Reverb 10 – Days 1 to 4

I signed up to get daily prompts during December from Reverb 10 (an “online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next”), as I thought it might be an opportunity to write a bit more, despite the words “manifest” and “reverberate” making me wince a little. But I’m not that good at actually writing in response to daily prompts, particularly during December, so here’s a couple of responses all in one post.

December 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

The ‘one word for the year’ is a bit of a thing among those vaguely new-agey self-improvement circles online – and it depends on my mood as to whether I think this is a valuable or pointless idea. I actually did choose a word for this year, back in January, which was “rhythm” – it connected with a couple of goals of mine, such as playing more music and being more organised. And while I did play a lot more music (and learnt to play a new instrument) this year, the more organised thing didn’t really happen. I still put things off far too long – if anything, this year has kind of carried me along with it. So if I was going to select a word for it – let’s go with “floating”. And a word for next year? Summit. As in, climbing towards it. I’d like to be less carried by the current.

December 2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

My writing is so sporadic that I don’t think it even deserves the term “my writing”. And as for what doesn’t contribute to it – I don’t contribute to it, by not devoting enough time to it. See above tendency to put things off.

December 3 – Moment. Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

The way I review my year is my scrolling through the 2010 folder on my photo hardrive, each folder within that one labelled with the date and vague descriptions that drive the husband insane. (“What the hell is ‘pumpkins, self portraits, cake’?” he says in exasperated tones. Why, exactly what it says.)

One of my most vivid alive moments this year was playing at the world record attempt at the Cairns Ukulele Festival – being surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of other people strumming and singing and smiling, the press of people who loved music and the instrument. My fingers hurting from playing 7 minutes of the same chords over and over. The bloke on stage singing the verses of Achey Breakey Heart over and over again in a relentlessly cheerful way. And it was a fantastic moment nevertheless – a great vibe.

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

Walking towards our house at night and looking up to see the stars and the moon spread out through the dark silhouettes of the trees.  Singing gospel. Getting out of my comfort zone and seeing new things – amazing musicians, and very intense sci-fi fans.  Capturing little bits of life with my camera.


After watching the husband crunch across the driveway in bare feet.
“Ah – good morning. I may have stolen your thongs.”
“You may have?”
“Well, yes. You know how, um, the potential of every action creates, um, another potential… universe?”
“Isn’t it ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’?”
“Well, yes, but that’s not the one about universes. Anyway, all I’m saying is that I think we’re living in the universe where I may have stolen your thongs. Sorry.”

Workmate: “Ben’s tie makes me want to vomit.”
Me: “It’s blue. What on earth about that tie could make you want to vomit?”
W: “It’s just disgusting.”
Me: “I don’t understand you. Honestly, if that tie makes you want to vomit, you must look at me coming into work every day and wince.”
W, in a gentle and kindly tone: “No, I don’t anymore.”

(Inspired by Circulating Library’s Strange Conversations.)

Baby drool

The husband has been away again, playing golf this time, and the cats and I have been at home attempting to be productive. Well, I have been attempting to be productive – the cats have been sleeping, napping, and shedding hair all over the furniture. (And were my attempts successful? Well, to a certain extent. The washing is done. I think that counts).

I went out this morning to take some photos of work friend’s baby, who had just woken up and was in a happy smiling mood (thankfully, as the last time I saw her she wept tragically the entire time). She squeaked away, and spent a while chewing gummily on my knuckle, while I worried about whether it was actually clean enough to be chewed on. But she seemed to enjoy it. My knuckle has the baby seal of approval.


Tony Backhouse conducting at a gospel workshop over the weekend. I love singing gospel, and really enjoy his workshops – not only the chance to sing with a big group, but also with such a great choir leader. There’s nothing like that feeling of singing gospel and having the group really getting into the groove in the vamp section, the words and rhythm gradually changing, and everyone moving together. Fantastic.

Down by the sea

We just spent a few days staying by the sea at Bargara, which is a small town near Bundaberg, about four or five hours drive away. We stayed in an apartment looking out onto the ocean, slept with the windows open to the sound of the waves, and spent a lot of time walking along the shore. I also played a lot of ukulele, which is really the perfect instrument to play on a balcony looking out to sea. It’s the right setting. Possibly not while playing Hotel California though.

We went and checked out some wetlands in Bundaberg, which didn’t have a huge diversity of birdlife to my amateur eyes, but did have lots of ducks, a family of swans, and a darter drying its wings in the early morning sunshine.

I am finally getting used to my new glasses, which have thicker arms than the ones I’ve had for the last 15 years or so, and initially made me feel as if I had blinkers on. I love them – I quite disliked my old glasses when I was in high school, and didn’t get any fonder of them as time passed. So it’s nice to finally have a change, after putting it off for so long.

Apart from occasionally throwing admiring glances at my spectacled reflection, I spent the rest of the holiday trying to perfect those pesky jazz chords, reading Gail Carriger’s Soulless and Robin McKinley’s Chalice, watching the first season of Six Feet Under and re-watching Sharpe episodes. The Sharpe series is where Sean Bean is charging around in the Napoleonic wars being northern, despising most of his fellow officers and having it off with just about every woman who happens upon the British army. Most entertaining.

We also set up a new recording studio area in the granny flat, so that my poor little laptop will no longer have its processing powers pushed to freezing limits. The flat has been dubbed the Rat Room, due to its current residents. They have had several lovely snacks out of my live trap without triggering it so far, the little bastards. They must think I’ve decided to provide them with a regular nightly buffet, which just happens to be plated up in a cage. I’m going to adjust the sensitivity of the door and try it again. One day, my ratty friends. One day.


One of our little kookaburra family has got all territorial prior to breeding season, and has been attacking our windows. There’s nothing more relaxing than being woken up at 6am on a Sunday morning by a crazed kookaburra hammering its scarily large beak against the glass, like it’s trying to break the window, get into the house and kill us all. Well, there probably are more relaxing things, but I can’t think of them right now. I’m sleep deprived.

In an effort to stop the kookaburra attacking its reflection, I have taped alfoil on the outside of the kitchen windows (which is a great look, and has transformed the kitchen into a dark alfoil cave), which was somewhat successful, but has just forced the kookaburra to move onto other windows. Including the one in our bedroom. I suppose I could cover the entire house in alfoil. Or wait for the breeding season to end. One or the other.


A month or so ago, after being inspired by a choir member who plays, I bought a tenor ukulele – a lovely mahogony Kala with a beautiful mellow and sweet sound. I have never been able, or sufficiently motivated, to learn to play guitar, although I have always liked the idea of being able to accompany yourself on an instrument while singing. But whenever I tried to play guitar, I found most of the chords too difficult and never persevered long enough to strengthen my hands.

The ukulele, happily, is much easier than a guitar to learn to play. Not only is it smaller, both in width and the distance between the frets, but it only has four strings and its tuning means that there are many simple chords, several with only one or two fingers. I have found it very easy and tremendously enjoyable to pick up and play. In fact, the hardest part about the ukulele for me (apart from most of the four fingered chords which I still find difficult – E! Bm!) is learning to strum and finger pick, which are all new to me. I have played violin, and a little flute and piano when I was younger, but nothing strummable. It’s particularly hard to keep up a strumming pattern and sing at the same time (something which I haven’t mastered, yet continue to inflict on all within earshot).

I’m getting nice rough finger pads on my left hand, and hopefully soon the side of my index finger will toughen up a bit so I can do bar chords, where you press the entire length of your finger against the neck of the instrument. I find them incredibly difficult for some reason, despite the small size of the ukulele, but presumably one day my fingers will learn to stretch that far.

I am so tempted to head up to Cairns in July for the Ukulele Festival (if I combine a parental visit with the festival it doesn’t sound quite so frivolous). Check out James Hill, who’s attending and doing some workshops – not your stereotypical ukulele.

On foot

“Where are you off to?” asked the husband, as I sat in front of the TV lacing up my sneakers. “Out for a run,” I said. And in response to his query regarding available lighting outside, “The moon’s full, it’ll be fine.”

One aspect of this plan that I hadn’t fully considered was the fact that the moon had not actually risen yet, and was present as a very faint glow on the horizon. My 5k loop from the front gate of our property includes one street light at about the mid-point, and otherwise goes along completely unlit roads. There are also various unimpressed horses, barking dogs, and the odd flock of ducks. This is rural running, yo. Which is fine at dusk, or when the moon is actually above the horizon, but that particular night was quite dark indeed.

My eyes adjusted a little, but everytime a car drove past not bothering to lower its high beams (thanks neighours), I would lose my night vision completely. At one point I nearly ran into a wheelie bin. I also spent some time glaring suspiciously at a pale patch on the other side of the road, which I suspected might be the bald guy who’s always running at night. I’m sure he’s perfectly pleasant but I wasn’t anxious to run into him on a deserted road in the dark. It turned out to be an innocent bit of paper, stuck to a post.

There’s a property on our street that gears up every December to win a prize in the Christmas lights competition – it’s a big property with two houses on it and a long street frontage, and at the moment it looks as if a giant elf has been overcome by Christmas cheer and exploded all over it. People come by of an evening, park on the street and hang around the fence, partaking in the blinding jolliness of it all.

By the time I came back on my run, the onlookers had mostly dispersed, and the house was blinking away in the dark, really faint Christmas music playing from somewhere, and glowing inflatable Santas and elves bobbing in the breeze and watching me. It was quite creepy. I was inspired to spend the last few minutes of the run mentally drafting the outline of a little horror flick about inflatable figures come to life, with KNIVES (come to think of it, a rather danger-fraught method of killing people if one is inflatable). I have now forgotten the major plot points, unfortunately – a tragedy for the movie-going public.

A wedding

My brother was married in October (which still sounds strange – my little brother, married), and I took some photos.

His wife-to-be looked beautiful.

I made the cake, with a fair bit of help putting together the tiers and the flowers. It turned out quite well, and after the happy couple left for their honeymoon we had quite a few very pleasant morning teas.

It was a gorgeous day, and lovely to see them both so tremendously happy. I particularly enjoyed spending some time with my extended family, my beloved tribe of aunts, uncles, cousins and babies. I adore them all, particularly the babies.

Early mornings

I have decided that I live too far from Brisbane to do the Bridge to Brisbane again. I am not sufficiently enthusiastic about the event to make getting up at 3.45am worthwhile. I don’t particularly enjoy hanging around in a crowd of thousands of people, waiting for everyone to start making their way over the bridge. And having to honk at drunken revellers still enjoying their night out and staggering around in the middle of the road is just depressing.

As I was getting into the car to leave, there were about four small explosions from a neighbouring property, followed by the sound of every dog in hearing beginning to bark. And there are a lot of dogs around here. It was a very noisy way for the day to begin.

As there were no further noises, like screams or shouts, I thought it probably wasn’t necessary to do anything further about it. Life in a rural area – breezes in the trees, bird song, and the occasional explosion at 3.45am.