19th Dec – My son cooked dinner for the six of us in his apartment. It’s his 24th birthday but he spoilt us.
20th Dec – In my household, 4 things have an imperfection in their 4th working part:
One leg has rusted off my fashionably pre-rusted outdoor table;
One of four glass feet on a blue heirloom vase broke off and rejects the strongest glue;
Our dog’s fourth leg hangs limply since he broke a ligament;
One candle on a German Christmas carousel burns out before the other three. But here it is, running on 4 pistons:
21st Dec – Received an email from a publisher’s employee with the Dickensian name of Robert Puffett.
22nd Dec – On a shady bench in the Sculpture Garden, away from visitor paths, I read my translation aloud into a recorder.
23rd Dec – At 7 am as I wandered in the garden, bees buzzed about my ears and eyes. I looked up into the fig tree and saw and heard a swarm of them gathering sweet sticky honeydew left by a plague of aphids.
14th Dec – One of my students said today after our last lesson, ‘I’ll miss you’. This is unusual for me.
15th Dec – Watched a six-year old write in cursive, something most older children and young adults can’t do these days.
16th Dec – Saw the word ‘themself’ in the latest translation of Les Misérables. If the translator wrote it (eek!) then why didn’t the editor fix it? Do they both think it’s a word?
17th Dec – Taught a student last week how to crochet triangles and today I was going to teach her how to join them together. But she turned up with a whole bag made from them. Left me standing in the dust cloud.
18th Dec – Saw some bugs that like only white things (they used to gather in hundreds on my white washing). Last night they were asleep in a huddle on my white hydrangea. Dreaming of a white Christmas… This morning they were awake and working.
9th Dec – My son told me he hides in car boots to get into places… He reminded me that my grandfather was a stowaway on a ship going to the First World War.
10th Dec – To sell their house, our neighbours got rid of their chickens, and now a small tree grows where they used to run. Something on a branch hanging on my side of the fence caught my eye – cherries!
11th Dec – Read two articles by professional translators, one grumbling about dogs and their owners, another who can’t work without his dog beside him.
12th Dec – Walked into a friend’s study and was confronted by a dress hanging beside the door, a 1920s apricot lace dress with a satin hip sash and bow that she’d bought in a 2nd-hand shop. While we sat talking, the handle of the door turned, the door opened a fraction and closed again, the handle turned back. She assured me it was air movement and that it wasn’t the woman coming to claim her dress.
13th Dec – Put on a lip balm called Baby Lips; my lips swelled outside and in, like an allergic reaction. I think that was the cosmetic plan, to puff them up like a baby’s.
4th Dec – My 40-year-old Chinese student doesn’t know where Israel is, and has never heard of it.
5th Dec – My 12-year-old Cambodian student prefers to write left-handed but in Cambodia it wasn’t allowed.
6th Dec – I tutor a primary school student who asked me if tutor is spelt like shooter. She formed her hand into a gun and shot. I assured her they are spelt quite differently.
7th Dec – Sitting in the new café at the National Archives, I listened to public servants placing orders: double-shot small latte, normal small latte, soy flat white, weak cappuccino, double-shot cappuccino. No one actually ordered coffee. Not even me. I had tea.
8th Dec – On a hot road, I saw reflections of passing cars in mirages.
24th Nov – A beautiful dark-haired girl in a brief flowery skirt and briefer white t-shirt was scooping raspberry ice cream while I waited for her to serve me; my eyes were fixed on her scooping arm and its six inch high tattoo of a skull and crossbones.
25th Nov – A very unusual day. Went to Sydney to meet a German couple who have been my penpals for a couple of years.
We sat on the grass for a while in the cool of the afternoon, which for my German friends was unusual. Where they live, it is forbidden.
Next to us was this work of art by Fiona Hall, A Folly for Mrs Macquarie. Mrs Macquarie was the wife of Lachlan Macquarie, an Australian governor from 1810 to 1821. On his tomb is written “Father of Australia”.
At the apex of the quasi-Gothic folly is the raised arm and clasped dagger of the Macquarie crest. The barbed wire is a symbol of the white man’s act of dividing the land. The axe and scythe represent implements brought to Sydney by the First Fleet for clearing land for farming.
The ceiling is decorated with sculptures of bones from native animals that once lived in this part of Sydney; see below:
26th Nov – My dog was so excited when we returned from Sydney that he tore around a corner, spun out and blew a leg. Now he walks on three. It’s permanent. 🙁
27th Nov – Learnt from a radio program that one muscle exists only for smiling, the zygomaticus major. It draws the angle of the mouth superiorly and posteriorly. 🙂
28th Nov – In the library, a pudgy, sweaty guy sprayed himself with deodorant around his neck, down the front of his shirt and over his head.
19th Nov – Spoke to a new migrant to Canberra, Australia’s capital, who ardently believes the capital should be on the coast. His opinion shows the movement of priorities for Westerners: in 1908 the inland capital site was chosen for its fertility and adequate water supply, but in 2012 the pleasure of seaside living is more important.
20th Nov – Tried on shoes in a shop but they were too tight. Was given a stocking and told the shoes would feel looser with it on. If I add a layer, won’t the shoes be tighter? No, as it turns out, they did indeed stop pinching. Did the stocking elastic push my foot flesh up my ankle?
21st Nov – The bathroom ceiling, painted a few months ago with unsuitable paint, is peeling in white flakes that float down before my face as I clean my teeth.
22nd Nov – I teach a few continental Europeans who tell me stories of very effectively demanding and receiving money they are owed. They like the statement, ‘This is not negotiable.’
23rd Nov – Made a hot chocolate from a product which recommends organic non-dairy milk alternative. But I used chemical, antibiotic and hormone-infused non-organic dairy milk. Full cream.
14th Nov – Someone from the Ancestry site sent me an obituary of my great-grandfather. The phrase ‘engaged in suppressing the slave trade’ leapt off the page. It’s given me hope.
15th Nov – In a car park, a young African immigrant was trying a car door and peering in the window. Then he walked over to another car as I watched suspiciously. I heard an electronic beep and he opened the door of a car identical to the first one he’d tried to unlock.
16th Nov – A very butch butcher, tattooed and pierced, prickly asymmetrical haircut, a woman in men’s clothes, sold me some meat and asked for my shopping bag to put it in. Taking my small orange carry bag, she squealed “Oh that’s such a cute bag! So cute!” as only a girl can.
17th Nov – A chicken pizza recipe found quickly online included no pizza base in its ingredients. Instead, chicken breasts are pounded flat and round until they resemble a base, on which you put all the toppings. Pffft. As if that’s a pizza.
18th Nov – My son lost his mobile phone last night and today the city police station called to say someone had handed it in.