Friday, January 11, 2013


It's beautiful isn't it? And as we say on instagram, #nofilter.

This is the view we gazed at for a week over the New Year. It's sparkling Spring Beach on Tasmania's south east coast. Maria Island lies across the bay - it's pronounced Mariah like Mariah Carey but a million miles from her glitz.

We ate, drank, napped, read and puzzled (I did much better than last year's poor effort) and spent a lot of time on the beach. Spring Beach has whiter than white dry sand that squeaks under your feet as you walk.

A week ago today we sweltered through a forty degree day while parts of our beloved home state burned.  A hot, hot dry day with a hot northerly wind is rare in Tasmania and feels quite apocalyptic. For the Tasman and Forestier Peninsulas it was. While we were chasing the boys' boards as they were blown down the beach other families were wading out in the chilly water with their children or fleeing in boats to escape the flames.  Over a hundred houses were lost but thankfully it now looks as though no lives were lost. The water must have saved so many. If they'd been stuck in a valley things could have been quite different.

There were fires to our north and quite far to the south - nowhere near us but this was the wall of smoke that swept in overnight and obscured the view to Maria. There was smoke over Hobart for a few days afterwards.

The people of Tasmania - and the rest of Australia - have been doing us all proud.  One volunteer set up this Facebook page - 'Tassie Fires, We can  help' - and help it has. From Friday night when it became clear what had happened people started to donate everything from their time to clothes, groceries, shelter and animal food - and quickly and efficiently distributed it all via social media.

Have a read through the facebook page - you'll probably cry a little. The Red Cross Appeal has topped $2m already. The local primary school at Dunalley was razed but within a week they community is making plans to re-open and already has hundreds of donated books to restart the school library.

Perhaps one of the best things you can do in the coming months and years is pop down to Tassie, stay awhile and spend some cash - and if you do plan a trip, email me and I'll happily give you some more of my tips.  The Peninsula is one of my favourite places.

Sometimes when you tell people you're Tasmanian you cop some flak (and a lot of bad jokes about your second head). Well two fingers to that. It's the greatest little place on earth. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Transport... transporting...

Do you 'do' public transport?

My husband is a heavy user and would quite happily never drive again. I have never seen him huff and puff quite so much as when he heard what Maggie Thatcher had apparently said about public transport:  'A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure'.

He must have been 31 at the time.  There is some doubt that she every said it but if she had then old Mags was simply being a Tory in the 80s. It wouldn't wash now, no matter what side of the fence you sit.

Now that we're in Melbourne and I'm working, I'm back on the train.  A couple of peak hour trips put me clean off the car option.

I've reverted to my London ways. In that great heaving city there is a necessary method to train and tube travel. Regulars have their own spot marked on every platform they use. The doors open right there, the exit will be in just the right spot for that carriage. They never ever loiter on the left of the escalator.  I may not have chalked my marks on the Melbourne platforms yet but I always storm up the side of the escalator huffing at people who stop and stand on the right.

Last week a young woman clipped her nails right behind my right ear. They were her fingernails, not toes but I was utterly revolted. When I turned to frown I saw the artistically placed tatt and Hells Angels pendant and let it be.

Speaking of public transport... (this, in the news business, is known as a segue and they are often clumsy) I was idly browsing online today and stumbled upon the work of Sophie Blackall.

Her name felt terribly familiar. Of course she is the Australian illustrator of the Ivy and Bean books. But she is also a woman who can see the romance in public transport - her work is in the subway carriages of New York where she lives. And she has a lovely book which will make the best Christmas present if I can get it in time.

It's Missed Connections - drawings inspired by those classifieds ads people post in the hope of finding that mysterious stranger they saw at a party or on a train. She collected them for her blog which then became a book.

You can buy her prints on Etsy - a lovely two part present. The bear guy has become her favourite apparently.
You probably know all this but even if you do you should should really watch this video about her work.

I did because Bryan Sun told me to. He has a fabulous photo project Walking With Giants. He's been photographing artists, artistically. The Design Files told me to read his blog.  And a friend told me this week it was a pity I'd quit blogging. She won't follow me to instagram.
It's Friday, a day for doing what I'm told.

Anyway watch it. In the madness of the pre-Christmas, pre-holiday, pre-everything rush it will give you a lovely quick insight into the world of a woman who can see the joy and romance in train travel. And that is quite a feat.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Advancing Australia Fair...

Most Friday mornings I can be found at my older son's school. An assembly is held in the hall and we all cram in, kids wriggling and parents clapping as the chosen class giggles their way through a performance or talks to us about spiders or football or whatever is taking up their learning time. I'm still amazed how often football is mentioned. Only in Melbourne.

We parents marvel at how tall the Grade 6's are getting and sigh over the sweet little preps. We take wobbly phone footage as the Star of the Week awards are handed out.

Advance Australia Fair always kicks off proceedings.  We all stand to attention and sing with gusto or as much gusto as you can when you're singing an anthem that's an octave too high. Then the hall launches into the second verse. Actually half the hall. Anyone over 12 stops singing and looks at their feet. The second verse?

There was no second verse in my day.  Officially there was but we didn't ever sing it.
So here, for all of you muttering through it at school events, is verse one AND two.

Australians all let us rejoice
For we are young and free
We've golden soil and wealth for all
Our home is girt by sea
Our land abounds with nature's gifts
Of beauty rich and rare
In history's page, let every stage
Advance Australia Fair
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia Fair.

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross
We'll toil with hearts and hands
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share
With courage let us all combine
To Advance Australia Fair
In joyful strains then let us sing
Advance Australia Fair.

Politicians - and voters - take note. That rather nice line about 'boundless plains to share' seems to have been a little lost in the current political climate.

By 2013 I'd like to sing it with confidence - and meet our rather stern principal in the eye when I do.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Still here...

Still here and not giving up entirely... although I have been utterly rubbish at the blog caper in 2012.
I am planning a blog revamp and a life makeover to give it more time. Stay tuned.

Of course I have been doing all sorts of blog worthy things - if only I could connect the dots - my camera, computer and brain.

I've been wasting time with instagram. Actually hardly any time at all which is what makes it so attractive. It's rather fun, give it a go. If you look me up (myvillalife) you can see a myriad of flower shots.  Too many really but I have a nice flower filled walk to school each morning and no life.

For instagram you'll need an iPhone and the App.  I'm typing this up on a shiny new iPad. Aren't I a million miles from here? You couldn't ever call me an early adapter to new technology but I get there in the end.  Yes, those who know how much I like to be right can give me two fingers and say I Told You So.

When not distracting myself with tech devices (and working and mothering) I have had my head in a book. I have a new book club, Book Club Lite as it is dubbed by its new members -  but we've read books that are anything but. Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers   and The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower  - one of the Text Classics I mentioned here. All That I Am waits patiently next to my bed.

Minestrone has been my drug of choice this winter. My Dad gave me his recipe. I believe Stephanie Alexander gave her recipe to him.  It requires half a gallon of olive oil, pork rind and a hunk of Parmesan. His instruction - don't skimp on the olive oil. So right. He also grows his own borlotti beans. A bowl of it is like a hot water bottle and a hug.

We have also been to Vietnam and taken incredible pictures, eaten beautiful food, crossed roads with our hearts in our mouths and discovered pool side service. I like pool side service.

My son is still the sleeping stuntman. Four going on five - many months off five but in his head he was nearly five a day after he turned four. With me?

My older son is racing through books. It seems only yesterday that he was learning. We check every now and then that he is actually taking it in.  I'm thrilled that he loves reading but also annoyed that he stubbornly refuses to read any Enid Blyton.  What is it with kids these days?

As I type I'm watching the new  US HBO cable show The Newsroom. It's excellent viewing for news junkies. For washed up news EPs like yours truly it made the adrenalin pump like it used to and then a sadness settled on me with the realisation that I am washed up and will never work all hours in a frenetic New York newsroom. Ah well.

All these things probably deserve a post of their own. I have it in hand.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cushions and things...

Cushions and instagram. And I'm very pleased with both.

I finally caved in last week and uploaded the Instagram App.  It was 9pm so my first few pictures were taken in our living room.  When I gushed to my other half about the newfound joys of yet another social media app he said in a rather withering tone, "They're cushions, Ann." I fear instagram, like blogging, may pass him by.

There are plenty of other instagrammers taking pictures of their pillows and dinners and dresses and doors and I'm finding it strangely addictive. I also like the camera tools - I've already really over used the blurr button.

I have finally given in to my absolute love of blue and white. I have two new brown leather couches and a much loved but very heavy dark wooden coffee table made from factory floorboards. They will be fine one day in a fresh white room with lots of windows. In a rather badly lit living room painted rental cream it's all a little dark - the blue and white seems to lift it all a little.

I found these cushion covers on Etsy. Have you ever tried to remember where on earth you saw that Very Useful Something or Other on Etsy? Pinterest is the answer.  I have found and pinned a houseful of cushion covers for that freshly painted light white home. Now we just need to buy it.

By the way, the husband just passed the computer as I write this muttering "Cushions... again."
Thank god for the blog.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A spoonful of sugar...

It was the Cadbury creme egg that did it. An icky sugary Easter creation that sealed my resolve to walk away from the love of my life - at least for a while.

I'm talking about chocolate and more broadly sugar. Like so many others I have phased it out and two months in I'm finding life is just fine without it.

In typically dramatic fashion I decided to start suddenly on Easter Monday. I  sent all the left over Lindt goodies from the house and set about reworking my home-made muesli - toasting flaked almonds, pepitas and sunflower seeds with coconut and sesame seed without the apple juice, honey and dried fruit.

I then downloaded Sarah Wilson's e-book, read through her her blog and sifted back to find these pages from Townmouse and My Pear Tree House. Honestly when I read these at the time I paid scant attention but they stayed in the back of my mind. I then found David Gillespie's latest book buried in a pile of new releases on my desk at work.

It was the way I was feeling that spurred me into action. I was feeling rubbish in the afternoons - close to death at three o'clock with an overwhelming need to lie down. I would eat something sweet to pep me up which in turn would make me feel a little shaky.

I'm not one for diets, self-help books or advice I hear on the radio - heavens I'm the cynical one putting it on the radio...   but eventually all the 'sugar is poison' talk made it through my cynical filter.

I still don't think it is poison but I do think we eat an enormous amount of sugar without realising it.

It dawned on me that giving up sugar in most forms wouldn't trouble me too much and it hasn't. Juice, dried fruit, dessert, cakes, ice cream are not things I crave and we don't eat much processed food like bottled sauces.

Breakfast has been the hardest meal but I've adapted well to my homemade muesli mix with natural yoghurt. I also buy this fruit free muesli when I'm sick of mine.  The muffins and biscuits I bake for the kids go in their lunch boxes and not in mine.  I take cheese and almonds and grapes to snack on at work. I still eat whole fruit - it sounded mad to me to give that up.

I dropped the sugar from my tea and haven't missed it and even chocolate hasn't been too hard - although of course there's been the odd lapse!

I am still me after all - but a much less sweet version and I feel a whole lot better. I'm definitely more mindful of what I eat and how it makes me feel.

Goodness I sound almost sensible. I'm turning forty in less than a year. That could explain it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Check mate...

Sometimes I get a little distracted in the house search and spend more time pinning all sorts of beautiful spaces instead of nailing the perfect trifecta of price, location and potential.

We're getting a feel for the areas of Melbourne we'd like to settle in. Actually it's all going to be determined by just how far I'm prepared to drive to my son's school. He and I have made friends and we're not moving far.

In fact ending 2012 without some sort of house move would be just fine, thanks.

And definitely not to an undersized and probably overpriced terrace house with a chess board in the garden - no matter how beautiful it looks. I'll just visit it on pinterest occasionally.

Image from here - while it lasts.


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