Merry Christmas!

2010 Christmas Card

Here is this year’s Christmas card. I have not yet decided if it is more Grinch (after his heart grew but before he got used to it), Midwich Cuckoo, or Wicked Witch of the West. Lesson learned: don’t select colours on too little sleep. It did look good when all the cards were printed and set out on the table.

The design is one I made notecards from a few years ago (you can see those here). It was a lino cut. I scanned in the piece of carved lino, then edited it in photoshop, rounded the corners and shifted the colours out of alignment (I like that look). I printed it on fairly heavy textured drawing paper and rounded the corners with a clipper.

It is rainy, grey, humid but cool Christmas weather here. The lawns grow crazily, bush turkey chicks are roaming the gardens, my sister trapped an enormous huntsman spider under the bathroom rubbish bin and my neighbour saw a black snake on the footpath last night. The neighbours on the other side had their Christmas party last night. I took a mango, prawn and danish fetta salad (just that, on a glass plate, drizzled with sweet chilli sauce) which was both quick and very quickly eaten (neighbour across the way sat down with a spoon and finished it off).

Below is the advent calendar, all coloured. It is very cheerful and bright on the wall above the sideboard and the Christmas cards.

Advent Calendar

Merry Christmas, all, and God bless us, every one!

Bookplates and World Records

I’ve been working on a bookplate design for Gillian Polack, so that she can offer people signed bookplates for her latest novel, Life Through Cellophane (which is a very enjoyable, gentle horror story) if they can’t get to her – I managed to buy it at the launch, spend a whole weekend in her general vicinity and still not get my copy signed, so I will be asking for one.

I posted some early ideas a few days ago. This is a collection of the final pen and ink drawing (top left), a series of variations, and the final bookplate (bottom right):

Bookplate progression

Now, because my mother (of all people) tells me off for not writing enough about my life, I will tell you some highlights of the last week:

  • My mother has been at the coast for a week. My younger sister and I spent the weekend, walked along the beach (the sea and the sky there are always shell-coloured), read, drank pinacoladas and got caught in the rain. I managed to go into antique, retro and second hand book stores and escape only with two books (on Australian aviation, unsurprisingly).
  • My sister’s boyfriend was driving us to the station on Monday morning. We usually loop around a traffic circle instead of turning right across traffic, but as we came up to the traffic circle (two lanes) there was a huge cloud of brown dust – a rubbish truck had lost its skip. Fortunately, we were in the ute so we hopped the median strip and retreated.
  • Tuesday I saw Astroboy, which was intellectually insulting. I also had a KFC Zinger Works Burger which was very good – I’d been looking forward to it for ages, but the KFC at Indro is the world’s slowest and usually out of chicken.
  • Yesterday I went to the QUT Writing Gala (university awards and launch of their journal Rex) at the Gallery of Modern Art, talked to people about the secret Brisbane which exists in backyards, then on my way out was forcibly diverted into the gallery theatre where a world record breaking comedy attempt was taking place. I stayed for over an hour and my copy of Rex was appropriated and used in part of the act.

Here is my sister asleep while my mother read Dean Koontz out loud, and Lindsay Webb’s comedy attempt:

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ETA: Unless it’s a convention and I figure they’ll find me anyway, I sometimes email people a copy of the sketch of them – I just had an email back from Lindsay Webb’s team and apparently they put the sketch up on the screen at the back of the stage!

Putting away the pieces

I have had a weekend of… something-yellow-labelled-Thrive and old lace. And bottles with odd contents, labelled only with the names of family members. Cufflinks and photographs and records, nutmeg graters, aprons, diaries and slides.

Tomorrow: a 12 hour drive with my knees underneath my chin because of ballgowns, very old mixmasters and paintings by a minor artist of whom Google says his works hardly ever come on the market, which is probably because my grandmother owned most of them. I’m at risk of being flippant, but it’s only to keep general spirits up. We were in hysterics yesterday afternoon, and all burst into tears together yesterday morning.

Everyone says it is sad deconstructing a life, and I keep saying that she wouldn’t have been sentimental about everything – there are things you treasure, like the wedding ring and watch and the ring from the man who asked you to marry you but you didn’t want to get married again, and those you put in a shortbread tin at the bottom of a cupboard under your folding travel hangers. But other things are just the clothes you wore because a body has to wear clothes, and there’s no point getting sentimental over that – unless its over the scent that lingers on them.


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I’ve been absent for several reasons – limited internet access, family health, my health and, most recently, two funerals.

The first was my grandmother’s. Her name was Challis Barling and she was 87. She was loving and generous, one of those proper North Shore ladies who on occasion cheerfully let her guard down and revealed her country upbringing. She had been involved with Red Cross and Lifeline and Meals on Wheels for decades, she gathered people into her orbit. She was sensible and selfless and never saw the reason to say ‘why me’ – though she had been widowed, her older son had vanished in the Andes, her daughter nearly died of a bone infection, her second husband was sick for a year and then died and her younger son first brought over an American bride to whom it took the family a little while to warm (until, as she told my mother, “I’ve seen how happy you’ve made my son”), and then was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and couldn’t go to the funeral because, physically, we could not get him to Sydney. She had also – and I must have forgotten this when I was reading Cryptonomicon – been a cryptography clerk at Macarthur’s Brisbane headquarters during WWII and had decoded the message that the battle of the Coral Sea was on. She also had a strong and enduring faith, and that was reflected back by all who spoke at the service, even those who did not share it. And there were so many people at her funeral in Sydney last Wednesday – from the minister who got choked up because he had known her since he and his wife first came to the parish to her quiet gardener and the hairdresser who used to open after hours for her and said it had been a beautiful funeral for a beautiful lady, but he had to run because he had left someone under the dryer.

On Thursday my mother, my younger sister and I flew back to Brisbane and spent the evening visiting my father where he was in respite care. The next day I went to work and read my email to find out that Kris Hembury had died.

Kris was a writer, past president of Vision Writers (of which I am current president because of a reverse-coup staged by Kris). He was my age – only two months younger – and was vibrant, clever, witty, never passed up a pun, wise, a keen critiquer, a mad fan, someone who, as was said at his service today, not only connected with people but connected people to each other. He had won writing awards, had started investigating screenplays and had started another degree and work on a novel and was still emailing the list with schemes in spite of the frustrations caused by his malfunctioning email. He died of aggressive bronchial pneumonia and his funeral was today. It was very well attended and an announcement was made by Fantastic Queensland which I will let them announce officially first. It was beautiful to see so many people who had known and loved him gathered around his family – a family that was clearly used to having a house full of people of all ages who loved Kris, both in life and death.

Red Chair and Honey

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I’m still uploading the last sketchbook – only a few pages left to go. The scanned ones are in a set on Flickr. The left page is my beautiful, red, desperately uncomfortable Ikea chair (in the rental house in Auchenflower) and the right page is my father’s hands and a view past him to the living room (in my parents’ house in Hattonvale).

I have been house hunting, and on Tuesday morning before work I inspected a house which had bees living in its back wall, crawling in and out between the fibro near the rear door. You could smell the honey. The previous owner had “liked having them there” and his successors are trying to get the bees humanely moved out.

They were European bees, but when we lived out west we had Australian native bees – tiny and black and stingless and with a sad tendency to drown in the butter on picnics. My father, who was always acquiring interesting injuries while working, once drove up to the front gate with the chainsaw to cut down a dead tree that had the temerity to try to drop a branch on him. He came back a short while later with his arm – black and dripping – held out the window. My mother was used to him returning in this state, but was surprised when he held out his arm and said, “Lick this!” The tree was full of honey.

I’ve been keeping most things to the bare minimum lately, due to house hunting, but that seems to be coming to a head so I will soon put up:

2008 – first lines of the month

3 January
Illustration Friday: Soar
A clockwork horse for this week’s Illustration Friday theme.

10 February
Kathleen is…
Hitting the new year running:

1 March
February Short Book Reviews
Return to Labyrinth, vol. 1. No, no, no, no, no. This isn’t Labyrinth.

7 April
Five Names for a Guard Dog
1. Rodrigo

6 May
Weekend in Melbourne
Deb and I spent the Labour Day long weekend in Melbourne.

2 June
Wind in my hair, stars in my eyes… rain in my shoes
I’d forgotten the sky could hold this much water.

14 July
I’m back!

10 August
Red Islands
My first entry for moly_x_32 was featured on Moleskinerie!

4 September
August Short Reviews of everything except books, plus bonus rant about Taken
Yes, there is a new blog header.

2 October
Writing Updates
New blog header for October!

2 November
Why yes I am doing NaNoWriMo
New blog header – a quick marker illustration messed with in Photoshop – reflecting roughly half of the month’s activities to date (the other half consisting mostly of eating cupcakes, high tea and almond croissants, and being elected president).

1 December
A rough and ready header for December because I can’t post unless the header’s done and I don’t need any more excuses not to catch up on reviews!

A Tragic Day

In bad news:

  1. Coffee, the only readily available hot non-sweet beverage (excluding tea: I try to avoid paying $3.50 for a teabag and hot water) seems to be having undesirable effects on me – now where am I going to get most of my writing and sketching done? Or how can I get more cafes to make chai lattes with tea leaves instead of syrup (tastes like syrup) or powder (tastes like ants)?
  2. My beautiful cherry-red ikea desk chair is not working out (one of the reasons for working in cafes) and (a) I don’t know where to buy a cheap kneeling chair and (b) I’m worried that if I try to get up from one in a hurry I will cause extensive destruction.
  3. I went for a vigorous walk last night to OfficeWorks to ogle mini pcs. I had pretty much convinced myself I would get an Asus Eeepc. This had taken me many ogling-trips to decide. AND THEY DIDN’T HAVE ANY.
  4. I submitted a short story (“E&tF”) to an anthology and am feeling the loss.
  5. I have written over 30,600 words for NaNoWriMo, one of my favourite characters from the original inspiration is turning into a paranoid psycho (well, several of them are, actually) and at this rate I am not going to know what to do with myself for the end of the month.
  6. I can write 1,667 words in less than 45 minutes which leaves me with no excuses, generally.
  7. I have no story to submit to One Book One Brisbane because “The Splendour Falls”, which was going there next, wasn’t rejected after all but has found a home!!!!