Tuesday, September 22, 2009

in memoriam 21 september

So, another September 21 passes by. It has always been important to me, as the following entries from my various diaries show, and not only because of its vital use as a stopgap, or wedge or period of rest, between other dates in September the exact numerical delineations of which I am uncertain. It is also the birthdays of my friend Gavin Butler and my brother-in-law Robert Barrese.

To say I have kept a diary since 1994 is a piece of nonsense, but I have had appointments diaries since then and I have, literally, kept them (except, as you will see, 2006 which is AWOL). Here is what I did, or at least intended to do, on the past 15 September 21s.

1994 merely says ‘Masters – SS’ and the word ‘Masters’ is circled. I don’t think the Schutzstaffel were my masters then, that's a joke, a stupid one, but that is kind of what it looks like I'm saying in the diary. I don’t know what it means. I wasn’t planning to do masters at the University of Sydney, or anywhere, and that was the year before I graduated anyway. Ah! Looking back I see that the previous week is labelled ‘Porter/ Masters’ and a small line is coming out of ‘Masters’ to another phrase, ‘Rose Fancier’. I think this might have something (well, alright, everything) to do with the writer Olga Masters, and I was studying literature then, and 'SS' probably stands for 'short story', since Hal Porter and Olga Masters were both noted for writing in this form. I wonder if anyone teaches Hal Porter these days, something tells me his reputation has undergone a bit of a battering, for reasons largely but not entirely unrelated to his work. The 21 September 1995 entry is marked merely ‘Market’ and this (or something else) happened ’11:45 – 10ish’. I was going to work reshelving books at the Badham library 5-8 but I crossed that out, and instead did a shift 9-12 am the next day (I am assuming this was a rescheduled because the 22 September arrangement is double underlined as if to say, 'no, not 21 September 5-8, but 22 September 9-12). In 1996, by which time I had moved back to Melbourne, 21 September was - oh goodness, do you remember? - a Saturday, and my diary for that day features an ’11:00 show’ at Flinders Street (!?). 1997 there is a ‘grand final’* and ‘Canberra’ (where I was to be for three more days after that time). 1998 indicates nothing; I suppose I sat in suspended animation (or anticipation: the next day I received $237 from Rolling Stone); also in the other 1998 diary, which was one we used for phone messages, there is the circled word ‘rubbish’. 1999 – a big line from 12 to 6 pm with no explanation. 2000, a date to meet an historian of note at the Deakin University Burwood campus’ Café Plateau, and in the evening (or at least, under ‘notes’) The Dave Graney Show. 2001 is blank and indeed it is not for three days (Monday 24) that something happens: ‘Chapters 7+8’. Could mean anything. 2002- nothing (the day after, some essays due). 2003 – back from Heathcote but nothing special on that particular day, which was a Sunday. 2004 nothing. 2005 ‘recap tests’ for second year subject and that night it appears I had dinner (there might have been more to that story: a ‘W’ is crossed out). I can’t find my 2006 diary, so there’s a worry, for posterity at least. 2007 – I was in Adelaide for a conference; this entry also has prominently but for no apparent reason the address of a well-known 20th century architect who did not live in Adelaide. In 2008 there is nothing more than a reminder to be minding Kenzie. That reminder about minding reminds me to reproduce here and now Toby Dutton's impressive recent portrait of Kenzie right here and now:

And all of this brings us up to yesterday, the most recent 21 September we have had. I rode my new Huffy to work for the first time in a long time. It's not new, it's second hand, and I've had it for months, but it is mine, and it's tops. I felt very smart and important. It rained at night and it was a Monday. There you go.

* A week later, I realised this was the VFL grand final. In those days I was an ardent supporter of the Preston Knights. They didn't make the finals.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


As I write I am sitting across from April, who is watching a Madeline dvd on a laptop. We have had one of those evenings for which there should be a new word, to describe something that was superficially boring but broadly interesting.

My memories of childhood are of shattering misunderstandings for both me and adults. I felt these things hard and of course this has had a big impact on the way I treat children. I don’t want to give them bad memories! Which has meant I have found it very hard, for instance, to exercise any kind of authority. Actually I know April well enough to not really worry overly about this (I’d probably be more concerned about telling Laurie off, something incidentally I have never done). Anyway this evening she was extremely interesting, while at the same time much of what she said was awfully repetitive to a weird degree. I mean weird for my experience of being talked to, not weird I am sure for 3½ year olds. Tonight the main repetition surrounded a joke regarding the Wizard of Oz, which we had as a viewing option for the evening if we wanted it. I expressed surprise to April’s parents that she was allowed to watch it as my mother did not let me watch that film until I was relatively old (I can’t remember how old; 12?). There were two films I wasn’t allowed to watch because they might have disturbed me: that one and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (which incidentally I have still never seen. Is it any good?). Anyway, Nicole made some remark to April along the lines of how I might be scared by the witch in Wizard of Oz. This set off a response in April which had her saying probably up to 30 times – I am totally not exaggerating – the same sentence, ‘If you see the witch and you’re scared, (pause), that’s OK’. I suppose the pause spoke the most, because the reality was if I saw the witch and I was scared, we were both screwed, but of course what she was really saying was, ‘If I see the witch and I’m scared…’ though I am still not sure that sentence had an end. When the witch first showed up, April got under the blanket (she has a blanket on the couch) with a big mouse doll dressed like a bride for comfort. After the wicked witch of the west disappeared in a cloud of red smoke, April lost interest (and nb did something to the television, as only small children can in the presence of babysitters, which has rendered it unusable). After this time we spent probably an hour and a half, perhaps longer, in a series of breathless and short-attention-span dramas in which she explored every role under the sun, well, within her range of known roles. The most important thing was not rolling out the play-acted story (though there were a few unusual scenarios) but who she was in the story (and to a lesser extent who I was). ‘I’m the nurse’, ‘I’m the doctor’, ‘I’m the sister’, etc. The bad one (I hate it when young children do this, though I know they have to) was ‘I’m the baby’, though I admit ‘I’m the baby jellyfish’ had a special something to it, unfortunately baby jellyfish are about as irritating as regular babies, they talk baby talk and crawl etc. Luckily April was not particularly beholden to this or indeed any of these play roles, and would change them again and again in the space of a minute. The scenarios had a lot of dolls as well, who were the sister, the baby, etc. and who had to see the doctor, the nurse etc and get a needle. I would always ask her what the illness was, and they revolved around chocolate and footballs, though I am not quite sure now whether this evolved with any input from me. There was a lot of the baby or the girl or boy hurt their leg or their tummy playing football, somewhere along the way this sometimes became they swallowed a football or they got food stuck in their teeth. There was a bit of back and forth about whether the patient needed a needle and I assumed this is what I would as a child have called an injection but oddly the needle then had to be removed at a later date. There was also some discussion about whether the stethoscope was needed though April sees this as therapeutic rather than diagnostic (she had some small cardboard books in a box which served as a ‘stethoscope’). The doctor’s room was at the far end of the couch, and the hospital was in the kitchen (two chairs put together). There was also a child’s car seat, which was the jail where bad children were put (my innovation was to insist they be put in upside down; April’s innovation was that we should put the hospital chairs in front of the jail to watch the bad children suffer).

I forgot (probably because it bored me the most) to mention the ballet. At certain points I had to play at ballet teacher, which was crap because I don’t know what the various ballet moves are called and I don’t think she knows either. All I really knew to say – and it certainly got results – was that she should go round and round, which I already knew she really knows how to do. She had her ballet dress on (still does) and informed me that boys had boy’s dresses, that they were blue, and was clearly unable to finish that sentence satisfactorily, since her ballet dress is blue but is not a boy’s dress.

So as I said she is presently watching Madeline and the Gypsies, a fairly faithful adaptation of a book I know for a fact she has already read, and she’s watching it for the second time or perhaps the third. If I was romany, or in fact even though I’m not, I would feel pretty uneasy about this story, in which ‘gypsies’ are irresponsible child-stealers (well, in a rather benign way; Madeline is allowed to be in the gypsy circus as long as she sends a postcard to Miss Clavelle) and don’t clean their teeth or go to bed at night. I mean it hardly sends April a very realistic message about this maligned ethnic group. I guess a lot of children’s literature casually uses the ‘other’ and what can you do? Though having seen April’s play activities (or at least the ones she thought were adaptable for my involvement) as of September 09, they seem very much based in the here and now.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

walking dogs once more

I am notoriously oversensitive to all criticism real or implied, so I have to report that, a few months ago when I came across a casual comment somewhere on the internet that my blog was full of me bleating about a lost kitten, I stewed over it for quite some time, and indeed, continue to stew. It has been a long time since I lost a kitten, certainly long before I started this blogging enterprise, but I suppose the person who accused me of promulgating such content was alluding to the furkids element herein. I guess I have to wear that.*

This afternoon Millie and Charlie and I went for a walk around our lake. I have discussed this kind of thing before and I suppose there isn’t too much new to add. There was no spectacular birdlife (we did upset some plovers when we first got to the water, don’t know what their problem was) and in fact no people in particular either, which was more unusual.
It occurred to me for the first time ever that the landform at the edge of the creek was undoubtedly man-made, perhaps dating back in some regard to early settlement (this area was first farmed in the mid-19th century) but probably more likely to the major works undertaken in the early 1970s, when a few small tributary watercourses were put underground and so on. It’s funny how when you live in the city you don’t develop the ability to read the landscape at all really, you just take it as it comes (or I do, anyway).

We found evidence of some kind of car theft or damage, a taillight I think, though there was nothing but this (Charlie found it interesting).

It is strange to think that 6 months ago it looked like Millie was going to have to retire – in fact, it looked that way even before she had that horrible accident in April – but now she seems to have a new lease of life, even if she now really does look old. Nevertheless, she maintains her irritating habit of falling behind in the walk and, basically, asking to be called.

When we got to the isthmus between the creek and the lake, Charlie did an odd and rather quaint thing of sniffing all the yellow flowers on either side of the path. (This picture is not intended to show that exact act.) She seemed to get lost a bit in each one. I was reminded of something I hadn’t thought of for years and years. When my sister Nicola was about three, she and our father and I were doing something at their house (I can’t remember what we were doing) which involved going in and out of their shed on a few occasions. Each time she passed through the doorway, Nicola would make a little fist (the only kind she could make at that age) around a nail which was in the doorframe sticking out quite far but half way out pointing down at a right angle. After she did this a few times my father asked her what she was doing. ‘I’m getting a drink’, she said. Well, far be it for me to anthropomorphise Charlie any more than I already do – i.e. totally – I suppose she wasn’t playing with the flowers at all, more likely they had brushed on an animal/ some animals which she had to check up on. Anyway, it was kind of sweet, if you like Charlie, which I suppose it’s time to admit I do.

Other news. There is a good new café locally here in the Pearcedale Precinct (I don’t know what the café is called or what the people who run it are called or nothing). It is cheap and cheerful and they are threatening to name my breakfast from this morning after me (I asked for mushrooms and spinach on a muffin). The coffee is excellent and they get the papers in and this morning we were treated to a radio station that was constantly saying ‘we’re playing two hours of Australian jazz’, which was exactly what I wanted to hear at that moment (those words and the music they heralded). So now there are two great cafes in this general proximity – that one, unnamed, and Silver Sage. You should come and visit.

Tonight I am babysitting April. I saw her and Nicole yesterday in one of those grouse April vignettes thus: I was driving up Lorraine Crescent and came across an unusual impasse a little like a sacred cow reputedly can cause in India, wherein a man had been backing his car out of the drive and he somehow came to appreciate that a white cat was sitting in the road absolutely unconcerned about a vehicle coming backwards towards it. So I had to stop, he was in the road shooing the cat away though the cat had absolutely no interest in moving, and April and Nicole were on the pathway watching. April looked like this scene was one of the highlights of her short life which, though it has been a short life, is hard to believe. But it’s the thought that counts.

This morning in Niddrie Salvos I bought a light beige Pierre Cardin suit.

Currently listening to: Hoodoo Gurus, Denim Owl, Red House Painters, Wa Wa Nee

* I am also of the opinion that if you ‘put yourself out there’, i.e. make public pronouncements, on whatever minor level, you shouldn’t complain about what people say about you or how they typify you. At the same time, of course, it does come as a bit of a jolt.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I spent four hours this morning looking on this scene, as it was in front of me as I struck this morning holding down a picket line.

It was an interesting position, staffed by myself and a gentleman probably 15 years my senior. We handed out leaflets explaining that the NTEU had called a strike on the basis of the university's decision to cut 220 jobs on very little realistic reasoning. This is bad for those 220 people of course, and also for students. Only one person - someone I had previously met - decided not to cross the picket line,* unless you count the other person who did a wide u-turn in front of me, though that could have been for any reason. Most of the time the attitude was that this was something we were doing for our own nefarious (or misguided, or benevolent) purposes. Staff members would often decline a leaflet on the basis that 'I've already got one' (rather than engage at all on the issue of why they weren't striking). Many people took leaflets and just said 'thanks'. Very occasionally people would give a reason eg 'I need to hand in a paper', 'I am on a contract and I need the money', etc. Some were hostile, though silently in the 'I am too important don't waste my time' style. It was all pretty disheartening.

* However this person then wanted to confer on where was a good place to get on campus without crossing a picket line.

Monday, September 14, 2009

hangover sunday

Well I would like to say I ‘tied one on’ on Saturday night except for two things, one, that I don’t really know what that literally means and two, while I don’t know what that literally means I’m fairly sure it means something active rather than passive i.e. the enjoyment of alcohol and social frolic, rather than getting hammered almost immediately and spending a lot of time lying in one of inner Melbourne’s many picturesque and iconic bluestone back lanes. So there you go, there’s life in the old dog yet eh and he knows how to tie one on, or rather, he drank a huge amount of whisky without really realising how much he was drinking, and he threw up all the way home. And a lot of the next day too. It was an unpleasant hangover but far from the worst I’ve ever had, and those always made me say I’d never drink again, so this one won’t even do that, so it probably doesn’t amount to much really. Barely worth mentioning when it comes down to it.

Having a hangover for me is a bit like having a forced holiday through mundane illness. I know I can’t do anything really so I just muddle along reading for pleasure and not feeling guilty about it. Today I read bits and pieces of music books (including dipping in, yet again, to Robert Lurie’s very interesting Steve Kilbey book) and also volume 3 of the complete Little Orphan Annie which I bought with my stimulus package money a month or so ago but which has been slow going. It’s classic LOA years – 1930-31 but while I looked through it to see I hadn’t read it before I was annoyed to find that a big slab of it, where Daddy Warbucks crashes his truck and goes blind, has been included in some other comics collection I have, so I am familiar with it. Still this is a better reproduction and has some really nice colour strips I hadn’t seen before, interesting particularly where Annie persuades local business to put playgrounds for children on rooftops.

Yesterday I bought a classic Bluey in an op shop it was twenty bucks but worth it I reckon. Also I was pleased to purchase this cup:

Congratulate me, I did well.

Friday, September 11, 2009

what's the word

There should be a word for the feeling you have when someone calls you while you’re in the middle of a conversation with someone else, or in the middle of doing something important, and you kind of don’t want to fob them off and nor do you want to call them back, just exchange a little bit of important information then hang up, but you don’t really give them the attention they perhaps deserve, and then when you do hang up, you kind of end up thinking, were they a bit offended or something? And you try to remember the way they sounded towards the end of the conversation, but you can’t. What could be the word for that?

Don’t give me some pat answer like ‘poor time management’ thanks. I want a new word.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


citizens' arch


I got on the bus this evening and the radio was playing ‘Cheap Wine’ (I was expecting it to be playing the last number one in the world, so there you go). I was once again reminded of so many interesting but not necessarily wonderful things about the Chiz, eg the good tune/ bad singing/ good and bad guitar coming out of the one amazing guitarist/ the line about rocket fuel… you know, all the things. I was surprised to see on facebook a few weeks ago some people full-on having a go at the Chiz when they failed to realise that what they were having a go at was that turkey Barnesy, but the Chiz are one of those muslim constructions indicating nothing is greater than god by having an imperfection, and that imperfection is the Barnestoermer himself. There was a moment, I don’t know if you know, when Barnesy quit the Chiz – this is before they had a record deal – and Mossy took over. Mossy is not only a guitarist’s guitarist, he’s a grouse singer. And so Chiz played with Mossy as singer for quite a few months, I think Barnesy had replaced Bon Scott in some band or other the name of which will return to me and I will put it in here when it does. And then he quit that and went back to the Chiz. Awful. But the worst thing is that tosserama Gudinski saying he wished he’d signed Chiz but when he heard their demo tape, Barnesy wasn’t singing (like, that’s a reason not to like them). Remember that joke from the Simpsons, I got Paul McCartney out of Wings? Well if only someone had got Barnesy out of Chiz forever… Don Walker’s (and the others’) amazing songs, and the incredible band, and Mossy up front. They would have been the greatest band in the world, instead of what they were, the greatest band in the world with a little pus-filled gutbucket up front belting out a kind of modified robot baby scream.

Whatever. Gudinski then signed Mossy and Mossy had a number one hit, so what was his problem with Mossy? Don Walker’s last album Cutting Back continues, for my money, to be a complete work of absolute genius, which keeps producing new greatnesses, so I am right into that, and I think Walker is in some ways a great bush balladeer whose music isn’t quite up to his lyrics (like a lot of great lyricists, think of Bob Dylan, if you like Bob Dylan), but it certainly has room for great musicians to work within, as ‘Cheap Whinge’ (as any song with Barnesy singing it could be called) shows.

I recently witnessed a quite good conference paper about oz rock and western Sydney in the 80s. I was up for it. I still think that oz rock is a misnomer; there’s no such thing in terms of sound (Icehouse was ‘oz rock’ as much as Chiz or anything else you care to name of a guitar-power chord persuasion; and for that matter, to take a random example and as much as they’re – or because they’re so – despised, the Angels were often as post-punk as anything else; think of the similarities, for there are so many, between the Gang of Four and ‘Take a Long Line’). I think the Angels are unfairly despised in many quarters. I admit I agree the later 80s saw them get a bit too hair-metal at least for my taste or the 21st century’s, the earlier stuff was very hardy. I advise you to reassess at the earliest opportunity.


Headaches have been plaguing me this week. Usually on the left hand side. On Tuesday it was particularly bad, and this morning it is not great either. Last night we went to the launch of Vagabond Holes, the book of reminiscences/ skerricks/ discussion/ etc about David McComb, and Beautiful Waste, a collected poetry tome. D McC has now been dead a decade, and he is obviously still sorely missed by many. I contributed a piece to VH which seems now to me to be a little outside the spirit of the rest of the book but whatever – that was the editor’s decision to make, not mine, and they must have been happy with it. There is a lot of interesting shorter memoir stuff in there which I enjoyed reading. I guess there is an elephant in the room when it comes to D McC (the drug stuff) which no-one is addressing in print. If it’s irrelevant, then perhaps we at least need to have the discussion about why. I don’t think it’s tasteless to bring it up. But in any case what really stands out for me in VH and what I find really interesting is his absolute dedication to his craft, and his concerted reworking of ideas and writings throughout. Last night we had Judith Lucy and Robert McComb reading a couple of poems each; Graham Lee and Robert McComb performing a couple of songs; the Black Eyed Susans performing about five songs.

Speaking of poorly functioning heads, Millie’s eye is back with us, what it is of course is not her eye but what a buildup of pus is doing to her eye, by distorting her cheek. It gives the right side of her face a sleek look – a bit deco – which in itself is not entirely gross but it doesn’t measure up well against the left. She is back on the antibiotics.

A co-worker said to me this afternoon, ‘are you sick or just tired?’

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

be grateful

While listening to one of the funniest Just a Minutes for a long time I put an eraser on Asha's back three or four times with comic responses from her each time - confusion, unable to locate it visually, then inability to realise that gravity would rid her of the burden if she only tipped a little way one way or the other. The payoff was she finally grabbed it between bared teeth and dropped it on the floor. Just be grateful I did not video this and put it on YouTube and get 7 000 000 hits.