The Magic of Creativity

ELIZABETH GILBERT – Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner – continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you – is a fine art, in and of itself.”

I actually bought this book for a friend, as part of a KK present in 2015. She LOVED it, having viewed Gilbert’s TED talks online, and eagerly took it all in, before kindly offering to lend it to me.

I’d had no intention of reading it. I didn’t know much about Gilbert, I hadn’t seen her online TED talks, and I hadn’t even read Eat, Pray, Love. I know. Am I even a woman?

Yet, when I read Big Magic, I felt like this book was truly meant for me.

That story in itself is one kind of Big Magic there. 😉

This is a book for all creative souls, and don’t be mistaken for thinking that you are NOT one of them, or cannot be creative in any form. Creativity doesn’t just appear to artists, writers, actors and musicians: it is there in the kitchen, at the needle and thread. It is in your garden, on the running track, and out in the wilderness. Creativity comes in an endless amount of arenas, in fact, it is EVERYWHERE, and the purpose of this book is Gilbert setting out to help you find that Big Magic of yours, whatever that may be – and giving you the purpose and courage to just go for it.

“All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life – collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand.

It’s a strange line of work, admittedly.

I cannot think of a better way to pass my days.”

Gilbert puts forward the case that a creative life, is the only life to live. And I have to agree, as a fellow writer (I am declaring myself, as she says you must) this book was like “yep, yep, yep” for me. But you don’t need to be a writer to enjoy this book, or find a sense of kinship in the stories she puts forward. It is an entertaining read, very easy to follow and hard to put down, and her conversational style lets you flip page after page after page quite easily. Her examples and self-rules are appropriate for all creative endeavours, and she basically thinks you should just do what you want to do, no matter what.

“Begin anywhere. Preferably right now.”

Creativity, and the act of fulfilling what it is you love to do, is the reward in itself. Putting the pressure on your creativity, whatever it may be, to pave your way through life and pay your bills, is a huge and unfortunate act, and a horrible burden for your creativity to endure. The act of doing what it is you love is the reward itself, and Gilbert said it best, when she spoke about a time of her life when she was not being published:

“The rewards had to come from the joy of puzzling out the work itself, and from the private awareness I held that I had chosen a devotional path and I was being true to it. If someday I got lucky enough to be paid for my work, that would be great, but in the meantime, money could always come from other places.”

She also told the story of a friend of hers who had returned to figure skating in her 40s – after giving up on the sport when she was younger, realising she wasn’t going to be winning any medals. However she loved the sport, and would get up a few hours before work to figure skate to her hearts content.

The story is a realistic one too, in that her friend did not quit her job or sign on with an Olympic coach after rediscovering her dream – the creative living is in the fact itself, that is the reward, and no ‘awards’ are needed.

Because, you can pursue your dream and live to your hearts purpose, living out the days of your life with joy, as Gilbert puts it:

“Anyhow, what else are you going to do with your time here on earth – not make things? Not do interesting stuff? Not follow your love and your curiosity?”

Otherwise, she offers up this juicy dare:

“There is always that alternative, after all. You have free will. If creative living becomes too difficult or too unrewarding for you, you can stop whenever you want.”

Ha! Not a fat chance in hell. I’m in this for the long haul… are you? 😉

But I’m scared! you cry out. Gilbert covers that too. She paints a picture of fear as boring. Something I had never considered before, but when she explains that humans and animals are all afraid of the unknown, and that that in itself is nothing extraordinary or special… well then that fear becomes very boring. The object of fear most likely differs between human/animal, sure… but it is still fear. So same same, so unoriginal, just another “mass-produced item.”

We all need fear to survive, it’s human nature, it’s a survival tactic. But creatively speaking, we do not need it in that arena. It is mute, unnecessary.

She says how Harper Lee did not write for decades after writing To Kill a Mockingbird, because she was scared of how she would out-do its success! Fear kept her from writing, when writing in itself is the reward. Imagine if she had only forged through her fear and written on, what do you think she could have produced? We will never know.

Rather than waiting for your genius to hit… you must head out there and get onto your passion, because guess what? Your genius is waiting for YOU.

“There are people out there who still consider Beethoven’s symphonies a little bit too, you know, loud.”

And no matter what you do, there will always be that one person. That one, measly person, (1, if you are lucky), who finds fault in what you do. You cannot be in charge or control what other people think of you, and Gilbert says it is none of your business anyway. Let them have their own passionate opinions about you, just as you have your own passionate opinions about them. The only thing you are in charge of, is creating your own work. That’s it. It’s the only sane way to live.

And what to do, if someone is really, truly, attacking your work and everything about you? Gilbert sums it up absolutely perfectly.

“Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art.

Then stubbornly continue making yours.”

She swears. I fucking love the gal.

“Your art not only doesn’t have to be original, in other words; it also doesn’t have to be important.”

I hear you sister. When I decided that in order to become a writer, I had to embody writing as something I did in EVERY day of my life (years later and I’m still posting regular content on SmikG and carcrashgratitude) I wasn’t concerned with how it was going to heal the world. I had, and still have an expression that needed to come out, I wanted to share my views with the world, on writing, on coffee, on Motherhood, on whatever the hell shit me or made me so inexplicably grateful that day, and I never really asked myself ‘is this really important?’ To some, probably no. To me, it is what I love to do, and so if it makes me happy, if it means I can express myself as I wish and get a great sense of fulfilment in doing so, in just being me…

Well then, why the hell not?

I think what she is trying to say, is don’t get caught up in the whys and hows, worried that what you are doing is not going to save somebody else’s life. Creativity is an important part of everyone’s existence whether they realise it or not, and the world needs humour, insight, honesty and flair to keep them going on going.

And though you may think it has all been said, or done before… maybe it has, but not with your unique take on it. Only you can say it, or do it, as YOU can.

You have to do whatever it is that is within you, because of YOU. Because you have something that has to be said. To be expressed. No one else has this, just you.

“You are worthy, dear one, regardless of the outcome. You will keep making your work, regardless of the outcome. You will keep sharing your work, regardless of the outcome. You were born to create, regardless of the outcome. You will never lose trust in the creative process, even when you don’t understand the outcome.”

She offers up some fabulous bits of advice, some of which I carry close to me as I write, or just generally as I go about life… firstly, no one else cares. Not in the vindictive sense – but a freeing way of thinking about your life, and doing what you want to do, is to remove yourself from the idea that people are so concerned about everything you are doing – chances are they probably don’t think of you as much as what you think. They are too busy building up their own lives and doing their own thing, they don’t have time to stop and ponder hard about what your next move will be, and how it will affect them. So just worry about yourself.

Secondly, you will fail. But when you do, do not bother with the whys and hows of it – just pick yourself up and move on with the next project. Dwelling will only make things worse. Own it, and just move on.

Which brings me to another great question…

“What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?”

Hmm that puts things in perspective doesn’t it? She offers this up in a different form, rephrased by the writer Mark Manson, who asked “what’s your favourite flavour of shit sandwich?” This sounds absurd, right, but just take a moment to think about it… what are you willing to put up with the most, and what are you so passionate about that you don’t care about the cons of what it is you are trying to do? That my friends, is your flavour of shit sandwich.

How bad do you want ‘it?’ Like Gilbert said when a friend of hers didn’t want to write anymore, because he didn’t like the results (awards) he got from it, leaving her hungrily eyeing off his uneaten shit sandwich! How much, do you want it? It’s a telling question (and answer) indeed.

A terrific idea Gilbert brought forth in this book was the concept of ideas, and them owning us, choosing us to manifest themselves through, rather than us discovering them. They live around us, with the whole purpose of their being to be made material through us, and they will try and catch our attentions through all manner of ways. Sometimes we catch the signs… sometimes we don’t. And when we miss them, they will simply move onto another willing participant.

It certainly explains the phenomenon, of two people in different places having the same idea. Or how you think up a great idea or invention, and then months later it is advertised or on the market, and you say “that could have been me!” Well it could have been, but you didn’t want it bad enough, so the idea left you. Sheesh, harsh there.

Gilbert offered up one story regarding herself, and an idea she had… and then how the idea went away because she had not been focusing on it for a while… only to later learn the exact idea had now been brought into existence by a fellow writer friend of hers!

Why, that sounds like Magic! Big Magic to be precise. I’ll let you read the actual book for the full details, but it is one of those stories that you just can’t get your head around, it’s that terrifically fantastical.

One name for this is multiple discovery, a term used in the scientific field. It is when the same idea appears in two different places at the same time, and a lovely way to explain it is:

“When the time is ripe for certain things, they appear at different places, in the manner of violets coming to light in early spring.”

I have always in some way believed this, and I don’t even know how this thought of mine came to being or where I got it from. But once an idea is out there, it is ripe for the picking!

This made me think, A LOT. I was stressing for a good while over the book I wrote, that had just been hanging around on my laptop waiting for me to do it over, or send it to someone, for ages. Her take on ideas moving around drove me to push on, because I don’t know what I would’ve done if my idea went away from me! I owe my idea, my book, that much!

I have ideas though that have stayed with me for so long, so I don’t know what Gilbert would say about that… my ideas love me? They don’t want to leave me even though I rarely have time for them? I believe with her theory while still feeling it’s unfinished, incomplete, with some work in progress exemptions to it. 😉

Believing in an other-worldly force, like ideas playing with us, is not an overall novel concept… the Romans for example, didn’t believe that people were geniuses. They believed a person HAD a genius, a muse as it were.

Are you responsible for your incredible thoughts, visions, imageries? Or is it your Muse who should really be accepting all praise/blame? Keeps that ego in check doesn’t it?

“I have chosen to believe that a desire to be creative was encoded into my DNA for reasons I will never know, and that creativity will not go away from me unless I forcibly kick it away, or poison it dead.”

I couldn’t agree with her more. Something has always happened to lead me back to writing, and one of the classic examples was one night many many many years ago, when Hubbie asked me what I would do if I had no boundaries, what would be my ultimate vocation, and so the wheels started turning from way back then. I think it’s important for us to go on this creative journey and find what it is that makes us happy, and then go about our lives DOING THAT THING. It IS about the journey, and not the outcome, because at the end of it all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Living a fulfilled and happy life?

I’ll end on the most terrific story.

Many years ago Gilbert’s uncle went to see the writer Richard Ford at a bookstore appearance. During a Q&A, a man in the crowd asked Ford why he was so successful with his writings, when the man himself was the same age as Ford, wrote the same themes as Ford, had a similar background to Ford, and yet still did not have the same success as Ford! He wanted some advice, but asked – please, don’t tell me to persevere, that only makes me feel worse.

Ford replied that he would never tell him to persevere; instead he told him to quit. The crowd was stunned. Ford went on to say that clearly, writing gave him no pleasure, and life was too short to be miserable during it. He told him to find new hobbies, find new things to do “but don’t write anymore, because it’s obviously killing you.”

And then.

“If you happen to discover, after a few years away from writing, that you have found nothing that takes its place in your life – nothing that fascinates you, or moves you, or inspires you to the same degree that writing once did… well then, sir, I’m afraid you will have no choice but to persevere.”

CHILLS CHILLS CHILLS.

You’re welcome.

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

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 #11 What is allowed on pizza?

I’m bringing you a very serious topic tonight.

It’s concerning food, and we all treat what we eat seriously, right?

We want to like it, right?

So then, why do weird things sometimes adorn it… like, for example, on pizza?

What topping do you think SHOULD, OR SHOULD NOT GO on top of pizza?

I’ll start it off by throwing out some obvious and not-so-obvious toppings to see where everyone stands.

Some might make you think ‘YES’ I hate that!

Others might make you go ‘NO’ I actually don’t mind it.

And then there might be some neutral ones that have you neither here or there, because yeah whatever, you like to eat, nom nom nom.

So firstly… Anchovies.

For me? No. I have strong memories of my childhood where we forgot to ask for no anchovies on the capricciosa, and because it all kind of blended in, biting into the pizza only to get that unmistakable extreme saltiness…

Ugh. Yuck. I still remember it.

Next up… Pineapple. I have nothing against the fruit. And I’ve had some things on pizza that people might find unusual.

I’ve had vegetables like cauliflower… I’ve had chicken strips and barbeque sauce… and I’ve had all forms of seafood… I’ve even had potatoes on pizza (with rosemary, mmm yum!)

But pineapple… I mean, is it trying to be a dessert pizza, with lashings of chocolate, bananas and strawberries all which AREN’T there? Did it miss the dessert bus? Hmm.

I’ve bitten in and come across the pineapple before… and I am not a fan. It feels kind of squeaky against the bread and meat and cheese, and let’s just say when Hubbie orders it on his half, and some of it encroaches onto my pineapple-free side, well I’m picking the pieces off and flinging them in his direction like “here, take it.”

Yes, take it.

Last, but definitely not least for my little survey… tomato sauce.

YES.

Now I’m not talking the base that the dough is spread with. I’m talking, you get your pizza delivered from the pizza shop…

And then at home, you squirt tomato sauce (or ketchup, whatever’s your fancy) all over your pizza.

It might sound crazy, but it actually makes complete sense.

You’re just making it saucier, that’s all. I learnt this one off my cousins when they moved to Australia from overseas, and it must be a European thing because Hubbie learnt the same from his own cousin when he came from overseas…

It must be a very Balkan thing.

Admittedly I don’t eat it like that anymore… but it’s a very easy thing to get used to.

So tell me… any of these tickle your fancy? Are you disgusted at the thought? Or do you have your own pet peeves?

Please tell… what does or doesn’t belong on pizza?

Photo by Dima Valkov on Pexels.com

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

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.

IMAG3452

 

IMAG3476

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…

IMAG3451

And breathe out.

IMAG3456

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 😉

IMAG3503

IMAG3504

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

IMAG3479

Baby girl got a very colourful babycino

IMAG3477

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)

IMAG3481

IMAG3486

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:

IMAG3493

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.’

IMAG3453

Signal Station Brasserie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Baby girl says the darndest things #9

Baby girl is playing with her Frozen puzzle.

I see Hubbie walking up the footpath, home for lunch.

“Look honey! Tato is home.”

She glances.

“I don’t wanna look at Tato.”

“What? Why?”

She sighs. “I still love my Tato… but I don’t wanna look at him.”

???

“Why, what’s wrong?”

Another sigh. “I’m not 100% today.”

“I’m 40.”

🤣🤣🤣

Then, as Hubbie got to the door, she skipped over to the other side, opened it happily for him, and proceeded to say with enthusiasm “I’ve got a story to tell you…”

😏

Kids.

person girl window child

Photo by Danielle Truckenmiller on Pexels.com

 

Got us by the ball and chain

The Ball and Chain Grill
87 Salamanca Place, Battery Point TAS

(Visited August ’18)

Woah ho peeps. On official day 3 of our Hobart adventure, and at the end of a long day travelling to Port Arthur and being absolutely wowed by the scenery, well, we were still yet to be wowed by a dinner option.

It was an ongoing, intense search to find a restaurant that had red meat for Hubbie… kid-friendly food for baby girl… and then I wanted to be happy too you know… and yet finding a happy medium for all seemed almost impossible.

It would be easy if we all loved seafood. Oh how easy it would be if we ALL loved seafood (like me!) But alas life isn’t easy like that my friends.

Not with a fussy butcher and 5 year-old child.

We needed pasta, or carbs for her. Meat for him. It had to be mid-range. Not a party place, not the poshiest restaurant, but we didn’t want to be led down the back of an alleyway either.

The options that we found fit the bill were unfortunately closed. Some for renovations, some just for that night.

Oh the drama!

Oh the holidaying first world problems!

😭

So when I came across the online menu for this one I had to have a second look. It appeared ok. We had to check it out.

We went to Salamanca Place, again, and discovered the menu was deceiving…

IMAG3408

Oh, how the menu was deceiving…

Because it was so much better!

The current Ball and Chain Grill building was built in the 1800s by convicts, and what started out as offices dealing with the stock of wool, whale oil and food, has grown over time into the traditional dining establishment we have today.

The online menu explained to me the extensive dinner options, which is why I was so confused on arrival. Sure there were the appetisers, entrée and mains, the grilled section and also the kids meals. But then as we arrived, walking past the traditional wood panelled rooms, the open-view grilling section at the front, and were seated in this multi-layered, multi-roomed establishment which was filled to the brim with people, we saw, a kind of salad bar in the middle of the venue.

Curious, yet not sure what to think, we followed our waitress to our seats, and lucky for us she had since spied our out-of-town status a mile away and proceeded to explain to us their concept.

Which is when we had our “ahhhh!” moment.

We could order as we liked from the menu, but the salad bar was their free, all-you-can-eat addition… you could go and choose from a variety of salads and vegetable-type side dishes, with sauces to choose from too, take as many away as you liked, and that was FREE.

It was FREE.

Considering he is a butcher, this excited my green-leafed guy immensely. He could fill up on as many greens as he could muster, and then spend his hard-earned cash on the things that pleased him most:

Meat, and Alcohol.

😉

After getting a spot of drinks, a local red for me and a Moo Brew beer for him…

IMAG3399

And then soon after observing some interesting pics on the walls around us and looking up at the glass ceiling…

IMAG3407

We ordered with our friendly waitress, and then proceeded to take turns at the ‘salad bar.’

😯

Just to clarify, these were cold salads. We got things like lettuce, cucumber, noodles and chickpea salads alongside beetroot…

(Many apologies for the crap photos, dim lighting was my enemy)

IMAG3397

And then our meals came. Kids meals are $15 and the pasta option was pasta bolognaise, but our girl being anti-sauce at the time, we were able to get her plain pasta with cheese:

IMAG3403

I got the 180g eye fillet with potatoes and satay sauce on the side

IMAG3406

While Hubbie got the 300g porterhouse steak with potatoes and tomato sauce

IMAG3404

And there were also seasonal vegies alongside that to share (in baby girl’s pasta photo).

I’m going to work backwards here. I say ‘potatoes,’ but as you can see there is only two potatoes. I know. I guess they figure that you get your sides from all the other free food on offer. Ok I can look past that, and my also smallish serving due to that fact. I didn’t walk away hungry.

Hubbie thought his medium steak was good, but slightly undercooked given it was meant to be ‘medium’… and having said that, my steak too was slightly undercooked for what I genuinely preferred. Although our waitress was lovely, she had suggested we get our steaks cooked to a ‘medium,’ rather than ‘medium to well’ as we wanted, so it was a case of we should have just gone with our inner-most thoughts… after all we know US best, right?

I thought baby girl’s pasta presentation was pretty average, you may probably disagree and say what else can you do with plain pasta and cheese, and I will say, LOTS! I am the plain pasta expert here! But alas, she still ate most of it so I won’t complain much.

The wine was great, the beer was satisfying to Hubbie, and once we had eaten all our meals and sides and taken in the Saturday night Hobart surrounds, we figured it was time we headed off to rest before another sightseeing day.

Food: 7/10. Good food, good variety, your traditional type of fare.

Coffee: N/A.

Ambience: Bustling and busy, happening and loud, though there were intimate places about, so you could be private if you wanted to be… it was a Saturday night though.

Staff: Our waitress was wonderful and warm, and tended to our every question.

People: Family-friendly, older groups, couples, friends, you find them all here, though I do think the focus is the settled family crowd.

Price: $106, which is mid-range, considering we had all those salads we didn’t have to pay for. Our steaks brought the price up too.

Advice: If you are hungry, your friend will be that salad bar. 😍 Save yourself, then eat it all later.

In a nutshell: It’s a traditional type of restaurant and one I would go to again when in Salamanca Place… there is great variety, plenty of room, and an old-school, vintage feel that is hard to create or emulate elsewhere, as it comes with the experience and history of the town and the buildings within.

And just like the restaurant, I have to say, many things nowadays aren’t created to the high standards that they once were. Head on down to check out the expertly crafted building and subsequent food, of equal stature.

Ball & Chain Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato