Monday, 27 June 2011

Taking care of a Peony at a time

A friend called me on Thursday night to share some really sad news. I don’t want to post it here because it feels like I could be betraying her trust and I know that once it’s out there in blog world it’s out there. She sobbed down the phone and I listened. I didn’t know how to respond. In this instance I couldn't relate to her experience. There were so many questions I wanted to ask her but I decided not to, I just let her talk and cry and then change the subject when she wanted to.

The next morning I mulled it over. I was working from home and kept thinking about how I could help. I can’t take her grief away, she has to heal and it will take time. I suddenly felt that the only thing I could do was show up. So I walked to the flower shop near my house and they made me a beautiful bouquet with scented stock and peonies. I wanted the flowers to say the stuff that I couldn’t, to say I loved her and wanted her to know that she mattered to me and that my heart grieved for her loss as well. And I showed up. I drove to where she worked, hugged her, handed over the flowers and took her for coffee and we talked.

Then something happened.

Once again I wanted to ask her questions, I wanted to know what her plan was now, what she would do next. How was her husband doing? I could feel the questions coming up inside me and then I stopped, I didn’t ask her anything. In a brief moment before my questions got asked I realised that I was asking them for my benefit, because I wanted to know the answers, in that moment I learnt something really important. When a friend is in trouble and hurting, all you really have to do is show up, listen and leave your stuff at the door. The questions I wanted to ask would not have supported her or comforted her or made her feel less pain or sorrow. I almost missed that lesson. It’s only something small but it’s changed me already. The voice that came up inside me and asked, ‘who am I asking this question for?’ is the same voice that I need to pay more attention to because it’s making me a better person, a better friend.

Damn it...

... Daniel Craig married that woman.

Winter Solstice [Southern Hemisphere]

The Winter Solstice has come and gone here in Melbourne. A fact for which I am terribly grateful. While I do not so much mind the cold weather, it is the lack of light at either end of the day that bothers me.

We left he house at 6.55am this morning and by the time we were on Citylink, some 20 minutes later, the sky had lightened, revealing the wonderful hot air balloons that gently float in the still morning air.

They are magical, sublime and so very, very pretty.

IHot Air Balloons...

2005: The Perils of Shopping

This is an email exchange between Anita and I in late 2005. By this stage I had moved to Manchester, but was still working for the same company where Anita and I met in London 5 years earlier. As I read this it just makes me giggle. Thankfully, some things never change...

From: Anita
Sent: 22 November 2005 14:40
To: Claudine

I was in Boots when you called I think - no reception on my phone in there. I tried the perfume called Echo - quite nice. The girls at our Benefit counter are unbelievably pushy and I go nowhere near them now!

From: Claudine
Sent: 22 November 2005 14:44
To: Anita

I had a green-eyed (I'm talking emerald green eye-shadowed monster from hell) get into my personal space at the Red Earth counter today. I said 'no, just looking thanks'. She didn't move from my elbow and asked 'would you like to trying anything?' I repeated 'no thanks, just looking' and eventually she shoved off. Can't bear that!! They either ignore you, look disdainfully at you or attach themselves to your hip!

From: Anita
Sent: 22 November 2005 14:47
To: Claudine

I hate they way they follow you around expecting you to steal - I always feel guilty and end up trying to show them I am not a thief, next time they hover I am going to loudly discuss my bad case of shingles.

From: Claudine
Sent: 22 November 2005 14:52
To: Anita

I ignore them mostly. If they think I'm thieving that's their problem. I guess so many people do steal they have to be vigilant. Makes you wonder what they must think of you eh?

I was looking at costume jewellery in House of Fraser today and the visual display woman was hovering so I tried on every single ring in the tray with my plastic bag hanging from same hand I was putting rings on. She almost frothed at the mouth!

Thomas Sabo Ring
Thomas Sabo Ring

From: Anita
Sent: 22 November 2005 15:08
To: Claudine

I'm going to steal something one day - just to check if they are really paying attention! I might regret it though once I have been arrested, charged and handcuffed.

From: Claudine
Sent: 22 November 2005 15:16
To: Anita

I think the regret will kick in when your one phone call is to your mother.

From: Anita
Sent: 22 November 2005 15:32
To: Claudine

Oh god yes! I would want to be chatting to everyone and would only get one call!! I just sneaked back to Boots to buy a lippie I saw earlier - shopgirl came and stood RIGHT next to me and tidied the nail polishes. I AM NOT A THIEF!

From: Claudine
Sent: 22 November 2005 15:39
To: Anita

We should get little business cards made out that say 'I AM NOT A THIEF' and hand them to shop assistants who encroach on your personal space.

From: Anita
Sent: 22 November 2005 16:00
To: Claudine

Mine would say:

'Thanks very much for standing on top of me and assuming I will steal anything I am looking at. Back off shop girl.'

Or is that just nasty ?

From: Claudine
Sent: 22 November 2005 16:09
To: Anita

I just had to explain to a colleague why I laughed out loud. Again. He didn't agree that shop assistants hang around him assuming he'd steal. Maybe its just you and I...

From: Anita
Sent: 22 November 2005 16:11
To: Claudine

Perhaps it's just focused on the theft of cosmetics ??

From: Claudine
Sent: 22 November 2005 16:12
To: Anita




I love that word.

From: Anita
Sent: 22 November 2005 16:19
To: Claudine

You can shorten it to Praps or drag it out Puuuuuuurrrrrrrhaps

I need to get out more.

From: Claudine
Sent: 22 November 2005 16:25
To: Anita

I need to get out more.

::raises eyebrow and reaches for the anti-psychotics::

From: Anita
Sent: 22 November 2005 16:47
To: Claudine

I need to get out more.

::Raises glass and reaches for lippie::

From: Claudine
Sent: 22 November 2005 16:49
To: Anita

She needs to get out more

Her friends whisper while watching her smear the wrong shade lippie across her forehead.

From: Anita
Sent: 22 November 2005 16:51
To: Claudine

'bet she stole that' they whisper.

From: Claudine
Sent: 22 November 2005 17:00
To: Anita

As the muttering ensues around her she reaches into her voluminous handbag and drags out a carton of milk. Carefully opening it she...

[By this stage I figured this was not going to end so I left my turn open ended. Anita's response...]

From: Anita
Sent: 22 November 2005 17:16
To: Claudine

…proceeded to launch her mini missile carefully
disguised as a pint of Rachel's Organic milk, she hit
the little red button on the side of the rocket and
counted down the seconds until lift off...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

How to eat a Banana loaf cake in two days.

Okey Dokey Miz Claudine. I’m starting a ‘How To’ section on BotW. My first edition deals with banana cake – the making and eating of.

Level of difficulty – pretty damn easy (the eating bit) .

Step 1. Start on a Sunday night, preferably at around 7pm when you are writhing around in pain on the floor at the idea of returning to work on Monday. You need a baking distraction.

Step 2. Find two rotting bananas in the cupboard (they don’t have to be rotting. Or in the cupboard)

Step 3. Search for a recipe (this one is dreamy Banana Bread with Chocolate Choc Chips & Candied Ginger)

Step 4. Begin to cream, mix, sift, chop and mash. Sing something if you want to. Bananarama is a good choice.

Step 5. Cook for an hour. At around about the time you should be going to bed the house will start to smell of cake baking. Mmmmmmm caaaaaaayke.

Step 6. Remove from oven, remove from tin. Eat a large warm slice. Just to check it’s cooked. Debate eating more but resign yourself to knowing that you are too old to eat cake at 10pm and think it's ok.

Step 7. Head off to bed feeling smug. ‘Ha! All you saddo people in the office tomorrow morning, you have no idea how amazing I actually am. I blow smoke in your general direction.’ (This bit may only happen to me, in my crazy banana bread head).

Step 8. Have a long cr@ppy day. This part is not optional by the way.

Step 9. Rush towards the cake. Make tea. Slice cake. Eat cake. Slice another piece (it’s ok, there are no calories in home made cake). Eat the second slice. Slices should be an inch thick. Eat half a third slice. Ok, who am I kidding, eat all of slice number three.

Step 10. Day two, repeat steps 8 & 9. Now, I did this after having a long chat with God out in my garden about the way things are going down here for me and that it’s not funny anymore and that I am due a lottery win/date with George/a knighthood. I’m sure I got a sign to eat cake. At this point I should say that it’s not compulsory to chat to your Maker before eating the cake. It’s always important though to be grateful for the cake and other stuff that you have.

And that girlfriend, is how to consume an entire banana cake in 2 days.

Over and out.

(with thanks to Molly Wizenberg for a knock out recipe)

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

I'm a Smiggle sucker!

I went to Smiggle today.

I literally could. Not. Help. Myself.

Monday, 13 June 2011

If you were here we could...

So, if you were here we could start the day with a lovely breakfast at my favourite cafe in Fitzroy. Its called Marios [no apostrophe as it is owned and run by 2 Marios] and it has been serving fabulously flavourful food for more than 20 years. The service is brilliant, the food is exceptional and best of all, it is wonderfully affordable. We would sit at the window and people watch while we plot to make the world a better place.

Image by Julian Kingma of Kingma & Kingma, Melbourne
Once we had the world set to rights we could wander up Brunswick Street and visit Kleins Perfumery. You would love Kleins. A girl's notion of heaven where lotions, potions and all things gorgeous are concerned. I went there on Saturday with my lovely friend Janine. She lives not far from Brunswick Street and as we both love hanging out there, it is often where we catch up. I digress.

Kleins. Love it. You and I would spend hours in there browsing the hundreds of gorgeous glass bottles full of liquid lusciousness. I know; I have wasted many an hour meandering, inhaling, applying and losing myself in the peaceful ambiance. Are you convinced yet?

Once we've emptied our wallets onto the counter at Kleins, we could then walk up to the shoe shop on the corner. I had been in there often over the years but for the life of me I do not know what the shop's name is. Anyway, we would waste a little more time here trying on boots. I love boots and given your recently confessed love of all things ranch like, I think you would too. I tried on a pair on Saturday. Gorgeous does not do them justice. Sadly, they did not offer lay-by so I'll have to head back there in the next week or so because I can't live without them. Honestly, I simply can not.

Tell me what you think...

After our boot-lusting venture we would undoubtedly need another coffee. We would most likely head to Jasper Coffee. I love Jasper. They were the first coffee business to introduce Fairtrade coffee to the coffee snobs of Melbourne. The shop is lovely, the aroma of roasting coffee is wondrous and the fact that they support so many producers in far flung places who would otherwise be exploited by the coffee barons is great.

We could have a cappuccino or a latte in their lovely little courtyard. We could surely fit in a pastry or a slice of lemon tart. Just to finish off the afternoon that is quickly fading for if you were here you'd know it was well and truly Winter in Melbourne. We do a funny Winter here. The sun still warms the skin so when it shines, the earth does seem slightly warmer and the chill, to some degree, leaves us alone.

However, the sun is wont to set each day so as the chill returns, so do thoughts of warm clothes, warm drinks and lovely warm food. If you were here no doubt head home where we would spend time in the kitchen, whipping up a stew or some soup or a Moroccan tagine to fortify our bodies and feed our souls for we are Nigella!

I'm feeling rather melancholy my dear. I do so wish we lived in the same city so we could hang out and laugh. I do laugh so much when we are together. Perhaps we should Skype soon

A girl should be...

Dear Anita,

I read something today and thought of you.
"A girl should be two things, classy & fabulous" ~ Coco Chanel.
You are both those things.

Love much,

Boots by Allens in Austin and Round Rock in Texas, US..

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Doing time on the Jubilee Line...

Squashed. Hot. Rude. Hell. No other way to describe this daily nightmare. There must be a better way to journey to work.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Friday Afternoon Cupcakes

A colleague recently discovered a decadent little cupcake shop around the corner from the office.

God help us.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Bird on a Wire... Leonard Cohen

Dear Anita,

I just had the most surreal moment!

I'm standing by my dresser on my laptop quickly checking gmail, Twitter and Etsy when I opened a tab to look to see if you had blogged overnight.

As the page loaded, from my little radio behind me Leonard Cohen's voice begins to sing the following...
Like a bird on the wire,
like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.
Like a worm on a hook,
like a knight from some old fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee.
If I, if I have been unkind,
I hope that you can just let it go by.
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you.

Like a baby, stillborn,

like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me.
But I swear by this song
and by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee.
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch,
he said to me, "You must not ask for so much."
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
she cried to me, "Hey, why not ask for more?"

Oh like a bird on the wire,

like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free.

Leonard Cohen

I think my radio is talking to me. 

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Loving the Rituals'

This really should be up here don't you think Anita? One of the first inspirations for a joint blog? Perhaps that fourth line should read "... pen, paper, ink, the alphabet, the internet."

Whatever. I love it. And I love you chick.

Loving the Rituals is a poem by Palladas written in the 4th century AD.
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My Succulent Succulents!

My sister has a massive assortment of succulents that she has grown from cuttings she 'acquired' from around the place. A while ago she gave me a car load full for our then, rather bare back yard. I have about 10 different species which all just thrived. She says she still has about 20 Agave 'pups' for me. All I need to go is go and collect them. Oh, and find somewhere to plant them as they grow into rather enormous plants! And apparently agave juice is the base ingredient in tequila. Note to self: Google 'How to make tequila at home...'
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And the penny dropped...

So I'm sitting here in the lounge room in my pyjamas. It is a Tuesday afternoon. Jnr Jnr is napping and Jnr Snr is watching 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' while the wind and rain lash the house. Winter has well and truly made herself at home here in Melbourne. It is a time for warm custard, self saucing puddings and lots of hot roasted things. And as I am neither Nigella nor a devotee of Masterchef, most of that stuff will come out of a box. So you best get over it now.

Despite the inclement weather, I did go out this morning. I went to my fortnightly appointment with The Listener*. I talk. She listens. I attempt to uncover why I sometimes feel like a crazed lunatic. She gains a sense of purpose and usefulness. Everyone is happy.

Today I learned something about my inter-personal relationships that rather surprised me. It was a slow dawning, a stretch and a yawn then, without warning, all the pennies dropped making an almighty hullabaloo and there it was; my dysfunction in vivid technicolour.

All my adult life I have collected people. Someone I got to know at work. Someone I met through a friend. Someone else I met in the street in Manchester. A friend of a friend of my brother's. etc. etc. I would catch up with each of these friends on an individual basis and once in a while, lob the whole lot together and see what eventuated.

Let's park that there for the minute.

The reason I've started seeing The Listener is because after 5 years of being back in Melbourne, it has very slowly dawned on me that I really don't feel settled here at all. Finding myself increasingly critical of Melbourne, the people, the price of books and the appalling, aggressiveness of the drivers here, I thought it would be wise to pull apart this sense of disconnection from everything around me for my responses were beginning to alarm even me.

When I moved to the UK in early 2000, I was well and truly ready for a change. I was bored. Melbourne bored me. I knew every laneway, every cafe. I knew where to get the best coffee [that guy didn't even look up when I came in, he'd carry on making up coffee orders, passed me mine to the side of his massive Gaggia, took my $1.80 and go back to his orders - ah Johnny, you still make a mean coffee] and the fastest way to get across town in peak hour. Bored, bored, bored and very in need of a challenge.

Along came the job offer in London, right off the back of the break up of a 4 year relationship. You get the picture, this girl was indeed ready for a change of place, pace and skyline.

I left behind not a circle of friends as such, but 4 or 5 wonderful women I had assembled, pulled from various aspects of life. I loved them dearly, I still do. Each of them still has a place in my life however in my absence, they have surrounded themselves with their own circle of friends as their lives have moved on.

I, on the other hand, moved to England and continued on my erratic way collecting a friend here and there. Never venturing into an established circle of friends and until now, not aware of my lifelong aversion to the notion.

Once Mr Right and I moved to the same city though, we too pulled close around ourselves wonderful people that were at the same place in their lives as we i.e. newly married and unencumbered by the responsibility of children. Most of them were friends of Mr Right's which was fine as the women were new to the circle too as we all seemed to couple up at the same time. Lovely.

I look back now with hindsight and realise that these friends became my circle. Mine and Ian's. Our soul mates. The people who walked with us through the awfully painful times, the hilariously raucous times and those wonderfully drunken dinner parties where vodka became a dessert and our home was a place where people gathered and felt loved and cared for. England became my home.

However, after 6 years away we moved back to Melbourne which was always the plan. In my mind I realise now, Melbourne had become nostalgic notion. My 'perfect place'. The city where things were better, cheaper and easier. Yes I looked forward to seeing the friends I had left behind but I think I was naive in that I thought life would just pick up where I left off. The reality is, that while some friendships did feel like no time at all had passed, for the most part, much had changed. I had changed. Loads.

And Jesus Melbourne had changed too. A ring road. House prices well beyond our reach. A 6 year drought and 2 children in 2 years. Change was my new best friend. So I looked up old friends. I collected some new ones and only now see that I did so in order to fight the growing sense that I'd moved back home only to find that home was the place I had left 10,000 miles away in South Manchester.

I share all this with The Listener, which leads me to my increasing sense of dislocation  which has resulted in the revelation that I now see that have striven [took us a while to pin down what the past tense of strive was strove? strived?] to reconnect with lots of old friends, including school friends I had not seen in over 25 years. I heard myself talk about the domino effect of being friended on Facebook by first one school friend and then another. About my growing, yet inexplicable resistance to meeting them in real life because of an experience I'd had at the hands of said school friends in Year 11. As I heard myself recount the tale of something that happened too long ago to seemingly matter, I all but saw the copper pennies clatter about my feet.

So because a group of girls were mean [vicious and horribly hurtful] 25 years ago, I developed a rather severe aversion to groups of women. Hence my hand-picked, silo like friends who I separated carefully and only brought together under strict conditions where I was in control.

I'm wondering even now as I type all this out, what does it mean? Or does it really matter? Can it be fixed? Can I be fixed? Do I want to change? If I do suddenly find that I crave the company of large groups of women, will it mend this increasing sense of dislocation I have? Will I want to live in Melbourne? I honestly do not know.

What The Listener did says was this; nothing is concrete. If I have not found a sense of home here in Melbourne after more than 5 years, I may never. And that is ok. What I need is to take some time to be with the good people in my life [perhaps one by one] and allow myself to heal a little. To stop striving to connect and simply be.

*The Listener = my secret code word for therapist.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

These things I love...

Hey Claudey Claude. How are you lovely friend? It' Sunday and it's been an odd weekend so I thought I'd share some things i am grateful for.

This dog has my heart. Scout. She collapsed out on a walk yesterday and has been in dog hospital since. I'm bereft at the thought of her alone and in pain. She's in good hands is what I tell myself, but I'm still blinking away the tears. Get better baby girl.

This little guy. I heart him. Very very much. He's my hero. Young Ace. He's 6 and has already gone through so much in his short life. He picks up sticks. All the time. He's telling me here that the sticks are for a fire so that he 'can grill fruit'. He has my heart. I said that already but it's important.

This blog. I am obsessed and I don't care admitting it. This week I was off sick with a deathly cold (I dramatise for dramatic effect) but I was actually quite unwell. Then I found Pioneer Woman. Best of all, I found her saga on how she met Marlboro Man. Lordy, I loved it! I stayed up for HOURS reading it all. She has a ranch. I want a ranch.

These tomato plants. Surviving a horrid little squirrel who keeps burrowing in their pots to find the flippin' nuts he buried in winter. Grrrrr. That squirrel needs to die. I reqularly shout and bang on the kitchen door as he approaches along the fence SAS stylee to have a good scratch and scrabble in my bloody tomato plants. I digress, I am grateful for the tomato plants. But now I'm thinking of the bloody squirrel again. I may not have a ranch but this chick sure can grow tomaytee plants yes sireeee.

This link. Man I laugh every time. It's the boy I heart and his two sisters. All singing the fabulous and almost overplayed Adele track. I love these kids. They have a baby sister too but she's not singing yet. The Jackson 5 they are not but they are mine (as close as) and I'm in love with them.

That's my 5 fabulous things. Over and out.

I'll see your violin...

Oh I love that photo! It was taken the night of our leaving do in Manchester. The night all our lovely, lovely friends gathered to wish us farewell. I have a photo of Mr Right and I taken the same night that now sits framed by my bed. We look so young, so pretty and so very, very drunk.

Sadly I've had grey hair for ages so I don't share your shock at suddenly realising one's features [be it hair, skin or body shape] appears to have irrevocably changed, forever. I realised recently that since having kids my hair has lost its lovely curls. One of those things I suppose. Something I can't change but really can't spend too much time worrying about or it becomes a focus and, inevitably, an issue.

So, I buy one more product that promises to 'wake lazy curls' [honestly it did say that and honestly, I actually bought it...], keep calm and carry on.
As for your beautiful [albeit greying hair], I hear your violin and I raise you a cello.

p.s. my hairdresser tells me to save my money and colour my hair at home. Find a decent packet colour at Boots, making sure it covers grey and get yourself that people mover woman!

Image by Pixomar at Free Digital Photos
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Thursday, 2 June 2011

Was there really no gray? Not even a strand?

Hey Claudey

Look what I found.

I stared and I stared and I shrieked,(really did) out loud. I heard myself gasp.

It's you and me. Years ago. Before you left and moved and started your beautiful little family. Can we talk about me for a second now? Look at my shiny shiny hair. LOOK Claude. OMG (and I dont say that lightly) I had NO gray hair. ZILCH. What the hell happened? I could buy a pimped up people carrier (although I'm not sure why I'd want to) with what I've spent on hair colouring products since that photo was taken.

I'm off to feel sorry for myself, and for my hair; my long gone, all one colour naturally, shiny head of hair. Yes I can hear the smallest violin in the world playing for me. It's playing something from Hair.