Archive for March, 2004

i am trolled

When trying desperately to distract myself from international document delivery and the Department of Homeland Security, I like to dabble in the Usenet newsgroups They got me a bewdy this morning with a post to the effect that Billy Connolly had been killed in a bike crash. My heart sank for the big yin before a Google News search and visit to his official Web site revealed a certain, shall we say, dearth of veracity in the rumour.

As the crew said, don’t believe it until you read the memorial haiku. My favourite was Bigman’s lightning adaptation of the well-known hippo classic:

Billy Connolly
Anti-Billy Connolly

I believe I mentioned this in the first ever post to Yatima, but it bears repeating: My brother, he is funny.


Next time I am tempted to use the words “settled and pleasant routine” in a blog entry, kindly throttle me before the karmic payback. You’ll be doing me a favour…

compare and contrast

My visits to Brisbane are falling into a settled and pleasant routine. Last year I blogged my feeling of chagrin at the parent’s room at Brookside Mall, which was bigger than my then apartment. This year I was pleased to notice that my new apartment is (slightly) bigger that the parent’s room at Brookside Mall.

Last year when I visited Kate she broke the wonderful news of her pregnancy. This year Claire and I got to meet James Harvey, her delicious and wildly cute son, who laughs and laughs and hardly ever cries.

Last year, after Kate and I talked to each other for five hours without getting remotely bored, we promised to try and stay in touch. This year after we talked up a precisely similar storm, we agreed that we were both too busy to stay in constant contact, but that if we ever end up in the same city again, we’ll hang out together all the time.

There was one thing I don’t think I blogged last year that I should have. Jeremy and I were about to leave for the airport, and my heart was raw, because I didn’t feel I’d found the right things to say to my sister. We started singing songs from our childhood to tiny baby Claire – silly rounds like Fish And Chips And Vinegar and nonsense songs like Flea Fly. Sarah has a wonderful voice, and hardly anyone still remembers those idiotic old songs but me and her – certainly no one knows them in America. Getting to sing in harmony like that was my parting gift. It was almost the thing I’d been trying to say.

Last year I kept feeling that the time I spent at the computer was stolen from Claire. Right now, as I write, Claire is sitting five feet away with Ross and Kelly. They’ve been happily playing dominos for half an hour. I don’t think Claire has even noticed that I’m busy.

a tourist everywhere

I can’t remember whether it’s zed or zee, the check or the bill, left- or right-hand drive. I’m a tourist everywhere I go now. This is mostly fine, except when I get maudlin and complain to myself that I never get all the people I love together in the same room.

Yesterday Kay drove Jeremy, Claire and I up to the farm to see Thussy and Bellboy, so that was four favourite people and one pony. Claire wasn’t particularly interested in sitting on Bellboy’s back, but when we set her loose on the green and daisy-speckled grass she made a beeline for his blue velvet nose. He breathed interestedly all over her. He looks the same as ever, all huge eyes and flirty silver tail; so beautiful he should be a unicorn. He taught me to ride and at the rate he’s going, he’ll teach Miss Claire too.

Today we flew to Brisbane. Claire hooted and wiggled in the lap belt, causing the grumpy businessmen across the aisle to glare impotently at me. As soon as I let her wriggle down, she climbed up into the empty seat next to mine. Lunch arrived and she ate the foccacia and silverside off my sandwich. I just had time to pop a cushion under her lolling head before she fell into a deep snooze.

Mum and Dad picked me up, and Sarah and Alain came to meet us at Cafe Zanetti, and now we’re all at Patrick’s Road with Max and Kelly and Ross, so that’s – how many? Another eight of my favourite people, counting Claire.

a night off

Imagine that I am saying this in hushed and reverent tones: Claire’s grandparents took her off our hands so we could go out for an evening.

We scampered to the Academy Twin to see Lost in Translation, then spent an hour in Ariel pawing at the pretty books, then wandered down to the Pink Peppercorn to meet Mister Pesce and Miss Emily and Emily’s Jeremy for spectacular Laotian food (roast lamb, salmon with fennel and dill, searingly hot laab chicken and prawns.)

We talked about swordfighting with cadaver parts and the internal composition of the human penis (“spongy”, says E’s J.) We talked about art deco furniture: E and J picked up an oxblood leather club lounge and two matching chairs from a neighbour for the princely sum of $200. Score! We talked about London and New York and San Francisco and Los Angeles and Sydney, comparing the real estate market and quality of life in each: species of spaces.

E’s J had to go home to study – he’s practically a doctor now. The rest of us wandered through Surrey Hills to discover that Mark’s yuppie apartment block is built on a warehouse where Emily attended a rave in 1994. From the roof garden and pool we surveyed the city lights and the incoming weather.

Mark’s one-bedroom apartment is a stunner, with a huge Northern exposure and wraparound balcony and hardwood floors and, at present, almost no furniture. Very Zen. We drank chamomile tea and deconstructed various mutual friends to three or four decimal places, and then I found that it was 9:30pm and I missed Claire with a violent pang. And so to the taxi stand and back to Cooper Park.

C was moderately pleased to see us. She’d had a long snooze and endless games with her grandmother. Lost in Translation made me a little sad for my old life, with its business trips and high-rise hotels and late nights talking to intriguing strangers, but then there was that lovely line when Bill Murray’s character pointed out that your children are the most delightful people you will ever meet. A night off every now and then is plenty.

real estate and man-boobs

When I was a kid I never understood why grown-ups obsessed over little details. What about the big picture, huh? Why not talk about Truth, Beauty, Freedom and Love? Now I am that grown-up, and I have long conversations with my mother-in-law about how sad we are that the majestic bougainvillea that used to grow up the front of the house on Cooper Park Road had to be cut down. The tree surgeon who carted it away said it weighed three hundred kilograms.

I was genuinely grieved to hear it, and worried that the house would look raw without it. In fact it just looks different: barer, sure, but you can also see its lovely clean Frank Lloyd Wright-ish lines. I’m quite surprised at how happy I am to be here. We got married in the park across the road and had our reception here, so the house is full of joyful memories of floating around in my fantastic ivory silk-satin Reva Mivasagar wedding dress, drunk as a lord on champagne. Jan bought the Marimekko shower-curtains at Crate and Barrel on Union Square in San Francisco, and from where I am sitting in her office I can see no fewer than six photographs of Miss Claire, taken at our old place on Alabama Street and in the garden in Villerouge. It’s a temple of Claire, and I approve.

I’d also forgotten how much I love Sydney. The weather is humid and overcast – both very kind to my chapped and tanless skin. I forget how delicious the garden smells. I’d forgotten the heavenly quiet. Right now all I can hear is the wind in the leaves of the palm tree next door, and a butcher bird.

This morning we had the obligatory Big Brunch at the back table at Petit Creme. As we approached the cafe a large stranger approached me with open arms; it took me full seconds to recognize Mark Pesce – a far slimmer and more muscular Pesce than I have ever seen.

“This city suits me,” he says joyfully. “I’ve never loved a job so much. I’m not leaving till they kick me out.”

He asks me how’s tricks, and I tell him about the new apartment and the deal we got on the mortgage, and he starts to laugh.

“You can take the girl out of the Sydney real estate market,” he says, “but you can’t take the Sydney real estate market out of the girl.”

At which point Miss Emily turns up with her Jeremy, and I grill her on their new place.

“Two story two bedroom in Rozelle, back garden, gourmet kitchen with granite countertops and Smeg appliances…” she begins.

Mark is laughing his head off.

“Shh,” I say. “We’re downloading.”

The conversation turns to politics: Jeremy L. asks if we think Kerry will win. Mark blocks his ears and sings “La la la, I can’t hear you.” I ask if Latham will win, and we wonder whether he will be disqualified on account of man-boobs.

Adrian and Sam arrive with the adorable Korben Hugh; our coffees arrive and I take my first delicious sip; Barney arrives and cuddles his niece; Mister Bennett arrives and we begin, with relish, to insult one another.

“We like each other really,” says Mark Bennett to Mark Pesce.

“He likes me,” I say coolly.

Bigman arrives and I give him the gift of Ebola – a plush figure of the celebrated virus, brought with us from the States. Moira and Richard arrive with the perfect William John, and the conversation takes a yet more visceral turn.

“Korben eats only boob,” Sam brags.

“Hey! We got through half an hour before starting on boobs!” I say.

“No,” says Jeremy, “there were the man-boobs.”

I am chatting to Moira in an undertone about weaning Claire, and fail to notice the silence that falls around the table halfway through this story:

“I frightened the piss out of myself one night when I found a lump in my breast, but then I squeezed it and got a jet of milk in my eye.”

I look up to see everyone staring at me, my fellow parents tolerantly amused; the childless heterosexuals and gay men frankly appalled.

“So,” I say gamely, “how about that real estate, hmm?”

something nasty, in the woodshed

In Cold Comfort Farm Flora Poste carries with her and frequently consults a volume entitled The Higher Common Sense.

Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior is my higher common sense.

evil overmum

Salome’s phone rings. It has a special ring tone when it’s Jack calling.

J: I should get a special ring tone for when it’s Rachel. Darth Vader’s theme, maybe.

R (hollowly): The force is strong in this one.

J: Then when it rings I could pretend you were strangling me from afar.

R (being J): ‘Oh, it’s my wife.’

S: You guys are such geeks.

R: (to Claire, hollowly): I am your moth-er!

C: Nay!

silage, with plinth, being among jeremy’s favourite words

J (who is reading Mil Millington’s novel Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About): Why would there be a Department of Signs AND a Department of Signage? What’s the difference between signs and signage?

R: Signage is like silage.

J: Fermented signs.

R: Yes. It’s stored in a signo.

J: I think you are being silly.

R: Silly… or signny?


The garbage trucks woke me at ten to six.

At six I woke again because SF General Hospital was going up in flames across the road. I scrambled downstairs and tried to call 911 with slow and boneless fingers. A woman looked me in the eye with amused contempt:

“They won’t come. The city is on fire. All of New York is on fire.”

I was dumbfounded. “How – ?” But she had turned away.

It’s just a dream, I told myself, and woke up. The fire was in Astrid’s house, a little way up Bluegum Crescent. My family and neighbours were in the street in their pyjamas and dressing gowns, avidly watching the blaze. I pulled out my StarTac and tried to call 911 with slow and boneless fingers. Big Al watched me with amused contempt:

“It’s 000 in Australia.”

I left them to it, and spent the rest of the morning rearranging jasmine and Meyer lemons on my patio, until I woke up.

on muni

“They shouldn’t kill him. They should let him die in jail, like John Gotti. Died of cancer. Or Al Capone, they had him at Alcatraz, he died of…”


“Syphilis, that’s right. The doctors wouldn’t treat it, he’d go to them and they’d be all: ‘Take an aspirin.’ Heh heh. He was riddled with it, his brain. I saw that movie, that Alcatraz, and there was Scarface and then Al Capone. They treated him real bad. No respect. The guard said to him: ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Whassa matter with you? You know my name.’ ‘Name.’ ‘Alphonse Capone.’ ‘Number.’ ‘Whaddaya need my number for? I’m Al Capone.’ ‘Number…'”

queer eye and the straight girl

“I realize this is very very sad, but I have a crush on Kyan.”

“You and five million other married women.”

“I know. I hardly even noticed him the first few times I watched, but he grew on me. He is built! Now I always play the credits just cause he looks so damn pretty.”

“With me it’s Thom.”

“Thom? I like Thom fine, but if Kyan won’t have me, it’s Ted or Jai.”

“Jai’s too short.”

“Jai is perfectly formed.”

“It’s true. He’s beautiful. But I looove Thom. I just don’t know whether I want to snog him or go shopping.”

tiny small!

Yesterday I made the acquaintance of not one but two brand new members of the human race.

First Mira, not even two weeks old yet, not even quite seven pounds yet, with nj’s inky hair and pianist hands and Morrisa’s velvety skin. She has a firm preference for sleeping upright on people’s chests, which I respect. When thwarted in this aim she mews furiously until obeyed. She is exquisite.

Then Angenie, nearly four weeks old now, sound asleep in the bustling Mifune noodle bar in Japantown, her mouth a perfect cupid’s bow.

I was squatting on my haunches over Angenie’s capsule, cooing at the beauty and perfection of her, when Shannon said: “Somebody wants a baby!” I ask you. You merely converse with a reputable infant and next thing you know, your friends and acquaintance are branding you broody. Please. Is this right is it fair? I already have a perfectly serviceable child, who, it is true, would make an excellent big sister… Oop. You nearly got me there, but I saw your cunning ploy in the nick of time.

So. Not broody, me. Nuh-uh. And soon I get to meet Korben Hugh and William John, yay!

writing as therapy (and why it should be banned)

J: I’m having an awful memory lapse.

R: ?

J: I can’t remember whether Ollie has died. (Ollie is his marmalade tomcat.)

R: I don’t think so. Peanut died.

J: Yeah.

R (maudlin): And Alfie. And Cinnamon and Nutmeg and Sugar and Candy…

J: Sugar died on your brother’s birthday.

R: I was twelve. I was very sad!


R: I wrote a poem.

J (politely): Oh?

R: Let me see if I can remember… Yes. Ahem.

A wound so raw and open
A scar too deep to heal
A hole in the world
The size of a dog
O Sugar!
Come back!
Come back!

We howl with laughter.

R (dabbing eyes): I was very sad.

J: Yes.

R: But that’s a bad poem.

J: No! It’s a perfect example of the teen angst genre! Well, preteen angst, I suppose…

the present

J: Paul gave me a present that will make you laugh.

R: Yes?

J: The November 1996 Wired.

R: The Burning Man one!

J: Yes. It’s hilarious. Your StarTac phone is brand new, and it costs $3000.

R: Ah, the future!

J: And there are all these Joey Anuff bylines!

R: Remember how in the future, we were all famous for fifteen minutes?


R (wistfully): I miss the future. It rocked.