Friday, December 24, 2010

Akathisia v depression

Akathisia. Which is what I got. Typical side effect of anti psychotics. Described here:

These drugs, in this family, do not calm or sedate the nerves. They attack. They attack from so deep inside you, you cannot locate the source of the pain ... The muscles of your jawbone go berserk, so that you bite the inside of your mouth and your jaw locks and the pain throbs. For hours every day this will occur. Your spinal column stiffens so that you can hardly move your head or your neck and sometimes your back bends like a bow and you cannot stand up. The pain grinds into your fiber ... You ache with restlessness, so you feel you have to walk, to pace. And then as soon as you start pacing, the opposite occurs to you; you must sit and rest. Back and forth, up and down you go in pain you cannot locate, in such wretched anxiety you are overwhelmed, because you cannot get relief even in breathing.
—Jack Henry Abbot, In the Belly of the Beast (1981/1991). Vintage Books, 35–36. Quoted in Robert Whitaker, Mad in America (2002, ISBN 0738207993), 187.

Things were getting unbearable and I was exhausted. I've decided to self medicate and cut back on the offending anti psy. Which makes me depressed but really, that's looking pretty good right now. Going to try and find my doctor today. Hope he's not on holiday!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Heeby jeebies

I've got bad bad medication induced anxiety! Think I'm going to start hyperventilating! And I had such a sunshiny day too! Went out shopping for the library - cookbooks! That was very satisfying. Then I met my sister for a cup of tea. She's over from Perth and we've been having a nice time together. Then back to work to read an auditor's report. Ok that bit wasn't much fun. Then I worried about a topic for a few hours - something I've fretted over at least 50 times a day all week - eventually having to promise my boss that I wouldn't mention it again for the rest of the week. Bit hard that one, even though I'll only be at work for one more day. I've got such a patient workplace. Got a lovely parcel from my dressmaker, only to find that my new dress would barely fit a six year old. I don't know how she got it so wrong! She seems confident she can do things to it but I feel like the voice of doom. Plus I don't like waiting.

Tomorrow I'll be going to the art gallery with my sister - actually to look at art rather than just taking tea. Then my sister is going to help me make a shirt. Then I might panic a bit about what salads I'm going to make for Christmas Day.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tip top and boomps-a-daisy

Golly! The last three weeks have been decidedly blah. But today everything is simply wizard. Mum came up from Bolwarra and we spent the day Christmas shopping. We're now as poor as church mice but all presents have been sorted, plus a few treats for ourselves thanks to Vivien of Holloway (vintage styling know no age or shape barrier!) Cup cakes were eaten, tea sipped and face powder tested. I tried on some day gloves for that proper ladylike finish, visited book and music stores and went completely piggy at Wallah! Got mum popped onto the train at the end of the day, kicked off my high heels and slipped into a bath, complete with bubbles and a book!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Crazy lady no. 2

Highly strung doesn't even begin to cover it. Bipolar sweetheart Vivien Leigh

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Missing in action

It's not that I'm ignoring you, just don't feel too chatty at the moment. Hopefully my doctor will call me tomorrow and things will get back on track. In the meantime, here are some lovely, and crazy, ladies for you. I'm always dubious about retrospective diagnosis but it seems pretty clear that both these lovelies were bipolar and survived, kinda, unmedicated.

First up, the sweet Gene Tierney

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Being crazy sure has its down side.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

I've got my love to keep me warm

Bugger this weather. I want bare legs and washing on the line, cotton frocks and playsuits, my cats' fur to smell of grass and sunshine. This is supposed to be BBQ season! Who feels like Christmas shopping in this miserable weather? I've yet to start in earnest but at least I've a list now.

Caution Vegans!!! there's a lot of fur in this clip being worn by animals that aren't the original owners...
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Friday, November 26, 2010

Why should I care if they save Private Ryan?

I'm a little confused. I just saw SPR for the first time and what a disappointment. Maybe it's because I've seen a lot of combat films but it really was pretty ordinary. Historically, it seems like a load of nonsense. Yes, I know it was 'based' on a true story, but they found that brother in a recreation room in England, not really a 'behind enemy lines' mission is it? Something like that just never would have happened. The opening minutes are realistic - yep, lots of gore. But does it, as Spielberg claims, recreate actual war footage? Not quite. Still, it would be quite an effective opening - if it related in any way to the story that follows. After that it's pretty much a standard war film, sticking very closely to the genre conventions (the word cliche springs to mind). It's almost as if Spielberg's trying to remake a movie from the forties, one from his childhood. With one big difference: this film lacks a moral core. I can't quite see what the point of it is. Was the mission worth it? Absolutely not. Do I care that they saved Private Ryan? Not in the least. Then what exactly is this film for? Unlike the films of the war years here's no sense of what the whole point of the war was. And this was a very strong sense of the times, soldiers knew what they were fighting for. This is a crucial gap in the film. You need the tension between a morally just war and what it actually makes people do. There's no ambiguity here. Everything is black and white. What is Spielberg trying to say? That war is hell? Got that in the first five minutes thanks. The war was ghastly but this film also makes it pointless. And this certainly isn't an anti war film by any means. It's an action movie with a war setting. Not the greatest war movie by a long shot. It's not as though I'm an expert on the war, or if I know much about cinema. But I have watched a lot of war films and this is one that left me unmoved.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Lazy glamour

Been feeling a bit poorly and spending all my time in my jimjams watching documentaries. What better way to feel sick than in some of these!

Needless to say I don't quite match these standards!

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sweet dreams

Though I'd never go to the races myself, I approve of the racing season for one reason only: hats! Next year I think I'm going to treat myself to a little bit of nonsense. Look at the sort of wonders that are out there (and are too expensive for me to ever consider!)


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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A kitchen goes to war

I'm amazed that the National Library let me borrow this - and just a little bit nervous!

This is a 1940 publication: A Kitchen Goes To War - Famous People Contribute 150 Recipes To A Ration-Time Cookery Book. It appears to be made in collaboration with the Great Britain Gas Industry, it was quite common for such organizations to publish cookbooks and household hints (I have some from the 50s produced by a petroleum company, that in addition to recipes gives handy tips for women drivers.) Anyway, first things, 'famous people' at this particular time in Britain means the upper class, whose exploits the public would have followed in the society papers. So here we have some - ahem - well known names as Lady David Douglas-Hamilton, Viscountess Halifax, Lady Milne-Watson, Margot, Countess of Oxford and Asquith, Chef de Cuisine of The Savoy and The Dowager Lady Nunburnholme. Hoity toity eh? But it would have given housewives the sense that this was indeed a 'people's war' and that they were all in it together. More familiarly we find recipes from authors Rebecca West, Agatha Christie and Stella Gibbons.

This is early days in rationing so let's take a look at the ingredients: margarine, lard and dripping instead of butter; tinned corned beef, salmon and herrings; fresh cod and rabbit; offal; many, many potatoes and swedes (there are a billion recipes for swedes!); very little in the way of seasoning beyond salt and pepper, there's the odd nutmeg and cayenne pepper and of course, generic curry powder; white sauce in every second recipe; sweetened condensed milk and golden syrup instead of sugar. Eggs are still eggs at this stage rather than powdered. Onions still seem plentiful. And you'd never know there was a fuel shortage given the cooking times.

The recipes are pretty austere: macaroni cheese, swede soup, cod baked with milk and potatoes, rabbit pie. Agatha Christie contributes a recipe for Mystery Potatoes (potatoes mashed with anchovies), there's a recipe for cabbage stuffed with sausage meat (boiled for two hours) and rabbit pudding consists simply of one rabbit, one rasher of bacon, salt, pepper and a pastry crust of water, flour and margarine. More surprisingly there are a few recipes for lentils, a gnocchi of semolina parmesan cheese (most unlikely) and some idiot suggests foie gras and gruyere cheese on toast (graciously suggesting housewives can substitute 'the more modest citizen's chicken and ham paste, which alas! will lack the charm of the truffles').

Railway pudding
6 oz flour
3 oz margarine or dripping
2 oz sugar
1 egg
A little milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Sift the flour with the baking-powder and a pinch of salt. Rub in the fat, add the sugar and mix with the beaten egg and about 4 tablespoons of milk. Put in a greased pie-dish, and bake in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes. Serve with warmed jam on top.

American cream cheese and pineapple salad
Place pieces of pineapple on lettuce leaves and garnish with small balls made of cream cheese, rolled in a mixture of paprika pepper, chopped parsley and finely chopped nuts. Serve with French dressing.

Irish stew made with sausages
1/2 lb sausages
2 lb potatoes
1/2 pound onions
1 pint water
Pepper and salt
Cut the sausages into neat pieces, place them in a saucepan, just covering the meat with cold water; add a pinch of salt and a little pepper. Cut the onions into quarters and add to the sausages. Simmer for an hour. Cut the potatoes into rather large pieces and add; cook over a low flame for another hour or until the potatoes are soft. Correct the seasoning and serve in a hot dish.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

On my book pile

I've been busy busy reading lately. I've recently finished two more books on wartime propaganda so am quite keen to catch up on some films, something I've had a break from of late. Films and the Second World War by Richard Manvell is more of a filmography than an analysis but does allow you to get a small glimpse of propaganda films outside of Britain and the US. For instance, Japanese film makers didn't require a happy ending, in fact, the worse the better. Giving your all for lord and master was the goal. To do so at the cost of intense personal suffering just made it all the better. Russian propaganda was fueled by a vicious hatred of the Germans. They weren't discrete about showing the suffering of the Russian people at the hands of the Nazis and frequently showed close ups of dead and maimed bodies, most unlike the restrained British. An amusing contrast of propaganda styles is revealed through the frustrated and bewildered response of an official in the US: I can't find the exact quote but it's along the lines of - stop sending us films of British folks grinning and bearing it, stop sending us films of British folk singing amidst the bombed ruins of London, get out there and sock it to the Germans! What worked wonders for British morale simply confused the Americans.

I followed this up with a book on Nazi propaganda films and that was an extremely tough read. Written by a very angry German scholar there is much editorializing. It quotes heavily from Nazi press books released with the films and the reading of them is turgid - overblown, hyperbolic and mangled prose that simply makes no sense at all. I was glad to be done with it. More so when it concluded it with an account of all the formerly enthusiastic German actors and directors who claimed, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that they were forced into collaborating.

Recently my young man asked me about the worst year of the war and I had to confess that my actual knowledge of the war beyond the home front and a smattering of SOE adventures was pretty thin. So I snapped up a book by Richard Overy on the events leading up to the war, called 1939 or something. I then attempted a military history of Dunkirk - Major General Julian Thompson's Dunkirk: Retreat to Victory - but didn't get very far. Turns out I'm not very interested on the accounts of individual regiments and lists detailing what arms they were equipped with. From what I read I did get a rather dim view of the French - though I think the author was a bit rough on the Belgians. It's bit like criticizing Tasmania if it gets invaded, it's not really in a position to do much is it?

Things got much better with Dambusters by Max Arthur. It's a brilliant oral history and leaves you wondering how anyone made it through the war alive. An absolute cracker and of personal interest as Kim's father had been invited to take part in the famous raid. It's also very well balanced by oral accounts of the German villagers who survived the attack. I then got back onto familiar ground with the story of an SOE operative, Denis Rake. Which I rather enjoyed, even though he was a bit of a fibber, and think it will take me down a new path - stories of the French Resistance.

So that was this week's reading. I've got some great source documents about cooking during the war that I'm keen to share with you soon.

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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween: boo!

I know it's the height of indulgence to share my dreams with you but last night I dreamt I went to a Halloween party dressed as RMIT's Storey Hall. Strange, no?

I also know that we don't celebrate Halloween here but I thought I'd be appropriately seasonal with this clip from the Brian Sisters. The Brian Sisters came to fame when Pappa Brian took himself off and Mamma Brian struggled to raise her kids solo during the Depression. Spurred on by the success of Shirley Temple Mrs Brian put her girls on the stage. And they were a hit! Playing clubs such as the Trocadero, many radio shows and appearing as cameos in about 13 films. They were playing on CBS radio when their act was interrupted to announce the bombing of Pearl Harbour. During the war they performed in charity gigs and bond drives. Here's the Boogie Woogie Boogie Man. Oh bother. I'll fix the link tomorrow!

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Ding! Ding!

The beautiful W class trams! These old rattlers are such a symbol of Melbourne. The W class trams were released between 1923 and 1955 before they started withdrawing them from service in 1992. By mid 2000 most of them were gone. These days most of them are mouldering away in a tram yard. We even started giving them away - though they've now put a stop to that. Apparently we gave a refurbished tram to Princess Mary as a wedding present though I'm betting it wasn't on the gift registry.

I have no idea what sort of tram this is but isn't it grand? Is this a cable tram? This is at the top of Bourke Street.

The Liberals reckon they're going to bring them back, Labor says they're no good for prams, disabled and the elderly (true) and the Greens are saying they're going to bring back conductors. All of which are pretty flimsy election platforms if you ask me but I do love these trams and hope they can be saved.

VE Day in Melbourne

I'm trying to think what I know about trams in the war and I know I've read a bit but it's not exactly stuff that springs to mind is it? Cable trams (possibly pictured above) had been replaced by the electric trams we're familiar with in 1941. Windows were papered over for the brownout, including the window between the driver and the travelers. There was huge strain on the public on public transport during the war - largely due to war work. Yes there was petrol rationing but only 8% of folks owned a car in 1939 so this didn't have a huge impact. Tram stops were reduced to limit wear on vehicles and new routes opened up, particularly through Footscray for workers at the munitions factories.

Women became much more visible on trams, particularly in the smoking section, typically a male domain. And of course it was khaki wool and knitting needles the whole way. You also find more women out at night as special trams were put on for night shift workers. Women were also taking over transport jobs. Female ticket inspectors came in for a lot of abuse from male passengers and probably worked for a lower wage than the men they replaced. Thirteen day fortnights were introduced, days off were cancelled and the working day extended, and staff numbers cut. Huge battles between the Tramways Association and Manpower ensued!

Female shoppers and theatre goers came in for criticism for making unnecessary journeys. Kate Darian-Smith, in her book on Melbourne during the war years, describes a tram poster depicting a large woman burdened with shopping parcels hogging a seat while tired shift workers hang from straps:
Here's another Selfish Sue, who dawdles all the morning through, then late she rushes for a tram, and some poor worker has to stand.

My nanna and her sister were conductors on the buses in WA during the war and they had a whale of a time. The uniform was very feminine and I thought it was pretty fancy when I first saw the photos. She loved these years working with the girls on the buses. I don't even think she ever had another job.

Florence and Edie McGee at the Metro Bus Company

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Physiological effects of caffeine

Bipolar rule no 2: easy on the caffeine! Problem is, once I'd started with the coffee I felt simply too, too marvelous! Ten (or so) flat whites later and I was completely off my head. I like to think that I was fairly restrained but it seems I still drove my young man batty with the yappity yap. For the next four days I felt pretty grim. I couldn't eat and had a monster headache. Poor me.

Mum was up from the country so Kim and I ventured over the river to Fitzroy for her book launch.

Looks pretty good doesn't it? It's about Australia's very own Willy Wonka - think Freddo Frogs and Cherryripe. Anyway, it's by my mum and I'm proud of her! Mum was busy with interviews and walking tours but we found time to take tea at the gallery (even though I was still feeling a bit queasome). Once again, it was too cold to wear a frock but I got to wear a new shirt, made to measure from a vintage pattern in repro fabric by the lovely Jack's Daughter. I am so in love with this shirt I think I'll get another one made.

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Monday, October 18, 2010

Girlish nonsense

I'm a big fan of UK label Vivien of Holloway and swear that their wide legged swing pants are the only trousers a forties gal needs. This Saturday I got to play and try on heaps of their clothes for fun. Vivien has a sister Christine living down my way and she regularly turns up at rockabilly events - not quite my scene. On the weekend she made an appearance at the Penny Rose Boutique in Fitzroy, complete with cupcakes and cups of tea. I made the considerable journey (ACROSS THE RIVER!) to Fitzroy early in the morning. It was quite a novel experience trying on clothes as I buy most of my stuff online - and boy did I try on a lot!

Things I am in love with:

Cotton frocks are a staple of the forties wardrobe. I plan to wear a lot this summer.

High waisted trousers with suspenders! Perfect for the swing shift at the munitions factory, er, library.

Now my pins are far from lovely but I love the idea of these for summer weekends.

Pin up perfect! Thus playsuit doesn't fit me as I'm too long in the body. But isn't it cute?

Not for me, but if you're a Madmen fan you might like this number. Super flattering cut.

A Dorothy Lamour sarong dress. Not what I would have picked for me but - va va voom! What a dish! What a dream! What a dame! Pushes you in and out in all the right places!

Because I was there early I was the only one trying things on and I left with a list of items and the sizes I needed (dreaming away of course, there's no way I could afford this!) I got into the city and called my young man to tell him how much fun I'd had and he asked why I hadn't bought anything. Oh. Hadn't thought of that. So I caught a tram right back to Fitzroy! And the place was packed. Because I'm not dancing at the moment I don't get to hang out with like minded souls all that often. So this was a lot of girly fun. I was the only forties girl there, the rest was rockabilly but there was such a flurry of petticoats and circle dresses and everyone looked awesome.

I ended up snapping up an absolute bargain - a tea dress that is awfully grown up AND half price. But boy do I wish I had a hat! I'm hoping I can show you a pic of me in it when I take tea with my mum this weekend. But given that the weather has ruined my frock wearing plans pretty frequently at the moment I'm not holding my breath.

Good news: my little Jack cat has started sleeping on the bed for the first time in a year. And we've abandoned his special diet and he's eating for happiness rather than health. He's old and he's sick so he can have whatever he likes. Plus he's put on 600g - so there's a race with Donna's baby to see who will get beefy first! I just wish I knew where his new daytime sleeping spot is. I don't know how you lose a cat in a one bedroom apartment but he's got me stumped!
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Mr and Mrs Newton

We went to a wedding on the weekend - my friend Penny got married to her young man Dave. Once again, my plans for wearing a frock were scuppered by the lack of sunshine - which is just as well because we were going to Redhill and I'd forgotten that it would be colder up there. It took us a while to get to The Vines Winery, a very pretty little venue out in the country. The ceremony took place in the beautiful gardens and was nice and snappy - Penny is such a practical girl. She wore a simple strapless number and looked absolutely beautiful. I liked her flowers very much, simple bunches of flannel flowers, Geraldton wax and proteas in soft peach, cream and grey tones. We were seated on the cyclists table so the reception was most enjoyable and I got to catch up with some of my old cycling buddies which was really nice. We got very well fed and the bride and groom called it a day in good time. I was very glad to get home because I'd had a little bit of beer and I was sleepy. Little bit sad because the happy couple are moving up to Canberra in a few months.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

The cat & dog meat man

Ok, I promise this will be my last post on meat for a while!

This is a pre War photo of the cat and dog meat man in the Eastend of London. The meat is horseflesh and other bits and pieces, dyed green so unscrupulous butchers couldn't pass it on to unsuspecting patrons. Unfortunately, it often proved unfit for animal consumption (think maggoty ew!) Feeding your pet during the war years was difficult and in Britain, sadly, many animals were put down rather than face starvation. This makes me very sad.

My little Jack cat is unwell at the moment. He's got the cat flu which seems to be going around - all our big cats have had it. Turns out it's not influenza at all but usually a type of herpes. So we're on three different meds that all need to be mooshed up into his smoosh. The poor little guy has FIV so we need to treat it quite aggressively. When I was at the vet she looked at his blood tests from last year and realised that he has a bad liver. Apparently a cat's liver can be damaged within two days if they stop eating - and last year he hardly ate at all for MONTHS and got scary skinny. So now his liver is shot, he's about two kilos underweight and, because the liver wasn't functioning here's been a build up of ammonia in his brain, which has contributed to his dementia. Sigh. But his weight isn't as bad as it was at the beginning of the year and he's on a special diet, and I'm coming home at lunch to give him an extra feed so fingers crossed. Oh, and he's been given a shot of steroids (so he's no longer UCI legal). He's also in excellent spirits and now his cat flu's improving he no longer has foetid meat breath (= a lot easier to love).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Out of the frying pan into the firing line (1942)

As promised - a short about bacon fat! In America animal fats were used as a source of glycerin, which went into making nitro glycerin,which of course is used to make explosives. Housewives were encouraged to save their food grease in a tin. Once they had a pound they took it to their local butcher who would give them cash or coupons for it.

Here we have Minnie and Pluto saving their bacon fat. It's the only time you'll see Mickey in uniform, which you'll just catch a glimpse of in a photo on the wall.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Meatless Mondays

America went for voluntary rationing during World War 1. It didn't work so well but one of the things that did survive was Meatless Monday. Initially promoted by Hoover as a means of limiting meat consumption during a time of shortage, it reappeared in World War 2.

I've a great cartoon about saving fats for production of glycerine for explosives.

So this week we're having a meat free week. Last night we had du Puy lentils and roast field mushrooms with garlic and rosemary. I dunno why I thought it was cold but I finished this off with a wintery red cabbage dish. Tonight we're having an Ethiopian meal: a red lentil stew, with injeri and braised silver beet. Not v WWII I know!

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