Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Digging in the Dirt

What is it that's so satisfying about watering tomato plants? Is it the tangy scent that arises with the addition of water? – a mood-lifting 'thank you' from the plants themselves? Or is it the promise of mega-delicious, juicy tomatoes down the track? I have no idea. It's one of those ponderables that I like to, well, ponder, on a summer's evening when I'm too knackered to do anything else.

I spent almost all of today in my garden. It's been sadly neglected during term time.

A few years ago, I realised I'd become middle-aged, when I realised how much pleasure was to be had making a garden. Sure, I'd chucked in the odd tomato or pansy in my life, but actually trying to make a garden from scratch, with limited funds, limited time and shitty soil... A whole new exciting/frustrating/infuriating/rewarding world emerged.

The best (and worst) thing about it is that it's a perpetual Work In Progress. It's NEVER FINISHED! For someone who likes to have closure of a project this is, um, tricky. And yet somehow, it works.

I love how I can pick up my yoke (or spade) and continue the Good Fight, no matter what. Like today. Holy crap, I was out there before 7am. I was digging, mattocking, manuring, mulching, transplanting, planting.... all before lots of people had managed to have their first cuppa. Admittedly, I was making up for lost time.

Then, when I got tired, I went to the Mall. And when I came back, refreshed, I got back into the garden.

I FILLED the TRASH-PAK. Many times over. I squished and compressed and squished again. The Trash-Pak is probably 95% full now. I didn't call it a day until around 5.30 this arv. That's not a bad day's work.

When I started writing this post I thought I had a reasonable amount of residual energy stored somewhere (clearly not in my nose... after clearing all the ivy/dead leaves/leaf-litter from that bit of my yard this arv, I'm still blowing stuff out of my nose that scares me. I'm convinced it's full of earwig turds.) I was wrong. There is no residual energy. I'm all done in. Now that I've sat down and relaxed a bit, I realise 'done in' doesn't even begin to cover it. I'm knackered, stuffed, absolutely buggered - and I suspect I will ache all over tomorrow. Night night!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Life with Miffy - feline dementia

After another 3.30am wake-up, courtesy of Miffy the Geriatric Cat, and yet another toileting disaster - hers, not mine! - I'm running out of humour, bicarb of soda - and incense.

Things are getting difficult - and a bit smelly. I wonder whether Miffy finds it as distressing as I do? As her poor old brain deteriorates, she becomes increasingly stuck in weird behavioural loops, and is often confused.

Like this morning. At 3.30am. Picture this:

Loud yowling wakes me (and probably half the neighbourhood) again. The kitty body-clock is seriously out of whack. I get out of bed and turn on the light. Miffy is sitting in the bathroom, waiting to go through the routine. This is how it's supposed to go:

Human turns on tap in bath. Cat jumps into bath, drinks water from tap. Cat jumps out. Human turns off tap. Life goes on.

Holes are starting to form in even this simple and well-worn routine. I turn on the tap. Miffy hauls herself up and into the bath. She sits in front of the trickle of water and looks at it.

'Um, I know there's something I'm supposed to do now...' Sometimes she remembers, sometimes she doesn't.

We go through this at least ten times a day now. At least. It used to be a once or twice thing, back in the day.

It's starting to be the same with the feeding routine, which is supposed to work like this:

I rattle the bicky jar. Miffy comes running. I put food in the bowl and she eats it. Alternatively, Miffy yowls for food. I put food in the bowl. Miffy eats it. It's a simple process, right?

Not any more. Miffy instinctively initiates or responds to the first part of the process, but can't complete it. She looks at the bickies in the bowl, then wanders off – usually back to the bathroom, where she starts the 'Turn on the tap for me' loop again.

Her brain starts things that it can't remember how to complete. So she starts them again. She does the familiar bits that she can remember. Over and over. And over. Sometimes she just yowls.

I'm not sure what the yowls mean. Frustration? Fear? Simple selfish feline demands? I don't know, and I don't think Miffy does either. Half the time, I think that whatever it was she wanted when she started yowling has flown out of her head by the time I turn on the light. We look at each other.


She follows me around because. Just because. If there ever was a reason, she's forgotten it, but if she follows me around, she might remember it. Confusion radiates from her at these times.

And then there's the toilet thing. The hastily-bought litter tray, which lives behind the armchair, is only a partial success. For Miffy, it's a bit of a hit-and-miss thing. If her feet are in the litter, that's evidently close enough, and she pees with gay abandon. Her bum may well be hanging over the side of the tray, but her paws are in the litter, and as far as Miffy is concerned, that is the important thing. Wee finished, she gets out of the litter tray and poops about a foot away. On the carpet. She's also forgotten that peculiarly, fastidiously feline part of the process – you know, the bit where they bury their business? She just drops a few cat nuggets onto the carpet and wanders off.

I wonder whether she's happy, or content, or whether she's struggling through an unpleasant and impenetrable soup, in which jumbled fragments of a lifetime of routines float and bobble. Her increasingly loud vocalisations are carefully articulated, but in a language I don't understand, and I'm not sure what to do. Her mental deterioration has escalated quite markedly since (a) her stroke, in July of this year, and (b) Oscar's death in October.

I think my dear old cat and I are journeying towards a horrible inevitablility that I don't like thinking about - and if I'm honest, when I bring up the 'quality of life' argument, whose life am I talking about? Mine or Miffy's? Boomerang Boy accuses me of wanting to murder his cat whenever I bring up the possibility that euthanasia might be the kindest thing. Boomerang Boy, it must be said, sleeps through the worst of Miffy's weird behaviour.

As I write this, Miffy is curled up next to me, fast asleep. After the early start this morning, I think I'll put questions of life, death and feline dementia into the too-hard basket, and join her for a little nap.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Beanz - now with meatballs

The title of this post is a quote from Dave at Bruce's Motorcycle Repairs. He calls me Miss Beanz (coz Beanz Meanz Heinz, remember?) And those meatballs he's talking about? They're not just meatballs - they're red hot Cajun meatballs.

The boys at Bruce's gave the Crow his 1000km service today - and installed a Yoshimura muffler. Here's a before & after shot:
Before, with stock muffler

After, with carbon-fibre oval Yoshi slip-on

How hot does this look? (Hint: the correct answer is 'red hot Cajun hot').

And if you think it looks hot, you ought to hear it! It's not that it's loud, as such, because it isn't - it has its baffle securely bolted in. But the note of the exhaust has changed completely. The Yoshi grabs that lovely natural V-twin double-throb by the goolies and gives it a giant hit of testosterone. The Crow's voice dropped an octave today and turned into a deep, throaty growl. My new bike is now the two-wheeled equivalent of a full-on hairy-chested alpha male.

I'm in love.

A Journey of a Thousand kilometres...

The Old Hume Cafe, Gunning

Well, it took a while - four weeks, in fact! It was a struggle, but I managed to clock up that 1000kms – just. 1007, actually.

It finally stopped raining and snowing[1] long enough for me to get out on some of the local roads yesterday – Canberra to Sutton-Gundaroo-Gunning, for a start. I stopped at the Old Hume Cafe for a Gunning Lamb Burger, which was yummo. Your lamb patty is served on a bun with lettuce, tomato, Spanish onion, AND a big whack of mint jelly and Greek yoghurt! Seriously delicious!

I headed back towards Canberra via Murrumbateman and the Nanima Road. Nothing to report, apart from a cranky bird of prey whose roadkill bunny-feast I interrupted. It rose in the air with much cranky flapping, and hovered above its lunch at a respectable distance until I had passed.

Recent rain has made a bit of a mess of the roads – potholes everywhere - some of them big enough to lose your bike in - and plenty of gravel and assorted debris washed onto the roads. I'm seeing water where I've never seen water before – I had no idea there were so many ponds and dams on local properties – and now they're all full!

So anyway, after this very pleasant ride, I'd still only managed to crank up a bit over 900kms. I strapped a box of beer to the Ventura rack and ventured out to Dahlitz Motorcycles with it. They've always looked after me out there – and it is Christmas. Oh gawd – Christmas!

[1] Yes, snowing (not exactly in Canberra, but not far off.) In December. This has been the weirdest wettest coldest summer ever, and there was snow on the Brindabellas on Monday! Imagine that - a taste of winter, with soup and flannie jammies and everything!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Meet the Crow

Last time I bought a new bike, back in April 2008, I picked it up from Dahlitz Motorcycles on the Friday and booked it in for its 1000km service – for the following Monday.

It hasn't been so easy this time. Getting the all-important 1000km service next week is essential, before Bruce's Motorcycle Repairs closes down for a well-earned Christmas holiday.

I've been wanting to write about my NEW new bike, but it's been shut in the shed for the last three weeks, and has hardly come out. Record-breaking rain in the wettest December I've ever seen in Canberra, and the presence of the Yak (my car), have turned me into (I can hardly bring myself to say it) a fairweather rider! Nooooooooooo!

In more than three weeks I've only managed to put 700kms on it (and 200 of those were today). Last week I went from home (Marked A on the map) to the Kippax shops (marked E) via Gungahlin and Watson, turning an 8km round trip into a desperate 40km one, just to warm up the tyres and blow some cobwebs out of my head!

View Larger Map

It's no wonder my mood's been somewhere between “a bit down” and “subterranean”.

But – today – the Crow got a proper airing. Here he is.

He's a 2010 SV650S (the Bomber was the 2008 model). He's called the Crow, or Crowie, because of his glossy blackness. Also because when he goes fast, I will make one of the famous crow-calls that got Graham Kennedy taken off TV back in the 70s (remember those?)

F a a a a a a a a a a r k !

Handsome beastie, isn't he?

Today we (the Crow and I) went to Yass to get fuel, and continued to Boorowa before coming home – a little over 200kms altogether. I was very tempted to keep going to Wyangala Dam, to see what it looks like at 89% of capacity (wow! In the drought it got down to about 6%!) Note to self: that might be a nice ride between Christmas and New Year...

The Crow handles better than the poor old Bomber did. Maybe the Bomber had had too many mishaps. Maybe, after 68,000kms, his steering head bearings were tired. Who knows? The Crow, though, tips neatly and effortlessly into turns, and the front end seems to hug the road better. From the very beginning with the Bomber I thought he felt a bit strange, and put it down to the change in bikes from the trusty, solid GS500F to the nimbler, more waspish SV. After the Unaugural splat back in May of this year, though, I never felt particularly safe when cornering – but I put that down to me being a chickenshit, and having lost confidence... I'm starting to think it was the bike, because there's none of that feeling on the Crow. It's a nice bike!

I see adventures ahead! And now that the school holidays are here, what am I waiting for? Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

The Rise of the Tyrant Miffy

It's 4am. I am wide awake. Why am I awake, and why have I given up on the idea of getting back to sleep?

[Dramatic music]

The Tyrant Miffy is on the warpath. I am blogging in order to resist doing her evil bidding at this ungodly hour, and also to avoid strangling her.

I know now why the dear, late Oscar Bin Laden used to wallop her, every chance he got. And I always thought he was picking on her. (Sorry, Oscar I misunderstood. Mea culpa.) He was merely keeping her in line.

Miffy, it has emerged, doesn't have an OFF switch when it comes to food. And she can't tell the time. She also gets stuck in petulant, querulous geriatric mode, yowling at odd and unreasonable hours of the night, like 3.27am. Like this morning.


No, Miffy, I will not feed you. You were fed at 5pm. You will be fed again at 5am. You already look like a small planet.

Besides, I know that after she has had a few nibbles of breakfast, she will stalk down the hallway and sit in the bathroom doorway. She will yowl loudly and angrily and repeatedly. And, being in the bathroom, it will have a bit of an echo.


This means “Turn on the tap in the bath so I can haul my arthritic arse in there and drink the tastiest water in the house, even though there's a bowl of fresh water right next to my food bowl. Do it, and DO IT NOW, MINION!”

See, it isn't about water. It's about power. Miffy is absolutely relishing her 'only child' status since the demise of poor Oscar. She's loving it. After 16 years of 'Omega Cat' status, she is in the Power Seat. I am the new Omega Cat.

After the water will come the most humiliating (for me) flexing of her feline muscle. She will yowl in the middle of the hallway, loudly and querulously. And non-stop. Her pointy little nose will point meaningfully in the direction of the armchair in the corner of the living room. Behind that chair is the litter tray I hurriedly bought because a certain geriatric cat had decided it was a good place to pee, rather than outdoors where she had spent a lifetime peeing.

She will be saying, very clearly,


After I move the armchair out of the way and haul my arthritic arse into the small space behind it, and scratch about in the kitty litter with my trusty pooper scooper, she will mosey on over, inspect the tray, then smugly wander off.

It's no wonder Oscar used to bash her.

And it's why I'm blogging at 4am.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

It's happened! (Actually, it happened a couple of weeks ago, but I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to blog it, so let me try and drum up an air of spontaneity anyway, ok?)

It's happened – wheeeeeeeeeee! I have a new job! (It's not strictly a new job, coz it's where I worked for 8 years before I took a break from teaching – but it's sort of new, so let me pretend, ok?)

My return to teaching has been a bit of a mixed bag. The biggest change has been trying to get used to the ACT college system, and while it certainly has its good points, things like the BSSS website have done my head in.

Canberra is a Public Service city, and the BSSS is a kick-in-the-guts reminder of that. The bureaucracy that underpins the college system, and the website that is its government-to-teacher interface, is the most user-unfriendly, totally unintuitive, faceless, soulless juggernaut in the whole of the National Capital.

The school where I currently teach began as a small community school. It's now a lot bigger than that, but it still has a warm fuzzy small-community-school feel that is at odds with the hard-edged bureaucratic bullshit that it has to work within. (sorry – “within which it has to work”.) Its clientele isn't sure whether it wants to be 'small-town' or 'big city' – but, trust me, the two make uncomfortable bedfellows.

So I'm moving on. Or rather, moving back. Going back to the place where I taught for eight years. Back to a system I know and feel comfortable with (with which I feel comfortable. I know proper grammar lol).

Am I going round in circles? Is it ever really possible to 'go back'? Well - I'm about to find out, and I'm quite excited in a sort of bittersweet way. One of my lovely students gave me choccies and a card yesterday. It read "Thank you for being such an awesome, down to earth, friendly teacher. I will miss you heaps but I wish you the very best in your new school."

Watch this space.


“A high school student who shot himself after taking his teacher and classmates hostage has died of his wounds at a Wisconsin hospital, authorities said.

“Samuel Hengel, 15, held 24 students and a teacher for nearly five hours at a high school in Marinette on Monday night (local time) before shooting himself as police were rushing into the classroom.”

WTF? A 15 year-old kid? What on earth makes a 15 year old kid think that taking his class hostage is a sensible or viable thing to do? Why on earth would he do it? What was going through his head? At that age, with his life in front of him, what was awful enough to make him (a) create the hostage situation in the first place, and (b) decide that shooting himself was a good way out of it? Or what kind of weird-arse computer game, where nobody ever truly DIES, despite rivers of gore, did he think he was in the middle of?

I'm trying to come up with possible answers, and drawing a total blank. Obviously I'm thinking with a grown-up brain, and a relatively stable one at that.I keep asking myself the sort of questions that the news report hasn't answered:

Was he a good student? Was he failing? (because of course, most people would shoot up their school, their teacher, their classmates on the strength of a Fail grade, right?)
Was he bullied at school? At home?
What was his family like? (And how must they be suffering now?)
What did he do in his spare time?
What made him fucked up enough to do what he did? Because, make no mistake, he WAS fucked up. But so are lots of people. They don't all become potential mass-murderers though.

FIFTEEN years old... barely started on the Big Road of Life. Not old enough to vote, drink legally, have sex, have a driver's licence (well, not sure about Wisconsin...) but in any case - legally, still a child. A CHILD.