No Sookie, just La La

Sookie La La

593 High Street Northcote

(Visited October ’18)

I didn’t know where I would be led that day as I travelled to the other side of town after having dropped off baby girl at kinder for the day. But what I did know was that I was meeting my old work colleague who was on maternity leave… meeting her, and NOW her new bub.

As it happened, I met her at her place and we then walked a couple blocks to High Street to get a bite to eat…

And suddenly, history was repeating itself.

Because she and I were going to a café to eat with her newborn… and SO many years earlier, she had met me in a café to catch up with me on MY maternity leave, while my newborn accompanied – baby girl. 😍

Now we were in Northcote. Then we were in Northcote.

That was MY FIRST FOOD REVIEW on this blog.

And so it all comes back to the start.

She led me to a place called Sookie la la – so appropriate with her baby in tow. Alas, her bub was a gorgeous boy and did no such thing, although he probably was a tad jelly with all of our caffeine consumption at times.

It’s a scaled-back café right on High Street, think understated industrial fittings, painted brick walls and signs of the building’s age with decorative cornices and the back door hanging askew 🤣

But it’s very much your simple local café, and that is where the simple-ness STOPS.

Because these guys are very much trying to give you a heart-attack.

They had this American-styled classic diner with throwback to brekkie and lunch meals that you would swear would make you question what red/white and blue flag you were travelling within.

Southern-style options, lots of chilli, and options like sloppy joes fit the bill and paint the picture. The biggest image for me though? Their Elvis French Toast – with banana, bacon, maple and peanut butter.

MWA HA HA. So wickedly wrong and GOOD at the same time.

But that wasn’t the one I went for that day. Instead I went for the just as indulgent –

Brekky Brioche – Scrambled eggs, bacon, bell pepper and chipotle relish… with the optional potato gems too.

Why the hell not when in an American classic café, eat as they do too.

Accompanied by my ol’ faithful… cappuccino.

It was such a moist, soft and juicy burger! So delicious, but also, SO MUCH BEIGE ON A PLATE. Oh man. I couldn’t even get through all my potato gems, and realised the error of my excited eyes at the end, looking at my half-eaten plate like –

Why did I do that?

Besides the stuffing myself beyond breaking point part, this café serves up comfort food at its finest. The relish was a great contrast against the bacon and egg, and that bun…. So soft! Incredible.

And the bacon was clean! Like no gross fatty bits, just nice, clean bacon… just the way I like it 😉

But it was so good… I went on a fast food detox after that meal. It inspired it. So like, be warned.

Food: 8/10. For what they do in comfort food, incredible. For what they do to your waistline, also unbelievable 😂 It’s a great, satisfying ‘treat yo-self’ place.

Coffee: 8/10. Coffee in the burbs of ‘almost’ inner city Melbourne… you never disappoint. 💖

Ambience: Chilled and cas on that weekday, quiet with soft background music filtering through the café.

People: There were locals popping in (like my colleague and ‘almost’ former local, me!) with other friends meeting for brunch and lunch too.

Staff: You know the creative type, who only works to pay their bills so they can play in bands, busk, paint sidewalks on the weekend? They are too cool to serve you your eggs on bread but they MUST? Yeah, kinda like that, but with occasional smiles.

Price: I have no idea as my colleague shouted me! But individually my burger was $12, VERY decent in price (actually too cheap if I dare to say it!) and my coffee about $4. Awesome and reasonable prices here.

Advice: It’s the place to go after a break up, to catch up on goss with friends, in cold weather… or simply for a taste of yester-year.

But DON’T come here if you’re on a diet.

In a nutshell: A really interesting diner-style cafe that fits right into the creative and eclectic side of town that is Northcote. Although currently on a health kick, I wouldn’t go right now, but every phase of life passes and different things come up again, and the need for an Elvis themed French toast may arise AT ANY MOMENT… just saying… you never know.

Afterword: I always hate finding out that a place I went to closed before I had a chance to post my review… alas Sookie La La has stuck to its name and seems to have shed its tears with signs of permanent closure mentioned online. But I still post these reviews because I hope somewhere, in the infinite space of online web, that there is someone who will see it and realise it is not a lost cause, and it may just reopen somewhere, sometime…

Because comfort is something we all need at one point or another. If this place does pop up again, do be sure to check it out.

Sookie La La Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A whale of a holiday

The Whaler

39 Salamanca Place Battery Point Hobart

(Visited August ’18)

It was our last night in Hobart, and somehow again, the struggle was real.It continued, because again we were at a loss as to where to eat on the apple aisle.

Only we didn’t want fruit… we wanted DINNER.Most of the bars/eateries in Salamanca Place were geared for friends and locals, not so much for families. We were brought inside places and showed where we would sit… at a table with high-stools… it just wouldn’t work! Baby girl would fall off it, damn it!

Baby girl would fall off it, damn it!

At first we were reluctant to head into The Whaler, with that younger just-out-of-high-school crowd, a bouncer out front, and of course it was also that the building looked like it had been picked up out of Brunswick Melbourne and plopped down at the corner of Salamanca Place.

We were wary. Was it appropriate with a child in tow?

But once we went inside to check out the menu, we found out that not only was there a kids menu (shock horror!), but we were allowed to eat inside with her if we wanted… something about kids being in a licensed venue, I don’t know. I mean I wasn’t going to order her a beer… I’ll wait ‘til she’s about 9 for that.

(Totally joking).

It didn’t matter though, because we chose to sit outside. We had fresh air and lo and behold, no stools. Just benches. Inside seemed rowdier and we were just happy to have a meal and drink on our last night on this most interesting of holiday locations.

I ordered all of our drinks and food up at the bar (a la inner city Melbs pub style!) and then we proceeded to sit back, relax, take in the Saturday night Salamanca vibe and reminisce on what the last 5 days had been like.

Our drinks helped us think back over the past week.

A ’16 Beautiful Isle Pinot Noir for me, and a Cascade Lager for Hubbie

Searching for parking on Davey street along Salamanca Place…

Getting lost on the highways and looping right on Tasman hwy instead of turning right on Domain highway…. REPEATEDLY…

Struggling to find decent takeaway food…

Dealing with a sick baby girl for a day and a half…

Having the sunrise wake us nice and early at 7am if we were lucky, due to the non-existent blinds…

The hills…

The water…

The views from our rental in Lutana…

The fact that everything was cheaper!

Port Arthur, lookout points, meeting real-life animals up close at ZooDoo…

Discovering art and everything deep and dark at Mona.

Nah, yeah. The verdict was clear. We loved Hobart. 💖🥰

Baby girl watched youtube with her recently acquired fairy doll in fairy shop (an absolute must for fairy girls!) and glittery lip balm. Because as a 5 year-old you just don’t know who you will see in Hobart City on a Saturday night. 😉

We were happy when the food finally arrived. Happy because it looked great and also tasted just as good.

I had the special of Fair Market Fish, which was Silver Warehou from Tasmania, with fries and aioli

Hubbie had the 250g Cape Grim Scotch Fillet, with thick cut chips, charred greens, and single malt mushroom sauce

While baby girl had the ½ serve Fish and Chips

We were actually really impressed with the quality of baby girl’s fish pieces, more so since it wasn’t the classic family-catering place, despite the small kids menu on offer. She enjoyed it too as she nibbled while watching Elsia and Anya on youtube. Ahh kid life.

My fish fillets were also delicious accompanied by the chips and aioli, and although at the end of the day it was still your simple fish and chips, tasting the quality of the product like in baby girl’s meal, was impressive.

Hubbie enjoyed his steak. He said for a pub meal it was what he’d expected, but still, he was satisfied.

We felt relieved and happy once our tummies were full, glad we had made the right choice… Yeah! Since we had already paid, all we had to do was walk over to the rental, and then go back to start thinking about packing… 😬

Food: 7.5/10. It was surprisingly good for a pub-style place like that, bringing us memories of our inner-city town back home.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Actually really quiet outside, surprisingly for a Saturday night. Wonder how the place fares in the warmer months. A couple of groups of friends, mostly teens and 20-somethings, were gathered outside at one stage but that was it. It was happening inside though, everyone seemed to be there.

People: As mentioned, the younger crowd, think out of high school teens and uni students, 20-somethings and those looking for a good meal with their pint of locally brewed beer. There was a kid in the bar with family though (shock horror, I know!)

Staff: The lady I ordered with and then subsequent waiters who brought us our food were all super lovely.

Price: $95. What? Under $100? For alcoholic drinks and 3 meals? They’ve broken away from mainland Aus not just in shared territory but in prices too…

Advice: This is a great place to hang out with friends, a cas night where you can enjoy some drinks, as well as know for sure the food quality will match.

In a nutshell: This one was the surprise underdog for me. It impressed with its great drink and food options, the major plus being baby girl’s food was better than your usual frozen nuggets on a plate – in fact nothing like it at all! And to end our Hobart visit like this, to be positively influenced and stunned all in one…

Well it kind of was the overall theme of our trip there. Pleasantly surprised, as we’ve found a new place to love.

We can’t wait to come back. 😊

The Whaler Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday night conversations #10 What was your childhood show?

On the way home from school today, baby girl asked me a question.

“Mama, have you heard of Pippi Longstocking?”

“Yes!”

“Our teacher read us that book today.”

It’s a real full circle moment when your child starts to get introduced to what you used to watch…. sooo long ago. I remember when she learnt who Mr Squiggle was last year… that dude is an Australian childhood institution!

I got her to tell Hubbie over dinner, what she found out about today.

“Who?” he asked.

“Pippi Longstocking!” I said.

“I don’t know him,” he replied.

“It’s a girl!” I cried. “Are you kidding me? You don’t know Pippi Longstocking?”

“Never heard of her.”

“How? This is when we were growing up! That’s like someone from our generation saying they don’t know He-Man.”

“But I know He-Man.”

“Yeah, but imagine they didn’t.”

We grew up with 5 channels, not an abundance of options and on demand services like what we have nowadays. And even though back then it was probably considered more of a girl show, I am still baffled as to how, with such limited kids content, with only certain times of the day where kids programs would air, that he NEVER came across Pippi Longstocking, with the curvy plaits going out to the sides in a smile.

I even brought up the theme song… oh it’s engraved in my head! Even after all these years!

We all wanted to be her!

Anyway, all this talk made me think… what was your childhood show? What show do you immediately think of, when you think of your childhood?

What show is synonymous with you growing up?

This could be anything. You could have grown up in the 70s, 80s, 90s, even the 2000s… for me it was the 80s and early 90s, and I struggle so hard to pick just one show.

So I will be cheeky and pick three.

Mine are:

Duck Tales. “Duck Tales, woo ooh!” I loved that theme song. Huey, Dewey and Louie were fun to follow, and their great-uncle Scrooge McDuck, well, who could understood him?

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They were huge, EVERYONE loved them! My favourite was Donatello, because he was purple, and I liked that colour (typical 7 year-old rationale).

And finally… who can forget Scooby Doo! Oh gee. The amount of kids that scared themselves silly watching that show, huddled over, on, or behind the couch, terrified of the bad guys out to get the Scooby gang… that show was seriously freaky stuff! And then we all went to school like nothing at all happened, only to do it all over again the next morning.

What show do you think of when you remember your childhood?

Friday night conversations #9 How isolated are you?

Isolation. It’s not the nicest of words, because no one wants to be, or feel isolated… and yet it’s become a common sentiment over the past few months.

The definition of isolation: to set apart from others, to quarantine.

And yet the way we’ve all been isolating lately has been widely subjective according to personal circumstance.

I will put my hand up here. My family and I all started out really taking things seriously. Look to some extent we still do. We hand sanitise constantly, our social gatherings are at a nil, and we’ve grown accustomed to this new, quieter, more low-key way of life.

We’re also surprisingly, enjoying it.

We hear repeatedly that we must only do, or go out for essential things.

Groceries.

School.

Work.

Health/medical care.

Checking in on vulnerable loved ones.

Exercise.

But how many times can you say you’ve done something not considered essential?

Well, I can count them. Because I’ve done a few things that definitely did not qualify in the ‘necessary’ category.

Or did they? Let’s have a quick look.

After baby girl was denied back at school due to her NON-INFECTIOUS, post-cold cough, we went to Target… I bought her a toy, and in effect said stuff you to the whole community because I was shitty at the situation.

We went to Chadstone shopping centre during the Queens Birthday weekend. Us and the entire state, it felt like. We needed stuff, but did we really NEED it?

We’ve gone out to a couple of cafes since restrictions eased.

I’ve been to my sister’s place. It was her birthday and I was in the area.

Likewise, I just saw my parents.

Seeing your family is allowed. And cafes and restaurants are now open, so therefore supporting local, going in to grab a coffee should be ok, right?

Shopping for random stuff on the other hand, may not be the most important thing, but mental health is…

And therein lies the point. I think lots of people after all this time, may be getting a bit lax in their choices and their judgment when it comes to where they should go.

Because it’s been so long that we’ve been so strict on ourselves, that we need to get out, do something, go somewhere, see something or someone that we haven’t for so long, or else we’ll go crazy.

Maybe you haven’t been so strict… maybe you think I’ve been too lax…

Anyone game to put up their hand and share where you’ve been? Share a place or event that wasn’t essential?

What do you think will happen now? Do you think things will get even stricter as the cold descends further, or will we all just throw in the towel, and with that the sanitiser too?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Word by Word

ANNE LAMOTT – Bird by Bird

“I worry that Jesus drinks himself to sleep when he hears me talk like this.”

Much can be read from this line that comes from the book on writing and life advice by Anne Lamott.

1: Her mention of Jesus makes one think that she is religiously-inclined, that it is a significant part of her life, or that it plays a pivotal role in her daily decisions. From what I have read, that would be correct.

2: The fact that Jesus himself would become an alcoholic based on the things she says, kind of paints the picture of an insanely articulate yet unhinged, hilarious writer whose bark is worse than her bite, and who manages to make the darkest of themes, like even death, humorous.

From what I have read, that would also be correct.

Lamott has a wicked sense of humour. From the outset, I could tell that I would like her. Her witty, sharp, insightful remarks and views on the world, ability to poke fun at herself and allow us to see and hear all her very real insecurities and jealousies about being a human, and about being a writer, made me immediately sympathetic to her story. She’s honest and real about the struggles in a writer’s world, and let’s face it, trying to get into it in the first place, yet despite her stark frankness in the matter, suggesting that only a small number get to go on Letterman, she has put together this book in an effort to encourage and help aspiring writers, as she has often done in her writing workshops.

“The best thing about being an artist, instead of a madman or someone who writes letters to the editor, is that you get to engage in satisfying work. Even if you never publish your work, you have something important to pour yourself into.”

This book made me laugh, and it made me cry. It gave me some good hard advice, as well as some awesome little snippets and ideas on what I can do in my writing life to just generally be better at it.

So let’s begin Anne’s writing class. (I usually call writers by their surnames in my reviews but after reading this book I feel like I know her so well).

SET THE MOOD

“I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good enough at it…”

I got quite a few good tips from Anne on ways to improve my writing environment. Firstly, it seems simple, but using some kind of external trigger, like a candle, and the act of lighting it, when done repeatedly over time it can serve as a kind of switch for your writing conscious to kick in. This excited me because for my birthday I got given this beautiful candle in a glass jar, and the wick actually crackles as it burns (I actually picked the candle for myself and my parents paid, but same thing). As if I didn’t need further reason to get it, the lady behind the counter said “when the house is quiet, light it and listen to it crackle as you read a book.”

Um, what about write a book? God if she knew. So that will be my thing, the candle, in particular this most awesome-nest of awesome candles, the wicker-crackling candle.

And speaking of the conscious mind. The rational mind is probably our worst enemy. Second guessing ourselves, reading over what we’ve written, trying too hard, sticking to plans and not letting things flow – this all obstructs the natural story-telling and writing process. She says that characters are created in our unconscious mind, the area in which we have no control over, so it would come to reason that we should relax a little, try to listen to our intuition more, and just let the unconscious do its thing. She uses the metaphor of broccoli for her intuition, but whatever ‘voice’ it is that you can’t control within, as long as it works for you. I love the metaphor and vision of the butterfly, and it has significance for me on many levels, and with its random yet gentle fluttering, I’ve decided to watch this creature in my mind’s eye and follow where it leads me. Just as a green vegetable will work for Anne, a transformative insect will work for me.

Preparation-wise, Anne has index cards placed pretty much all over the place at her house, in her car, she even takes them with her on walks in case an idea, thought or inspiration strikes her. I have to say, when I’ve had a great thought and not had the necessary pen/paper/mobile to capture it, I whole-heartedly agree with Anne when she says:

“That is one of the worst feelings I can think of, to have had a wonderful moment or insight or vision or phrase, to know you had it, and then to lose it.”

There’s nothing wrong with needing a prompt to remember things. Being a mother herself, she offers a great insight into one reason you may need these cards in your life, something that despite my uber-organisation, I can totally relate with:

“When a child comes out of your body, it arrives with about a fifth of your brain clutched in its little hand, like those babies born clutching IUDs.”

There will be bad days. You will have writers block, which she says is less about being ‘stuck,’ and more about ‘filling up again.’ She tells her students to try to write at least a page of something, anything, dreams or streams of consciousness or memories, every day, and that on bad days to try and do this just to keep their fingers from becoming arthritic. And in the event of being ‘empty,’ to go out and fill up again.

“Writer’s block is going to happen to you. You will read what little you’ve written lately and see with absolute clarity that it is total dog shit.”

HOW TO WRITE

E.L. Doctorow once said “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” It was interesting to find this quote in Lamott’s book, because I had just finished reading Loon Lake before getting Bird by Bird, and it was in fact this precise Doctorow quote, reading it literally before his death, that rang very true for me.

I didn’t do a whole lot of research, or any writer’s workshops, or join any online writing groups when I first started on my book. I just went into it, with a handful of characters, some strong themes, and a round-a-bout destination in mind. I knew A, I knew somewhere E was going to come in, but then I didn’t know anything in between, just a rough Y and a hazy Z. It’s always comforting when you read that someone you aspire to, such as a successful writer, does the same thing you do, or confirms something you’ve always thought to be true. I never really thought of a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write, I think we all just do what works for us, but this above metaphor that applies not just to writing, but to life, rang so true to me. Because from my A, B C and D sprang forward, and just by writing scene by scene, character by character, a whole story formed, and I surprised myself on multiple occasions.

You don’t need to see the path to your destination, nor even see your destination at all. Anne talks about ‘Short Assignments,’ and when you struggle in your writing to just think of getting one memory, one scene, one exchange out in front of you, enough that would fill up a one-inch frame. Focusing on one thing at a time is far less overwhelming than worrying about how your protagonist is going to confront the bad guy three chapters away.

“Your plot will fall into place as, one day at a time, you listen to your characters carefully, and watch them move around doing and saying things and bumping into each other.”

Writing can be a very difficult experience, something she admits for herself and for most writers she knows. Getting by is to write a shitty first draft. In this stage anything goes, even phrases like:

“Well so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?”

You just need to get anything down, no matter what it is. Her friend said:

“the first draft is the down draft – you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up….And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”

 “Vonnegut said, ‘When I write, I feel like an armless legless man with a crayon in his mouth.’”

This is so comforting.

You can even liken your writing to your dreams – the way one absurd scene just flows into another, so too must your writing be “vivid and continuous.” In discovering plot, Anne says her characters know where they are going, she just needs to stay with them long enough. She needs to care for them, polish them, and then suddenly they will show her the way. Another way to think of it is this:

“they need me to write it down for them because their handwriting is so bad.”

What about me then? I need my characters to do everything for me because my handwriting beats that of a doctors!

In writing, you need to revoke all control you have. You may be focusing on the fence, but the yellow sparkling flower in the corner of your mind-frame starts to sparkle and all of a sudden, it’s stolen the show. You must explore that.

“If you stop trying to control your mind so much, you’ll have intuitive hunches about what this or that character is all about. It is hard to stop controlling, but you can do it.”

Anne says that when she starts writing she wants to fill the page with witty insights so that the world will see how smart she is. Whoops. Where I fall into step with the favourable Doctorow quote, so too do I have to begrudgingly agree that I sing along with this writing flaw. But as you write, you want your characters to act out the drama of humankind, which doesn’t include your witty and ground-breaking life insights.

“…the purpose of most great writing seems to be to reveal in an ethical light who we are.”

FUNNY STORIES

Anne made me LOL so hard, that in my re-reading of notes I was still laughing out loud. Oh geez.

The two below cases in point I think really paint a great picture of the dual character-traits she encompasses. Take the story of when readers were surprised to hear that she didn’t love to garden like one of the characters in her book, that she had in fact been researching it heavily and ‘winging’ it instead:

“’You don’t love to garden?’ they’d ask incredulously, and I’d shake my head and not mention that what I love are cut flowers, because this sounds so violent and decadent, like when Salvador Dali said his favourite animal was fillet of sole.”

Oh my fucking lord. I love it.

(I was on a swearing frenzy following Loon Lake, so screw it let’s go).

(Let’s not make much of the fact that one quote on my calendar once said ‘Swearing exposes weakness not strength.’)

A second moment, where she is talking about paying attention to the world around you and using religious metaphors in doing so, displays the heavy theme of God in her life, while also reminding us that she doesn’t give a shit:

“There is ecstasy in paying attention. You can get into a kind of Wordsworthian openness to the world, where you see in everything the essence of holiness, a sign that God is implicit in all of creation. Or maybe you are not predisposed to see the world sacramentally, to see everything as an outward and visible sign of inward, invisible grace. This does not mean that you are worthless Philistine scum.”

Her chapter on jealousy is refreshing. If a writing friend of hers is successful with writing, sometimes she wants –

“for him to wake up one morning with a pain in his prostate, because I don’t care how rich and successful someone is, if you wake up having to call your doctor and ask for a finger massage, it’s going to be a long day.”

These images are so clear and paint such a humorous picture, and the fact that she does it all, making it appear so effortless, makes you realise how great of a writer she really is.

I can re-type countless funny moments and stories of hers, but I just need to do one more, I promise. I love the following mental picture. When researching for the name of the ‘wire thing’ used for wines, she called a winery to try and found out its proper name. The receptionist there didn’t know the name of it either so she transferred her to:

“a two-thousand year old monk. Or at least this is how he sounded, faint, reedy, out of breath, like Noah after a brisk walk.

And he was so glad I’d called. He actually said so, and he sounded like he was. I have secretly believed ever since that he had somehow stayed alive just long enough to be there for my phone call, and that after he answered my question, he hung up, smiled, and keeled over.”

Oh God. I love it!

Okay, back to the serious writing stuff (clears throat). Writing can be hard (duh Fred). Even for published professionals such as herself, there is still a lot of staring at clocks, staring at blank screens, and yawning. Making phone calls and distracting oneself with other tasks other than writing, is very normal. Sometimes voices would continuously harp at her, and she’s use a tactic a hypnotist once suggested to her, to imagine all the voices as mice, and to one by one drop them into a jar, turn the volume on the jar up and then down, and watch them claw at her as she then muted them. It’s interesting she mentioned this, since I have a kind of different picture, just something I use for when someone I can’t stand is driving me insane in my head. I imagine them as a ball, and with a baseball bat (for some reason it’s baseball, maybe because the ball appears to go very far during that game) I strike it so hard and so out of view that they are no longer seen, or heard.

Perhaps slightly violent, but it does the trick. You can use that for yourself, tell me how you go.

Anne talks of the publishing fantasy, and how it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. She mentions the early draft process, and when she gets her friends to initially provide her feedback on her work. When she doesn’t hear from them by the next day, she starts to think –

“… about all the things I don’t like about either of them, how much in fact I hate them both, how it is no wonder neither of them has many friends.”

When she gets to sending her writing to her editor and agent, her thoughts are equally as insane and hilarious, if not more so. She convinces herself that they are in cahoots, laughing their arses off over her book, now proclaimed the worst book ever written.

“At one point your editor is laughing so hard that she has to take some digitalis, and your agent ruptures a blood vessel in his throat.”

But it doesn’t stop there. On the date of publication, the blow to the ego comes when your phone ISN’T ringing off the hook, and the 5 people that turn up at your book signings, as well as the review that likens your book to dog poo, just makes it all seem not worth it. Additionally, dealing with people who ask “have you written anything I might have heard of?” while others claim they read everything and yet do not know your name, leaves little to be desired in the world of publication.

She makes the process sound quite shit. She is a great writer after all.

SAD STORIES

Just as I laughed, so too did I cry.

The sad moments made me tear up, quite bad, punching me hard in the heart. Perhaps some of the saddest material came in her section on ‘Letters,’ where she suggested that if you’re stuck in your writing, write an informal letter to someone you know. This has not only been a beautiful present to the person in question in her own life, but has captured a moment of time that will never be forgotten.

The three letters she speaks of are the ones she wrote to her Dad, her best friend, and the couple of a boy who passed. The first two ended up being published books, with both her Dad and best friend getting to read her book dedicated to them, before they passed. It was especially hard for me to read the part of her Dad dying, since I have someone in the immediate family who died from the same thing that struck her Dad. It was shocking, and frightening, to say the least. The fact that she got to write something for her Dad and he read it, and it got published, is heartbreakingly bittersweet.

I was almost crying my eyes out at her third example of an informal letter. A couple she knew had lost their son at 5 months of age. He had been called ‘Cloud Boy’ by his mother’s friends: because he had been resuscitated at birth, he was neither here, nor there. She wrote a piece about him and it was broadcast on radio, and the fact that I had earlier been very cranky with baby girl, just broke my heart. My note on this read:

‘Makes me feel guilty for getting upset earlier at baby girl –big hug later :)’

Page 205, has quite frankly the best story of giving, EVER. It is so painfully moving and inspiring, that I cannot will myself to re-tell it here, in fear of butchering it to death. So just do yourself a favour and get the book and read the damn thing, especially page 205.

Finally, the following poem is one she re-tells, as having thought of it in regards to a student of hers who wasn’t doing so well in his writing. Its fragility is touching.

“Above me, wind does its best

to blow leaves off

the aspen tree a month too soon.

No use wind. All you succeed

in doing is making music, the noise

of failure growing beautiful.”

LIFE

The title of Anne’s book Bird by Bird comes from one of the best stories, in my opinion, to come out of the book (apart from page 205). It is so relevant to life, that I’ve found myself quoting and muttering it ever since I finished reading it.

Anne tells of the story of when her older brother had a report due on birds the next day, which he had had 3 months to write. Close to tears, surrounded by bird info, and overwhelmed by the hugeness of the task, his Dad had put his arm around him and said “Bird by bird buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Now I find that I’ll be doing something and I just go ‘bird by bird.’ Some passer-by may think it means I’m collecting the aviary kind, but the significance is just so great, I can’t help but to say it out loud.

She discusses libel, which is one of the most memorable and humorous lessons in the book. If you must make someone horrible from your life a character in one of your books (God help me, I threaten every twerp I meet in my mind with ‘oh you wait ‘til I make the world hate you in my novels, mwa ha ha!’) change all their traits so they can’t sue you, and make them impossible to trace and identify from the people in their life… and of course give them a little penis so they won’t come forward even if they’re suss on you.

It’s Okay. Anne says this every so often, and always with a capital ‘O.’ There is some significance, and I’ve been trying to work out what… suggesting that Okay is a state of being, holding much importance, it all goes back to being alright…. You got me, I’m not sure. But just remember all you writers out there, it will all be Okay.

She talks about all the great things about being a writer, which hey, we all knew already, right? (And if you didn’t, what kind of masochist are you?) Even though she says that publishing is in fact, a fantasy, telling her students that in writing “… devotion and commitment will be their own reward,” she also says:

“But the fact of publication is the acknowledgement from the community that you did your writing right. You acquire a rank that you never lose.”

Writers “get to stay home and still be public.”

Something I’ve always believed: you get the best of both worlds. I did come to question myself, as I have on so many occasions: why do I do it? Why write? Why do I feel the pull, the need, the obsessive urge to get everything down on paper? I journal passionately, having captured my entire pregnancy, the first year of baby girl’s life, and I have since continued, picking up from where I left off years ago and beginning to journal all of my life again.

There are many reasons. First, so we are not lost. One day we will die, and all that will remain of Hubbie and I, which our children will be able to hold onto, are photos, memories, and this. My journals. My journals will give them a view into our worlds like no one else can. Despite our absence, our stories that we’ve passed on to them, and my words, will still be alive.

This is something that I find so magical. That I can be reading ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ written by Shakespeare, and laughing out loud over the lines he wrote hundreds of years ago. That is amazing, that is inspiring, that kind of life-transcendence, for a story to be living and making people feel long after you’re gone.

Of course, I love to write. It is almost an obsessive urge in me, where I need to get stuff down. Additionally, I have a tremendous story in me that just needs to be told. I believe so whole-heartedly that it will resonate with people out there, that I simply must do whatever it takes to get it heard. I will try.

I don’t always love to write. But I always have to do it.

“But the tradition of artists will continue no matter what form the society takes. And this is another reason to write: people need us, to mirror for them and for each other without distortion…”

The world will always need writers. Stories have existed from the beginning of time, and will always be a necessity. You don’t have to write just for yourself: “Risk freeing someone else.” Make someone else’s day, help someone going through the troubles in their life, by telling them your story.

One of the greatest things her father taught her was to pay attention. And that in itself is beautiful. Going somewhere with a sense of purpose, noting things down, whether because you’re going to review it later (a restaurant you’ve been to, or a book you’re reading) or simply to capture the details for a written piece, either fictional or personal.

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things, to go places and explore.”

In closing, this is a tremendously inspiring and informative book, one all writers should read, published or not. I’m not sure whether it is better than Stephen King’s ‘On Writing:” that I would need to read again, since his I read during my writing book process, and Anne’s one came much later in the game. But both are equally entertaining in their own way, and really, we should be grabbing ALL the advice that successful writers send out to us, and not question it! Take it, absorb it, memorise it, and then with your arms full run for the hills.

I want you all to take these two quotes I present from Anne’s book, and use it to fuel your story, your passion, and your purpose.

“All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions.”

“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”

And now run.

Please let me know your thoughts on Bird by Bird in the comments below, I would love to discuss with you. 😊

Baby girl says the darndest things #10

I’m sitting on the toy box leaning against the wall, which I do every night as I’m waiting for baby girl to fall asleep.

My feet are up on her bed, while she lays, squirming, moving, underneath the covers.

My eyes are closed. I am still. Feigning sleep.

I feel her feet underneath the covers, start to tap against my feet on top of the bed.

“Yes, honey, I can feel your feet.”

I open my eyes and look at her warily.

“Mum, my feet just love your feet, they have to tap them.”

“Okay, but you won’t be able to sleep if you’re tapping my feet all night.”

“But Mum!” (Her favourite catchphrase at the moment).

“My feet are connected to your feet! And my feet are connected to Tato’s feet too, but he’s too far, they can’t reach them…” motions upstairs.

So, not only are our hearts connected… but our feet are too.

Photo by alleksana on Pexels.com

Friday night conversations #7 To school, or not to school?

I’m putting myself in the line of fire tonight for Friday’s conversation.

I’ve had a few days to settle, and I really wanna know what you think…

Baby girl wasn’t allowed to start school when it resumed on Tuesday… can you guess why?

Well, she has symptoms. Cold symptoms.

Sorry, symptom.

Sure. I get it. Sick kids, cannot go to school with all this coronavirus still so much in the forefront of our lives.

But that’s not the case you see… all she has is a cough.

A post-infectious, non-contagious cough.

She has been under the weather for a while. Because the cold hit her so long ago, like literally months ago, she only still has the remnants of that one, lone, annoying symptom…

The cough. The annoying, cough.

(Cough cough).

The cough that can last FOREVER… but no. She cannot go.

I was soooo cranky. Actually, cranky is not the right word. I was something like, vicious.

I’ve calmed down substantially since then, with a relaxed F$%^ you attitude.

But I wanna know (and don’t let the above throw you off!)…

What do you think? Do you think a child should be allowed to go to school, with a cough, even though it is NON-CONTAGIOUS?

Or do you think all symptoms, any symptoms, catchy-catchy or not, should stay the hell away?

I promise if you respond, I will not bite…

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

:):):)

Things that shit me… #19

Things that shit me…

Stupid coronavirus restrictions that MAKE NO SENSE.

You know, I’ve been fairly fortunate during this coronavirus isolation period.

Working from home.

Not having to go out on cold days.

Living in trakkies all day long.

There have been difficult moments too. Sad moments. Frustrating moments. Bash-your-head-on-the-wall moments.

But nothing really revved me up, until today.

Because hell hath no fury, like a Mum being told she can’t take her daughter to school after 2 months of isolation.

I did the right thing yesterday, I did the honest thing. I told baby girl’s teacher that she was still coughing, despite it being a cough that she’s had from the start of term 1, but nonetheless she was coughing.

But the word was, any cold symptoms, no matter how mild, and your child could not attend school.

Fine. So I went to her doctor.

Not to get around it! I wanted some medicine damn it. I was hoping in the process I could get some myself, since my cough had progressed to something more irritating and persistent than hers.

The doc, amazingly said… her cough was not contagious.

His words… “post-infectious.”

Because she had gone through the cold cycle… but something about the viral cough coming back… it was just the cough, nothing else… and therefore she couldn’t pass on the cough, this nasty little remnant and reminder of the seasonal cold, onto anybody else.

HE would even give me a certificate to prove it.

YAY! I thought! YAY YAY YAY!

I sent the letter to her teacher last night… and we tentatively waited.

Meanwhile we packed her school bag… got out her school clothes… decided on her lunch…

And got excited about the potential chance to return to a little bit of normality.

This morning, a phone call, from her teacher.

She wasn’t allowed to come.

Any cough, whether infectious or not, and she wasn’t allowed to attend school. In fact, we even discussed how coughs can last for up to 3 months…

Yep. The sentiment was kinda like, there’s nothing we can do.

Tough luck.

Suffer in your jocks.

Nothing. Nada.

I ended the call, and felt like screaming and crying at the same time.

And can I just say, feeling so angrily inclined, so emotionally charged that you could literally break something, before 9am in the morning, is like, the WORST WAY TO START YOUR DAY.

My anger clouded me so much, that I had to repeat simple morning tasks before I got it right, my rage and fury at the situation were so strong.

In fact, I’m still surprised no electrical appliances haven’t spontaneously combusted in my presence today, and like Carrie from well, Carrie, the Stephen King book, there isn’t like blood running down walls and fires erupting and houses coming down.

It feels unfair. So unfair. I just can’t. I had to eat chocolate, and run, and then do yoga, just to bring some equilibrium to my body… but that was at 4pm. I had to deal with these emotions prior to that, all day long.

It’s not that I don’t get the rules. I totally get the rules. I just think it’s shit that –

a) a cough lasts FOREVER

6) she is post-infectious, meaning she won’t pass on her cough anyway

E) I know, I just know (you know too) there are gonna be parents trying to sneak their kids into school when they have sick symptoms, and they will go undetected because if the teachers can’t bloody police the kids during recess and lunch, how the hell are they gonna hear every cough, sneeze and sniffle?

11) I was honest, and I suffer, but the sneaky ones are gonna get away with it!

Z) Baby girl doesn’t deserve this! She has been so good and patient at home, watching me work for the whole bloody day, being understanding, being just generally awesome, and this is her bloody payback? Stay at home some more? Indefinitely?

8.2) If the cough hasn’t gone away for this long, how the hell am I meant to be excited about it going away at ANY point in the future?

I AM NOT EXCITED ANYMORE.

If I so much as hear that a kid from her school sneezed in the presence of a flower, or made a gasping sound after drinking from their water bottle too quickly, and they aren’t getting sent home due to displaying ‘symptoms’…

THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY!

Friday night conversations #6 Do you think it’s time?

As a parent, you either do, or you don’t…

You either think it’s absolutely time that kids go back to school…

Or you think it’s way too early, and really don’t wanna get up to prepare those morning lunches in the cold Autumn-Winter mornings just yet.

Me? Well I honestly didn’t think kids would be going back so soon. I thought this would go on for several more weeks, or at least ’til next term. I was happy to keep baby girl home for a little longer…

BUT, and a big BUT. I am really happy, really super duper happy, to have her going back next week.

She needs it, I need it, hell we ALL need it.

Where do you stand? Too early, or right on time?

Photo by VisionPic .net on Pexels.com

A sign of Tassie times

Signal Station Brasserie
700 Nelson Road, Mount Nelson TAS

(Visited August ’18)

It was our last, FULL day in Hobart. The days were still sunny and calm (did we get lucky or what?) and after we discovered that traveling to the top of Mount Wellington from our accommodation would take us 40 minutes, one way, we decided to opt for the much shorter distance to Mount Nelson… we had driven to Port Arthur the day before and were getting seriously over driving. This was a holiday after all.

Mount Wellington would have to wait until next time.

We drove under 20 minutes instead, along winding roads with scenery that continued to grow and expand and show us snippets of what we were coming to see… far off mountains and valleys and endless greenery. After a couple of wrong turns we finally made our way up a residential looking street, and came to a dead end at what was the summit.

Not only did we find views… but we found a café (heart).

The signal station brasserie.

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Now those are my kind of views. 180 degree views along Southern Tasmania, thank you very much.

First, we had to take in some splendid scenery.

Breathe in with me…

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And breathe out.

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Ahhh.

The signal station was the first to be built in Tasmania, back in 1811… holey moley. Used back then for signalling and the reporting of shipping to the Port of Hobart and eventually to Port Arthur, it is now a place of rich history and fascination as tourists and locals alike come to feast their eyes on outlooks that were once used for very different means.

And to have a spot of afternoon tea, of course 😉

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Back then it would have been in operation every day as the café was now… 7 days a week. We turned our attentions to the few tables that were getting baked in the Winter sun, and grabbed one before anyone else beat us. Soon, an interesting looking chap walked over and gave us some menus before walking away and talking to himself as he had been talking to us – like he had known us forever.

 

There was both himself, and a woman making the inner and outer café rounds, and it was with the latter that we made our afternoon orders, before proceeding to sit back and enjoy the fresh and beautiful surrounds.

It is a most magical spot. There is also inside seating within a small building that would have most likely been a house, sitting opposite the signal station tower on the other side…

But on the day that we had, you would have been crazy to wanna miss those views, and that sunshine.

Soon we were very happily being attended to.

Hubbie was happy to receive his short black with James Boags

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Baby girl got a very colourful babycino

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And I got a cap, while she and I shared some Signal Station Lemon Scones – with housemade jam and freshly whipped cream (2 per serve. $11.50)

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Those scones were just sky high. They were a very decent serving, even for two, and baby girl enjoyed them as much as I did, applying lashings of cream… licking it off the scone… then applying more cream.

Ahh. Kid life.

Her marshmallows were forgotten but had been promised, so the man promptly called her into the café so she could pick up her never-ever-forgotten cushions of pillowy goodness from out of the jar. She was in heaven.

My coffee was great as was Hubbie’s short black, and he enjoyed it alongside his Sunday arvo beer, classic Aussie style. It was a lovely afternoon out in the sun and we felt particularly lucky to have been granted such pristine weather on our stay in Hobart, since we had definitely not expected it being Winter… being Tasmania.

When it was time to pay and go, I ventured inside to see the interior, and passed the most fantastic sign, that I was immediately compelled to capture:

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What a beautiful sentiment. It gave me ALL the feels, and had me in such a happy state, that when what happened later inside, happened, I guess it was fortunate for them, as I had already been buttered up like a sky-high scone before my massive letdown…

Like a pancake.

Because you see, I went inside to pay, and was standing in front of the register/coffee making counter, waiting to pay. The man who had tended to us earlier was busy making coffees and playing catch up, and there was a father and daughter duo who were ordering a specific drink for the girl… it could have been lactose, gluten free, almond milk perhaps, who knows. But the discussion as the man behind the counter made the drinks, was that she had a difficult order, the man had successfully made it, and they were now telling the man that they were appreciative of his efforts. The father and daughter walked off, the girl with her takeaway drink in hand.

Stay with me.

Meanwhile, as eccentric man as we’ll call him, was behind the counter playing catch up on drink-making, having his last of the conversation with the father and daughter duo, another couple walked up and were to the side, also appearing to want to pay. At this stage I did that thing where you move a bit closer to the counter, in an effort to say ‘I was here first,’ hopeful that surely, eccentric man would realise I had been waiting longer.

But then as the father and daughter duo exited, eccentric man started talking to the couple – they knew each other. Jokes were shared, inside convo, local lingo, things about the café, upcoming events… they mucked about and laughed and meanwhile I smiled profusely in the background as eccentric man made these drinks, thinking ‘any time now. Any time.’

Any time now, he will finish his drink making, turn to this couple and say “sorry I’ll just serve this young lady, she was here first.”

This young lady, tourist from Melbourne.

This young lady, first timer to Signal Station Brasserie.

This young lady, patiently standing and waiting.

This young lady, whose alias is SmikG and is a food blogger.

!!!

Then the UNTHINKABLE.

(Or perhaps, thinkable by now because I have been leading there).

He started to put through their order first.

(Mouth gaping open emoji.)

More unthinkable… the couple let him.

Sure, they kind of may not have known what I wanted… I was simply WAITING THERE TO PAY NOT DOING ANYTHING ELSE.

I enjoy just standing around doing nothing on sunny Sundays.

Majority blame, goes entirely to eccentric man. Making the drinks, ignoring me the entire time, and going ahead to let someone else pay before me.

In horror I watched as he unapologetically put through the other couple’s order, and as he did, and they paid, they continued chatting, and laughing, and taking their GOD DAMN TIME.

By the time they decided they had been there long enough, the couple walked off SLOWLY, talking to him over their shoulder, and I, feeling like a volcano about to erupt, walked hastily RIGHT UP to the counter and waited to pay. He made no apology, made small talk, I paid and was OFF.

I was gob-smacked.

Hubbie looked at me like ‘where the hell have you been?’

I said “don’t – I can’t talk about it now. I’ll fill you in in the car.”

And then we proceeded to verbally bash the unhospitable event for the next 30 minutes. Oh the story has even made its way to people back home, don’t worry. More in the below notes…

Food: I can only score on the scones, so a 7.5/10. Generous servings make for happy customers.

Coffee: 7/10. Pleasing and adequate.

Ambience: Unmistakably serene and chilled… a beautiful place to enjoy on a sunny day, with uninterrupted mountain and coastal views, and the cafe building a quaint interior, cottage-feel type place where you could easily hide away in and feel like you have stepped into someplace special.

Staff: Away from my comical exclamation marks and open-mouthed emojis, is this cold, hard FACT:

In Melbourne, this kind of queue jumping would not stand up.

Would not hold court.

Would not be acceptable.

The ignorance and blatant disregard would be dealt with, like a lion taking prey upon a stray zebra.

It is just not on. To be standing there waiting to pay, (busy or not busy) and then someone jumps in front you (their friend or no friend) is just so unprofessional and so unhospitable, it speaks volumes.

Hubbie told a workmate about this story, and his work mate said ‘that is not unlike Tasmania.’

No where else did anything like this happen. Everyone was wonderful in fact. So I don’t know how isolated this incident is, but if there are fellow travellers or Tasmanian locals who know of this kind of disregard for decency and order, please by all means enlighten me on what THE RULES ARE.

But, if I am waiting to pay, anywhere in the world, and someone else comes along and then jumps in front, the wait staff allows it and then proceeds to not even apologise or make any mention of it and there is no emergency to justify the queue-jumping?

Well in the matter of common global human decency, that is not on. In no language or country is that ON.

It just makes no sense. I am actually a very fair and understanding person, and I try to see both sides, but in this one I see only ONE.

Massive rant over.

People: Older couples (grrr) as mentioned, families, and kids. Tourists are onto this place equally as much as the locals are, yet it still remains quite secluded, private and unique.

Price: I paid, but got no receipt, or else I misplaced it in my overwhelming confusion and frustration. I have it on strong suspicion it was in the low $30s, which would make sense as we had predominantly drinks.

Advice: Despite everything said above, I urge you to visit this place… there’s nothing quite like enjoying a drink or a snack, and being able to see amazing vistas with your butt still firmly planted on a bench. Go early on a sunny day and enjoy the outdoors.

In a nutshell: Again, despite all I have vented about, I would come here again… and to eat, and coffee… I don’t know how I would be come face-to-face with eccentric man… but I would just turn my gaze towards the mountains, and Signal to myself –

‘something good will happen to me today.’

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