Archive for December, 2002

still happy

More interesting than a really good book. Deliciouser than food. Scrummier than an entire meadow full of ponies.

Salome: What happened to you? You sap.


We have lots of parent friends who gave us uniformly excellent advice and warned us about the many potential pitfalls. I think I’d braced myself, because I didn’t ever really imagine so much simple pleasure: Claire’s first sunbath; how when she’s sleeping on top of me, if I sigh, she’ll sigh too; her addictive scent; the way food tastes even better now than it did when I was nine months pregnant and continually hungry; the fact that even though I’m sleep-deprived, I can sleep more deeply than I have in months because I’m not pregnant any more; the expression on Jeremy’s face when he looks at his daughter.

It’s been a spectacularly happy last few days.


Yatima is the Swahili word for orphan, and it seems amazing to me that anyone could leave this poor urchin to our tender mercies. But there she was in our hospital room, and no one has come to claim her yet.

Today’s big achievement: Claire’s first trip to Atlas. No poo bagels.


About ten minutes after I wrote that last entry, Jeremy and I headed off for a very late breakfast at Atlas.

“They’ll be out of blueberry bagels,” I said gloomily.

“Yes,” said Jeremy. “They’ll have nothing left but poo bagels.”

I laughed so hard, my water broke. We never made it to Atlas. Claire was born fifteen hours later, at 3.42am on Christmas Day. We’re home now, and she’s curled up in her sling as I type.

guess what?

Still no baby. One study found that the average length of pregnancy in first-time, healthy white mothers is 41 weeks and one day, which would be Friday. So no reason for alarm.


Non-stress test and amniotic fluid levels today, both of which confirmed that Claire’s perfectly healthy and happy right where she is, with no intention of moving just now, cheers, thanks. The amniotic fluid test involves an ultrasound, so we got another look at her, including a lengthy inspection of her face. She has huge eyes, high cheekbones and my upturned nose, except that on her it’s so squashed it looks like a snout. To my mother’s great chagrin, I’ve taken to calling her Piglet.

She’s very active, and she mugged shamelessly for the camera, yawning and blinking and twirling her hands. As with the 20-week ultrasound, the nurse fell in love with her: “What a cute baby! She’s made my day, she has.” I bet they say that to all mothers of adorably snouted fetuses.

due date

No baby yet. Yatima regrets any inconvenience.

In other, possibly actionable news, a friend who shall remain nameless is consulting for a company whose name may or may not include the term Best Practice. My friend extracted the marketing guy’s budget from a Word document, threw it into a spreadsheet and pointed out that 60% of his spend was deployed in areas that did not generate leads – this in spite of the fact that his sole goal is lead generation.

“What an interesting approach!” exclaimed the marketing guy. “I would never have thought of using a spreadsheet.”

if only i used my powers for good

For the second time, I’ve got a rejection along the lines of “We would have loved to publish your wonderful story, but unfortunately we just went broke.” This second one involved a personal phone call to let me know just how great the story was. (Great, apparently.)

Probably sounds like I’m protesting too much, but I do find this hysterically funny. Lo, I can bankrupt venerable literary journals with the power of my mighty jinx! Tremble before me!

Postscript: I called Ronnie at Writer’s Relief to let her know that I am serially ruining magazines. She said: “We’ll add it to your cover letter, it’ll go down a treat!”

hell on wheels

Driving back from Mum’s B&B after I picked her up this morning, I was pulled over by a police car. He’d noticed I haven’t put the registration stickers on yet: embarrassing, since J’s been trying to get me to do it for weeks. Anyway, we escaped unscathed.

“Lucky,” said Mum. “Last time I was pulled over, it cost me $140.”

“You were speeding.”

“Well, this Porsche pulled up next to me at the lights. And he was, you know, revving his engine.”

“So you dragged him off.”

“I did. And the police car was hiding just over the crest of the hill, which I thought was a mean trick.”

“The guy in the Porsche must have seen you being ticketed. I bet he laughed.”

“I bet he did,” says Mum ruefully.

“Well, I hope you’ve learned your lesson, young lady.”

She makes a face. “At least I beat him out of the lights.”

just anyone

Staring at my belly, I suddenly start laughing hysterically.

J: What?

R: They really will let just anyone have one, won’t they?

J: You got the license, didn’t you? I thought you got the license?


Kissinger, Cardinal Law and (I missed this on Wednesday) George Mitchell.

Please, could Poindexter be next?

Kissinger said he’d be perfectly happy to disclose the names of the evil regimes his consulting firm has helped maintain in rapacious and bloodthirsty power, but he’s afraid it wouldn’t stop there, and that he would be pressured to stop maintaining evil regimes in rapacious and bloodthirsty power at all! So he stepped down.

I have to admit, there was a kind of lunatic hilarity to it all. I figured that since the Bush administration had already come this far, we’d wake up one morning soon to discover that they were actually televising child sacrifices on the steps of the Capitol, and we’d all just sort of shrug and do that “How the hell am I going to explain this to my daughter in sixteen years’ time?” grin that we all do now…

rach’s house of somewhat less chaos

Jeremy apparently entirely recovered, cat sleeping peacefully, ceiling patched and painted.

No sign of Claire yet, except in dreams. Emily dreamed about the Moonbase celebrating her arrival with gooey chocolate cherry cake. Salome dreamed of her at six or seven months, waving a frantic hello. They both report that she’s very beautiful, and I don’t suspect them of flattery one bit.

rach’s house of chaos

Well, on the bright side, the leaky kitchen ceiling has been patched, hopefully just in time for the weekend’s forecast rain.

Unfortunately Jeremy has eaten something that has greatly disagreed with him. Oh, and the cat has hairballs again.

Me? Fine, fine.


Intent on proving that she is an indispensible source of cute tricks and anecdotes, not to be replaced by any mere human child, Bebe just jumped from the new chests of drawers to the top edge of the bedroom door.

I tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen your cat teetering on the top of a swinging door.

translating from the jeremy

Jeremy was up late last night making robotfindskitten work on my iMac. I am reading him headlines from the451.

J: You’re finding out about the world from your own sources!

R (somewhat surprised): It’s really good.

J: Any robotfindskitten coverage?

R: If we’d had a good robotfindskitten correspondent, I wouldn’t have needed to ask you.

J: Well, now you know there’s a wozzname wozzname, you can thing.

R (laughing): Untapped opportunity, capitalize.

J: Precisely.

song lyrics

Speaking of politics, my big brother contributes this fine snatch of homegrown Australian rap, collected from the eclipse-and-music festival at Lyndhurst:

“John Howard is a filthy slut!
I know he got elected but,
he’s no leader of mine,
he’s a national shame,
leading our country down the drain…”

Jeremy points out that if your accent is broad enough, the last three lines can be made to rhyme.

Another fragment of song was left over from the dream last night:

“I’m cool as the ocean
a slave to compassion
turning and burning
in the approved fashion…”


The word dream springs from the same linguistic root as trauma, isn’t that interesting? I had another social-anxiety nightmare. In this one, Alusha left an angry and detailed message on my voicemail accusing me of having spilled the beans to her gay friends about her engagement to Matt Crosby, thus spoiling a tea party she’d held in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens in order to make the announcement herself.

Now, as far as I know, Alusha and Matt have never met, let alone been to Brisbane. They’re from entirely different branches of the Yatima extended family. Even in the dream, I maintained that I didn’t know any of Alusha’s gay friends and therefore couldn’t be the source of the leak, but since I make that kind of faux pas all the time, I was nonetheless considered the likeliest culprit. To my relief, the rest of the dream devolved into an intricate set of real estate dealings around Manly and Bondi beaches.

Trying to wake up enough to drive to SFO. For the second time in ten years, my shy and phobic mother is flying alone halfway around the world to see me. I’m very proud of her.

the sun went out

So it seems my entire family had a delightful time at the solar eclipse without me. Hmmph. Researching avenues for revenge, I pull up this map, which is very cool, and Jeremy says: “My birthday! South America!”

I say: “You’ll be fifty! Argentina! Let’s do it!”

“Fifty,” says Jeremy forlornly. “Fifty.”


Still reading, reading. Turns out great big Victorian novels are the number one antidote to late-pregnancy frustration and psychosis, and Anthony Trollope is the great big leather daddy of great big Victorian novels. It doesn’t hurt that The Way We Live Now and Can You Forgive Her? would be excellent alternate titles for Charlie Ravioli, of course, but the reason I’m devouring my Trollope in huge chunks is that he gives great character. There’s a passage in The Eustace Diamonds where our antiheroine Lizzie is sitting in a garden, being all picturesque and reading a long poem of Shelley’s. She gets about twenty lines into it, wilfully misinterprets everything as a reference to herself and her situation, commits a line or two to memory then floats off, happily convinced, the narrator assures us, that she has really studied and made her own the entire text. As if that’s not damning (and funny) enough, the narrator adds that later in life she learns to choose the lines she commits to memory from the end of the poem rather than the beginning, as you only get credit for reading the poem up to your quotation from it, and not one line further.

It’s a fabulous scene because it demonstrates not only Lizzie’s shallowness but the exact shape and scale of her misapprehensions about the world she would like to be a part of: a world where she will be thought of as a creative, poetic soul but not one where that would involve actually, you know, reading and understanding the poem or anything strenuous like that. Yet the narrator isn’t unkind to Lizzie. He mocks her and pins her like a butterfly to a card, but he is actually quite a lot harder on our putative hero and heroine, Lucy Morris and Frank Greystock. Frank is one of a series of wholly useless and morally suspect romantic heroes that crop up regularly in the Trollope I’ve read so far: John Bold in The Warden is another and Paul Montague in The Way We Live Now is the exemplar of the type. What’s staggering about this series of indecisive, weak and malleable men is that they end up getting the girl.

I love this. Trollope doesn’t have good guys and bad guys, per se. Even Melmotte, who comes as close to a Trollopian villain as makes no never mind, is granted a lucid and sympathetic end. Trollope’s world is vast and sprawling and coherent from novel to novel. The same milieux and families crop up again and again. But there’s no hard line between morality and laxness, as Austen and Dickens have trained you to expect. Instead, there’s a series of fine judgments drawn out on a case-by-case basis. A person can do reprehensible things and still be a decent person, as in the case of Paul Montague’s hapless American fiance Mrs Hurtle. A person can be entirely admirable, the moral center of an entire novel, as is Montague’s cousin Roger Carbury, and Trollope will still see to it that he is condemned for being boring, and that his rival gets to carry off his sweetheart.

If I’ve noticed a couple of themes emerging in my own fiction, they are The Innocent Are Punished and The Guilty Walk Free. Turns out Trollope strip-mined this ethical terrain a century and a half before I stumbled over his tailings, but I’m delighted to concede his priority, especially with another forty-odd novels to wallow in. (Shameful confession: most days I’d rather read than write.) His narrative line is often convoluted, he meanders, he overuses the dramatic coincidence and in general he could use a thorough edit, but none of this is remotely surprising considering that, like his contemporaries Dickens, Oliphant and Thackeray, he was writing serials for magazines. I should concede at once that he’s a darling of the Tories and anathema to the Marxists because he’s considered retrogressive and narrow in his concerns, confining his interests to the behaviour of spoiled rich English people. Of course, both kinds of critics take their quotes from near the beginnings of his books. Anyway, Trollope’s way ahead of them, having already skewered the complacent and the meaninglessly revolutionary in lines our critics will no doubt assume do not refer to the likes of them. Satire is a cracked glass in which we are liable to see every face but our own. I wish I’d said that.

Trollope is part of one big block of reading I’m doing at the moment, sort of Late Imperial Thought (or What Were They Thinking?): I also have Roy Jenkins’ monumental Churchill biography on my to-read list. This is all essentially background reading for a more specific project I have under way, about Ada Lovelace’s daughter. A third line of inquiry is around the same period, but local: I’ve just picked up Imperial San Francisco and a biography of Julia Morgan. Now all I need is vast chunks of time to assimilate it all. I’d better not do anything rash like, I don’t know, have a baby or anything…


I swear, I don’t know why I ever leave Atlas at all. This morning, a kindly tutor lecturing a budding screenwriter on craft:

“Y’see, this passage: ‘This has been the most amazing experience of my life. I would like to thank everyone involved, especially my mother, who taught me the true meaning of wisdom and compassion…’ For one thing, you’re telling, not showing. If it’s not obvious what his mother’s taught him by now, there’s no point spelling it out. For another thing, I find this a little unbelievable coming from an eleven-year-old boy…

“Then there’s the classic novice error of putting too much in the stage directions. This one, for example: ‘You can see by his face that it is his mother’s birthday…'”