Starstruck, Hints and Smirking: Observations 91-92 and Reading Note 35

Observation Note 91: Starstruck. A few days ago, I asked friends for some comedy recommendations. I received some interesting suggestions, most of which I hadn’t heard. The one that was the most suggested was Starstruck – a BBC/HBO production starring Rose Matafeo and Nikesh Patel in a first season six episode show that reimagines the famous star falling in love with a commoner a la Notting Hill except this time the commoner is New Zealander Jessie (Matafeo) who is living the London 20something life who on New Year’s Eve hooks up with a famous superstar Tom (Patel) who she doesn’t even realise he is famous until the morning after. What ensues is the most delightful, funny, complicated, sharp, sad, sexy and ultimately romantic TV series I have seen since Schitts Creek. I adored every moment of it. The six episodes are pivotal plot points throughout the year that move Jessie and Tom’s story forward. I loved the spark between the two of them. It was more than a spark. It was just fireworks. I highly recommend it.

Reading Note 35: Taking Hints. On the other side of the rom-com spectrum, I am really struggling to get through Talia Hibbert’s Take a Hint, Dani Brown. I wasn’t particularly taken by Hibbert’s Get a Life, Chloe Brown and sadly, this book too is not giving me that happy joy I had while watching Starstruck. I started reading Take a Hint last Monday and I am only just half way through the book. To be fair, it is well-written, the dialogue feels like it is fun and sexy and I am totally on board with the serious mental health issues that the hero has, and that they are so well understood and clarified. But there is something that doesn’t resonate for me and so far, the only thing I can pinpoint is that Dani Brown has been described as “smirking” at the hero.

Observation Note 92: Smirk. Smirking to me is not a positive character trait. It is denotes derision and sarcasm. I realise that it is (over)used in romance fiction A LOT and in fan fiction even more. Perhaps I feel this way because the Australian prime minister is nicknamed Smirko because even in the most serious situations – megafires, floods and pandemics, he has a big sly smirk on his face and it just makes me want to scream. Applying smirks as a way of two characters flirting with each other in a romance does not sit well with me. It smacks of passive aggressive, of a sense of superiority. Now if this had been the black moment, or the moment when the relationship was falling apart, or even if the smirk was the thing that caused the break up – because sure as shit I would be getting out of any relationship if some ‘shithead pumped up on his own inflated sense of self dickhead’ smirked at me, sure thing. Smirk away if that is the cause of the break up. But smirking as part of the love narrative. Nope.

So yep. Maybe it is the smirk that has put me off. I’ll still finish reading the book. But yeah. I hope there is no more smirking.

Trying to read and my verandah: Observation Notes 89-90

Observation Note 89: Trying to Read. I spent a few hours today reading on my verandah. Or at least trying to read on my verandah. The activity on the street was more interesting than my books on the go. The neighbour across the road was telling my neighbour from a few houses away how the lockdown suits her. I squinted, trying to look through the christmas bush that obscures my view, and I noticed that she was no longer using her cane. That’s nice. It’s good that she isn’t struggling to walk anymore.

I hear a car gently beep and I knew before I even looked to the West that my courteous neighbour with the kickass four-wheel drive must be leaving his driveway. He always beeps as he leaves. I used to think it was sweet that he was signalling to his wife and kids that he was going but then my husband pointed out to me that he does that even when they are in the car with him. He beeps to warn pedestrians that a car is pulling out of the driveway. I think that is even sweeter.

Two kids on a bicycle whiz past incredibly fast and a few slow moments later, four more young cyclists follow them with an adult who looked to be a mum coming from behind. My road is quite busy with traffic lights just six houses away that lead onto a busy(ish) thoroughfare. No big trucks traverse that road but there is constant traffic. I realise that I was a fearful parent, not allowing my oldest son to travel on that road and insisting he take the back roads to the bike track that would take him to school, and that it was not for me to judge the joyful and free parent giving her kids the opportunity for confident riding. Nope. I will not judge. In my defence, my oldest son one day ran into a telegraph pole and injured himself enough that I had to go and get him from school and deal with all the blood running down his neck. My youngest son has not ridden a bike since he was twelve when he was riding around his aunt’s farm, lost control on a downhill trajectory and catapulted over a six metre cliff, his fall being broken by a sole tree which, fortuitously, only just missed impaling him with a sharp scary looking branch which left a massive welt across his chest. I guess I have reasons to be a fearful parent.

The pony man comes past with his pony, of course. He rides his bike on thee footpath alongside his pony which has a brilliant rainbow coloured bridle. My dog Bo who has been rather bored with today’s passing traffic became rather animated. He started barking and barking. He does this every time the pony man comes past. It’s as though he can’t believe that any dog could be as big as this weirdass (pony)dog.

There were maskless joggers huffing and puffing which made me feel creeped out. Can’t they get themselves to a park and then huff huff huff? I had the misfortune yesterday to step onto the footpath as a huffing jogger exhaled on me. I want to shout at him “The Covid Bondi case was a 5 second exhalation and the chance person passing them got sick case! Can you just take care”. Once again, I feel like I am catastrophising.

A helicopter is hovering over my suburb. My husband checks the local FB page and everyone is speculating – are they searching for the mega-weddings which have been given exemptions or are they searching for queues outside the shops. They won’t find queues in this very proper suburb. Even the local supermarket is fully stocked with toilet paper where all across Sydney people are panic buying again. The people I live amongst show such restraint.

I hear a beep. My courteous neighbour has returned and this time he is reversing into his driveway yet people walking past are ignoring him and walking directly into the path of his massive car. Really???

Observation Note 90: Verandah. The thing about being in a lockdown (again) is that despite having a huge TBR, people watching on my verandah is infinitely more interesting than reading a book. When we were looking to buy a house back in 1999 one of our absolute must-have feature our home had to have was a verandah in the front of the house from where we could watch the street. This has continued to be one of the best ideas we had as we watch so many interesting people come and go.

We used to have a neighbour a few blocks away who had a fridge, a television and her sewing machine on her front verandah and she would work and watch, her sons often watching football, he husband tossing his worry beads. I envied her. I wanted her verandah too. I don’t have a powerpoint on my verandah but that certainly can be rectified. I do have my table and chairs.

My aunts in Greece have front verandahs. In Greece, the backyard is for your vegetable garden. The front yard is for family and friends. My aunt in my mum’s village had benches and chairs for all who would come and visit. Cousins, uncles, aunts, friends, godchildren, pappous and yiayias. I recall eating the most scrumptious avgolemono soup on her verandah. Years later, after she had passed away, her daughter-in-law and I were sitting on that same verandah when she called out to my uncle who was three houses away. She wanted coffee and he had the coffee machine. He brought it over with good cheer and we drank our morning coffee until another uncle called out that lunch was ready. Of course, we all gathered on his front verandah to eat.

When we first bought our house it was where we had our BBQ with our neighbours often joining us with beers and drinks. They were uni kids, with a revolving door of friends, parties and pet rats. They were polite and fun and helpful neighbours, fastidiously clean due to their severe dust allergies. They’d bring Thomas the Tank Engine videos over for the boys, and when they had parties they were annoyingly polite as when it would get late they would turn down the music only to then turn it up again when we complained that we couldn’t hear it well enough.

For a long time, my verandah was a dumping ground for sports gear – muddied shoes, stand-up boards, kayaks, oars, footballs and all the recycling collections. The entrance to my house was embarrassing. A rubbish tip in the making. “Close your eyes as you enter” was my wished for instruction for friends coming over.

However, last year’s lockdown gave us the time to clear the sports gear, get rid of the piles of unused shoes, and we went back to that gorgeous dream of a social front verandah. Just like my neighbour. Just like my aunt in Greece. On my verandah I have had friends for lunches and coffees and cakes and beers and cocktails. The perfect distanced place once restrictions were relaxed. Four chairs separated by the table. Supping and distancing. Early this year, I bought a whole lot of potplants to make the verandah prettier. We had a neighbour come in and do some long-overdue repairs including pulling out a hardy flower that had found seed in the gutter that needed replacing. It is now in a pot lushishly flowering.

We’ve watched people come and go, cars rush by, emergency vehicles rush past and any number of dogs, cyclists and of course our local pony. It is the Inner West after all. With all that going on, how on earth can I be expected to read.

Lockdowns: Observation Notes 84-88

Observation Note 84: Lockdown 2021. And just like that, I find myself in lockdown again. Sydney has gone from zero community spread of Covid and a close-to-six-month-have-a-party-city (albeit with a few scares here and there) to more than eighty cases of Covid (the delta variant) in the space of two weeks. Watching the cases slowly rise has also resulted in curtailing my movements, cancelling trips out of the house, and though I have had three friends visit on three separate days, we were all cautiously distant. As of 6pm today, we have stay at home restrictions.

I’m feeling quite calm at the moment. It was quite the pleasant day. I slept in, I did some laundry, I picked up a prescription from the pharmacy, and I was stuck to the TV watching the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian conduct two pressers to give information to Sydneysiders. This is in stark contrast to lockdown last year.

Observation Note 85: Lockdown 2020. For the first few months of last year’s lockdowns, I kept short notes as each day passed. I will share the first 10 days here:

sunday 15/3 – went nowhere

monday 16 /3- nowhere. realise my great-grandmother died of the Spanish Flu

tuesday 17/3 – uni and supervision – drove there – did not touch anything

wednesday 18/3 – nowhere. I just realised that my grandmother also died due to an environmental crisis – she became ill when Chernobyl occurred

Thursday 19/3 – nightmare – pharmacy, supreme souvlakia, mum. The only outdoor thing that didn’t freak me out was going for a walk along the Annandale/Glebe foreshore with John

Friday 20/3 – I am being strict with myself. I am having such acute anxiety attacks on the days that I go into any place. I just can’t do it.

Saturday 21/3 – I am still strict. I was mostly distanced. I stayed at home. 

Sunday 22/3 – I stayed home until 6pm. Trying to not be overwhelmed. People are being racist dickheads.  

A note here: it was exactly a month ago that John and I had our big 50/50 birthday party. What a fabulous night of dancing and partying. I remember on the night just feeling happy surrounded by so many friends and family and dancing. Dancing makes me happy. But even though we were doing all that, I knew what was looming 

Observation Note 86: Later thoughts from 2020. I realise as I read through last year’s thoughts that I was not coping with the uncertainty of the virus. An excerpt here:

The pandemic brought a screeching halt to the chaotic speed that every day had become, instead bringing a snail-paced Blursday anxiety where every day is lived in my home, every movement beyond its walls needing to be considered and strategised, every sniffle and cough bringing worry and concern – have I caught a cold? have I caught covid19? am I a hypochondriac? is this just my asthma? is this just my hay fever? what if I am not a hypochondriac, this isn’t asthma or hayfever and I have actually just infected my whole family? But wait. It is more likely they infected me as they go out more than I do. Sigh of relief.

Observation Note 87: Last month. I had my first vaccination shot a month ago. I know this does not mean I am safe or immune. I’m annoyed and angry and beside myself that our federal government has dragged their feet over the vaccination rollout. To quote our odious Prime Minister and many of his party’s ministers “It isn’t a race“. The fact is, it is a race. And this smirking dickhead has failed all Australians. Here is hoping that a lockdown controls the spread. Once again, our states protect their citizens.

Observation Note 88. Today. I hope my sons, who unfortunately are not yet eligible for the vaccine (yet both are desperately wanting to have their jabs) are OK and they get through the coming months without grief. I am hoping that I don’t get anxious again. I am hoping to keep panic at bay. My mind keeps going to my mum who was born into and brought up through two wars – World War II and the Greek Civil War. I hope she stays safe through this current wave of the pandemic too. I can’t help but think of her mother and grandmother.

Emojis and Gifs: Greek Note 2 and Observation Note 83

Greek Note 2: It’s just an emotion. I am inordinately in love with the way Greece Greeks (as opposed to Diaspora Greeks) use gifs and emojis on Facebook.

Where I may use a 💝 a Greek relative will use a

Where I may indicate that I am dancing 💃 they will post a dance

Where I may show sweetness with flowers 💐 the will send flowers

And it is always something cute and daggy and animated. It is over the top. It is sunshiney happy. I love that in their morning, all it takes is someone saying “Have a good day” and all of a sudden, the good morning gifs are sent back and forth.

Observation Note 83: Loud. A PhD friend of mine came over today. Where I met many lovely people at university, this friend was the only one in a similar situation to me; we both were in our mid-forties, we were married, we had mortgages and we had kids who were the same age. We also both had a Mediterranean background and could at times forget ourselves and get very loud at student conferences, meetings, workshops, nights out, in a midst of often very contained and quiet people. My friend told me today that someone said she was bringing a lot of attention to herself. And we had a long talk about how being loud and shouty in the university settings can sometimes not be seen as proper behaviour. I remember being so exasperated by one particular student when I was an undergraduate that I raised my voice, not in anger but in expressiveness. The non expressive person I was addressing was not impressed. I remember her face looking at me as though I was a pleb.

The thing is, I like exuberance.

I like excited and loud conversations where people are practically shouting to be heard over each other.

It’s fun.

Though at the end of the day, I do like the counterbalance of some lovely quiet.

PS: My Alt-Text on this post may not be existent. I always use alt-text in my images but WordPress hasn’t provided me with my usual edit tools so I can do this. I am guessing that these are already part of the uploaded gif. Please let me know if you would like me to list them in the comments.

Notes deleted: Observation Notes 81-82

Observation Note 81: Notes deleted. I wrote about 500 words for today’s post – 2 observations and 2 reading notes. But they lacked flow and cohesiveness. I didn’t want to post substandard writing but I also don’t want to post another photograph. So, with ten minutes of writing time left, I will quickly list my three books that I am currently reading though I am not yet progressed enough to make any comment on them.

Book 1: Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Book 2: Avidly Reads Guilty Pleasures by Arielle Zibrak

Book 3: Scandalous by Charlotte Lamb

Observation Note 82: Shrugs. I have barely progressed reading any of these books because I am accidently writing one too. It is kinda an academic expectation to turn your thesis into an academic book but meh. Having spent many years as a specialist in deselecting books in libraries that then get sent to be pulped, I feel jaded and don’t believe that there is any point to getting books published. Books with zero loans over two years. Pulp and landfill. Anathema, I know. However, just like I vowed that I would never study again after completing my Bachelor’s Degree (we all know how that ended!), I have also never ever wanted to write a book.

Yet here I am.

Talking: Part 2

As I wrote on Saturday night, when friends or family come over for a visit and we spend hours upon hours laughing and talking, posting to my blog is an afterthought. So in order to satisfy the blogging every day of June challenge I have set myself, please enjoy a photograph of my two dogs sleeping on a bean bag.

A tan coloured chihuahua and a white with black ears mini fox terrier are curled up in a circle on a bright red bean bag

Three weeks and counting: Observation Notes 79-80 and Reading Notes 33-34

Observation note 79: Three weeks. I have been blogging daily now for twenty-two days and I have noticed, as I am sure that those of you who have read daily probably have to, that I am slightly fatigued and writing shorter, unfocused posts. The daily effort of not only writing but making public my thoughts and ideas has meant that the notes and ideas I usually jot down throughout the week, hoping that they would one day coalesce into a longer, interesting post just aren’t emerging. I have several pieces that I am writing, one extrapolating further about walking in cities, and the other is on grief which I have had waiting in my drafts and notes for over a year, adding and subtracting from it as the days pass, my new reading adding to it and the world changing influencing it. Neither pieces are close to being ready to post.

Observation note 80: Process. With the exception of the first few days of June, I have sat down to write each post any time between 11pm to 11.30pm. Tonight, I started at 11.20. My aim is to hit “Publish” at 11.59 and I have done this successfully on all but one day having missed pressed “Publish” a tad too late with the clock ticking over to midnight while the upload occurred eventuated with no post for June 10 but two posts for June 11. So far, it is the only aberration.

On some days, I have been formulating the post as I have pottered around the house throughout the day, and others I start to get panicky by 11.40pm. Those are the days that I’ve resorted to photographs.

Reading Note 33: Too much and not enough. I am reading several books at the same time so I don’t really want to discuss any of them until I have finished reading them. However, I thought I would mention a couple of coffee table books that I have gone through in the past few days. I do like the interior decorating style called “maximalism” which I wrote about in Reading Note 13 so when I read about Abigail Ahern’s Everything: A Maximalist Style Guide I searched my library services and found a copy to borrow. The book is beautifully photographed with lush and fulsome home designs however the accompanying text was jarring and both repetitive and contradictory from one paragraph to another. I stopped trying to engage with the text after the first few chapters and just engaged with the decor. It disappoints me when more time is spent on luscious images and the text feels like an afterthought.

Reading Note 34: Christmas in July. For those of you reading who are not in the antipodes, this may be a rather peculiar phrase but I promise you that it is not odd at all to find abundant Christmas decorations and Christmas puddings and Christmas roasts being served up in restaurants and homes across Australia and New Zealand in the Wintry month of July. We celebrate Christmas twice a year (thankfully at least in my circles we only give gifts in December). It is too hot for Christmas nosh in December so we compensate. In preparation for July, I borrowed Lisa Nieschlag and Julia Cawley’s New York Christmas: Recipes and Stories. As well as some delicious looking recipes which I have bookmarked for my husband to make (what? me cook? have you met me????) there are also some Christmas extras such as Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story and some very white Christmassy photos. A really lovely book and a delight to browse through.

Words: Observation Notes 76-78

Observation Note 76: Words with Absences. I will definitely be getting sweary in this post. I have been playing Words With Friends since about 2010. I have played against a variety of people. Sometimes I play just one or two games, sometimes I play with someone on and off for a few years, and then there is a woman who I met on Twitter and the two of us have had a continuous game going for over eleven years. I am probably a frustrating person to play against as I don’t particularly care if I win, however I have my own internal rule of never playing a single figure turn, and for the most part, I offend myself if I play a word that scores only in its teens. I would rather skip a go, lose in a crash and burn than dishonour my WWFs prowess with paltry scores.

I realise this is a particularly problematic approach to a word game but I can live with myself.

Observation Note 77: Words and Obsessions. I also have my small obsessions. I screen shot all my over-100 plays, and all the aborted words that are words but someone along the line decided they were way to offensive to be a Words With Friends word, or WWF (hehe – It just makes me think of the World Wrestling Federation which is the Mills & Boon of sport with its over-dramatic, plot-laden twists and pummels). But I digress!

Observation Note 78: But it’s a word, motherfucker! Now, I fully understand that there are a lot of words out in this world that cause offence to others *ahem* or are just not recognised. But getting rid of that word from the dictionary of acceptable words to be played in a game can make me grit my teeth. I get annoyed when I could have played a beautiful 110 pointer but I get nada as the word is not recognised. Now I am not talking about racist words. I’m quite au fait with those being obliterated (hey! we all have boundaries and I am fine with that particular one) but I am talking about words that I freakin’ want to play against my friends.

Let me show you a few:

Words with Friends board with a message overlayed with the words "Sorry, COVID is not a valid word"

COVID damn well is a word. And I dismiss any claims of prim, grammatical lessons telling me that it is a proper noun and thus not playable. Seriously, if I can refer to someone as being a covid away from me (or not covid away enough), that fricken equals a valid word. Catch up, Words With Friends!

Another one:

Words with Friends board with a message overlayed with the words "Sorry, FEMBOT is not a valid word"

Have the powers that be not watched any Austin Powers movies? Have they totally missed the spam bots posing as women. HAVE THEY NEVER WATCHED BIONIC WOMAN TAKE ON FEMBOTS!!! If the MacMillan Dictionary accepts fembot as a word, so should Words With Friends.

And lastly,

Words with Friends board with a message overlayed with the words "Sorry, BUTTSEX is not a valid word"

However, earlier today, in a game against my husband where we were on very similar points, I was unable to play “buttsex”. I may be a tad annoyed. It could have scored big time with that move.

Perhaps I am pushing my luck on this one because it might actually be two words.

Post Script Note 1: If you play and you want to have a game with me, my player name is Vavavavavavavoom. But of course.

Sitting with a book: Reading Note 32

Reading Note 32: Sitting with a book. I finished reading Vivian Gornick’s The Odd Woman in the City (Reading Notes 28-31) five days ago. Since then, I have sat in front of my computer every day trying to write a post about this book. It was so meaningful to me that I went online and bought a copy – this is something that I rarely do. However, I can’t find the words to articulate the way it made me feel. I might just need it to rest in my head for a few weeks. And then, when I receive my own copy, I can reread it and mark it up* and take the time to sit with the book to try to understand why so much of it – the stories and its structure – has made me happy that it has come my way. For now, I’ll continue to shallowread and be like Alison Bechdel who in Funhome: a family tragicomic writes “I didn’t understand why we couldn’t just read the books without forcing contorted interpretations on them”.

*I certainly could never write in the library copy I have – ’cause if I do, the library police will come and get me and if they don’t, they will torture me in my library nightmares.

Talking

The thing about writing posts every day of the month means that on the rare day a visitor comes over, I don’t really care about blogging. My cousin’s son came over to visit. It’s minutes to midnight and we are still chatting.

So instead of a lengthy post, enjoy this photo of my dog Cleo relaxing.

A white dog lying on my back. I have a blue skirt, a black top on and there is a novel next to me. We are on a blue couch.