Happy New Year!!!

In place of fireworks, we bring you:

the exploding dalek Christmas tree!!!

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Bye bye 2010!

We entered 2010 happy, hopeful and rested, and it is happy, hopeful and rested that we leave it. In between, a lot of other things happened.

The saddest and most careful decision I ever made.

Moving into our very own house.

Teaching at the University in Oslo.

Getting pregnant again.

Getting the cats.

Getting married.

As well as: learning how to cope with severe Norwegian winters, multiple car repairs, working in the kindergarten, buying sofas, dishwashers, lawnmowers, getting the bugs treated in our basement, a couple of lovely trips to Berlin and one to England, paragliding in Australia, America, Austria, visits from the parents, and planning new adventures for next year. All in all it’s a bit of a whirlwind and it’s easy to think it slid by without a lot happening, but it clearly did! A year I am glad to have had but not sorry to leave behind.

Next year looks like it might be even more exciting…

Visitors

Yesterday I slept in, but Michael was up early enough to witness these loveliest of visitors.

I’m pretty sure they come past every day, but they are so quiet that if you don’t look out the window at the right moment you miss them.

There’s also an enormous hare I’ve seen bouncing around, leaving hare-prints in the snow, but I don’t have a picture of him.

The honeymoon Christmas

For once we didn’t go anywhere. This was our seventh Christmas together, but our first Christmas alone together. Our first Christmas in our very own house with our very own tree. Our first Christmas with our very entertaining cats. Our first Christmas married. Our first Christmas in Norway. My very first white Christmas.

On Christmas Eve we tidied up a bit then settled down for presents about 4pm (Michael having ascertained in advance that we would do German presents rather than Australian ones so he wouldn’t have to wait till tomorrow). The kittens were most excited with their toy mice, Michael loved his huge warm grey dressing-gown, I put my early Christmas present of an ipod touch to good use providing some quality Christmas music, and we emptied the Christmas stockings of an over-abundance of Swedish chocolate I had purchased to make up for already having eaten the Australian chocolate Mum had sent me. (We still have some German Christmas goodies left cos Michael’s Mum sent over four boxes of them!) We then called Michael’s folks, had a yummy dinner of roast carrots, parsnips, garlic, red onions, falafels and brussell sprouts, and capped off the evening by watching ‘Let the Right One In’ – brutal and poetic and heart-warming all at once.

The 25th continued in much the same way – our favourite food, a crackling fire, novels on the sofa, a walk in the snow, skype calls to family, and Michael practicing taking photos of lights. Some new friends, a Japanese family, came over for dinner, and their little daughter proved what a good kindergarten teacher I’ve been for the last few months by giving us spirited renditions of ‘Twinkle twinkle little star’.

I thought some more about how much I like that Norwegian advent poem – how joy and hope are there, but longing too. The last verse goes:

We light four candles this evening,
and let them burn down,
for longing, joy, hope and peace,
but most of all
for peace on this small earth
where people live.

 

My Nanna said that Christmas wasn’t the same this year without Irene, my Dad’s twin sister who died earlier this year. And I must admit, looking at several of my friends’ Christmas photos on facebook of their six month old babies, I felt a little twinge for our lost little one whom we will never meet. But then I felt an even bigger twinge from the very present little one kicking and wriggling inside me, and I smiled. We should meet him very soon. But I like that poem very much because those who are absent can be with us too, they are not shut out.

I love Christmas. I love Christmas in Australia with my family and the sunshine, and I love Christmas in Germany with Michael’s family and the perfectly wonderful German Christmas markets. But this year, this quiet, happy, snow-filled Christmas was exactly what we needed, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Christmas lights

Ok so this is just a gratuitous shot of the kittens snoozing in our lounge room. I really want to write about light. Light is very important around here at this darkest time of year. All the houses have little white electric candles in their windows, which shine out calmly to the snow-filled streets.

On December 13th we celebrated Lucia. I think it’s even bigger in Sweden. The children at the kindergarten dressed up in white smocks and carried electric candles and walked in a procession singing songs about saint Lucia. It was strangely moving.

And every Monday at the kindergarten, we lit an advent candle. A day late, but it didn’t matter. Advent candles are pretty new to me, as the church I grew up in wasn’t big on that sort of symbolism. I had of course come across them, but only in passing. So I wasn’t sure if the particular meanings attached to the different candles were universal or peculiar to Norway.

I looked it up, and found this site, which explains it all beautifully. In Norway, the advent candles symbolize, in this order: joy, hope, longing and peace. It feels right to have the longing in there too. This particular configuration of meanings comes from a poem by the Norwegian poet Inger Hagerup. They recite one verse for each of the four Sundays before Christmas. It is a beautiful poem. It’s worth looking at the Norwegian version on the first site I linked to, but an English translation would go something like:

So we light one candle this evening.
We light it for joy.
It stands and shines for itself
And for us who are here now.
So we light one candle this evening,
We light it for joy.

A day in the life

Scratch scratch scratch. Mooowwww!

Open back door for kitten 1.

Kitten 1 pokes his nose out and sniffs. -15, ouch. Sits there looking.

Close door.

Scratch scratch scratch!

Open door again.

Still -15. Kitten 1 decides to sleep on the couch instead. Gets bored quickly as has been sleeping for the greater portion of the past two days.

Scratch scratch scratch!

Open hallway door for kitten 1 to go in hall. Brief pause.

Scratch scratch scratch!

Open hallway door for kitten 1 to come back into lounge. Kitten 2 goes into hallway. Brief pause.

Scratch scratch scratch!

Let kitten 2 back into lounge.

Scratch scratch scratch, Mooooowwww!

They sit forlornly and look at back door.

A wedding in the snow

Yep. Got married today.

I didn’t really mean to wear black to my own wedding, but it was the only maternity dress I could find. I like it. And at least it’s got lace on it, right? Michael insisted on buying me a proper bridal bouquet of red roses. I wore the sparkly green jewellery Michael bought me within two weeks of our first kiss, six and a half years ago. (I did think about wearing the little casket of uncut emeralds Mum wore to her own wedding, but I decided I needed the extra sparkle.)

We decided to tie the knot now rather than later not because of bubs (I really don’t think he’ll mind much either way), but more out of visa considerations for next year. All that aside, it felt like a good time to do it. It felt special. The script for the ceremony was perfect. Here’s a link to it in Norwegian. If you copy and paste it into google translate you’ll get an idea of it, allowing for some amusing translation errors. We alternated between listening seriously and glancing across at one another and smiling shyly.

Then there were the rings, and the signing, and it was done! We bought the rings in October, from Robert Feather, who has a workshop in a little town near York. That was special too, because we met in York, and lived together for two years there, and the gold of our rings was like the gold of the leaves on the trees.

The wedding was a more solemn and more joyful experience than I had expected. It was very small – just us and our two witnesses – and was over very very quickly. But we were so happy!

The courthouse was right on the harbour so we trundled out there to get a couple of shots in the snow (thanks to Michael’s best man who was our impromptu photographer).

Then we all had pizza at our favourite restaurant, Spisekroken. These guys make the best pizza I have ever tasted. Nowegians love pizza, but mostly it is barely edible. The owners know us, and were very happy for us, and brought out sparkling wine on the house.

We know our families would have loved to be there, and we would have loved that too. But I hope I can share the moment with you this way! And I hope we can eat cake together at a later date. After eating all that pizza, there was no room for cake anyway!

It was a perfect mini wedding. We even got presents. Kylie came back for a cup of tea and we cracked open the Swiss Glory chocolates my Mum had sent for Christmas while the snow filled the windows and the kittens snoozed.

As I write, there was a knock on the door and more roses arrived, from my parents! They are beautiful, but I will take a photo tomorrow because now I think it’s time for some snoozing of our own.

December is better than November

The world has been very pretty around here lately. I’ve even got used to the cold. -7 feels positively mild after -16. And -1 feels almost tropical. During the day, especially, our house is lovely, with the windows filled with sparkly white trees. And quite cosy at night, too, when we light the fire. The kittens have adjusted to the weather too: their coats are fluffier than ever and their paws have gone all leathery, so they can walk on the snow without getting blisters. Mermos’s favourite spot, though, is here:

I’ve finally kicked the never-ending cold, and I feel so much better for it. There are still so many things to do, but we’re ticking them off one by one. Today we borrowed a car seat and a cot and some odds and ends from a friend. And thanks to an early Christmas package from Mum, we have more than enough clothes to get the little man through his first month or so. There are just a few little things we need to still get hold of, and then we need to wash everything and sort out the rooms upstairs, and Michael needs to finish off the insulation in the loft, and then we should be ok.

There’s still paperwork to send in, and expensive car repairs to orchestrate (at least I’ve booked it in now), and something special that we’re doing this Thursday, but we’re getting there. I also had a chat to the head of the department of languages at the University College here this week, and he’s very keen to get me on board there after my maternity leave, so that’s exciting. (They’re also looking to expand their English literature teaching and their research credentials, so it’s sounding very promising indeed.)

I’ve had a very busy weekend and eaten a lot of cake. We had the Christmas concert for the barnehage on Saturday morning, followed by our work Christmas lunch. More cake today from the friend who leant us the car seat, and then even more cake at a three year old’s birthday party. Now I’m tired. Goodnight!

Baby dreams

I dream about the baby. I dream we can look at him whenever we want. I dream he opens his eyes and we see his sepia-toned face looking back at us.

I dream about breastfeeding. In my dream the kittens want a go and I am frightened of all their little sharp teeth so I express instead and milk goes everywhere.

I dream about labour. I dream I lie on a bed in hospital and nothing happens and eventually the midwife says go away and come back in two months.

Cold

It’s been around -6 all week. Today was -8. Highs of -10 are predicted for Monday and Tuesday. They said last winter was the coldest, snowiest winter in 50 years. They say this winter will be worse. Luckily there hasn’t been a lot of snow yet. A small amount fell about a week ago and has been tossed around like sand in the wind ever since. It’s a strange, dry cold, which makes sense of the way arctic climates can be described as deserts. It’s so cold that the windscreen doesn’t frost up. That’s also a blessing because scraping thick ice from the outside and the inside of the windscreen and praying that it will remain transparent enough to drive safely is a very unpleasant start to the morning.

Today I went into town to lodge some paperwork and get a haircut, and I made the executive decision that it’s the last time I venture out without thermal underwear. I’ve invested in wool socks, which make the winter boots come into their own. I bought a thick dressing-gown and warm pyjamas, and have been regularly using a hair dryer for the first time in my life. Wet hair is just not an option at the moment. Michael has started laying more insulation in our loft, and we are sleeping in the spare room because it’s much better insulated than our bedroom. (Though that’s next on the list.)

We don’t let the kittens out much because they come back with cracked and blistered paws.

The harbour is already frozen over and today the sun gleamed on its grey and shiny surface.

The Norwegians say there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.

Thank you Nanna!

My Nanna (my Dad’s Mum) reads this blog, and when she read what I wrote about not knowing what to get for the baby, she promptly sent over some cardigans and booties she has knitted for him! We love them. They will be perfect to keep him warm. And I love the little pearl buttons. I remember when I was a little girl I loved little pearl buttons. I miss you Nanna. We both send our love.

For anyone wondering, here’s the bump in progress, at almost 30 weeks. I get a shock whenever I glimpse myself from the side. It looks much bigger that way than it does from above. He is starting to feel like a bit of a lump in there. Last night he decided he wanted to lie sideways for a while and kick and poke me, which wasn’t much fun. But sort of amusing all the same.

Aside from that, it has been cold. The forecast says cold and colder. I’ve been struggling with the November blues the past week, not to mention the never ending head-cold which developed into a nasty sinus infection. It’s hard knowing that just about now it’s sunshiny and gorgeous in Australia.

Here’s the frost on the balustrade of our deck. These crystals cover everything, every morning. Well, until it started snowing yesterday. I took these frosty pictures on Friday morning, but I haven’t raced out to photograph the snow yet. When you know it will be a pretty constant companion for the next five months or so, you lose the sense of urgency…

The frosty mornings are beautiful though. It’s hard to capture on camera the puffy yellow clouds of the sunrise shining through the iced branches of the trees. And things are coming together. We’ve spent the weekend snuggling in front of the fire, eating soup, figuring out how to better insulate our loft. My doctor prescribed me some antibiotics on Wednesday, and I’m starting to feel a little more human. And I have my winter boots.

Breakfast with new teapot, for Stephanie

And new egg-cup, but don’t tell Michael. I’ve actually been wanting a proper egg-cup for ages, so that’s ok. They come from my favourite shop in the oversized Swedish shopping centre that perches on the border to Norway. It’s the iittala outlet, which is a Finnish company that produces crockery. They’ve recently brought this Swedish range in too, Hoganas (with a couple of funny Swedish letters in there that my keyboard isn’t equipped for). They have a whole new range, so they are selling the old one off half price. The new teapots were pretty gorgeous too, but four times as expensive, and I love the simplicity of this old one, its balance, its sheen, its wooden lid, and its beautiful big handle, perfect for fitting your whole hand inside. Now I just have to restrain myself from going back and buying up all the mugs and plates and bowls…

Shopping!

No, not for baby clothes – but thanks for the advice!

I just had my first entirely frivolous Friday off in ages. After a delightfully slow morning I went shopping in Sweden. I bought not one but two pairs of winter boots. Although I have already lived through seven northern winters (that’s if you include the English ones, which don’t really compare to Norwegian ones but are difficult enough for antipodeans), I have never bought winter boots. This is due to a general frugality when it comes to buying clothing (and especially shoes), and to a general attitude of ‘making do’. (I’m not sure this is particularly admirable, it’s related to a habit of reading books but not attending to practicalities.) But the shoes I have worn practically every day for the past three years now have cracked soles and let the water in. And tying the laces to my hiking boots was getting increasingly difficult due to a certain little being taking up space around my middle. Anyway, now I have one pair of uber-practical ‘snow fun’ boots which will be suitable for ploughing snow from our driveway, outdoor activities at the kindergarten, and any kind of walking when the weather is treacherous. And another pair of nice warm boots that aren’t quite so hard wearing but much kinder on the eye (and very easy to put on) that I can wear on the days that it doesn’t resemble Antarctica out there. So I’m pretty pleased with myself really.

I also bought a cutting board thing to help me cut fabric in straight lines. Last night I finally got around to pulling out the sewing machine Mum bought me for my birthday. I am starting on a couple of very simple projects to try and get the hang of it. (I don’t think I’ve touched a sewing machine since I was about 10.) And last night I realised I’ll never get my seams straight if I don’t cut the fabric straight. So. Problem solved, I hope. (And I bought a couple of other bits and bobs to help me finish my first projects…)

Last but not least, I bought a cornflower blue Swedish teapot. It is beautiful. I have missed having a teapot. There is a kind of promise in teapots. Of friendship and warmth, of giving time and space to being together. I used to drink tea from teapots with my girlfriends in Adelaide. This teapot is the perfect size, not for a huge gathering, but for two or three. I’m sure it has a happy life ahead of it. It makes me calm just to look at it.

28 Weeks

That makes me third trimester, right? I’m quite pleased about that, as it feels I’ve been pregnant forever. Spring, summer, autumn… And winter arrived with a thud this week. Yesterday there was a veritable snow storm, complete with howling winds. The snow needed clearing from the driveway this morning. Today it was calm, but still snowed most of the day. The kittens are intrigued. At least black cats are very visible in all that white!

It’s a good thing I took a photo of our bright yellow beech tree last week, as now it’s pretty much lost all its needles and reverted into a very spindly miserable brown thing indeed.

I have had a head cold for what also feels like forever. At least eight weeks. It took a turn for the worse last weekend. I was nearly ready to call the doctor in my frustration, but I worked out it’s probably not one cold but at least three overlapping ones (the cost of working in a kindergarten), so I don’t suppose there’ll be much she can do. My voice has been AWOL since Sunday and I’ve been hacking my lungs out, but I feel marginally better this afternoon. They’ve reduced my hours by 50% at work – the benefits of living in a highly taxed but family (and pregnancy) friendly place like Norway – so hopefully that will help me recover. I’ve been exhausted.

Michael has gone to Germany so I have the place to myself for a few days. I lit the fire this evening. We bought a reverse cycle air-conditioning unit a couple of months back, and it’s been a life-saver, but for once the place wasn’t heating up to my liking. At least we have plenty of wood! It still feels a little strange to live in a place like this where surviving the winter has a whole different meaning. As I got the fire going (very easily thanks to Michael’s foresight in ordering and stacking the wood, collecting bags of kindling, and chopping some of the logs into little bits for fire-starters), I couldn’t help but think back over the generations of Norwegians who have survived here. The families who have lived in this house over the past ninety years. And even before that. Imagine living in Norway during the Middle Ages! The whole summer must have been one careful preparation… And I live in the south, where it’s pretty mild. I shudder to think about how they survived up north.

Meanwhile, in the kindergarten, we bundle the babbies up in hats and scarves and blankets and gloves and woolen suits, and put them out in their prams to sleep in the snow. Even the little eight month old. I still can’t quite believe it but they don’t seem to mind.

Speaking of preparation… Twelve weeks until my due date doesn’t feel like very long at all. It’s funny to think that the little creature who whacks me from the inside occasionally but aside from that hardly makes his presence felt and seems pretty happy in there will all of a sudden require a lot more attention. And stuff. Like clothes to wear and nappies and blankets and somewhere to sleep. And very warm clothes in case we ever need to take it outside (or upstairs for that matter). We really haven’t got very much ready yet. We ordered a pram a couple of weeks ago, so that should be ready soon. One of my colleagues says I can go through her baby stuff and borrow a car seat and some other things, so I need to do that shortly.

And then I suppose we need to work out exactly what else we need and start getting hold of it. I had a bit of a look in a baby shop yesterday. It frustrates me that all the boy’s clothes are blue. But despite my best intentions, I find it hard to come at buying the suit with the pink squirrels on it. (Why shouldn’t he have pink squirrels?) Besides, I haven’t met the little creature yet, how do I know what will suit him? Michael’s mum gave me a very cute little pair of overalls with owls on it, but I’m afraid it will probably be too small. It says 0-1 month, but it’s size 46, and I think European baby sizes are basically how big the baby is meant to be in centimetres. Given that the average new born baby is 50cm, and Michael and I are both in the 95th percentile for height, I think it’s unlikely that we’ll get a little one… The smallest clothes I saw in the shop yesterday were 56, which is probably a safer bet… Advice anyone?

Anyway, I guess we’ll work it out! There’s lots of little things I want to get done around the house too over the next couple of months. I think I need a list. The fire is lovely, by the way.

Happy birthday Grandma!

It was my grandma’s 81st birthday yesterday. I even remembered to call her. (It helps that it’s Guy Fawkes day: remember remember the 5th of November.) Anyway, I’m glad you had a nice day Grandma and that everything is going so well for you. I thought of you as I heated up my soup for lunch yesterday. I miss being able to drop in to your place for lunch! (My Grandma has a pretty much open house policy for family members. If you turn up around midday you get lunch. She even gives us keys so we can raid her chocolate biscuit stash even when she’s not home.) And even though she’s on the other side of the globe, she insisted on buying me new curtains – proper curtains, with lining – to help keep us warm this winter. Here’s a shot of them. I love them. I wish she could come around for a cup of tea.

In other news, I’ve been writing and writing and the big siberian larch outside my window is turning brown. Michael thinks it looks pretty depressing, but in the sun (which has finally returned after two weeks of rain) it lights up like a birthday candle.

New template

What do you think? I moved across to wordpress from blogger about two and a half years ago, when I moved to Norway from the UK, with only nine months left of my thesis to write. It felt like a new home deserved a new configuration of my online space. I’ve used the same template since then. I like the old template a lot, but what I don’t like is how it navigated the archives. This template is much better for browsing past entries and photographs…

In other news… We have new curtains!!! (Thanks grandma!) I’ll take a photo when we’ve got them all up. We put up the first set on the weekend. I ironed them first. I’ve never ironed curtains before. That was an eye opener. After ironing what felt like forever I was only a third of the way through. I love them though. I can’t wait to get the rest of them done.

About ten days ago it was freezing for a whole week, a couple of days not climbing about minus five before lunch time. And then it snowed, just when we’d planned to drive up to Oslo for the day. The journey was impossible on our summer tyres, and all the garages were booked out because everyone suddenly wanted their tyres changed, so Michael had a go at them. It was going great until one of the screw heads broke off. Which meant we were stranded for a week until we managed to get a garage to fix it. As soon as we got it back the temperature climbed to ten degrees and it’s rained ever since. At least we’re ready for winter when he decides to show up again.

We did make it up to Oslo in the end, a week after we had first planned. It was quite stressful but strangely entertaining. I’ll tell you about it another time.

Over the Halloween weekend we were inundated with little Norwegian witches and goblins who made off with all our chocolate. A sad thing, I’m telling you. We should have got Mermos to scare them away.

The belly is getting bigger and bigger, and the little monster kicks frequently, which is most reassuring. I’ve managed to reduce my hours at work thanks to the generosity of the Norwegian system, which is very lovely indeed. My eleven weeks left of work suddenly feels a lot less daunting. I dragged myself off to the pool tonight for the first time in weeks and felt like a very slow very heavy fish.

In-between

I’ve always been bad at in-betweens. You know, when you are waiting for something to happen, or something to become clear. When you hesitate to put down roots in your situation, because you don’t know what’s coming next, and you aren’t sure if any investment you make now will be worth it. The effect these in-betweens have on me is stultifying. I sit and look at all the things I could be doing and don’t do any of them.

You can see it in this blog, these in-between times. It becomes harder to write, harder to think, even, so I post less frequently, or stick to photos rather than words. Like the early months of pregnancy, when I can think of little else but don’t want to write about it yet. And like now.

This has been a rather long in-between. In between finishing my PhD and …. I don’t know. A baby? What else?

We are planning on staying in Norway for the next three or four years, so in order to make that profitable for me I need to either get a research grant or learn Norwegian so I can get a more interesting job. Or both. We are also thinking of  going to the US for nine months or so while I am on maternity leave. It’s not set in stone but is a distinct possibility. I was ambivalent about it at first but now am quite excited about it. Of course it complicates the whole learning Norwegian thing. But I can make that work. I’ve got to stop thinking like that.

I guess what I am trying to say is I am trying to live richly and purposefully in this in-between time. I want to kick the inertia so that I can do that. I want to start learning Norwegian properly now, although there are only three months left until the baby is due. I want to complete some writing projects, and repaint some scruffy walls in the house. Although I’m not sure where the writing will get me, and although we might not be spending much time in this house next year. Because if I don’t do anything, it won’t get me anywhere at all.

Although I find in-betweens uncomfortable, I don’t do much to avoid them, because I don’t like to rush things. At some level, strangely, I am not afraid of them. After my undergraduate degree, I had two and a half years off, during which time I worked as a home-care worker for people with disabilities, I wrote part of a novel, and after deciding that I did want to continue with English literature after all, I secured funding to do a Masters in medieval literature at York. After the masters I had another year off, during which I finished my novel (with a little financial help from the South Australian government), and managed to get funding for my PhD.

So in retrospect, those in-betweens were quite productive. It is easy to think the past ten years have left me with not much. A couple of dusty manuscripts, and a rarified education that doesn’t count for a great deal in the real world. But those two dusty manuscripts are quite nice, even if I do say so myself. They deserve to be reshaped into forms in which they can go out and meet the world. I need to be brave enough to do this. And we shall see where it takes me.

The cats

Ok so I just made this my header, but that will change at some point and I wanted a record of this! I’ve been wanting to get a shot of them in the bright autumn leaves beside our driveway for ages. (Ok so Michael took the picture but I lured them in there…) It’s really hard to get photos of Mermos in focus – he’s so silky and dark and velvety that the camera has nothing to latch onto. This one is pretty good though:

If you ever take a picture when he has his mouth open he looks like a terrifying killer, but in reality he is emitting a pitiful squeak:

Mermos is a very emotional, very vocal cat. When he comes running in from outside he mews his little head off until you pick him up or he buries himself in your lap, making puddings and purring blissfully. For a long time he liked me best. We sometimes let them in to snuggle with us for half an hour or so before we go to sleep. If Michael was in bed and I was getting ready, he would pace disconsolately on the bed until I got into it, at which point he would leap on top of me and burrow into my neck. Thankfully he is starting to share his affections a little, because this was a bit mean. He sometimes gets into a funny mood and climbs right on top of the kitchen cupboards to watch the world from a safe distance, and to snooze in peace.  He is utterly obsessed with human food. He will even eat spinach. And your toast is never safe – he is getting faster and faster at swiping it out of your hand.

Whitby is the more even tempered of the two – he never makes quite as much fuss. He is happy to sleep beside you rather than practically inside you. He’s getting more and more snuggly, though, too. They both love to sleep on top of my bump. I think the little one will be very accustomed to the sound and the feel of cats purring! Whitby is more interested in going outside than Mermos, but he always comes back in when we call. It’s funny – they like to play in different places – Whitby is always out the back of the house, while Mermos is always out the front. Whitby loves the green chair.

And he loves Mermos. We adore them.

Night light

Playing with the camera settings, Michael got some pretty cool pictures of our house and garden on Saturday night. I love how you can see Mermos in the window.

Unfortunately there’s more and more of this these days. Night, I mean. Waking up in the dark is a pain. Today was grey and miserable and it still felt very dark at nine in the morning because of all the clouds. I guess one advantage of shorter days – at least the clear ones – is that you actually get to see all the sunrises and sunsets. The sunset in my header at the moment is from some photos we took from the bridge between Norway and Sweden on Friday, about six pm.

Anyway we are bugging down in our warm little house and watching the dvds we brought back from the UK. Just finished season two of Dexter and I am completely hooked.

The pregnancy is going well. Twenty-five weeks tomorrow. I’ve felt the little thing kicking and wriggling every day for just over two weeks now. It’s delightful and strange, and what’s even stranger is that I’m starting to get used to it. But it’s very hard to mentally connect the hidden thing wriggling inside me with the demanding little one and two year olds I run around after all day. It’s getting more difficult to pick things up off the floor. By no means impossible, but it takes about four times as much effort and time as it used to. Also I frequently think I’ll be able to squeeze past someone or between a chair and a bench and I’m shocked to discover I can’t…

We are loving and loving our kittens.

It was so cold last Friday morning that I could hear the frozen yellow leaves clattering down from the trees.

Yorkshire

We had a beautiful beautiful trip to York and Leeds last weekend. I saw many old friends. The places themselves are like old friends, and it was so refreshing to see them. It was lovely to see my old supervisors, although everyone in UK universities is extremely depressed and worried at the moment, because the government is cutting state support of universities by up to 75%, which will have a devastating impact… My supervisor reckons it will be the biggest change in the university system in the UK since the 1960s when they made many of the old polytechnics into universities. He guesses that now many of them will have to go back, or close down… Student fees are set to at least double. It’s also a pretty impossible situation for many of my friends who, like me, just finished PhDs, but now can’t find any casual teaching work (which you need to build your CV), because when people go on leave or retire at the moment they aren’t replaced – the remaining staff just have to work harder. Which in turn effects their own ability to research and publish, which will impact on their university’s standing and ranking, etc etc.  Anyway, my supervisor reckons it’s a brilliant time to take time off and have a baby!

Depressing economic situation aside, it was lovely to be there. The towns and countryside of Northern England feel so much more settled, established and cultivated than Norway does. The houses are brick and stone, the fields have hedgerows, ancient abbeys crumble slowly next to the rivers. It feels loved and lived in.

I also did lots of shopping. I love maternity wear. Finally I can buy t-shirts and jumpers that are really long enough for me! We were lucky enough to get two days of brilliant sunshine, and on Sunday we took our old friend Vic to Bolton Abbey, and did the first section of one of our favourite hikes ever.

Not much more to say really, except that if you’re ever in the area, you really should go there. You can do a short walk of an hour or so along the river, or you can keep going on up through the ‘valley of desolation’, climbing up to arthur’s seat for the most incredible views of the North Yorkshire Moors. (Wasn’t up for that this time but have done it several times.)

When we got home the kittens had survived being fed by the neighbour for five days, and were very pleased to see us, curling up tightly on our laps and refusing to leave for hours.

Autumn light

Right now it’s rainy and miserable, but all week the light here was glorious.

Last Monday we climbed the fortress after dinner, all too aware that soon it will be too dark to do that.

For just a little longer, the leaves catch light and spin it and weave it.

This is exactly the time of year when the sunset hits the cobblestones through the fortress’s inner archway.

And I can’t help but believe that if I run along that path I will reach some place altogether new: a city of gold, with a gate only open for a few seconds each amber-washed autumn evening.

Visitors

A couple of months ago, we watched a deer float through our garden. It was weightless, quiet, made of grace. A few minutes later, we drove out to the main road, saw that some cars had stopped, and saw the deer lying on the ground. They are so fast, it must have happened just moments after we had seen it. We were so sad for the deer. For its quietness, its speed, its delicate feet. For its private pathways, which had woven through our own. We tried to tell ourselves: there will be other deer.

One evening, about three weeks ago, Michael called out to me – ‘Mel, get out here now.’ I raced out in my socks into the grey mist, and there they were: three of them, tiny, like shadows of air, treading silently away from us. I nearly cried.

And this evening they were back. The three of them, with their mother. Munching our overgrown lawn.

Reading

My book blog died in the final stages of my PhD. I couldn’t bear to write about books other than the ones I was focussed on day and night. Also the only books I could bear to read for pleasure at that point had to be very undemanding. Ian Rankin as bedtime reading was about all I could handle. But slowly this changed. Especially once I finished teaching this May, I realized I needed more to get my head around.

Reading this year has been directed mainly by what I had to read for the class I taught and what stray unread books I could find on my shelves, but there has been a couple of exceptions. I’ve also probably forgotten a couple.

Books for teaching:

Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe. Not what I expected, and really interesting.

A Passage to India, by E. M. Forster. The second time I’ve read this. Really enjoyed it.

Brick Lane, by Monica Ali. I enjoyed it but wasn’t sure she quite deserved all the praise lavished in the dust-jacket quotes. I don’t think she’s quite ‘the next Salman Rushdie’.

The Stars of the New Curfew, by Ben Okri. Very strange. Gave me nightmares.

Waiting for the Barbarians, by J. M. Coetzee. He really is a genius.

Books I bought:

Home, by Marilynne Robinson. I bought this in the University Bookshop, after loving loving loving Gilead a year or two ago. Penni has a few things to say about it, and I agree entirely. One of the most beautiful books I have ever read. My Mum read them both when she was visiting and also adored them. But she read Home first, and on reflection I really think you should read Gilead first.

Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. I bought this in Oslo airport, on my way to my summer holidays in the States. Best holiday reading ever, I didn’t want it to end. I finished it in Austria, and my Dad picked it up and pretty much didn’t put it down till he’d finished it either. Despite devoting many spare hours to cross-stitching Henry and his wives, I don’t actually know terribly much Tudor history, and this made me wish I did. The portrait of Cromwell was completely different from what I expected and my Dad and I both wondered whether he really was more like this than the monster he is more commonly portrait as, or whether this was a romanticized view. In any case, he is a completely compelling character.

Foe, by J. M. Coetzee. Also bought this in the university bookshop, but left it sitting on my shelves for long after I finished teaching. Strange and playful and not at all what I had expected. It’s a retelling of Robinson Crusoe from the perspective of a woman who claims she was written out of the final version. It muses on storytelling and power and authority and speaking and not-speaking, but in much more complex ways than I had first thought.

Books found on my shelves or pinched from Michael:

The Lost Dog, by Michelle de Kretser. I guess I’m a bit behind the eightball reading this now. I think Mum left it behind from an earlier trip from Australia two years ago. Some of the passages were incredibly beautiful and the two main characters were clever and interesting and I enjoyed it… But I can’t rave about it the way that many of my favourite bloggers do.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson. Pinched from Michael. Quite gripping after a questionable opening fifty pages or so. Michael’s first comment when reading it was – I can see why middle aged men like this book. Unfortunately I couldn’t read the rest of the trilogy as Michael bought them on his ipad and that’s a bit difficult to wrest from his grasp.

Out Stealing Horses, by Per Petterson. A Norwegian novel. Quite beautiful. I recommend it.  (Haha see how detailed my reviews are?)

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. Michael picked this up in Walmart a few trips to America ago, but gave up after fifty pages or so. I had heard of it when it first came out, and one of my friends teaches it at her school. I can’t say I was that impressed. The opening pages are pretty gruesome and the closing pages are exceedingly soppy. I thought what she was trying to do was quite interesting but the resolutions felt too sappy-sweet for me. (Also parts of it were pretty weird – fourteen year old girl who has been raped and murdered comes back to life for an hour and a half in her friend’s body in order to ‘make love’ to her high-school sweetheart, whom she only ever kissed once???)

Books still on the shelf (meaning either I acquired them ages ago but haven’t got around to reading yet, or they are old ones belonging to Michael):

Carpentaria, by Alexis Wright

Joan Makes History, by Kate Grenville

Midnight’s Children, by Salmon Rushdie

The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov

Catch 22, by Joseph Heller

Which one should I start with? Or should I go and get something else?

Beautiful Berlin

It was a weekend more reminiscent of the gorgeous sunny visit to my brother last September than the rainy but lovely couple of days we spent there this May. Sigh. I would love to live in Berlin. I have thought so for ten years, and every time I visit I think it even more.

We went to our favourite pizza place twice, ate many falafels, waffles, and seriously good slow breakfasts.

We did one day of touristy things with my aunt, before deciding to leave them to it and sticking to the cafes, parks and flea markets.

Michael took lots of pictures. I didn’t take any.

I found an amazing fabric shop and bought fabric covered in fairytale characters, mushrooms, dinosaurs and birds. Now I’m not sure what to do with it – I just chose the ones I liked and didn’t really think about whether they would go together…

This is me gazing wistfully through the locked door on Sunday – I had hoped against hope that I could go in for a second look. (But now I have found the online shop! Hmmm…)

My aunt was super excited – about seeing us, but especially about seeing her son and his wife, who she hadn’t seen for over a year, and who are expecting a baby the same week I am. Here we all are comparing baby bumps:

I’m not sure what Joseph is brewing in this one:

The leaves were just about to turn.

Lots more photos here.

20 weeks

All’s well. Just starting to get a belly that doesn’t disappear in the mornings. The jeans I bought at ten weeks are still too loose though. I’m hopeless at buying jeans.

Last week we had an ultrasound. He (yep, he) is beautiful. We saw him stretch his arms above his head, and cross his legs, and hug his chest, and kick his legs like a swimmer and burrow into my side, and curl up like a kitten with his toes above his nose. We saw his sharp white bones and his startling face. We looked at him and we loved him.

I haven’t felt much movement yet, but they tell me I have an anterior placenta which means I probably won’t feel anything for a while.

Berlin was lovely. Sunshine and parks and long slow breakfasts. And it was so nice to see my aunt and my cousins.

Michael is now in Paris but the kittens are keeping me company. They are such social little things and are both snoozing on the desk as I type. (They would snooze on the keyboard if I let them.)

When I get home from work all I want to do is lie on the couch for hours. I really need to find a job that utilizes my skills more effectively. Still. It’s all part of the plan. And it is not a bad job really. (And I am getting lots of practice I suppose!)

Words seem quiet and elusive right now. But I will try to spend more time with them, to coax them back into my garden. (Funny sentence I know, but that’s sort of what it feels like when I try to write – like I’m sitting in an empty garden waiting for the birds to come back.)

It feels like it has taken forever to get to 20 weeks, and that it will take forever to get to 40. But it won’t, I know. This is the tipping point.

Live-blogging our wood pile

That’s a lot of sticks. (Norwegian people think English people call logs of wood ‘sticks’. I think that sounds quite sweet so I’m happy to adopt the terminology.)

Actually this is just the first load. We’ve ordered more. Eep!

Michael and our unbelievably helpful neighbour are out there as I type.

I helped for nearly fifty minutes but then my back started seriously complaining. Their backs probably are too, but they aren’t pregnant.

Anyway, I think we owe our neighbour a lot more apple cakes.

A Swedish weekend

We drove past the stone ship and down to the coast, where we got our fill of sun. But the real fun started when we got back to Norway, and our Swedish friend put on a traditional kraftor party at our house.

It involved silly hats, lots of these clawed creatures, and just as much snaps, augmented with wine and beer. Oh, and songs. You were supposed to eat a crayfish or two, sing a swedish song, and knock back a shot of snaps.

I joined in the singing even if I couldn’t indulge in the snaps. It was quite entertaining watching everyone else get more and more plastered. As Michael put it – ‘The party was great. Rocking up at work the next day – not so much.’

At some point we had to sing the Swedish national anthem. All well and good. Until someone translated for us and we realised we’d declared a burning desire to live and to die in the North. This is all very nice for now, but can we take that back?

Quiet Saturday Morning

Last night I stayed up till midnight, for the first time in nearly four months. I did feel like crawling into bed around 10, and I was slightly ill with tiredness by the time I got there, but still – midnight! We had some of Michael’s international work colleagues over for dinner. I made roast tomato and carrot soup (yum), and then we had falafels, homemade hummus (I think I’m perfecting the recipe, and topped it with toasted sesame seeds), fried halloumi, roasted peppers, tzaziki, olives, sundried tomatoes, pita bread, potatoes, and a green salad with lettuce, cucumber and avocado. (It was fun expanding the cheese horizons of the Americans – one of our guests had never tasted Halloumi before, and I also gave her some Norwegian brown cheese to try, which she was pleasantly surprised by.) Then at Michael’s insistence (and after a decent pause), I made my childhood favourite: chocolate self-saucing pudding, which was appreciated by all. The kitties were the stars of the show, and enjoyed trying out the different laps, and cavorting with a toy mouse in front of an audience.

This morning Michael’s off at yet another meeting. I’m deciding whether to head off to the shops in Sweden (to be sucked in by a sale at my beloved Iittala outlet), or just to bug down here. Most of all I’d like to go for a coffee with one of my Adelaide friends, or cousins, or Aunts, or my Mum or Dad or brother. I wish there was a fairy who could whisk up our house and our lives and plonk them down somewhere in the Adelaide hills.

My Grandma had a knee replacement operation this Wednesday, and she is recovering well to our great relief. It was a really annoying operation, as she had it done a few years ago, but they discovered they had put in a faulty part that was shedding bits of metal into her knee, so had to take it out and do it again. The first time she had a quite a scare with clotting problems, but this time they were keeping an eye on that from the outset, so it’s all going well. I send her and Granddad all my love and I’m so glad it’s all going smoothly. (In true G&G style, they spent the two weeks before the operation on a bus tour of outback Queensland!)

And two more of my dear Adelaide friends have had a daughter! My poet friend and his wife now have a little Beatrice! (So four of my best friends have, between them, a Beatrix and a Beatrice, born only a couple of weeks apart.) I know my poet friend really loves the Paradiso, and listened to it on audio-book when he was recovering from his stroke. Beatrice is a lovely name – all light and hope and exploration.

So most of all I’d like to see my Grandma, and meet the little Beatrices, but there will be time enough for that next year. In a couple of weeks I get to meet my cousins and my Aunt for a weekend in Berlin, and the Michael’s parents are visiting, and in October I’m zipping across to the UK for a weekend to see my Leeds friends. And my family are with me here, even in the food I cook: Mum’s and Grandma’s chocolate pudding, Dad’s hummus, and the roasted peppers that my cousin Sal learnt how to make when she worked in a cafe.

This week Autumn has arrived – a chill in the air, a smell of apples and woodsmoke, and torrential, flooding rains. I’m loving our little house at the moment – I’ll post some ‘after’ pictures of all the work we’ve done soon. In other news, I’m 17 weeks now, and I don’t feel pregnant at all! In fact I feel better than I did before I got pregnant… We have another scan in a week – it will be nice to confirm that the little thing is still in there! Love to all. xxx

Home improvements

Dad cooking dinner.

Hummus! (And you can see our partially installed dishwasher in the background. It worked but tipped over if you weren’t careful, and we hadn’t taken off the bright blue protective plastic. Dad helped Michael to get this fixed – and propped up to the proper height – before they left.)

Yum! Veggie curry with hummus, coriander, and rather good South Australian white wine.

Mermos trying to help.

Mum patching holes after we removed the green kitchen door that the previous owners had decoratively hung on the wall.

Dad moving the power-point so we could put a bookshelf next to the sofa.

Mum painting our kitchen wall after patching the long narrow crack.

Dad installing the kitchen door back where it belongs. (Which means this winter the kitchen won’t resemble a freezer – hooray!)

When they left, Dad left behind two huge boxes of chocolates (which sadly didn’t last for long), and Mum left behind a gorgeous blue and white fruit bowl with two matching tea mugs, also buying two of the mugs for herself so that we can have matching cups of tea, hemispheres apart.

Now if only they lived a bit closer…

Swimming

I’ve started to show a little bit this week. Not much, but my colleagues are gleefully pointing to any evidence. They are very excited for me. (But the new lady, who didn’t know, was surprised when she was told, so I think if you weren’t looking for it, you wouldn’t see much.) Anyway, this was accompanied on Monday by some rather alarming back pain in my lower back. Nothing debilitating, I suppose, but I am not accustomed to back pain and I don’t like it! And this is only fifteen (well, nearly sixteen now) weeks! I haven’t even gained weight yet! It’s got to be downhill from here. So I dragged myself off to the pool.

It’s a pretty small pool, but it’s only a fifteen minute walk from the house. On Monday I managed fifteen laps, today twenty-five. My back still felt pretty dodgy on Tuesday, but it’s better now. So I think I’d better keep this up. Mermos doesn’t like it because it makes my skin smell funny.

I never used to be terribly good at swimming, but then I discovered goggles, and the swimming cap. Without a swimming cap, all the water gets caught in my hair and drips down into my mouth when I’m trying to breathe. I polished my swimming skills in Adelaide, before I moved to the UK seven (gasp) years ago. I thought it would be a grounding, calming thing to do. It was.

In York I used to swim a kilometre twice or three times a week. I would walk to the pool – an old, fifty metre monstrosity – with my housemate and fellow masters student Neil, early in the morning before our day of writing our dissertation. It kept us sane, and the thought that a friend was waiting for us ensured we dragged ourselves out of bed. I kept it up for another year or so after I moved in with Michael, riding my bike there to break up afternoons of writing and thinking. But after a while the chlorine made me sniffly, and I joined a fancy new gym, where we just used the pool to boat around in after a workout, and that was that.

But I think it’s good for backs. And I love the smooth, cool rhythm of it. And this little pool is more than enough for me in my current state! Tonight I even managed to walk down. It’s still light until about 9pm. There are trees bulging with green apples blushing pink in many of the gardens. It rained heavily this afternoon and this evening the sky was still grey though it’s pretty warm. The ground is clean and shiny.

I arrived home to Michael furiously sanding our kitchen and our lounge room door, to the strains of a rather groovy playlist. The amount of work he’s put into these doors is staggering. (After Dad re-istalled one of them). Stripping and sanding and filling holes. And painting and sanding and painting again. Michael calls it the circle of life. But they’re nearly done now. Just have to get hold of some proper oil paint for the final coat. Anyway, will stop rambling now. Good night!

Day by day

Well, I had another scan at the end of last week in Oslo, and everything is looking good! We saw it bouncing around. And the doctor had a very close look and said everything looks perfectly, absolutely normal. I’m starting to relax now. It feels like such a gift. I was really really hoping it would be ok this time because I couldn’t face the thought of having to go through three first trimesters in a row. Two was enough! Just over fourteen weeks now and the yuckness and tiredness are starting to ease off a little. (Well, I say that now, but I have the early early shift tomorrow which means waking up at 5.30, so we’ll see how I feel then…)

My parents left this morning and it was sad to see them go. We shared such a lovely holiday with them! And I cannot believe the number of little niggling problems with the house we managed to sort out. But that deserves (yet) another post, including ‘after’ pictures once we’ve got the place tidied up a bit more.

We went for a long walk in the forest this evening and are sitting out on the deck as it’s still pretty warm. The kittens are bouncing around. Life is so much better with kittens.

The main thing

Ok now this is the main thing. On Monday we drove to Fredrikstad for a scan. I was terrified. On Saturday I was so nervous that I felt nauseous all day. But this time, Michael was with me. He lent me his iphone and I played Stoneloops of Jurassica in the waiting room, which so successful at distracting me that I didn’t even hear them calling my number. Then we went in for the ultrasound. And there’s a little one in there! It’s alive! It doesn’t seem to have the same problem as last time.

I was so relieved I went out of the hospital and I cried. For the little one who will never be born, and the little one who in all likelihood will.

And then we met my parents for coffee and cake in the old town.

***

After lunch I called my Grandma. Eventually I managed to interrupt the flow of family news.

‘I’ve got some news for you too’, I said. ‘I’m pregnant again!’

‘Oh!’ she said. ‘Someone else is pregnant too!’

Not exactly the response I expected, but anyway… ‘Who?’

‘Well, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to tell you, but Caitlin rang this evening and she had her scan this morning and she’s twelve weeks!’

‘Wow!’

‘How – where are you…’

‘I had my scan this morning and I’m twelve weeks!’

Many breathless phonecalls ensued. Caitlin is the wife of my cousin Joseph. They are living in London at the moment. All going well, these babies will be the first great-grandchildren on this side of the family. My Mum and her sister will become grandmothers together. Everyone is ecstatic. Apparently my Grandma was so excited she gave herself a migraine.

***

I had the scan on Monday. Wednesday was the estimated due date of my previous pregnancy. And on Friday, two of my closest friends in Adelaide had a baby girl. So, for me, it is slightly bittersweet. Yesterday and this morning I felt this piercing, heavy sadness. This new story is wonderful, but it is coloured by the old one. And it feels so unreal. In my (very limited) experience, pregnancy doesn’t mean a baby. My parents have driven off for a few days holiday in the mountains. They will be back next weekend, but then they head back to Australia. I think I also feel sad about that. About living so very far away. But I have learnt, too, that sadness passes. That it is like a thick mist, damp and cold, touching and clouding everything. But it lifts. Already I feel a little better. I made some rather strange but fairly tasty brownies this afternoon, and I go back to work tomorrow. I am looking forward to getting into routines again. I feel rested. I am looking forward to writing and thinking on my Fridays off. And we are looking forward to our new stories, to all their colours.

***

Many more things

Austria was gorgeous. It already feels like a distant dream. I had some beautiful flights, nosing about in the thermals and surfing the rising air above the ridge. My parents, Michael and I bought a five day cable car pass, which meant that we could go up each of the four cable cars in the region once a day. One of them you could paraglide down from. One of them had a toboggan thing on a monorail, which was awesome. And they all had beautiful views and walking opportunities.

We had amazing weather – it was warm and sunny nearly every day. The food was cheap and good, the accommodation was great, the landscape stunning. Too many adjectives, I know. But it really is the most relaxing place. Most afternoons we would head down to the local pool (entry was free with the guest card we got with our holiday apartment) and float around, looking up at the mountains and zooming down the waterslide. My parents were duly impressed. I have a feeling we’ll all be back. Mum had a tandem flight.

Michael’s Mum came along too, overcoming her fear of heights by coming with us on two cable cars all the way up to the base of the glacier, and talked about getting a tandem flight herself next time!

***

It’s a good thing we had a decent summer holiday this year because we have been back a week and the weather has been dreadful. As Michael puts it: Norwegian summer = a gap between rain showers, just enough to mow the lawn.

My folks have been here all week which has been so nice. I had this week off too. We have worked incredibly hard though!!! My suggestion to drive up to Ikea on Wednesday was met with enthusiasm, and resulting in four major (and several minor) purchases that then required assembly. Each job seemed to lead onto another one… Dad moved one of our powerpoints so we could put the new bookshelf where we wanted it. He then not only took down the door which the previous owners had ‘decoratively’ hung on the wall but also re-installed it in its proper place between the kitchen and the hall. This will be brilliant in winter because it will mean we can actually keep the kitchen warm. And we have been patching cracks and holes, painting walls and cupboards, installing light fittings, hanging curtains… Everything I thought to myself – oh we should do that sometime – is getting done. Michael reckons my parents deserve their own TV show.

My new sewing machine has been getting a workout. Michael made a pillow for the kittens and I made a mouse.

Many things

We’ve been very busy this week. So many things that writing is daunting and I’m not sure where to begin. It’s the last week of my summer holidays, and my parents are visiting, and they are being absolute gems helping me sort things out in the house that I’ve been meaning to for ages. Including a day long trip to Ikea and (so far) one whole day of putting things together and installing light fittings and removing heavy green doors from walls and hanging up mirrors and moving power points and patching holes… Just the wardrobe left to put together and I’m kicking myself for buying the wrong size shelves. We had so much stuff, though, really, something was bound to go wrong.

And my Mum bought me a sewing machine as a late birthday present, and it is amazing. And Dad is the kind of person who upon hearing that we can’t buy humous here, promptly gets hold of some chickpeas and makes us some! They have been cooking us all sorts of yummy things like beetroot risotto and eggplant parmigiana.

So it is very lovely to have them here. And there have been other things happening, other big things, other good things, but I will tell you about them soon because right now it’s all so exciting that it’s exhausting and I need to be quiet about it for a while.

Mutton Bustin’

We went to our first ever rodeo last night. The bucking horses were cool. The ‘fast horses and pretty ladies’, as they put it, were nice too.

The bucking bulls were terrifying, but sadly Michael’s camera had run out of batteries by then, and mine wasn’t up for the job. But the most hilarious events were those involving children. The rodeo opened with a group of 8-12 year olds chasing two calves with money pinned to their flanks.

The calves eventually got tired of the whole affair and started chasing the children.

The main event, however, was the ‘mutton bustin’. The series of photos below shows how it compares with adult events.


Lots to catch up on

1. Kittens being cute

2. The best house guests ever

Some very old family friends came to visit me in Halden. They pretty much feel like family, actually. I lived with them for a year and a half when I started University. It was so fun to see them! They turned up with Australian wine, Belgium chocolate, timtams and the most amazing flowers. They helped me empty out the basement for some work we need done there, and Loris even donated her mobile phone charger to me because my kittens wrecked my old one!

3. Sunshine, skies and holidays (ongoing).

Rainy day

Perfect for exam marking. But of course I am procrastinating. When there are exams to be marked, what better time to write a blog post! The rain is quite lovely in fact. Mermos is purring in my lap, Whitby is curled at my feet (I have a lambskin rug under my desk). They are such funny, friendly kitties. They always follow you around (even to the toilet, one thing I could do without!). A load of washing is on, I’ve sorted out the kitchen, and hung some pictures on my office wall.

On my left is a lovely print of an early drawing of a wombat family, by Charles-Alexandre Lesueur in 1804. I bought it when there was an exhibition in Adelaide many years ago of early French drawings of Australian plants and animals. It was the most amazing thing! Because Australian creatures were still relatively odd to European eyes, the representations looked slightly odd because they hadn’t worked out how draw them yet. Anyway the print sat under my bed in Adelaide for about seven years, but I took it back with me in January and found a frame for it. There is a mother wombat with about four little baby wombats toddling out of her pouch (do they have that many babies?), and a father wombat looking on bemusedly.

On my right are two prints of pages from the Book of Kells. I bought them on a trip to Ireland with the University of York hiking club in early 2004. Michael had organized the trip, so he was there, but we weren’t together yet. (We did, however, always sit next each other and talk for hours…) I remember offering him one of the posters on the train home in a kind of clumsy courting gesture. He said no thank you, he wasn’t into putting pictures on walls, he wanted to wait until he had his own place and could do it properly. (I bet he’s forgotten the entire conversation!) Anyway, here they are, and here we are. One of them is extra special to me now, because it is the Q from the Quoniam page, which Les Murray has written a poem about, and which I devoted about two and a half pages of my thesis to… (I can tell you more about that if you’re interested…)

Michael has been in the south of France all week which I am insanely jealous about. He gets back tonight only to leave again for Texas on Wednesday… Anyway, I’m very glad not to be at work today. Fridays are now my own! But the exams are calling. Wish me luck!