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.

Ultimo end: Observation Notes 74-75

Observation Note 74: Farewelling Ultimo. Despite having finished my PhD in February, I had not gone in to my university to clear my research desk until today. I think that deep down in my mind, I was hoping that there would be a chance that I could carry on there. Maybe find a few hours of teaching, retain some connection not only to the university where I had spent the last eight and a half years, but to retain a connection to the suburb of Ultimo and the council area of the City of Sydney. I have spent the last 16 years either working or studying in Ultimo and it is a wrench to remove myself from my favourite suburb in Sydney. It is not a touristy suburb, or a glamorous suburb, but it is a suburb which has one of the warmest and loveliest communities I have ever had the privilege to work (and study) in. I loved working at Ultimo library (Sydney’s best kept secret library – no pizzazz, all heart), and I loved studying/teaching/researching at the University of Technology Sydney in Ultimo.

Observation Note 75: Ultimate Ultimo. My exit from Ultimo is gradual. The most sudden separation occurred last year with the pandemic lockdown. However, I loved that my research space was retained. I had packed the majority of my work and brought it home last year. However, I still had bits and pieces to go. 4 boxes worth all now sitting in the boot of my car. I am quite saddened. The research room is empty. No-one is here to farewell me. So I call my son and he comes and helps me carry everything to the car. It is an ultimo end.

I post here a photograph from my first desk at the university and packing up my desk today.

My first desk on Level 8.
My second desk on Level 5.
My 3rd and last desk on Level 5. Time to pack up.
My boxes and bags are packed.
Empty. The ultimo goodbye.

Home and writing: Observation note 73

Observation Note 73: Home writing. I am too tired to write about my reading today. So instead, I am posting a favourite photo of my view when I sit outside to write. I have a small table and chairs that a friend gave me. My dogs sit on old chairs I hate, and the greenery shades my dirty white Greek milk bottle columns. I love how the afternoon sun hits my corner where I sit, and makes the Sydney sandstone bricks a warm honey yellow. I’m fortunate to have this space. During the pandemic lockdown, my husband and I ate most of our lunches here, sometimes with our sons and sometimes alone. It is a lovely spot.

A sandstone brick home with a front verandah. 2 dogs sitting on a seat. Greenery. Black security door ajar.

Book with one word title!!!!

I’m taking a break from my notes today so that I can take part in Wendy The Super Librarian’s TBR challenge – and she is Super. I know because I have met her. Anyway, I usually don’t even look at the monthly challenge until the day due for posting as I like being relaxed and not feeling any pressure to read in a specific way. This usually works for me as there is either a close link or a tenuous link. However, this month’s challenge is to read a Book With One Word Title. There is no way that I could find a book or even essay I had read this month with a One Word Title.

So I thought, how hard could this be. I’ll just quickly read an ebook.

I go to my library cards, I search for romance books and firstly there were slim pickings. I mean SLIM. The statewide system seemed to have only 80 titles under the keyword search for “romance”. There were about 5 one word titles but they were only 500 pages. Yeah but nah.

I got agitated. So I moved on. I went to my local library. There were a lot more books but once again, there were few with only one word titles, and absolutely none with a low word count.

I got agitated. So I moved on. I thought I’d check the YA books. I found a few with one word titles but they were all ALL overly long. 400 pages plus. Publishers – take note. Teenagers and young adults are ALL studying. Who has time for 400 page novels. I say bring back the Sweet Dream length teen romances. Bring back the Paul Zindel, S E Hinton, Judy Blume teen novels of the late 20th century. Short and fast. Easy and quick. Over and done with in an afternoon so you can pass them around to your friends in a short week. None of these ridiculous doorstopper tomes.

I got agitated and moved to my bookshelves. I found all my Charlotte Lambs with One Word Titles. Desire. Heartbreaker. Temptation. Crescendo. Fever. I chose to read Scandalous. It’s only 180 pages. I can do this. However, I was starting at 6pm and interruptions and dinner time and phone calls kept me from progressing beyond a chapter.

I got agitated and gave up. I ate my dinner and my son suggested we watch Superstore.

Superstore. One Word Title!

Sure. I’m far behind as I only started watching the series a month ago. I’m halfway through Season 2. TBR tick!!!

We start watching the episode we were up to and it is the Valentine’s episode! JACKPOT!

For those that don’t know, the show is like a Walmart but it is called Cloud 9. The premise of the episode was that the main characters Amy (a staffer played by America Ferrera), Jonah (another staffer played by Ben Fledman who looks like he is the love child of Scott Baio and Scott Baio) and Glenn (the store manager played by Mark McKinney) get so caught up with Valentine’s Day fever they accidently overstep boundaries. Nothing romantic between the main characters so I guess it is going against the Valentine’s Day Trope that says that “characters face romantic challenges or break new ground on episodes that revolve around Valentine’s Day”. There was a sweet moment between character Mateo and his (secret) boyfriend Jeff. And there was the end of day destruction of all the Valentine’s merchandise by Amy and Ben who smash all the hearts and eat all the chocolates. Even though Amy is married (though her marriage is on the rocks), it is totally obvious that she and Jonah will be getting it on at some point in the series. The spark is there. They are fun to watch together. Visually, they are just like Joanie Loves Chachi but WAY BETTER.

I really enjoy this show

Urban Bliss, Odd and a Response: Observation Notes 71-72 and Reading Note 31.

Observation Note 71: Response. Keira Soleore from Cogitations and Meditations poses the question (on Reading Note 29) “Don’t you find having to constantly dodge pedestrians and wait for traffic lights a nuisance on city walks as opposed to nature or along the harbor/bay/ocean?”

I actually get a thrill from walking amongst pedestrians. There is a sense of collective human movement that occurs as you walk through city streets, where people seem to fall into a rhythm with each other. There are so many stories around you when you are in a city. From the buskers, the office workers, the retailers, the customers and the tourists. It is no longer discernible who is a local and who is the traveller. The cameras and bumbags have disappeared as the ubiquitous telephone carries all your travellers needs.

Reading Note 31: Odd. Vivian Gornick in The Odd Woman and the City writes “My mind flashes on all who crossed my path today. I hear their voices, I see their gestures, I start filling in lives for them. Soon they are company, great company. I think to myself, I’d rather be here with you tonight than with anyone else I know.” This is how I feel about the people I walk amongst. I imagine their lives, their reasons for being in my path, their ideas and their circumstances. They aren’t as much in my way as I am part of their day.

Observation Note 72: Urban bliss. Sydney is a highly walkable city. It has been designed in such a way that if you know your streets, malls and tunnels well enough, you can avoid traffic lights. For instance, on Sunday, we walked for over four hours yet we probably encountered only 5 sets of lights. The city is an open air museum so I really don’t mind having to move around people who are looking up, admiring the urban space, those wonderful details on old and new buildings. 

Occasionally, there will be dawdlers, or people who lack the understanding of the time of day – this is invariably a tourist or someone that rarely ventures into the city. Fran Lebowitz shouts “Pretend it’s a City” in her eponymously titled series, she is agitated and wants people to move out of her way. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the series, and at times can concur with the frustration of a dawdler when I am trying to get somewhere, I relish the feeling of being amongst many people, feeling safer amongst the hundreds than I do when I am alone on a street, or even just with two or three of us on a bush walk where I mentally am keeping track of how far I am from civilisation, how far I am from emergency assistance, how long it would take to raise an alarm from the moment that a brown snake bites me to the moment that the paramedics find my flailing twitching-in-its-death-throes body evident in the scattered twigs, dirt and leaves left strewn about like a demented dirt angel, my head landing in a green-head ant nest eliciting their ire as they bite bite bite me, leaving welts rising upon my face and completing the work of the snake that has slithered away, and my screaming agony will be unheard as it will be at one with the screeching dinosaur birds that circle overhead in that final moment.

I’ll take my chances in the city.

Struggle, Long Lost Acquaintances and Immature Side-eye: Observation Notes 69-70 and Reading Note 30

Observation Note 69: Immature side-eye. Dammit! This could have been such an obvious funny post but instead I have been reading navel-gazing memoirs and angst-filled sexless books for months on end. *shakes fist* *then giggles*.

Obviously, I continue to be a teenager.

Observation Note 70: Long lost acquaintances. I had dinner at a friend’s place last night and my host (in her mid-50s) was describing the moment that a few weeks earlier she had contact with an old high school friend as something that was astounding and incredible as no-one had heard from her since school had ended early in the 1980s. The question arose, would there be anyone who I would be shocked to the point of loud exclamations if I saw her again. Without a thought I remembered the exact person (who I will not give their real name here for obvious reasons) – let me call her “Helen”. When we were all about 15 years old, “Helen” got her first boyfriend. “Helen’s” parents found out and totally freaked out, over-reacted, pulled her out of school and sent her to their village in Greece to live with her grandmother to ensure she had “good Greek girl” values instilled in her. A year later, her parents went to Greece to visit their daughter and to bring her back to Australia, just to find that she was going out, had a boyfriend, and was loving life in her Greek village. She absolutely refused to come back to her oppressive life in Australia. I have never heard from or about “Helen” since that last update. But what really stood strong in my mind was that the Greece that my migrant parents spoke about must be incredibly different to the one that “Helen” travelled to, and I was to find out from my own travels that this was an absolutely true perception of a country whose mores had changed with the times.

Reading Note 30: Struggle. (Just a heads up that there will be a spoiler in this note). In March, I read Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X. It is a coming-of-age verse novel about (X)iomara’s struggle with her migrant parents, her mother’s religion and their very different responses to life. Xiomara is coming to terms with her changing body, her twin and his introversion and as per the usual YA novel, there is the necessary inspirational teacher who mentors and directs here in her time of troubles. Xiomara had complex teen problems that she was grappling with especially when it came to pushing back against parental expectations. This YA novel took me a while to get immersed into, however, once the rhythm of the writing took hold, I flew through the book. There was a small section later in the book involving Xiomara’s mother’s inability to reconcile herself to her daughter’s American lifestyle and interests, especially including Xiomara having a boyfriend. This felt over-wrought and simplistic for me especially in light of how the issues were resolved optimistically which to me felt unlikely. Over-wrought parents don’t just easily accept a new normal. I felt uncomfortable with the book’s ending. Perhaps this is due to my own personal experiences in my youth, especially in light of “Helen” not having understanding parents, whose parents became over-wrought sent her to another country rather than accept her having a boyfriend. “Helen” was not the only friend whose migrant parents had similar cultural difficulties , and who had similar reactions to X’s mother, this made it much harder to ignore my feelings and accept the author’s story. It was too close to home and all that. My own personal experiences aside, the story was powerful and strong and I loved the application of slam poetry as the narrative tool for understanding X. It was a very good read which gave me lots to consider.

A Walking Day: Reading Note 29

Reading Note 29: A Walking Day. I’ve been reading Vivian Gornick’s The Odd Woman in the City – her life and observations living in New York City. I decided to live the text (without actually flying to NYC) by going in to my favourite Sydney places and spending a good part of the day walking everywhere. I was with my husband and oldest son (our younger son was at his football game).

We met at the Archibald Fountain in Hyde Park, walked down to and through Pitt St Mall over to Angel Place. We caught the light rail a couple of stops down to the harbour where we got a bite to eat at The Rocks Market and ended up having a quick drink and listening to Irish music at The Mercantile. It was a sparkling day 💖

My husband in his blue and white striped long sleeved T-shirt (so French!) with me sitting on the grass in Hyde Park.
Archibald Fountain is a water fountain in Sudney. The focus is on a young Apollo with green trees as a backdrop with a bright blue sky.
An image of the novel The Odd Woman and the City. Text only cover.
A lovely photograph of my husband and son. The backdrop is of The Rocks Market.
A bright blue sky with the tips of trees at the top of the photograph. I took this photo lying down.