Sunday, October 19, 2014


September went by so fast I can barely remember it!
Work was insanely busy during the month, with a lot of staffing to sort through and I was involved in two projects that were very challenging and time consuming.
I helped M celebrate her birthday with a movie and dumplings at New Shanghai, and a visit to Max Brenner.
I headed to Sydney for a mini break the first weekend of the month. This was as I had tickets to see Bob Dylan at Sydney Opera House on the Sunday night. I arrived late Saturday afternoon and headed to my hotel in The Rocks, then set out for a walk and dinner. It was raining and a bit miserable but I had a good wander around the area and ended up at the Opera House Kitchen for a perfect Steak Frites and red wine. I ended up at the Dendy Cinemas on Circular Quay and escaped the weather by seeing the new Woody Allen, Magic in the moonlight.

Whilst I enjoyed the movie, it was a very light romantic comedy and lacked well, depth. I liked the storyline and the characters, but never bought Colin Firth's character being interested in Emma Stone's. Which is a shame, as I adore both, together they just didn't really work. But the costumes, set and music - as always - were sublime, and sometimes something frothy and light is ok. And as I always say a bad Woody Allen Movie is usually better than most of the crap out there!
The next day brought much lovelier weather, I spent the morning at The Rocks markets, wandering around the bridge, lunching at Circular Quay before walking around to Mrs Macquarie's Chair and back through the Botanical Gardens. That evening I dined on the most delicious meal at Steak and Seafood on Circular Quay before heading to The Opera House to see my hero, Bob Dylan.

I spent the Monday morning at the MCA before meeting my cousin D for lunch at the cafe there. I finally got to meet her gorgeous little girl now 3 months old before walking to the station to get the Shitkansen home, batteries all charged for this crazy month ahead!

L & I finally got to a French Friday, an ok comedy, Radiostars, about Radio DJs crossing the French countryside with their breakfast show. As always the eclairs from the French markets were divine!
The middle Saturday I travelled back in time for the Grebert/Crebert family reunion at Mayfield East Public School, Dad took part in the celebrations, on Mum's behalf, telling stories of her ancestors. I then went into Newcastle Antiques for a look before heading to the Museum for the Silent Film Festival. A good turn out for 4 Chaplin shorts, and laughs a plenty.

Later that evening J & I met M at The Lass for some drinks and Steve Smyth. I had seen Smyth on Rockwiz earlier in the year and was suitably impressed, he was better in the flesh. Rocking the most spectacular beard, Smyth sung his blues rock with every last ounce of coolness, his voice is a cross between Tom Waits and Jeff Buckley. Great evening indeed.

The next day I escaped to my sister and Brother-in-law's property. I arrived to find the kids in the newly cleared out and filled up dam, padding in kayaks etc. My sister and I sat in the sun chatting while they played in the water with their dad, a very relaxing afternoon.

Other gems during September were The Steampunk exhibit at Lake Macquarie Art Gallery, Hitchcock Movie night at work, celebrating V's birthday at Heng Loong Chinese, Mexican night with extended family (and fabulous Margaritas), and celebrating my beautiful niece's 7th birthday.

I spent the day with J in town, checking out Hunter and Gatherers Markets, wandering the mall, having lunch at Newy Burger Co, (oh the Pulled Pork burger is divine) and then just chilling in the park chatting.

Book club for September was the fabulous We are all completely beside ourselves, you can read about that and other things here.

I joined A & L at the movies for Wish I was here, the latest Zach Braff movie. I really enjoyed this dramedy, more melancholy than funny, but still most excellent. Zach is a little like a post modern Woody Allen. The script was great, touching, funny, clever, witty. The cinematography divine and soundtrack inspired. The acting, especially from Kate Hudson, was great. In fact, this is Kate's finest role since Almost Famous. The kids were great too. Go see this movie, it will make you cry, but it will also make you smile.
I ended the month with a lazy day in the park in Newcastle East before meeting A to see the wonderfully dark comedy, Le Petit Mort. If you have not seen this Australian gem about relationships, you simply must!


So another busy month and as always some photos...

Sunday, October 12, 2014


What I've been watching
House of cards S2 was disappointing after S1, it simply wasn't as good. I think the acting (Spacey and particularly Wright) is outstanding and the stories/writing good, but it just lacks the punch of the first season. Unsure why, felt a little drawn out? Still worth watching though.
Scandal S2 amped it up many notches from the short S1. Whilst I find Washington's character mesmerising in her ice woman commeth attire, it is the secondary characters I find far more interesting. Her team and who they are, Cyrus and the team behind the president including his fabulously awful wife, Mellie. I think the thing I just don't get about Scandal is the whole Fitz/Pope love affair. He does nothing for me at all, I guess it's about him being president and powerful, which is kinda sad for such a strong female character like Olivia Pope. However, I am still hooked!
Parks and Recreations S5 was brilliant and funny as you would expect. By now, these characters from Pawnee are like best friends to me. Their quirks and silliness and kindness and heart, I love them all. But for me the funniest will always be Nick Offerman's Ron Swanson. Any scene without him just pales. I loved his storyline and cliff hanger ending this season, and cannot wait for S6.
Game of Thrones S4 - OH MY!!! this just gets better and better. I love this so very much I cannot begin to say, but hell I'm not alone there! New characters introduced, characters let go. In fact (sort of spoiler) I really thought I would be more excited about a certain character's demise, but I was kinda sad, cause well, he was so deliciously awful, it kinda sucks for him not to be there anymore. As always Tyrion, Arya, Khaleesi, Samwell, and Brienne remain my favourites. Some epic battles this seasons, between characters and in actual full on war. The sets continue to amaze and the depth and layers of characters and storytelling is nothing short of genius.
On actual television my favourite two shows are Please Like Me S2 and Utopia.
Utopia is another Working Dog satire, and they truly can do no wrong, Utopia is set in a government department that has something to do with infrastructure. In fact some characters wonder what they actually do. Rob Sitch is perfect as the hapless Tony, centre of the department. The show mostly deals with the bureaucracy and personalities in such a department. Complex to describe but easy to identify with, working for government myself. I found each episode on topic for what was happening in the news, which is an uncanny thing Working Dog (the production company) seem to be able to do, having struck gold previously with Hollowmen and Frontline in similar situations. The cast were note perfect and the comedy subtle but sublime. My favourite episode was the first, which mostly dealt with a new logo. It had me laughing hysterically...out loud...a rarity!
I liked S1 of Please Like Me, but S2 just ups the ante to something close to perfect. If you haven't watched it, shame, though being tucked away on ABC2 does it no favours. It is about Josh (played by Josh Thomas, creator and writer of the show loosely based on his own life), a 20 something, out of work guy who likes to bake, and who happens to be gay (this is - as it should be - a matter of a fact part of the story). He lives with his hetero best mate, and a whole range of other slacker type 20 somethings. A lot of the scenes take place with them pondering, love, life and all that. But where it differs from other comedy series is the rich tapestry of Josh's family, his bi-polar Mum (an absolute show stopping piece from Debra Lawrence) who after her suicide attempts last season is in a mental home. And his long suffering Dad and his partner and their baby girl. Dad just wants Josh to be happy and get a job so he can stop paying his way. Which happens beautifully towards the end of the series. Having his Mum in the setting of the xxx adds pathos to the comedy, with a grand cast of patients including Hannah Gadsby, Bob Franklin and a superb turn by Denise Drysdale. The series takes some dramatic turns, but adds comedy in just when you need it, and so perfectly too. It is gentle and kind and funny, and we need so much more of that in this harsh world. But if you see any episode you simply must see Ep 5, a superb 2 hander where Josh and his Mum go camping in the Tasmanian wilderness. All heart. This is a must see gem.
What I've been reading

I must admit I have been struggling to concentrate on reading these past few months. My reading Mojo is gone. This does happen from time to time. I have theories on why, but that is a whole other blog onto itself! In the meantime I've been trying.
So the only book I've read this month is We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler. I had started this a few months back, realised it would be a perfect Book Club book, so tossed it aside and came back to finish it once I had scheduled it. Not only is this book beautifully written, but the story is terms of fiction anyway. But to tell you why would be to spoil it. Yes, it has a twist, but a twist so important to the story it's hard to write about it without mentioning it. But I shall try. It is a family saga of sorts (but not really) told from the perspective of a daughter and about her two missing siblings. It starts in the middle at an important juncture in her life and them moves back to the very beginning when she was young and the siblings disappeared. Fowler writes from the daughter's perspective so beautifully throughout the book moving from different ages seemlessly but with enough nuance to nail the thoughts of that particular age. The impact of the loss is observed through her eyes, over periods of time until she works out what actually happened. Which could be more devastating that she originally thought. The twist comes early, cause it needs to, and is so genius you will gasp. But this book is so much more than a twist. Seek it out, you will see why it's nominated for The Booker,
What I've been listening to

Loving the new Passenger album. I do enjoy his music, it has range and depth, and is very uplifting I find.
I've listened to a lot of Dylan, but mostly after I saw him and especially his newer albums, as that is mostly what he did in the concert.
I've been listening to The Police at work and ELO in the car. The Police works as a soothing backdrop whislt I work and ELO brings such joy and excitement to driving in the car. It's funny how different music works in different surroundings.

But mostly I have been playing two superb mixed tape CDs of 1983. My friend V is blogging about his favourite music year by year, I realised 1983 was such a formative year for me. I always listened to music, but by that year - I was 12 - things really got cooking. He made me a mixed tape (on CD) of the best songs of that year and I have been blasting it ever since.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Over the October long weekend This Is Not Art (TINA) was held incorporated with the National Young Writers' Festival.
(or is it the other way around?)
I was lucky enough to have Friday off in addition to the holiday so managed to get to a whole range of events. My partner-in-crime was the lovely L with special guest star A.
We saw back to back sessions Friday afternoon.
The first was The Critic's Identity, featuring Madeleine Laing, Jane Howard, Matthew Tomich, and Dylan Burns. They were reviewers of a varying type of formats and genres. I found the dude that was the gamer and wrote about various games the most interesting as he had a quick turn around of product but could really influence how well these games were promoted, used, and purchased. He seemed most thoughtful of his experience. As someone who sometimes critiques or at least reviews a whole rage of genres here on my blog I thought it would be more useful, but not really. Unsure what I was expecting though.
The second was History Chicks featuring Bridget Lutherborrow, Niki Aken, and Davina Bell. Bridget is a Phd student writing about Lumberjills. Niki was one of the writers on the TV series, Anzac Girls. Davina writes for the Our Australian Girl series, a series for tweens on Australian women in history. This was an engaging panel of delightful women talking about amazing women. All of them use actual diaries from the era they are writing about and dig deep for interesting and unique stories. This can be harder than you would think, a lot of women who did amazing things during the wars were hesitant to speak up about what they did as they felt what the men were doing was more important. Niki spoke a lot about the nurses who worked overseas during the war, she said many came back up-skilled with additional jobs learnt, but couldn't use them back home. I know this session left me wanting more, this is a good thing.
Both of these sessions were held at the United Services Club, or as it was described for the festival, The Gun Club. What a venue! I was transfixed by this amazing old place where time had stood still. More Chesterfield lounges than one could count! Filled with guns, knives, swords, and other armor, The Gun Club was equal parts majestic and umm bizarre! But I just loved it, in an ironic way. (either that, or I have a gun loving right wing living inside of me I had no idea about). It also had a superb pool room, great views down Watt Street, an interesting feel, and cheap beer at the bar. I don't think it was a place where women were welcomed normally, which added to my interest in it. Every time I entered the place I found something else unique and fascinating, cementing my view of it as my favourite new place in Newcastle.

We then headed to my beloved Cambridge Hotel for a quiet drink before the next session.
We were very lucky to be involved in the Salon Talk with Benjamin Law called Pay the Writers. This started off with about 8-10 people sitting around in the newly refurbished side bar in luscious lounges listening to and talking with Ben about writing, payment for work, and the publishing field in general. I was thrilled that Ben sat next to me and his engaging take on the subject had us all entranced for the hour of the session. I have read Law and been a fan of his for some years, but had not really had the opportunity to hear him speak in this way. (I had seen him at People of letters at the SWF earlier in the year) He comes across a lot more solid and together than in his writing, which can be quite self-deprecating. His knowledge and generosity knew no bounds and he was honest and forthcoming with ideas, thoughts, and tips about gaining financially from writing and how to survive.

We only went to one session on Saturday and it was the highlight of the weekend! We were back at the Gun Club for My Favourite is Problematic featuring Rebecca Shaw, Patrick Lenton, Clementine Ford, Michelle Law, and Elizabeth Flux. The premise of this was each person wrote a short piece about something they love becoming problematic, but they still loved it anyway. Michelle spoke about her love of Amanda Bynes and her very out there demise online. This was a great start to a funny and fabulous session. Next up Patrick spoke about his love of the show Friends, despite it having many, many sections that he found difficult to stomach. Elizabeth delivered a deadpan delivery of the True Blood books, in all their fabulousness mixed with ridiculousness. The wonderful Rebecca (aka Brocklesnitch) gave a hilariously note perfect review of Roseanne Barr, from hero of a great show to a pompous bigot. Clem Ford ended the session with a spectacular rant about her favourite word, Cunt. This was an exceptionally funny session with an extraordinary group of writers, an hour seemed way too short.
Sidebar: we celebrated the end of the second day, with the most taste exploding meal at Casa de Loco! This is real Mexican food, and a must see place situated up in Pacific Street. We had the most divine Prawn tacos and Seasoned Chicken tacos that just popped in your mouth before melting into your taste buds. The salads they add to the meat heighten the taste of the taco overall. We had the potato and chorizo dish as sides, and Guacamole and corn chips as entree, and my already overworked taste buds were sent into sensory overdrive with the strawberry and mint Casa-made soda. The atmosphere is always good there, a little bit hipster, a little bit cool, and fabulous music playing too. As we were leaving Neil Young's Heart of Gold was playing...perfection!

Sunday was hot and we moved our schedule around to suit. Joined by the lovely A, we headed back to the old faithful Gun Club for Cultural Hierarchies in Music and featuring Faeza Lima, Madeleine Laing, and Jane Howard. This was about why rock or pop is favoured more than rap or hip hop. It was interesting in parts, thanks to Faeza a young Muslim rapper, who blends comedy and spoken word into her routine. I wanted to know more about her. The difference between the musical genres would have worked more if the panelists had a better musical knowledge in terms of what they were comparing the newer music to. But maybe that was the point. Topics such as categorising music, image, digital streaming were also delved into. And we did have to leave early to head to our next session.

We moved down to The Lock Up for Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction. This was a spur of the moment topic and seemed interesting, except the first two panelists spoke about what I thought were dated topics. Ideas for blogging using words as art and photography in a similar vein.  Interesting enough, but well, not that new and I hate to say it not the most engaging of speakers. To be honest I could have given both talks, about three years ago! We left early for afternoon tea.
Sidebar: I have noticed that quite a few of the panelists/presenters whilst talking about interesting topics, were not great speakers. This really deflects from what is happening and I guess not everyone who can write well, can articulate their thoughts off the paper.
Sidebar 2: We had the most amazing afternoon tea of Iced Coffee/Chocolate/Moccas at One Penny Black

Sidebar 3: The mall was buzzing as it normally is, but probably more so because of the festival, it would have been good for more shops to be open and cafes open later with quick food and drinks for those of us moving in between sessions.
We headed back to the Gun Club for a cool drink and our two final sessions. First up was Tinder Poetry Reading, which was where people had taken Tinder (dating site) conversations and turned them into poetry. This was not as funny or great as I thought it would be. There was no one scheduled to read and it was opened up to the audience to join in which was ummm interesting depending on the reader. It wasn't bad, but just not that well thought through.
Our final session was The World is Fukt, a look back at politics panel with Benjamin Law, Kylar Loussikian from The Australian, and Alice Workman from JJJ. This 90min session was intense and full of fabulous thoughts and opinions from the panelists. Although briefly hijacked by a ranting 'woman' early on, who's opinions made no sense and shook the room, this was an enjoyable session. Thing is, by this point we were exhausted, it was hot and we had been drinking, I may have dozed off in a few sections, but that was not from boredom, believe me. It felt great to be a full room of like minded souls who wished the world (and especially our own country) was a far better place than it was at present.
We piled out of the Gun Club, wishing it farewell for the last time, heads full of ideas, thoughts, and new information. The only thing to do was to head to Newcastle East institution, Scotties, and grab a burger and sit in the balmy spring evening and digest all we had observed over the past three days.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Touch Yourself

This is different to what I normally write here. However, I do look at my blog as a diary of sorts, or a record of what I have been doing. Granted it’s usually more the fun things. I couldn’t call my yearly visit to the Breast Clinic fun, but when I decided to live tweet the appointment, I was surprised at how people reacted to it. So I thought I would turn the tweets into a post here for those that may be interested and missed my tweets.

A little background first.

I first found a lump in my left breast when I was 31 or 32 and with a history of breast cancer on both sides of the family I didn’t waste time getting to my GP who in turn referred me to the Breast Clinic. That first appointment was awful, I ended up having 3 or 4 fine needle aspirations that day and I cannot begin to explain the pain. This is where a very fine needle is poked into your breast right into the lump and squidged around to grab some cells to test. During the ultrasound prior, the lump I found and a few more had turned up. They can also tell you almost immediately if it is cancer or not, which is great, and it wasn’t. The lump I found was a fibroid and the rest cysts, but I was asked to come back 6 months later to be on the safe side. I still remember poor Mum driving me home, every single bump reverberated through me, and I was so white that Mum didn’t believe me when I said I was ok.  

6 months later I was ok and on yearly visits until another was found a few years later. I had the option for this to be removed and checked. Of course I took the option and asked for the original Fibroid to be removed at the same time. Fibroids are benign, but can be very painful and mine was. The pain of a sharp poker going through my boob was almost unbearable at times. The Doctor couldn’t 100% guarantee the pain would go with its removal but felt it wouldn’t hurt.

And so I went in for my first ever operation. A boob job! The surgery was quick, a morning visit, the recovery longer than I thought. Removing the fibroid was a good idea, never had that pain again, and the cyst was benign. You can barely see the scars, Doctor Clarke is the best, and a great surgeon. I won’t go into the ins and outs of my recovery, but being the independent gal I am, I insisted I was fine at home by myself. Recovering from the surgery I had was not too painful but very uncomfortable. The first time I laid down I had a small bleeding issue and totally freaked myself out and my poor sister who had to help me sort myself out. Minutes later my father rang, informing me to pack and Mum was on her way back to collect me to stay at their place. Where I could sleep on their recliners, as laying down was too uncomfortable.  

And so I recovered, nothing really, not compared to what people who really are sick go through. 6 month check-ups led to yearly ones. I am never complacent, and realise it could go either way at each visit, you just never know. I get very stressed/anxious in the week leading up to the appointment, but try to keep things to myself. But the more I hear from people my age who have never had a mammogram or even regularly check themselves the more annoyed I get. This is really important stuff!! It’s not scary, just a little uncomfortable. Last year I contemplated live blogging the appointment but chickened out. This year I decided to freak everyone out and do it! 

Of course as soon as I took this picture and wrote my first tweet I worried about the end result. Shit was gonna get real if it was not a good outcome, and my superstitious mind wondered whether tweeting it was asking for trouble, but it was too late!

Tweets reproduced from hereon-in:

So yeah. I'm here for my annual best check up! Live tweeting because why not!  

The breast clinic was refurbished a few years back and is huge. Unsure whether this is a good thing. I'm guessing to assist more people.
The ladies who work here are really lovely. People of all ages are here, waiting like me.
I am fully aware of how lucky I am and others are less so. Yet as I sit here you just don't know how the afternoon will turn!
I'm pretty used to the routine now after all these years and it's not so bad. So this is why I'm tweeting it. Reduce stigmas and all that!
Ladies you have to touch yourself up!!! Or get your man to! And if you're over 40 get a mammogram. If I can do it, anyone can!
Of course I feel a little (ok a lot) anxious. But you just have to do it. I do find my mood is a little poopy in the week leading up to it.
But I guess that's understandable. So now I wait for my name to be called.
Stage 1 complete. Check up (or touch up, lol). 5 mins with Dr Clarke. He says everything feels ok. So that's good.
I removed my top and bra and now wearing a very ordinary hospital top that ties at the front. Off to the next waiting room to wait Stage 2.
These tops need to be fixed! I always joke about it. Last year the one I wore had to be designed for a child.
This year it's too big but so threadbare it's practically see through. But everyone is in the same boat.
I'm sitting in the waiting room with 2 elderly ladies. Both dressed which means they're waiting for results etc.
One has just been called back in for further testing. This sucks. Usually just precautionary, but still. I've been there.
Still in the waiting room. Should get Mammogram first! This is the thing that puts people off. It's unpleasant but it's really not too bad.
It's a large machine, cold and sterile and surely invented by a man, lol! Basically x-rays are taken of your boobs from various angles.
The thing is they need to squish your boobs as flat as they can. This doesn't hurt so much but feels really freaking awkward & really cold.

So this is the beast ;-) Mammogram!
Stage 2: Mammogram compete. That quick! (was in maybe 10mins) Very awkward but relatively painless. The staff here are so lovely & make you as comfy as they can.
For the mammogram the hospital gown comes back off and your boob is rested on the bottom plate of the machine.
The top clear plate comes down as tight as it can. Your body is contorted into odd positions to get a clear pic. 4 in all.
One of each lying flat and then the machine sort of turns on the side and they do a side shot of each. This is the more awkward angle.
If the operator is shorter than you it's more difficult for them to get you in the correct position. This happens almost every time.
So I'm back in the small waiting room waiting for the ultrasound. By myself atm. You wonder about others you see and hope they're ok.
I guess you need to be comfortable with your body. Lots of people touching & handling you. So being precious or shy only hinders their work.
I learnt this the hard way early on, lol. I guess we all do. These ppl must see millions of boobs a year. The nudity is no big deal.
Stage 3: Ultrasound compete. Back in small waiting room and dressed. Normally you don't get dressed so this is new.
For the Ultrasound the gown is off again and you lay on your back/side and they put a gel on your boob and move a wand over it taking pics.
It feels rather lovely albeit a little cold at first. I used to try and work out what was going on. Watch their face or the screen.
I close my eyes and try to relax now. No pt second guessing what is going on. I'm a Librarian not a Radiographer.
So it's one boob at a time, the gell wiped off after each one. The lady today had a very diff technique and I was very impressed.
She was very very gentle and quick. I think it had to do with how she got me to lay down. Def the quickest Ultrasound I can remember.
The worst is when they leave the room and get a second opinion. Be it another radiographer or a doctor. It's happened to me a few times.
That is absolutely the worst. Sitting there half naked and wondering what's going on and thinking the worst.
Once I sat there for almost 30mins. Totally terrified. The radiographer was new, all was ok. I was so relieved I didn't care.
Another time I was left and Dr came back & did a couple of fine needle aspirations. That was before my operation. You just try and be brave.
Still in waiting room waiting for Dr to tell me the results. At least you find out pretty much straight away.
And that's it, I'm done. Everything ok. I have dense breasts, lol and lots of cysts but all OK. Come back in 18 months, which is new.
I feel relieved and a bit spaced out. Dunno why, I always do. Especially relieved today giving I was tweeting. No one wants a dodgy ending!
So life goes on! I have some things to get at the shops and maybe a little treat for getting through this again. Thanks for indulging me.
And please urge your loved ones and yourself of course to do the right thing! Check your breasts regularly and get a mammogram!!!!!
Thank you everyone for your kindness. I wouldn't have done this if I wasn't passionate about it. So many leave it too late!

I admit I was worried about the outcome. Well more than usual but I took the chance. Phew :-)

And so ends the twitter transmission. I had loads of replies from both men and women. Mostly relief at everything being ok, but also thanking me for sharing the experience. I shared to ensure people had an idea of what might happen. I wish I had known slightly more when I walked in there that very first day.

So, go on, go and Touch yourself!!!