Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee I’d invite you to take your pod espresso out on the spa deck overlooking the tennis court. Because, folks, we are AWAY at a lovely country retreat with a spa and a tennis court and a deck and a spot for Poppy the Groodle. It’s quiet and the birds are singing. Yesterday we sat in the spa and drank champagne while Poppy barked desperately at us because she doesn’t like the spa engine noise. Funny girl. 

It has been a shit week, folks, and I’d rather not talk about it, so here’s some super positive news: my bff has gone and got herself a dream job on the coast! 

So very happy for bff. Her working life has been, like mine, an uneasy mish mash of casual and part time Uni teaching and research work, and she was despairing of ever getting that tenure track lectureship. But huzzah, she was called up and offered a newly vacant job on the spot, because she was  appointable at a previously unsuccessful job interview at the same uni.

SO proud and pleased for my awesome friend. I’ll miss our regular lunches when she and her family move to the coast but it’s the right step for her, career AND family-wise. 

And it’s an excuse for me to travel to the coast more often. 😉

So the nearly ideal jobs keep trickling in. 2 at my uni of choice: one is a truly perfect-for-me tenured lectureship that will be hotly contested, and the other is a 2.5yr part time research position. I know I’m a serious contender for either but jobs are scarce and the competition fierce. 

I want the lectureship very badly. It’s in my areas of interest, and it’s promoting research teaching. I’d be totally awesome at this. I love research. I enjoy teaching it, and I enjoy finding out stuff. 

But the other job would also be awesome. I’ll take either, but obviously if it were a choice I’d go lectureship any day. So onwards with the key criteria….

The Waiting Game

There’s this job interview tomorrow… I’m in a nervous state. Sleeping poorly, waking in fright, minor panicking, that sort of thing.

Panic

The thing is, I want the job LOTS. I think I’d be great at the job, and it seems to suit my myriad skills. But the job is far, far away in a pretty Middle Earth* country, and I’m fearful of actually getting the job and having to move away from my husband and life in SE Qld.

I’m a little worried about self-sabotaging my job interview as a result. This would be the third job I’ve been interviewed for out of 5 proper jobs in the past year I’ve applied for. That’s a good result but kind of not. My first interview was diabolical. I was super well prepared for the presentation (which was awesome) but less prepared for the interview. And the interviewers were awful. I mean, not all of them: just the Chair. I couldn’t make head nor tail of the questions and the Chair clearly had not attended the presentation, so I was left thinking “hang on, I said all this already in the presentation” and rather inexpertly RE-explaining myself. Awful. Couldn’t give an elevator pitch – had never been taught how to, but also because I can’t reduce myself like that to a few dot points.

The second interview went really well but in the end I felt that they wanted someone who was a better fit for the job, someone with better electro-acoustic recording skills. I’m no good at that stuff. I had a look at their website today to see if there was a new member of faculty but I couldn’t see anyone. Maybe no-one fit the bill!

So this job. Fits my skill set. Hopefully they want me. A colleague said to me a few days ago: don’t try and anticipate what they want. You will sell yourself on your strengths and skills. And so it will be, I hope.

Third time lucky, eh?

don-t-panic-button

 

*C’mon. You know where that is, don’t you!

 

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee (or a brew), I’d be inviting you to sit with me on our small enclosed porch, which I’ve recently dressed with some fresh greenery and new cushion covers. It’s amazing how awesome a nook can look with some palm fronds and a pot plant or two. And a stray climber to add some hipster greenery chic. (No, I’ve not done that deliberately: it grew all by itself.) Sorry about the image size: WordPress used to have small, medium and large sizes but they’ve taken out the medium one. Bad, bad WordPress.

 

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I’ve been doing some cushion updating recently. Diabolical for my DH, who thinks the following scene is an appropriate reminder of what I’m doing to him:

I think they look quite nice but I concede I may have reached the limit:

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The stabby Ben Stiller limit. The truly sad part is that the old cushions are still on the bedroom floor awaiting repurposing!

While I’m waiting for my job interview, I’m doing some soft furnishing upgrades. I’m not yet ready to start painting the interiors again but it’s getting close! In the meantime, I’ve created rooms of colour stories. The master bedroom is and will be a combination of soft blues and greys, navy and white soft furnishings married with warm antiques and soft white walls. The lounge room is the winter room, best enjoyed with a comfortable rug and a glass of red wine. It’s warm reds and autumn colours married with dark wood furniture. The kitchen has splashes of red but I’m not being precious about the colours there. The dining room is a bright mish mash of primary colours, turquoise, orange, blues, greens, pink and yellow. It sounds too much but they’re mostly paintings and glassware, riotous pops of colour. I’m loving colour right now, but it’s best enjoyed with bright white walls and that means house painting. Not yet.

If we were having coffee you’d notice I’m rather enjoying some home time right now. I’m cooking a bit more; I’m baking, I’m loving the chookies. It’s easy in my household to be so outward looking that we don’t get to spend time making our home lovely. The DH, who it must be said is not a homebody, has finally mown the front lawn and we’re slowly cleaning up the garden in preparation for some landscaping. This morning DH cleared away a garden disaster zone near the house in the backyard and I have a cunning plan to level the area and pave it, giving us a bit more usable outdoor space while we wait in vain for the next lot of funds to renovate the remainder of the house.

As the wife of a VIP who runs a music school, I reached my functions threshold this week. Last night, to be precise. Sometimes I just need some quiet nights at home and this week was one of them. Never mind we’d been out Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings! This weekend is an ensembles festival. I begged off. Hubby has in no way tried to persuade me to accompany him, luckily.

Tomorrow is Mothers’ Day in Australia. I’m truly hoping I get to wish my mum a happy day, because it’s all getting a bit difficult to stay in touch from far away. You’d think birthdays and special occasions would become more important away from family. Truth is: life gets in the way and I often forget to plan for special times. I always swore it was due to busyness. Nah. I’m just forgetful, and the birthdays and special moments just seem to get closer and closer these days. The older I get, the faster they go by.

Screw you, old age.

older

Nah. Seriously. Have a great day, ladies. May your young children give you a piece of pottery they made in Art class; may your teenagers do the dishes, laundry, wash the floors and clean the bathroom and kitchen; may your adult children give you something really really special. Like a gift card for a massage or something. And champagne.

mothers-day

 

This post was brought to you by Diane, at Part Time Monster. There’ll be a linky very soon!

newcoffee

 

Friday Filibuster: Writing habits.

I’ve been trying to write a few vignettes of my home town lately in preparation for writing my crime novel (Nanowrimo is looming large) and I thought, in a moment of fancy, I would buy a pretty notebook and write by hand. But I’m a bit annoyed by the use of pen and paper. For a start, I can’t edit without crossing out and starting the sentence again. It’s slow and my sentences don’t get any better by handwriting them. And, sadly, I’m annoyed by the notebook I bought. The lines are made up of the stories of famous authors and are too legible for comfort. I may give up my attempts and transfer what I have to a writing folder in my Dropbox. The notebook can become the working notebook for my cabaret. And I’ll hightail it back to my lovely lovely Moleskin notebooks. Moleskins are great. They might be expensive, but they hold their shape, don’t fall apart, and have narrow lines. I don’t know why I abandoned them! No, hang on: I do. There weren’t any at the shop I went to.

I’m wondering if anyone else has the same frustrations as me? Has the long term use of your computer disabled your patience with long-form hand writing?

Sadly, I’m also really really bad at typing. I did a simple online typing course a few years ago and I developed some very good habits, but my typing speed never went above 50 wpm, and I make terrible, horrible typos. I’ve long since lost the skill and now I just look like a wanna be typist without talent or speed.

This morning I read a blogpost by a favourite scholarly blogger of mine: Patter, who wrote a light-hearted piece about what she wears when she writes. Upon awakening and before she has a shower, she gets into tracksuit bottoms and slippers and a sloppy joe. Hair goes up in a messy bun, cups of tea/coffee are made, and she writes for a couple of hours in the morning before planning her afternoon activities. Her habit describes mine to a T. I’m not an early morning person. So when I have a writing deadline, this is the best way for me to meet my targets.

Hilary Mantel does the same. In her words, published a few weeks ago in The Guardian:

I used to be a late starter, but now I get up in the dark like a medieval monk, commit unmediated scribble to a notebook, and go back to bed about six, hoping to sleep for another two hours and to wake slowly and in silence. Random noise, voices in other rooms, get me off to a savage, disorderly start, but if I am left in peace to reach for a pen, I feel through my fingertips what sort of day it is. Days of easy flow generate thousands of words across half a dozen projects – and perhaps new projects. Flow is like a mad party – it goes on till all hours and somebody must clear up afterwards. Stop-start days are not always shorter, are self-conscious and anxiety-ridden, and later turn out to have been productive and useful. I judge in retrospect. On flow days, I have no idea what I’ve written till I read it back. It’s a life with shocks built in.

You can read the whole article here. She doesn’t mind which writing medium she uses and she writes every day: The most frequent question writers are asked is some variant on, “Do you write every day, or do you just wait for inspiration to strike?” I want to snarl, “Of course I write every day, what do you think I am, some kind of hobbyist?”

It occurs to me that depression* breaks these hard-won habits. Depression and melancholia can disturb flow, and will power is meaningless when confronted by the miserable mind’s contrary bleakness. Which is why, I suspect, blogging is such a panacea for those with depression. It helps maintain connections, it promotes healthy habits, it helps to unburden the mind. And it keeps a writer writing.

 

*I don’t have depression right now. But I really do need a job to give me a sense of purpose, even though I’m starting to see the joy in having time to write, make music, compose and create again without being too worried about money. I’m not sure why I want a Proper Job. Maybe it’s the underlying middle-class Presbyterianism I was raised in!

The critical gaze. Or: maybe I should practice more.

I’ve been fortunate enough to perform with a corporate events group this last year and recently a video was taken of our show. While there are plenty of things that are good about the show, there’s plenty there that needs work. I’m always thrilled by the performances of others and a little perturbed about my own and the video I watched was no different.

I’m used to hearing my voice but not at a live gig. One of the things I noticed was an ease on stage and a level of stage presence that I’m pretty happy with. I’m not a great mover but at least in this show I look comfortable.

But my voice. Oh dear. Oh shit. I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board. We sing a lot of pop based songs and I’m in no way a pop singer: I’m more of a jazz/country/musical theatre singer. I don’t hate my voice (much) but as usual it sounds very different to how I imagine I’m singing.

One of the main problems I have is that in pop music I’m a real alto. Not as low as my female counterpart in the show, but I thought I was keeping all my vowels bright, wide and forward. NOT THE FRIGGING CASE. My tone sounds like it’s sitting in my cheeks. Fine for classical singing when you’re trying to sound like Maria Callas, but not when you’re pretending to be a rocker from the 80s.

Also, where did all that vibrato come from? It’s not a lovely bright twangy vibrato: it’s a wishy washy OMG did I just lose my core vibrato and warble on the end of my phrases vibrato! Damn. And let’s not talk about frigging intonation. Now, I’m going to forgive myself in a live event where I can’t even hear myself, let alone pitch the notes correctly. But dayum, girl, get the first note right!

I admit, I’ve been coasting. Part of the problem seems to be the ageing voice. When you’re used to carrying a lot of vocal weight from classical singing, to go to a bright pop sound is actually quite difficult. In truth, we all sound like we could use a good clean up. Which is unfair when we’re listening to a live recording.

So I’ve just recorded myself doing a couple of my solos and feel better about them already. I’m a quick study and can work out pretty fast the issues with vocal reproduction, but I really need to practice consistently every day if I’m going to be an attractive soprano and not an elderly caterwauler.

 

Holiday Funtime 

DH and I are on hols right now, although it doesn’t feel very holiday-like to me. Last Friday we flew south to my home town Melbourne for my son’s engagement party on the Saturday and I’ve been schlepping about so hard I’ll need a holiday to get over the holiday. 

Friday am we arrived and promptly went to bed for a bit, because I’m tired all the time. In the afternoon we dragged ourselves into town to visit Whistler’s Mother, which (who?) was on show at the NGV International. Then it was an early dinner at a Korean diner before 2 comedy shows at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Folks, there were 500 shows at this festival. Unbelievable. Then cocktails at my favourite little bar Double Happiness, which is quiet yet buzzing. Not too loud and shouty there. 

   
 
Saturday was the engagement do, but not before DH and I went back to the NGV to see Warhol and Wei Wei. An amazing exhibition. Then it was a delicious Mexican lunch at a great place on Chapel St before seeing another silly show at my favourite venue Chapel off Chapel. This time it was Songs for Sarah Connor, terminated. Not as original as I’d hoped: I wanted more original songs rather than rewrites of well known show tunes. 

Then, Sunday morning after the engagement party we borrowed my sister’s car and headed to Aireys Inlet for a brief respite from the world. It’s quiet here and you can hear the ocean from the house. 

  
Then on Tuesday I headed back to Melbourne for my sister’s PhD graduation. Very proud. We now have 2 doctors in the family, neither of the life-saving kind. 

  
Of course, a real doctor would have come in handy for when my newly minted Dr sister decided to have a mild allergic reaction to the shellfish at lunch and get an itchy redness. I didn’t leave town until well after 7pm, so am in bed today recovering. 

Tomorrow we must leave my favourite place but I’m pleased to announce that not only am I writing a cabaret but I’m also starting my crime fiction novel. At the moment I’m just writing a bunch of disparate scenes to see how I write fiction. There’s no plot yet. Mostly descriptions of Brisbane. I think I haven’t read enough crime fiction set in hot climates; mostly the books are set in temperate zones or cold climates. Time for some steam heat. 

So I’ve decided to do #2

That’s not a poop, folks. It means I’m gonna do the cabaret. Out of a list of 7 creative things, 2 was the consistent front runner. I did a straw poll on FB and my friends loved them all except the academic numbers, which I’ll save for quiet time. 

In the meantime I’m calling my cabaret “A Bagful of Crazy”: women on the margins. Or something like that. My problem is I’m not funny. I’m actually quite a serious person (which is why my husband is so good for me; he cracks me up every day). So it’s no good me doing a funny comedy show. I won’t be on my own; I’m roping in an ex-student, plus a woman in her thirties if I can get takers. They can do the funny songs and keep it fresh. I’m all tragedy. Pathetic really. 

I’ve already started the planning. Women in musicals are always written by men. There are perhaps 4 women I can name off the top of my head who’ve cracked the scene: Jeannine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie; Fun Home),  Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman (Secret Garden), and Cindy Lauper (Kinky Boots). Women in musicals can be written well. Sondheim is pretty good once he got over being lambasted for his poor portrayal of women in A Funny Thing…Forum. Marc Shaiman and Stephen Schwartz  draw women pretty well and each champion strong women such as Elphaba or Galinda. But there are a fair few women drawn as monstrous caricatures, such as Rose in Gypsy, or Margaret in Carrie. If played badly, they are rightly awful. I want to reclaim these women. They weren’t bad. They were lonely, sad, ignorant, prejudiced. Marginalised and maligned. They had their reasons for being awful. 

So the first challenge for me is to select the songs. I have about 10; I’ll need 12, and I’ll be culling as the cabaret takes shape. I’m thinking of doing a 2-week course in creating cabaret down in Sydney in July. Exxie but my business hasn’t had overheads this year, and I need a creative kicker to help shape the story and patter. 

I’m also writing some of my own songs. This will provide links to disparate songs and help shape the drama. 

For the first time in forever, this feels like a fun, creative thing. So, look out, folks. A Bagful of Crazy. Coming to a cabaret near you.