Archive for June, 2003

various parodies

1. TS Eliot

Fleabag the Dalmation, a dog-year dead,
Forgot the mew of the cats and the dinner bell
And the bitches and the leash…
Lab or Shi-Tzu,
O you who lift the leg and pee to leeward,
Consider Fleabag, who was once handsome and tall as you.

2. Duke Ellington

Hey, Opinionated Baby, I know,
You miss the womb you left long ago,
And when nobody is nigh you cry.

3. Crowded House

Walking ’round the room singing
Various parodies
At 987 Alabama Street
Now it’s the same room but everything’s different
You can find the deck, not the boxroom
Things are cooking in my kitchen:
Yam and apple and carrot puree
Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire
Couldn’t conquer my fruit pie…

yams are yum

Claire and I are sharing our second bad cold, but still managed to have a memorably happy day.

Jeremy made oatmeal and tea before heading off to the Death Labs at dawn. I did the 9am editorial call in my bathrobe with C on my lap. At one point she squeaked indignantly, interrupting another analyst.

Analyst (sharply): What was that?

Me: I do apologize, that was Claire…

Analyst (relieved): Oh, it sounded like a sarcastic comment.

Me: She’s very sarcastic. I have no idea where she gets it from.

I shuffled my meetings for the rest of the day, ate my oatmeal, drank my tea and took the baby back to bed. We played, read the new Harry Potter and slept on and off until about 2.30pm. She bounced in her Kick’n’Play while I showered and cooked up the remains of yesterday’s Thai dinner in Jeremy’s cast iron pan. I’d’ve left the leftovers at the restaurant if Jack hadn’t told me to take them home. Fried up together, they made a delicious and substantial lunch, and I was grateful to Jack for his foresight.

Claire and I shared a banana smoothie (two bananas, plain Brown Cow Cream Top yogurt, rice milk) while I steamed a glorious sweet potato. It went into the steamer pale pink, and gradually turned deep gold with the most wonderful fragrance. I Bamixed the beJesus out of it, then forced it through a wire mesh. It turned to orange silk. I don’t actually like sweet potato much, but this tasted already-candied; you’d swear there was brown sugar in the puree, but there isn’t.

Claire looked skeptically at the first spoonful. She’s sucked on rockmelon (canteloupe) and apricot, but all her serious solids so far have been green or white: banana, avocado, yogurt, rice cereal. Still, the rockmelon and apricot experiences should have tipped her off – she adored them both. She took her first taste of yam, ruminated thoughtfully upon it, grabbed the spoon out of my hand and started passionately making out with it.

Her expression must have been the same one that everyone laughed at when they took me to Tetsuya’s: “O brave new world, that has such foodstuffs in it!” There was yam on her forehead and in her ears and up to her elbows. She smeared it down her thighs. She was in yam heaven.

She had three helpings, and I froze the rest, along with some carrots and apples, also steamed and pureed and forced through the mesh. It was a wonderful afternoon, with the sun shining in from our new deck and the baby playing in her bouncy chair and me with the food cube production line moving along well, singing loud tuneless parodies to keep her amused. I hope this is a big part of her life, hanging out in the kitchen while her parents cook delicious food from awesome organic ingredients. I hope that for her, food will never be a drug or unappetising or problematic, but always just part of what makes life worth living.

chatty today

Seth is talking about Fermat’s last theorem again, which reminds me of a recent, happy dream. Teresa Barnett, who I met doing Andrew Piper’s 1989-1990 dig at Port Arthur, stayed with us for a night or two. When she left, her thank-you note was a simple, hand-written proof of Fermat’s little theorem.


It’s what my old professor Adrian Mitchell called the exemplary trope: the hero, arming himself for battle. (Googling Adrian I discover to my utter surprise and delight that he is now Head of the School of English, Art History, Film and Media at Sydney Uni. Wow! He is therefore boss to my friend Kate Crawford, pursuing her manifold accomplishments in the Media program; also, great heavens preserve us, to my old sparring partner Julian Murphett, now with his doctorate from Cambridge and a couple of books out from CUP. Extraordinary achievements! Toasts all round!)

I had to dig up the fetish gear from various hoards and caches; jodhpurs from the linen closet; green Creekside polo shirt from the top shelf in the bedroom; green Troxel helmet and Ariat half-chaps and leather gloves from the camping equipment downstairs. It all fits again, more or less, and I am the Pony Club poster child for June 2003.

I’m having a lesson with the New Zealand Grand Prix showjumper Toni McIntosh at 6pm. I haven’t ridden since I won the medal round on Austin at the Creekside Show last July, when I was four months pregnant. I’m giddy with anticipation. Epona, goddess of horses, please don’t let me fall off.

here be dragons

Not to be a spoilsport, but the Harry Potter thing: I confess I am a bit nonplussed. Um. So, what’s the big deal again? Why Rowling, exactly? Why not the amazing Richard Adams or Susan Cooper or Alan Garner or Russell Hoban or Robin McKinley or Robert C. O’Brien or Patricia Wrightson, for example? Why not the great, very unjustly forgotten Joan Aiken, whose “All and More” was my first seriously overdue library book, the year I turned 8? Why, for God’s sake, not the world authority on schools of wizardry, the immortal (I hope) Ursula K. le Guin?

I mean, no disrespect to the Harry Potter fans and all. Rowling is, well, fine, she’s perfectly okay, and I’m as thrilled as anyone else to see Cody’s et al stuffed to the rafters with kids: more power to them. But these other writers, they’re the business, seriously, they’re the ones that made me want to write. It’s much more than that, they’re the ones that made me fall head-over-heels in love with the novel at the expense of all other art forms. Phrases of theirs still haunt me: “prince with a thousand enemies”, “the dark bright water”, “stone out of song”, “rules change in the Reaches”, pretty much every conversation between Tom and Jan in Red Shift, which is, God forgive us, out of print.

Hey wait a minute, I know what I sound like here: I sound exactly like all the REM fans who, when I fell in love with Automatic for the People, told me that the album sucked and that the band’s last decent work was Document or Green. I am, in other words, being indier-than-thou, which I swore I’d never be. So here’s the positive spin (per Grant: Features! Benefits!) If you like the Harry Potter series but feel vaguely disappointed with the latest installment, as it sounds like many critics already do, here are some other great works you may appreciate: Watership Down; The Dark is Rising; Red Shift and The Owl Service; Riddley Walker; The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword; Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, The Silver Crown and Z for Zachariah; The Nargun and the Stars, The Dark Bright Water and The Ice is Coming; The Wolves of Willoughby Chase and Black Hearts in Battersea; and above all, the jewel of my heart, the Earthsea series.

Here be dragons! Go, now! Read!

neology, inc #2


R: I loved Surrey Street. I loved the robinia and the French doors onto the balcony, and the bougainvillea out the back window.

J: And that time the bathroom floor rotted through and the shower leaked into the kitchen.

Big: And waking to the sound of the brickpecker.

R (delighted): I’d completely forgotten the brickpecker!

full disclosure

Walking back to the car after lunch at Tartine:

R: So did you think my dream was dorky?

S: I thought it was sweet. In that I-am-the-center-of-the-universe way you have.

R: Right. (pause) Good thing I left out the part where I was wearing my wedding dress. Oh, and my demon-slaying superpowers.

S (breathless with laughter): You fought demons in your wedding gown?

R scuffs at the ground with the toe of her boot.


J dances around the apartment pretending to be R’s bridezilla dream-self: I can fight demons if I want to! It’s MY SPECIAL DAY-EE!

No one takes me seriously.


R: I dreamed Baghdad was peaceful and prosperous, the richest city in the world, and that the Tigris and Euphrates were the new Silicon Valley. All totally oasis-y and lush. Salam was the mayor and Esther Dyson was running around hyping software. We had a tiny apartment in a cool neighborhood in Baghdad and a sort of dacha in a village in the valley. It was my 33rd birthday, and everyone had come from all over the world, the whole Frock Advisory Council, Garfield, Alex, Adrian, Sam, Jack, Salome, Colin, Maya, everyone, and all hitting it off like mad. Gabriele Russo and Mark Bennett talking nineteen to the dozen, that sorta thing. Paul Gregory was running around in his centurian getup and Moonbase Alabama were organizing all the catering and logistics, like they do, so I could sit in the shade with Claire eating sorbet and catching up with people I hadn’t seen in ten years… God, this is my dorkiest dream ever, isn’t it?

J (fondly): Ayup.

R (dolefully): So much for my subtle mind. A nakedly yearning dream for peace. You’ll lose all respect for my thought processes.

J invokes the ghost of Thurber: “It’s just a naive little domestic dream, but I think you’ll be amused by its presumption.”

R: It wasn’t utopian though, it was really us, bitchy jokes and all. And the village was old and tumbledown but gorgeous, all courtyards and wells and frescoes…

J: And date palms.


R: Did I tell you about the date palms?

J: Worked it out from first principles.

R: Yes. Well there were lots. And Mark had brought his boy toy, the one that broke the restraints? And he looked like a really handsome blond teenaged version of the Hulk.

grooowth spuuurt!

That I got through the last three weeks at all, let alone with my sense of humour intact, I owe entirely to my friends and their superpowers. Special thanks are due to Jonathan, Peter and Shannon, who gave me the greatest gift of all: food.

butchering the language

R: God, I’m knackered.

S: You’re naked?

R: I am kuh-nack-er-ed. A knacker is a horse butcher. I am drained to my sinews, like a horse’s carcase hanging on a hook. You Americans, there’s no colour in your language at all.

S: That’s because we don’t glorify horse slaugher.

R: One time I said to Jeremy: “I like horses! And French food!” And he said: “Sometimes they’re the same thing!”

S: Eeuw.

R: So anyway, how are you?

S: Knackered.

the middle part of the conversation

R: So anyway, how are you?

A: Fine, fine – wait, is this going to end up on Yatima?

R: What? Why?

A: I read Yatima, I know how you …change things.

R: I do not change things! Well, maybe I edit.

A: You do. You condense.

R: Yeah, exactly. The Reader’s Digest version. I optimize for the funny.

A: Yeah. You put a whole lot of things together. To make it sound better.

R: And to make it sound like I’m popular… wait a minute, is that sad?

in no particular order –

It’s spring, and the city is full of flowers.

I just had salmon teriyaki for lunch.

Noelle is coming home from Iraq.