Friday, May 6, 2016


In April I reached Peak Maternity Leave. Nora slept at times and on Wednesday evenings I rode up the Johnston street hill to Fitzroy to do painting classes.

I have no natural aptitude for visual arts.  In high school I disliked it so much I once volunteered to clean the studio sinks instead of painting.  I have since learnt to enjoy doing things I am bad at.

The painting classes were terribly fun.  There was cheese, cake and apple cordial.  Actually there was wine too but I'm not much of a drinker these days.  The teacher was fabulous, he took us step by step through painting tonally (light and dark!) using colours (warm and cool!) and glazing (painting one colour over another colour!). This all culminated in my fairly rudimentary painting of an apple:

My favourite part of the painting class was learning the artists' idiom 'to pull it out of the fire': to rescue a painting from a seemingly catastrophic error.

I love learning new idioms.  There are lots of great medical idioms, all terribly morbid. A way of avoid 'D' words (death, dying dead) when we are chatting with our colleagues.  "Don't buy any green bananas", we say, "He's not fit for a two-staged haircut."

We are now taught to use the D words when we speak with patients and their families.  This sits well with me. It always reminds me of my grandad's eulogy.  My uncle Bill said, "Pat never beat around the bush.  People didn't pass away, they died. And he did."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

pool escape

Just returned from a quick 50 minute trip to the Fitzroy pool.

Sunday afternoon, 34 degrees, summer sounds DJs playing.

Pool is heaving with people.

Water runs slick over my sunscreened arms.

Boy crosses underneath me at the deep end, skimming the bottom of the pool.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

New year with Nora

Baby Nora was born 1 month ago.  She is our smallest, softest team member.

It's been a nice slow time of year to be settling in to life with baby.  It's always quiet in Collingwood around new year anyway.  The cafes are closed, there's not much traffic on the roads and no one is rushing in the heat.

 In the first few weeks I would go for a late afternoon walk around the streets.  I walked slower than I've ever walked.  And I felt so adventurous being outside in the world.  I would amble very slowly around the block, sometimes down Gold street or just along Johnston street.  Each afternoon I would try to return with a community update for Jason.  Important community updates included:

  • an enormous branch fell off the gum tree in the park opposite our house.   A branch as big as a tree!
  • the old men's club around the corner of our house started advertising a small dinner menu.  And the Sonsa man was there so it must be a Turkish club.  He gave me a friendly wave.  
  • there is a plum tree laden with fruit in an empty block on Keele street
  • bike-radios are a thing now! People are cycling with those small bluetooth stereos playing music
Pen says Nora sounds like a squeak toy when she mewls.

We love our baby Nora!!

Monday, January 4, 2016

reading 2015

2015 was a bit of a strange year of reading for me. Fewer novels and more non-fiction.  Overall I read more than I thought I had.

I'll begin with my top 5:
Beloved- Toni Morrison
Brother of the More Famous Jack- Barbara Trapido
The Luminaries- Eleanor Catton
The Natural Way of Things- Charlotte Wood
Slouching towards Bethlehem- Joan Didion

Books I read in 2015:
Feminism Unfinished- Dorothy Sue Cobble, Linda Gordon, Astrid Henry
As I Lay Dying- William Faulkner
Big Magic- Elizabeth Gilbert
The White Album- Joan Didion
The Wife Drought- Annabel Crabbe
M Train- Patti Smith
The Shipping News- Annie Proulx
The Thorn Birds- Colleen McCullough
Beloved- Toni Morrison
The Dressmaker- Rosalie Ham
Green Valentine- Lili Wilkinson
Birth Skills- Juju Sundin
Feminism is for Everybody- bell hooks
How to Be a Woman- Caitlin Moran
My Brilliant Friend- Elena Ferrante
The Intern- Gabrielle Tozer
H is for Hawk- Helen McDonald
Why so Slow? The Advancement of Women- Virginia Valian
Cloudwish- Fiona Wood
The Group- Mary McCarthy
Frankie and Joely- Nova Weetman
The Natural Way of Things- Charlotte Wood
Kit's Wilderness- David Almond
The Girl on the Train- Paula Hawkin
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction- Walter Benjamin
Warning: the story of Cyclone Tracy- Sophie Cunningham
Bad Behaviour- Rebecca Starford
Brother of the more famous Jack- Barbara Trapido
Bereft- Chris Womersley
Fallen- Rochelle Siemienowicz
The Red Tree- Caitlin R Kieran
Us- David Nicholls
The Luminaries- Eleanor Catton
A Sport and a Pastime- James Salter
The Book of Strange New Things- Michael Faber
Laurinda- Alice Pung
A Philosophy of Walking- Frederic Gros
All That is Solid Melts into Air- Darragh McKeon
Cry the Beloved Country- Alan Paton
The Old Ways- Robert McFarland
Death, Dying and Organ Transplantation- Miller and Truog
No One belongs here more than you- Miranda July
Knots and Crosses- Ian Rankin

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Six months since I wrote here.  But I have not been idle!

I passed the ICU fellowship exam.  It's funny how it completely preoccupied me for several months and now it's just gone.  Not that I expected to miss it. 

Jason and I went to Tasmania for a week.  We spent three days driving down from Devonport, staying at the Bay of Fires and then Freycinet.  We had the most glorious morning's walk along the Bay of Fires.  It was completely deserted but sunny enough to lie on the sand.  In Freycinet we walked to Wineglass bay and the Hazards.  The weather was spectacular- it rained but it wasn't cold.  We saw seven rainbows.  We huddled under a tree at wineglass bay eating our peanut butter and banana sandwiches, watching the rain and the birds and the rainbow over the bay.  The waves crashed in completely straight line. 

Then we went on to Hobart for Dark Mofo.  What a great festival.  I was obsessed with finding the perfect outfit to wear for the freezing winter festival, which is mostly at night. In the end I wore my puffer jacket underneath my ridiculous fashion jacket which i bought second hand in Helsinki.  My Russian leather hat.  Perfectly warm!

We made it to the Marina Abramovic exhibition on our last day.  I loved all the 'audience participation' pieces.  Sitting perfectly motionless wearing noise-cancelling head phones, standing with my head resting on a marble block, lying motionless.  I loved them all! I am good at being motionless!

The centrepiece of the audience participation works is the bean & rice counting exercise. You enter an official looking ante-room and don a lab coat and noise-cancelling head phones.  You go into larger room with a long, long table.  In the middle of the table, running its entire length, is a pile of rice and beans.   People in lab coats are already seated at benches on either side of the table.  They don't look at you as you walk in.   You are led to your place at the bench and given a small pile of rice and beans, taken from the large centre pile.  

Your task is to count the number of rice grains and beans. 

Initially the pile looks small but it seems to grow as you count. The task is clearly futile.  Occasionally someone stands up to leave and their pile is swept back into the middle.  This futility sits well with a meditative interpretation of the task.  Counting as meditation.  A long task as meditation.  But then a compulsion to finish creeps in.  The compulsion to keep counting, to complete the task.

I counted 881 beans.  I gave up on the rice. 

Friday, January 23, 2015


Last night I went out to dinner with our friends Arla and Jesse and Bonnie and George.  Arla and Jesse are just emerging from the baby-making madness, with a 3 1/2 year old and an 18 month old, and Bonnie and George are expecting their first in 8 weeks.

Arla was so full of beans.  She'd just finished reading 'What I loved', one of my favourite books.  I was so excited that she had the same reaction as me: reading it compulsively until late into the night, and then being so involved with the characters that she missed them when it was over.

It's also an Art book, and we talked happily about the bacchanalian art parties we would like to throw.  So I think the next obvious book for her to read is Emly Bitto's 'The Strays', about Sunday and John Reed.

Anyway, Arla asked for some recommendations.  Here they are, my favourite books from the last 3 years or so.

The Tin Drum- Gunter Grass
Bossypants- Tina Fey
May we be forgiven- AM Homes
Just Kids- Patti Smith
Slouching Towards Bethlehem- Joan Didion
My Misspent Youth- Megham Daum
My Brilliant Career- Miles Franklin
Crossing to Safety- Wallace Stegner
The Convalescent- Jessica Anthony
Let the Great World Spin- Colum McCann
Summertime- JM Coetzee

A rag-tag list, indeed.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Three good Saturdays

The first Saturday we went to Bright for a wedding.  Bright is actually paradise.  Especially when it's sunny and the trees are blossoming.  I wore a dress and sandals all weekend and threatened to go swimming.  Jason and I went for a long walk along the river and wondered if the Bright hospital needs a critical care doctor and  sonographer.

We went to a wedding in Wandiligong (Paradise North).  We went off the reservation at the reception, down to the creek at the bottom of the property.  I didn't quite go swimming:

But I did attempt a Dirty-Dancing re-enactment. It turns out Jason's no Swayze.

Last weekend after a long ICU day we rode into the city to see Nihls Frahm, an amazing German pianist with all manner of amps. He played in the Melbourne festival hub, a big hot wooden box of amazing sound.  It was a balmy night so we rode home the long way, zooming down the Yarra to bed.  Then it was just a breezy (ha!) four more 13 hour shifts before some days off.

The third good Saturday was yesterday.  We went to see 'Finding Vivian Maier' with our friends Arla and Jesse. It's a documentary about the Chicago street photographer who was discovered post-humously by a somewhat obnoxious young man called John Maloof.   Vivian Maier was deeply peculiar.  My new ambition is to become deeply peculiar.  I think many of the best people are deeply peculiar.  My sister Pen thinks I am definitely on track in this regard.

After the doco, we ate at Tonka (modern Indian) and went to hear Tuba Skinny (sleazy New Orleans street jazz).  Jason and I walked home on another balmy night.  As luck would have it, the Spring street gelati store was still open. So we ate gelati in the park, in the dark, listening to 'Luck be a Lady.'

Stick with me, Lady, I'm the guy that you came in with….