Sunday, 27 January 2013

longing for somewhere that doesn't exist

I just walked around Hurstville shops for an hour. It's a very humid, drizzling day. I passed the many little Asian food and knick knack shops, the old Asian men and women shuffling along, the dirty shopfronts and the posters advertising noodles with a giant picture of the Merlion in the background. I got the strongest longing for Singapore.

I got home and told Mum, and she commented, "but Hurstville is more like Malaysia used to be, isn't it?"

Yes, true. Singapore gives of an air of being much more modern and sleek and clean. But I guess scratch the surface and it's not that different from KL really. Get away from the tourist hubs and to where people live everyday life and it's a lot less sleek. And for some reason I just longed to be back there.

I know that the Singapore of my mind is very different from the reality, and it's very much tied to being a 10-12 year old with no responsibilities, living as part of a wealthy ex-pat community. Living there as an adult having to make her own way would be very, very different and I'm not sure I would actually like it.

Still, nostalgia can be a very strong thing, can't it?

Saturday, 26 January 2013


Oh please.

I just read this article about fewer people sunbathing topless these days because I couldn't believe it warranted a headline above 'the fold' on SMH. I just...I can't even...
Tanning on the sand is Cara Petrovski, 19, who will wear nothing less than her strapless brown and blue bikini. ''I like that bit of mystery, it's like saving yourself,'' she says.
I'm sorry. If you're in a strapless bikini, there isn't really much mystery left.
The Australian Nudist Federation sees something sinister at play. ''When breasts go away from our beaches there is something wrong with our society,'' 
Uh, no. Perhaps people don't want to get skin cancer? That could be a factor? It's hardly sinister.

I've never wanted to wear a bikini or sunbake topless. Actually I only ever wanted to sunbake at all for a fleeting moment in my adolescence before I realised that it was kind of a stupid thing to do, given that I burned easily and just freckled up anyway, and yeah, skin cancer.

I went shopping at Sue Rice for a swimsuit once and the lady (who would have been about 20 years older than me) brought me a whole bunch of bikinis to try on.

"Um, could I please just have one-pieces? I don't really feel comfortable in bikinis," I said.

"Why not? That's ridiculous. If you've got it, flaunt it," she said, completely ignoring what I had said. She was probably trying to boost my self-esteem by implying that she thought I'd look fine in a bikini, but bizarrely, it just made me feel even more self-conscious. I ended up getting a one-piece, but I could tell she wasn't pleased about it. In fact, if it hadn't been my favourite swimwear shop, which is the only place I've ever managed to get supportive, attractive swimsuits that suit me, I probably would have gone elsewhere. As it is, I only ever shopped online from them after that (and now they only exist online anyway!)

But why does "if you've got it, flaunt it" persist as an adage? What if I don't want to flaunt it? According to the above article, it means there's something wrong with the whole of society.

But when I see women flaunting what they've got, it just makes me feel distinctly uncomfortable. The whole point of flaunting is to make people envy you, right? When out in the city last night, I saw a stunning woman with incredibly long legs, wearing a skirt that barely covered her butt, being felt up by her male companion. I passed another woman in a plunging top and tiny shorts, her breasts sitting up high like a couple of grapefruit on a plate, being ogled by every passing guy. I don't envy either of those women. That's not the kind of attention I'd want.

I actually don't have a point here, it's just kind of a rant.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

the difficulty of picking just one thing

I know I sound like a broken record, going on all the time about how tired I am. But I'm really tired. It seems unfair, really, given that it's only the beginning of the year and I've recently had time off.

I'm very blessed to be working with people who understand and who urge me to take it slow. I do still feel guilty when I have to work at home, even though it's perfectly legitimate! Maybe it just doesn't feel like I'm working as hard when I'm lying on the couch with my laptop as opposed to sitting up at a desk, even if I'm doing the exact same work. But anyway, I'm glad they understand that sometimes I just can't drive to the office.

Tuesday was a bit scary. I had to go up to Cooranbong to man the SU resources table at a conference. It's only one hour and 45 mins drive from home, not a big deal at all. I left at 6:30am, had to pull over at Berowra for 10 mins and then again at the F3 Maccas. I intended to just stretch my legs, but I didn't even get out of the car. Next thing I knew, I was waking up 20 minutes later. The rest of the day just felt like stumbling through a fog. I was supposed to drive up again yesterday and just couldn't do it. Thankfully the world didn't end, everyone understood, and I slept half the day.

I'm going to reinstitute the one-thing-per-day rule again. Maybe just for a while. I still hate that my body doesn't let me pack a day and night full of activity. I say yes to things, because there are so many wonderful things to say yes to. So it's not even like I'm trying to wriggle out of commitments that I don't want to fulfill. I can't even do the things I want to do sometimes, which is disappointing.

So this weekend is the Australia Day long weekend. I realised I was quite pleased because it meant there was no Big Thing to do at church as there is on Christmas and Easter holidays! But that doesn't mean it's going to be quiet. I'm going to see Neil Gaiman tomorrow night after work, the Secret River on Saturday, church (incl music) on Sunday, Rog's 50th birthday (incl music) on Monday. All great things and none especially taxing. Yet it starts adding up...

I was supposed to see the Hobbit with Karen on Saturday too, and go to dinner at George's on Monday, both wonderful things...and yet I started to feel panicky thinking about a weekend with something on most days and nights. Sadly I declined the movie and probably dinner too, sad to not spend time with my girlfriends, but knowing they understand (indeed, they are ones who counsel me to say no to things and rest more often!). But actually, I'm seeing Neil with Karen (and Guan), and the Secret River with George (and mum) so I won't be missing out on them altogether! But it's hard to say no to good things, especially when you feel like it's for no good reason (even though of course looking after yourself is a very good reason).

I said to T at work that there must be people in the world who wake up in the morning feeling good and look forward to what the day has in store. She said, almost apologetically, "I do." I would just love to wake up, full of energy and without being distracted by how I physically feel. But I guess God has made me this way for a reason, and I know he is glorifying himself through me by changing me and teaching me to persevere. Like a zombie.

Zombies are very persistent!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

audibly reading

Ha! I was writing about this yesterday and Jess beat me to it. Great minds think alike, and all that!

I was never really sure about audio books. It seemed like cheating, somehow. Could you say that you had read something if you hadn't actually, well, read it? Did it count?

As if that actually matters.

Now that I spend around an hour and a half in the car each day (longer if I don't time my departure times wisely), I've needed to find ways to stay alert, engaged and, scarily enough, awake. Often music is fine. Sometimes I listen to a podcast or two; sermons by Tim Keller are my favourite Christian thing to listen to, as he has a great voice (even if, when he gets excited, he sounds like a triumphant Vizzini), has good things to say and his talks usually fit into my commute time. I started off with Mark Driscoll, thinking his conversational style would actually be kind of good for driving, but he gets way too shouty and I'm not able to listen carefully enough to decide whether I agree with what he's saying.

Eventually, I decided checking out audio books could be a good thing. has a great range. I think I signed up when there was a free 30-day trial. Then they hook you in with $7.49/month for the first three months, before going up to $14.95/month. The monthly membership gives you one credit a month (one credit = one book). I thought $7.49 per book was pretty good so I signed up. As a member, you can also buy books for much cheaper than the list price.

And, whaddya know, their strategy worked because I stayed on even when the price went up. Listening to books as I drive has kept me focused, engaged and entertained. When I'm up to a particularly good bit in a story, I even look forward to getting back on the road so I can hear the next bit.

Audible's got a 48-hour members sale on at the moment, which is almost over (ends tonight at 11:59pm AEST). Lots of books for $6.95 each, which is a bargain really (especially if you were going to buy, say, the audio version of the NKJV which would normally cost you $69.95 (but I'm still not convinced about audio Bibles like these, even if they have awesome actors reading the parts. The music and sound effects are quite distracting)). I found after I checked out and went to my library page, they had a special pop up with an offer to choose another book for $4.95. They're pretty savvy with their offers and deals, I must say.

I've found it frustrating at times if I don't know what I feel like listening to when I get to the end of a book. But at the same time, I have had a few pleasant occasions of serendipity. The free audiobook of Alan Cumming reading Arthur Conan Doyle's The adventure of the blue carbuncle was excellent; I don't think I ever would have read any Sherlock Holmes stories otherwise. Because of reviews praising the performance, I got Beautiful ruins by Jess Walter, which I probably never would have picked up in a regular bookshop, but it was most diverting while driving around the south coast over new year's, and entertainingly performed by Edoardo Ballerini.

I am also developing quite an appreciation for a well-read/well-performed story. It is certainly an art. The best performance so far has been Lenny Henry reading Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. His voice on its own is so pleasing to listen to, but his characterisations are hysterical, especially when doing the Jamaican accents.

So if you have a lot of travelling in your week, may I commend the audiobook to you? It makes what feels like a waste of time feel like time well spent. And I've come to accept that hearing a book counts; it's just getting the words into your brain in a different way.

Thursday, 17 January 2013


I realised I didn't write about going to see The Arrival of the rubber duck on Day One of the Sydney Festival a couple of weeks ago.

If you know me, you know of my penchant for whimsy, and the thought of seeing a five-storey high rubber duck float into Darling Harbour was too good to be missed. Karen had organised a yum cha lunch on that day, so it seemed like a good idea for the Beilzes, the Phillipses, Georgina and me to trundle down to the water together after lunch at Sky Phoenix. Which was, of course, delicious.

It was a scorchingly bright day, but I remembered I had some umbrellas in the car, which was conveniently parked across the road at mum's work (so good having a mum with a parking space in the city!). So at least sitting out in the hot sun wasn't as bad as it could have been.

Though after a couple of hours, we were really just ready for the duck to get in there and didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the acrobats and band, who I'm sure had worked really hard in preparation. I felt sorry for them when, due to a technical hitch, they had to pad out the time by repeating a song and sequence that hadn't been that interesting the first time around.

But there was a rubber duck cannon that fired 3000 ducks into the water! Bubble machines! Duck bill whistles for the kids!

I was impressed by Huff and Puff's restraint, who dutifully obeyed when they were told they weren't to blow on their whistles until they saw the duck, and then they could blow to welcome him in (though Huff couldn't blow into the whistle with enough force to muster a quack was pretty cute).

Little A had a rubber duck from home that she played with while she waited, but we scored a few more when the duck collectors started chucking them into the crowd (one for each of the kids and one for G's duck-loving ferret).

Once the giant duck started drifting in through the Pyrmont Bridge, everyone just smiled. So much smiling! I wonder what the kids made of it. I wonder if, at that age, you can still be all, "yeah, it's a giant duck. That's not unusual, is it?", or whether you're completely confused about what's going on.

I love art that plays with what is 'normal' and what 'should be'. There was whimsy enough to satisfy even me, and a lovely day in the outdoors with friends.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

moving auto-style

I know it matters little, but I've moved back to blogger. I just got fed up with my wordpress site getting hacked and not understanding or caring enough to keep on top of things. My move back wasn't entirely painless - I've lost all my comments and photos. There was probably a better way to fix it but as I said, care factor = very low. I fixed the photos on the first few posts so that it doesn't look completely rubbish  and I'll get around to the rest sometime. I'll put my craft posts up here too rather than keeping a separate site for that, because although I had some plans for the other site, I just don't have the energy to do anything with it.

I hate feeling inept about web stuff, but I have to accept that it is not a bad thing to use the tools that make life easier, instead of trying to control and modify everything! It's a bit like driving an auto versus a manual...yeah, it might give you more control and whatever driving a manual, but really, the auto gets me where I need to go with a lot less stress.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Rachel's in-between cardigan

I've decided this is an in-between cardie because it will be useful in autumn when it's not quite cold but a little chilly. I worked on this cardie in full view of its recipient and all the while she thought I was making it for myself...bwa ha ha...I was happy on Christmas day when mum unwrapped her present and was surprised!

Though it wasn't entirely without angst...I thought I had been very careful with counting rows and whatnot but when it came time to sew the cardigan up I realised one side of the front was longer than the other. Whoops! I didn't have time to do anything about it, and really, I probably wouldn't have anyway. I lined up the lace pattern at the bust, and then the excess fabric at the top I turned over into an asymmetrical collar and sewed buttons onto it.

Mum did have a bit of trouble lining up the buttons, but when I gave her a tutorial (line up the edge between the solid bit and the lace bit) it was all good!

Also I did take photos of her on Christmas day modelling it, but then accidentally deleted them so here I am, showing off. :)

Yarn: Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 8 Ply in sweet pea
Pattern: based on the imaginatively named Crochet Cardigan by Patons with accidental adjustments by me

Saturday, 5 January 2013

a long Les Mis ramble

Just saw Les Misérables. Want to write my thoughts down without reading reviews (and then go and read reviews and see whether I agree). I've managed to stay away from most of the reviews, except for people saying that they loved it or otherwise on Facebook. Sometimes I don't mind review spoilers, but for this one I wanted to make up my own mind.

So, some background...

Musical theatre is one of those weird things that you can get fully absorbed in when you're young without really understanding anything about the story. All you care about are the big, standout songs and the romance of it all. For some adults, that's also as far as their appreciation goes (if that wasn't the case there would be fewer singers with show off albums featuring Andrew Lloyd Webber songs).

As a teenager, I loved Les Mis.  I had had passing passions for embarrassing boy bands and the like, but with Les Mis, it was love. The drama! The passion! The music! The endless opportunities to pretend to be a lovelorn waif in front of the mirror while blasting the Complete Symphonic Recording (no abridged highlights for me)!

From the dog-earedness, I obviously had a good crack at it

I even tried to read Victor Hugo's book. I tried. It was long, okay? Blah blah blah, political stuff, blah...It only really starts to get interesting when we meet Cosette in the inn, and even after that I skipped a lot. (I just found a card that was inside my copy of the book - I was in year 8 when I tried to read it...I should probably give it another go!)

As far as the musical went, Act 2 was where it was at. Jean Valjean...yeah okay, he was important. But Fantine? Boring. I dreamed a dream? Bor. Ing. I guess Lovely ladies was kind of a fun song...but  I realised that, being about prostitution and all, I probably shouldn't sing it too loudly. But Act 2 with the Cosette-Marius-Eponine love triangle and the angst and the dying in the rain, that was where it was at!

Ah. Adolescence. What a deep, well-rounded, thoughtful human being I was.

In preparation for the film (yes, I needed to prepare, so what?), I listened to the complete soundtrack a couple of times. I hadn't listened to it for a long, long time and a lot of what I loved came flooding back. But what surprised me was enjoying it on a whole new level. Relishing the themes of grace and redemption, understanding Fantine's story and feeling her sorrow, being interested in the stories of Valjean and Javert and - shock! - finding the love triangle stuff a bit tiresome.

It was like I had grown or something.

And now, finally, onto the movie...

I was very excited to sit in the cinema tonight (with over 100 other people who had all bought tickets to raise money for Anglicare - awesome!), even if the lady next to me kept making obvious remarks (such as "oh that was silly" when Valjean steals the church's silver), and even if a kid down the front said, horrified "what? It's a musical?" as it started.

I really enjoyed it. The production design is very well done. The casting is mostly good -  even if some of the actors' singing voices weren't super powerful, they made up for it by, well, acting. Yes, Anne Hathaway is incredible; she manages to hit the right mix of vulnerability and tenacity, but her slide into despair is just heartbreaking.

Act 1 was, by far, the strongest part of the film. I think up until we meet the Thenardiers it is absolutely spot on. And then...then it started to feel a bit like they realised it was a really long show so they needed to start trimming lines and verses of songs here and there (I guess that's where it's a downside to know the score so well). The Thenardiers were pretty disappointing and flat, surprising given that Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are some pretty big personalities.

Act 2 felt like a bit of a mushy mess - and that was the bit I had loved the most as a teenager! Eponine - my dearly beloved Eponine - felt like more of an afterthought. The little phrases and interactions between her and Marius that show their friendship were cut, so when they sang A little fall of rain together, the intimacy was kind of weird.

It picked up again by Act 3, with the battles on the barricades and it all wrapping up. Hugh Jackman is pretty wonderful towards the end.

Overall, though, I thought it was great. Not perfect, but one director's vision of the musical.* I cried a lot. I want to see it again.

The themes of grace and redemption, the idea of a life won for God and a strong faith in him were clear. Our friend K, who recently became a Christian, came to see the movie with us and she said how she couldn't understand how anyone who wasn't a Christian could enjoy it. I told her how much I'd loved it as a teenager, but I didn't really get it (even though I thought I did), and that a lot of people probably just enjoyed the music without really thinking about it. Maybe people like the love story. Maybe people just like epic sagas. Maybe people can look at it at a distance and say "well, it was set in the 19th century, people were more religious back then" and think it has nothing to do with them.

But ultimately, it's about how none of us on earth are happy. We are all restless, all searching, all longing for things to be different. We are all longing for that day where there will be no more injustice, no more crying. We all want to be loved. We all want to be free. I think that's why the show has gone on so long and resonated with so many people; we all feel these things.

But so many are like Javert, who cannot stand grace being shown to him and would rather die than be in debt to another. So many think they can bring about heaven on earth through success, money, social change. But it is only through accepting God's gift of love and grace - his son Jesus dying to pay our debt - that we will ever join him in his kingdom, that place where chains will never bind us.

* It occurred to me it's possibly like comparing the BBC Pride and Prejudice  to the 2005 Joe Wright version...both, in my opinion, excellent adaptations, but both very different.