What does the last of the housewives do?

Month: October, 2015

Sydney Aquarium

I’m at the aquarium in my professional capacity. We’ve set our students an end of semester activity to plan a science excursion to the aquarium, and answer a series of questions to demonstrate that they have a clue. Some of the slack buggers have just made it up after a quick trawl through the aquarium website. But in the spirit of being one of those tutors who is there for her students, I’m at the aquarium today and tomorrow, just in case some of my little bunnies actually decide to do the activity as planned. And then get stuck.

I know it’s under a lot of construction at the moment, but I’m going to cut straight to the chase and tell you it’s not currently one of the great aquatic attractions of the world. Most of the exhibits are currently signs on hoardings with one of three themes, how terrific sharks are, don’t use styrofoam cups, or give us money.

OK, there are a few things worth looking at. The very first tank contains platypus. I do recommend standing in front of these for quite some time, ignoring the waves of buffeting schoolchildren. It takes a while for it to dawn on you exactly how weird these dudes are. They look like they couldn’t operate on land at all, and they’re always smaller than I would have expected them to be. There are little yabbies messing about on the bottom, and some desultory fish, but these are of no moment. Regard the very webbed feet, the back feet almost vestigial. The flat tail. The duckbill, for heaven’s sake. So weird.

Around a couple of corners are my some of my favourite animals. Ignore the penguins, they’re just showing off. The jellyfish are where it’s at. These ones have a constantly colour changing light shining through the tank and they really are other worldly.


“Look at them going up and down” says a passing mum to her offspring. “That’s how they breathe”. And this is why I have my work cut out for me. They actually don’t breathe at all, their skin is so thin that oxygen from the water can just diffuse straight into their cells. Yes, I did just look that up, it really wasn’t hard. Don’t start me on jellyfish, those things are so very amazing I’m tempted to move to Queensland and research them full time. Did you know that box jellyfish have no discernible brain, but will actually hunt their prey? How???

Also amazing, and disturbing at the same time is the octopus. I’m always a bit perturbed by things in tanks, but this guy looks particularly unhappy. He’s definitely watching me. His eye is blinking in this photo, but wherever he put his abundance of legs, I could see his slitted eye watching, watching, always watching. 

He’s in a really tiny tank, and he couldn’t be happy. Why haven’t they got him in an adventure playground, with stuff to build with and hide inside, and friends? He’s doing circuits of the front of the tank, I feel like he’s banging on the glass, he wants to go back to Brazil. Hang on, no, that’s Harry Potter.But he is trying to communicate with me.

Yes, the rays and sharks and dugongs are cool, and the walk through is lovely, but, again, looking like too small an enclosure for those giant creatures, and the way is sometimes blocked by morbidly obese mums with their hands on their hips, or knots of perpetually self documenting tourists. There’s a tiny touch tank, with a young chap with the now ubiquitous beard and man bun, encouraging kids to touch, but DON’T PICK THAT UP!!!. Their touch pool used to be a lot bigger and less shouty. I pause to spare a thought for the Port Jackson shark, who lays what looks like really quite sharp, spiral shaped eggs. What a life.
There looks like there’s quite a bit of work being done on a Barrier Reef section, which will be quite handy once the real thing disappears, but it’s only a few flashes of colour for now. Too soon I am at the gift shop, which is full to bursting with schoolchildren in EZ Identify yellow caps, and almost all of the merchandise is, unlike the creatures they represent, fluffy.

So now I’m in the cafe. I’ve had exactly six students through, none of whom have needed my help. I’ve done a bit of committee work. I’ve started work on sketching out what we’ll be teaching in summer school next year. I’ve just realised that if I stand up to succumb to the temptations of the deep fried section I will lose my excellent spot with a good view of the entry queue and out of the draught. The sacrifices one makes. 

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, if you have $40 burning a hole in your pocket, there are many better ways to spend it than here. Perhaps the Wildlife world next door would be better, the young lad on the ad loop above the entrance seems to think so. I might have to give you an update once they’ve finished renovating. Meanwhile, I might beg my boss for an early mark.


I done a sock.

I actually meant to make a cardigan. Oh, I’d done the scarves, long chunky ones, smart business ones, school coloured ones. And some hats on the old crochet hook, one of which has shrunk so catastrophically in the wash that it wouldn’t fit the dog even if he’d consent to wear it. Note to self, stop buying wool at Spotlight, it doth suck. And it was time to branch out.

There’s a number of directions you can go in the woollen arts once you’ve mastered the knit purl and the hook. You can crack into cable knit. You can start crocheting lace. And you definitely want to move beyond the circle and the square, you want to start making garments. So I thought I’d crochet a cardigan.

I got some multicoloured wool, I always feel like I’m getting value for money for some reason if there’s more than one colour. I found a pattern that looked very light and, well, not stylish, it’s a crocheted cardy, but not like something you’d find at a CWA stall. And easy, it was just make two cylinders for arms, and join them with rectangles and bung a border on them and hope for the best.

But no. Actually, it wasn’t really the pattern that was the problem, though the advertised hook size and tension were WAY out. I don’t know if it was the wool either, but after about three false starts I got the top half of the thing done (there’s a skirt to it too) and look.


It looks like something my grandma would wear. If she couldn’t get out of bed and was feeling the chill, and was too weak to fight off the nurse. And if she had dementia. Which she doesn’t.

Not only that, but I’d managed to lose the rest of the wool for it in the excitement of the move to the lair, never been seen again. I quit! No lovely summery cardy for me.

I fought off craft despair with a fisherman’s rib striped rainbow scarf, just in time for the last of winter.

I was saving up something special for the long weekend. We were going away to the mountains, and the children were planning many things that held no interest for yours truly, basketball, tennis, swimming, squabbling about who was the smartest, watching TV. I had decided that it was time to teach myself to Knit A Sock. And then, obviously, to knit another one just the same.

To do this I would need special help. There are many many sites on the Internet that hold sock patterns, but you have to already know how to knit in the round, and I’d never got the hang of it. And there are many Youtube videos also. But it’s a personal quirk of mine that I don’t watch videos on the Internet. I don’t know why, they just irk me. Give me a transcript! But I have found the perfect site, excellent instructions with photos and no moving parts and I shall share it with you so that the making of socks may extend over the world as it did in times of yore:

Come To Silver
That’s it. I haven’t explored any more of Silver’s work, there looks like a lot of good stuff there but first I must master The Sock. Dear friends, that weekend I did make a sock, and this very day I have completed its companion so that the feet of my husband shall be no more cold. Not that they will anyway in this weather, but winter shall come again.

 The detailed instructions were very easy to follow. Now I can knit in the round! And, as the Moose said, at least I’m making things that people will actually want to wear. Socks for everyone! Have a guess what that cardy’s going to end up as.

Postscript. The doctor hasn’t called me about my nose, which is a very good sign. I’ll call her minions next week hopefully to be told you’re all clear, see you next year.

What are you looking at?

“What happened to your nose?” asked the suspiciously slow talking chap on the Bay Run this morning. “did you bang it?”. “No, I had some extremely minor surgery on it”. “Did it hurt? What did it feel like?”. “Yes, it hurt quite a lot. And now it kind of feels like it has a staple in it”. “Well, I’d never have that done” he said, walking slowly away.

Easy for him to say. Yesterday I had my yearly skin checkup. Just mentioning that brings everyone out of the woodwork. “did you see Dr Wong? He’s the best, he looks after my dad. You should go and see him”. I can’t go and see him, because I have a special dermatologist. She works at the melanoma unit. And I see her because some years ago I had quite a nasty melanoma, and she’s been waiting for something like this to happen. “Just a matter of time”, she said.

My dermatologist is French. She looks older than me, but is utterly exquisite in that special French way. Perfect skin, cerulean eyes, slender, anything she wears looks incredibly expensive. She always wears beige. Yesterday she was wearing a light beige shift dress with what looked like a rope tied around it, topped off by a dark beige cardy and espadrilles. She looked a million dollars. When I see her I have to strip and lie on a bed while she goes over my entire skin with a bright light and a magnifying glass, squeezing various bits as she goes, always terrific for the self esteem. I drew her attention to a spot on my nose that occasionally gets a bit crusty. “Hmmm”, she said. She rubbed it firmly with an alcohol wipe (non flushable) and gave it the once over with the searchlight. “I think there is a spot there. Nothing much. Better to take it off. I have a cancellation this afternoon, I shall send you off for some lunch and then you shall come back. It will be just a small dent I will make in your nose, possibly will not even bleed”. I can’t do the accent.

Instead I went home, what makes her think you can park for more than hour in Newtown? I supervised several relays of children making the most of the pool, first some milk white nerds pew pewing each other with water pistols. Then a pack of twelve year olds on whom the length of the pool is wasted, they only clamber out and find an infinite number of ways to jump back in again, off the slide, the jumping platform, through the plastic donut, classic catches in the air. The rabble of girls had to wait until I came back.

It’s always a bonus to have your doctor run on time, you just sign the paperwork, nod as she rapidly outlines what she’s going to do in her incredibly melodious and somewhat incomprehensible French accent (fortunately everything gets written down). Take your shoes off, lie down under this giant light, you’ll have a cloth over your eyes so you won’t have to see the giant anaesthetic needle dig around in your nose. Yes it is very unpleasant. I do wonder if just taking the biopsy without anaesthetic would hurt less? Maybe not in my case, because after a bit of pushing and tugging on the old schnoz she said “Ah. Now I can’t see what I’m doing”. I could feel some kind of liquid running across my face and down my neck and devoutly hoped it was antiseptic fluid. There was a bit of repartee between the doctor and the nurse, ending with “it’s not stopping, we’ll need a pressure dressing”. “Is bleeding a bad sign?” I asked in my most light hearted voice. “Oh, yes. That was almost definitely a BCC, and it may even have roots which will mean more surgery, but we won’t know until the biopsy comes back. Call us in two weeks. But if it comes back and it is sinister, I shall call you earlier. You may sit up now.” “Gosh”, said the nurse. “You could go out to Halloween like this”, she said as she mopped blood off my face, neck, back and out of my hair. Tops.

I’m an old hand at this waiting for medical results, if it is really a BCC, that’s actually great news compared to what I’ve had in the past, especially if she got it all. But if any student complains to me this fortnight about not getting assignment marks back quickly, they’d better stand well back.

And now for one of the more interesting aspects of this kind of thing. How do people react to you with something really obvious wrong with you? When I had a massive slice out of my neck almost everyone’s eyes would slide to it, they’d do a double take, then suavely pretend not to notice anything. Interesting. And that’s exactly what happened with one of the parents coming to pick up a twelve year old, the slight pause and then polite ignorance of the dressing on my nose. I’ve taken the dressing off now, so there’s just a large black stitch sticking out of the tip of my nose, along with some bruising and swelling. I have fifty students tomorrow. Shall I do the social experiment? I rather think I shall.

PS. There has been a lot of “what does one say” floating about the social media lately. For the record, I’m always happy to give a gruesomely detailed description of what’s going on with me. But having read this post, now you won’t have to ask.