Masterclass Eve

I wasn’t home for too long. Just long enough to eat two hot cross buns to Nathan’s twenty-two (don’t ask, he’s still feeling sorry for himself), run around to a couple of family Easters, and then yesterday I took off again. This time to Adelaide, for something rather important.

And yes, the flight was totally okay. Approximately thirty seconds of panic at about thirty percent of normal intensity, so I’m counting that as a huge win. And I took some gorgeous photos out of the window. I’ve started reading a book called Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith, and it’s really helping so far in getting me excited about flying again – let’s hope it continues.

Back to today: I’ve spent the day grabbing last minute essentials, gathering every question that I can possibly think of for my one-on-one with Fiona, timing the walk to the venue and getting distracted by the beautiful gardens along the way. The last of the dahlias were still out, and they were gorgeous.

It all begins.

Fiona’s masterclass was such a pie in the sky kind of ‘wouldn’t it be nice?’ idea for most of last year, until Nathan pushed me to actually do it. Writing a novel has always been the goal, and I was going to get there one way or another, but I’m hoping this will be the end of years in the wilderness being too afraid to fully commit to my ideas because they might not be viable. I know how to write, I have a whole degree in it, I know a bunch about publishing, but I’m hoping this class is the missing piece. And who better to learn from than somebody who is doing it all, and doing such an amazing job of it?

I’m currently in my hotel room, simultaneously feeling nerves that makes me want to just go to sleep for a hundred years, and buzzing with the kind of energy and excitement that makes me want to jump around and do the dance from Sia’s Chandelier video clip. I don’t know what to eat for dinner, and my stomach is too tied up in knots to be hungry for much of anything.

I hope that all the people are nice.
I hope I can stay focused for such long days of being bombarded with so much information.
I hope I learn lots about how to plan a whole writing career, not just one book.
I hope I don’t share my work and realize I’m the worst in the class.
I hope it doesn’t rain on me when I walk to the venue.

Most of all, I hope I get what I came for. And I hope that a year from now, this little novel and this little career are something so much bigger, brighter and better. I probably won’t be writing anything else about it until it’s all over and I’ve had time to process the whole thing, so wish me luck!


Did you know that at 8:58am this morning (GMT+11) it was the equinox? Which means that for that if the earth continued at that exact tilt, day and night would be of equal length. It means that until winter solstice, days will just get shorter and shorter. It’s also a supermoon tonight. This one is called the Worm Moon for a reason that doesn’t mean a lot for Australia – apparently it’s around the time in the northern hemisphere when the ground would start thawing and earthworms would begin coming to the surface. These two things coinciding feels a bit… prophetic. I wonder if Nostradamus had anything to say about this. Apparently it won’t happen again until 2144. It’s always an odd kind of feeling, experiencing something and realizing that you will never – can never – possibly experience it again in your lifetime.

Apparently the word equinox actually has nothing to do with horses, as I initially suspected, but is derived from the Latin aequus and nox, which mean equal and night, respectively. Now you know. And I have yet another bit of impractical trivia to add to the collection.

A few things are happening:

Posie is being adorable (see evidence). Actually, all the animals are. Clover has taken to sleeping cuddled up to me every night, and Plato is shockingly confident about his place in the household, based on how often he will just sleep in the middle of thoroughfares like he owns the place, knowing that nobody is going to step on him. We are having some challenging times though with Rupert, on a few fronts – dementia, pneumonia and some new continence problems. We are hoping that it’s just a result of him coughing too hard, but researching belly bands all the same. All part of loving an old dog, I guess (it’s still so worth it).

Our washing machine broke weeks ago, and the particular spaceship-of-a-unit that we chose can’t get delivered until next week. Not having a working machine and having to take everything to the laundromat has been kind of shocking, in that I now realize what a huge amount of laundry our household generates. Delivery and install day can’t come fast enough. If only for getting to test it out for the first time – apparently it sings a little song when it’s done (how sad that that is so exciting?).

I got my ears pierced. It’s all pain and bruising and leaking now, but I will feel like such a grown up when I can finally change out these starter studs and actually accessorize earrings with my outfit. I spent years psyching myself up for it, and it ultimately wasn’t that bad – they say it just feels like a pinch, and it was true. I went to a proper piercer who used a needle rather than a gun (I read that guns basically force a blunt object through your ear, and thus create more trauma than a sharp cannula needle), so maybe that helped.

The summer kitchen garden has well and truly run its race. The chilies are still going strong, my eggplants still have a bunch of flowers on them, but the cucumbers and tomatoes are totally done. I didn’t have the best growing season overall, and I’m not sure why… but I’m leaning towards needing to enrich the soil a bit more next time, perhaps. I am still very much a beginner gardener. For this next while, I’m going to try to diversify so I don’t end up with a glut of something I will easily get sick of. I want to grow spring onions, garlic, kale, fennel, broccoli, broad beans, parsley, radishes and cabbage for sauerkraut.

Last of all, I am absolutely convinced that Duchess Kate is going to have another baby soon. I mean, look at this:

Sleeping Puppies and Spring Gardens

We had precisely one warm day yesterday, now it’s drizzling and miserable outside. I’m glad though – I forgot to water the garden last night, but the rain has more than made up for it today. There are so many things in the garden that are brimming with expectation, slowly and quietly working towards something wonderful. I’m also engineering some wonderful of my own – in the garden, we’re going with tomatoes, cucumbers*, radishes, basil and something else that I haven’t quite decided yet. I’m also thinking of growing some lettuce in a tub under the shade of the porch, and some of the herbs that I will need at Christmas time. But the big project is… we have a garden bed at the front of our house that is usually just a weed patch, but I thought – we’ve never had sunflowers before, and nowhere gets more sun than this patch. Fingers crossed that it works.

The little dogs of mine have been sulking for the last two days though – they must think that I’m doing it on purpose, making it hot and cold. They have little beds that get placed around the house and constantly moved around, but I think they are finally in perfect positions right now. Rupert can bask in the morning sun, Posie can hide in a little nook where she can sleep, knowing that nobody is going to step on her. They swap all the time though, and play musical chairs with the furniture as well.

It’s almost time to go to Bali. I booked it so long ago, and now that we’re almost there, I’m so glad I did – I need this trip like crazy. This year has been unabashedly horrible. Between my leg and the shower and the TN and my grandma, I am beyond ready to get away for a little while. But aside from the physical rest, I’m looking for a particular kind of restoration. I want to feel excited about things again, and not exhausted before we’ve even started. I want to feel hopeful and content and optimistic again, and not this miserable lump of meh all the time. I think this is just the ticket.

*This is the exact part where I had to pause because Rupert threw an adorable little tantrum on the rug and demanded that I stop and drop everything to pat his little belly.

Much Ado About Nothing

The roses are out and they are bloomin’ marvelous (I had to, I’m sorry) – I’m not sure what we did right, but it’s a good year for them. I’m calling our house Rose Cottage, I’m even going to have a little plaque made up and everything. Every house deserves a name.

I’m writing a novel about a house and a garden right now. I’ve only just started – I’m at that point where you stand at the foot of the mountain and look up, trying to figure out how many steps you’ll have to take, how many hours you’ll have to endure above the death zone, how many fingers and toes you’ll lose to frostbite. But you start, you climb, you keep going, and little by little, it happens. I want this manuscript done and polished by the end of July next year. Wish me luck! Or better, wish me persistence!

I’m also counting down the days until our new living room rug arrives, after the shipment was delayed by months, twice. These darling dogs of mine are going to be the death of me. Every car in the street, every pedestrian, every jangling cat bell, sometimes even the snapping of a twig or the shock of me getting up from the sofa too quickly… all these things send P+R into hysterics roughly 3-4 times per hour, sometimes much more. They leap all over the pappasan chair and bark their little brains out. With floorboards and no rug, the sound bounces around the room and transforms into something piercing and horrific. We are extremely lucky to have neighbours who are either very tolerant or very deaf, as both sides have told me that they barely hear a peep from us.

Aside from that:

I went to see MTC’s The Father with the father (mine) last week, and it was devastatingly good. Emphasis on the devastating bit. John Bell gave the best stage acting I have ever seen, and I cried. Some of the audience reactions were a bit off though – the play was about dementia, and Dad’s theory is that a lot of the audience are in an age category where all this stuff is frighteningly relevant for them, and their laughter might have been a function of their discomfort. Maybe.

I wore new shoes that night and ended up with horrendous blisters on my little toes. Still sore, still glowing red like little old fashioned Christmas lights. I did get to eat xiao long bao at Din Tai Fung before the theatre though – soup-filled dumplings that pop when pierced with your chopstick, which is a very icky thought when juxtaposed with my tales of toe blisters.

I’ve spent the best part of this week convinced that we had a mouse in the house, but now I’m having doubts. I saw a shadow move quickly across the hearth of the fireplace, but apart from that, there has been absolutely no evidence of anything. Now I’m wondering whether it was a mouse at all, or maybe a moth, or maybe it really was just a shadow cast along the floor from the sun shining in the window. We set traps and they haven’t been touched. I still won’t walk barefoot at nighttime or leave my slippers on the floor though.

My tomato plants are going splendidly, my cucumbers have shriveled and returned to the soil from whence they came. I’m not sure whether to try again, but the idea of making jars of my own dill pickles is calling to me. What else should I grow in my summer garden, once I rip all the broad beans out? I could just do an entire garden bed of basil, but how much pesto can one girl humanly eat*?

Nathan and I were meant to have a romantic weekend away in Sydney, which didn’t end up happening (he went by himself on a duty mission to visit a family member who needed some heavy duty cheering up). He is bringing me back a cheesecake from Uncle Tetsu though! I knew there was a reason I married him. Other than his winning smile, devastatingly handsome looks, and worthiness as a Scrabble opponent.

* If we’re talking about this girl, the answer is: probably more than you could imagine. When I was in third grade, we did a science project where we had to list the main foods in our diet and where they fit on the food pyramid. I had an argument with the teacher who told me that pesto was a fat, when I assured him that it was made mostly out of basil, so it counted as a vegetable therefore you should be eating heaps of it. But really, we all know that homemade pesto transcends the food pyramid altogether and should better be considered something like mana of the gods.




The ranunculus are blooming! It was a mixed pack, so it’s always fun to guess which colour each individual bud is going to be. The peachy/raspberry ones are my favourite. We’ve also got snowdrops all over the place, yet I never really planted them there. There was a lone snowdrop in our lawn a couple of years ago and I moved it to the garden bed. It grew into a clump then got forgotten about when we turned all the soil over. The tiny bulbs spread everywhere and now they are growing like mad. Not sure if I approve.


I pruned the roses so hard that I was scared they were going to falter, but they loved it. Every bush is growing back so vigorously with really lush leaves, and no hint of black spot. Once we rip out the horrible old yellow daisy bush this weekend, there will be room for a new rose – Grandma got us a Cécile Brünner (an old fashioned pale pink rose) for our birthday. Apparently it has a gorgeous scent.


My long suffering wisteria is covered in buds, more than any other year. It’s a surprise because I haven’t given it any special attention. Now I just hope I will be at home when they decide to put on a show. It looks like there is going to be a cascade of purple flowers right outside our front window – I would really like to be home for that.


I have seed trays going: red cabbage and romanesco broccoli (it’s an heirloom type that is lime green and grows in spirals). Growing garlic will, I’m sure, be super rewarding when we get to harvest it. But it takes forever – literally about eight months. I’m growing these guys in different beds so I have something a bit quicker to look forward to – I think they take about 10 weeks. I don’t think there is anything we will be able to do with a glut of broccoli other than eat it, but with the cabbage, I’m planning on making some sauerkraut and maybe kimchi. Even if I am a bit paranoid about preserving things in jars.


My Japanese maple is getting so big, and I love seeing it with all this new, fresh green growth. It used to be flanked by a little pond and waterfall that I would love to re-establish, but facing opposition from Nathan and Dad, but I think every garden needs a little fish pond. I would have to research it though. It’s startling how much the climate has changed in the last five years. A 45°C day was a total fluke five years ago, and now we can expect a run of them every summer. It’s shocking that we don’t even consider 30°C particularly hot anymore. I don’t know how fish would go in these kind of conditions.

This weekend, we have new lavender to put in, plus some salvia, euphorbia, some climbing roses for an arch, and some other little random plants. Oh, and our birthday camellia from Dad. Plus neverending weeding. It’s hard and it’s frustrating that Nathan never wants to help, but I hope it will be worth it. A beautiful garden gives such a sense of satisfaction and harmony, I will never be one of those people that can just have a bunch of rocks and a few sprigs of whatever was labelled ‘low maintenance’ at the landscaping center. I need lush, blooming things; plants that smell gorgeous; things that attract bees and butterflies; places for fairies to hide.