Friday, July 24, 2020

Iso pants

What you do in isolation. Make warm trousers from that drab (but woollen) material you've had for years but brighten them up with whatever material scraps there are in the cupboard.

I am not sure where either bits of lace came from. One was from the edge an ancient doily, the other is lace from a long forgotten project.

The first photo was taken before I tidied up the doily lace with a band of material.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Review: On the Wings of an Albatross

On the Wings of an Albatross - an A-Z of Australian and New Zealand Birds

Amazon is not sending books to Australia at the moment so I had a copy of my new children's book sent to a friend in London, an ex teacher and avid reader. She just got the book and here is the text she sent me this morning: 

'On the wings of an Albatross has arrived. The paintings, the colour and the playful text all are exquisite. Wow, it's an amazing book, which will be much cherished.  I think you will be really pleased by the quality of the print - the whole thing is great.'

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

On the Wings of an Albatross

Woo hoo .... Just published! A children's book, suitable for kids from 3-8.

Children's book: suitable for ages 3-8

This book is available as an ebook or as Paperback. 

This is an iso-book, unplanned but fun to do and here is the back story.

In May I joined an online art group that decided to draw an animal a day. I drew birds. At that stage of the pandemic it was very comforting to join others in a regular occupation. We shared our artwork  for comment and although I didn't know any of the participants personally, by the end of May I felt I knew some of them quite well.

As the month progressed I learned quite a bit about the birds I was drawing and I developed a particular affection for some of them ...the New Zealand Robin for example.
New Zealand Robin

One thing led to another and by mid June I was busy developing this children's book. It took a while to learn how the publisher software worked, in particular how to format for print editions.

But now it is done and I have just heard that the Paperback as well as the eBook versions are available online. I have linked them, but perhaps it takes a while to update the links so you can see both versions from the same page.

I tried to order a couple of copies of the print edition but Covid 19 has led Amazon to suspend deliveries to Australia for the time being, so I will have to wait.

In the meantime, if you have a young friend who would like an A to Z of Australian and New Zealand birds, it is available as an ebook ...and as Paperback in the USA, UK and other places with a local Amazon publishing operation. 


I have just looked at the price of the paperback on the various Amazon sites.
The price of you buy in the USA is extraordinary, even without postage. IIt is much less expensive elsewhere. (USA) :
Paperback Price: USD 24.68 = £19.76 =€21.91
eBook: USD 3.43 (Germany)
Euro 5.33 ebook
Euro 13.84 for paperback (Taschenbuch)

£11.75 Paperback 
£ 4.83 ebook

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Pink roses, white roses and Salvia

The multiplier effect. If you have a few flowers you can turn the vase and imagine the rest.
Roses and Salvia, 40 X 50 cm
Covid19 Isolation painting

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Nearly two months of isolation.

It is nearly the end of April and I haven't blogged nearly as much as I thought I would during this lockdown. I thought I might track changes as they happened, but instead one day has slid into the next and I have been consumed by painting. I look back at what I blogged and find that life was normal on 14 February and abnormal by 15 March. Actually the change happened in Sydney during the second week of March. On 1 March I had no idea that by 14 March I would be avoiding a big birthday bash I was planning to attend. On 7th I decided to self isolate. By the 13th I was no longer alone. By 23rd everyone was self isolating (or at least, everyone who had been watching the calamity unfolding elsewhere). The reaction of the Australian public is what had helped us avoid a major catastrophe here because we acted more quickly than our governments.

I had to do something to stop myself becoming obsessed with the virus and painting became my escape route.  I woke a couple of times this week, trying to solve painting issues on very large canvases, so I must paint through the night as well as during the day. Painting problems aren't the stuff of nightmares luckily. I suspect I am making up for a year of forced painting abstinence while I was house selling/buying as well.

Now I look back at 2019 and thank my lucky stars that I sold when I did and that I was obsessive in looking for a place to move to. I had a lease that was going to expire on 5 March. Instead I moved in November and now I am glad that I made the decision to break my lease, even with attendant difficulties.  I found a successor immediately, and that helped.

There is a little patch of garden here where I am now living which is worth gold during lockdown when even a few steps outside feels like freedom. The few plants I had time to plant before lockdown like their new home and have been flowering I picked all the pre-winter roses in pots or the garden (that was easy as there were not many) to paint and once I started painting them, it was hard to stop. There is something so charming and ephemeral about flowers.

Saturday, April 04, 2020


This is such fun in times of Coronavirus I will post it here. I copied it from twitter. 

Once again The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words.

The winners are:
1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle 👎, olive-flavoured mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.), emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon 👎, a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition
The winners are
-Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
-Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
-Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
-Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are late.
-Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
- Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these Really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
- Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
- Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
- Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in fruit you're eating.
pick of the lot
- Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole
Daisies on my walk this morning

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Entitlement and community

Wealth changes people, that is now clear.  Some of the entitled have been too entitled to take precautions against this virus. Think of Boris boasting about shaking hands. Many put others at risk without qualms, like the golfing couple whose names are circulating on social media.  They knew they were infected but travelled to south Australia and took to the golf course anyway.  The entitled seem able to subvert normal processes with apparent ease, like the well connected folk on the Ruby Princess cruise ship. They didn't want to be locked in quarentine so the whole ship was allowed to dock and passengers disperse without any restrictions, resulting in the virus being spread far and wide in Australia. Under duress themselves, this sort of process corruption enrages people.

Sometimes it is odd comments by friends that cause one to do a double take. A friend who is newly wealthy (not super rich but well off enough to be able to stop work) commented that he is put out by having to change his plans for the winter.  I didn't have much sympathy.

On the other side are those who have never been entitled. As time goes on and people recover from the initial panic, there are signs of community caring everywhere. I was looking out the window just now, watching a neighbour (or perhaps their employee) maintaining the verge  in front of their house. He saw me watching and waved. I waved back. Normally people might nod and look away. I looked again and saw him making for my side of the road. We spoke though the window ...he wanted to know if I was ok and was I enjoying it here in my new home. Turns out his home is down the road but he is often at the house of the neighbours - probably family I would think.  so now we know each other's names - that is a good beginning to neighbourly relations. The interaction left me feeling very positive about the world.
On my walk this morning. : Tibouchina - Purple Glory Tree.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

White Roses and Salvia

Self protection is the name of the game at the moment and I find concentrating on projects instead of following the news helps a lot.  At the moment the news is almost completely swamped by Coronavirus.  I wonder how long it will be until we see other news take over again. I think those countries taking the strongest measures will be those who get back to normal most quickly. I wish our government agreed with me, but they are taking the incremental approach and I don't want to watch the incremental disaster unfold.

I have finished my white roses painting. It was one of those paintings that worked without a fight. That is, without too many changes to the final product. The rule in acrylic and oil painting is to work from dark to light, whereas I come from a watercolour background where you work from light to dark. I have decided to work somewhere in the middle with acrylics and it is working for me.

White Roses and Salvia
This painting makes me think of my mother who would have turned 100 a few days ago if she was alive. She adored roses and painted them with skill.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Banishing those feelings of trepidation

I'm am used to being alone and I enjoy my own company but in these times of Covid19 I am sometimes overcome by feelings of trepidation. I log on to have a quick look at the news and stay online too long. Then some time later I find myself counting the days since I self quarantined or worrying my nearest and dearest will get really sick. In the 19th century that would probably have been a default setting. Switching back to neutral requires some effort (food is a good distraction.)

On the positive side, I am getting emails from friends who normally don't write. I am sure I am not the only person reestablishing links that had become almost nonfunctional through lack of use. One friend has taken to writing four line poems. Maybe that is something to try, although they are probably much harder than they seem.

My rose painting is progressing.
A bit of shadow in the petals (left) before adding some creamy white (right)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The joy of White Roses and Salvia

Little did I guess what joy the little rose bush I planted in my small garden (previously just grass) in February would bring in March. I have started a white rose painting.

Monday, March 23, 2020


In the interest of self preservation I am trying to avoid watching the news.  I find it too distressing watching the incompetence. It is hard to sign off because  my finger automatically reaches for the news on my phone and suddenly there are the lists of catastrophes.  I will have to retrain myself.

This afternoon I slept for an hour on the sofa, making up for two sleepless nights. I felt groggy, as you do if you sleep so long during the day, but I also felt better for the sleep.

I have had a bowl of lemons on the sideboard since painting them six weeks ago and I decided  to make them into lemon syrup.  They had been slowly drying out in their bowl, so the decision was overdue. I couldn't help thinking of the housewives of past generations who spent so much time making their own preserves. I suspect it is a habit that will reemerge as we reassess what is important.

Lemons in blue bowl

Destination compost

Breaking point: Australia and Covid19

This morning I woke feeling incredibly stressed after a second wakeful night. Until now I seem to have been able to react calmly to this crisis, practising social distancing for a couple of weeks already and by now in lockdown.

But I heard a doctor on the radio overnight, talking about Australia's unforgivablely slow response to the virus. I have tracked the development of the virus since its inception so this information was not new. What the doctor pointed out, however, was the unethical and immoral reaction of the University sector to the initial ban on those from the epicentre of the outbreak. The Universities brought the Chinese students in via third countries, not only putting their students and staff at risk, but the people in those third countries. It was unconscionable behaviour because they have all the experts on staff so they in knew what they were doing.

This information on top of all the other missteps by government seems to have tipped me over the edge. I am really angry with both the Federal government and with the Universities. This is what happens when money becomes more important than people.

Thankfully our State Governments have decided to act on their own this weekend and not wait for instructions from our incompetent and compromised Federal government. Our PM is a Trump supporter and is acting similarly. Poor Australia.

On the positive side, this crisis is highlighting the things that are important that have been under threat by our neoliberal government: the ABC (still under threat of defunding) and actually all the rest of our community resources.

Across the ditch in new Zealand they have an intelligent and empathetic leader giving clear instructions, being transparent and accountable. We are so very envious.

Time will pass. If we can learn from this disaster we may be able to save the world for our grandchildren.

Banksia flower. Photo taken yesterday on my morning walk.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

So what are we buying in the time of #Coronavirus?

A clothes store sends me emails with special offers which I sometimes look at but usually delete unopened. Today when I saw the email it made me wonder who is going to buy clothes in the time of corona virus?

Suddenly we are working from home so we don't need petrol, we don't need work clothes and nor do we need sports, gym wear or swimwear (they say to stay away from pools).

In fact what do we need at all really?  A musical instrument to learn perhaps, Sudoku puzzles, books. It would be nice to have a decent broadband connection but I have given up on the NBN having tried it in a previous house. Instead I am relying on my phone as a hotspot which is working well for me and much cheaper, even live streaming the odd opera.

The change to our consumer habits is long overdue. We didn't seem to be able to get off the consumer conveyor belt within our current structures. Will this crisis be with us for long enough for us all to rethink our options I wonder?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Making the most of quarentine

A 15 year old of my acquaintance, striving to loosen the harness, is driving his parents crazy in the process, particularly at a time when we all need to pull together (previous post). We talk very seldom, but I have his phone number and just now I gave him a call.

Every fledgling has to develop its own wings to be able to flutter from the nest so I do understand him, but his parents' distress had made me feel very negative about him. When I heard of his reaction to Covid 19 I could have gladly wrung his neck and it took me all day to think of something constructive to do that might help both he and his parents. It is not that he and I have much communication, or any really.

The thing is, he is good at English, even gifted at English. His family had expected him to excel at science and math because he finds them easy, so it is with some astonishment that they discover his talent and interest is in a different direction.  He is not only good at writing, he is an exceptional drawer. His drawings are like his writing, imaginative if distopian.

Anyway, I just rang him to suggest that he might think about using this coming period of home incarceration (with any luck the schools will soon be closed) to write a book. Something for this age group, with or without illustration. I told him that if he is interested in doing so, I will help him publish on Amazon.

The beginning of our conversation was mainly grunts from his end, but by the end I was getting proper replies. I am hoping the change in tone meant he is actually interested in the idea, not just relieved at not being castigated.  I would love to be involved in helping publish his first novel. I asked if I might check back in a week to see what he thinks of the idea after consideration and he said yes, so I have made a note in my diary to call him.  I'll not say anything to the parents as I suspect that would immediately put a kybosh on the whole idea. I do hope that, on reflection, he does find the idea a sound one although I don't know how one competes with the allure of computer games. 

I watched the Vienna State Opera company's performance of Rheingold this afternoon (they have made their Livestream free for the duration of the lockdown) and  that together with a possible collaboration with my young friend has made me feel much more positive about the world.

Teen-agers in viral times

My heart goes out to those with rebellious teen-agers, kids kicking over the traces but now forced to stay home (or soon will be) with family.  Do we just let them binge on computer games (the male of the species seems most afflicted)  and, if not, how do we best motivate them to aspire to something more productive? 

These same rebellious teen-agers are often beautifully polite and considerate when they are at their friend's houses, but that is no longer an option either. Or maybe it could be. Families could swap teen-agers for the duration. It might have interesting outcomes.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Behavioral changes in the face of catastrophe

I grew up on a farm in New Zealand. When we went to town my mother always wore a pair of gloves. Summer or winter, always gloves. It was because you 'caught germs in town'.

My mother was born in 1920, in other words, just after the flu pandemic that killed so many. Now in 2020 at the start of the worst pandemic since, I remember my mother and her gloves and wonder how Covid 19 will affect us and future generations, what we will demand of our governments,  what sort of behavioral changes will be long lasting.

My mother's gloves

Dr Norman Swan recommends proactive national lockdown | ABC News

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coronavirus in Sydney

I've been thinking of setting up a blog to track Coronavirus but things are moving so very quickly that it is hard to keep up. Sydney is suddenly tracking quickly along that exponential curve we are familiar with from Wutan and Italy. Today we have 11 new cases in NSW that are not connected to previously infected people or to overseas travel, so we are definitely in phase 2. A couple of weeks ago I would not have believed I would be socially distancing to the extent I am. Keeping 6 feet from everyone and staying home as much as possible. No more concerts, at least for now. My heart goes out to all the musicians affected (among many others). Now is the time for universal basic income.  The next two weeks will be a torrid time but I am hoping we can avoid Italy's fate. There are 10 pages of obituaries in today's Milan newspaper.

Much depends on our government and the problem we have is that our current government has been rewarded for focusing on tribal politics and they now seem incapable of thinking outside the square. Trump does something outlandish and our PM Morrison seems to do the same thing. They are cut from the same cloth, both marketing men with empathy deficit. In addition Morrison is an active member of a penticostal church that is getting ready to welcome the rapture (after they have all made lots of money). It is not very encouraging for the Australian public to have the medical establishment's opinion overruled or derided, although I must say it is refreshing to see the science establishment is at least being consulted.

This virus will show us just how important science actually is and will perhaps give us the opportunity to change our ways, as we will have to do to survive climate change. I had just about given up on the chances of the human race to survive, now I am not so sure.  This nasty lesson will hopefully refocus us on what is really important.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Beethoven's 1st, 2nd, 3rd Symphonies with the ACO.

Beethoven is everywhere this year and I have no complaints at all. I can listen to Beethoven any time, anywhere. Today I heard Beethoven's Symphonies 1, 2 and 3 played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

Anna Melville, Head of Programming with the ACO gave the introductory talk. I am not alone in enjoying her talks and the small presentation room was packed, with people sitting on the floor to listen. She talks about the context in which the music was written and adds a thing  or two about the music that we might otherwise not hear.

Anna Melville presents

ACO members were augmented by wind instrumentalists from the world over, and by students from the Australian National Academy of Music, ANAM. It was heart warming to see each of the young musicians playing beside their mentor. The ACO works extremely hard but they are a happy crew and I can't think of a better way to be introduced to the playing life than as a member of this band.   They were all playing on gut strings, perhaps a first for some of the students, and several disappeared to get strings mended when they broke. (Melville had told us that there is an expert in re-stringing instruments back stage.)

They all played magnificently and the audience was rapt. What a pleasure to know that these young folk have chosen classical music as their career choice. Or perhaps music has chosen them. Right in my line of sight sat ANAM student James Morley with his cello shining yellow in the hall lighting. I couldn't resist making a little sketch as he played.

James Morley with his cello