Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

October 24, 2009

By gor, it’s been a while

I’m playing catch up on another month of missed posts but not for the usual reasons of boredom and/or relentless procrastination. Since that last post it’s just been sort of relentless, and even though the last week has seen things settle more or less back to routine, finding the time to sit down and write about it hasn’t been easy. It’s only the fact that it is now the middle of the night and I’m up to watch the start of the 20-20 cricket final live from India that I’ve got some free space.

I expect that this will be even more random, rambling and out of sequence than usual, for which I’d be stupid to make any sort of apology. I certainly won’t be going back to edit. You’ve been warned.

I’ll start with the worst bit, which was that my grandmother passed away. Catherine Ann Waddell, my Mum’s mother, my last surviving grandparent.Aside from immediate family – the one I was born with and the one I’ve made for myself – there was nobody in the world who meant more to me than my beloved Nan Nan. I can’t do her justice here, I’ll try that in another post, but suffice to say that some of my earliest memories are of adoration and devotion to Nan, and that feeling has not changed in the intervening years.

I got the unwelcome news first thing on a Saturday morning (which I think was the 19th, but my capacity for research is a bit limited at this hour). Fiona took the call from Mum, and I knew just from watching her reaction what she was hearing. Nan had been ill lately, so she had been in my thoughts, albeit in the background, in a mild fretful concern. When Fi told me that she had passed away the previous evening, in my aunt Libbie’s arms, I fell apart. It was like being taken apart and scattered around the room. I was numb, horrified for Mum and Lib and their siblings, completely unable to sort through the crush of a lifetime of happy memories and the guilt of seeing so little of her in recent years. I was instantly swamped with regret that she never got to meet my little boy face to face, and though I know she could never have been the same towering figure in his life that she was in mine, I’m shattered that I couldn’t give him the opportunity to get to know her.

I threw myself into yard work or painting or something for that entire day, to give myself some time to deal with it. That turned out to be a poor choice, because I overdid the sun and the tree lopping and wound up trashed for most of the rest of that week. I don’t really remember anything about it, but I think that both Fiona and I were sick for much of it. I was in such a dismal state that I almost decided not to go up to Queensland for the funeral. Fiona talked sense into me, asking ‘Would you regret it if you didn’t go?’ – and of course I would have, for the rest of my life.

Mum and Dad were staying at Ian’s place, so they picked me up from Brisbane airport  on the way through and we drove up in a hire car. I’ll cover the funeral and the getting together with family again in another post – this one is getting long enough as it is. I’ll cut it short and say that I’m glad I went.

The following weekend, the long weekend here in Canberra, was Fiona and my 7th wedding anniversary. We celebrated with a long-awaited weekend away (without the Joey, who was placed in the wrangling care of his Auntie Quack (Jaki) and the Nerdfarm boys). We went down to wine-growing district of Rutherglen, near Albury, for a very pleasant few days of cellar-door tasting session, a wine masterclass at Cofield Winery (presented by winemakers Damien and Max, and attended by an entertaining crowd of utter wine snobs), and a superb boozy dinner at Campbells, dining amidst the barrels in the cellar itself. I’ve never been more grateful for a complimentary bus in my life. Apart from all the grog – and rest assured that we bought more or less as much as we could cram into the car – it was a fantastic opportunity to just relax and read. It’s a rare pleasure these days.

(The cricket just reached the halfway point, with the NSW Blues digging themselves out of a pretty deep hole thanks to a nearly-50 from Brett Lee in partnership with some Smith guy I’ve never heard of. They finished on 159, which is reasonably respectable but I somehow think that with the form that the Trinidad & Tobago team are in the Blues are going to get rolled).

We remembered just after we left for Rutherglen that it is quite close to Albury, where we recently bought an investment property, so we decided to tee up a quick inspection on the way through. It’s a bit of a mantra that we’ve had drilled into us that if you are an investor in ‘basic’ (see also ‘affordable’, ‘cheap’ and ‘the bottom end of the rental market’) properties that you should always leave management of the place in the hands of a professional property manager who will make dispassionate assessments of what work is and is not needed. You should not, say, wander about the place yourself, meeting the residents and hearing about all the little problems, or making a list of repairs and maintenance jobs needed to bring the place ‘up to scratch’. Sigh. The first quotes came in for the ‘essential’ work this week, and they could comfortably be described as steep. Luckily we can do it in stages, and really I don’t think there is any question that it needs to be done, so it’s probably no bad thing that we got to see that for ourselves. But I suspect in future we’ll just do this stuff at the recommended arm’s distance. We’re looking at WA for the next place, so it should be easier to keep that in mind.

I’m heading back to work in a couple of months, so my major preoccupation in the last few weeks has been to try to find a childcare place for the Joey. There’s another mantra that we shouldn’t have taken so lightly – ‘As soon as you find out that you’re pregnant, put your name down for a childcare spot’. That sounded like rampant hyperbole, but after two weeks of being told time and again that waiting lists are currently up to eighteen months long in some places, I’m beginning to suspect that in fact it’s pretty conservative advice, at least here in the ACT. The only place we’ve had a sniff – one day a week, where we are looking for at least two – is in a place which a very well-informed friend described as ‘grubby and managed by a bitch’. Desperate as we are to make sure that the Joey gets a spot, we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to sign him up there, not even on the assumption that it would just be until we could find something better. We are worried though, because it’s well past time he started interacting regularly with other kids his own age.

Simon hit forty the other week. For something a bit different, we took him (and a few other friends) on a guided wine tour of the Canberra district wineries. Fi did some research and worked out the best few to check out. The afternoon was only slightly dampened – pun intended – when a back window on Simon’s car got stuck all the way down, and we got hit with a particularly sleety downpour. Fortunately we at least had a tarp to keep the worst of it out, but it did take a bit of the joviality out of the afternoon. Still, one of his presents was Beatles Rock Band, so in the evening there was much falsetto Ooohing and Ringo mockery to mark the occasion.

In amongst all that I’ve been trying to find the time to finish the renovations on the patio, which is verging on gaining Great Orange Whale status. Progress was interrupted by a need to prune several trailer-loads of greenery out of the garden before we lose regular access to a trailer (Fiona’s dad and his wife are moving to Shepparton for a few years soon, and taking the trailer with them). There are probably about two more loads that we could hack out of the various jungle thickets scattered about the place, but they will have to wait until Fi’s brother Niall finishes his plan for the garden and we know what to raze with a bobcat and a stump grinder. Hopefully next weekend I’ll finish everything that needs doing before we put the laserlite back onto the patio rafters – I’m grimly determine to get this damned outdoor living space finished before another summer comes and goes.

(The Blues are staging a remarkable fightback, with T&T wickets falling all over the place. This is going to be a pretty big final, I think.)

The writing is not happening at all at the moment, as you might have gathered. This is easily the most that I have written in a single sitting all year, I would think. The research for the novel isn’t faring much better, actually, with several of the books I picked up still unopened. Reading non-fiction prose is something that I’ve always struggled with, especially when the subject is something that I’m not familiar with, probably because I find it easier to catch the rythmn of fiction (although there’s a strong possibility that that might just be because I haven’t read enough really good non-fictional writers). Couple that natural disinclination with a sharp decline in comprehension and retention when I’m tired – and I am always tired – and the motivation to assemble a great sheaf of solid background notes is pretty poor. Even the research-free short story is steadfastly refusing to come together, which is more disappointing. I think it’s about to hit its second anniversary, actually.

That said, if I spent a bit less time writing epic-length summaries of my fortnightly Burning Wheel game, I might have a bit more mental space for more creative endeavours. Or perhaps not. Fear of wasted effort, possibly over-ambitious plans and laziness must also be counted as strong contributors to my shamefully poor output.

All right, this has rambled far enough and we’re down to the business end of the cricket, so that will do for now. What have you been up to then?


  1. We had all the grass and lantana on our river bank slashed today, then the boys and I got to work clearing a space in the reeds so we can actually fish just across the road from our front doorstep 🙂
    Also, the eldest lad is in the relays for his nippers group at the Carnival in a fortnights time, he’s a fast little monkey yes he is!
    Also, I am glad you could get up to Geraldine too. It was good to see so many of the clan together again, even given the circumstances. Love you Nannan.

    Comment by Versache — October 25, 2009 @ 9:07 pm

  2. Sorry ton hear about your Gran, and blegh – everything hitting you at once like that, no wonder you are exhausted

    Comment by jenny — October 26, 2009 @ 8:40 am

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