Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oh Happy Day

I awoke full of beans so took my 15' driftwood beam to Marin Lumber where they sawed and rebated it for me for a miserly $81, and I am slightly dazed that something I have been plotting for months is suddenly done. So I ripped down Stefan's ceiling too - half of it so far but the day is young. It looks pretty good.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Carrit Awa'

Part of my morning's work:

The bottom is my famous reclaimed Rot Art, now mounted securely, and the top picture is to show my clocks for Oz, US and UK, but I love the way the celery glows, and the red ties on the herbs catch the light.

Not Bum

Did you know that you can buy the skull of a longhorn steer for $150?

The Moon Last Night

I sat watching as that vivid late afternoon light faded, thinking that the show was over, but then the moon brightened. You can just see the reflection in the reeds.


There was a street market outside the building we were working in yesterday so at lunch I bought: peaches white and yellow, nectarines white and yellow, chilis, cilantro, basil, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, peppers and a tiny cast-iron pan for $5. I had decided to spend all the money in my purse, what a giddy feeling.

So this morning I had my egg in the little pan, rancheros, and it was perfect.

The days suddenly seem shorter. I woke at 5.45 this morning and thought it was about 5.

Petty: I mind when some neat thing I discover turns out to be common knowledge, like putting the matching sheets and duvet covers and one pillowcase into the other pillow case so you always have sets, or chopping as much onion as you can bear and putting it in a deli container. Or folding your towels in thirds to make a plump front fold, or your trousers in thirds to fit a suitcase or drawer with unobtrusive creases upon wearing.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The View from my Tunnel

The main blessing of insomnia is clarity. There aren't the distractions of daylight hours, and since I have a free day today I don't have to torture myself by staying awake after lunch. I shall sit out on the swing seat and drift peacefully, watching the play of light on the water.

I have been musing on the apology recently proferred: "I don't want you to think I don't appreciate your hard work and professionalism. I guess I shouldn't impose my own standards on you." Now, does that sound like an apology? Does it feel like an apology? It was intended as one.

After lively discussions of truth and truthiness I am fascinated once again with our potential for tunnel vision. Complexity is rich, so beware what you pride yourself on, you can rely on it too much, and miss out on more appropriate responses. All this in the process of making a corporate film which OF COURSE is presenting the company in a chosen light. A certain integrity is called for, but we shouldn't for a moment claim the moral high ground of truth. Exposes are not totally truthful either, for all they claim the moral high ground as their own.

Our client is writhing on a point of...honour? Certainly self-image, so won't recreate or even arrange scenes. As a result he already has twenty hours of tape to edit. And maybe because he won't pre-select content, he focuses on technical details, and that is an emotional choice: he feels comfortable at that level.

I think our man is uneasy about making a corporate film ("I'm a documentarian!") and has not yet found his balance on this.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Blessedly home after the worst motel room, hot and dark and noisy but at least it was on the ground floor for the equipment. The town was pleasant, Smalltown USA, and I always enjoy the work, so all-in-all a sense of accomplishment.

While we were filming grain bins and train tracks I found what I think is a skunk skull, so delicate but with strong curving canines, nine rail spikes, assorted heavy washers,three strange iron hooks of varied shapes and two big lumps of pumice, all gracing my table now until I work out how to deploy them. 50 cents each for rail spikes here.

The house felt so orderly and welcoming, Suscipe was happy to see us, Cissy had watered and even the portulacca I had rashly planted out on Sunday seem plump and content. Felix has secured his apartment, William is coming over this evening and we are working again tomorrow and Friday then I have the weekend to build. Life is good.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

There was a Complication..

This little house is built as tight as a boat and there isn't a utility room suitable for a litter tray. So, I was logical and put her tray in the bathroom. (I did the same in Soho by putting the litter tray in the fireplace in the bathroom, behind a fire screen.) I cut a little portal in the bottom of the linen cupboard door and Madam has her privy.

Well, she is now seventeen and becoming...erratic. I left the door open while I was painting and she, following some internal logic, went through the portal and peed, rather than going through the portal, turning right to the litter box, and peeing. She must have to'ed and fro'ed and tramped through the litter because this is what I saw:

And she wasn't speaking to me.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

My Favorite


And there are many more -

Just wipe your Hands on your Shirt

Uncommonly Civilised

True the living room is deep in sawdust, but I have done all the fiddly bits of the new wall, sealed it and finished painting the linen cupboard, including the underside of the shelves. I like sawdust, it is clean mess and makes me think of the old thrift of sprinkling used tea leaves on a floor before sweeping, to gather the dust.

Now for a superior lunch.

Rapture Unforeseen

I involuntarily bought two sheets of rough ply, ripped, and (glory glory) a nail gun and compressor, and spent yesterday panelling the rear wall of the kitchen. Reactions have been brilliant, and I am surprised too, it looks so strong. I will have to seal it of course so that is next.

I wish I could truly see things before I did them. I have the visions of course, but the end result has an emotional kick I can't ever predict.

The nail gun made it so easy and quick, I could hold up the board with one hand and shoot with the other. Both George and Peter Meyers rang while I was doing it and both groaned when Stefan said what I had bought. I find that a strange reaction.

I have now bought the w.c., basin, taps, shower head, mixer and valve, and need to buy the basin support, not the $800 efforts but a kitchen cart which has the look I want (and the look which incidentally features in the Restoration Hardware catalogue, no recommendation but validation I suppose), panel doors and pocket door mounting. The shower tray is the challenge: I want a very plain, white one. Getting to grips with the language was one problem, they are called pans, bases and receptors here. The local hardware stores had a hopeless selection with strange wiggly textures, and it is VERY HARD to see detail online. My hopes rest with a Starck tray but I want to see the real thing before I shell out.

I visited my dream house again and this time saw the plans, and am happy to say that my vision for it is streets better in every way than the architect's. Now all I need is the money. It was deeply satisfying that the owners really got what I was driving at and got all excited, asked questions and then got that introverted dreamy happy look as they contemplated how it would be if you made the office the entrance, put the bedrooms on the first floor and moved the kitchen to the media room. I really like them, I don't want them to sell.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Coarse Meshed

Another of mum's withering comments - anyone who was coarse meshed was beyond her pale. I love it, such a vivid mental image of a slack and sloppy mind.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Now my mind strays to Fifi Hawthorne our formidable Headmistress, flapping around in her academic robe at all times and accompanied by Goober? the wheezing cattle dog. She remains for me the epitome of a head teacher, imperious, sharp, capable of kindness and inseparable from her role. Crinkled grey bun, half-moon glasses, saggy stockings and a temper like the crack of a whip. We were much tickled that her mother was reputedly a dancing girl, how on earth could we have known that?

Miss Epstein the English teacher and inseparable friend of Fifi, tiny, thin, dyspeptic, and crushing, but we respected her and loved her. Sexy Lexy the Geography teacher (so called by Minty and Elaine Speigel and that whole fearless crowd in the class ahead).
Dear Mrs Evans, such a good teacher that I could actually speak French when I got to France. Miss Coburn, whose Biology class I loved (actually I loved Geography too), and Mrs Ross and fascinating Science which I had to abandon as in those days we chose between Science and History at a shockingly early stage, so I was left to the mercies of fierce, charismatic Miss McLean, a brooding Sapphic presence worthy of a novel, and when she left to become a headmistress her particular friend in our year left as well. I loved Latin lessons with Fifi too, though I did not distinguish myself.

The library was shameful, small, dusty and ill-supplied, but the house and grounds were beautiful, a proper Australian colonial house with enormous flagged verandas and high ceilings, cool halls.

Here goes:

From top left: Louise Mitchell, Helen Telford, Pamela Williamson, Judy Brookman, Julie Radford, Alison McGlynn, Sue Stock, Chris Trollope, Penny Burnham.

Middle row: Frances Hwang, Anne Cohen, Leanora Ceylon, Bubba Akon, Margie MacDonald, Susie Wat, Pepita Conlon, Marina Lansky, Fleur Stranner, Miriam Levitan.

Front row: Pauline Sullivan, Annabel Wheeler, Tricia Rose, Paddy Mullin, Karine Lancaster, Jeni-Sue Bowman.

Missing, but there in spirit: Sue Leebeater, Louise Allen (Price), Julie Jellicoe, Pish Donovan and Chris Harcourt.

Some are dead, quite possibly more than one is certified. A disproportionate number are doctors, and about half of us never married.

I still remember that the mother of one wore an ankle bracelet, which at that place and time was equivalent to being followed by the town crier crying "Whore! Whore!" Another mother wore eyeshadow my mother sniffily described as a Canadian sunset. Jeni-Sue Bowman had a hard time fitting in, she was American and complained all the time - a sense of entitlement foreign to us, but we could have been kinder I suppose, and it was unforgivable that we connived at her humiliation at the hands of the young English teacher Norma Francis, who would not address her by name, offering her a choice of Jenny or Sue but not the combination.

Kambala girls

Paddy sent this last night (must be sorting through her papers). There we are, front row centre, kneeling on flagstones and smiling sweetly, that's Kambala grit for you.

I can name every girl in that class, even Sue Leebeater who missed the photo. Julie Jellicoe isn't in the photo either, nor of course Louise Allen, they had both left by then, dear Louise to another school, Julie to an institution.

It is strange to see those faces and instantly feel the emotions of those times; the girls we were mean to, the ones who were 'in', the ones who were strange. The blithe way the girls who came up from the B class were known as 'B girls' for evermore. Yet there we are for all to see, sweet seventeen year old girls, good girls, even the bad girls.

I really loved Kambala. To me it was Angela Brazil, Schoolgirl Jen at the Abbey, tradition and old-fashioned rigour, intellectual snobbery (which I aspired to then), year-round wool tunics, bloomers, hats and gloves at all times outside school grounds. I loved the old house but not the new classrooms, all brick and concrete with inch gaps under the doors and NO HEATING WHATSOEVER. We sat in our gloves, sweaters, blazers, and still had chilblains.

Norma, Paddy, Siena and I sang the old school dirge at various times while driving this last visit: "Fair hill of flowers, where dwells our secret treasure..." What were they thinking?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Upon the Deep

I slept like a baby on the ferry back from a meeting in town, and came home feeling buffetted by the wind, and slightly salty and ruddy and generally travelled. Such a pleasure to change from dress, heels, jewellery into a T shirt and sink my teeth into a warm, ripe peach.

No energy at all over the weekend. Why?

Friday, July 13, 2007


I don't know what I want this morning, full of restless energy. I stood staring into the fridge until frost rimed my moustache but in the end made a cup of tea. How to harness this?

Ha'in' a Hing

I so value and enjoy my Friday breakfasts with Mary. This morning we fairly cackled.

Life's a Beach

We took an umbrella, rug, cherries and the sweetest white nectarines down to the beach in the afternoon and lay watching little children run in and out of the water, happy dogs and dogged kayakers until the urge for ice cream overwhelmed us.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Conundrum

from: http://www.houseandgarden.com/magazine/editor/dbletter_20070613

"So the house is on the market. This is worse than going through the process of applying to college. Rather than writing eloquent essays proving that you have lived a rich and industrious life by the time you are all of 16, you must, having lived a rich and industrious life for 50 years, erase all signs of it, because no potential buyer wants to feel crowded out of a house they don't yet own."

A Lapse

I haven't felt like blogging for the last few days, more from the blissful summer feeling of endless days than intention. The twilight last night was extraordinary, low sun, high tide, the reeds and live oaks lit from inside against a moody bank of fog over San Francisco, then when the sun set I could see the lights of Oakland burning fiercely under the arc of the bridge. There were little breakers on the open bay, we ate our cracked crab on the deck with jackets on, watching an unfamiliar white bird dart and hover. It had a divided tail, I think it might have been a tern, and its flight was distinctive, swift and quirky like a swallow but larger, and able to hover like a hawk.

Waking this morning I felt weightless, I think I had the tern in mind all night.

As I rebound between mystical awareness and domestic order I realise that one has its roots in the other. The house is glowing with wax polish and absences: absence of half the accretions of the past five years, absence of clutter, absence of dirt. I have cleared the nine hardest drawers, Stefan's technical drawers and it has made a resonance in me of courage, knowing and clarity.

One strange thing happened this morning. We have eight deep white bowls, and while I was putting them away one somehow trembled and leapt onto the counter and smashed. I cleared the shards away and looked up to see eight deep white bowls on the shelf. I took them down and counted them, and there are eight. Still.

Och We're Proud


Click through all the photos.

Water, a love song

Courtesy of the New York Times. I welled up.

"We may have lungs rather than gills, and the weaker swimmers among us may be perfectly capable of drowning in anything deeper than a bathtub, yet still we feel the primal tug of the tide. Consciously or otherwise, we know we’re really all wet.

As fetuses, we gestate in bags of water. As adults, we are bags of water: roughly 60 percent of our body weight comes from water, the fluidic equivalent of 45 quarts. Our cells need water to operate, and because we lose traces of our internal stores with every sweat we break, every breath and excretion we out-take, we must constantly consume more water, or we will die in three days.

Thirstiness is a universal hallmark of life. Sure, camels can forgo drinking water for five or six months and desert tortoises for that many years, and some bacterial and plant spores seem able to survive for centuries in a state of dehydrated, suspended animation. Yet sooner or later, if an organism plans to move, eat or multiply, it must find a solution of the aqueous kind.

Life on Earth arose in water, and scientists cannot imagine life arising elsewhere except by water’s limpid grace. In the view of Geraldine Richmond, a chemistry professor at the University of Oregon who often talks to the public on the wonders of water, Mark Twain put it neatest: “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over.”

Behind water’s peerless punch, and the reason it rather than alcohol or any other lubricant serves as the elixir of life, is the three-headed character whose chemical name we all know: H2O. Scientists observe that when two atoms of hydrogen conjoin with one of oxygen, the resulting molecule displays a spectacular range of powers, gaining the mightiness of a molecular giant while retaining the speed and convenience of a molecular mite.

“Water behaves very differently from other small molecules,” said Jill Granger, a professor of chemistry at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. “If you want something else with similar properties, you’d end up with something much bigger and more complex, and then you’d lose the advantages that water has in being small.”

Because of water’s atomic architecture, the tendency of its comparatively forceful oxygen centerpiece to cling greedily to electrons as it consorts with its two meeker hydrogen mates, the entire molecule ends up polarized, with slight electromagnetic charges on its foreside and aft. Those mild charges in turn allow water molecules to engage in mild mass communion, linking up with one another and with other molecules, too, through an essential connection called a hydrogen bond. The hydrogen bond that attracts water to water and to other like-minded players is subtler than the bond that ties each water molecule’s atoms together. But subtlety breeds opportunity, and from hydrogen bonds many of water’s major and minor properties flow.

With their hydrogen bonds, water molecules become sticky, cohering as a liquid into droplets and rivulets and following each other around like a jiggling conga line. Such stickiness means that water is drawn to the inner plumbing of plants and will crawl up the fibrous conduits to hydrate even the crowns of redwood trees towering hundreds of feet above ground.

Pulled together by hydrogen bonds, water molecules become mature and stable, able to absorb huge amounts of energy before pulling a radical phase shift and changing from ice to liquid or liquid to gas. As a result, water has surprisingly high boiling and freezing points, and a strikingly generous gap between the two. For a substance with only three atoms, and two of them tiny little hydrogens, Dr. Richmond said, you’d expect water to vaporize into a gas at something like minus 90 degrees Fahrenheit, to freeze a mere 40 degrees below its boiling point, and to show scant inclination to linger in a liquid phase.

That’s what happens to hydrogen sulfide, a similarly sized molecule but with its two hydrogen atoms fastened to sulfur rather than to oxygen; on our temperate world, hydrogen sulfide has long since reached its boiling point and exists as a foul-smelling gas. Same for the tidy troika of carbon dioxide: low freezing point, low boiling point, and, poof, it’s up in the air. But given its vivid power of hydrogen bonding, water proves less flighty and fickle, with a boiling point at sea level of 212 degrees Fahrenheit, and a full 180 degrees lying between the tempest of a teapot and the tinkling of an ice cube at 32 degrees. A vast temperature span over which water molecules can pool and cling as the liquid assets we love best.

We rely in myriad ways on water’s fluid forbearance, its willingness to take the heat without blinking. Earth’s oceans and lakes soak up huge quantities of solar radiation and help moderate the climate. As sweat evaporates from our skin, it wicks away large amounts of excess heat.

Water also serves as a nearly universal solvent, able to dissolve more substances than any other liquid. It can act as an acid, it can act as a base, with a pinch of salt it is the solution in which the cell’s thousands of chemical reactions take place.

At the same time, water’s gregariousness, its hydrogen-bonded viscosity, helps lend the cell a sense of community.

“Water acts as the contact between biological molecules, not just separating them, but imparting information among them,” said Martin Chaplin, a professor of applied science who studies the structure of water at London South Bank University. “In an aqueous environment, all the molecules are able to feel the structure of all the other molecules that are present, so they can work as whole rather than as individuals.”

There’s no end to water’s chemical kinkiness, including the way it freezes from the top down and becomes buoyant as it chills. Most substances shrink and get denser and heavier as they cool, and expand and lighten as they melt. Water bucks the norm, and is lighter and airier as ice than when liquid, and so in winter marine life can find liquid haven beneath the floating blanket of ice, and so in summer ice cubes bob and clink in your glass of lemonade. Bottoms up."