Archive for December, 2003

feliz ano nuevo

Busy holiday. Christmas was grand, very cold but sunny. We had a bang-up Irish brunch at Shannon’s place, and perfectly brined turkey with all the trimmings at Kate’s. Toys snowed upon Claire. Her first birthday candle stood atop the Christmas pud.

Yesterday Blanca looked after Claire and Rowan while we went to see the splendid, the amazing Return of the King. Today I jumped my lovely Laz, then Michael and Patricia took Claire and Cian while we went to see the wonderful Master and Commander. All in all a very happy end to the best year of my life so far.

Not everyone has been so lucky: various dear friends are mopping up after surgery and a funeral. Better fortune next year, I wish and hope. Babies growing up healthy and strong, scars healing, talent recognized, projects moving forward, hard work rewarded, changes of government that bring better and kinder people into power. More art, more friendship. Peace.

the chalmers-fitzhardinges watch the last temptation of christ

Jeremy: It’s Jesus Christ Superstar without the songs.

Rachel: It’s Life of Brian without the jokes.

Claire: A-BAH!


To my complete delight William John and Korben Hugh are here and hale and hearty, all fingers and toes present and accounted for. Their mothers demonstrate the ridiculous fortitude of the Australian female. The other day I chatted with Moira on the phone – while she was in labour – and Samantha decided it was probably time to mosey along to the hospital when she was nine centimetres dilated. Seriously, if I ever want an army of genetically superior supersoldiers to advance my nefarious schemes, I’m just going to recruit some of my girlfriends from home.

hollow: a koan for homebuyers

The pest inspector said: “The wood, down at the front. It is empty.”

“Empty?” asked the buyers.

“You know. I stick my pen through, and there is nothing there. Empty.”

And the buyers were enlightened.

goodbye annabelle


That was a good day. Claire was five weeks old; her Janny and Uncle Barnes had come out from Australia to rejoice in her presence. We took her to visit Afshin in the Oakland Hills, then we dropped by Alcatraz to see Jack and Salome and their menagerie.

Janny said: “I can live with the cats and dogs playing with the baby, but I draw the line at the rat!”


But Anna was the best rat ever. I was a sad disappointment to her because my hair is too short: her favourite place to sit was under your ponytail, although she would settle for a pocket or a hood. She was a cheerful, friendly, highly intelligent person, with delicate little pink hands that she used to keep herself scrupulously clean, and a strong and beautiful tail.

Unlike Salome’s fraidy-cat dog Belinda and big gay horse Noah, Anna was brave as a lion. She was bred for snake food, and when she was a few weeks old she was for sale in a huge cage full of white rats. Salome reached in and all the other rats ran away from her hand, but Anna sat looking up with her customary merry confidence. She faced death with the same courage.


We are in escrow, which is a lot like being in limbo. If you say your cultural equivalent of novenas for us, our property inspections will go well.

my preciousss

I bought Jeremy’s birthday present, and I’m not going to tell him what it is.

Except that it’s very cool.


Those koans did something to me. Thursday night Jeremy and I prowled around Japantown in dual quests for tempura (highly successful) and Christmas presents (futile). We browsed the Kinokuniya bookstore for hours, eventually picking up another Miyazaki DVD in order to obtain parking validation.

So Friday night we watched Princess Mononoke again. It’s such a strange and gorgeous film, so pretty and so alien. Then this morning I stumbled across the quirky Japan home page, which amused me for hours.

The Lonely Planet guide to Japan says it’s a wonderful place to travel with kids. Hmm.


He is splendid; a big dark bay New Zealand thoroughbred with a splashy white star. He’s very solid for a TB, like a scaled-up pony, legs like tree trunks. He’s quiet and sweet, but it was cold on Saturday morning and the wind got under his tail and he gave some great bucks. I stayed on! Which was lovely, and made up for the fact that I ride very untidily these days. David took one look at me and laughed.

But I did stay on, and even got a couple of decent canter transitions. Laz has a huge athletic canter like Noah’s, the sort of canter that makes life worth living.

When I was a kid, bored in English class, I used to design my perfect stable block, with a courtyard in the middle and wash bays and a proper high hay loft and a break room. David’s new barn is like that. The old one, with its swaybacked roofline and rotting timber, is completely gone. The new complex sits back up the hill, commanding a sweep of lawn down to a restored Los Trancos Creek.

It’s very beautiful. It’s also very strange to see a place I knew so well and loved so much, completely changed, and yet to feel happy about it. The things I really liked about the property – the creek, the trees, the grass, the sunshine – are the same or better, and the things I didn’t care for so much – the damp, dark stables, the tack room in a shipping container – have been replaced with clean bright well-constructed stalls. It’s the opposite of entropy! Postponing the heat death of the universe as we speak!

Claire loved the horses, and the horses loved her. They’re so gentle with kids, breathing warmly on them and touching their faces with sweet velvet lips.


Today Claire learned about brushing her teeth. I have this way cute little rubber bristle pad that fits over my finger, and a tiny tube of toothpaste flavoured with apple and pear. She found the toothpaste delicious, and the bristles rubbing on her teeth and gums deeply soothing. She sang “Aaaah” and joyously drooled.

I am pleased with Ellen Ullman’s book The Bug, because it’s a little bit like the book I’m writing, but at the same time – completely different! This is perfect. I can say, “You know, it’s like Microserfs or The Bug meets Mating and A Suitable Boy and the Aubrey-Maturin saga”, and publishers will have no earthly clue what I’m talking about. But other people, people exactly like me, will crave my book like the geek-girl crack it is. And if you can’t cater to your doppelgangers, to whom can you cater, hmm?

In other news, I have a new horse! Laz. His name is Laz.


I am reading good Zen koans to Jeremy over the phone.

“I like that one,” he says, chuckling. “Am I allowed to say that it has a good punchline?”

Me, I would never have left Ogion to go to Roke. Which is why I’m not Ged.