Wednesday, June 30, 2010

All done!

So I made it through the 30 days of June Busy Blogging.

I'm really pleased I can mark my final June post with another finished knitting project. (See? public declarations of intentions seem to work for me).

Finished Sage 1

This is Sarah Shepherd's Sage Remedy sleeveless jumper that I've knitted from Cascade 220 in a deep blue-green heathered colour. Even with the lace panels it was a quick knit, though it took me ages to get around to seaming it and finishing the the arm and neck rolled facings.

Finished sage 2

I posted it off to my daughter this morning, so I still have a little anxiety about whether it will fit well...and whether she likes it.

Finished Sage 4

I've enjoyed daily blogging much more than I thought I would. When I started my June Busy Blogging the main rationale was that it would be a daily routine that kept track of my daily reality as my life was rushing by. I think it's had this outcome. I read that MissFee is intending to continue her daily blogging until she moves house - I'm full of admiration for her, though I'm going to slip back, with some relief, to less frequent entries.

Thanks to everybody for reading and commenting. I've particularly enjoyed the interaction with my readers that's come from more frequent blogging. And I've enjoyed sharing daily posts with my Blogfest partners - MissFee and JP. I'm in the midst of renovations, and just beginning sorting and culling preparatory to moving house, so even though I'm no longer committed to daily blogging there'll still be lots to report on and share over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A result - of sorts

I was overwhelmed by the detail and ingenuity of the responses to my request for advice on storage - as were a number of my commenters. So many wonderfully useful suggestions. Even if I'd already thought of some of the ideas - such as using deep pull-out drawers to improve accessibility - the recommendations about where and how they could be utilised went way beyond any thoughts I'd had.

So, thank you.

And the winner?

Well, I had to choose two winners - both of them for the comprehensiveness, thoughtfulness and sheer overwhelmingness of their ideas - RoseRed and Sel & Poivre. Both of you could set up shop as storage consultants. Yarn will be coming your way. And so many others also impressed me with their inventiveness and with the systematic thoroughness with which they find homes for all their stuff.

Again, thank you all.

I'm just beginning to face up to the realisation that no matter how wonderful my storage is, I first have to sort and cull my possessions so that I can make the most of the storage I'm planning. I guess that will become my obsession of the next few weeks.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A gift blanket

I'm pleased and relieved to have finished some knitting. It seems ages since I've completed anything.

Blanket 1

This is a very un-tweedy version of Brooklyn Tweed's 'Tweed Baby Blanket'. Such a good pattern. It's a simple feather-and-fan edging on a square of diagonally knitted garter stitch - a sort of variation on traditional Hap blankets. Like all Brooklyn Tweed patterns it's very well-written - clear, sequential, and with just enough elaboration on the pattern to give you assurance at every step. I've made some modifications and cast on more stitches because I've used a thinner yarn than the original pattern.

Blanket 2

I've knitted the blanket for my daughter's good friend who lives in Spain and is expecting a baby girl in the Northern autumn. I've chosen to use Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 4 ply, partly because it results in a very Australian gift, but also because the Luxury yarn is soft and drapey and machine washable. I've used 3.5mm needles which results in a snuggly texture for a blanket.

The blanket is silvery grey and mauve (not blue as the photographs make it seem), which is a colour combination I keep coming back to for babies and little girls.

Blanket 3

I'm sure I'll come back to this perfect pattern again.

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I almost forgot to blog today.

Despite house selling, renovations, and work, and amidst national political turmoil, I've managed to get to a few things this week that have been thought-provoking and satisfying.

I went to see a production of Shakespeare's 'Measure for Measure' at the Belvoir Theatre. This play used to be categorised as one of Shakespeare's 'problem plays' - maybe it's still so categorised - a 'problem' partly because it's hard to categorise. It has one of those Shakespearean happy endings where everybody gets married off to anybody who's feasible; an ending suitable for a comedy. But it deals with themes of power, hypocrisy, honour, the use of torture and , most centrally, women's rights. This is a very modern production that adds to above mixture questions of privacy, surveillance and celebrity. It's a most confronting production. Most troubling. For my tastes it was too crammed with theatrical devices to be brilliant (I like my Shakespeare 'plain'), but the play itself and some of the actors' performances had extraordinary impact.

I went with my neighbour and friend Marea to the opening of the latest exhibition of works by Central Desert Papunya Tula artists at Utopia Galleries.

Josephine Nangala 'Untitled'

These paintings are so beautiful - probably among the best Indigenous art commercially available. Papunya Tula art grows in sophistication and precision over the years. This current exhibition glows with colour and has great movement and dynamism.

I've been to see a very good new Australian movie - 'Animal Kingdom'. It's set in the the currently over-used and over-hyped setting of crime 'families' and corrupt police. But unlike the TV series 'Underbelly', this film shows how the ties of loyalty to family socialise behavior and shape and restrict choice. It's a tight script with some excellent performances - particularly from Ben Mendelsohn as the cruel, absolutely amoral oldest brother.

PS I did manage to block the Tweed Baby Blanket today. I hope to have pics tomorrow.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hopeful knitting

The knitting content of my June Busy Blog-a-Day has been very light on. It's not that I've stopped knitting - I still knit a little most days, but my knitting's certainly suffered from my busyness. In particular, I've had difficulty finding the energy to do anything more than the most routine and mindless knitting - even finishing off has been neglected.

But I've decided things have to change.

I finished knitting for the Brooklyn Tweed Baby Blanket some time ago but it's been languishing, waiting to to be blocked. That's going to happen tomorrow.

I've finished the back and front of the Sage Remedy, a sweater/vest I'm making for my daughter - it needs seaming, and the cap sleeves and neck binding need to be knitted. I'd like to have this finished in the next few days so my daughter can wear it when she comes back from the Philippines later in the week.

I'm about a third of the way through the Playful Stripes Cardigan for the dotee. This isn't really urgent, but if I don't get it finished very soon she'll get no use from it this winter. I'll try for a deadline of 7 July.

I'm making good progress on the final project I've been working on from time to time - my current Personal Sock Club Socks, due for completion on 15 July. I've just finished the first sock. They're going well because the Oak Ribbed Sock pattern I'm working on is so beautifully logical and straight-forward.

So I'm hoping for lots of knitting busyness in the next couple of weeks. Public declarations of my intentions seem to work well for motivating me so I'll see how I manage and report back.

Friday, June 25, 2010

My heroes

I love the photograph on the front page of today's Sydney Morning Herald. My Prime Minister Julia Gillard being sworn in by my Governor General Quentin Bryce...and both of them are women.


Not only are both women, but they're both very admirable women. Both of them trained as lawyers and both have chosen to spend most of their adult lives in public positions. I admire people who choose to try to improve the world through changing mainstream institutions - it's often very difficult and gains can seem few and hard-won. Both have achievements in some of the areas I think most important in improving the position of women in Australia - industrial relations and their impact on women's work, and paid parental leave and childcare. Neither has had a career without conflict or setbacks, but both have persisted in achieving the outcomes from which we've benefitted.

Of course I'm regretful of the chillingly efficient way the previous Prime Minister was deposed. While Julia Gillard probably had little realistic choice but to accede in challenging for the leadership once the power brokers decided the Prime Minister was to go (I'm sure there were others aspiring to the role if Gillard had refused to challenge) it's a pity her undoubted quality and ability has not brought her the Prime Minister's role untarnished by the grubbiness of disposing of an incumbent Prime Minister.

One of my colleagues at work today pointed out that my Head of State, the Queen of Australia who is also the Queen of England, is a woman; her representative in Australia, the Governor General, is a woman; the Prime Minister is a woman; the Premier of the State in which I live, NSW, is a woman; the Queen's representative in NSW, the Governor of NSW, is a woman, and the Lord Mayor of the City of Sydney, my local government area, is a woman. Isn't that amazing! I can go even further - both my local State member of Parliament, and my Federal representative in Parliament are women. Everybody who represents me in any level of government is a woman.

If you'd told me in the 1970s when I first became aware of feminism that such a situation would be possible within my lifetime I would have been incredulous (though I would trade a popularly elected Australian Head of State - of any gender - for the Queen, any day). This is a moment of great hopefulness.

Now if we could just get real equal pay for women, more women on the boards of companies, cheaper or even free child care, better superannuation provision for older women...there's still so much more to strive for.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I've just signed the contract for the sale of the apartment my family and I have lived in for 25 years. I feel as if I should be feeling some deep and significant emotion but my main feeling so far is just relief that the process of selling is complete. It's been sold for a satisfactory price - not world-shattering, but a bit more than we were anticipating.

I now have 42 days before final settlement. That's 6 weeks to pack and sort and work out just how much I can take to my new apartment and what to do with the things I can't take. I imagine that over the next few weeks there'll be lots conflicting emotions - excitement at moving on to another stage of my life and some melancholy at all that I seem to be leaving behind.

A big day (and not only because today we have a new Prime Minister who's a woman).

table & dresser
bedroom shelves 1
lounge & shelves
bedroom 2
study 1

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Even more storage

My goodness. I've certainly found a rich vein of interest and advice on the subject of storage. I feel as if I have the beginnings of a book on the subject! Like my friend Barbara who commented, I've been reading the comments in awe at your creativity and organisation. No matter how well my storage is planned and constructed, I suspect I'll lack the will-power and rigour to keep things tidy, but I won't have any excuses other than my own failings.

It's interesting that most of the comments have been about kitchen storage and organisation. What about my which (if I'm honest) I'm probably more interested than I am in the kitchen? What about my yarn? What about my textile collection? Most importantly, what about the books? Are there things that you wish you'd planned for? (I've remembered such things as the vacuum cleaner, the brooms, the kitchen rubbish bin, the Christmas tree, the winter bedding). Fortunately I don't play sports so I don't need to store such things as tennis racquets or skis - that would be a nightmare in the space I have.

So, I'm still interested in other suggestions. Don't hesitate to comment again if you're so inclined.

I'm really enjoying all this interesting and valuable advice. Thank you, dear readers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A contest - of sorts

I'm puzzling over plans for the interiors of my new wardrobes and cupboards - trying to imagine what I need to store and how much space I might need to store it (yes, I know the answer to that second question is 'more than you could ever imagine', but my space is limited).

cupboard plans

So, I've had the bright idea of asking you to help:

What's the best storage solution you actually have, or have dreamed of having?

Remember I'm moving to a small apartment and I don't lead a life of grandeur, so I don't need ideas such as parking for 3 cars or a cupboard designed for a 100 piece dinner service or a wardrobe to accommodate ten evening gowns.

I'll choose the most inspirational answer and send out a gift - yarn for knitters, something else appropriate for non-knitters, and I'll incorporate your idea in my new storage.

The renovation is proceeding quite swiftly, so I need a quick turn-around of ideas - say, midnight Australian EST Thursday 24 June.

I'm really looking forward to your suggestions - I think I've just about reached 'inspiration overload' and am out of good ideas.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Monday. I don't go to my paid job on Mondays and so I can take time to sort out the tasks in my life that need week-day time to complete. I enjoy not feeling harried and time poor, even if only for a day.

Most of today was spent, predictably, on house selling and house renovation tasks. A meeting with my solicitor. Lots of to-ing and fro-ing with the real estate agents who are selling my apartment. The auction for the sale is this coming Saturday and after lots of people looking, lots of complimentary comments, but no-one expressing interest in buying, there are finally potential buyers who seem significantly more serious. I had yet another meeting with designing Heather about the renovation of the apartment to which I'm moving. We're now up to discussing the design for the inside of the cupboards - isn't that great? Suddenly all sorts of wonderful things are possible - drawers in the kitchen for my pots and pans, space for my ironing board, slide out shallow drawers for shoes in the bedroom, a television within the bedroom wardrobe, big shelves for winter bedding to be stored in summer...the list goes on and on.

And I think we've decided on the contrast colour for the stair landing - a dusty red.

I also managed to get to the Post Office during opening hours to collect a parcel - it was a print copy of 'Ori Ami Knits' by Olga Buraya-Kefelian and Vanessa Yap-Einbund. I'd already received a digital copy of the book, but having a print edition with its high quality paper and beautiful presentation is a different matter altogether. [Coincidentally, Jody also has a post today on her preference for print over digital media for knitting publications]. The Ori Ami patterns are particularly designed for Habu yarns. The introduction begins
Folding. Pleating. Draping. Combining textures. These are the concepts driving this collection.
Most of the patterns have simple lines but unexpected detailing. Some of the patterns are by Kirsten Johnstone, an Australian designer whose work I've often admired.

Ori Ami 1
Ori Ami 2
Ori Ami 3
Ori Ami 4

I'm at the stage of browsing and admiring 'Ori Ami Knits'. Maybe when I have less to distract me I'll move on to choosing and constructing.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Knitting Sunday

It was just one of those wonderfully relaxed Sunday afternoons - winter sun slanting through the shutters, tea, bubbly, shared food, meandering chatter, knitting friends, and, of course, lots of knitting.

arvo tea

Thanks Fee for lending us your kitchen table for the afternoon, for making tea and generally ensuring we were comfortable, and for sharing this photo of the detritus of our arvo tea.

I've not been cooking or baking much lately, but I decided to make what my mother would have called a 'plain cake' to take with me. It's a very basic recipe for an apple cake that comes from Erika, an old family friend:

Erika's cake

Erika's Apple Cake
120g butter
100g sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
200g self-raising flour
About 1/3 cup milk
2 apples
Ground cinnamon; extra sugar.

Heat oven to 175 degrees centigrade. Mix butter and sugar till well amalgamated. Beat in eggs, one by one. Mix in vanilla essence. Sift in flour in three lots, interspersing each with some milk. Add more milk if mixture is too thick.

Pour mixture into greased pan (I used a 23cm diameter pan and lined the base with baking paper to turn the cake out easily).

Peel and core apples and cut into quarters. Press apples into mixture in cake pan in a pleasing pattern. Sprinkle apples with cinnamon and extra sugar.

Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or till a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

This cake is really versatile. You can substitute most fruits for the apples. It's particularly good with stone fruit such as peaches or apricots and excellent with plums. I added a few pecan nuts - but almonds or walnuts would also be fine. Or you can make a crumble of brown sugar, butter and flour and scatter it over the top of the cake.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Shoes & socks

I was up early today to cope with a busy morning. A visit to the local market to buy flowers for home, a haircut, final preparation of the apartment for its last open inspection prior to its auction next weekend, an overdue but wonderful visit to the remedial masseur to deal with my neck, my hips and my right heel (I hate the way my body is ageing), and then lunch with neighbours.

On busy days like this I reach for comfort clothes, which today included my favourite hand-knit socks and very battered falling-apart old Trippen shoes, much in need of shoe polish.

It wasn't till lunch-time that I noticed that

shoes and socks 2

it was a great way to show off the patterned toes of my Nancy Bush Welsh Country Stockings.

June busy summary
Bunches of flowers bought 5 (well, one is a pot of cyclamen)
Number of rows knitted - socks 175; blanket 1.5 rows of 650+ stitches plus one round of 3 stitch i-cord cast-off; cardi 40
Time spent tidying up 10 hours
Films viewed 15

geraldton wax

Friday, June 18, 2010

Double century

As I was writing last night I noted it was my two hundredth blog post. It's just under two years since I started my blog, so that's an average of two posts a week. I'm astonished. As I've noted before, I've spent most of my non-working life avoiding writing. The work I've done has always involved writing - but that's writing with a particular purpose; to a formula. Except for a few sporadic efforts to keep a diary, usually lasting a matter of weeks at the most, I've never before written for pleasure. I wonder what makes blogging different... having an audience, however small? Receiving comments and feedback? Being able to integrate photos? Not needing to write long, sustained pieces?

Of the posts I've labeled, roughly a third are about knitting and around 15% are about travel - broadly defined, as I've included such trips as that to Wollongong for the Knitters' Camp under the label 'travel'. After that, posts are roughly equally distributed among a range of topics - such things as films, Sydney, family, books and home - this last growing rapidly as I'm blogging about renovations. Pretty much a reflection of my life, once you take work out of it.

For some time I've been hearing comments here and there from bloggers that they're losing interest in blogging. I guess this is inevitable with greater choice among forms of social networking. But I'm still interested and engaged by the medium, so I'll still be blogging for a while to come.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Guess what colour?

Yesterday after work I had a long meeting with Heather, the designer and project manager for my apartment renovation. Decisions, decisions... I don't think I've ever had to make so many decisions one after the other. Of course, many of the decisions were about colours. You probably need only one guess to know what colour will be used a lot - yes, shades of grey.

I've chosen deep charcoal grey for the bedroom and landing carpet; glossy dark grey tiles for the bathroom floor; an aubergine based grey for the laundry cupboards; blue muddied with grey for the bedroom walls and rich grey for the kitchen cupboards. There's also khaki and sand and warm driftwood and we're still debating a splash of colour on the wall near the steps - burnt orange? rich ochre? deep rose pink?

We're one week into the six week schedule and already a day ahead. So far, so good.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Crafted chic

I'm somewhat addicted to decorating magazines. I think it's because they depict an ordered world that I would love to inhabit, but know I never will. Recently, as my renovation project is under way, I've been spending even more time than usual leafing through them - poring over the details of blinds, cupboard finishes, door handles, furniture arrangements, and, of course, paint colours.

Along the way I've noticed a recent trend to featuring hand-crafted textiles and fabrics, such as knitted cushions

knitted cushions

and traditional afghan rugs.

afghan rug

The current July/August edition of 'Inside Out' has an article, 'Create a crocheted throw' with the subtitle 'hook into the newly respectable craft of crochet for a touch of Nanna chic'.

crochet throw

Nanna chic? urgh! Newly respectable? When was crochet not respectable? One might have accused crochet of being too respectable, but not respectable? The article goes on to assure us that
The beauty of crochet is that once you've worked out how to do one square - or in this case one hexagon - it's just a matter of repeating the process until you have enough squares for the sized rug you require, which is easily done while enjoying a favourite DVD.

I'm torn between pleasure that such magazines are featuring knitted and crocheted furnishings, and annoyance that they so underestimate the skill and effort that goes into their creation. And I'm still mentally composing my response to the use of the phrase 'Nanna chic'!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Back to the beginning

My knitting has been rather neglected recently for all the other activities in my life. Unusually for me, I have two projects waiting to be blocked and have details completed before I can officially declare them 'finished. I'm usually so pleased to near the end of a project that I rush through all the final tasks so I can see it in its glory (or otherwise), but not this time. Now that the film festival and I have finished with one another I hope to have some real completions in the next few days.

In the meantime I've allowed myself to cast on for two new projects. First, my next pair of 2010 PSC socks due on 15 July -

ember socks

They are the absolutely traditional 'Oak Ribbed Socks' by Nancy Bush from my second-favourite knitting book ever - Knitting Vintage Socks. I'm knitting them from Knitabulous' Merino Sock in a colour she's labeled 'Count Sockular'. Much less imaginatively, I'm calling them my 'Ember Socks' as the colours remind me of glowing embers from childhood fireplaces.

I've been meaning to start the second project for some time - the oh-so-pretty 'Playful Stripes Cardigan' by Alana Dakos

stripey cardi

[Forgive the quality of the photo - this was taken early this morning before leaving for work, when the light was not very good]

I've written before about how much I like Alana Dakos's children's patterns. She has a daughter who must be just a bit older than my grand-daughter, and so is designing patterns for her little girl that are at just the right stage of grown-upness for the dotee. Alana, by the way, as well as being a wonderful photographer, has what I think is one of the better knitting pod-casts. It's accessible from her website - 'Never Not Knitting'.

The dotee is presently visiting her Lolo (grand-father) in Manila in the Philippines while her mother does some work there. She'll be back in Brisbane by the end of this month and I'd really hoped to have this cardi finished by then so she can get some wear from it in Brisbane evenings before the weather warms up again. That gives me only about two weeks to finish it. Hmmm...I think I lost the plot a bit with my planning.

June busy summary
Bunches of flowers bought 4 (well, one is a pot of cyclamen)
Number of rows knitted - socks 175; blanket 1.5 rows of 650+ stitches plus one round of 3 stitch i-cord cast-off
Time spent tidying up 7.5 hours
Films viewed 15

yelloe tulips 2

I bought yellow tulips again from the Eveleigh markets, but this time I asked the seller where they came from. To my surprise, they're from the nearby Central Coast. He said they're 'ice tulips' - grown very quickly from refrigerated bulbs in totally artificial conditions. I'm not sure if this makes them any more environmentally acceptable, but at least they're local!

Monday, June 14, 2010

That's really all, folks!

The Sydney Film Festival finished today. There's always a feeling of flatness as it comes to an end and you have to return to the routine of your 'real' life.

Fortunately, the last two movies I've seen in the Festival have both been wonderful.

Very late last night - we left the cinema at a quarter to midnight - we saw controversial director Roman Polanski's latest film, 'The Ghost Writer'. It's such a good film. I'm tempted to say it's perfect, but it can be so because it's not overly ambitious, is very clear about what it wants to achieve, and sets about doing that most methodically. It's quite a conventional political thriller with a very tight script, and a great performance from Ewan McGregor as a nameless ghost writer hired to write a salable biography of an ex-British Prime Minister. All the twists and turns and false trails you'd anticipate and some you wouldn't. The stark modernist house on a rainy, windswept island off the east coast of the USA is a highly styled atmospheric setting. One of my favourite elements is the vital clue provided by a GPS in a car - detection keeping pace with technology!

As Jody has noted, the pleasure of the film was heightened even further by Ewan McGregor's perfectly judged Q&A session after the film. Articulate, unpretentious, funny, accessible...all you could wish for. At least a 4.5 out of 5.

Then today, an excellent documentary, 'The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers'. Ellsberg was a very bright, trusted bureaucrat and adviser to the US government during the period of the Vietnam War who came to reject the cover-up of what was really happening in the War, which he was helping to disseminate. Eventually, at great risk to himself, he leaked damaging information - the Pentagon Papers - to the press. It's a most apposite documentary for our times, exposing as it does the cover-ups, evasions, exaggerations and lies that governments can tell to justify controversial courses of action such as going to war. Ellsberg's clearly a man of immense integrity and great moral courage, still fighting for transparency and truth in government. Again, a 4.5 out of 5.

I've seen 15 films over 10 days. I always think the Film Festival and concentrated film viewing lets me 'get my eye in'. Seeing different kinds of films in such a short time lets me compare and contrast and (I think) hone my judgment. It's worth the blur of tiredness I feel just about now.

So, my picks from what I've seen of the Festival?

Two superb documentaries - 'The Last Train Home' about migrant workers in China, and 'The Most Dangerous Man in America' mentioned above. Both teach us so much about our world, but do so without preaching.

Two excellent fiction films - 'How I Ended This Summer', a suspenseful film about choice and survival, and the Polanski film 'The Ghost Writer', a perfect piece of genre film-making.

See you at the movies!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A day at the movies

Today's been a bit like the very old days at the Sydney Film Festival when a subscription ticket allowed you to attend any session, all day, every day. So far I've seen three films, starting at 10.00 this morning and am currently home for a rest, before returning for a 9.30pm session this evening. Thank goodness I live so close to the city centre.

Brief reviews from today, so far:

First, a British film, 'Four Lions'. A comedy. About terrorism. For me, the most interesting thing about this film is the question of whether you can make a comedy about terrorism, in which the four central terrorists and several other people (plus a sheep and a crow) are blown up. I think the director Chris Morris (who, by the way, gave one of the most self-indulgent introductions ever) fudged the whole issue of whether terrorism can be funny by making a film that has stupid people as the butt of its humour. Always an easy way out with comedy. There are some ironic, surprising points along the way - the depiction of a happy' normal' family (including a charming little boy) that accepts suicide bombing as a happy choice, and terrorists who are not fundamentalist Islamis. However, I'm not very good at comedy anyway and overall, I didn't like this film. But I guess it will do quite well at the box office. I'll give it 2 out of 5.

Secondly, a restored print of a classic Luciano Visconti film from 1954,'Senso'. This is a lush melodrama that pits the rich, married Contessa's love of a seductive and beautiful, but avaricious and faithless young man, against her loyalty to the movement for the unification of Italy. This is most enjoyable. Lush, sumptuous sets and costumes and what now looks like a great deal of over-acting. The budget must have been enormous, and the battle scenes in particular, with hundreds of extras, are superb. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to see the work of one of the greats of cinema - though I am glad we have moved to greater emotional subtlety in modern film-making. A 3 out of 5.

Thirdly, a Russian film, 'How I Ended This Summer'. I loved this film. Far too long, but mainly because maintaining suspense for more than 2 hours just exhausts the viewer. There are only two actors in this film - and the stark, isolated and life-threatening landscape. It's set in a weather monitoring station in the Arctic Circle, with an older man who prides himself on the hardiness with which he's survived the lonely and inhospitable conditions, and the dutifulness with which he's carried out the detailed but drearily repetitive work. There's a younger, technologically competent colleague who is monitoring the reliability of the technical equipment that will replace the routine monitoring. So already there's tension between the two which becomes unbearable when the young man is unable (unwilling? fearful? too cowardly?) to tell the older man the news of the accidental death of his wife and child. Some critics have said the motivation for the young man's actions are unclear, but I think that misses the point. For me the film is primarily about the disaster that can follow from even a momentary and minor lack of courage. There's so much more to be said about this film, but I'll spare you. For me, a 4.5 out of 5.

Back to the city for my final film of the day, so - that's all, folks!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Knitting, and more...

Such a treat - a whole day of knitting. This morning there was the monthly meeting of the Inner-City Branch of the NSW Knitters Guild, and this afternoon, after a meander through The Rocks, via the convict-hewn Argyle Cut

Argyle Cut

and past views of the Harbour Bridge,


a get-together to mark World-Wide Knit in Public Day.


We had around 90 people gathering in the charmingly old-fashioned community hall lent for the day by the Sydney City Council. Sally had organised everything so well, and we had generously donated prizes for competitions and just for attending. Good company, lots of chat, and time to knit. Lovely.

All this knitting has given me a day's respite from the film festival, and some time to process last night's film. Like Jody, I saw Michael Winterbottom's 'The Killer Inside Me'. Winterbottom's clearly a very gifted film-maker who works across many different genres. With this film he tries his hand at film noir and captures the suspense and the macho laconic characteristics of such films well. Casey Affleck plays a small-town deputy sheriff whose encounter with a sex-worker (Jessica Alba) with a taste for violent sex sets off a set of associations that leads to further violence, deception and murder. I have quite a high tolerance for violence in movies, but this film is uncomfortable. There's a very fine line for movies such as this one between depicting the 'reality' of extreme violence and titillating the audience through its depiction. I'm not sure that Winterbottom always stays on the right side of such a line in this film. It's very disturbing because much of the violence in this film is against women, and often shows the women, as well as the Affleck character, to take sexual pleasure in violence and abuse. The film's led to much interesting discussion and critique.

So, a disturbing and interesting film with a great performance from Casey Affleck - even though I wanted to shout at him to stop mumbling! There was often only tenuous integration of more peripheral characters into the plot, and motivation for the truly awful acts of violence was treated most cursorily. Maybe a 3.5.

I've a very full day of film festivaling tomorrow - four films on my program.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What a difference a day makes

After day 1 of demolition, this is what my apartment looks like:

Living room:

demolition, living room

Where the kitchen used to be

demolition, kitchen

View of the bedroom from what used to be the hallway.

demolition, bedroom

What a difference a day makes!

Last night, Jody and I were able to intersperse the film festival with brief visits to knitting group, as the two venues were just across the street from each other.

We saw two films last night that Jody has already reviewed. The first, 'Women Without Men' is a German/Austrian/French collaboration, though made by a female Iranian film director. Over the last few years Iranian films in the SFF have always been interesting. Shirin Neshat, the director of this film, spent her childhood in Iran in a westernised family, but as a young women moved with her family to the USA, and then returned to spend long periods in Iran over the last twenty years. Her film is more frankly political than many films coming from within Iran, though still deeply concerned with issues such as women's responses to Islam. This film is set in 1953 when Britain and the USA joined with local forces to repress a freedom movement within Iran and reimpose a monarchical regime. The crowd scenes of demonstrations in grand Parisian-style boulevards and enclosed narrow lanes are wonderful and had me wondering just where the film had been shot (the answer is Morocco). This political focus, which I really enjoyed, was interwoven with a much more indirect and 'magical' focus on the lives of four women, that Jody's described well. This is another film (like Moloch Tropical) where the parts work better than the whole. A 3.5 out of 5.

The second film we saw, 'Winter's Bone', had already won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. It's quite a conventional film, with a strong narrative from beginning to end, and with a courageous, admirable central character whose fate we care for deeply. But it's also perfectly paced, subtly and convincingly acted and beautifully photographed and edited . The central character is a young woman, who at 17 cares for her two younger siblings and catatonic mother in a destitute, drug-ridden, isolated community in the Missouri Ozarks. It's the kind of community in which your family is vital for survival, but also brings you the greatest danger. The film's confronting and challenging, though it does have an ending that's about as happy as you might be able to conjure up in the circumstances. Probably a 4 out of 5.

June busy summary
Bunches of flowers bought 3 (well, one is a pot of cyclamen)
Number of rows knitted (socks) 125 (blanket) 1.75 rows of 650+ stitches
Time spent tidying up 7.5 hours
Films viewed 8


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ah! Liberty

I'm a frequent shawl and wrap wearer. Except for the coldest days in winter, they're perfect cooler weather apparel for Sydney's climate. I have a 'go to' shawl that I frequently reach for as I'm dashing out the door to work.

Kashmir shawl

It's an embroidered Kashmiri shawl in fine black wool (despite the evidence of this photograph which makes it look navy). I fell in love with it and bought it about ten years ago in Bangkok for what seemed like an exorbitant price, but it has been worn so frequently that if I were to price it in dollars per wear, the cost would now be down to a very small fraction of a cent for each use.

Yesterday I was reaching into my shawl drawer for my 'go to' shawl when I glimpsed a much loved but neglected alternative, which anyway looked better with yesterday's clothes.

geometric shawl

I made this shawl about 25 years ago from a square of Liberty fine wool fabric - a bit over a metre square - and I wear it folded in half as a triangle. If you look closely you can see that at some mad time in my past life I actually fringed and hand hem-stitched the edges of the shawl.

Sometime in the early 1980s I fell in love with these very fine wool prints that Liberty produced. I'd still be deeply in love with them, except that Liberty seems to have abandoned the production of this beautiful fabric. I went looking for it, without much hope, when I was recently in London, but to no avail. Even years ago this fine wool was very expensive and I used to haunt the sales at the Liberty shop that once was in Elizabeth Street. Maybe it's just become uneconomical to produce.

I fringed and hand-stitched the hems of several shawls that were gifts for good friends who still wear them from time to time. It gives me such pleasure to see them being worn. I made one for my mother from a very traditional Liberty design that I reclaimed from her possessions after she died:

Green shawl 2

And I have one from a rather modern version of a paisley print that I acquired at some time in my life when I must have been even busier than usual because it's just fringed, not hem-stitched:

paisley shawl

It seems such a shame that this beautiful fabric is no longer readily available. To compensate, I'll make sure these shawls are at the top of my shawl drawer so that they can be used more frequently - even though they're now more than a quarter of a century old.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Demolition begins tomorrow on the kitchen and bathroom - and some internal walls - of the apartment to which I'm planning to move. So, some rather boring photographs to capture the 'before' of all the planning and work.

The long, boring hallway

hallway before

the living room, with high ceilings and lovely trees outside the very large windows

living room before

the kitchen, off the living room, with its very 80s laminate cupboards and tiles

kitchen before

the boring bedroom

bedroom before

and bathroom that could be in an early 80s museum with its deep blue plastic accents.

bathroom before

I had another meeting with Heather, the designer / project manager, today. Both of us love colour, and we have great difficulty making decisions about all the practical matters and not veering off into colour fantasies. But we are getting there. Masses of storage everywhere, and redesigning spaces to make them more interesting, but functional.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Two days

This blog-a-day malarky is hard. It's wearing me out. I'm too tired and busy to think coherently, but in any old order this was my day, yesterday, and my day, today.

Mondays are my non-paid-work day, so many things that can't be done on weekends get scheduled on Mondays.

I went to the dentist to have a filling and a bit of tooth that departed my mouth with the filling, replaced. One of the many bad points about aging is that your teeth wear out. Mine weren't very good to start with and at this stage of my life I think there are more fillings than teeth. For several years I've not needed to schedule check-ups with the dentist because my fillings fall out at sufficiently regular intervals to serve the same purpose.

Plumbers and electricians (the 'tradies') came to see and quote on the renovation work for the apartment to which I'm moving. The builder came to survey the scene and measure up. The designer had a meeting with me and drew up another draft plan of the renovation to be considered by the Executive Committee of my Owners' Corporation.

If all goes well, demolition of the bathroom and kitchen will start in the next couple of days. Wow! very whizz-bang.

One of the plumbers swapped the dishwasher in the apartment I presently live in for the one to which I'm moving. I thought I'd never recover from my affection for my dead dishwasher, but in the year I've had my present one I've grown very attached. Too attached to leave it behind.

I cast on for my next pair of 2010 Personal Sock Club Socks and knitted about 6 rounds between various renovation matters.

I went to see 'Lola' at the Sydney Film Festival. This is a Filipino film directed by Brillante (Dante) Mendoza, whose previous film 'Kinatay' (Massacre) won the 'best director' award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Mendoza's films are very much in the social realist tradition. 'Lola' is the Filipino term for grandmother, and the two grandmothers at the centre of this film are linked through the murder of one grandson by the other. Money, and the financial transactions necessary to bury one grandson and save the other from a life in prison, tie the film together. But the role of the grandmothers in holding their vulnerable families together is also vital. Like 'The Last Train' that I saw on Sunday, this film, with its daily struggle to maintain life with some dignity, is painful to watch. I loved that it was filmed in the rainy season when the claustrophobia of the downpours heightens the intensity of interactions and when the flooded streets of certain parts of Manila have a dreamy, ritualistic appearance. A 4 out of 5.

Today I've been at work. There's nothing much more to be said. Pleasant enough, but unremarkable.

And this evening I've chaired a meeting of the Executive Committee of our building's Owners' Corporation. I like the idea of living in a building that's managed by a group of its residents, where we all have to cooperate to ensure that our common interests are well met. Sometimes it's difficult to agree on just what our common interests are and on the best actions to take to serve these interests, but so far we've had a relatively amicable community. Just now we have a huge building maintenance project under way that's posing some difficult decisions - but even so it's going well and is nearing completion

And yes, the Executive Committee did approve my renovation plans. Now the work can commence.

I'm going to knit for a few minutes and go to bed.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Big day out

I had a big day at the Film Festival yesterday - three films, end to end - and came away feeling most satisfied. One outstanding film, and two interesting, though far from perfect films. All of them were the kind of films you go to the Festival for - they were films that might not get commercial release or that you might not take the trouble to see when you're seeking entertainment.

The stand-out was a Chinese-Canadian documentary called 'Last Train Home' whose central motif is the annual trip home for Chinese New Year of the more than 130 million internal migrant workers in China. It's the story of a family; grandmother, parents, children, over about four years. The parents work in a clothing factory in Guangzhou to send money to the grandmother who cares for the children in distant Sichuan. Your heart goes out to everybody in the film; to the elderly grandmother caring for the children; to the parents whose life is grim and routine and who work for their children's future; and to the children who don't really know their parents but are burdened by the their parents' hopes. The film is perfectly shot and edited. I think a 4.5 out of 5.

The other two films weren't as good but were still engaging. 'The Oath' is a documentary about two brothers-in-law - both of whom worked for Osama Bin Laden. One brother is held in Guantanamo Bay, and the most satisfying parts of the film are those dealing with the military trial to determine his guilt and punishment. The other brother-in-law, clearly a wheeler-dealer, is more immediately revealed by the film. The documentary can only be as interesting as this man's story, and as it becomes more confused and tenuous, so too does the narrative line of the documentary. A 3 out of 5 for a very brave attempt.

Finally, the Haitian film, 'Moloch Tropical', on which Jody's already commented. This is one of those Festival films where the Q&A with the wonderfully articulate director that followed the film was even better than the film itself. I'm old-fashioned enough to have a very soft spot for films made out of political commitment, and this is one of those. It's about power and the corruption of power. The director calls it a satire, but I think its more a series of allusions to the foibles and veniality and evil of a number of quite modern leaders. All in all, I would have liked a tighter script and more rigorous editing, but again, a brave attempt. Another 3 out of 5

June busy summary
Bunches of flowers bought 2
Number of rows knitted (socks) 98 (blanket) 1.5 rows of 650 stitches
Time spent tidying up 5.5 hours
Films viewed 6

poppiesBurgundy lilies

Sunday, June 6, 2010

That's entertainment

I had a pleasant but unchallenging time at the Sydney Film Festival yesterday. It was probably good it was unchallenging, because I was quite exhausted by house selling and renovation preparation tasks by the time I made it to the movies.

First I saw 'Babies' (do watch the trailer attached), a French documentary that scores very high on the charm factor. It traces four babies - from Namibia, Mongolia, Japan and the USA from birth till they learn to walk. There's no narrative and no obvious 'point of view', but it is immediately clear that the film is carefully edited and highly crafted. The film-makers must have taken endless hours of film to capture the moments you see in the film. I'm a sucker for anything to do with comparative views and interpretations of child-rearing. Those of you who have heard me hold forth on this will know this well. Given that so many people around the world survive their particular forms of child-rearing with overall adequate outcomes, I've always been skeptical of theories that claim to know the best ways to raise children. You can see why 'Babies' was a must for me.

This film takes an easy starting point. The four babies we see are all healthy and well (though sometimes challengingly) fed. All are in clearly caring, positive relationships with their families and communities. But beyond this, the babies are raised quite differently. I suspect you would take away from this film whatever it is that confirms your starting prejudices. I particularly liked the sections that showed different attitudes to challenge and 'danger' - for example I loved the Mongolian child crawling outside his family's yurt and surrounded by the family's cattle; and was interested in the scenes that dealt with dirt - such as the Namibian child picking up stones and old bones from the ground and sucking on them. All the audience reacted with delight to the many episodes that dealt with the babies' interactions with family pets and other animals, and to the power relationships with older siblings and the strategies chosen to deal with them.

I've said before that I don't do 'cute' well. Despite myself, I was charmed by this film. I think it says that you can make many valid choices about the way you raise your babies, and that they'll still learn to sit up and speak and walk and relate and explore the world around them at roughly the same time. But I know others have taken away different interpretations. This is not a great film, but it is fun. A 3.5 out of 5.

I also saw 'Cairo Time', that Jody has seen and already reviewed - unfavourably. I think this movie would qualify, for me, as a guilty pleasure. I would probably pay good money to hear Patricia Clarkson, who plays the central character, read the phone book, and I was charmed by the performance of Alexander Siddiq, the male lead. I thought both their performances were nuanced and understated and I was beguiled by the basic circumstance - two people attracted by one another and by the gulf of the unknown between them, but aware they both have love and loyalty for the woman's husband. But having said all that, this is not a particularly good film. The presence of Cairo, while vital for the plot, is greatly overplayed. While the film did make me want to visit Cairo, I found the beauty of the landscape, and the photographer's lengthy flirtation with it, distracted from the film's narrative. There are lots of missed opportunities. Juliette's (the Patricia Clarkson character) marginal status gives opportunities to glimpse different layers of society within Cairo. I would hate to be preached at about the messages I should take from these encounters, but I think the screenplay and /or director left too many interpretations and conclusions up to the viewer.

For me, a film I enjoyed despite its imperfections. A 3 out of 5. More tomorrow!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

I made it!

It's ages since I last finished some knitting, so I'm pleased these are finally done.


They're Mona Schmindt's Embossed Leaves Socks (ravlink) from Interweave's 'Favorite Socks' that I've knitted from Madelinetosh Sock in a great colour called 'Ink'. They're the first completed socks from my 2010 Personal Sock Club. In April, when I faced up to the fact I was very far behind with my Personal Sock Club, I reset my sock knitting schedule for 2010. The deadline for this pair was June 4, and I finished these at a quarter to midnight yesterday - June 4. I made it! I'm good with deadlines.

PSC 2010-1-2
PSC 2010-1-1

While knitting these I've decided that, lovely though the leafy pattern is, I don't really like having lacy patterns on the foot part of my socks. So for my next PSC socks I'm reverting to ever-wonderful Nancy Bush vintage inspired socks. I've chosen the simple, traditional Oak Ribbed Sock (ravlink).

PSC 2010-2

The randomly chosen 'delivery' of yarn is Knitabulous's Merino Sock in the wonderfully named colour 'Count Sockular' - reds and greys with a snippet of grey yarn for decorative toes.

The deadline for these? 15 July.