Friday filibuster

Hiya. It’s been a couple of weeks. I’m a hopeless blogger in that I lose track of days and then it’s a week between blogs and before you know it, October’s here already.

I don’t mean to do this, but I get busy sometimes. Even when I’m not “work busy”, other things such as birthday shopping get me otherwise occupied.

So, hello. I’m back. Last week was a fairly shitty week, when I had to accept I was not offered the job – they DID get back to me eventually, and it confirmed my supposition. But the letter was lovely and apparently I WAS impressive and had excellent skills – I just didn’t match the skills they needed for the job right now. There may or may not have been retail therapy.

Back to the drawing board. I’m doing some editing work, and applying for a DECRA, and eventually I will actually start my monograph. It’s a slog, so I’m ignoring it for now.

It’s a news blog day today!

In renovation news, all the electrical work is now done and I’m just waiting for the final bill. I still have to paint some of the sections and gap fill etc, but it’s not far off completion in the bathroom at least! (excluding the oil paint on the windows, for which I actually have to wait until it’s cooler). IMG_2974IMG_2981IMG_2969

The room looks quite chic but the tiles, lights, mirror and fittings were typical Australian prices and we didn’t go for the most expensive selections at all. Perhaps the most expensive element was the vanity unit, but I don’t have a break-down of the actual cost as it was built into the total price. The really fun part, after selecting all the bathroom fittings, was finishing off the decorations. It’s lovely to get some plants in the house: I’m a truly terrible plant keeper so these are surviving despite my best attempts to neglect them. Choosing vanity-ware, towels, bins and toilet brushes was ridiculously fun, too, and I’m so happy with the end result.

The other day I actually washed the floors throughout the whole house, so we’re nearly at normal again.


Personally I think housekeeping is a Sisyphean task for which I am singularly unqualified, so I prefer not to do it much. We are tidy people and I do clean up after myself on a daily basis, but I don’t count that as housekeeping: that’s more about managing personal cleanliness. (Put it back where you found it, or find a better spot for it!)

When DH and I were both working long hours I hired a fortnightly cleaner. The cleaner was rather passive aggressive, complained a lot and would try to destroy my vacuum cleaner through little vicious acts of sabotage. She went.

Anyway. Cleaning out other areas of my life: I’m over the pity party, so I’ve switched my brain back on and I’m determined to maintain a gritted teeth joie-de-vivre. Which is rather contradictory but what the hey. I’m almost at the “I really really need to tackle the tax” thought, and the creative and academic writing will continue now. I’ve had to accept that I won’t see any money for my efforts, but we can mostly cope. I AM gigging and teaching a bit, which is good, and I’ll keep trawling job sites for more work.

And soon I’ll have a go at painting the bedroom and lounge room, because they need doing. I just have to buy some more ceiling paint, grit my teeth, and do it.

Plenty of teeth gritting this year!

In other news I’ve decided to keep live chickens for eggs. Huzzah!


I’ve seen the hens and coop ($370) that will be perfect in our large backyard, and we don’t require a permit. It’s a stupidly expensive thing to do, given that we can buy a dozen free-range eggs for $6, and we rarely go through more than a dozen a week ($312 per year on average), but I want to control some of what I’m eating, from a purely ethical stance. In Australia while we have basic guidelines in place around free-range chooks they are not enshrined into law. The basic guideline states there should be 1500 chooks per hectare (1000m2), which gives them about the size of a queen sized bed each to scrabble around in. This is ok, but the powers that be (big food companies – is there a word that mimics “big pharma” for food?) want to make it 20,000 chooks per hectare. This is unacceptable.

Also, I want to know what my chooks are eating. We’ll feed them a combination of chook pellets (fish byproducts I’m told but there are vegetarian options), corn and wheat grain, and leafy green things. It’s not the cheapest option in the world – backyard farming – but it’s a fun thing to do and it’s not like I don’t have the time to keep my animals.

Our backyard is quite open. We will put the chookhouse in a shady area, but we also have to worry about foxes and snakes. Nevertheless, I’ve never seen a snake in our neighborhood, and Poppy the dog will kick up a ruckus if there’s a fox around. The possums don’t seem to have any natural predators here so they are fairly free with their wanderings, which makes me think the wildlife here is contained to birds and big-ass insects. I’m channelling my inner farmer here. My ancestors were farmers and I have kept chooks before. I love the gentle noises they make and the feel-good self-sufficiency of the backyard farm.

Of course, if I was a truly ethical eater I’d probably be a vegetarian. But it’s the little things that count. We try to buy bacon and pork products from a local butcher who sources ethical producers (those who don’t keep the piggies in little nasty pens, but give them room to move and live a short but hopefully happy life before they go to the slaughterhouse). And for years we’ve been eating free-range chickens, pole-and-line-caught tuna, farmed fish (we have a great farming industry in Australia that uses lots of efficient, earth-friendly practices), so on.

So I’m looking forward to naming my not-yet-purchased chooks, perhaps after Gilbert and Sullivan characters: Buttercup, Katisha, Yum-Yum? Ideas for names welcomed!

And now: I’m baking home-made muesli and spaghetti bolognese and delicious brownies. Hola!


Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee, you’d notice it was actually Monday morning here in the Southern hemisphere. This is flying under the radar of east coast USA, which is a cool (possibly frigid and snow-bound) 16 hours behind us. Therefore it’s only Sunday night somewhere in the world. I’ve already had 2 coffees and am very very ready for my third.

I’m dying here a bit. I had my job interview last Friday. It went really really well. Even if I don’t get the job, I’m not sure what more I could have done. I was open, friendly, answered the questions (which were easy and simple) to the best of my ability. I felt comfortable, at ease, poised and prepared. As I may have mentioned last week, I had a coaching which enabled me to get the best out of my elevator pitch, and illuminated my skills and strengths. I now know what I do really well, and I know I’m passionate about research. It has taken me until the last few weeks to work that out.

They have promised to call me today so my sleep has been rather interrupted. I’ve taken off the phone’s mute button; the default position. I’m not altogether sure they’ll ring today as tomorrow is Australia Day and it’s a holiday – there may be a Wednesday phone call instead.

But of course it’s Monday now and do you think I’ve done any meaningful work since I awoke? No, nope, non, nada, nyet. I DID get up and shower but my day has been otherwise characterized by lack of movement. Yet, I have a list of Things To Do. I have a DECRA to complete. I have some private teaching to plan (if I don’t get the job). I have 20 hours of editing work to do. I have a book proposal to finish and a monograph to write.

There’s plenty I could be doing. Dammit.

If we were having coffee I’d be telling you about the great weekend my hubby and I had in Sydney, that shiny, fast paced city. That we saw friends and shows and that I felt quite at home in a town that’s neither like Melbourne nor Brisbane. I’d be telling you about the rain that was a constant of the weekend.

I’d be telling you about a show we saw, ostensibly for children, composed by the brilliant Kate Miller-Heidke, called The Rabbits. It’s an allegorical tale about the 1788 invasion of Australia by the British, and the rape, destruction and desecration of the First Peoples of Australia (and their land) in the name of that abominable Roman concept of Terra Nullius (nobody’s land). It’s done beautifully, simply, and breaks your heart. Because its story is truth.

I’m an inhabitant of this land and have been all my life. My Irish, Scottish and English ancestors came here in the 1850s and worked the land, bred, and experienced both prosperity and privation. Even though for many years I was a single parent, poor and marginalised, I cannot imagine my children being removed from me and my homeland violated. I cannot imagine being part of a race who were so oppressed that the scourge of this oppression continues to this day through poverty, violence, drug and alcohol addiction, serious health problems, unemployment, lack of access to good quality food and water, education, housing, healthcare and legal services. And yet The Rabbits (published in 2000, written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan), this simple tale based on a picture book, let me imagine all of this and more.


(Copyright 1998 Shaun Tan. “They came by water”. Oil on canvas)

The book has won numerous awards and the opera (in all honesty it’s the most cross-genre work I’ve seen in forever because it includes operatic conventions, panto, pop, blues, and other elements I haven’t thought of yet, set on a stage) has been beautifully realised by Miller-Heidke. She is a composer of special quality. Trained as an opera singer, she has carved out a great career as a pop singer/song-writer. Her music becomes more sophisticated and beautiful the older she gets, yet it is mainly diatonic, tuneful and easy for the lay person to enjoy. The more educated ear also love her work because it sounds easy but just isn’t. She has that rare gift of eliciting emotion through key changes that a listener won’t understand unless you’ve been trained in it. And even then I cried. I just wanted to weep and weep and weep, but as I was not alone I felt hampered by social niceties, and therefore didn’t. Great art has the capacity to move you in all sorts of ways and this work moved me like few others. Take a look: The Rabbits

If we were having coffee I’d tell you about how good it was seeing an ex-student of mine act and sing beautifully in another show we saw called The Fantasticks. It’s a rather flimsy tale and with sinister undertones not fully realised in the rather meh production, but he was great. My lovely student. Very proud.

If we were having coffee you’d be one of several people I’ve managed to have coffee with over the last few days. The Sydney trip was not just for a job interview; it was an opportunity for rare catch-ups with friends and acquaintances. There was afternoon coffee with E who braved simply appalling traffic to get into the heart of town, a late supper with S who had just done a very awkward singing telegram, and brunch with one of my oldest friends C and his son, who is delightful, precocious and super bright. DH managed to be brave during it all – he’s not a friends-type of person, but he enjoyed the interactions nevertheless.

And if we were having coffee you’d notice I’m a little bit annoyed that the possums got to my herb garden on the back porch. It was only a matter of time, of course. Thus far they’re particularly fond of dill, parsley, and coriander. They’ve nibbled half-heartedly at the sage and won’t touch the rosemary, and aren’t interested in the basil, thyme or the oregano. The saddest bit is they’re not at all worried about the dog, who goes psycho when they arrive on the porch for their evening repast.

So now that we’ve had coffee and I’ve been procrastinating yet again, I’ll leave you with thanks and an invitation to join me again. Maybe not on a Monday morning, but on a lazy Sunday.

Au revoir!

(Weekend coffee share is hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. Why not join in the chat?)




The wheels of change grind slowly…and then they don’t

Feeling slightly bloggy today. That is, I want to be saying something, yet I’ve nothing much to say.

This week is the week of waiting and editing. Waiting for the bathroom to be done (ONLY the electrician is left now); waiting for some editing jobs to come in; waiting for Friday.

Friday is job interview day. I’m asking myself why I’m not walking the dog or doing some shopping but hey, there’s not much to be doing here other than TV watching (now onto season 3 of The Good Wife – a step down from The West Wing because it’s not as complex and just a little bit more melodramatic, but otherwise excellent).

I’m waiting for something to start. And start it has. I’ve just had a phone call from a colleague who may have some project work for me. So for a few weeks at least, if I don’t get the Friday job I now have some editing work, a DECRA grant to prepare, teaching singing to organise (although not much because I’ve been winding it down slightly), a possible project, and 4 singing gigs.

The year is gearing up again. So I really should be planning my research work. For those who care, I have a PhD in music. I have a bunch of stuff to do with this research, even if I don’t have a paid job to go to. I could plan and write my monograph, I could write a couple of research articles. However, as everyone in research knows, writing research articles is like pulling teeth. I get engrossed in it but I hate starting it off. It’s like writing a term paper but much, much harder. Nearly everyone you know hated writing undergraduate term papers. It’s no different just because I’m a grown-up. Luckily everyone I know procrastinates on journal articles, too.

Stooges pulling teeth

Anyway, so. Editing. It’s a thing. Yesterday I wrote a Flash Fiction piece, 130 words long. Today I edited it. Let go, much? It’s better, but not much better. I read it aloud this time. It helps to read stuff out aloud. One gets a feel for scansion, flow, word placement, comma placement, narrative and dramatic tension. I’m no good with grammar rules or poetry / narrative / syntax / phrase rules – I wasn’t taught any memorable English language rules as a child, and as an adult I struggle to retain information like that. I might remember a Kardashian moment, but I won’t remember syllable emphasis. I have to go with intuitive rhythmic/ melodic placement of the spoken word.


Fiction so short is like poetry. Smells, sights, sounds, interactions, and a narrative arc told in 100 words. Brevity is vital, quality is paramount. No passive voice. Very few adjectives. The right word for the right scene, no excess or repetition unless the repetition adds narrative value. Tricky but doable. I’m getting better at it, I think. At least, my eye is sharpening.

So, waiting and editing is my thing this week. And now: to walk the dog.




Weekend Coffee Share

If we were having coffee, I’d be asking you: seriously, what do people without employment DO all day? I am so bored I’ve taken to DUSTING THE HOUSE.


(Image from

If we were having coffee you’d notice the house is clean and tidy but not spotless. I hate housework. Keeping the kitchen clean is as about as much as I can manage even on a good day. Never mind washing the floors – vacuuming is something I do only when I’ve reached maximum crunch underfoot. I’m not sure I’ve EVER cleaned the window panes. If we were having coffee I’d ask you if you do the dusting while you’re on the phone to your mother, like I do.


(Image from

So I’m writing in my blog (hello readers), I’m reading fiction novels. I’m reading the news, and opinion pieces, and websites about the next US Presidential campaign because we’re just getting the noisy people here in Australia – Clinton, Ben Carson, Idiots Trump, Cruz and Bush. The most likely Republican nominee Marco Rubio isn’t even getting any traction in Australia, which bothers me because he’s the candidate most likely to put up a fight against Democrat Clinton. I think I’d still prefer a Democrat in the White House thank you, even though Marco Rubio is damned fine looking: Mmm-Mmm! Republican Rubio’s politics are conservative and he likes guns. For those who care, my politics are moderately left-wing and I hate guns. One of the things I’ve noticed about my time with the TV series The West Wing is that I’m much more interested in and knowledgeable about American politics than formerly.

I pay bills, I apply for jobs, I cook, I bake, I watch renovation shows – I know: sad. I play computer games. I visit friends. Perhaps I’ll go back to the gym before I have to quit altogether. I paint when I can stand it. DH and I are doing small house things such as gardening and minor home maintenance. We walk the dog together and go to the movies.


(Image from

But folks, there’s a job-sized hole of about 10 hours in my day I just can’t fill. Every day. I’ve been advised to apply for a DECRA (which is an acronym for Discovery Early Career Researcher Award), which will certainly fill my time for the next 2 months, but it doesn’t pay the bills. DH gets so excited when he sees me thinking again – but I can’t maintain it when I’ve not much to think ABOUT. Saddest of all: I’m not a Stay At Home Mum. My children are adults. So this old blogpost I read just now totally resonates with me but you know something? At least this lady from Mommyish had someone to care for during the day!

If we were having coffee I’d be asking you how the unemployed keep going without going mad. You’d be telling me drily to take a second look at my bloody New Years Resolutions.

At least the coffee is excellent.



This blog is part of a weekly link-up hosted by the lovely Diana over at her blog Part-Time Monster

Check it out and join in!

Corners of time

I have found a teensy tiny corner of time this morning to work on my Methods Chapter. I’m taking five minutesĀ  out (well, ok, 10) to explain to the world that this is what I intend to do for the next 2.5 hours so that I actually do it. Pinky promise.

In another corner of time, not yet found, is the part where I promise to take my dog for a walk, and to get that exercise I’ve been meaning to do. Now that I’m waking up at sparrow’s (due to some overactive melatonin production from jetlag), I think I can squeeze in an exercise morning tomorrow… wish me luck. It will be brutal.

I’m back at work, and thinking of ways to reduce my workload in my business so that I can finish my PhD and have a real life again. One student quit lessons yesterday, thank goodness – I was just waiting for the chance to let go of that one – and maybe when my adult students go on hiatus I’ll just stop filling in their spaces. Problem is the difference between teaching brain and study brain. Study brain has abruptly shut down and it’s so hard to wake it up again. SO hard. In the meantime, here’s a picture of my dog, Poppy. Who’s adorable. And a bit grotty because instead of lovely lawn in our garden we just have weeds and dirt and she tracks dirt in the house and jumps up on me with soggy paws. Yet other things we have to find corners of time for. Dog training and garden maintenance.


Success comes in small packages

My success this week is another 1.1kgs lost, down to 71.3kgs. I’m feeling rather smug. After the sojourn in Melbourne where I managed for the most part to stay under my daily calorie count I hotfooted it back to Brisbane on Tuesday where I threw myself into teaching. No time for exercise until Thursday night where I took out my aggression on my unsuspecting but very good natured partner in a boxing class. I then went for a cardio session on the Friday followed by a swim, and then on the Saturday I went to my PT session with Bailey-the-trainer and followed it up with another swim. I WAS going to go to a yoga session today but I’m frankly a bit too muscle fatigued – there are other classes I can attend on other days.

I’m on fire, baby! Sure enough, the weight is not so much melting off as gliding gently away. I have now lost trips Greece and France #2. In the next month I hope to lose New Zealand, France #1 and the kicker: 2008 honeymoon Italy. My eating habits have now stabilised and I’m no longer feeling particularly hungry. I’m in fact getting too full on my current diet, so I think I may be about to hit another milestone: hitting the BMR again. Currently my Basal Metabolic Rate is 1476 calories per day, which is how much energy I need to consume to maintain 75kgs if I am doing nothing but lying in bed. I’m eating approximately 1300 calories per day, but as my weight has dropped I will need to eat less as I go to maintain distance between food intake and weight loss. It’s only about 200 calories difference from my starting weight to my goal weight, so it will mean eating smaller portions at dinner, which won’t be hard to manage. I’m starting to eat less anyway, and feeling that 200gms of lean meat actually is a bit too much now.

I’m getting stronger, too. I can finally manage a proper leg-press, and while my crunches are still hilarious (because I have no strength in my obliques or abdominals) my upper body is getting a lot stronger. I was always good at squats – can’t think why, but I’m getting mighty happy with my upper body strength. We started on the trapezius squeeze yesterday (seated row), and Bailey-the-trainer noticed that I get stronger on every exercise after my first set of reps. I’m not sure I understand this but it feels good. And then I feel very tired afterwards. Luckily, my lovely trainer is a gun trainer – keeps an eye on my technique and ensures I don’t get broken. My rickety old knees are improving and my bodgy left shoulder is getting better too.

I have a quiet yearning to look as long and lean as Michelle Bridges, who is my age (her face, however, botox-frozen at age 35). I’m not sure I’ll ever be that lean because my long bones are frankly too short – it’s not that I won’t get the muscles long, especially if I do Pilates classes or dancing, but that my bones are literally a bit nuggety and large. Which is why I can carry a bit of extra weight quite easily, but which is also why I get despondent when I don’t have that lovely willowy, whippet-slim body I admire in people like Bridges. But I have to remind myself that this is a lifestyle change. I am doing this so that at 85 years of age I won’t be bed-ridden and miserable from muscle ache, and falling apart. I want to prevent osteoporosis, which is prevalent in my mother’s side, and I want to feel better. So while the improved less-squidgy looks are great, it’s for the long term benefits I’m doing this. Fit people recover faster from injury, they have fewer health issues in old age, and they have more day-to-day energy. I want all of that. So while this current jag feels a little OCD, I can see the long term benefits beckoning not too far away. And I’m getting excited by them.

The other stuff I’m thinking about: some of my paid work is going great guns at the moment, and I’m about to hit November, when all my lovely students sit their exams and show off their talents in my annual showcase concert. This year I’ve planned it for November 11, which is 4 weeks earlier than normal and it has made a huge difference to the numbers of students performing. Nearly all are singing. A joy.

And my teaching at the Con finishes for a while, so I have more time to do my research (we are SO late on a book proposal), write those 3 chapters and revamp the article I need to finish. And finish that grounded theory study for the Con. And mark 85 essays. And perhaps, belatedly and not too enthusiastically do some more of my PhD which is still hanging over my head, rather nastily now. And start prepping the house for some painting. And do the fences. And make plans for Xmas.



Getting depressed about the future

Well, I’ve finally hit the unhappy part of my PhD. The part where I am beginning to be very afraid about what life holds for me in the future once I have the important bit of paper with my name and new title on it. There are very few jobs for Doctoral alumni in music. I need to have a new job lined up by August 2012, or, at least, a few grants lined up. I’m thinking of applying for a Churchill, and a Fulbright, and there are a heap of other Australian ones to go for, too. Unfortunately, the Churchill and Fulbright scholarships are short in length and won’t get me far, which is why I will need to apply for a Postdoc ASAP. I will be taking three weeks off in July 2012 for a trip to Greece and Thessaloniki, mostly for conference attendance. So my time is limited, and my money runs out then. I will have just enough funds to pay for the trip, having paid off the credit card in full, and then nada. Zip. No job. It’s scary. Hubby suggests going for RA on an ARC project, which would be good, but I want something with longevity. I’m not sure I could stand working for only 3 years on a project at .8 wage, with no assurance of permanent employment at the end. All too much! At the same time, I realise that I work best on small projects that have a relatively short life span. So working for three years at a time might suit me.

So, scared, depressed about my future, overweight, alone in an office. That’s my life right now. At least I’m enjoying the research.

Developing skills in problem areas

Today I am giving the third lecture in a series of 12 on Score Reading, Structure and Analysis. I took on the course because it was a way of getting into teaching in universities, but I have to confess I have really struggled to teach it effectively, as it is certainly not my field of expertise. Today, though, I think I might be getting there. Today we are looking at Medieval and Renaissance music. I have chosen several works to analyse, from the lovely Hildegard, to the bright and cheerful Morley work My Bonny Lass she smileth. The one thing I HAVE managed to do quite successfully is to avoid all mention of the Mass. No, I haven’t really, but Masses are really too big to analyse when there are so many other works to look at. So we are having a little teaser with a medieval Kyrie, but mostly in the Renaissance we are looking at Chanson and Madrigal.

Of course, I have to mention the Mass as it is the most common form of music up to and including the 21st century, so the kiddies need to know WHAT it is, even if they don’t really need to know most of how it is made. The Kyrie will do.

But, typically, I have been panicking as I have needed to work on this for at least a week, and I have not had ANY time to do it. I am nearly crying with frustration and tiredness. I have to finish and send out the QLD Coo-ee (nearly done, hurrah), to keep working on my PhD (no time there), do the budget and my timesheets for the ARC, teach my singers, find an accompanist for my students’ exams, have a birthday, diet, exercise, AND try and find time to prepare my Introduction to Research 101 lectures for Mutechs 1 and 5. I am running backwards!

No time, no time.


Getting into work.

Yesterday I came into work at 8.00amd, was at my desk and editing by 8.30am. Today is not so good, but I’ll start editing in 10 minutes. I like to stay at work until 7.00pm, if I can. Does this make me weird? I like to work hard when the fancy takes me, and I also have a teaching studio after hours. Am I odd? I do enjoy down time and take plenty of it: traveling and playing computer games, that sort of thing. But when I need to, I like to work until I’m too tired to do any more. Some would argue that my work/life balance is out of whack. But this weekend I had three dinner and lunch parties and a concert on the Sunday to attend. I did not work then. So, how does any one else feel?

My work load is driven by me: I am self employed and my study is formed around my availability. My work habits tend to run in cycles of high activity, followed by fallow times. Currently I am highly active and driven to complete things I need to do for others. Once that is done, I have two papers to prepare and some overdue transcriptions to complete. Who else has a similar pattern to mine? Is it always the way that high activity is followed by fallow periods? Is this only true of research or is it found in other work places also?