Saturday, December 28, 2013


Jason is a connoisseur of the nap.  However he would never call it a nap.

Instead, he has a 'sit-down-rest.'  After a long day at work he will say, "Aah.  I need a sit-down-rest."  And he sits on the couch with a glass of water, staring.  Or watching something mindless on TV.

More tiring situations call for a 'lie-down-rest'.  Then, he will lie on the couch with his eyes shut, sometimes curling up on his side.  You see my confusion with actual napping.

In the lead up to exams he prepares with 'mental study.'  This is lying on the bed with his eyes shut, gently snoring, next to a textbook.

I have a growing appreciation for the sit-down-rest. But my true talent comes from my mother.  She is renowned for falling asleep in any situation that requires her to sit still for more than about 15 minutes.  In the car, on the couch, at the movies.

This is a really useful skill for long-haul travel.  On a trip back from LA, Jason took a sleeping pill at around 11pm because he's terrible at sleeping on planes.  I went off to sleep sans sleeping pill and woke at 9am the next morning.  That's TEN HOURS of sleep.

Meanwhile, Jason hadn't slept a wink but was confused enough from the sleeping pill that he couldn't follow the in-flight movies.  I suppose what he really needed was a nice lie-down-rest.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Perry street: A Field Guide

Quite a narrow street, Perry street has period bluestone speed humps at each intersection.  A peril for speeding fixies and low-riding cars.

The north side of the street is mainly old factories. This one was a clothing manufacturer until a few months ago, it's empty now. 

The south side of the street has commission housing.  The projects, if you will. 

There are some great old places just waiting to be done up. 

Other places are falling down. 

 Or overgrown.

There are some lovely trees: 

But don't get lost in the desert!

 These two never made it out:

Beyonce's scouting crew overlooked this gem for her music video. 


Perhaps they didn't realise the street has a full complement of emergency services.

Perry street!  A great place to get lost.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

documentary project

Alright, so I fell off the documentary wagon around August, but i've tried to make up for it in the last couple of months.  At the moment I'm scoring 10/12 for my 2013 resolution to watch one documentary each month.

Room 237
A documentary about 'The Shining' conspiracy theorists.  The guys are completely wacko, and they miss the art of Kubrick's film in all their theorising.

In Bob We Trust
Father Bob Maguire with his long-term yid sidekick John Safran.  I loved Bob's fast-paced comic narrative history of Judeo-Christianity, complete with a montage of Christian films. He is extremely intelligent, and he places his faith in the context of a broader history of philosophy and literature.

Lygon Street- Si Parla Italiano
We watched this on cheap Monday night at the Nova, in a cinema filled with Italians.  So it was an audience-participation piece, really.

Stories We Tell
Sarah Polley's family talk about her mother, her mother's death and her father/s.  All of Polley's relatives and friends are charismatic, good-looking artists.  Beautiful.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Slow TV

I am fascinated by Slow TV. Particularly its Scandinavian iteration, which shows real-time footage of a mundane, physical activity.  For example, they broadcast 134 hours of footage from a boat sailing up the Norwegian coast, 8 hours of a log fire burning and 5 hours of knitting.  Apparently it is incredibly popular.

Its popularity is no surprise to me. When I worked at the Children's Hospital, one of the TV stations was a live stream of the new hospital being built next door.  The patients'  parents loved watching the work site. They would watch the earth-moving equipment digging for hours.  Some parents would give me daily updates on what was happening 'on-site.'

I think the key features of this type of slow TV are: 
1. lack of narrative
2. lack of commentary. 
3. ideally, the viewer's lack of technical knowledge of the task. I don't think it's really 'slow' if the viewer is able to critique the activity.  It seems 'slower' if they are a detached observer.  Watching a construction site would be slow TV for me, but not for a carpenter.

These criteria fit with Warhol's original 'slow' films, 'Sleep' (a guy sleeping) and 'Empire' (eight hours of the Empire State building).

I often finish work *late* in the night, arriving home  hyped up from a busy shift. There would be nothing better than watching someone knit for an hour to prepare me for bed. Televisual meditation. Last year I tried to watch Breaking Bad and it was way too stressful.  I finally gave up after doing a trauma shift, arriving home at 1:30am and watching the episode where the dude's head gets crushed by the ATM machine.  Suffice it to say, Breaking Bad is not a 'night night, sleep tight' television show.

But more than being relaxing, I like the aesthetic of slow TV- engaging aesthetically in a mundane physical activity.  

Saturday, December 14, 2013

It's raining.

So I just spent eight idyllic days in New Zealand's south-west.

By idyllic I mean constantly grey, rare glimpses of sun, almost unremittingly bleak but isolated and beautiful.

On my second day the rain dumped almost continuously for 24 hours, leading our group to cancel all plans and retire to our beds reading.  What a great day, listening to the rain on the roof and reading a rather odd New Zealand novel called, 'The Scarecrow.'

We hiked the Copland track to Welcome Flats, 18km up through the rainforest.  It is so wet in this region that the more experienced hikers didn't carry water bottles- they carried cups to drink from the pristine streams.  Amazing!  The following day some people hiked to Douglas Hut and back.  I hiked only halfway and lay in a meadow reading and napping.  You may notice the pattern emerging.  Nothing enhances a nice reading-nap like a grassy meadow with 3000 metre peaks and waterfalls in every direction.  

Other highlights were soaking in the natural hot pools (again: views of 3000 metre peaks, rainforest and waterfalls), kayaking through the forest in Hokatika and discovering that the NZ sandflies had no interest in me.  And, of course, the rain.

This poem from the Haast Beach visitor centre neatly captures the situation:

It rained and rained and rained 
The average fall was well maintained 
And when the tracks were simple bogs 
It started raining cats and dogs. 
After a drought of half an hour 
We had a most refreshing shower 
And then most curious thing of all 
A gentle rain began to fall. 
Next day but one was fairly dry 
Save for one deluge from the sky 
Which wetted the party to the skin 
And then at last the Rain set in! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the alternative guide to passing

So I just passed the ACEM fellowship exam.  Woo hoo!!

Some people say you need to read Tintinalli three times cover-to-cover to pass the exam.  This is not true.  Here's what you actually should do:

1. Choose a really great study partner, with a good sense of humour and no OCD tendencies.

2. Go to Bikram yoga at least once a week. In Bikram you are basically allowed to sigh heavily for 90 minutes.

3. Surprise even yourself at how much chocolate you can eat.   When a snickers bar becomes an acceptable alternative to an actual meal, you've hit the mark.

4. Read Young Adult Fiction.  Trust me on this.  Engaging narratives, short novels and conflicts that are less stressful to the adult reader.

5. Learn that there is more to life than the exam each time you try to explain it to your non-medical friends.  ("I passed the exam!!!!"  [pause]  "Exam???")

6. Watch Dirty Dancing 3 times in the fortnight before the clinical exam.

7. Run back to the hotel between sections of the clinical exam to cram another couple of episodes of Seachange.

8. After it's all done, improve your fitness using Tintinalli as a kettle-bell.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Yesterday when I went to Cibi there was a small child, maybe 12 months old, trapped in her parents car. Apparently she pushed the 'lock' button at precisely the moment that her mother dropped the car keys in the car and shut the door.

By the time I arrive the girl had realised she was trapped and was crying for her parents, face pushed up to the window.  Her parents were outside the car, trying to coax her into pushing the 'unlock' button.  'Beep beep!  Push the beep beep!'.  Unfortunately she kept going for the wrong beep beep.

One of the guys from Cibi managed to open the car with a coat hanger.  I was very impressed.  He said, "I feel like superman!"

This reminded me of how satisfying it is to remove an object stuck in a child's nose or ear.  I feel like a magician extracting the bead/M&M/mung bean…ta-dah!!  The parents are always so grateful.

It's strange how much more satisfying this is than the other more difficult tasks I have to do each day, like diagnosing chest pain or treating sepsis.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

coming up for air

I took a week off from study after my exam last week.  I lost a day to full-blown panic: "Will I pass?  I think I've failed.  I'm sure I failed!" But then I went to yoga and I came home thinking, "Myeh.  Maybe I failed, but let's not spend the next six weeks worrying."

Cue: relentless fun times!!

Here are some things a person can do when they are not studying:

  1. Eat a lot.  eg. 8 course meal at Attica, complete with a mid-meal trip to their beautiful vegie garden to toast fancy marshmallows over an open fire and drink warm apple cider. 
  2. Cuddle new babies.  eg. baby nephew Samson and unofficial nephew Graeme. 
  3. Walk in the SUNSHINE.  eg. along the Yarra at Warrandyte with no-longer-the-baby-nephew Tpot. 
  4. Drink too much and dance like a loon at a house party.  eg with your old housemates.
  5. Feel 20 years old again. eg. eat chips for breakfast with a hangover.
  6. Go to bookclub.  Talk about eg. 'The Diary of a Teenage Girl'.  
  7. Ride a bicycle. eg. at 3am, or eg. 2pm in SUNSHINE. 
  8. Snooze while some awesome person (eg. Jason) cleans the entire house. 
  9. Watch movies eg. Frances Ha and the Elmo documentary
  10. Go to art galleries. eg. ACCA and NGV. 
Just sayin'.  These are the things a non-studying person can do.  

But what would I know?  As of tomorrow it's back to the books.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Mazes, stomping and apples.

Red Hill mini-holiday!  Following Oprah Winfrey, my favourite things for the season are:

1. mazes
2. stomping
3. apples

First stop was the Ashcombe maze, a hedge maze over 3 metres high.  I liked it in the maze and decided I should live there, where no one would bother me.  Eventually Jason coaxed me out. 

The next day we did a long walk from Red Hill to Merricks, on the old Red Hill railway trail.  It was a beautiful day, plenty of dappled sunshine and soft pine needles underfoot. I did some good stomping on  dry leaves. We saw some bulls, plenty of cows and horses, and rolling hills.  Each time a pair of riders approached us on the trail, I would say to Jason, "They must be bringing us an important message!" But the only message was, 'Chilly out, isn't it?'  Chilly out indeed.

At Merricks we ate lunch at their general store.  For a general store it is extremely fancy.  In fact, this was a recurring theme - every time we tried to get a simple meal, we ended up at a two-hatted fancy restaurant.  That said, there were a lot of delicious apple products on the Mornington Peninsula. I ate caramelized apple on my porridge, Red Hill apple cider, apple sauce with roast pork and apple pie.

At the Merricks General store there were a very handsome father and son sitting across from us.  The younger man had a James-Franco-esqe smile, whilst the older man had a ridiculously thick black moustache, and a shock of grey messy hair.  Quite a charming pair.  In contrast, the table next to us at dinner were screeching women who talked loudly about their parking and speeding fines, collected in Barker's road Kew and Middle Park.  "I said to the officer, "I'm driving a Landrover.  Does it look like a $262 fine is going to be a problem?!"  

On our final day we went to Point Leo and Arthurs seat.  More stomping.  There was supposed to be another maze in Arthurs seat, but we couldn't find it. (Or perhaps we did.) Then our final round of delicious apple products at Johnny Ripe, a 'farm gate' store specialising in pies and preserves. The sign out the front said, 'Welcome Baked Goods'. A sentiment I share, and a fine end to our mini-holiday.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pillars of my (in)sanity

My specialty fellowship exam is but 6 weeks away.  I am the first to admit that my mental state is precarious at best.  Here are the pillars of my sanity:

1. Reading non-medical books
I am currently reading 'May We Be Forgiven' by A. M. Homes.  It is so funny and heart-wrenching that Jason threatened to confiscate it last night because the bed was shaking from my silent laughter.

2. Eating lunch at Cibi
Meg always gives me a friendly smile.  Exiting the house forces me to change out of my study uniform/pyjamas. I eat vegetables!

3. Ignoring well-meaning advice
A direct quote from an ACEM examiner: "If you want to pass this exam, you must only study.  You may walk outside occasionally."

4.  Telling Jason that I love him
I do this when I am feeling anxious.  Jason feels very well-loved at the moment.

5. Planning holidays, exercising and cleaning.

5. Staring out the window

Sunday, June 9, 2013

the documentary project

My New Year's resolution for 2013 is to watch one documentary per month for the year.**

Here is my year so far in documentaries:

January: Searching for the Sugarman

Oscar prize winner, watched at Nova in 35 degree heat with no air-con.  But still amazing. My favourite scene is the interview with Rodriguez's labourer-workmate, describing his disbelief that Rodriguez is an internationally famous musician.  "They put your face on a milk carton?!?'

February: If you're feeling sinister.  

A Belle and Sebastian documentary.  Watched in bed, on my phone, whilst failing to sleep at 5am after nightshifts.  I fell asleep to happy West End Glasgow dreams.

March: West of Memphis

Bleak, but beautifully shot by Peter Jackson.  Covers the conviction and eventual release of the 'West Memphis Three'- three teenagers charged with killing and mutilating three young boys.  Falls squarely in the genre I like to call, "Those Crazy Americans."

April:  Grizzly Man

BEARS!!  Ever since we visited Yosemite National park, Jason and I have been a bit bear-obsessed.  Oh, and there's a crazy blond American guy- but don't worry,  he gets decapitated.

May: How to survive a Plague

AIDS in the 1980s- back when it killed *Americans*.  A case study in effective advocacy and activism.  Peter Staley comes out very well- an impressive, articulate spokesman.

June: Ping Pong

We drove to Elsternwick  to watch Ping Pong, a documentary about the 2012 World over-80s table tennis championships in China.  It was a lovely piece on ageing well. The highlight is a Chinese TV reporter asking a 101 year old participant, in stilted English, "Why are you even in the championship?  You are so old!"

**To clarify for those who think I am completely crazy: this is in addition to essential TV shows (eg FNL repeats, Mad Men, Top of the Lake) and films.

Friday, April 19, 2013

heart block

Last night I had a very elderly patient with complete heart block.   I was asking her whether she would want a pacemaker.  I explained, "This heart block means that you could faint and never wake up."
"Oh, that sounds lovely dear, " she replied. To be certain she understood I said, "I mean that you would die." "Oh yes, I know. My husband's waiting for me."

So later, I dreamt that I abandoned the night shift team to sit by her bed and read her book to her. In my dream, it was very important that she heard the ending before she died.

Today I walked past an Amnesty International stand on Smith street.  As I passed, one of the   volunteers said to the other, "She's a doctor, you know."  This freaked me out.  Either I was hallucinating or I am less anonymous than I imagine.  I told Jason to keep a close eye on me for evidence of psychosis.

Anyway, tonight we rode into the city and saw the Pajama Men and drank scotch, so now I am happy. And probably sane.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

old person music holiday

We just had a holiday- a week off working and studying for this goddamned exam.  So I had a lot of things to pack in!!

First up was the Boss: Bruce Springsteen and the E street band show at Hanging Rock.  Now, that was an awesome show.  Not an awesome show for a sixty-three year old. An awesome show.  I am unclear on how he has maintained such vigour at retirement age.  Perhaps the crowd surfing every night is keeping him in shape?  Perhaps he took fewer drugs than, say, Neil Young?  Or perhaps he is still on drugs?

Whichever way he's done it- if I am that awesome at 63, I won't mind if I'm dead at 64.

Anyway, the Rock was beautiful, we drank scotch and danced up a storm with some bikers ('Sons of Anarchy') who offered us some of their olives.  Jesse drove us all home with a few back-seat encores of 'Dancing in the Dark.'

Then we travelled up to Byron Bay on our Paul Simon Pilgrimage.  In contrast to Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon is old.   He looks like Paul Simon dressed up as an old man.  But his voice is still amazing.  And we managed to see some other acts: Wilco, the Melbourne Ska Orchestra, Tony Joe White, and this guy who is basically the Henry Wagons of Canada.

We camped a couple of nights out of Byron, then settled into a forest 'retreat', where we basically lay around and read for 5 days.  I read three books, watched three films: (Down by Law, Brokeback Mountain, The Silver Linings Playbook) and swam every day.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Get back in the kitchen

Our good friends Tara and Nico were recently approached by the Herald-Sun to appear in a weekend feature on 'stressful kitchens'.  That is, kitchens that are stressful to cook in due to size, design or some such.

Tara and Nico have a really great house, and in truth their kitchen is quite big.  It has a six-seater kitchen table.  But it's old and doesn't have much bench space, so I suppose that's why they were chosen.

On the day they called, Tara was working and Nico was at home with their baby.  The photographer insisted on arranging a different day, so they could photograph Tara in the kitchen with her daughter.

I can't even covey how much this infuriates me.

Get back in the kitchen, Tara.

Monday, March 4, 2013

No New York

It has finally happened.  I am sick of reading novels set in New York.

I am half-way through 'Triburbia' and I just can't be bothered.  No more lofts, no more wealthy artists, no more stoops.  Grrr!!

This is worthy of note because my love of contemporary American fiction was overwhelming.  Overwhelming.  My book club friends could only look on and laugh as I earnestly spoke of my love of Jonathon Safran Foer, Siri Hustvedt et al.  And to be sure, I still love them.  At best, their intelligence and imagination sparkle off the page.

My admiration of these writers was tempered when I read 'The Tin Drum'.   My favourite 'New York' authors have an enormous stylistic debt to Gunter Grass.

So, here are my favourite books set in New York, which I whole-heartedly recommend.

1. Let the Great world Spin by Colum McCann
2. What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt
3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathon Safran Foer
4. My Misspent Youth (essays) Meghan Daum
5. Just Kids (biography) Patti Smith

But for me, it is time to move on.  

Sunday, March 3, 2013


So here is my secret: I am *surprisingly* good at physical skills.  Throwing and catching, playing table tennis, kicking a footy.

To be clear, I am not good at these things.  However, I am nowhere near as bad as anyone expects. Whenever anyone sees me throw a ball, they remark, "Lucy, you weren't as bad at that as I thought you would be." Or, "Wow!  I was certain you'd be terrible at that but...".  And not just once: the same people frequently comment each time I do anything requiring hand-eye coordination.

It used to frustrate me but now I revel in the advantage to being unexpectedly good at something.

My secret weapon: acting like a total klutz whilst actually having at least average hand-eye coordination and agility.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lemon Lime, not Bitter

Based on the Lemon Lime and Bitters test (sens. 98%, spec 85%), another of our good friends is pregnant.  This takes the current count of pregnant friends or new parents to approximately 73.   Every time I hear about another pregnancy, I have an urge to move somewhere exotic, immediately, and return when all the baby-making is done.

Of course I am excited and happy for my friends.  But I think my dream last night nicely illustrates my current attitude to pregnancy:

I was 12 weeks pregnant.  I did not want to be pregnant.  I was walking across a huge, windswept desert plain.  Actually in hindsight it looked like the scene from The Master where they take turns riding the motorbike.  
I saw a beautiful blanket fly past in the strong wind.  I wanted to get the blanket but it got caught in a very tall tree. 
At the end of my walk I arrived at a building with no windows.  I was scared of the building, but I could hear my friends inside.  I entered the foyer of the building, but then I got scared so I tried to leave. The door had locked behind me. 

I think the subtext here is pretty clear: Having children is like living in a windowless building/prison in the middle of a desert.  

Feel free to remind me of this post when I am pregnant.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

SoJo, NoJo, GheTTo

Collingwood is so hip it had to been subdivided.  I live in a little corner called Ghetto Collingwood.  It's near the flats, the Tote and more empty shops than you can poke a stick at.

It is not without its charms. We have the Keith Haring mural, and the awesome Collingwood Technical school.  If I were rich I would buy 'D Block':

The flats are surrounded by big gum trees, so we have plenty of birds and wildlife.  Our friend Keith, who has his home and studio across the alley from us, has a theory that Ghetto Collingwood is quite safe from theft because thieves don't shop in their own neighbourhoods.  So far this has proved correct.  I once left the key to our car sticking out of the boot lock, with the car parked in the street, for nearly 48 hours.  Whoops.  But no one took it.

But it's also quite ghetto.  A few weeks ago someone pooed all over the fence near our carport, and left a pile of dirty toilet paper.  The junkies shoot up on the park bench across from our house.  And Jason is convinced that our milk bar is actually dealing mainly in drugs.  I was skeptical on this point.  But there are always little groups of people waiting just around the corner from the milkbar, or behind the trees, arguing, "No, you go in this time!"

Home sweet home!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Safety first

I think I used to be quite reckless. I often hear my injured patients' stories and think, "Yeah, I can see why you did that."  But the years are taking their toll and I'm more cautious than I used to be.

Here's some advice from the front-line:

1. Turn off the lawn mower first.
2. Hold the beer bottle OR ride the skateboard.
3. Wear shoes.
4. When you want to stand up to get some air, don't.  Lie on the ground.
5. Turn off the blender first.
6. Knives go in the dishwasher pointy-end down.
7. Wax now, pay later.
8. Stop. Chew. Swallow.
9. Don't punch the wall.
10. Climbing a pool fence is a one-way ticket to impalement. If the gate doesn't open, give up.

Monday, January 7, 2013

So long 2012 and thanks for all the books.

It's the season for 'best-of' lists.  But I am not a Professional Consumer of Culture.  Far from it. If I were to list the top 5 films of 2012, it would be a list of the 5 films I saw in 2012.  I am the person best-of lists are made for.

(Actually, I did watch some great movies last year.  It's just that they are movies everyone else saw 20 or 30 years ago: Apocalypse Now, the Die Hard quadrilogy, Running on Empty, Footloose.  No wonder Jason assumes I have never seen any movies, ever.)

Nonetheless, here are my top five favourite books of the year . I really did read a lot of books last year, so a top 5 list seems fair.  When I remember my favourites, I remember not only the stories, but the act of reading them.  Where I was, what I was doing, drinking, smelling.  It is a strangely dual memory, the story and the reading of it intertwined.  

So perhaps they were good books, perhaps I was just in a receptive mood at the time.  Taste remains a mystery to me.

5.They shoot horses, don't they?- Horace McCoy
(read at Victoria Park whilst Jason watched the VFL game)

4. The Women in Black- Madeleine St John
(read in a resort in Yallingup, WA)

3. My Brilliant Career- Miles Franklin
(read in a tent on the Jatbula trail)

2. Crossing to Safety- Wallace Stegner
(read in Mina-no-ie, with the vegie lunch + sparkling apple juice)

1. The Forrests- Emily Perkins.
(read on the couch, under a blanket in winter)