January 29, 2009

Feeling hot, hot, hot

So, Melbourne is in the middle of a heatwave. And it's hot. Damn hot. Especially if you live in an uninsulated weatherboard cottage with only a 20-something year old airconditiner called Leonard to cool you down. I don't want to diss Leonard's work; considering his age he's a real trooper. But he only works for 10 minutes at a time. And someone installed him at knee height. So last night, for a blissful 10 minutes Mr Fantapants and I stood in the kitchen with our knees exposed and soaked up Leonard's cooling breeze. And then he gave his usual death shudder and shut down.

One positive thing I've noticed happens when the thermometer rises above 40C is that the heat unites people in a common hatred. My bus trip home yesterday (superfull bus due to train cancellations, only one tiny window that opened, no airconditioning) was positively convivial, with people sharing their mutual contempt for public transport, details of their own cooling systems at home, comparing the aspects that their houses face to see whose place was worse off. It was a complete whingefest, but they were talking to each other. If the weather stays like this for much longer we might actually end up with a community...

January 25, 2009

Sapped

Hmmm, the point of starting this blog was to try to stop the dayjob from sapping every creative urge I might or might not have if I wasn't thinking about other people's crap all day. This week it failed miserable (or spectacularly - whichever of those seems more dramatic).

I'm trying to remedy things a bit by at least getting some sewing done, so yesterday I cut out two dress patterns and they're ready to start on as soon as our brunch guests depart. (Note to self: brunch is a stupid meal to have people over for - not ony do you have to wake up ridiculously early to clean the house because the ginger dustbunnies are EVERYWHERE, but you also don't get to eat until very late morning, which for someone who wakes up hungry every day is not a happy thing.)

One thing I did accomplish this week was to finish the first in a pair of socks knitted from the toe up. I'm not sold on the technique. For one thing, short row heels are far more complicated than in a cuff down pattern, and they don't seem nearly as sturdy. Plus, there aren't any decreases along the sides of the foot, so it's not very fitted. I'll finish the second one but I think I'll be sticking to the good old cuff downs in future, even if it does mean having to follow the kitchener stitch diagram every time I cast off a toe.

No sign of the bunny this week.

January 13, 2009

Magic bunny Monday

So, yesterday got off to a pretty crap start. My bus pulled out when I was two metres from the stop, which would normally mean a 10 minute wait, but since the bus company, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that most people take holidays from Christmas eve until Australia day, it’s running reduced services until the end of the month, so I had to sit on the chilly seat at the chilly bus stop (summer has forgotten Melbourne this year – it was about 12 degrees when I left home!) for 20 minutes until the next bus arrived. And, of course, most people are not on holidays any more, so when the bus did finally come it was chockers and I had to perch myself unsteadily on the back steps, hoping the driver had a light touch on the brakes.

By this time I was beginning to think dark thoughts about the tone being set for my working week, and how I am still a bit sickly and probably should have stayed in bed, and how much I was dreading the thought of my email inbox after being off sick on Friday, and other generally miserable-making tings.

As I was staring miserably out the window at nothing in particular, my eyes came to rest on the windowsill of the house in front of the bus stop, on which sat one of those kitsch life-size figurines of a rabbit standing on its back legs with its ears sticking straight up, and I was just thinking about what kind of person not only owns a kitschy life-size rabbit figurine, but also chooses to place it on their windowsill, facing towards the streets as if surveying the view, when the rabbit’s nose wiffles. And I literally blinked to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. And then it wiffled again, and raised one front paw as if in greeting, and swivelled its ears back and wiffled some more before turning to sit in profile.

(An aside: How did the bunny get up to the windowsill? Does it have a little bunny-size ladder? Or does its owner put it up there and then sit peeking out from behind the polyester lace curtains to see whether anyone notices it?)

I looked around the bus to see whether anyone else had noticed this incredible feat of cuteness, but everyone around me was scrolling their Blackberrys or fiddling with their iPods or sending text messages or trying to get a little more sleep. And I realised that if I hadn’t missed my bus, or even if there’d been a seat on the bus I was on, I would have missed it, too. And in what would have been no more than 10 seconds, my morning changed from being very Bad and Unlucky, to being Okay, or maybe even Pretty Good, because I and only I had witnessed the Monday morning bunny magic.

January 9, 2009

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness

You know those edge-of-your-seat movie thrillers, where something happens in every scene that makes you gasp and think 'how can he possibly get himself out of this one?' (yes, James Bond/Harry Potter, I'm talking to you!)? Those books where you keep telling yourself 'I just have to make sure he gets out of this bit okay' and then suddenly it's 4 am and you've read the whole thing? Well, I don't like them - for all the reasons that a lot of people do like them:
  • they make my heart race

  • they make me anxious

  • they make me need to know what's going to happen next.
And that's just not me. I'm a planner, a plotter and a creature of habit: I don't like surprises.

So, normally, a book like Patrick Ness's The Knife of Never Letting Go wouldn't be on my to-read list, but it has won so many awards and been recommended to me by so many people, that I couldn't resist.

And even though it made my heart race anxiously and I stayed up till all hours finishing it, it was worth it, not just because of Ness's tight writing, or the New World he has brought to life for this series (all of which you can read about in reviews like this one), but because he made me care about the characters.

For me, whether it's a 2-hour movie or a 400 page book, if I don't actually feel enough about the character (whether those feelings are negative or positive) to care whether they succeed or fail, then I really can't be arsed investing my time in it. I stopped feeling guilty about putting down a book at page 50 long ago - life's too short and there are too many books on my to-read list.

It's not that I particularly liked the character of the book's protagonist, Todd, and I certainly couldn't identify with him in any way, but I've thought about it a lot since finishing the book, and I think what drew me to him (and to the other characters in the book, including the one that appeared in a nightmare this morning) is that Ness made him real - not just believable, or well-rounded, but real. I feel like if I passed Todd on the street I'd recognise him just by the way he walked and the expression on his face. Now that is a skill I want to learn...

BTW, apparently there's been some hoo-ha about knives as motifs in books for young people, from the usual suspects who think that young people are sponges for evil and can't think for themselves. Patrick Ness responded to it in The Guardian.

January 2, 2009

Reading resolutions

(with thanks to Booking through Thursday, without whom I would have spent the rest of the day procrastinating about what to blog about!)

From the teetering pile of worthiness:
Oryx and Crake - I lovelovelove Margaret Atwood, so I have no idea why I haven't read this yet
Vernon God Little - must. get. past. page 12!
Sophie's World - Jostein Gaardner
Until I found you - John Irving
The art of racing in the rain - Garth Stein

On my YA to-read for fun list
Everything beautiful - Simonne Howell - I loved Notes from the teenage underground (even though I can't stand Andy Warhol), so I can't wait to read this.
Boofheads - Mo Johnson
The disreputable history of Frankie Llndau-Banks - E. Lockhart
Luuurve is a many trousered thing - Louise Rennison (guilty pleasure)

For 'research purposes'
The Twilight series - I don't enjoy vampires, even of the shiny, handsome self-controlled kind, but I am interested to see what all the fuss is about.
Tomorrow, when the war began - I don't know how/why I haven't read this absolute pillar of Aus. YA yet, but it's time I did.

That doesn't seem like many, does it? I know there are loads, loads more, but I've already managed to spend over an hour procrastinating about committing to this lot, so they'll have to wait.