Saturday, May 29, 2010


I'm not a Pollyanna. I don't believe that every cloud has a silver lining, and the sentimental platitude that when one door closes another door opens sets my teeth on edge. Even so, I think it's useful to try to maximise the pleasurable aspects of any disagreeable or difficult tasks you have to do.

Today my apartment had its first open inspection, prior to selling. I've been thinking about this course of action for so long that I'm quite reconciled to selling up and moving on, but there are some less than pleasant parts to this process - it's taken a lot of time and energy to make and keep the apartment spic and span, and I'm trying not to think about my domestic tastes and choices being so open to inspection and judgement by the general public.

Even so, there are small unexpected pleasures. Normally, I'm a bit reluctant to spend much money on cut flowers. But you all know that one of the first pieces of advice (wise or not) for people preparing their houses for sale is to display fresh flowers. While I'm cynical about lots of the selling advice I've received, I've obeyed this dictum with great pleasure.

Today I bought tulips from the Eveleigh markets:


I suspect they have horrendous airmiles or other environmentally unsustainable growing practices attached to them as tulips don't flourish in Sydney's climate, and anyway this is not the season for tulips grown anywhere in Australia. But they're seductively lovely.

And I still have some dusty pink lilies and grey-blue-green gumleaves that I bought last week.

Pink lilies

I'm going to enjoy having an excuse for flower buying over the next few weeks and am already planning some purchases and variations on arrangements and placing. But I might try in future to buy flowers that are locally seasonal - too much guilt would undermine the pleasure.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Last night at knitting...

Last night at knitting, at that stage of the evening when companionship, knitting and some glasses of bubbly lead you to make rash commitments, I commented to Jody and Fee that June is going to be so busy I am tempted to blog each day for a month. I might even have said that June will be so busy I am fearful it will just zoom by while I am focused on getting one thing done after another. Blogging will somehow make things seem more permanent; more real.

Jody and Fee's blog posts this morning outed this conversation, so now I'm publicly committed to blogging each day for June. I love Jody's title - June Busy Blogfest. I'm a slow blogger, so this will be quite a commitment. But particularly when you're busy, the time it takes to reflect on your day, and see the threads and themes that link its activities, is time spent most satisfyingly.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Urgh! I know it can't be possible, but I feel as if I've unravelled twice as much as I've knitted in the last few weeks. The main case in point is the Brooklyn Tweed baby blanket I've been knitting.

Baby blanket 1

I've been having such trouble with the simple feather-and-fan edging. All was going well till the second repeat of the yarn-overs and knit-two-togethers. I just couldn't get them to line up correctly with the previous row. I pulled the knitting back twice to try to remedy it - no mean feat when you have around 650 stitches each round of knitting - but to no avail. In frustration, I decided the error may be with the original row of feather-and-fan, so I unravelled almost back to the beginning of the edging and then laboriously picked up 650 stitches. I'm now counting and checking and recounting and rechecking to make sure the stitches are all exactly where they should be.

Knitting has, however, taken second place to sorting and cleaning and what is fashionably called de-cluttering over the last week or so. The apartment had its photo-shoot this morning (yes, everybody does seriously talk about it as a 'photo-shoot') in preparation for going on the market at the end of this week. I don't think the place has ever been so clean. It's certainly never been as neat as it was this morning. For someone as untidy as I am, the challenge will be keeping it in this state over the next few weeks of potential buyer inspections.

And I have a cold. I almost never have colds, so I think this is my immune system telling me I'm being challenged by all the changes in my life just now. But despite the cold I feel pleased that the process of selling the apartment is finally under way, and excited about the possibilities of creating a new living space.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A rite of passage

I was really chuffed when Mary-Helen invited me to accompany her to her citizenship ceremony yesterday evening. I know I was an inadequate stand-in for Sandra, but as someone who loves ceremonies and rites of passage I was delighted to be invited.

I think the whole occasion was just right. It had that mixture of slightly ironic ceremony and informality that I think Australia does very well. Mary-Helen would probably include New Zealand in that comment as well. Why do I think it was 'just right'?

Well, first of all it was held in the rather faded grandeur of the 1880s Leichhardt Town Hall

Leichhardt Town Hall

Leichhardt Town Hall 2

We had a brass band to entertain us before and after the ceremony

brass band

whose repertoire ranged from the Mexican Hat Dance and Gounoud's Ave Maria though to a fitting finale of I Still Call Australia Home. It also accompanied our spirited rendition of the National Anthem sung after all new citizens had been presented with their certificates.

We had a very tall mayor dressed in his robes and chain who said all the appropriate things in a very friendly way and gave no unsolicited advice.


Most admirably, he conversed with Mary-Helen about knitting as he presented her certificate! (read more, here)

We noted with pleasure the variety of countries from which the new citizens originated; that most people pledged their citizenship rather than affirmed it 'under God'; and that within couples or families taking out their citizenship, most women had different family names from their partners. This all augurs well for the version of Australia I would chose to live in!

Mary-Helen received a gift of an Australian shrub to plant in her garden and we could have finished the evening with lamingtons - but chose rather to have a wonderful meal at a Southern Italian restaurant across the street.

But just before we left the Town Hall, Mary-Helen filled in her application to be placed on the electoral roll which was, after all, the major reason she wanted her Australian citizenship.


She is now not only eligible to vote in elections later this year, but, because voting is compulsory in Australia, required to do so.

All in all, to quote Barry Humphries as Sandy Stone, 'a nice night's entertainment'. And, if I put aside my levity for a moment, an occasion for gratitude to Mary-Helen for choosing to enrich Australia by becoming a citizen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My daily Sydney

The popular image of Sydney is of a sparklingly beautiful city - the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the intense blue waters of Sydney Harbour. This vision of Sydney is real, and most of us have easy access to it. But most of us also can't afford to live with a Harbour view. Our daily Sydney is quite different.

I live quite close to the city centre and about a 20 minute walk from my workplace. However, this walk must be one of the least pleasant walks imaginable - beside a busy and polluted road full of cars and trucks, across two even busier intersections, and with little of interest to see along the way. So I often take the train to work - just one stop. It takes about the same amount of time and I walk just as far, but I find it much more interesting. Not more beautiful; just more interesting.

It starts with the bustle of Redfern Station and the tangle of rail tracks leading to the city centre:

Transition: from suburbs to city

At Central Station I exit the station via one of Sydney's most reviled landmarks - the Devonshire Street Tunnel. My trip to work actually involves two of the most hated structures in Sydney - more of the other, later.

Devonshire Street tunnel

I could write a whole post about the Devonshire Street Tunnel. It's a long (300 metres?) underground walkway that enables pedestrian access from the south-east to the north-west sides of the mass of railway lines that's Central Station. Everybody complains about it. That it's unpleasant, and particularly that it's unsafe. I'm puzzled by these reactions. In comparison with many of the tunnels that link lines and platforms for the London Tube or the Paris Metro, the Devonshire Street Tunnel is bright, well-lit, clean and very much populated - mainly by students making their way to the many colleges and universities in the area. It's certainly not beautiful, but I find it interesting. There are usually several buskers at various levels of expertise - some of whom have been busking in the Tunnel for many years - and then there are the murals. I think around 1998 a series of murals were installed to mark the impending 150th anniversary of railways in Australia.

I love these murals charting the history of the railways from their beginning in Australia to the end of the twentieth century, and I'm amazed that whoever is responsible for their upkeep does such a good job - removing the frequent graffiti and repairing even worse damage from time to time. It's become for me a kind of symbol of perseverance in maintaining public space.

mural 1

I emerge briefly from the Tunnel to the architectural chaos of Henry Deane Plaza (Henry Deane was the engineer responsible for electrifying Sydney's railways) and the traffic chaos of Railway Square

Railway Square

and then plunge into the Tunnel extension where I find...

Bookshop of doom

the Bookshop of Doom, aka Basement Books, that stocks the most wonderful selection of remaindered and otherwise cheap books, including those two most important categories - crime fiction and knitting books. This is usually much more of a distraction on my way home from work, when browsing, and buying, are very tempting.

At the end of the Tunnel is a walkway that contains the oldest railway line in Sydney, which used to run between Central Station and the goods wharves at Darling Harbour. The wharves have long disappeared (though I remember my great-uncle Mick, then more than 70 years old, working on the wharves and in the wool stores that still lined the wharves in the 1960s) and the railway line now runs only to the Powerhouse Museum. From the walkway I can enter the Architecture and Design Faculty building of the University of Technology, Sydney, via an exterior escalator!


Why do I find outside escalators so appealing? I guess it's something about a pleasing confusion of categories; that what is usually interior becomes exterior. This whole area is currently a building site for new student accommodation, so there's now the additional interest of watching the progress of the new building.

I pass through the building and exit to a walkway over frantically traffic-ridden Harris Street, whose intersection with Broadway is reputed to be the most polluted intersection in Sydney

Harris Street

and from where I have a splendid view of the most reviled building in Sydney, the UTS Tower, whose 27th floor houses my office.

UTS Tower

I will confess up front that I like the Tower. It's not the most beautiful building in Sydney, but it's far from being the ugliest. I think it's a straight-forward, honest interpretation of the 1960s architectural style labeled 'concrete brutalism'. I know few will agree with me about the Tower's robust attractions, but even those who hate the exterior must agree that the view from my windows when I finally reach my office is wonderful:

Tower view

I think most of us who live in the inner suburbs of Sydney realise that the sparkling 'emerald city' is also a city of grunge. I like this contrast, and I find my way to work endlessly entertaining.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Waiting it out

I feel as if a huge wave is about to break around me. Next week I have appointments with the accountant, the bank, the solicitor, the real estate agent and (most pleasurably) the designer and project manager for the renovation I'm about to begin. I suspect this last will rapidly turn from pleasure to pain as I have to balance the things I'd like include in my renovation against the things I can afford to include - but for the moment there's pleasurable anticipation.

I wish I could summon this attitude of pleasurable anticipation towards finishing my knitting projects. I'm a slow knitter at the best of times and with lots of distractions just now I'm achieving even less than usual. I'm chugging along with the sleeveless jumper for my daughter.

Sage 1

The Sage Remedy Top is (for me) the perfect balance between mindless knitting and an easily memorised and simple lace pattern. But I wish I could enjoy the moment of knitting it and not be so impatient to finish it. However, I'm almost up to the armholes of the back - having completed the front - so there's not too much more to do.

I do so like lacy patterns knitted in thickish wool. Sometimes fine lace feels very 'special occasion'. Thick lace is for everyday.

Sage 2

(by the way, the colour of this jumper has much more green in it than these photos show. The early morning light in which I've recently been taking photos really highlights the blue in objects).

The other mildly exciting knitting news is that I've finished the first sock of the first pair of my PSC 2010 socks. Given the revised date I'd set myself for completing these socks - 4 June - I'm well on the way to meeting this deadline (but mustn't gloat too soon...)