YoungB is allergic to some nuts. I think I’m allergic to how nuts it’s been here for for the past few weeks (and it’s not over yet).

Amidst all the chaos of the family lunch – no photos; I’m having trouble with the camera – and YoungB’s final fortnight in the country, I’ve been trying to settle back into the workforce because, yes, I have a new job. That’s good. It will bring in some income and keep me occupied and off the streets while YoungB is away (if it doesn’t kill me first, having to use my brain again after more than a year of unemployment). The timing could hardly be worse; but what the heck? There are other bad things about the job. It’s on the other side of town and, realistically, in order to ensure that I’ll be there for a 9 o’clock start, I’m having to leave home about an hour earlier than I used to leave to ensure getting to town by that time because I have to change buses. Some days I get good connections, other days I don’t; and standing about in the cold, wet weather we’ve been having is most unpleasant. The shortest bus route would require three buses and take more time, though it’s an option I might consider for when the weather is kinder because it involves a steady bit of walking at the end and I’m missing my exercise routines. Sitting at a desk all day in a ridiculously chilly airconditioned office is ruinous for your blood pressure and waistline.

There aren’t any good coffee shops or cafes or friendly eateries near my – otherwise salubriously located – new workplace, at least not within lunch-break walking distance. There’s a Hit and Run store (as Dr B once wrongly called it and I’m sure you’ll appreciate why the name stuck), not far away and the coffee there is acceptable; but there’s nowhere to sit down. I’m told there’s a wonderful organic coffee shop “up the road” but it’s too far up the road to be useful because it’s too far to walk at lunchtime (see previous comment). You’d think that must mean I’ll save money? I’m not so sure. I’m also not sure about whether it’s good or bad or even more nuts that there’s this fabric shop just a few doors away!


Posted by on July 16, 2014 in Musing, Sewing


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I clear a space and what happens?

We’ll be having a family lunch before YoungB leaves for Italy. You’d expect that. I am, little by little, clearing up so that we won’t have to half-kill ourselves to make the place presentable come party day. I achieved a major goal tonight, clearing the table where one of our computers usually lives (so that we can co-opt it for the party). And now? Oh, Dr B has put a printer on the other end and assures me it’s temporary. Yeah, right.

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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in Musing


that was a win or perhaps Fate relented

The transcription job I undertook for YoungB was actually not too bad. I did what I could with the Italian then left Dr B to clean it up (he was most impressed by the software I’d chosen to use – not the user-spiteful package I’m constrained to use by the company to whom I subcontract – and loved my foot pedal). What made it a little easier than much of the [paid] work I do was that the recording was good and, though there was some background noise, it wasn’t so intrusive that I couldn’t hear the speakers. That was a win for the family (the Bs recently purchased a small digital recorder and this was one of its first official runs). YoungB’s actually doing the essay was more chaotic because he’s out of practice and would leave it till the last minute; but, well, it was sound enough and went off in plenty of time. Fnigres corsesd.

Then there’s that huge to-do list, relating to YoungB’s year away, that’s slowly, slowly dwindling. Sometimes we don’t see much progress though we seem to be busy, but at our next family meeting we find ourselves saying, “Yep, that’s all done,” and, once the smaller components are accounted for, another big item gets a tick. Some of my effort there relates to getting things done for the family lunch we’re planning to have. I should have made my smaller to-do list larger, in the sense of making it into one with a greater number of small items that I could tick off individually, because I don’t seem to be making much impression on it in its present format. Having said that, when I walk into the room we’re presently dedicating to OS stuff, I can see that it’s well set up for what needs to be done and, yep, most of the background work was the result of my hard labour.

That I’m not getting to anything of my own – any of the sewing or knitting – is a minor detail. I mean, you’d reckon there’ll be plenty of time for that in the reasonably near future when both of the Bs are on their travels and I’m left home to party, wouldn’t you?


Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Musing


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and if you think that’s bad

…then I’m not going to tell you about how I’ve been, er, co-opted into producing a transcript for YoungB from some interviews he recorded as part of his last assignment for this semester. The topic is immigration. No worries. Quite interesting, you’d think. Subtopics are around the provision of aged care for migrant communities. Certainly interesting, and an area in which I worked myself for a few years. The first speaker is Italian, speaking in Italian with a ferocious Neapolitan accent. I know I’m good, but, yeah, I’m going to have to call in the troops on this one! That will be just one troop, actually: Dr B, who’s deaf. Yes, that would be often wilfully so (in case you were wondering) but it’s genuine enough (see, I always knew loud rock music was bad for you). Even being deaf and all, he’ll undoubtedly be able to catch what I can’t in terms of the language. I won’t ask you to wish me luck. I don’t think that’s going to help much. :)

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Posted by on June 6, 2014 in Health



too much temptation

Fate feels that way, obviously, since I’m having to unpick a sizeable chunk of the mate’s beanie! For some reason, and I truly don’t get why, it’s too big even for Dr B. The mate’s head is about the same size, so if it’s big on Dr B, it will be big on our mate. So, you know, I could run a bit of shirring elastic through it – as you might recall, I’ve rescued many a saggy beanie by that simple trick – or, since it’s knitted in the round, I could just pull out the ribbing and redo it on smaller needles. I say “just”, but four inches of ribbing will take me quite a while (there’s too much else happening at the moment for uninterrupted knitting time). That, however, is probably what I’ll do.

And then there was the, “Please could you fab up something to put this recording device into?” request, sent in my direction at about 8.30 one night. Yeah right. That saw me scratching about for hours, trying to work out how to get a thick result that would protect the device, a firm bottom that would provide extra protection and a soundboard of sorts, and a suitably fine fabric for one end so that the recordings wouldn’t be muffled (all before 9 o’clock the next morning, when YoungB was scheduled to take it with him for the day’s work). I hunted down some denim and thick corduroy in my “these might come in useful one day” basket and sacrificed a plastic lid to make the base (using what I had; and at that hour, I couldn’t have done much else).

I also had to wrestle with a zip. “You’ve got this fabulous machine now,” Dr B said. True. I haven’t yet had much chance to play around with it, though, so although I did some of the straight sewing on the new machine, I had to pull out the old Singer to do the zipper (or spend a lot of time trying to figure out zippers on the new machine). I’m not particularly good with zippers, although I’ve done some that are very neat and they almost always do the job for which they’re intended. This one didn’t. It was the first I found that looked about the right length but it needed to be a sturdier beast. My fault entirely, though in my defence I’d add that time was a constraint, I ran out of it, I’m old enough to need more beauty sleep than I was going to get and finding a better zip wasn’t an easy option at that hour. Of course the zip broke the first day of use.

Now I have to unpick my very tidy work and redo it with a tougher zipper that I eventually tracked down at the bottom of my notions drawer, one flung in my direction once by Dr B, I seem to recall, because it wasn’t up to the job for which he required it but he thought it might come in handy for me. I know it’s not one I bought and I think that’s why I didn’t immediately fossick about looking for it: it hadn’t registered as being something I’d purchased with a particular project in mind (or any project at all, actually), so it was just there awaiting its moment. Right. At midnight, there is no moment. It’s all, “Can I make this work or will I have to get up early?” The latter was the case, but I still failed.

So there you are, Fate is laughing at me because I now have two projects to reverse, one knitting and one sewing and, yeah, when? Oh, I forgot! Dr B thinks we need to recording device tomorrow, so we’ll need the case tomorrow. I’m trying to work, but if you hear me snarling from where you are, you’ll know I’m wrangling with my seam ripper. Will that be okay?


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remembering a life

It’s partly because we’re the age we are, but funerals seem to have featured large in our calendar just lately. Even YoungB remarked on it. Last week it was one of Dr B’s cycling mates, an inspirational bloke who’d fought an extraordinary battle against cancer; but, in the end, his end was expected and welcome. We all went to his funeral service and, tribute to what he’d been so passionate about in life, there were cycling jerseys of various hues (acknowledging some of the different groups with which he’d cycled over the year) scattered among the mourners. He’d had an irreverent view of life, so it was utterly appropriate that the recessional music was, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. Of course we sang along. That was entirely appropriate, too.

Today, it was the funeral of one of my old family friends. I’ve known them for so long that sometimes I feel as if they are my family (or I’m part of theirs; it’s a subtle point and there’s probably not a lot of difference). She was considerably older than the cycling mate and had been frail for some while; but, in the end, her end was expected and peaceful and not too drawn out. Her husband and one of their granddaughters were with her when she died. Many people celebrated her life in the church where the service took place. It was considerably less frivolous than the cycling mate’s farewell but it was warm and sincere and we celebrated having known her as we shared our memories of her.

Without sounding maudlin, or thinking that I’m next in line – not by a long shot, barring accidents! – it’s good to remind ourselves that life, however long, is always a fleeting thing and that sometimes you really do need to take stock of things and just appreciate what you have. For me yesterday that was the sunshine (which is bound to diminish now that the days are so short and winter temperatures are truly on their way; and in fact, today has been cold and wet) and YoungB’s having the thoughtfulness to call in to see Youngest Aunt while he was on a quick visit (doing things academic) down at the uni where she works (we don’t get down there often). They had lunch together and I’m certain that YoungB’s visit brightened her day enormously. He told me that he enjoyed his vegetarian curry pie.

There’s been another death, too – another elderly woman, loved wife, mother and grandmother with a large extended family and many friends – but that’s to be a private funeral for reasons that aren’t clear; so we won’t have the opportunity to share remembrances with other mourners. I can intellectualise about why you might want a private funeral but I think it’s selfish. I’ve told Dr B and YoungB that I don’t want a private funeral. I’ve said, often, that if anybody wants to stand up at my wake and say how great my chocolate pudding was, that’s fantastic (there might be a queue; it’s good pudding). Likewise, if anybody wants to come and spit on my grave – which is probably unlikely, but you never know – feel free. It won’t concern me any more. I’ll be dead. Nonna has that pragmatic view, too. She says with a shrug that we should do what we want with regard to her funeral and wake because it won’t bother her. “I’ll be dead,” she says. And, yeah, that’s right.

We’ll remember her, though, as we remember anyone who is no longer with us. We’re good at that, at celebrating what has been and looking at the generations gathered with all that promise of a bright future. And isn’t that how it should be?


Posted by on May 31, 2014 in Musing


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more rovescio than diritto

To put that into context for you, they’re Italian knitting terms: diritto means knit, rovescio means purl (and knitting is lavorare a maglia as opposed to crochet, which is done with an uncinetto and is also called uncinetto). Rovescio also has that other connotation or overtone of “reverse”. Although I’ve been knitting my most recent beanie in the round and therefore there’s only been a bit of rovescio at the start to do the ribbing, I’ve certainly been reversing a fair amount of it while helping out with the Italian emails. My pile of kinked yarn is growing as I steadily tink back to the point where I goofed with the shaping. You wouldn’t think it would take so long – and if I’d simply yanked the needles out and pulled, it probably wouldn’t – but this yarn (I’m once again using Moda Vera Bouvardia, which has some unexpected but attractive colourways and always knits up to a soft, warm finish) is slightly sticky and I’ve found in the past that it’s better served by being taken apart stitch by stitch, however painful. That’s what I’ve been doing, round by careful round and doing my best not to poke anyone in the eye as I wave my spare set member about (that would be a DPN, by the way, for anyone who prefers that terminology).

Reversing a reverse

Reversing a reverse

Also, we’ve been doing a lot of Italian here lately (spot the Italian dictionary in the photo). All three of us spent a whole day curled up in bed – because Dr B had bunged up his knee and couldn’t walk; but there was work to be done! – writing a fairly simple email to the Italian academic liaison officer who’s YoungB’s contact person at Bologna. There is nothing simple about an email that needs to clarify many of the subtle points arising from the very different academic systems. However, with all of us on the job, me on coffee brigade, YoungB occasionally calling it quits to go stretch his legs and Dr B keeping us focused on the job and acting as our (Italian) thesaurus, we did it. Trouble is, as YoungB says, we’ve set the bar too high. His [written in the email] Italian sounds so good that they probably think he’s practically dreaming in it. Uuh, not quite. However, by the end of the day – you might call it a crash course in bureaucratese immersion – he was certainly much better able to come up with his own alternative modes of expression.

After a few heart-stopping moments early in the day, when it seemed as if nothing we’d said previously was going to carry any weight short of taking our case to a Very Big Wig (and that’s something you want to avoid at all costs, Italian bureaucracy being what it is), we managed to convince the folk in Italy that, well, all things considered, this kid is practically a genius! No, he’s not. He’s bright enough but intellectually lazy – one of his Year 12 teachers advised him that he wouldn’t be able to get by on good looks and charm for much longer, at which we laughed uproariously (hardly the ideal parental response) – but even so, the biggest hurdle wasn’t whether or not he was up to the subject choices, disparate though they appeared at first glance, more that the Italian system doesn’t seem to have much space for combined degree patterns though there’s enormous flexibility within degrees. In the end that might amount to the same thing.

Be that as it may, YoungB is enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science combined degree. It’s not that uncommon here though there are other degree programs with higher enrolment numbers (anything with Law and Economics, for example, and the Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Music is likewise popular; in that case largely, I suspect, because it allows music students to have better employment options at the end of it all). Because YoungB likes humanities subjects and science subjects and he had – indeed, still has – no idea of what he wants to do when he finishes his undergraduate studies, the double degree sounded like the best of both worlds and a good basis for whatever he might decide to take to higher study. Nobody said it was going to be easy, and it hasn’t been, but he’s passing his exams and enjoying himself. That’s reward enough for his efforts, we think.

While it might be the case that there are Italian universities where such weirdness exists happily, Bologna doesn’t seem to have that crossover readily available, hence the root cause of much of our recent anxiety. Once we’d curled up and nutted out a detailed but not overdone explanation of what YoungB’s subjects hitherto had involved and further explained why he’d chosen first-year subjects at 75% load – his poor Italian skills being a big part of all that, as he pointed out at different parts of the email – the very prompt response was, “OK, you’re good to go with what you’ve chosen,” or words to that effect. There was a further comment in the email that it’s unusual to be doing such unrelated areas of study concurrently, hence our feeling that combined degrees in such diverse disciplines are either rare or non-existent in the Italian tertiary sector. Never mind. We got the green light so whichever way you look at it, that was a very good use of our day.

I’m not quite back to going forward with my knitting, but there’s probably only another round to tink before I’ll once again be roaring full steam ahead with diminishing the number of stitches. My friend whose head this beanie is intended to cover is already in dire need of it – he lives in Tasmania, where the mornings are cold – so, along with the urgency of needing to explain newfangled Aussie degrees and degree patterns to an Italian at Europe’s oldest university, there’s the urgency of a bald head that needs a warm hat. It’s now going to be diritto all the way and no rovescio at all if I can help it. Would you reckon that’s going to work or will there be another slew of unpredictable reverses to push it all onto the back burner? Only time will tell.


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