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

January 24, 2016

What I did on my holidays – Summer 2015-16

I’ve been having one of those summer holidays that I will probably look back on in the future and think “That went well”.

Well, no I won’t, because I have a terrible memory for dates and what-happened-when. But in theory I could look back on it with something approaching a sense of accomplishment. I’m pretty happy with some of these highlights:

House renovations – We’ve now owned our fixer-upper house for over ten years. We’re still fixing it up, and in the forthcoming years\ we will be replacing all the flooring and at least one of the bathrooms. By comparison, painting a few patches of the vast unrenovated expanse of our external walls is a trivial enterprise. But it still feels good to have just about finished painting all of the parts of the house which are visible from the street. At least the place appears to casual passers-by to be occupied , and not at all like a drug den impounded by the cops and forgotten in an administrative bungle.

Bass guitar – My Xmas gift to myself was to buy a copy of the PC game Rocksmith 2014, which is a guitar tutorial program dressed up as a game. You jack a real electric guitar (or in my case my buddy Simon’s old bass guitar) into the computer to learn basic techniques, whole songs and tricky passages. So far I am reasonably accomplished at playing Def Leppard’s genuinely awful “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (no link provided). I’m working hard to beat that by mastering some song that would constitute an accomplishment to be proud of, like “Every Breath You Take” by The Police.

After about five weeks of fairly solid practice, I can report that I am (a) getting better but by no means good and (b) developing tough callouses on the fingers where before I had numbness and/or pain. Rock and roll stardom awaits! (as soon as I beat the tutorial on doing slide notes up and down the neck of the guitar. Those are hard). Anyway, Rocksmith gets my recommendation as well. Short of paying for lessons, it really does seem to be a very effective way to learn how to play guitar.

Songwriting – Continuing on the musical theme, I wrote some song lyrics for the first time in ages these holidays. It’s something I do on and off, just for something different. My lyrics tend to languish undeveloped unless I can convince Evan (my songwriting buddy and about the only personal I know with any real music skills) to work out an arrangement for them. This year I plan to take advantage of my slowly-growing mastery of bass and ukulele to teach myself basic song-writing. Don’t worry, I’m not going to inflict a YouTube channel on anyone – I still have both a terrible voice and prohibitive performance anxiety – but I’m a step closer to my goal of being able to write a whole song, not just the words.

Flash fiction – I wrote something! And finished it! I’m working on the Conflux 12 organising committee again this year. As part of the promotion for the con, the Chair will be sending out publicity in the not-too-distant future. I’ve written a story with my take on this year’s theme “Red Fire Monkey”, which will appear as part of the publicity report. For posterity’s sake, I will note that the story is a rare instance of me writing straight science fiction.

Holidays in the Hunter – Our family holiday this year included a bunch of families, staying at the delightful Lovedale Cottages in the Hunter Valley. Fifteen of us, including five kids and a three-month-old baby, snuggled up together in warm, cosy cottages as the Hunter was hammered with five days of torrential downpours that threatened to leave us trapped by rising flood waters. Fortunately the pool was indoors and heated, and in reality most of the really heavy rain was well away from us. Still, it was a bit of a wet holiday. I can recommend the Lovedale Cottages though – they have a tennis court, the aforementioned indoor pool, a golf course (!) and are very comfortably appointed in a distinctly rustic style. Especially great for big group holidays.

Granola! – Every time we travel, we inevitably end up eating breakfast at cafes once in a while. And when we do, I will automatically order one of two things (aside from coffee, which obviously goes without saying). Either I will get the eggs benedict, – because you can always judge the quality of a cafe by their attention to detail in hollandaise sauce and also because I love eggs benedict – or, if I feel as though I have been eating nothing but garbage over the course of the holiday I will pretend to be virtuous by ordering a granola with yoghurt and possibly some fruit or berries. It’s embarrassing really, but I excuse myself because neither is a meal I would make at home.

Which got me thinking, why not? And so I did the minimum possible research to discover that, in fact, granola is dreadfully simple to make. So I now have a personalised granola recipe, cobbled together from fifteen or so granola recipes I found on the internet. (This article in the Guardian about finding the perfect granola was the primary source – the beaten egg white trick seems to be the killer ingredient, although it does make my granola non-vegan, so your mileage may vary).Incidentally, my search for ingredients has taken me into a number of “natural foods” stores. If you see me in one, don’t worry: I don’t need a paleo intervention. I just need to be directed to the barley.

Anyway, the point being granola is delicious. Don’t skimp on the almonds and hazlenuts.

September 3, 2014

What I’m working on in September

First of all, I still don’t have a day job, so the main thing I’m working on is reversing that. Much as I’d like it to be otherwise, the mortgage won’t pay itself and I have to say I’m fond of living in my own home. So, it’s not quite time to retire into full-time writing. Yeah, I’m disappointed too.

Around that, I’ve got some projects ongoing. Now that the weather is warming up, the downstairs guest room is finally getting some renovation love. Last week I painted the walls – we’ll quietly overlook the fact that I didn’t check the paint buckets I was using and so have painstakingly applied two coats of exterior paint in a room that gets barely any sun and now reeks of unusually weird fumes – and this week I’m doing door frames, cornices and cupboards. We have a guest arriving next Tuesday, so I’m on a deadline there.

I have some writing projects as well:

Lane of Unusual Traders – I got my submission in (just) to Tiny owl Workshop’s  The Lane of Unusual Traders anthology that closed on Sunday night. I’m pretty proud of how it came out, a bleak little fantasy fable about a character who believes he can hold on to his humanity in a job where a conscience is an active hindrance. That probably sounds like a thinly-veiled political critique but if so it wasn’t intentional (I only just this minute recognised that as a possible interpretation of the story). I suspect that it is really my subconscious lecturing me about the self-destructiveness of procrastination, which is a far more resonant theme with me.

Lost – On my trip to Sydney this weekend, my buddy Andrew reminded me that he was watching along with my Lost reviews, the last one of which I posted almost two years ago. I felt immediately guilty for absolutely no sane reason. As a result I have resumed my rewatch and blog project Back to the Island, starting with the Season 3 opener ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ (see next blog entry!). I figure I will probably power through Season 3, which is probably my least favourite, so that a succession of pretty terrible Nikki and Paolo episodes don’t kill my enthusiasm.

Lighthouse – My still-unnamed lighthouse story is now a full draft in need of revision. I think it’s a pretty good story, so I’m doing my best to look forward to throwing myself at editing it. I still haven’t quite cracked the art of being enthusiastic about revising my work, though I am at least starting to consciously acknowledge the benefits of taking editing seriously. That’s a start.

Breakdown – What would have been my entry to the CSfG Never-Never Land anthology really never came together, but I worked on it a bit over the weekend and at least dragged it a bit closer to being a real story. This will be my “just write it and see what happens” project for the month. Because it’s always worked this way before, I expect that at some point the story will just click into place and I will know how to get from where I am to where I think I’m going, but at the moment it’s a bit of an existential talk-fest between two mildly hostile teenagers. I suspect it needs to be a little more than that. I’ve missed the deadline for the anthology though, so the pressure is off that one.

School Hall – A long-ish fantasy short story with an interesting setting and intriguing characters that either needs paring back to about half its current word count, or needs an injection of considerably more action to justify its length. Either way it’s in need of a complete revision and rewrite. With that one I will have to do a proper outline, not to mention a glossary so that I can remember the weird terminology I made up around the magic systems and the oddly-constructed character names. It’s also a story in search of a title.

Colony Ship – The outline of the novel is about three-quarters done, but there’s a space of about three chapters which is thematically similar to and not much more detailed than “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed” (only way less cool than that opening sentence to Stephen King’s Dark Tower series). I am unsure whether I need to know what happens in that bit before I start writing or if I can just jump in and expect to have to revise my outline as I go anyway. Either way I probably won’t start writing that novel for a while yet – probably not before I have an outline for the sequel at least.

Short stories – Even once I’m finished with the stories I have in draft form, I still have two stories to write to make my minimum goal of ten new stories in 2014. I’d like to get at least one of them underway in September. Most of the stuff I’ve been writing lately has come in at the 6000-8000 word mark (though my Lane story was written to a 3000-word limit) so I would like to aim these next couple at the far more manageable (and marketable) 4000 word length. We’ll see how I go – both Lighthouse and School Hall were intended to be that short, and both are nearly double that size.

Slush reading – In addition to doing a lot of critiquing of other peoples’ short stories, I’ve started working as a volunteer slush reader for an Australian speculative fantasy magazine. Basically the job involves rating stories for the benefit of editors putting together an issue of the journal, and providing a few critique comments for the author about what did and didn’t work. At some point down the line I may throw my hat into the ring to become an editor, but for the moment I’m concentrating on building my ability to read critically and pull writing apart to see how it ticks. It’s not something I’ve ever worked hard at before, but I’m interested now.

(Clam – still going on the middle 99 Cities. Ssstttiiiilllllll going.)So that’s it for now (unless there’s something I’ve forgotten which is by now means impossible). What’s up in your neck of the woods?

January 13, 2014

Contemplating my mid-life crisis options

Filed under: fitter/happier,news of the day,the renovated life — Tags: , , — lexifab @ 3:45 pm

At the moment my state of employment remains risibly unresolved, despite the several months that have passed since the government decision that changed everything [1]. I don’t have a lot to do, which has given me a lot of time to think about what I might want to do instead.

Number one on the list is, of course, to become a full-time writer. The major flaw in that plan is that I still have not only mortgage on my own house, but also a would-be-crippling debt on a range of investment properties. Gotta have at least some money trickling in. Regular readers will understand why I might not be ready to bet my family’s wellbeing going all-in on artistic productivity that more closely resembles a leaking tap.

So, given that my desire to continue in the public service has begun to wane of late, I’ve started thinking about what else I might like to do with myself. The thing that I keep coming back to is construction work.

I am thinking about starting an apprenticeship as a carpenter. Yes, I am completely serious. Somehow, the thought of four years on minimum wage, labouring in baking heat or murderous cold, hold a greater attraction than running down the clock to retirement in an office. It’s an urge that’s been coming on for a while now.

I’ve got to be honest, it would be a means to an end rather than an ambition in itself. I am certain I could find a great deal of joy and satisfaction in working as part of a team to build something tangible, to deal with crises and solve problems. (That’s where most of the joy in my administrative career has come from, after all). But at some point the dream is to be able to work for myself, with Fiona, as a builder/renovator, taking old things and making them new, or even building houses from scratch. It’s taken most of my life to learn to appreciate how satisfying and fulfilling is can be to make something new that will (hopefully) outlive you.

(It’s possible that having kids has helped with this revelation.)

The other reason that working outdoors has so much appeal at the moment is that it gets me away from a keyboard. Decades of sitting at a workstation all day have rubbed a bit of the gloss off the idea of further sitting at a computer writing fiction for half the night. But I know that if I’m separated from my writing tools for any significant length of time I start to get twitchy. Spending much of the day not being able to write is likely to make me very hungry indeed to get down everything I’ve been mulling over.

Finally, moving about a lot and lugging great big slabs of lumber ought to be great for toning my rock-hard delts and abs and…um, other muscles. Right, ladies? [2]

At the moment I’m not in a position to make any formal decisions, but I’m doing the research, making appropriate contacts and getting registered with the right organisations. From what I can tell, the slow economy is going to be the main impediment to me finding a place. Group training programs are being cut to the bone and nobody seems to be hiring.

On the other hand, when they do hire, older applicants (see also: white and male, if I were to guess) tend to be favourably considered because they are less likely to turn up late or drunk or just drop out mysteriously. That seems to be a thing among straight-out-of-school apprentices. Being financially stable and relatively fit and healthy seems to be an advantage from what i hear.

I’m at the stage where none of this might happen. Industry jobs are scarce, I may be offered a compelling position by my current employer that is not the wall of gloom and misery I seem to be in line for, or I may not be offered sufficient enticement to quit the service.

On the other hand, another week or two like the last couple, and that might not matter. Pass me a hammer and step back, please.


[1] Specifics elided because I am at least technically still a government employee, although it doesn’t seem like it most days. I intend to remain aloof and professionally distant with regards to the subject right up to the moment that I no longer have to.

[2] The supposed health benefits will presumably expire the first time I contract pneumonia working for a week in late autumn sleet getting the room on a half-finished frame so the boss doesn’t forfeit a completion bonus…

November 4, 2013

TMoRP – Back in action! Sort of!

Gosh, the Month of Relentless Positivity has been a bit patchy this year, hasn’t it? I think I just have to be big enough to admit that October has gotten away from me. November’s not looking all that sharp either.

On the home internet front, the good news is that our router issues have been cleared up. We have a replacement router which is working at peak efficiency, spreading wireless goodness to all corners of the house.

The bad news is that the router was never the problem in the first place. It turns out that the telecommunications cabling into the house – and throughout our neighbourhood in one of Canberra’s older areas – is decrepit. Frayed, corroded and in some places comprehensively chewed, it’s frankly amazing that our phone or ADSL connections have ever worked at all. As is the case in quite a few parts of the country, our communications infrastructure is just barely hanging in there. This helpful article on the ABC website summarises the parlous state of the copper wiring currently in use. It’s a contemptible enough state of affairs in the abstract. In the flesh, so to speak, it’s bloody annoying to me and my family.

The line technician who came out on Friday afternoon to cobble together a temporary cable, which bypasses the existing wires from the street to the house, told me he hates getting calls to my suburb. Invariably when he digs up the lines he finds a horrific Frankenstein’s monster of stripped wiring, corroded conduits and rotting insulation. His visit left me in no doubt that I could expect to stay with the temporary fix for a long time to come, based on Telstra’s copper replacement schedule, which can be charitably described as “unhurried”.

On top of all that, in the last week or so our suburb was one of 500 or so quietly removed from the forward plan for rollout of fibre under the National Broadband Network project. Cough. No surprises there.

So the magic internet-waves have been restored to our house, for the time being at least. And I supposed in a way we are lucky, to be so unambiguously stripped of the complacent delusion that we are being provided with the service for which we pay.

You can’t say fairer than that, can you?

Anyway, I’m going to resume my TMoRP blogs and take a shot at catching up on them. Between that and editing a couple of short stories, I should be pretty busy for the next few weeks.

March 12, 2013

Epic of the Hedgefence

Canberra just had a three-day weekend. Instead of celebrating our fair national capital’s graduation from nappies to undies (which is about where I would put the first centenary in the life-cycle of a city), the family hit the front yard for some landscaping. Although come to think of it, I guess contributing to the beautification of the city is more than I’ve put back into Canberra’s cultural character in a while. So let’s call it three days of intense, exhausting participation in the social fabric where I swung a pick, dug a lot of stuff and barely spoke to anyone.

We’ve already done several weekends worth of prep work but there was still a lot to get through, digging about eight meters of trenches, flattening out some grassy mounds, planting and digging in two dozen pot plants, burying a soaker hose for irrigation and mulching it in. On Saturday night I was so sore around the shoulders and chest that I couldn’t breathe deeply. Still awake at two in the morning with spasms radiating from the centre of my chest outwards, I confess to harbouring the slight suspicion that I might have overdone it and given myself some sort of heart condition. (Why it is that my brain will always go straight to health crises and existential doom scenarios when it is overtired and sick of pain but it never thinks to pop some bloody paracetamol is a question for the ages…)

But it was worth it, right? We now have a hedge of Viburnum something-or-other forming an aesthetically pleasing barrier between us and the passing world. Which, you know, seeing as we are largely housebound introverts, it will suit us fine. At least, it will in about three to five years, when the hedge has grown sufficiently to form a proper screen and has achieved sufficient density to prevent, say, a ball from bouncing into the street.

It currently looks like a sparse square of shrubs surrounding a mildly uneven mound of bare dirt which might one day become lawn. It’s a vast improvement over the random jumble of rocks, lattice walls overgrown with savage roses, thick masses of ivy, ground flowers and unmowable grass clumps and inexplicable pottery shard that were there before the scourge of the bobcat.

There’s more to do: another row of planting along the front wall; cleaning up and levelling the parts that will eventually be grassed; groundcover and secondary planting in various patches. And then after all that, we’ll be going through the whole thing again with the (much larger) back yard. There’s trees to be removed, terraced steps to install, garden beds to raise, sheds to demolish… Ugh. I have a suspicion that it may, in fact, never end.

This gardening lark is starting to look like a bit of a trap.

Send help. BYO sturdy gloves.

November 27, 2012

Progress check – My arms hurt

Filed under: the renovated life,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 10:33 am

I can’t quite fully flex my elbows. My shoulders and wrists feel loose and flop unreliably when asked to manage the slightest loads.

You may not be surprised to learn that this has nothing to do with repetitive strain injuries brought about by an excess of novel writing. Or at least, not as much as the sledge hammer with which I spent all weekend bashing down a brick pond in the back garden. A startlingly well-constructed pond, as it turned out.

Nevertheless, the novel rewrite proceeds, if not at a breathtaking pace. Last night I battled through procrastination, fatigue and the sweet motivational allure of TED Talks videos to hammer out the 700 or so words that took the manuscript woundcount total past 10000 (or 11%-ish done).

I don’t know if this is typical of other people’s writing process [1] but the experience of doing a complete rewrite of an essentially complete novel is interesting. Even though I have a detailed outline, I am still discovering new story elements as I go. Last week I realised that one of the central characters had no occupation of any kind in the first draft – she just drifted from one discussion to the next, poking at a mystery in which she was at best half invested. So now she’s a cop, and she’ll be dealing with several plot elements that didn’t really make sense to hang on some of the other characters. Way to step up, Rachel – enjoy your probation!

I’ve also found that having the outline – which is not much more than a chapter-by-chapter “X learns this” or “events have this effect on Y” or “Z takes the fight to the triffid-farmers” [2] – gives me a bit of room to play with structure at the lower levels. It turns out that it makes sense for Chapter 2 to be a Rashomon-like retelling of the same event from three different perspectives. It makes it fun to write, though of course the trick will be whether I can also make it fun to read without being redundant or confusing.

Anyway, after adding only a disappointing 3000 words for the week I am trying to get back to my target 4000+. I now have a nominal deadline. The CSFG novel critiquing group will resume in February or so – eight round-table participants take turns critiquing a novel or novella manuscript a month. I haven’t done much long-form criticism before [3] and I know that my novel will benefit immeasurably from being torn apart by kindly strangers, so I want to put myself in the nest possible position to take advantage of it. But that means I need to be finished or close to it by February. Eep!

Progress report: 10,005/90,000

[1] Because I am such an inexperienced rewriter. What I mean is that I am a lazy, lazy writer and I have a lifelong aversion to doing any piece of work a second time. Not going back and reviewing work to see if it can be improved is a demonstrably hard habit to overcome.

[2] Obviously I am being deliberately obfuscatory here. There are no characters called Z in my novel.

[3] coughcoughcough. I am still working on manuscripts from two of my buddies, who are demonstrating exemplary patience with my slow feedback. It’s coming, I promise!

August 23, 2010

The Monday after the weekend before

Filed under: fitter/happier,friends,joey,political sniping,the renovated life — lexifab @ 10:47 pm


Dear friends Andrew and Veronica have just announced the birth of their beautiful baby girl Jade. Mother and baby both doing well, and father sounding exhausted and smug when I spoke to him this afternoon. I expect there will be an avalanche of photos available on the interwebs shortly.


So late last week we started to notice that there was water appearing on the floor in the kitchen. Naturally everyone – including me – made the reasonable assumption that I was responsible, spilling too much and cleaning up too little when washing up. It soon became apparent that in fact there was something else going on, that the water was seeping up between the seams of the floating floor slats and presumably up through the floorboards themselves. The floating floor boards are just a laminate, so any water that gets into them for any length of time causes them to swell and start to disintegrate. These ones may have had moisture in them for several weeks, which means at least half the boards in the kitchen are probably screwed beyond repair. And while we have some spares set aside for emergencies, we are pretty sure that we don’t have enough to replace the number that have probably been affected by this incident. And we’re damned sure that, with a two year old in the house and another on the way, we can’t face having to seal off the kitchen while we rip the ruined ones up and replace them.

An expedition to the underworld (played this week by the dusty, cat-faeces-choked subfloor crevice) revealed that…something was leaking in the laundry cabinet off to the side of the kitchen. Last night we turned various taps off (not the right ones, as it turned out, but in my defense there was no obvious visible evidence to suggest what was actually causing the leak) and hoped that the problem would start to fix itself overnight. Not so much. When I looked again this morning the drips were, if anything, more frequent than they were yesterday. Calls to the insurance company followed. Looks like they will cover part of the replacement but not all of it – the floorboards cover the dining room and the hallway that leads to the bathroom and study as well, so if we replace anything we more or less have to replace the lot.At the moment we are considering tiles or another form of timber covering (the floorboards themselves were in a pretty ordinary state, which is one of the reasons we covered them with the floating floor in the first place). There is also the possibility that the underlying floorboards and even the beams will have been damaged by the water leakage, so this could get quite expensive in the end. We think that insurance (or “gambling for pessimists”, as I like to think of it) will cover anything serious like that, but we allow room for the company to disappoint us on that score.


I crashed early last night with aches and pains and then spent most of the night awake with horrible wracking muscle spasms. Yet another frigging flu, I presume. That must be the third or fourth minor flu for the season – more than I managed last year, for certain. I daresay the change factor this year is the Joey’s childcare attendance, where he is undoubtedly exposed to every foul pestilence known to man, including the ones he himself is only too happy to share with the violent sneezes he inherited from his father and the occasional lapse in mouth covering discipline, which he also may have picked up from the paternal side. Have gradually recovered during the day, to the point now where I am wide awake and in only mild discomfort. Despite drinking litres of water, i still feel dehydrated, which is going to be just peachy during the night, I’ll warrant.


I was a bit too ill to spend much time to day catching up on the machinations of the independents and the musings of the polly-watchers, but I am quite keen to get back into that as soon as I can. A hung parliament is likely to be an exercise in protracted horror, certainly, but at least it is interesting. A friend cautions me not to get too optimistic about the prospect of general improvement in the conduct of the parliament as a result of the changed balance of power. Nevertheless it looks a lot like independent Rob Oakeshott is going to lead the charge for parliamentary reform and try to get some much needed quality control back into the procedures for the House of Reps. I like his moxie too, in putting his foot down and saying that if the big parties can’t do that, at least, then it’s back to the polls for the lot of you. Myself, I hope a minority government forms and he and the other two to three to four non-party members kick some common decency into the House.

I notice that he has a surprisingly non-annoying web site, for an Australian politician.

April 25, 2010

The satisfaction of an easier-than-expected job well done

Filed under: family,the renovated life — lexifab @ 11:35 pm

Finally got around to an oft-postponed job, namely replacing the rotten fibreglass roofing sheets on the shed, which have been leaking increasingly alarming amounts of rainwater onto the workbench in there for some months now. It seemed like a straightforward fix, so I’ve long held the deep suspicion that it would actually turn out to be a nightmare for some reason.

It turns out I was mistaken. It really was pretty straightforward. That might have had something to with Dad, Jimbo and Simon all being on hand to help, actually. It would have been a massive pain going up and down ladders for everything I forgot had there been nobody else around, and come to think of it I doubt I could have managed to wrestle the new sheets into place by myself.

(Fi was couchbound and baby-wrangling in all of this, before you ask. Otherwise she could probably just as easily have done it).

Anyway, the shed now has two  shiny new roof panels that let in a bit less light and a lot less rain than the old ones, so job done, and huzzah for that.

(Today I also baked muffins, shopped, washed, tended to the needs of my descendent despite his new insistence of “why?” when posed with any question or instruction, watched new Doctor Who and Lost (yay!) and continued to build a stupendously dysfunctional fortress full of dwarves. It’s a rich life. Now I’m just killing a bit of time until the live broadcast of the 20/20 cricket final, sometime after midnight. Tomorrow, it will I suspect be a slightly less rich life).

December 20, 2009

My white whale is kind of orange

Filed under: the renovated life — lexifab @ 11:36 pm

I spent most of the weekend up a ladder with Jimbo to get it done, but the patio now has its roof back, for the first time in over a year. Shiny-nail-new Laserlite sheeting, freshly painted beams and about seven dozen ultra-expensive rubber-topped screws, and roughly ten hours in the baking hot sun were all it took to finish the job.

Well, not finish it, exactly – there’s still the house to paint, not to mention the walls, the garage beams, the banisters, the cement and maybe the gate, and a garden to plant and a climbing frame to screw in place, and maybe some lights to have installed – but…the hard bit’s done. At least most of the rest of the job we can do under the shade!

I am knackered. It’s late. I’m dehydrated and probably sunburned. Damn, but it’s a good feeling.

November 26, 2009

Notes from the start of the summer

Filed under: cricket,property magnatism,the renovated life — lexifab @ 11:50 am

Thursdays and Fridays are ‘playschool’ day for the Joey, so for the next couple of weeks until I go back to work (sigh), I have a bit of time to get some work done around the place. Of course, today is also the start of the first Test against the Windies from the Gabba, so I am in a quandary.

For the moment I have resolved it by slapping some plaster over the cracks on the front wall. Now I have to wait for an hour or so while it dries before I can paint on the undercoat, so I have little choice but to sit down and take in the action from the first session. Shane Watson’s already done his best to make that seem like a very poor use of my time by getting out without scoring or offering a shot, but I will perservere here for a bit.

My resolution to get the patio finished before the start of summer is on pretty brittle footing at this point. I have, what, another four days to get several more layers of paint applied, erect a climbing frame for the plants, dig out the garden and get the roofing back on. Don’t think it’s going to happen somehow – especially not if the predicted all-weekend storms actually eventuate. But they won’t, so I should be able to make a fair fist of it.

The other major distraction at the moment is the return of the house-buying rigmarole. Fiona has found a little place in Western Australia and had an offer accepted, so now comes the march of inspections, finance applications, quantity surveys, interviewing property managers and the million other little jobs that need doing to get the purchase across the line. We’ve made life difficult for ourselves as usual, this time by timing the deadline for our finance approval at 25 December. Oops, that could be a little awkward – hope we can get it done early. But from my point of view the timing is excellent – it would be very difficult to get all the fiddly little jobs done once I returned to work.

This will be the last property purchase for a while, probably at least a year. We’ve leveraged all the equity that we’ve built up in our own place, so now we need to sit back and wait for some capital growth to take effect. That will probably take a while (that’s sort of the point) and I can imagine a certain amount of impatience creeping in during the lull. Fiona has thrown herself into the research quite aggressively this year – getting us some very good deals into the bargain – and I am anticipating some withdrawal pangs gnawing away while we’re not in a position to do any shopping. For my part, I get to do the monthly reconciliations and property management, so nothing will change for me – I still get to pore over bank statements, credit card bills and scads of invoices for several hair-pulling hours every month…

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