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….

Saturday, August 23, 2014

ghostbusting for a grateful public

This year my job involves seven 13-hour shifts in a row, followed by about six days off.  Followed by seven 13-hour nights shifts, followed by about six days off, ad infinitum. 

So it's probably not hard to imagine that by working day 7, the wheels have started to fall off. Last week on Day 7, my resident and I had a long conversation about how medicine is an absurd profession.    There are so many other fulfilling, worthwhile jobs that don't require basically constant study for over a decade plus horrendous working hours.

I was reminiscing about my year 10 aptitude test that suggested I should become an economist or an art critic.  At the time I thought they were terrible suggestions but now I marvel at how much I'd love those jobs.  My resident was keen on events planning or floristry. 

At one point I realised that the medical student thought we were joking.  I wheeled around to her, "You think this is a joke?!? It's NOT TOO LATE FOR YOU!!"  

Into this ballyhoo wandered my favourite characters in the ICU, the ghostbusters.  Two middle aged men in grey jumpsuits.  One inches along with a radar pointed at the upper walls, whilst his partner records readings on a clipboard.  I'm am always astounded that no one else finds this hilarious.  Every time I ask if they've found any ghosts and every time they tell me not to worry, they're just checking for water vapour. 

Of course, this time I asked how I could become a ghostbuster. 

Today we went to Trentham to celebrate Jason's dad's birthday. For the past few weeks, my mum kept telling us about Dr Wisewould from Trentham.  When my mum worked at Ballarat Base Hospital in the 1960s, Dr Wisewould would visit each Friday afternoon dressed in her gumboots and long black farming raincoat.  This had clearly made an impression on mum.

I reckon this Dr Wisewould must have had plenty of gumption, as well as gumboots, to be the sole doctor in the Trentham community.  She'd have done it all- delivering their babies, caring for their mad and their dying.  And the Trentham community appreciated her.  Look what we found in the main street, "erected by a grateful public":

Sunday, August 10, 2014

et cetera

1. Sunday DIY
Proper winter again today. We walked to the hardware store to get some wood to hang our awesome canvas throw/picture:
It was so sunny on the way there, then on the way back it TURNED!  Windy horrible rain in the face, running down Wellington street with a 3 metre picture rail. You can't turn corners very quickly with a 3 metre picture rail. 

2. Walking, not sitting. 

If I'd been asked ten years ago what I'd look would look for in a job, I don't think I would have asked for a job that requires standing and walking around. But now I realise that THIS IS AMAZING! My job requires standing and walking for at least a third of the day.  imagine if I'd gone into academia or, in fact, most other jobs, I would be sitting down all the time.

I think I would struggle to solve problems if I had to sit down to them.  I like walking around the ICU, mulling over something tangentially, to reach a solution.  But perhaps this is a cognitive weakness too.  I'm easily distracted, and I trained in ED which involves constant distractions and now I can't think without distractions.  But the walking helps, too. 

3. October arts

Having completely failed at MIFF, I am feeling pretty pleased with my Melbourne Festival selection:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Winter Things

1. If on a winter's night a traveller…
Reading for next week's book club meeting.

2. Walking in Mornington Peninsula.
Jason and I went down to Red Hill on the weekend.  We walked to Bushranger's bay and Cape Schanck on Saturday and then ate the tasting plate at the Red Hill Cheese shop as reward.  The walk was fantastic, heaps of kangaroos bounding across the trailer.  We also saw a very handsome fox with a bushy tail, just like Fantastic Mr Fox.  

3. Mahler 1.
We went to the MSO on Thursday to hear Mahler 1.  I loved it.  I haven't been to a classical music concert for ages.  Seeing some of my old MYO friends on stage had me reminiscing about band camps past.
I loved hearing Jason's impressions of the concert, as he'd never been to a symphony orchestra concert before.  He kept looking at the players getting their instruments ready to come in, "You just lift your instrument up, get ready with your partner, and then…no…not now…put your instrument down again."  I had to admit it's pretty hilarious to see a middle aged man in a dinner suit getting ready to play the triangle.
We went past Blue Train on the way to the concert hall and I was sad to see that they don't serve lentil dahl anymore! Luckily I have more than $4 to spend on dinner these days. (It cost $8 but was big enough to share between 2 people).

4. The Returned.
Spooky French drama series.

5. Wearing a thin cotton dress over a neck to toe merino wool body suit.

6. Daphne making the whole flat smell divine.  Jason says,  "I can't smell anything. Does it smell like grass?"

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Autumn things

1. 'The Strays'
Emily Bitto's debut novel about the Melbourne art scene in the 1930s-1940s. A rambling house and garden, the Surrey Dive, evenings of Dionysian excess in the artists' commune. A great read.

2. Welcome to Night Vale.
I may be the last person on the Internet to catch this podcast. Jason and I started listening on our trip to Finland.  Although it's set in a small desert community, it seemed well suited to the isolated arctic landscape of Lapland. All Hail the Glow Cloud.


3. Lake Elizabeth, Forrest.
Jason and I went camping this weekend in the Otways, to catch some stars and some mountain-biking. Lake Elizabeth was created in the early 50s by a landslide into the Goulbourn river.  The dead trees in this lake reflect so well that it feels like walking around an immensely deep crater.

4. Lady-night
I caught up with Tash, Mel and Mandy on Friday night and it was FUN.  Tash drunkenly ordered a bottle of Shangiovese.  So of course I had to tell Jason's Sean Connery-DIY joke ("I have only my shelf to blame").

** The least terrible of my photos from our hotel window.