' will do me good.

I have to wonder, though. What if it's not the meds that are wrong? What if it's me?
crazyjane: (moondark)
When I started blogging about Australian politics, I did so with the aim of helping make it more accessible to those of us outside the rarefied atmosphere of Canberra. My secondary objective was to try to convey the idea that we, as citizens and voters, are not powerless; that we can have an active place in the social and political issues of the day that extend beyond ticking a few boxes on a ballot paper.

I can't claim that I succeeded, by a long shot. It would be good to think that I had some influence that led to others speaking up, acting on the courage of their convictions, but honestly, it's not something I will ever know. That's not really the point, though. I didn't do it to score brownie points (or karma points, or what have you).

For a while, though, I thought there was something happening. People would contact me saying that they had always 'switched off' before when it came to politics, but were now following the issues, discussing and acting. Others commented that they were making an effort to understand what was going on. I'd call that a victory.

But.

It's simplistic to lay it all at the feet of a change of government. The fact is that the majority of Australians voted for the Liberal/National Coalition to take over, and the only way I can explain that is to think that either they wanted to punish the ALP for something, or that they swallowed what was - to me, at least - a transparent scare campaign full of lies. Otherwise, I simply can't fathom why allegedly reasonable people would vote themselves into a situation where low income earners are targeted to come under even more financial stress, where our greenhouse gas emissions skyrocket and contribute to even faster climate change, where we are complicit in the horrendous treatment of people who seek asylum from us. The list goes on - but what matters is that the vote did swing that way, and this is the government we have.

I could write about that. I could marshal my words, cite my sources, invite interviews and examine and analyse and criticise. I'd lose whatever objectivity I strove for, but sometimes objectivity is not all it's cracked up to be. To paraphrase Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom, there aren't always two sides to every story - and I don't think I could even pretend there is in any case.

What's so different this time around?

Part of the answer lies in my mental health problems, and I've written about those before. There's just too much that I need to deal with. It's not the whole story, though. The rest lies in the government itself. When I sit back and look at how this government conducts its business, all I can see is a political coalition revelling in its staggering majority and running roughshod over principles, rules and even the most basically decent behaviour. Like any ungracious and insecure winner, they gloat and change the rules to ensure no one can ever knock them off their pedestals - or even get near.

It was a tradition of Parliament that an Opposition could move to suspend the normal business of the House to bring on a debate and vote of importance, such as a censure. Certainly, when the ALP was in power, the Coalition availed themselves of that power on a daily basis - sometimes even several times a day. As soon as they were elected, however, they used their majority to remove that ability altogether. There is now no way the House of Representatives can bring a censure motion, or any other motion that the government doesn't want. They can silence any voice in that chamber. Any voice.

The President of the Senate, John Hogg, is a tiger more toothless than the United Nations. He drones, 'Order! Order!', and - very occasionally - directs a government Senator to actually put some relevance into their answer. As he notes himself, however, he can't actually force that Senator to comply - and the government is not slow to take advantage of that. Government Senators will happily ignore any directive from the President, to the point where they'll shout him down as he's trying to make a ruling.

As for Bronwyn Bishop, the Speaker of the House - it's an understatement to say she is a partisan hack who clearly enjoys her position of power. She bestows fond smiles on the Prime Minister and his front bench, saving her most delighted expressions for those times when the government either completely ignores the rules of the House, or when she can stymie any voice that might dare to lift itself in opposition. She loves point scoring, and will happily receive the fawning praise of Education Minister Chris Pyne. When he shouts abuse at Tanya Plibersek, Bishop nods and smiles. When Plibersek mutters under her breath, Bishop scolds her and throws her out, and Pyne shouts threats after her - threats that Bishop backs up approvingly, saying, 'Indeed'.

This is the Speaker who, in an interview, smugly declared that she'd 'brought decorum back into the House'.

There's no decorum. There's no democracy, no 'for the people, by the people'. Sure, the government has a majority - but they're using that majority to silence any dissenting voice. Don't like 'em? Gag 'em. Don't want to deal with them any further? Throw them out, on the slightest provocation. They've taken Question Time to new levels of absurdity, substituting reading from press releases and abuse for substantive answers. (And yes, I know all governments attempt to be obscure, but this government is worse even than Paul Keating's.)

This should be familiar to anyone who ever inhabited a school playground, or watched their own kids at school. It's bullying. The confidence of Chris Pyne is the confidence of a weak kid who knows he's got tough mates. He's the kid who pulls the girls' ponytails, and then runs to the bigger kid - Abbott - who's urging him on. And when his favourite teacher (Bishop) happens to be on Yard Duty, he can get away with murder.

It goes on. Day after day after day. If it's not the systematic dismantling of virtually every social reform of the last six years, it's doing everything possible to ensure that only one message goes out, only one voice is heard. Criticism of the military is virtually banned, while Parliamentary privilege is abused and blatant lies are told about everything from upcoming government policy to the personal characters of Labor, Greens and Independent MPs and Senators. In the midst of all this, the government declares itself the champion of free speech and truth. Just today the Attorney-General George Brandis stood with figurative hand on heart to righteously condemn those who would not allow notorious hard-right columnist, serial defamer and noted racist Andrew Bolt to say whatever he wanted to say about whoever he liked. For Brandis, the mere thought that Bolt might have to temper his words and refrain from defaming an indigenous person was truly horrifying. Of course, that doesn't apply to anyone who doesn't agree with the government. Such people are simply not allowed to even insinuate that a government Minister might be abusing his position.

While all the posturing and bullying goes on, there's so much pointless, ridiculous noise. Rather than expending energy building our society up, the government divides, silences and punishes. Yes, punishes. What else can you call it when someone whose only 'crime' is to be in a low-paying job has the payment that helps them buy their kids school textbooks is removed in favour of paying hundreds of millions of dollars to corporations in profit? When a woman in a low income job has her superannuation contribution axed, while a woman earning $150,000 a year is given a massive parental leave payment and government paid super?

And then the government appears puzzled by the idea that people might take to the streets to protest. 'What's their message?' 'What are they after, anyway?' 'Oh, it's a disaffected minority, the loony Left'. No - 50,000 people in one city, over 100,000 around the country, all marching together, all gathering under banners protesting this government's behaviour - that isn't a 'disaffected minority'. It's a cry for help from people who cannot otherwise be heard. They literally have to stop traffic to get the attention of those in power, and even then they're laughed at and dismissed.

This is not democracy.

This is not the country I've loved.

This is not the country I want my children to inherit.

I want my children to inherit a country in which dissent is not only permitted, it is expected. I want them to live in a society that understands what social justice means, that believes the first duty of a government is to its people, not to its bank balance.

I do not know if I have the strength, anymore, to fight. I do not know where, or even if that strength can still be found.

I only know that my children deserve far better than this - and so, don't I owe it to them to try?
crazyjane: (eclipse)
There are days when I think the worst thing about being bipolar is the medication regime, with all the side-effects that disrupt my life almost as much as the mood swings. The sudden sedation, the fucked-up dreams, the inability to get my eyes open in the morning. That sense of being kept on the level, something I do not understand because I do not, cannot feel that way on my own.

There are days when I think it's the mania, because I feel so damned good for a while, and it's only when I start to go out of control that I realise I need to stop, right now, and I can't. The part of me that says, skip the meds and stay up all night, ride the lightning, just once.

And there are days when I think it's the way the bottom can fall out of my mood without warning, like a sugar crash, only a thousand times worse. When gravity seems to increase, and the volume turns right up, and there's something faintly frightening about everything and everyone around me. When the last thing I want is to be behind the wheel of a car or handling a knife or pouring boiling water - not because I want to hurt myself, but because of the fear that I'm not safe.
crazyjane: (Default)
I went to see my orthopaedic surgeon today, nominally about my tennis elbow (ridiculous bloody name). It was inevitable that my arthritis would come up in conversation, though. It went something like this:


Him: So how are the knees?

Me: They suck. A lot.

Him: I thought so. Ready for that knee replacement yet?

Me: Soon.

Him: Okay. Let me know when. Now, about your elbow ... go away and take some over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. Anything else is stupid.

Me: Cortisone injections?

Him: Hurt like hell, and probably won't help. Same with surgery. Don't worry, it will go away. But it'll probably come back. Mine does whenever I do a hip replacement - it's all that work with a hammer.

Me: You're not inspiring me.

Him: Not my job.

Me: I'd say thanks, but ...

Him: See you next time.


We have a ... blunt relationship. Much like the instruments used to, oh, replace knees and hips.

I like him.
crazyjane: (moondark)
It's been almost two years to the day since I had my left knee arthroscoped. Not that I was aware of the precise date, but I found out when I went back to the orthopaedic surgeon yesterday. Something deeply amusing about that, in a not-at-all-funny kind of way.

The surgeon immediately sent me for an x-ray, and told me to bring it straight back. Things inside that knee were, if possible, even worse. There's no joint space at all on either side between the femur and the tibia, and marked narrowing of the space behind the patella. In other words, the knee is totally fucked. Not that I needed to be told that, but there's a cold sort of comfort in having it recognised.

After pointing out the salient details, he said bluntly, 'The only operation I'm prepared to discuss with you is a total knee replacement'. That was a surprise; I'd been expecting him to suggest another arthroscopy, to delay the replacement until I was older. Apparently, though, there's just no point; it would simply be a waste of money and an unnecessary risk.

Okay, so knee replacement. I'd always known it would come to this. But ... then he told me the risk factors.

Leaving aside the usual risks from a major operation - respiratory infection, wound infection (including deep wound infection), adverse reaction to anaesthetic - there are some specific possible complications. Knee replacements have a 1 in 100 failure rate. If a really deep wound infection sets in, 1 in 1000 need to have the implant removed and live without a knee for six months (wearing a brace and unable to bend the leg), then undergo an operation of up to six hours to try again. Assuming the infection is cured, which isn't a given when you're talking about bone operations.

And the happy news is that all of these risks are doubled in my case. My weight can cause pressure on the chest, increasing the possibility of a respiratory infection. The amount of fat on my leg means greater 'excavation' (don't you just love that word?), so higher possibility of infection there. And the fact I can neither fully flex nor extend the leg makes it harder to get at the tibia.

Oh, and there's always the possibility of even worse consequences.

(Oh, just by the way? The operation itself is incredibly gruesome. My leg would be sliced open down the front, the various layers of fat and muscle released' and retracted, and a metal cup fitted over the end of the femur - held on with screws. Then the tibia would be bent forward until the end protruded well clear of the rest of the leg, a hole drilled down into the end, and a metal cup with some kind of removable, shock-absorbing pad screwed in and secured. Everything would be shoved back in place, drains inserted, and the leg would be sewed up. Ugh. So, yeah, you can see how it would be more difficult to do all of that with a large amount of fat and muscle in the way.)

Naturally, I am less than calm about this. In fact, it would be fair to say I'm fucking terrified.

In order to try to mitigate some of the risks, the surgeon's referred me to a physio for some 'pre-habilitation'. (wince - what a word) The idea is to improve my flexibility, and to build up muscle stamina in both legs, especially my quadriceps. So, I trotted along for an evaluation today.

I came away with a list of twice-daily exercises, an appointment to be assessed for hydrotherapy next week, the threat of gym work to come, a recommendation that I have a knee brace made, and an urgent need for painkillers and warmth. At this stage, I don't know how long this 'pre-hab' is going to take, but the physio seems confident he can get my knee to a point where the flexibility, at least, is no longer a major risk factor.

Other risks are less easy to mitigate. Losing weight is fucking difficult when I can't do any form of cardio exercise, and there's only so far I can cut down my eating before my body decides I'm starving and starts laying down fat as a defensive measure (contrary to popular fucking opinion and shithead reality TV/advertising claims). Add to that the tendency to weight gain as a result of my bipolar meds ...

The surgeon, at least, recognises this. Back in 2011 he told me that losing even 10 kilos would make a big difference. Well, I did that. I don't expect to lose much more quickly. He's willing to do the op, as long as I'm aware of the dangers. That's somewhat reassuring - he definitely wouldn't do it if he thought the risks were too high.

And honestly, 2% failure rate, or 2 in 1000 isn't very high. I keep telling myself that to balance my inner hysteric. Not that this will stop me freaking out while I make out my will, and living will. (And even the thought of that is frightening.)

I haven't fully committed to the idea of the replacement op, but realistically, it's either that or end up in a fucking wheelchair. And that I won't do. It's bad enough having to borrow mobility scooters, or ruling out having dinner at any upstairs restaurant, or even go to a market or festival with my family. I won't spend the rest of my life being left behind and disappointing them.



Update:

I started the physio regime last night. You know how medicos ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 1-10? Well, in the words of the immortal Spinal Tap, 'this one goes to 11'. In a word - excruciating. Have to keep telling myself it's worth it.
crazyjane: (Default)
You wouldn't know it to look at me.

These things don't show on the outside - well, for the most part, and it's easy to cover up the rest. That's the thing about mental illness. It's not like a broken leg, or a knife wound, clearly visible and recognisable - although it can be just as disabling. Everything goes wrong on the inside, and what others see is too easily mistaken as just not being tough enough to get on with life like everyone else does.

We don't talk about mental illness. We portray it in movies as either wacky (like in the recent Toni Collette film Mental) or spooky-dangerous (just about every serial killer movie ever made). On TV, characters who suffer it are condemned for being weak and drug-addicted. Our friends tell us to 'get over it', 'get out in the sun', 'go have a shower, you'll feel better'. And our families don't tell anyone anything at all.

Is it any wonder mental illness still carries such a stigma? Even with all the good work that's been done to change the culture surrounding it, being 'crazy' is still a taboo subject. If you are mad, the last thing you do is admit to it. You make excuses. You're tired. You're busy. You're coming down with a cold. You take your medication secretly so that you don't have to explain what all those pills are supposed to do. Or maybe you don't seek help at all.

I'm as guilty as anyone. I've hidden my illness for a long time. Some of my friends knew part of it, but only those who are closest to me know the whole story. Why have I kept it from people? Because I'm afraid they'll judge me. That they'll start to distance themselves - or worse, become hyper-aware of what they say and treat me like something delicate. Most of all, I'm afraid that they'll stop seeing me, and only see my illness in everything I do. And so I perpetuate the wall of silence and the stigma.

Today's World Mental Health Day. It's time for me to stop hiding.

In January this year I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I. It used to be called 'manic depression', which is a far more descriptive name. The diagnosis was a total shock. For decades I'd been told that I had recurrent depression. That was easy to believe; at my lowest, I'm virtually unable to get up in the morning, let alone take care of myself. My thoughts are muddy and clogged with self-loathing, only made worse by the fact that I'm lying in bed instead of getting up to do housework or get the kids off to school. If I were a 'good' person, I wouldn't do this, I'm selfish, lazy, etc. My eyes leak tears at the slightest provocation - and sometimes for no reason at all.

There's a grey veil which seems to descend at such times, cutting me off from the world. I disappear from everyone, both online and in real life. I can't write, I can't cook or clean, and even the thought of taking a shower seems like an insurmountable obstacle.

But mania? Me?

Then I realised. I'd never sought help in those times when my mood was soaring sky-high, because I felt so damned good. I can stay up all night, writing and blogging, making plans and starting projects. My thoughts race so fast it feels like lightning slamming around in my brain. Sleep? What a waste of time. There are books to read, things to do.

And I can do anything in these times - literally, anything. I can solve the world's problems. I just 'know' what to do. It's all so simple, why can't other people see it? I must be the smartest person around. If only others would recognise that. I don't need a law degree, or any other for that matter. Why should I be discriminated against, when I'm so clearly the best person for the job (whatever job that is)?

Of course, it gets too high. Grandiose thoughts spin out of control. Nervous energy makes me want to fly apart - and, being partly disabled, I can't go running or walking to burn that off. Voices and ideas start colliding in my head, and what comes out on the screen or on paper is less and less coherent. I talk for hours at high speed, and just try to follow me from subject to subject. It all makes sense to me.

And then I crash.

Oh, there are periods of relative stability, but they never last long enough for me to be certain that this is 'normal'. Maybe I don't have 'normal'; maybe I'm just permanently shifting and trying to keep my balance on an unsteady platform, and there's no still point.

So, if there are long periods when I'm silent, it's not because I'm ignoring anyone or running away. And if I bombard the internet with tweets and blogs, talk faster and faster, interrupt and flit from subject to subject, it's not because I'm being rude. I have the help of a great psychiatrist. Medication is finally starting to work. But it takes time - and there's no complete cure.

Why am I disclosing this all now? Honestly, World Mental Health Day is an excuse. This is something I should have done months ago. I let fear and shame rule me - and by doing so, I contributed to the stigma, the idea that says mental illness is something that shouldn't be talked about.

Maybe, by telling my story, someone who's been hiding may be encouraged to seek help. Maybe someone else will understand a little more about one small aspect of mental illness.

And maybe someone will start to stand up and say to those who stigmatise and shun sufferers, 'Hey. This is not okay'.







Postcript:

If you, or someone you know, is in need of help, please reach out. This list, while not exhaustive, may be of assistance. In an emergency, call 000.


Beyond Blue - or call 1300 22 4636.

Black Dog Institute.

Lifeline - or call 13 11 14.

Headspace - youth with mental health concerns.

Mindhealthconnect.
crazyjane: (Default)
It's said that no plan survives contact with the real world. Well, it's certainly true in this case. Ours started to go wrong about the time we went back for a seconds at the breakfast buffet. Mind you, the breakfast was rather wonderful - eggs, sausages, spaghetti, baked beans, tomatoes, toast, spreads and truly stupendous amounts of bacon. (This place bids fair to become the perfect resort. All it needs is similar amounts of chocolate.) So we could hardly be blamed for wanting to sample more of the breakfast offerings.

It was just unfortunate that this happened to coincide with the resort managers running another of their little 'get-to-know-you' sessions. This time it was breakfast trivia. I ask you. Trivia at breakfast time? Before most people had successfully metabolised their first coffee? Surely there's a law against that somewhere.

Team CrazyJane didn't exactly cover itself in glory with that competition -but we were one of the few who managed to penetrate the morning brain-haze far enough to remember that bananas were a herb. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is a lot more interesting than knowing that a hen is capable of laying an egg every 24 hours. This was not a view shared by the rest of the players, though, and we ended up in the middle of the pack.

Now behind time, and without even the compensation of chocolate bars to make up for it, we rushed to get ready for the day's trip. To our credit, we were organised fairly quickly. Of course, this also meant that we left behind half of what we'd planned to take. The fishing rods were in the car already, but the tackle box stayed in the unit. The girls' flip-flops were grabbed, but the swimsuits were left on the drying rack. Water bottles ... you get the idea. Honestly, I'm surprised we got out of there with the car keys.

So. Off to Queenscliff. Which proved more difficult than we'd expected. After a few tussles with the touring map, we did find it, though. Our first stop was the lookout near Fortress Queenscliff, where there are a series of plaques commemmorating ships that took part in World War II, and which were lost. That was unbelievably sobering. The number of merchant navy ships torpedoed and sunk was much larger than those from the Royal Australian Navy. Given Wuff's family, on both sides, served in the merchant navy, that gave us an unpleasant chill.

We read about the loss of the Canberra, the Sydney, the Vampire ... all sent to the bottom, with an incredible loss of life. We read about ships sunk off the north-east coast of Victoria, something that shocked the kids. They knew about the Japanese mini-subs in Sydney Harbour, but never realised that the war reached nearly to their grandparents' doorsteps. And they positively boggled over the land mine, spikes removed, that was placed at the end of the row of plaques, as Wuff explained to them how these strange steel balls could blow a hole in a ship big enough to sink it.

It's a far cry from Titanic and its associated romanticism, and Lilygirl especially found it quite difficult. The more she learns about war, and the general bastardry that comprises so much of adult life, the more she asserts her own 'awesomeness' and love for us - she virtually spits in the eye of whatever gods might be responsible for the awful things.

We took a quick drive around the town itself, goggling at the gorgeous heritage buildings, and the restored mansions now converted into bed-and-breakfasts and hotels. There were turrets, and heavy draperies, manicured gardens and stained glass windows. Through one window I caught a glimpse of an utterly gorgeous wrought-iron spiral staircase that looked as though it was fashioned out of white lace, and fell in love immediately. It seemed somehow wrong that I didn't also see Phryne Fisher descending the stairs in one of her outrageous outfits, ready to scandalise the neighbours.

Of course, the time gremlins weren't about to let go of us yet. We reached the marina, which was crowded with boats of all shapes and sizes. It was a panorama of financial extravagance - and the prices in the cafe where we stopped to grab a drink reflected that. Far be it from me to suggest that the owners were out to fleece rich boat-owners with more money than sense by wildly inflating the prices of their smoothies but ...

Since we were near the ferry dock, we decided to forego wandering around Queenscliff and head straight over to Sorrento, have lunch, and see more when we returned. So onto the ferry we strolled, and up to the passenger deck.

When I was a kid, I took a trip on that ferry. I remember it as a rather breezy experience, standing up at the bow hanging on splintering wooden rails painted a fading green. There was an enclosed area amidships, but otherwise it was open to the elements. I loved it, wintry blasts notwithstanding.

These days, it's just a bit different.

The old green ferries have been replaced by sleek, white craft with excitingly raked lines, a full cafe, drive on/off facilities for vehicles, carpeted areas with blonde wood laminate on the walls, full bathrooms with nappy change facilities ... let's face it, they're not so much ferries as mini-cruise ships. I looked for the pool deck in vain, but I'm fairly sure I heard the sounds of a karaoke room on the way back.

Which was all very luxurious, but I rather missed the old ferry. At least there you knew you were on the sea. If you sit in the lounge on the new ones, the only way you'll know where you are is if you look out the window.

After a long, long trip across the bay, we arrived in Sorrento, and I gazed with dismay at the hilly vista before me. The village wasn't far - only 400 metres or so - but it was all uphill. Steeply uphill. To save money, we hadn't taken our car on the ferry. I was regretting that within moments of disembarking.

Wuff kindly offered to scout around and see what he could bring back for us to eat in the park near the pier. That's when we realised that the time gremlins had boggled us again. In order to get back to Bellbrae in time for the kids' movie night, we'd need to catch the very next ferry - which left in 30 minutes. Wuff and the kids took off at great speed to The Baths, which boasted a fish and chippery famed in song and story (well, on a few TV travel shows, anyway).

They returned with seconds to spare before we were herded into the boarding 'lounge' (a small shack on the pier with a row of chairs possibly liberated from a medical clinic's waiting area). Then it was a case of 'hurry up and wait', which was extremely annoying, as the food was smelling wonderful and rapidly cooling. Finally we were allowed on board, and dug into our very late lunch.

I make allowances for how long we had to wait to actually eat it, but for fish and chips, it was pretty darn wonderful. The calamari rings were actually flash-fried salt and pepper calamari, the prawns were very lightly battered, and the fish was definitely fresh. The chips were a bit of a let-down, though, since they were patently the same brand as I buy for the kids at home. I mean, is it so much to ask for hand-cut chips with the skin left on? Okay, okay, maybe it is.

After lunch, we spent the rest of the trip trying to spot dolphin pods. The girls managed to glimpse one, but for the most part, I was content to sit and be soothed by the motion of the ferry. In the hour since we'd come over, it had become a little more choppy - on the old ferry, that would have had passengers hanging over the side, but on these new monstrosities, it was like being in a very large cradle with a lot of other families who are trying to keep their kids from climbing up the side of the wheelhouse.

Yeah, not the best of metaphors. But you know what I mean.

Back at Queenscliff, we retrieved the car. Sadly, we had no time to visit anything else in the town (most egregiously, in my opinion, we did not get to the Mystery Book Shop), and set off back to Bellbrae.

You wouldn't think we could get lost while retracing our steps, would you?

Eventually, we found our way back, no thanks to all the drivers who seemed to think today was a good day to drive while heavily medicated and thus unable to realise that 40 km/h is just a little slow in a 90 zone. Oh, and let's not forget the unexpected controlled burn that left great billowing clouds of thick white smoke all over the area.

After a flying stop in Torquay to grab some pizza makings for the evening, we pulled up at Bellbrae and the kids were out of the car before the wheels even stopped moving. Wuff and I staggered into the unit, and I'm fairly sure he actually managed to be asleep by the time he fell onto the bed, waking only when the girls returned with their usual stealthy-like-ninja skills (very, very loud ninjas, that is).

We're about to sit down to pizza, cooked in the unit's rather ... eccentric ... convection oven. It's something of an experiment ... a frozen quattro formaggi, loaded up with fresh ham, hot salami and capsicum. And topped with more cheese. Four more cheeses. Only one of which is the same kind as is already present.

Seven cheeses pizza. Seven. I'm fairly sure this has to be some kind of record.

Tomorrow, we plan to head out to Torquay, or possibly Barwon Heads, for swimming and fishing. After all, it does seem a little ridiculous to spend a week so close to some of the most gorgeous beaches in the state and not actually go to any of them.

There's a strange mass growing in the convection oven. From here, it looks like it's actually breathing. Er. I'd better go. If I survive, see you tomorrow, constant readers.
crazyjane: (Default)
Here in sunny Bellbrae, the fun just doesn't stop. And this morning, it started with pancakes. Lots and lots of pancakes. Seriously large stacks of pancakes. I mean, we're talking metre-high piles of pancakes left over. It was almost criminal to just sit there and look at them, but we were literally stuffed full. No, really. I could feel muscle tissue and organs being replaced by pancakes ...

Okay, maybe not. But we ate a lot. And the leftovers vanished quickly when, seemingly from nowhere, workers from around the resort converged on the Members' Lounge. So that was all right.

I was preparing to waddle back to my unit when the resort's manager appeared, microphone in hand. Uh-oh. This can't be good.

It wasn't.

Remember all those years ago, when your parents packed you off to camp or your school decided that it would build character for you to spend a weekend sleeping on rock-hard mattresses and doing 'activities' in either the freezing cold or baking heat? Okay, you can stop hyperventilating now, those days are gone. But remember how there was always the 'get-to-know-you' session after the first meal (which, somehow, was always the best)?

Yeah.

That's what we got. A representative from each unit had to stand up and introduce themselves, their fellow travelers, and say a few words - preferably friendly and witty. Naturally, my traitorous family all pointed their fingers at me when the manager came my way, so up I struggled.

I'm full of pancakes, I thought. I can't think of anything witty.

At least the microphone was on the fritz, but as I stared at the happy, expectant faces before me, I realised that there was no chance of my simply grabbing my walking stick and running for it - well, limping for it. The resort manager's wife was between me and the door. I debated the wisdom of saying, 'Hey, y'all ... I'm a married queer blogger politics-addicted poet, and this here's my family, how're y'all doing?'

Maybe not.

I mumbled something I thought was appropriate and sat down quickly. It must have been all right, because I was rewarded with beaming smiles.

And thus my newly-formed desire to maybe invest in one of these time-share things one day died a-borning.

Once the pancake paralysis wore off, we packed a picnic lunch and headed out to Tiger Moth World. It's a great little place just out of Torquay, where the kids can play through a decent mini-golf course, boat across the 'Pirate Lagoon', get involved in everything from mini-soccer to totem tennis to croquet, or wander through the pirate maze. Admittedly, much of the adventure park is for kids younger than our two monsters, but they still enjoyed the lagoon, swapping between paddle-boat, rowboat and canoe until we were seriously considering breaking out the fishing gear to reel them in.

[profile] fire_wuff was more than a little nervous about his impending flight, though he was doing his best not to show the kids. Of course, he was also bouncing like a little boy at the prospect of actually going up in a vintage aeroplane.

He didn't have much time to dwell on his nerves, though, as the pilot was more than happy to take him up virtually straightaway. Sadly for me, they didn't kit him out with the 'official' pilot's outfit (sheepskin-lined brown leather jacket, shiny boots and brilliant white silk scarf), dressing him in a boring and (I thought) gratuitously shapeless) black coverall, although he did get to wear the leather helmet and goggles. As he slid into the front cockpit, the pilot advised him to keep his feet clear of the pedals, just in case he made the plane flip.

Oh. Good.

Then there was the amusing little sign just above the gauges, just in case Wuff felt nauseous ... '$0 in the bags, $20 over the side, $100 in the cockpit'. Ahahaha. How droll.

The Super Tiger trundled happily across the grass, and off into the distance, turned and roared back towards the rest of us, who were standing in the official 'Flight Observation Area' - and took off barely over our heads, on an angle so steep it looked nearly vertical. Meglet bravely resisted the urge to duck and stood her ground, jumping up and down and waving at her Dad. Unfortunately, she had the video camera in her other hand, so I suspect any footage of the actual take-off will resemble a daylight version of The Blair Witch Project - only with less evil trees and more planes.

The flight took Wuff out on a leisurely arc over the ocean near Bells Beach, before the actual aerobatics started. He was okay with the loop-the-loops, the barrel rolls and the wing-overs - but the wing-stall-into-ever-tightening-death-spiral-plunge-toward-the-ground was about his limit. I think it would have the limit of mine, too, had I seen it! Luckily for me, I only saw the little red plane describe what looked like an effortless loop just above the airfield, hanging for a moment at the top of the circle before seeming to slide down the air into horizontal flight again.

As cliched as it sounds, it brought to mind, one of my favourite poems, 'High Flight', by John Gillespie Magee:

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheel and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air ...

Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor ever eagle flew -
And while, with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.


It's almost impossible to describe Wuff's face when he landed - rapture, regret, excitement and maybe just a little tinge of nausea all tumbled together. And I can't tell you how wonderful it was to see him like that. It was as though months and months of stress, exhaustion and a million niggling worries had - even for a few moments - just gone.

Even his ill-advised sculling of a sun-warmed energy drink and its predictable consequences a few moments later didn't diminish that enjoyment.

We'd originally planned to go out for dinner that night, but after a day in the sun we were all feeling fairly tired, so instead we headed into Torquay just before sunset to find take-away. Unfortunately, we made the mistake of actually asking the kids what they wanted to eat, instead of choosing somewhere to grab something for the whole family.

Mexican. No - Thai. No, sushi, or Chinese, or fish and chips, or kebabs, or ... or ... Naturally, whatever one wanted, the other couldn't abide. And no one liked my compromise idea of everyone having pizza.

In the end we settle on Wuff and I visiting the Noodle Canteen in Bristol Street, and the kids grabbing Mexican. The noodles (kuey teow and Singapore) were wonderfully tasty, as was the salt and pepper calamari - and like all good noodle shops, the service was both fast and efficient. Highly recommended.

As for the Mexican ... well, I'll quote the girls: 'Worst. Mexican. Ever.' After waiting nearly 45 minutes, they ended up with two revolting burritos choked with sour cream and sprinkled with enough coriander that they looked like they'd been picked up out of a bucket of grass clippings. I'm fairly sure the chicken pieces would have been rejected for making stock by any cook with a shred of self-respect. Luckily, the noodle boxes were such generous serves that we had enough to go around, and we were able to banish the memory of the bungled burritos.

The girls gave the place 0 out of 5 stars. I'll simply say I won't be recommending Las Olas to anyone holidaying near Torquay.

Dessert was a delightfully decadent mixture of ice cream, organic dark chocolate, white chocolate from the expensive Easter Egg we won in the 'timeshare get-to-know-you raffle), and more of the raspberries and strawberries we picked at Gentle Annie's.

We're all out of raspberries now, and the strawberries will be gone by tonight. We may have to make another visit on the day we leave. Oh woe.

In the end, I was much too tired to write, and so yesterday's blog is posted a day late. Today is a rest day for me, in the hopes that my knees will recover enough to make a jaunt out to the Split Point Lighthouse tomorrow. The kids are heading out to a scavenger hunt organised by the resort in a little while, so we'll see what stories come out of that.

But there is one final piece of news - and I had to save it until last.

THE ALPACA IS REAL. I HAVE SEEN THE ALPACA.

It came up to the fence just at sunset - quite nervous, and didn't take at all well to the delighted screams of Lilygirl and Meglet as they ran in its direction. From the car, I got a quick glimpse of deep cocoa-brown fur and wide brown eyes, before it turned tail and ran.

It's understandable. Men of strong character have been known to run from those girls.

We did not, alas, obtain pictorial proof - but, constant reader, the alpaca ... is real. Yr obt etc has seen it with her own eyes.

Tonight, I plan to lay in wait for it with a camera.
crazyjane: (Default)
Day 3 dawned a little later than usual due to the end of Daylight Savings, not that the kookaburras cared. I'm not sure what the joke was all about, but surely it could have waited until a decent hour. When everyone finally surfaced, there was just time to shower and grab some breakfast before gearing up to head out to the animal feeding. Armed only with cameras for the inevitable unbearably cute pictures, and machetes so that we could hack our way through the dozens of other kids who had mysteriously appeared from nowhere to block our access to the gate, we waded into the fray.

Or, at least the girls did. I was given camera duty, and stood sadly outside the fence watching everyone else feed the geese, and distribute hay to the larger animals. It was, of course, wonderful to see how much pleasure the girls got out of it all, but ... but ...

After they all trooped off to the chicken house, though, I carpe-d the diem and nipped inside the gate to spend some time with the horses, goats and donkeys. The emu was playing hard to get, but I think I can safely say we reached an understanding - or at least kept a respectful distance from each other. That beak is quick. One of the horses, Peg (short for Pegasus - ugh), is a beautiful chestnut, with one white sock and a few scattered spots of white on her forehead. She's not an original inhabitant of the farm, having been rescued by the owners of the Country Club. Apparently she was skin and bone when they found her, and they were told they were welcome to take her off the old owner's hands.

She's much, much healthier now, although still underweight, and a little head-shy. Personally, I'm hoping that owner is even now suffering from a really nasty skin disease that makes him smell, itch and look something like an overcooked goanna.

Egg-hunting was moderately successful, with the girls scoring one each. Meglet wanted to keep hers until it hatched ... well, that led to a delicate discussion. Sadly, I still don't know what breed the excessively fluffy chickens might be, although investigations continue.

We learned from the owners that there are yellow-tailed black cockatoos that come out at sunset, so I'm keeping my eyes peeled out of my front door as I write. One woman from the units near the back reported seeing tawny frogmouths, and there's a huge flock of galahs that fronts up for feeding every morning. No possums yet, although apparently there are kangaroos around - and I'm beginning to believe the alpaca is, in fact, an imaginary one, since no one's seen it.

After animal feeding, we revised our timetable for the day. I suppose it was unrealistic to expect we could get to seven wineries ... so we decided on two, with a visit to Gentle Annie's Berry Farm for the kids.

We ended up at nearby Bellbrae Estate, which is on the Great Ocean Road about five minutes from here. After sampling the wares, we - of course - massively overspent on wine purchases. The haul included a 2008 Shiraz which manages to be wonderfully rich without being inky and heavy at the same time, a 2010 Chardonnay that appears to have spent very little time masquerading as an oak tree, a rather wonderful 2008 fortified Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz (which is not quite a port) and a lightly carbonated, sweet Moscato that even I like (and I'm notorious for hating 'lolly' wines). The big indulgence was a 2004 Shiraz just brought up from their cellars, which we may cellar for another five years - if we can restrain ourselves.

By this time everyone was ready for lunch, so we ate at the Estate Cafe - a simple ploughman's lunch, with local produce (Apostle Whey cheese, Debra's organic chutney, Zeally's Organic Bakery sourdough bread). Realising that we wouldn't make it to the other winery and the Berry Farm, [profile] fire_wuff and I decided to make the greatest of sacrifices, and forego more booze in favour of berry-picking. So off down the Great Ocean Road we went.

It's the cost road, right? It's scenic, right?

Well, it is ... in fact, it's breath-taking. I was glad I wasn't driving, as I would have taken us right over the cliffs in my fascination with the view.

It's also very, very twisty. And that wasn't helped by our unexpected stop in Anglesea.

We needed to visit an ATM. Unfortunately for us, that ATM was located right next to ... an ice cream shop. A home-made, quirky flavours, ice cream shop, right in the middle of the main street. Really, what were we to do?

It's called Nordefine, and the ice cream is rich, tasty and, well, quirky. Exhibit A - 'Revenge of the Nerds', which is simply vanilla with the aforementioned lollies mixed through it. Ditto 'Red liquorice and white chocolate' - that one nearly forced me to go without my usual favourite, 'Choc Chip Cookie Dough'. For the more discerning palate, there was 'Blood Orange Sorbet' and 'Rosemary and Basil Gelato'.

Full to the brim, we set out towards Lorne. Oh, dear. I'm usually very good at stubbornly ignoring my sensitivity to dairy products, especially where ice cream is concerned. The Great Ocean Road, though, might charitably be called a roller coaster. And my roiling stomach didn't respond well to Wuff's gleeful anecdotes about near-misses and accidents that he'd seen during high school cycling excursions in the region. It was white-knuckle time all the way to Lorne - and then we hit the unsealed roads. Joy.

After a further twenty minutes of mind-numbing terror - capably assisted by Meglet, who asked every few metres if we were absolutely sure we were going the right way, and what if we broke down or had an accident, and wasn't there going to be burning off in the area - we reached the marvellously named Pennyroyal Valley, and Gentle Annie's Berry Gardens.

A name like that conjures up all sorts of mental images, and most of them would be right. It's a little piece of the English countryside buried deep in the bush, where the lush green of an orchard butts hard up against white trees whose leaves are that grey-green colour that somehow automatically suggests 'Australia'. Arguably, Spring might be a better time to visit, since the roses would have been in bloom, but when we turned into the drive late on an Autumn afternoon, it just looked ... perfect. The lowering sun cast a gold tinge over the fields of brambles and bushes. The gardenias, blazing white in the light, intermingled with glowing deep green silverbeet taller than the kids. And here and there, peeking out from the bushes, were the beautiful, deep red berries.

Because of the time of year, only strawberries and raspberries were in season, although Lilygirl did manage to find a lone blackberry - which she promptly ate. Wuff and the kids wandered up and down the rows, picking the organically grown fruit to their heart's content, while I rested in the cafe.

Of course, given where we were, I simply was compelled to sample the cuisine. I mean, really - it would have been rude of me to do anything else! I was thoroughly regretting the ice cream indulgence of an hour ago. Nonetheless, I rose to the challenge, and ordered - what else - a Devonshire tea.

Now, you'd think scones, jam and cream is pretty easy to get right. Alas, this is very much not the case. Too often, the scones are far too sugary, the jam is processed into a smooth jelly utterly lacking in character (and tasting suspiciously of artificial sweetener), and the cream - the horror! - comes from a can. A good Devonshire tea, then, is the test of a really good tea-house.

It was heavenly.

The scones were half-and-half white and wholewheat flour, freshly baked and warm from the oven. The jam was home-made from blackberries picked on the farm, the berries only partially dissolved, and they were served with lightly whipped pure whole-fat cream.

I pause for a moment's envious whimpering - or, if you're unfortunate enough to have gluten or dairy problems, muttered cursing.

I spent a little time talking to the owners, and discovered they'd only just taken over the business, renovating it completely in the last year. The cafe was completely restored to a comfortable, rustic area with open-air dining as well as indoor tables for cooler days. They now source all their produce from local businesses, as well as selling their own jams, chutneys, berry syrups (dear god, blackberry syrup, I may expire from the glroy of it all) and relishes.

We ended up with two large punnets of each berry, plus a third of cherry tomatoes. As I write, there is a chocolate muffin beside me, with fresh strawberries as accompaniment. Life is good.

So, today was pretty much entirely devoted to indulging our tastebuds - for which I am sure we will pay the price somewhere down the line. But was it worth it?

Not just yes, but hell yes.

Tomorrow the plan is to wake up early for a communal pancake breakfast with the rest of the resort. Hah. We'll just see how that goes. In the afternoon, it's time for what - in my opinion, anyway - will be the highlight of the trip.

That Magnificent Wuff in his Flying Machine.

It's possible you'll hear the screams.
crazyjane: (Default)
In which yr obt correspondent ventures braves the elements, ventures into unknown territory, and ... goes shopping.

Yes, dear readers, I survived my first full day in the wilds of Bellbrae, armed only with eleven-year-old twins and a newly-shaven [profile] fire_wuff (don't ask, just don't. The kids dared him to do it, but they never thought he'd go through with it).

I have to confess, though, it is with the help of Tramadol. Argh. Between packing, unpacking, wandering around the resort, and then today's expedition, my arthritis knees are singing the Marseillaise almost non-stop, and threatening to break out with renditions of the 1812 Overture.

Today was remarkably domestic, all things considered (she said, looking around at the disturbingly clean kitchenette). This isn't like me at all.

The beds here are rather soft, although not as horrendously marshmallow-like as I'd feared. I'm certainly glad I brought my own pillow, though. It was a remarkably peaceful night, right up until the dawn chorus. Bah. Country. The lone magpie warbling in the twilight wasn't so bad, although he could have moved just a little further away. But he set off the rosellas, who set off the kookaburra ... and then the geese woke up. My god. What a racket. They should record that sound and use it to terrify enemy troops, or for 'enhanced interrogation', or something. I'm sure it's against the Geneva Convention.

As I mentioned in yesterday's missive, the kids had decided to surprise us with breakfast. Wuff, blessed with the power of persuading-kids-not-to-destroy-expensive-real-estate-while-having-fun, managed to convince them that he should supervise their cooking in an unknown kitchen. With that crisis averted, we were forced to face the fact that we'd brought very little food with us from home - frankly, we'd simply grabbed what was perishable, and a few things like pepper and salt, tea and sugar and a lone ruby grapefruit. (Lilygirl was most upset to discover we'd forgotten to pack tomato sauce.)

Nonetheless, we had a few eggs and rashers of bacon, so we scraped together a remarkably good meal of bacon and scrambled eggs, toast and grilled tomato, and ate on the patio. Our unit overlooks the geese enclosure (horrid, loud creatures) and the feed troughs for the larger animals, which contributed to a sense of fellow-feeling with our beastly brethren - okay, okay, I'll stop. That was too ridiculous even for me.

After breakfast, I went down to the animal farm area, and made the acquaintance of a rather friendly goat. Her companion, however, had definitely gotten up on the wrong side of the field this morning, and took it out by head-butting everything in sight. All in all, she rather resembled a rugby player on a Saturday night after a losing game.

The horses - two lovely chestnuts, one with a white blaze - were not interested in making the acquaintance of anything that did not involve their feed. Likewise the donkeys had little time for us, though I did manage to take a picture of the grey one, who dipped his head most obligingly. Hopefully I can post that - and other pictures - tomorrow.

The chickens were wonderfully fluffy. I have very little familiarity with chook breeds, so 'fluffy' is about the best I can do. The majority were red-brown in colour, but there were two darker, exceptionally fluffy hens who sported splendid pantaloons of which they were clearly proud - and rightly so.

At the animals-that-make-you-go-awwwwww enclosure, the girls were given wonderful opportunity. The man in charge of the farm was just about to feed the rabbit and guinea pig, and offered the girls a chance to come into the enclosure and have a cuddle, without having to compete with the other kids on the resort. Well. It's possible they came close to exploding from delight. It was actually wonderful to watch - Lilygirl has been a little grumpy of late (impending puberty, dear god), so to see her and Meglet so happy made a lovely change.

After that experience, the aviary was a bit of an anti-climax. The birds were completely uninterested in doing anything other than sitting on their perches. That, actually, turned out to be a very smart choice, as we were hit with something of a mini dust storm that blew all the loose topsoil up into our faces and our clothing. When we got back to the unit, we all looked like we'd just come in from a long trek across the desert. My scalp was red with dust. Urgh.

After cleaning up, we headed into Waurn Ponds to see if a pair of bike shorts could be found for me, so I could use the spa. Failing that, I was prepared to settle for tracksuit pants that I could hack off at the knees. Luckily the House of Target came to the rescue, and, amongst all the newly-arrived winter clothing, Wuff found a pair of plus-size bike shorts. And two pairs of leggings. And a dark plum windcheater. And a long blue top with thin stripes in rust, pockets and an asymmetrical hem. And - most gloriously - a beautiful deep blue man's shirt, with pinstripes in a kind of dark lavender colour. Finally, a shirt with which I can wear my purple tie, a birthday present from my wonderful daughter, Falcon!

Having scored all of that wonderful loot - and at discount prices, I might add! - we moved on to the mundane business of shopping for groceries for the week. It was an intensely frustrating experience. I never realised that I'd become quite so used to buying in bulk, to last as long possible between shops - something that increasing difficulty with mobility, combined with Wuff needing to travel quite a bit for work, has necessitated. But we managed it, and then indulged at the bakery, and the butcher.

We came back to Bellbrae via Torquay, and stopped for a while at a lookout over the ocean beach. There were about a dozen windsurfers taking advantage of what looked like a good wind. The girls and Wuff went for a short walk, while I stayed to rest in the car.

I have missed the smell of the ocean. I have missed looking out over the blue to the deep indigo of the horizon, that always looks a little smudged, like some unseen artist has run their thumb lightly across the line where the water and the sky meet. I love the foam, like freshly-shorn fleece, left behind by the whitecaps when they crash against the rocks - and there are some gorgeous rocks around Torquay, rising up out of the sea like exotic chess pieces striped in red and brown.

And, even with cars coming and going, surfers and beach-walkers crossing in front of my vision, the sound of competing ringtones and kids either squealing with delight or whining with exhaustion - it was so peaceful. I could almost feel my spirit take a deep breath.

There's nothing mystical or occult or magical about it - beyond the beautiful, unbelievably complex, glorious fact that it just is. That it came to be through a process so fantastically intricate that it could produce the ocean, and me, and everything in the whole ... fucking ... universe.

...

Well.

After that, there's not much more to tell about today. We came back to Bellbrae, and had a slap-up dinner with the help of the bbq, where Wuff performed his usual culinary magic. (Excuse me while I pause for a moment to indulge in the memory of the utterly delicious rib-eye steak that graced my plate.) The kitchen is ... clean. No, I mean really clean. Of course, it was wonderful actually having a dishwasher to simply take care of the washing-up for me (first time I've ever had one!), but I find I'm actually enjoying keeping this place neat. I even hung up our clothes last night

I'm sure it will pass.

Wuff took the kids swimming after dinner, but that's a pleasure that will have to wait until tomorrow for me, I think.

I have just now accomplished something of a personal victory. Menaced by a Giant Arachnid of Doom ... well, okay, it wasn't that big - but there was definitely Doom involved, I swear - I managed not to be more than a little bit squicked. Those tender-hearted readers who deal gently with such creatures may wish to look away now ...





I SPLATTERED THE BASTARD. WITH A SHOE. ON THE WALL. GO, ME!!






Ahem.




And there we have it. Day Two. Tomorrow will be animal feeding, wherein I shall try to convince the organisers that my inner child should be allowed to take part - or at least, to cuddle a bunny. Following that, winery visits - and there are at least seven in close proximity, so we should be able to get to all of them. The kids may have to be bribed with chocolate, as donkey-petting and hunting for eggs in the chook house will likely only hold them for half the afternoon.

Note to self: buy a few bottles of really good red for tomorrow night's pasta. One needs a choice, after all ...


UPDATE

Wuff and the kids have just returned from the pool, Meglet howling and clutching her face. Apparently she was attempting an acrobatic manoeuvre, and bashed her face against the wall of the pool instead. Unfortunately she's chipped and cracked her front tooth, and is understandably distressed and in dire need of cuddles. It doesn't appear to have exposed the nerve, but it looks like we might have to take her to a dentist to make sure.

Poor Meglet. Not a happy thing at any time, but especially not on holiday.
crazyjane: (Default)
Yes, a travel diary. Not a rant, not political analysis. Try not to be alarmed.

In a vain attempt to actually acquire some form of writing discipline, I decided that it would be a Good Thing if I took my newly-acquired tablet on holiday - my oh-so-shiny ASUS Transformer Prime, thank you soooo much, [profile] fire_wuff and why yes, that is a shameless piece of promotion, I'll take my kickbacks in the form of new hardware ... ahem.

Of course, to do that, one rather requires a holiday. How fortunate, then, that Wuff's parents offered us a week at one of their timeshare places over the school holidays.

So here we are ... somewhere just off the Great Ocean Road, off on a family holiday. For a week. All of us. Together.

This entry was actually written yesterday (March 30), but Dreamwidth is not exactly mobile-compatible, so I'm not able to make backdating work. Let's pretend ... pretend we are travelling back in time ... cue the sci-fi music and the wavery vision.

* * * * *

March 30

The place itself is quite 'nice' - we have one of those terribly bland, characterless units, where the furniture is bought in bulk from Fantastic Furniture and the prints are from K-Mart. Not that I was expecting five stars, but occasionally a few touches of individuality, even if it's only in the form of one of those creepy cat clocks with the pendulum tail and ticking eyes. On second thought, that might not attract the kind of clients you really want ...

The kids are back to sharing a room ... you can guess how that worked out come bedtime. Yep, even though we let them stay up late, turned down the TV and did everything short of force-feeding them Valium thickshakes (only kidding, Human Services), they were still awake as of a few minutes ago - after 11pm. Still, it might mean they sleep in tomorrow morning.

Who am I kidding?

There's an animal farm here, with everything from geese to rabbits to emus to alpacas. Lilygirl was hilariously funny with the geese - she's never experienced how aggressive they can be! I think she was more put out than anything by these long-necked 'giant ducks' hissing at her. Still, there's animal feeding time later this week, so I expect cuddling a few bunnies and guinea pigs will restore her sense of dignity.

The 'resort' (actually, it's a 'country club', which is a high-falutin' name for it) has a pool and spa that I can actually use - although guess who forgot to pack bike shorts? Looks like a trip to the House of Target is in order.

I can apparently get a massage, too, so that's going to be my treat for the week.

Wuff is getting a belated birthday present on Monday - a ride in a Tiger Moth open cockpit plane, complete with 'extreme aerobatics'. He went a little green when I mentioned that last part, but he was like a kid with a toy at the news. There's an 'adventure park' - which appears to consist of a BMX track, a few old grounded planes and possibly a dam on which one can paddle a kayak - so the kids can keep themselves occupied while he's doing that. I plan to make some popcorn, sit back and watch the show from the safety of the picnic area.

And don't say I never do anything for you, faithful flist ... the whole thing will be videotaped from the cockpit.

We haven't made much in the way of plans yet - there are a few activities here at the resort, like pancake breakfasts, and the kids will go to an evening moving on Wednesday (giving me and Wuff some downtime) - but there is heaps to do in the region. I'm hoping we can go fishing at least one day, and take the kids down to Bells Beach (although, with the Rip Curl Pro starting this week, we may go to Torquay instead), and there are quite a few wineries around the place. Since we just happen to have some wine glasses supplied in the unit, and we just happen to have received our FTB refund, I think some judicious purchases may well be in order. Besides, it's our duty to support local industry, right? :)

Speaking of local industry, we've also found two local berry farms, three potteries (something to do with the soil around here, apparently), two home-made ice cream shops, galleries (indigenous and modern) and markets.

Then there's a possible day trip to Queenscliff to look at the historic buildings and take the ferry across to Point Lonsdale, a drive down to see the Twelve Apostles, Split Point Lighthouse ... I think we'll need two weeks!

As I write, the children appear to be finally unconscious, so I'll close now. Wuff has warned me that they plan to do a 'special' breakfast tomorrow morning.

Dear lord.
crazyjane: (Default)
Only four days to go.


Oh, and somehow I've been talked into doing this at my kids' primary school, at their morning assembly.

Possibly with a photographer from the local paper in attendance.

I'm ... not quite sure how that happened.
crazyjane: (Default)
As any poor bastard who reads my Twitter feed knows, I've been following the Labor Party leadership clusterfuck pretty closely since Kevin Rudd announced his resignation. Bah, who am I kidding, it goes beyond obsessive. But anyway ...

I've also been blogging frantically, as well as providing live 'micro-blogs' (the hilarious new name for live Twitter commentary) for the various speeches and interviews. There are, it seems, some advantages to being physically laid up a lot of the time (although I'm sure the kids won't thank me for this weekend). I think it's fair to say I'm as across this issue as anyone who hasn't got the specific inside track.


I've been appalled at the level of vitriol being flung around - not just statements of loyalty or preference, but actual vicious insults and downright threats directed at those who disagree on any given point. It's not just from the pollies, either. Media are churning out opinion pieces that go way beyond any pretense of objectivity, clearly declaring their preference for either Rudd or Gillard. And if the social media commentary were taking place in a pub, we'd have had a riot on our hands that spilled out into the streets long ago.

It's hyperbole, sure, but it really is dividing a good portion of the population.

In all this, I'm striving to maintain at least some level of objectivity. I think that's my job as an independent journalist, to analyse without fear or favour. And I know I fail miserably a lot of the time, especially when it comes to issues like asylum seekers or marriage equality. but at least I think I can say that I am as critical of Labor as I am of the Coalition, or Greens, or anyone else.

Not that this matters at the moment, apparently, according to the criticisms and abuse I've copped.

If I write that I think Rudd's running a slick, well-planned campaign, I 'must' be a Rudd supporter.

If I comment that Gillard has shown a level of feistiness in this campaign that we needed to see a long time ago - and which showed her capable of taking the fight to Abbott, I 'must' be in her camp.

If I talk about a third candidate, I'm a 'Greens lackey'.

Not to mention the people who re-tweet me, add their own exceptionally partisan insults and pass it off as my opinion.

And so on. No matter what I write, I'm accused of bias. Of being 'delusional'. A 'stupid c**t'. Et cetera.

And what pisses me off the most is that it's getting to me. I'm starting to second-guess myself. I read over and over what I've written, to make sure I haven't been too favourable or too critical. I start to wonder whether I need to give 'equal time' to both sides - even to the point of roughly the same word count.

It's ridiculous.

At the risk of sounding truly egotistical, I think I understand now the frustration that author and columnist John Birmingham vented after he finished up a stint as a guest columnist for the ABC. They're hamstrung by changes to their charters brought in by the Howard government, whose government consistently accused the national broadcaster of being 'unfair' to his administration. Now they have to provide equal time. And even so, they still get regularly hauled up before Senate committees and asked to account for absurdities.

One example? Tony Abbott's Budget reply speech last year. Twitter had decided to use the hashtag #budgies for any posts about it. Noting this, the ABC mentioned that on air and invited commentary on that feed. It was a simple PR decision. They could have tried to institute a different hashtag, but Twitter is notoriously stubborn about protecting its ability to choose its own labels.

At the Senate Committee hearing a few months later, the Opposition accused the ABC of being 'disrespectful' to Abbott by not 'insisting' on a different label - thus proving they not only don't understand social media, but also were not about to let the ABC operate without close interference.

And the ABC, as a result, self-polices its own work. To an extent that goes far beyond what it is legally required to do. If anything, it errs in favour of the Coalition. The internal watchman is so sensitive to any perception of Left bias, that it regularly shows evidence of bias towards the Right.

Birmingham wrote eloquently of the incredible frustration he experienced - of journalists in a constant state of nervous watchfulness in case their articles were too 'Left'.

At the time, I tried to imagine being gagged like that. Thankfully, as an independent, I don't have to worry about being forced to write to an agenda.

But in the last weekend, I've spent far more time worrying about whether I've unfairly favoured or criticised either Rudd or Gillard than I feel I should. I'll say it right here and now - Rudd has by far run the better campaign. He's popular, and people still feel he was poorly treated by being removed from office. We can't know everything that went on behind closed doors, but we do know that Rudd was never confronted by his colleagues - only blindsided. Gillard is tainted by her actions back then - not just removing him, but refusing to take responsibility for her own actions as Deputy PM, and now blaming Rudd for everything from a near election loss to her own government's problems (which she's been blaming on Abbott for months).

That said, Rudd's government showed far too little decisive action and far too much bureaucracy. Rudd was a micro-managing PM who didn't come up through Labor ranks and floundered in an unfamiliar environment. Gillard is a shrewd negotiator, pushed through the carbon pricing scheme and has held together a minority government in spite of Abbott's best (or perhaps worst) efforts.

The senior Cabinet ministers who support Gillard right now is utterly disgusting. Senator Doug Cameron, in his amazing Scottish accent, once referred to the Coalition as a 'rrrrrraaabbbble'. That accusation could easily be levelled at Wayne Swan, Simon Crean and Nicola Roxon right now. I'll say this for Rudd's supporters - with the exception of Maxine McKew, they're playing the ball, not the woman.

As for media hacks like Ackerman and Bolt - well, enough bandwidth is wasted on them already.

Do I think Rudd will win? Almost certainly not. I think he has about a third of the Caucus behind him, which is just not enough. But 'credit where it's due' is an axiom on which I've tried to base my work.

And it's totally fucked that trying to do that leads to little more than people whinging that you're a lackey or a hack or delusional.

If I were less convinced that I need to keep doing this - if only to be one more voice calling for some sanity in politics - I'd tell them all to go fuck themselves.
crazyjane: (Default)
It's been a few years now, and my hair's thoroughly grown out - currently, it's nearly waist length! Since it's that time again, I thought it was time to once more take part in the World's Greatest Shave, to raise funds for research into curing leukaemia.


And so, this is a blatant plea for sponsorship - please sponsor me, and help raise money for this incredibly important cause! Sponsorship will give you access to embarrassing photos of [profile] fire_wuff hacking away at my hair with his katana.

You think I'm kidding, don't you? Fools.

:)


You can find my page here. Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Tell complete strangers in the street. Okay, maybe not complete strangers - they might look at you funny and hit you with their handbags.

Any and all donations gratefully accepted.

tattoo!

Feb. 7th, 2012 08:28 am
crazyjane: (Default)
Yesterday I finally had the linework on my tattoo done. (And thank you thank you thank you to everyone who contributed to funding it!)

My original design idea was for a simple quill pen and inkwell, symbolising (quelle unsurprise) my writing ... but over the months, it evolved. This was partly due to a developing love affair with Victoriana - the aesthetic, not the morals, mind you! The rest came from a lot of soul-searching and general introspection that's been going on in my head.

So what I ended up with was a collection of objects ... the quill pen and ink well, a key (unlocking things, including creativity and old, old crap I've not been able to death with); a mask (always fascinated with them - the idea you can tell the truth about yourself while everyone thinks you're just putting on a persona); a pocket watch (my awareness of time passing, and the 'male' parts of myself); and flowers (a gift of beauty to myself, and an attempt to reflect myself as beautiful).

Which was a lot of objects. Which is an understatement.

Having determined what needed to go in the design, I needed to find an artist whose work was right for me, and who would be willing to take on the task of making all those objects fit together.

Eventually, I found the gloriously talented and wonderful Teniele Sadd, at Korpus Tattoo in Brunswick. These are some of the images that drew me to her: a strangely creepy Victorian couple; a delicately coloured hummingbird and flower; lovely, full-blown roses ... oh, just go look at her entire gallery, it's stunning.

So I fronted up with my mish-mash collection of images, and threw myself on her mercy. This is what she came up with:









Colouring will be quite delicate; French blue, dusky pink, old gold, lavender ...

I am so, so, so happy with this tattoo. It's far more beautiful than anything I imagined when I was trying to fit together the elements. The whole design just works.
crazyjane: (eclipse)
So, even though I'd already secured supervisors for both the creative and research components of my proposed thesis, I received an email today telling me that their workloads had 'changed'. Therefore, not able to supervise me anymore. Therefore, no offer of candidature for PhD, and no possibility of close work with a poet I respect to help me develop my book.

To say I'm both pissed off and gutted is putting it mildly.

I have the option of finishing my Grad Dip. At this point, the only available subject next semester is Writing Autobiography. Those of you who've followed this journal for a while now might understand why I'm not at all enthusiastic about that idea.

Merry fucking Xmas.

August 2017

S M T W T F S
  12345
67 89101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios