Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Word play

When I wrote that last post I spent a couple of minutes wondering about spilled versus spilt. I went with spilt. Spilt is an ugly looking word but it sounds better.  And according to some dodgy internet source it's the one most associated with milk. Spilled wine. Spilt milk.

If I was sitting in a newsroom we'd debate it and eventually whoever was in charge would win. If I was at the ABC in Australia or the BBC in Britain there'd be a style guide. My blog, my style I guess.

I'm not a crazed pedant but I do rather miss the pedants that clutter a newsroom. Even in a television newsroom everything used to stop while a debate ensued about a word or a phrase. There were groans when you heard a clanger like "As dawn broke the full extent of the horror was revealed..." or worse still "farmers are bracing themselves." Groans too when the boss banned the use of words like 'crisis' or 'row' or on budget day wouldn't let you write 'war chest' or 'armory'. The bans never lasted long.

I miss the living group thesaurus I worked with. You could always call out to the rest of the desk mid-sentence when stuck for the right word or phrase.

There were six to eight of us round the desks tapping out news and shouting down the phones.  I was better at shouting down the phone than dreaming up puns.  My all-time favourite tease line was dreamed up by someone else. The story was about some brown owls who'd stopped mating because of an unusually wet season: "Too Wet To Woo" was the line she used. Gold.

We had a particularly cantankerous correspondent who'd seen his fair share of conflict. He was there when the Berlin wall came down and probably when it went up too. He had a plastic hip so he'd given up on war zones but he'd often come back to the newsroom in a crisis and put together the most beautifully scripted packages.

He'd always send a cranky missive about the latest mistake we'd made on air. His favourite rant concerned the confusion of 'less' and 'fewer'. If you can count it, use fewer. If not, use less. Less flour. Fewer cups of flour.

Of course there's a pedant in all of us and we all like to be right. When I worked in radio in Sydney I saw that side of a lot of normally quite rational people. Answering phones on local talkback radio is the best fun you can have... some days.

Whenever a particular New South Wales town was mentioned in the traffic reports the phones would light up with outraged residents (and those who went there once in 1976) all adamant that their pronunciation was right and ours was wrong and then ten minutes later, that the correction was wrong and we were right in the first place.   I wasted many minutes of taxpayers' money answering those calls. I can't even remember what the place name was now.

If all this talk of pedantry lights your fire, head over to Stan's, an Irish pedant recently introduced by the lovely and amusing Mise. And if I have made a few errors, please don't call me to complain... I'm not paid to blog.


By the way, when searching for an image I found the one above and this - a list of the 100 most beautiful words in English.  My favourite word (not on the list) is voluptuous. It sounds just like it should and is velvety and smooth and... voluptuous. When I was a child the word I loved saying was Blomfontein. It's a city in South Africa and I've never been there but I liked the way it sounded. Odd, I know.

Monday, October 25, 2010

No sleep and spilt milk...

I have been neither terrific nor prolific on this blog lately. For that I apologise. 

I have misplaced my blogging mojo this month. Everything I read seems a lot more interesting than anything I have to write. I wouldn't be so vain as to call it writer's block but maybe it's what happens to the professionals. Bear with me, I'll fire up again soon... 

My home help is not helping either.... this is my two year old in action...
He is in action all day now. He's decided that at the age of two years and five months he's way too old to sleep during the day so instead he potters around finding trouble. Quietly.

This time he came to me at my desk asking me to take the lid off his empty bottle. Absent mindedly I did. Then he returned proudly with it absolutely full to the brim with milk.

I came out of my blog induced coma and sprinted through to the kitchen to find the milk carton almost empty and a puddle of milk. I have heard it said that you shouldn't cry over spilt milk so I didn't, I laughed.

"I clean it...", said my assistant and proudly showed me his milk sodden sock.

So helpful. So funny. So not helping me get my blog mojo back.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Retro twits...

While I'm pondering the problems of modern day communication... and wasting more than a little time online I found this... a bit of fun for a Friday.
I found it here,  one of a series of retro style ads for modern communication... by the Brazilian ad agency Moma. Their website is rather cool too. Have a look and wait a few seconds for it to load. Worth it I thought.

India Knight is a writer I grew to love in London and her blog is snippets of things she likes. Simple but on my must-read list.

Enjoy your weekend. It's set to stay sunny here in Auckland and we plan to make the most of it. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


That's iGen as in iPhone. And iPad, Touch and Pod.

'i' (as  in 'I') still haven't got any of them. Apart from an iPod of course. I'm not a total dinosaur. And I haven't bought an iPhone because I'm always about to move again (and there are a few issues with responsible ownership and me drowning my current Nokia three times in six months).

On holiday I spent some time with my old friends.  I hasten to add that of course they're not old (they're gorgeous and they read this blog) but they are all late thirty-something women and men and they all have an iPhone... except Simon. He's like me.

It's interesting to see how iPhones are changing the way we interact. This is not scientifically tested of course and I'm not judging. Honestly, I'd quite like to join the iParty too and my kids would love me to.

While holidaying in Tasmania I stayed the night at a friend's holiday home. It's an hour or so from Hobart at the beach near Port Arthur.  I showed you how beautiful it was here

I've been going there for a long time. Fifteen years ago none of us had a mobile phone and I think there was no landline either, five years ago we were mostly out of phone range. This time, we girls spent an hour or so online shopping at the kitchen table via the iPhones. I bought a trench coat. It's very nice but I probably didn't need to be browsing online on a Saturday night.

On the same weekend my husband was in Melbourne with his fellow Collingwood fans. He found the same thing with his mates... a lot of diving for the iPhone mid conversation and a bit too much time looking at the top of someone's head as they swoosh through their phone looking for something to show you.

I think we're all just a bit excited about the new technology and haven't quite worked out how to make sure it doesn't dominate. The iPhone images are gorgeous to look at and quite enthralling so who wouldn't want to whip it out for a quick look at every opportunity.

There's a lot of rubbish written and said about this fearful new age.  "Twitter is making us a bunch of twits. Facebook is threatening our privacy. Texting is enlarging thumbs and killing the written language. Gr8."

I don't approve of txt speak but I like social networking. Obviously. I blog and I have blog friends online who I've never met. I write about my children online (carefully). I share what I'm thinking. I treat this as the newspaper column I'd like to have but no one's offered.

I like twitter too. I don't tweet (nothing interesting to say I thought at first) but I am thinking about starting and I already tweet stalk. I often look at my favourite writers/reporters/programs and see what they're chatting about.  I'm referred to a lot of interesting articles via twitter. It's invaluable for a journalist and I should get on board.

I use Facebook. The privacy issue doesn't worry me so much...  and there are a lot of people on my Facebook network that I would have completely lost without it.

I think we just need to learn how to handle the fact that oodles and oodles of stuff is literally in the palm of your hand.

Remember how badly people behaved when they first got mobile phones? Lots of shouting into the phone, taking calls at the dinner table, on the bus and in restaurants. Fifty years on and some still haven't quite mastered the art of television and leave it on when you go to their house to dinner. But I think most of us have learned the rules about mobiles and television. Or we've learned not to get offended.

The rules about iPhones and iPads will follow too. Then we'll have to learn how to properly use the next Cool Big iThing.

I might just buy an iThing.

The Cartolina app in the image above is just one of the squillions of iPhone apps to covet. Fiona Richards' beautiful card designs to jazz up your messages. I found it here.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hole story...

When I see the words 'kitchen' and 'organised' I jump to attention, so this morning when the very accomplished blogger, mother, builder extraordinaire, A-M, at The House That A-M Built sent me to check out Martha's kitchen hints I hopped straight over. Quite apart from Martha's incredible array of pots and spatulas (and obsessive neatness) this is what really got me excited.
Adjustable shelves built with old fashioned 'bird's beak' supports - and as Martha  - or more accurately her minions who write all this - say there are no holes and no hardware. 

I HATE those holes.  And those stupid plugs that fall out of them. So much so that when I saw this a few months ago on the DIY blog Young House Love I saved it. 
While installing an Ikea bookcase they went to the trouble of filling in the holes... and it looks so much better. They cleverly left a couple open for adjustments.

My dream kitchen (in the dream house) will have bird's beak shelving. Some clever carpenter type suggested they might be dust catchers. I choose dust, and my dream kitchen comes with a dream cleaner anyway.

For now, it is me, those darn holes and a bucket of filler.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Show and tell...

So we've just had a three week holiday back in Australia, quite a treat for my boys. They did and saw lots of things, like this little critter who lives in their grandparents' Queensland garden. ***

I have just asked my five year old what he talked about at 'news' this morning. News is the modern school kid's show and tell.

"My finger," was the reply.

"Your finger?"

Cue withering look from child. Combined with eye roll.

"You know this one," he says holding up the finger he scraped yesterday. It bled for a few seconds and then he got a bandaid. That was it.  

I think I need to start teaching him what makes news and what doesn't.  Just imagine his poor teacher.

***That is the first and last reptile you'll see here. I don't have any idea what sort of lizard it is... I am not a fan of scaly things.

Son number 2, who is two, just pointed at the screen and said "Frog." That's my boy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Home, home now.

We finished our holiday in Queensland. Queensland, sunniest place in the world. With place names like the Sunshine Coast and Surfers Paradise and marketing slogans like 'Beautiful One Day, Perfect the Next', expectations as a visitor are pretty high.

But there was not a lot of sunshine and it was not much of a paradise for surfers. In my one quick dash to the stormy beach I was whipped by the sand and slapped by the foam skipping across the beach as the waves came in. Invigorating but only a fool would swim.  
Of course those who live in Queensland haven't had a great week, with sandbags and road closures. To be fair to the Queensland tourism board there was some sun and we swam and took the boys to Dreamworld. 
You're never too young for a theme park but I think you can be too old, it might be my last little journey there. The teacups ride at Wiggle World made me feel queasy. Actually the whole thing made me feel queasy. The husband and kids loved it. We also had a great catch-up with old friends and family.

I rather loved our trip back. I had some rare help from my other half... we're rather like the royal family and never fly together (not to preserve the line of succession like Charles and William, normally just work commitments that never quite line up with holiday plans). And even better with my husband's frequent flyer status came an upgrade to business class. You can never be too old or too young for business class

Now we're home in Auckland I'm going to give my blog some love. And my kitchen floor, my washing basket and my life.  

After three weeks away in my home country I'm feeling slightly dislocated but that will disappear in a few days.  Jet lag perhaps. Can you get jet lag from a two hour time difference? Prising the kids out of bed this morning made me think you perhaps you can.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I have made a home in a few cities but there is one that I still call home even though there are no plans to move back there anytime soon.

Hobart is Australia's southern most city, the capital of Tasmania.  It's small but still a city and it is heaven on a warm spring day.
The red ship is the Aurora Australis, the supply ship for Australia's Antarctic ventures, in dock until the ice melts down south and she can head down for the summer.
This is the historic parliament house. It was orginally the Customs House for the new colony of Van Diemen's Land and had rum stored in the cellars. Now it's home to Tasmania's state government  - I spent a lot of hours as a young reporter holding microphones in front of politicians while they gave glib sound bites or tried to. Now some of the politicians are friends or uni colleagues. How did that happen?
Salamanca with its shops, cafes, galleries and Saturday market is my favourite place -  and it's the best place to people watch, graze and laze on the lawns. 
Spring has arrived at this end of the world and with it all my usual promises to grow spring bulbs next year and start eating mounds of fresh vegetables. Holidays are good for self-improvement or thinking about it.
I worry that we still call Hobart home because we haven't put down roots anywhere else but I know a lot of people like us. Tasmanians are a little like homing pigeons. A lot leave and make a life in Australia's bigger cities or head even further afield but they usually come back for regular visits, often at Christmas time when the Sydney Hobart boats are in dock and the waterfront is littered with street performers, lovely food and wine and sometimes sunshine. 

I try to come back a couple of times a year. My husband asked me this time if anything much had changed in Hobart in the months since he'd visited. No was my answer and he's probably just as relieved to hear that as I was to see that it hadn't.

I hope my children have a pull to a place like this one day too.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stepping back...

On Saturday night, 33 years after this picture was taken, I went back to school to our 20 year reunion.

Actually it was in a bar. Fifty or so women. Working mothers, wives, single women, stay at home mums to babies and some with teenagers. Students, nurses, lawyers, a hairdresser, doctor, social workers, a naturopath. Some planning weddings, others divorced and splitting the care of their kids, some already mourning the loss of a parent -  all women in their late thirties getting on with the business of life.

I thought it was a fabulous night. I hope it was just as good for everyone else. I was lucky enough to love school but I remember those who probably didn't. The teenage years can be tough. Sometimes just the thought of it makes me go a little cold. I'm pretty glad to be the age I am. Remind me of that as I slide to forty...

There were a few who didn't want to come, some we couldn't track down and others like me who flew in for the night.

I thought we all looked good - and I didn't drink much so it wasn't the wine! Some have aged amazingly well. It's probably a little late too ask what their secret is... sunscreen and good genes I suspect.

Wrinkles aside it's comforting to realise that people don't seem to change much. Thirty three years on I still don't quite know how to smile for a photo.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Australia, or a very large proportion of it is a little obsessed with a rough old game called Australian Rules Football, largely characterised by a lack of rules. It's a game that the boys in our little family are destined to love even if we don't live IN Australia. My five year old headed off for his first father/son match on our trip to Melbourne earlier this year.

My husband is a very, very big fan of the much maligned Collingwood Football Club. The Magpies.
'What do you call a Pies fan in a suit? The defendant.' The jokes go on and on.

So the Grand Final last Saturday. 100,000 roaring fans, a nailbiting match and unbelievably a draw, 68-68.

Even more unbelievably no provision for extra time, just another Grand Final a week later.  So today  another 100,000 people in roaring form at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.  My husband, poor man, watched it alone in Auckland pacing the room shouting at the television. I am rather glad I wasn't there.

But I am very very glad for him that they won. By rather a lot.

This is the last time I will ever mention AFL, I promise. I can't say the same for my husband.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Home shopping...

I know I'm on holiday but it's nice to be able to look forward to heading home. This lovely new store in my part of Auckland looks reason enough.

It was featured on The Design Files  today but I saw it in My Real Villa Life a week ago. That's right in the flesh so to speak. I know shops don't have flesh but I'm on holiday and my brain is having a little break too.  It's right opposite the local library and I spotted it as I dashed past to drop the boy's books back.

I'm going back for the cushions but not for another week or so. A little more holidaying first. 

Douglas + Bec. St Mary's Bay, Auckland, NZ. More here.


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