Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Yay for Branch Team Leader Chairman Katherine! and Lyle!

Well, after rehearsing a speech for when I got told I hadn't got the job - turns out I did get the job. So that is a great big hurrah! and thank goodness! A big thanks for all those who sent me good tips and good thoughts. So now I feel like I've got a proper job in the library, one where I can settle in and get things done. Needless to say, I'm a little scared. But tonight I am on holiday, the library folk putting in an extra big effort to get things looking spick and span. Our fridge is full of food, I've had a bath and treated myself to a face mask (thanks Chairman Soo!) and hope to finish watching an Errol Flynn movie. Holidays are good.

I did get one present early, something so charming that I just have to share.

These are cricket carrying cases from the fantastic cricket and flower market in Shanghai. I was there a few years ago and - strangely - didn't buy anything. Luckily a friend was in the city on business and managed to find the time, only finding the market once we had txted him directions from Google Maps. Yay modern technology! The cases have all sorts of secret sliding bits so that you can hide or display your treasured beastie. The compartments are pretty small so I imagine them holding some of the exquisite little crickets I saw at the market, all new leaf green and elegant.
In Chinese art the cricket symbolizes summer, courage, and a fighting spirit.

I read on someone's blog that their mother had something called a cricket box. It seems that the Chinese kept crickets in a small box, with holes, as a warning devise. If someone entered the room at night the crickets would stop chirping and warn the occupant. Why are there no crickets in Melbourne? When I was growing up in Perth there were crickets and grasshoppers everywhere. Instead, our garden is simply screeching with cicadas - also beautiful, but perhaps not so melodious!

Do have a lovely holiday all of you! Take care and have good times with your family.

Monday, December 14, 2009

And while I'm at it...

Mariah Carey singing Christmas carols in the supermarket - isn't life hard enough?

In the dog house

What I'd rather be doing... war plant workers dance the jitterbug after an 8 hr shift. Actually, they look really, really tired.

I'm applying for a job at the mo. Essentially, the job I'm already doing - which somehow makes it harder. Part of the prob is that I've only every really done two or three job interviews. The rest of the prob is that I'm a nervous ninny. I've been told by them as know that I 'donkeyed home' in the last interview. Now I can't say I know exactly what that means but if I have to be a donkey to get this job so be it. I've also been told that I'd have to be practically comatose to stuff up the interview. Again, good. But last time I applied for this job I worried and fretted until I made myself sick (and made Mr C sick of the very mention of the words 'job' and 'application'). So really, it is PROVEN that worrying works for me. Do I worry again? Do I have to worry in order to stand a chance? Or can I sit around watching anime and updating my blog? Am I starting to worry that I'm not worrying enough? Trust me, I'm worried.

The other big worry is that old Jack cat is going freakin insane. He's gone all fuzzy in the head. For starters, he's completely addicted to bed. To the extent that he frets if he can't get under the covers. He pops out for meals, if you drag him out. Then tears back into the bedroom again. The other thing, and believe me it's a biggie, is that one minute it's all 'oh he wants to sit on my lap!' and the next it's 'oh my god he's pissing on me!' This is causing a distinct lack of harmony in the household. Apart from the ick factor, I mean, what the hell is he thinking in his little furry brain?? As for the other cats I do wonder what we were thinking. George is a darling but he doesn't shut up and Lyle is, well, who knows about Ly-lo. Lyle = enigma. I've never met such a super cool cat. Anyway, these two do this really funny for two minutes stunt fighting that gets really really annoying really really quickly - especially when SOMEONE TRYING TO WRITE SOMETHING.

So instead of going to see a big band as planned, I'm busy washing cat piss clothes, while two cats sound like they're killing each other and Mr C is engaged in the great 2009 bathroom renovation so I haven't had a shower at home for the last few days (and the end is not in sight) and I'm trying to write about all the good things I've done and all I can think about is the time I went to the State Library with the Co-ordinator team (ie. my bosses) and wore my shirt back to front for the entire day.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Carry on...

As the Queen said, keep calm and carry on. Turns out that the lumps in Jack's belly are an important part of Jack - which does make me wonder a bit about feline anatomy. Seems that because he's lost weight his insides are now closer to his outsides. Hurrah! Hurrah! NOT CANCER!! All he needs is fattening up so he's now on a special protein diet - just like a weight lifter! The vet took a look at his bald bits and suggested he'd been in a fight (unlikely) and said we should wait to see if the fur grows back. Jack came to visit the library after the vet and seemed very sprightly on his pins. He said hello to the folks, drank the library cat's milk and went for a stroll over the boss's desk. Then straight back to bed where he still is several hours later. So all is well in catland. Thank you for kind thoughts. And we got ourselves a ps3 to replace the xbox so peace once again reigns at the House de la Chairman.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Spent the day in gym clothes then ran out of time to get to the gym. Couldn't be bothered to do my hair. No lippy. Our xbox died and I haven't started my Christmas shopping.

Last night Kim found a lump in old Jack cat's belly. We've booked him in to the vet tomorrow but goodness knows how we'll pay for it. Worrying but luckily he's as happy as larry these days. He spends all his time sleeping under the bed clothes where he gets frightfully hot and squishy. He's quite chirpy when he comes out and he usually goes out for a bit of a stroll at night (which makes me a bit anxious). He's still eating which is good but is a little cavalier in his attitude to the litter tray. Fingers crossed for tomorrow.

In the middle of all this I'm trying to update my resume. It's a little hard to talk about yourself in glowing terms when you feel like curling up in bed and having a good cry. Oh not much of a trooper am I?

Friday, December 4, 2009

What I want for Christmas...

Well this week has been a shocker. To all those unmedicated folks down St Kilda way - thanks for dropping by the library, it's been great seeing you. My little old Jack cat seems to be getting a bit furry brained. He's the one with FIV and over the last few days he's been going bald (strangely, the rest of his fur is absolutely lovely and silky smooth), forgetting where he lives and taking up to an hour to decide if he wants to sit on the bed (this last bit is actually darned annoying and it's hard to remain patient with him). He seems happy enough, just old.

So, to turn to thoughts of a finer life, here are some of the things I'm dreaming of this Christmas. Actually this is going to be a shamelessly materialistic post because I'm a bit tired and emotional and pretty grumpy that I have to work tomorrow.

Freddie's of Pinewood dungarees. I don't care what anyone else says about them, I think she looks cute as a button in these overalls. Sadly, old Freddie has let me down somewhat in the delivery of items department so it may be a while before I give them another go.

Now this one is never going to happen but I do like to dream of the day I can look as great as the naughty Bernie Dexter. Cherries = yum!

Must have a thing for retro denim at the moment! I have a pair of these trousers in a soft grey fabric - I just happen to be between sizes and my first pair were GIGANTOR so I had to get a smaller size. Now I'm waiting on whittling my waist a little before I can wear them. I try them on every week and I'm getting there! It's my one goal in life...

I want a snood. I really really want one. Because I am lazy and I like the idea of just shoving my hair in one of these. This number's made by a little old lady in England whose grandma showed her the pattern during the war.

The de Havilland blouse based on a pattern from the late 30s - a wonderful era for shirts. I love shirts so much more than t-shirts. Except that you have to iron them. Though it's probably no secret that I don't iron ANYTHING.

You know what else I want? Shortbread. Masses and masses of lovely shortbread. I used to think that I liked really cheap and nasty shortbread. Indeed, I've been known to down a whole packet of a night (Coles sell some for $1.90 a box!) That was until I had some shortbread made for me. O my!

Down Portland way

Well I've been back for over a week so a few quick words about my holidays.

The Western Districts is a pretty green part of the country. And it's green BECAUSE IT RAINS ALL THE TIME!! Which suited me just fine - the thunderstorms were really quite lovely. I spent most of my time reading about WWII espionage and watching old films. And eating. One of the first thing you notice once you're out past Geelong is that the people are all terrifyingly overweight. And I'm really not surprised because there's some great fish and chips to be had along the coast! Mum also did a proper roast lamb dinner, which is something we simply don't do at home and just the sort of thing you can rely on your mum for. And yes, there were pumpkin scones to be had too.

Not too many photos because I developed some wierdy rash (all that pure rain water!) and got a bit lazy with the hair but here I am with the little horses.

The main thrill of the holiday was the wildlife action. I've really only seen one koala in the wild, on a long and tedious drive across the country from Perth to Sydney way back in my youth. There are apparently heaps of koalas out mum's way but they've so far been maddeningly elusive. I've heard rumours of them but the usually only show their furry faces by sauntering casually up the drive 30 seconds after I've driven off. Until this holiday! It was a koala spotting safari! Apart from not having really seen them before, I had no idea that they made a noise. And what a noise they make - like a cross between an angry pig and a giant bullfrog. It's astonishing that they can rouse themselves to make such a racket - to call them laid back is an understatement. Documentary evidence is thin on the ground but here's an action shot of one of the little devils scooting along from one tree to another.

The coach and train ride took years off my life but I was saved from mental breakdown a) because the coach goes through Koroit, which is Devondale dairy country and the cows really do look like this:
b) I had a new Agatha Christie that I hadn't read for years and I'd forgotten who'd dunnit. There really isn't anything more appropriate for train travel than Agatha.

I got home to find the house in the midst of home renovation hell. Things are looking lovely now so I shall draw a veil over the few dust filled days we endured. All I can say is that Mr C is an incredibly thorough and painstaking home handyman (my contributions being limited to making cups of coffee and encouraging noises) and that the woodwork in our bathroom is now looking lovely, clean and mould free! Sadly, the bright woodwork is now contrasting poorly with the mouldy grouting. Enter home renovation project number 2...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hurrah! I'm on holiday and off to sunny Bolwarra to see mum. This was going to be a family vacation but we had a few concerns regarding our options for cat babysitters so Mr C will staying home to look after the gang. I'm a bit disappointed because I was looking forward to spending time with my young man but it's probably the most sensible arrangement. All of which means I'll be travelling courtesy of VicRail. Sigh. This is a long, long journey. Actually the train bit isn't so bad as long as you go first class. But the bus, the bus is a first rate stinker and the very thought of it depresses me. It's always crowded and the seats are built for midgets. It also goes down every country lane between Warnambool and the South Australian border.

I'll be loading up the ipod with the Andrews Sisters and have already packed Secret War Heroes in my library bag. The bulk of my luggage (sadly, no trunks, just a Kathmandu backback), the bulk of my luggage is old movies to watch with mum. I'm looking forward to lazy mornings on the deck, looking out over the paddock with the horses, eating pumpkin scones. See you all next week!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Richmond surprise

I jaunted out to Swan Street, Richmond this afternoon, shopping for library furniture. We went to a dive of a place - but a place that held a marvellous secret. The Swan Street auctionhouse has been a furniture store since the late 50s but before that it led a glamourous life as the Burnley Theatre. Now sadly, there are few photos of this available in online collections so I'll try to give you an idea. Here's this from the National Trust (file no. B7017):

The former Burnley Theatre, designed by Bohringer, Taylor and Johnson, and opened in 1928 is architecturally and historically significant at the state level.

Architecturally the building is particularly notable as an fairly elaborate example of the Neo-Classical / Adam style applied to a cinema, and remains fairly intact despite the new use. The auditorium and lobbies are largely intact, and the walls retain their original textured buff-coloured stucco finish, and details highlighted in various complementary colours.

Historically, it is one of the few examples of a ‘picture palace’, ie. a cinema with a degree of architectural pretentiousness, to remain extant. The theatre is also significant as one of two remaining by the firm Bohringer, Taylor & Johnson and to a lesser degree for its association with Union Theatres Ltd., the forerunner of the present Greater Union Organisation.

The cinema is also notable for its association with films, by far the major form of popular entertainment in the early twentieth century, and is of note for closing soon after the introduction of TV and the Drive-In.

The place fairly took my breath away. Though in a state of disrepair it is remarkably intact, albiet absolutely stuffed to the stalls with tacky furniture. I'd love to share with you the sheer splendour of the place. I can't imagine how glamorous it must have been going out to the cinema here. I'll try and find a photo in a book (the State Library thinks it has a photo of the place but it's wrong and no one else mentions it at all).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gosh, ain't it a stinker?

My ability to blog seems directly linked to the weather. My computer is so so ridiculously slow that it just seemed to be one more stress I couldn't cope with in the heat. Now there's a cool breeze a blowin' and Bugs Bunny on the dvd player I'm all set - we've got some catching up to do!

After Clumsy Saturday I spent a delightful Sunday afternoon catching up with Lil and other library folk down at a beach side pub in Port Melbourne. Some canny table snaffling saw us settled in the shade of a palm tree - which by the end of the afternoon turned out to be not so shady! Luckily I'd brought along my pretty pink parasol and a paper fan and felt rather cool in my new $3 Campberwell Market peasant top (I was thinking Betty Grable in Down Argentine Way - though I'm sure she never wore Birkenstocks!) It was good to see Lil as it's certainly been a long time between drinks.

Work's been busy busy. I suffered the AGONY of sending out what I thought was quite a cross email - instantly regretted of course. But it turned out not to have been so rude and nothing bad happened after all. Yay! And yes, I know that five other people had already told me that the email was fine and that... sorry, got distracted by Bugs Bunny hypnotising Elmer Fudd and I've no idea what I was saying.

Tuesday night everything was going fine until we locked ourselves out of the house. We went to the gym because there wasn't anywhere else to go and it seemed like a good idea at the time, then got back to work on the problem of being outside the house while our keys, phones and cats were on the inside. Being so hot we'd locked all the windows and pulled the blinds and curtains. The place was watertight. We were tossing up whether it would be cheaper to call a locksmith out at 9 o'clock at night or to break a window and pay for a glazier. After two OUTRAGEOUS quotes we decided to try craftiness instead. We spent a rotten hour and a great deal of frustration trying to lever out window bolts and do fancy McGyver type moves with credit cards and dead locks, supported by kindly neighbours whose kitchens we raided for breaking-into-the-house implements. When we finally decided to resort to a hammer big ole Lyle cat decided he wanted to know what was going on - sitting on the sill directly beneath the one soon to be smooshed. All ended happily except for the broken window pane, the glass inside and the vase of flowers and pot plant Lyle knocked all over the sofa. But we were inside! Heaven. And in then end Kim managed to fix the window himself for about $30.

Breaking in Rififi style

I was going to write about Rememberance Day but all you get is a gossipy post instead. Now we're just got back from driving a neighbour to the airport and it's way past my bedtime. Nighty night. This time next week we'll be in Portland. Hurrah!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Best present ever

When I was at the hairdresser getting a makeover last week, my young man presented me with a little white box done up in a scarlet ribbon. A white box with a very tiny little silver apple on it. A white box that contains something very much like this:

Yes, it's a new iPod shuffle! It's ever so tiny and discrete and I'm completely in love with it. It's even engraved with words of love and encouragement so every time I get bummed about losing weight and working hard at the gym, or a bit anxious about going to work I put it on, read my message and sing along with Bing Crosby for a bit.

A total waste of makeup

Uh oh. I really should have stayed in bed yesterday. The day began with a series of stupid mistakes of the I love Lucy variety. Bruised, burnt (those wretched curling irons again!) and very very bad tempered I headed off to work. Where a mad woman took a dislike to my eyes and proceeded to tell me why I didn't really exist. I had a cry and forgot my mascara wasn't waterproof so spent the rest of the shift looking like Marilyn Manson.

Came home and got ready for a dinner party of all things. It's over 30 degrees and I'm running late. Spent an hour podding broad beans, unsuccessfully trying to brown chicken and generally making a mess. Contemplate crying. Contemplate calling off stupid dinner party. Super hurrah for Mr C who stepped in and saved the day (and my makeup).

Finally headed off to visit friends David and Lena, who thankfully have a kitchen bigger than ours. Had a late dinner in the backyard under the peach tree: broad bean dip, roast beetroot and feta dip with Turkish bread and a welcome glass of sparkling shiraz; chicken, preserved lemon and green olive tagine with almond cous cous; finished off with icecream and home grown rhubarb. Stayed up way past my bedtime. Got a cuddle from big ole Mr Ed the Irish wolfhound (his entire head is bigger than our biggest cat) who left great streaks of drool on my skirt. Gazed in awe at lovely baby Gala. All very nice and proved that the day wasn't a total waste of makeup after all.

Friday, November 6, 2009

On the home front

Or more accurately: A feminist view of attitudes towards and the treatment of Australian women in WWII by Kate Darian-Smith. Sigh. I struggled. I really did. And I have to say that I resent you Ms Kate Darian-Smith. This book is in its second edition and there are some really inexcusable editing gaffes (words and sentences repeated; reference to 'Map 5' when there are no maps in the book; the need to define the term 'fifth columnist' while other more obscure historical events and phrases go unexplained). More annoying however is her blatant feminist stance: this grates the way any politically biased view of history does. It purports to be a review of life in Melbourne between 1939-1945 and it really does no such thing. Darian-Smith actually seems a little bored in some of the chapters until she hits the chapter on sexuality and morality and then she really goes to town. It could have been interesting. In the introduction she aims to re-examine warlife in Melbourne and see how it difference from the accepted cultural memory of the era. In some ways she does this - using statistics to challenge contemporary and current views of society during the war. It sounded interesting. But I've never read a less evocative war book. She claims to have interviewed heaps of people as part of her research but I'm damned if I can see any evidence of it. Maybe in a sea of wartime reminiscences it's good have some hard facts. I just get the feeling she kind of muffed it. Much of the writing is extremely clumsy and the presentation of ideas and conclusions not always logical. According to Darian-Smith every woman in Melbourne seems to have been a feminist despite the fact that middle-class women held some of the most oppressive views of the time. And the section on masculinity (two pages) insists that it be considered in relation to femininity; while in the section on feminity (half the book) the converse isn't considered at all. I'm sure once the trauma of slogging through the book has faded I'll find some of the facts interesting. The role of women at this time and prevailing attitudes towards them is a fascinating topic. I just wish someone else had written this book. (And that they'd put pictures in it!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Melbourne Cup

It's the day of the Melbourne Cup! Though horse racing is as crooked as they come I do love to watch it: the horses are beautiful to watch, I'm a firm believer in the wearing of hats and I love the idea that everything stops for a horse race of all things. Plus I get a public holiday! Each year I help run the sweep at work (go Crime Scene!) and always find an old photograph to use. This year my research skills seem to have deserted me but I did want to share with you some images of the Melbourne Cup during World War II. I find these extremely touching. All these images are courtesy of the Australian War Memorial - a truly fantastic resource.

Girls from the Australian Womens Army Service enjoying the race.

Organising the sweep, PNG

Troops of Headquarters, 7th Australian Division gathered around a radio set to listen to the running of the Melbourne Cup (Norman Stuckey 1943). There are similar photos from army bases all over the world. Film footage of the event was also raced to soldiers.

Explaining the Cup to a local, PNG

Melbourne Cup run on mules in Beirut. I managed to lose a related series of pictures from the HMAS Something, which showed sailors on hobby horses racing the deck of a ship while various captainy admiral types looked on in cardboard top hats.

The Heidelberg Repatriation hospital took many injured soldiers along to the Cup in 1945

I love this one for the catalogue record:
HELOUAN, EGYPT. 1940-10-25. Australian and New Zealand patients at the hospital draw the horses in a sweep run on Melbourne Cup. The fortunate and unexpected winner had in the meantime returned to the desert and was last heard of expressing doubts as to the hope of ever seeing his money.
Made from an empty bully beef tin at a Sandakan prisoner of war camp in North Borneo, 1942. Deciding to mark Melbourne Cup day with their own race, the Australian officers at the camp set up a straight track for nine or ten entrants, between the officer's huts. Each track was divided into thirty squares and each competitor wore a coloured top of somekind to represent jockey's silks. Drawing a number from a deck of cards to determine their position on the track, a race caller then proceeded to draw cards which determined how many squares each jockey could advance. The first to reach the end was the winner and was presented with the 'Melbourne Cup'. In October 1943 the officers were transferred to Batu Lintang prisoner of war and internee camp at Kuching in Sarawak. This camp had a parade ground and in November that year the officers built a circular track and competed for the Melbourne Cup again, using the same method. At both events bookies took bets and evidence from the 9 Military History Field Team which collected the cup from the barracks in 1945, suggests that Lieutenant William Peck, of 4 Anti-Tank regiment, won the cup on at least one occasion and possibly both years.

The Australian War Memorial collection also inclueds a similar cup, made of coconut shells in the Sime Road POW Camp in Singapore, which was awarded to the winner of a frog race.

Not from the 1940s but a fabulous image - racehorse trainer Tommy Woodcock with his champion racehorse Reckless on the night before running second to Gold and Black in the Melbourne Cup of 1977, Flemington, 1 November 1977.

Best of luck to you all! Have a great Melbourne Cup.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

One little duck went out one day

I've just spent the day at the State Library of Victoria at a conference on early childhood literacy. Absolutely inspiring but most awfully tiring. It's quite something to be in a room with over a hundred children's librarians, all singing Five Little Ducks Went Out One Day and Incy Wincy Spider. Of course, the SLV always to the best catering ever; I ate mine sitting at a pint sized desk in the children's section. I think it will be rather diff not to speak to Mr C in rhymes tonight: What would you like for dinner? said the girl from Come In Spinner.

In the meantime I've been looking for pictures of hairstyles to take to my hairdressing appointment next week. Got slightly sidetracked by this gorgeous photo of Ginger Rogers.
What a cutie! Hair pictures not going so well as I'm not sure how much I can control my curls. But I'm darned well going to have a go at getting a Middy cut. I've also just finished a book on a British secret agent in WW2. I've had it from the library for an absolute age and was feeling less than enthusiastic about it - but it's an absolute ripper. It's called Agent Zigzag something something and I'll do a proper review on the weekend. Now reading about the homefront in Melbourne which is fascinating but inexcusably without pictures. I'll share some treats from that later too. But for now, adios! I'm going to have a cup of tea. (Melbourne tea rations during the 40s allowed for only 3 cups a day! Oh! The HORROR!)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dance, girl, dance (1940)

What an odd duck this is from Dorothy Arzner, one of the few female directors of the time. During the 70s Arzner was firmly claimed by feminist film theorists who proceded to mould her into their desired image, along the way discounting her own view of her films, aspirations and ideals. Much has been made of 'disrupting paradigms' as if being gay automatically made one a revolutionary in all aspects of one's life and the image of her in masculine clothing has been as much analysed and over interpreted as her work. Which is a shame because this is quite an enjoyable film.

This is the story of two dancers - one makes it big as a burlesque star, Miss Tiger Lily White, one sticks to classical ballet but accepts the $25 dollar paycheck to act as a stooge - stick a ballet number after a red hot burlesque number and you've guaranteed they'll be howling for more of the Tiger Lily.

Arzner, speaking of another film, rather let the feminists down when she said her favourite character was not the strong women but the male who suffers for not knowing his own heart (an uncomfortable moment for feminist critics). Much the same element is noticeable in Dance; there is much sympathy for the suffering of the male romantic lead, who is clearly not in love with his leading lady. And his leading ladies are pretty fabulous. Maureen O'Hara, she who suffers for her art, is a real sweetheart who has the sense to recognise her naivety. Lucille Ball - oh how I love her in her early days, all streetwise savvy - a real wisecracking broad who knows where the money is and man does the girl have chutzpah! She makes a fabulous burlesque queen - a wink from her certainly packs a punch! Here there is no case of good girl / bad girl. In fact this is one of the real features of Azner's movies - the lack of typical Hollywood judgement. Sure the girls have a bit of a cat fight, but they're all square by the end of the film. No one has to choose between a career and love. No one is saved by love. The leading man goes back to his wife but you're pleased for him. Maureen gets her art and possibly love - but the main emphasis is on her new career opportunities. And Lucille gets the money and a flourishing career she's clearly in charge of - she's certainly not going to get chewed up and spat out by 'bad' low class vaudeville.

There's a fabulous 'go girl' moment when Maureen turns upon the jeering crowd and returns their gaze - the objectified performer returning their stare levelly. It's not so much 'oh you're horrible men' as 'you foolish men' for these girls know just exactly what they're doing and they're calling the shots. A lot has been made of this and, while I'm suspicious of much of the rhetoric surrounding this director, it is a great moment of female solidarity.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-feminist. And I've only passing familiarity with Azner scholarship. It just seems that just because Azner was a lesbian, every decision she made has become politicised. And in this way you deny her the right to be an individual. I'm also probably a bit cranky with film theorists in general and their impenetrable discourse. I dunno. I've watched six films in a row and think the little grey cells are a bit tired.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Getting my nails done

My dear neighbour Fleur treated me to a manicure and pedicure this evening. I must confess I was thinking of someone along the lines of the manicurist in The Women - looking smart in a trim uniform and ready to gossip. I was slightly discomfitted to find a tiny Vietnamese lady wearing a face mask and speaking very very little English. It was difficult to sit there and ignore her as the other ladies did but conversation wasn't really an option. I compromised with trying to look politely interested in what she was doing - which is rather diff when someone's sloughing off the gammy skin from the soles of your feet and in any case went completely unnoticed. She did do a marvelous job. I wasn't sure that she'd understand a half moon manicure (very popular in the forties) where you leave the white moon of the nail near the cuticles unpainted. So I went for a lovely shade of red for both fingers and toes. I feel very lovely and pampered and ever so natty and ladylike. I do keep waving my hands around!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Good Day

Today was most definitely A Good Day. Work was great. My hair didn't fall down. I went to the gym and unleashed the fury! It was kinda sunshiney so I didn't have to wear stockings (yay bare legs!) And now I'm having breakfast for dinner - my favourite meal of the day! I'd have breakfast all the time if I could. I made an appointment with a new hairdresser. Which is actually a super scary thing to have done and if I hadn't had such a super great day I probably would not have done this. Mr C's Christmas present arrived - one day after we ordered it online! Which is wonderful but does make me worry about THE SHIRT I ORDERED 67 YEARS AGO IS!!! Still waiting... Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Battle of the bulge

I'm in the tail end of my flu hurrah hurrah. Which means my interest in the Jetsons is waning and I'm starting to worry about things I need to do at work and fretting about getting back to the gym. I do seem to have lost a teensy amount of weight (1 kilo!) but suspect this is sick bed dehydration rather than any efforts with the cross trainer. Sadly, this weight appears to have disappeared from my bust rather than my waist!

Extra hurrah because I just got back from the gym and I've actually lost 3 pounds (yes, we're going Imperial because it sounds a lot better). Here's where I confess to a secret obsession with gym clothes. As if rocking up to the gym with Victory rolls and Ruby Woo lipstick isn't enough! Now I know this isn't of much interest to anyone else but I'm a bit unhappy with my weight at the moment. A year or so ago I put on a whole stack o pounds while I was on a certain med (I don't even remember which one!). Since then, good livin' and no gymin' have had the expected outcome. Now I love my curves, I just want a little less of them. And Mr C loves and adores me whatever the package. So this is for me. I guess I just want to feel fitter.

Today I got a group email from my doctor - saying I should drop into the consulting rooms if I would like to improve my appearance for the racing season. Yep, my doctor, who has failed to contact me with my test results, is happy to email me and offer a 10% discount on botox.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mr Imperium (1952)

A young singer (Lana Turner) on tour in Italy meets and falls in love with a crown prince (Ezio Pinza). As far as MGM musicals go it falls a bit flat and was certainly a flop at the time. It's not bad but it is exceptionally short (87 minutes) and ends extremely abruptly. Pinza, fresh from South Pacific, is in magnificent voice but his grand operatic manner tends to overwhelm Miss Turner (whose own voice was dubbed). These were bad times for her, with a string of bad films to follow. But she's as lovely as ever. Things are a bit creepy at the start of the film, what with Pinza being about twice the age of his leading lady but it ends up as quite a lovely romance between an adult couple. Just one that ends very quickly. Oh and I should mention that it's also got a very young pre-Singing in the rain Debbie Reynolds. Cute as a button!

I'm still sick and snotty and grumpy. Hurrah for Channel Go! and its endless repeats of I dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, Hogan's heroes, The Jetsons and The Flinstones. Just what a sick girl needs.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blood and sand (1941)

Now I'm pretty tolerant when it comes to old movies. There's not much that I won't watch. But it had to happen - at some stage a film was going to come along that I couldn't handle. Yes, I think I've met my match. Someone at work bet that I wouldn't be able to get through watching the first ten minutes of this film. Well I got through it and watched this film until the bitter end but - oh! - the agony! I was too sick to fight it.

I actually sought out this film. I got it from Moonee Valley library because it was supposedly a Rita Hayworth film. It even won an Oscar for best cinematography. But I'm telling you, keep away from Blood and sand if you can.

The plot: poor boy rises to fame as a matador and is torn between the love of his sweet wife and that of a bad and beautiful woman. Fame is fickle, bull fighting deadly and money, the entourage and the love of the public soon disappear. Yes, this is a Morality Tale. The cast: Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell and Rita Hayworth. The tagline: Love flamed in the shadow of death!

Now Tyrone has very very white teeth. His role is particularly unsophisticated - like that of a rather stupid soccer player rising suddenly to glory and public adoration. So I'm not sure if he's rather good at playing a simple soul or if he's just a ham. This was a role previously played triumphantly by Rudolph Valentino so Tyrone has a bit of competition here. Rita is essentially a man eater. She practically purrs with satisfaction and her red red nails are ready to tear men apart (that's just got to be Jungle Red). She's quite shameless and utterly devestating - this turned out to be her breakout role. You just have to watch 51 minutes of Cinema Hell before she appears. Linda Darnell is beautiful and hard done by and features in a truly surreal scene where she has a conversation with a statue of the Virgin Mary - which goes some way to illustrate some of the problems with this film.

The film is adapted from a popular novel and some of the symbolism and 'literaryness' lapse into melodrama and histrionics when plonked onto the screen. There's lots of hot tempered Spaniards with wounded pride and a great deal of praying before candle clustered altars. It's all a bit overblown and simply drags on to its inevitable conclusion. Which is a shame because there could have been some real drama here. The bull fighting - though apalling - is fascinating and there's almost a religous respect for the ritual of dressing in the magnificent matador costume. But what you get is a leaden rather depressingly long film. I was too sick to turn it off.

Monday, October 12, 2009

What's the deal in Dodge City?

Drinkin', gamblin' and killin'. Mostly killin'.

I've got the flu and I'm treating myself to a movie marathon. First up Dodge City with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland. I'm developing a sneaking liking for Mr Flynn - he's such a smartaleck! Really, the man's impossible. Dodge City (1939) also stars the handsome Bruce Cabot as the outlaw who rules the roost and Anne Sheridan also crops up in an early role, woefully underutilised.

As a western, DC pretty much does all that it needs to: there's a cattle stampede, a gunfight on a steam train, a racing stagecoach and runaway horses and the best bar room brawl ever! It's all filmed in beautiful technicolour and the early scenes are of golden prairies stretching out to lilac hills on the horizon. This was pretty early use of the colour process so the results are surprisingly muted and earthy (remember, this is the same year as the Wizard of Oz). I must mention here that the costumers really outdid themselves in the shirt department: I was eyeing off Miss de Havilland's gingham numbers most enviously and there's a lovely display of neat and clean plaids in a beautiful array of colours. I really must be sick if that's the highlight of the film but I do find myself with a burning desire for a peach silk neckerchief.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Supper in the souk

This entire week has been consumed by Project Dinner Party. The Chair-folk were going to hold a dinner party at a friend's house and do all the cooking. Juanique, exuberant South African and ex-neighbour, has an apartment in the lovely Ardoch complex. Ardoch includes a lovely 1850s Italianate villa, Dulquhurn, that was converted to flats in the 1920s. Other apartments and bungalows grew up around it in the Arts and Crafts style. In keeping with the Garden Suburb movement of the time the complex is built around a pretty central green. It has a pool. And a gym. As you may guess, I think quite a bit of Ardoch. In fact, we would like to live there. So it was kinda fun to play house in Juanique's apartment, where we were joined by English Sal and her new beau.

I want to live here.

Cooking in someone else's kitchen is a bit of a challenge and when someone says to you 'Oh I don't really have anything kitcheny' it is a good idea to take this sort of statement at face value. Don't go thinking they just mean that they don't have anything fancy or else you will rock up on the evening with a tight cooking schedule in front of you and find that your friend DOESN'T HAVE ANY SAUCEPANS. Or a chopping board. Or dishwashing liquid. Or a stove that has a decent flame and doesn't take 35 minutes to boil a kettle. Still it was quite an adventure and as I spent most of the evening cooking with a glass of champagne in my hand it was rather enjoyable. The bulk of the work fell to Mr C who struggled manfully on and, quite frankly, cooked up a storm.

The menu? To start with: beetroot and feta dip, tzatziki and broad bean dip, served with warm garlicky Turkish bread and a chickpea and silverbeet stew. On to the main: lamb shank and prune tagine with saffron and ginger served with almond and raisin cous cous. Desert = disaster because I tried to get all fancy with a Turkish delight ice cream that wasn't all I hoped it to be (thanks for being so calm during my emergency how-do-I-do-this phone call Lil! and no thanks to you Mr Greg Malouf for your rather terse recipe. Really, it was like haiku. I need a little more than three sentences). Still, it was a lovely candy floss pink and I counted on the goodwill of the guests and figured after all the other yummy food they'd over look a few lumpy bits in desert. Mr C had made a backup plan so the ice cream was served with nutty toasted sesame biscuits, strawberries and Turkish delight, all piled high on a cake stand.

I was very pleased with the evening - food all super yum and the company warm and chatty. The only problem with not cooking in your own home - NO LEFT OVERS!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A cautionary tale

I was on the phone to my mum last night (she's just back from Broome). I was also playing with a new hair styling tool: a very unfamiliar and very hot marcel iron. In the future, I would probably not attempt to do these two things at the same time. A girl can not talk about mud crabs and set her hair in waves. Ladies! If you choose to go down this path you are likely to burn!
Do not do as I have done! Your forehead will be burnt to a crisp! The marcel iron, you see, has three barrels. This leads to a very stylish art deco zig zag of a burn. I look like Harry Potter. Or Hester Pryne. I had to wear my hair down today, artfully arranging a sweep of locks across my forehead. Which meant that I had absolutely no peripheral vision. And my second - mud crab conversation free - attempt at waving my hair left it looking no different than my own exuberant curls. It just smelled a bit singed. Oy vey!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I was the first person at work yesterday so had the joy of putting on some Tommy Dorsey and shimmying round the library in the dark. Got so jazzed I decided to go back to dance classes with the fabulous Swing Patrol. During the day my enthusiasm ebbed a little and I started to fret that I'd forgotten how to dance, that my hair would look funny (or worse - fall down!) or my hands would go all sweaty and I'd be the partner the leads would long to avoid. Mr Chairman got all stern and shooed me out of the house so I got to class with just enough time to spare for a fresh round of fretting. Was feeling a bit lonesome because I didn't see anyone that I knew, even the teachers were unfamiliar. Once the music started all was perfectly swell. We did a forties Charleston, which I don't love as much as the early crazy style but things are getting all bouncy and big and loose and it's a great deal of fun. Now, I'm not the fanciest dancer out there but I do think I can be trusted to put one foot in front of the other, which was more than some of the dear fellows could do last night. Truth be told I found the class a little simple: we didn't learn many steps and there was a great deal of phaffing around that may have been awesome fun for the twenty-something class but left this old hoofer getting a bit impatient. And of course, when I start getting impatient I'm apt to get all hoity toity I-know-what-I'm-doing-don't-mess-me-around: which is pure balderdash! For one glorious moment I thought I might attain the heady heights of joining a level 2 class instead! Oh glory! But I realise that this is just a wee bit ambitious. Nothing for it but to do the long slog through Charleston through to the six beat Lindy Hop and dream of the day I make it to eight beat Lindy heaven. I used to be in awe of those bold class mates who'd adventurously plonk themselves into the higher level classes. I guess I'm waiting for the day someone will tap me on the shoulder and say 'Move along sister, it's level 2 for you!'

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Surprise presents

Birthday joy continues with a tea party at my dear friends Donna and Ray's in Footscray. Egg ribbon sandwiches (no crusts!), little savoury tarts and, glory of glories, saveloys! Pretty china, endless cups of tea and a fabulous chocolate birthday cake. AND a surprise present! Donna's mother in law, Margaret, is a wonderful seamstress and came upon an old pattern for a forties tea dress that she thought I might like. So began a global conspiracy to make me a frock. My measurements were casually obtained, fabric bought (in my favourite colour, green) and seams stitched. The result? A beautiful green floral tea dress that fits me perfectly. I feel like a complete girly girl in it - like a six year old in a party frock. So thank you Margaret, thank you Donna and Ray and thank you sneaky Mr Chairman. I LOVE IT.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What will happen? When will Germany strike? WHO KNOWS?

My little foray into the history of the thriller novel has run into a hitch: a hitch called Mr William le Queux. When researching early thrillers le Queux's name featured large. Naturally, I added him to my list. Nobody actually mentioned quite how dreadful he was - and he is insanely, awe-inspiringly awful. Quite how gloriously awful is captured in this parody of his style:

'Tell us the whole facts, Ray,' urged Vera Vallance, the pretty fair-haired daughter of Admiral Sir Charles Vallance, to whom he was engaged.

'Well dear, they are briefly as follows,' he replied, with an affectionate glance at her... 'Last Tuesday a man with his moustache brushed up the wrong way alighted at Basingstoke station and inquired for the refreshment-room. This leads me to believe that a dastardly attempt is about to be made to wrest the supremacy of the air from our grasp.'

'And even in the face of this the Government denies the activity of German spies in England!' I exclaimed bitterly.

'Jacox,' said my old friend, 'as a patriot it is none the less my duty to expose these miscreants. Tomorrow we go to Basingstoke.'

Le Queux's work was usually serialised and he had such trouble remembering his characters names he had to give them outrageously alliterative labels. In the Spies of the Kaiser we follow the adventures of Vera Vallance (the pretty fair-haired daughter of the Admiral), the hero Ray Raymond and staid sidekick John James Jacox, as well as German masterspy Hermann Hartmann and the spiritual Reverend Richard Raven. Not that this helped le Queux remember their names: halfway through the Spies of the Kaiser le Queux seems to have forgotten the name of his hero and the meek and mild John James Jacox becomes a thrilling man of action for two chapters before reverting back to his role as dense sidekick. The parody above (written by A.A. Milne of all people) is hideously accurate. Imagine a book in which such a scene occurs at least once every three pages and you are well on the way to conceiving exactly how dreadful an experience it is to plow through the Spies of the Kaiser.

Wikipedia describes le Queux's novels as fantasies and that's pretty accurate - le Queux comes across as a paranoid conspiracy theorist, convinced that English society was thoroughly infiltrated by a 'vast army' of German spies. In some ways this reflected the temper of the times. Le Queux was writing in the years following the Boer War, when it took a British army of 450 000 to quell a rebellion of 40 000 Dutch farmers. The future of the British Empire was at stake and the citizenry was not looking up to the challenge: in some poor areas nearly two thirds of the young men who tried to enlist were rejected as being unfit for service. With the signing of the 1904 Entente Cordial, France was no longer an enemy and people were looking suspiciously towards Germany. Le Queux always insisted that his novels had been based on real people and actual events and he does seem to fervently believed his own nonsense - at one stage calling for police protection as German spies were sure to target him for 'rumbling their schemes'.

These fantasies however, did have curious outcomes. The pre-publicity for Spies of the Kaiser insisted that the novel contained more truth than fiction, it promised startling revelations of the extent of German infiltration and booksellers were assured that the book was based on serious facts. Publication was preceded by a campaign headline: FOREIGN SPIES IN BRITAIN 10 Pounds given for information. Have you seen a spy? The result seems to have been an avalanche of nonsense but nonsense on a scale that supported the call by MO5 head Lt.-Col. James Edmonds for a national enquiry into German espionage. Naturally, le Queux was one of his informants. As is noted by Nicholas Hiley in the introduction to Spies of the Kaiser, 'Edmonds was compiling an index of public nervousness, not a record of German espionage'. The very lack of real evidence was taken as proof of just how cunning and all pervasive the German spy network was. In 1909, in a climate of hysteria, the British Government accepted the plan for the creation of the Secret Service Bureau to 'ascertain the nature and scope of the espionage being carried on by foreign agents'. This organisation was to become MI5. Modern histories of the organisation are pretty clear about le Queux being one of the chief contributors to the prevailing atmosphere of paranoia.

So, to quote Hiley's introduction again, 'poorly imagined and badly written' but bizarrely influential.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy birthday to me!

Hip hooray for me and my birthday yesterday!

In accordance with the Pyjama Rule I took the day off work and lounged around with the cats, a box of chocolates and Betty Grable. Had such a swell time! Headed out for a cup of tea then back home to watch a documentary about entertaining the troops in the 40s. Later in the evening my young man took me out to dinner at my favourite restaurant (Kamel in Albert Park). I ate far far too much and was very very happy. Thank you to everyone for their birthday wishes. At work, the cake celebrations continue...

Monday, September 7, 2009

How to make a million

Last Sunday I was invited to help neighbour Fleur with a stall at the Camberwell markets. I happened to have a bag full of clothes that I no longer wear so it was all looking good: have a bit of fun with a friend, get rid of some stuff I had in storage and, hopefully, make a bit o cash. Mr Chairman made me some spiffy swing tags and I labelled all my stuff, feeling awfully daring for asking $15 for wool skirts made by some pretty fancy local designers. With the car packed to the roof, a thermos of tea and the stunned appreciation that I had managed to get ready by 5.30am we set off. I always find it exciting driving the empty pre-dawn streets and I was looking forward to the day ahead. The thing was it had been some ten years since I last visited the market and well, things ain't what they used to be...

I remember when the Camberwell markets were the place to go for a uni student who wanted to pick up some cheap interesting clothing. These were the people who would recognise the quality of my stuff! They'd know just what an ASTOUNDING bargain they were getting and could live a happy and stylish life thanks to me. And I'd make enough money to finally buy myself some new clothes. Everybody wins! But the way the day panned out, there wasn't too much happiness and joy for anybody.

You see, the secret to making your fortune at the Camberwell market is to find the crappest item you have in your house - and I'm talking half tube of frosted pink lipstick type crap - and sell it to an Asian housewife for $2. And you better not even think of asking $3 because you will not survive the howls of abuse heaped upon you. That unused set of Sheridan cotton sheets, complete with doona cover - how dare you ask $30! Really, the amount of bitching and moaning that went on, I was happy to sell them for $25 to a nice quiet lady who seemed really pleased to have snaffled a bargain because I never wanted to talk about them ever again. Fleur made an absolute killing with her extensive collection of half finished frosted lipsticks, used false eyelashes and stained pillow cases. And no one even looked at my lovely things except to hassle me into selling them for $1 and shrieking at me when I said no. In all, it was a very very trying day and then the tea in the thermos was tainted by the distinct whiff of licorice left over from stomach settling tisane it had last housed. Grim. Very grim. There was also the little matter of Fleur not being able to put the car in reverse and we were really parked awfully close to a plane tree and if a lovely little man hadn't come to our rescue I think I may well have died at the Camberwell market (though I did worry he would drive off in our car and I'm not sure how I would have explained that to Mr C.)

This woman wants your soul... for 50 cents

Instead of a well deserved nervous breakdown Mr Chairman and I then choofed off to the city for a baby shower (though I never know if the shower is a pre or a post baby thingie - anyway, this one featured a two week old child). One of Mr C's best friends, truly the ugliest man I have ever seen and a good example of why the Jewish people should consider putting an end to inbreeding, somehow this man has snaffled an absolute stunner of a partner and their little girl Gala is one of the prettiest babies I have ever seen thank god. We got fed extremely well at a Korean restaurant down Southbank. One thing I noticed, the largely Jewish crowd were not shy about loading up their plates with goodies - no demure denials here - I felt quite at home . There were lots of short little men, thick East European accents, shoulder shrugging and the odd 'what's not to like?' and 'whatchou gonna do?'

We got home, I had a bath and a cry and decided that ebay is my new best friend.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ponyo! Ponyo! Ponyo!

The other day I won tickets to see the latest film by my favouritest ever Japanese director - Ponyo by Hayao Miyazaki. Mr Chairman insists that I didn't win the tickets because they were simply giving them away but I know I won so boo sucks to him. And kinda boo sucks to me because the film was a bit meh. Mr C picked me up from work, leaving a good hour to do the 12k drive across the city. In gale force winds. In insano traffic. As in, 200m in ten minutes insano. After a serious case of road rage we finally made it to Carlton, found a park, found out where to pick up the tickets I WON, found the cinema and found two seats next to each other - all with two minutes to spare! Just in time for the all important ceremony - the dimming of the lights.

For those who don't know of my love for the Japanese master of anime, Miyazaki heads Studio Ghibli, one of the foremost animation studios in the world. He's famous for beginning to draw before storyboards have been finalised, which results in a wonderful free flowing storytelling style and the inclusion of odd, unexplained plot twists and flights of fancy. His movies frequently explore our relationship to nature and are remarkable for their strong female characters, of all ages. His characters are rarely stereotypes and even the most bad tempered character is subject to change. Children in his films are a special delight - they are shown remarkable respect by adults, who never ever mock or question their ideas. But what makes him so special is that his films are done entirely by hand - no computer generated backgrounds here. And it is absolutely beautiful.

Ponyo is a sweet little film about a goldfish who befriends a five year old boy and wants to become a human girl. It's all very lovely and has the best closing theme song ever (sung by a super cute eight year old) but lacks some of the breathtaking magic of earlier Miyazaki films like My neighbour Totoro, Spirited away and Howl's moving castle. While my initial reaction was disappointment it is so only in comparison to his earlier wonderful work. It is still a charming and beautiful work.I'm now lowering the tone somewhat by confessing that I am currently addicted to a show called Daphne in brilliant blue. It's actually a really endearing girls' own adventure series - despite what the costumes suggest. For your edification I include the following image from the show.