this dress, from her, via you, to me

It was strange to see my usually cool, calm and collected older cousin so flustered, faffing about with cutlery and salad and setting down plates for dinner. I remembered her being so poised and graceful when I was a kid, but I could see her becoming more and more like her mum, and mine. A family trait, I guess.

We’d just started to eat when an alarm went off on her phone. “I set alarms for everything”, she exclaimed, opening her phone, to the groans of her husband and sons. “What’s this one for? O, it’s telling me not to forget to show you something. I’ll get it after dinner.”

I was intrigued.

The boys ate loudly, bickering amongst themselves, subconsciously offending their mum about the too-spicy chicken and the rubber-like prawns. I had another sip of red wine.

After dinner, the boys cleared the table and Celia and I sat down to talk. How long has it been?, we wondered aloud. Four years? Six? The last time I was here was for Tasman’s birthday and we made a cake shaped like a blue-tongue lizard.

“I have to show you the thing!” Celia cried, jumping up from the couch and disappearing into the front of the house. She returned with a black dress and jacket, draped over her arm on a wire coat-hanger.

“This. My mum made it for your mum, isn’t it beautiful?”

Anything that connects me to my mum is beautiful. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a handmade dress or an old diary or the hand-written note under the lid of the piano at Dad’s house. Knowing that it’s something she’s touched or written or been enclosed in, it always takes my breathe away. It’s why I’ve never been able to get rid of the old writer’s festival t-shirt she died in, 18 years ago. Rich once pulled it out of the drawer, with a ‘WHAT’S THIS??’ and I’ve never felt so protective of anything in my life. I snatched it off him and placed it – folded it – back into the drawer. “It’s nothing, it’s Mum’s, it doesn’t matter.”

I touched the sleeve of the jacket, not sure if Celia was showing it to me simply to show me, or if she was giving it to me. It should have been mine, but you can’t be presumptuous when it comes to family, and history, and handmade dresses, from one sister to another.

“Mum gave it to me years ago, and I’ve worn it a few times, but it’s never quite fit. I feel like the length is all wrong on me. I find the wool really itchy and it’s a bit tight across the front and cuts in a bit, here,” she pinched the tanned wedge of skin at her armpit. “Try it on.”

There’s something not quite right about trying on a woollen cocktail dress and jacket in the middle of a Perth summer, but I would have tried on a diving suit and helmet, if I knew mum had been in it.

The zip was sticky, the lining frayed and the fabric slightly moth-eaten. “It’ll need a bit of mending…” Celia said, as I wriggled myself in, pulling the lining and the dress over my hips. I zipped up the back. Manoeuvring myself into the jacket, I was careful not to push my arm through the tear in the lining. But once it was on, it was as if my dear Aunt Heather had made the dress for me. Mum and I have the same body.

Celia stepped back. I looked down and smoothed down the fabric over my front.

“It fits. It’s not too tight. It doesn’t cut. It’s not itchy. It’s beautiful.”

My aunt had made it for my mum in the 1960s, from a Christian Dior pattern. It’s a sleeveless dress, with a woven trim around the neck and a pleated detail at the waist. It sits just below my knees – where it would have sat on mum. The jacket is cropped, with three-quarter-length sleeves, three woven buttons and a wide collar. I could almost see mum wearing it, with court shoes and nude stockings and a patent leather handbag. Her short curly hair would have been tamed with a few bobby pins.

“You should have it,” Celia said, “You’ll get way more wear out of it than I will.”

We spent the rest of the evening drinking tea, eating shortbread, and talking about our kids and our parents and life. Books and TV shows and movies and pets. How hard it can be to motivate teenaged kids and how tough it can be when you see them wearing too much fake tan and having to keep it to yourself.

Before I went to bed that night, in the stuffy spare room at the back of the house, I carefully packed the dress and jacket into my suitcase. Folding it between skirts and t-shirts so it wouldn’t get creased. Wondering when, and where, I would wear it. Would I tell people its story, who made it and who it belonged to and where it had been for all these years? Or would I wait for someone to comment on ‘that beautiful dress’.

When I got back to Melbourne, I had breakfast with my dad at a busy café on Rathdowne Street. When I mentioned the dress, his eyes filled with tears, and he clasped his hand over his mouth. “Yes, yes, of course I remember that dress. Mum wore it the very first time we went out together.”

photo 2

* First little footnote: Try as I might, I can’t get a good photo of this outfit. Being black, like my black dog Gus, it’s SO hard to get a snap that does it justice. Gus is super cute, the dress is super beautiful, but it just doesn’t come across… But! I’m working on it. Watch this space.

** Second little footnote: I wrote this piece today at a writing class with Catherine Deveny. It’s something I’ve been wanting to get down since receiving the dress, but I’m excellent at putting things off. At the end of the class, when Catherine asked if anyone wanted to read what they’d worked on throughout the day, I put my hand up and said “I think I want to read this”. Good one, Wembolina. Why the hell did I think reading this OUT LOUD in front of a room full of writers would be a good idea?? As soon as I started, my voice started to waver, my cheek started twitching, and my heart actually repositioned itself in my throat. Yes. But… with a red-hot face and shaking hands, I got through it. 

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some like it, robert

But not me! Not after 3 days above 40 degrees!!

But I DO really like this song you wrote, when you were in The Power Station. It’s so JAUNTY and bangy and fun! And the film clip is a bit racy too, in typical Robert Palmer style!!

NOTE: I feel like this post is a bit obvious, given the heat in Melbourne and the cries of  ‘feeeeeeeeel the heat’ in this song, but by joves it’s a good one. Don’t bop too much, in case you collapse with exhaustion.

a cuppa tea with me

So I think I told you about my recent toe-dip into the world of online courses? Where I signed up for the wonderful Blog with Pip eCourse with the supernice Pip Lincolne? And I actually kinda sorta did it? You might have noticed a few little changes around here – a bit of a spring clean, if you will – like my fancy new banner (thanks so much Katie!!), and a whizz-bang updated About Me page, and a few other little bits and bobs.

Anyhoo. The other bloggers and I are partaking in a big ol’ cuppa-tea-and-a-biscuit sesh. In the VIRTUAL WORLD! And I’d like to invite you too! You can get to know a little bit more about me, and if you like, you can do the same on your blog, or post a comment about what’s happening in your part of town. Hang on a tic, Imma gonna pop the kettle on and get us some donuts.

Let's have a salted caramel donut instead

Aforementioned donut (it’s salted caramel)

So! I’m Wembolina (obvy), I live in Melbourne (in Victoria, not Florida), and I’m a researcher & writer by day, a social-media-type person for a few different companies after hours, and a cook/dog-walker/cat-patter/reader/crafter/writer/downloader-of-great-TV-shows by night! I live with my luvverly fella and his two (teenage) daughters as well (but I haaaaaaate the term ‘stepmum’, because I don’t have warts on my nose and I don’t lock them in the cellar and we actually all like each other quite a bit). I’m trying to be better at going to the gym and I secretly love the big crossword that comes out in the summer newspapers… I’m also weirdly protective of our wheely bins.

My favourite things to do are eat (!) and drink (!!) with people I love, and people I am getting to know. Having giant Jenga parties with new friends, where we chow down on excellent food while drinking white wine spritzers is in my top 10 things favourite things to do, along with strolling aimlessly with le pooch, watching Degrassi with the girls, and having excellent adventures with my fella.

Some nerds playing giant Jenga.

Some nerds playing giant Jenga.

My favourite place to be? Eeep, am I getting old? It’s in my backyard… Watering plants and eating tomatoes and chatting to whoever might be around.

Favourite food and drink is a toughie for me, because I love just about ALL food and drink! But because we’re in the midst of a heatwave (so it’s sadly not ideal tea-drinking weather) today my faves would be an icy cold beer and a big slice of watermelon. Maybe not together though.

Remember this guy?

This guy was so evil I had to eat him…

I find in-spa-ray-shon in many, many things; weird things I see, conversations I have, and things I read. But the best inspiration comes from people around me – I’m pretty lucky, because I have some wonderfully ace people in my neck of the woods, who make me think differently and outside da box ALL the time!

This year I made a resolution to educate myself more. I want to know more about how brains work and how people operate, so I’ve been reading books on thought processes and the like. I loooooove learning new things, so I’m keen to do more course-type things too (especially around WRITING!).

Some favourite blogs… Well, there are blogs I’ve been reading for aaaaaages (and always love) like Meet Me At Mikes, My Darling Lemon Thyme, banana meet-cute, Gourmet Girlfriendand nothing matters when we’re dancing and ‘Voir Tales (among others!!) to blogs that I’ve discovered through doing Pip’s course, like Grow.Cook.Sew, Little Wolff, miss and misters and Think Big, Live Simply. There are SO many MORE incredible bloggers who have done this course, and I’m super excited about getting stuck into what everyone’s been doing!

So that’s me! What about you? What are some of your favourite things to do, food to eat, places to be, inspirations and blogs, and what do you want to know more about in 2014? And what would your reaction be if you discovered your wheelie bin had been INADVERTENTLY TAKEN BY A NEIGHBOUR/THIEF ON BIN DAY???

surfin’ safari

waves

Whoever woulda thunk that someone like me would be able to hang loose, bro? Not I, said the fly, with my little eye, I would NEVER have thunk I’d be able to casually stand on a board, in actual water, and actually ride a wave to the shore.

Last weekend a group of friends (who I shall refer to as ‘the crew’) and I spent the weekend in a dinky, yet rad, holiday house on Phillip Island, eating pizza, drinking alcohol, and playing Chuck Klosterman’s Hypertheticals. Let us not discuss that ‘the crew’ would all put their own love of the sun ahead of their ability to save another from a random bear attack – seven days later, this is still a sore point.

On Saturday morning we headed to Smith’s Beach, where we met our intrepid leader, Adam, who would be showing us the surf ropes. I instantly made a MASSIVE dick of myself when I requested that everyone in ‘the crew’ – including Adam – call me Brody.

“Why Brody?” Adam enquired.
“Ummm, only after the most significant surfer in the history of early 90s cinema. Ever heard of Point Break?” I smugly replied, only in words far less smug, eloquent, or facetious.
“Urrrm, you mean Bodhi?”

Obviously I meant Bodhi. From the most fabulous surf movie ever made that I have seen. I smacked my forehead in shame…

Anyhoo, on with the lesson. After my Patrick Swayze faux pas, we squeezed ourselves into some tres attractive wetsuits and were partnered with our boards (mine was a 9 footer we’ll call ‘Boardie’). And then, we were off to the beach. ‘The crew’ had now grown to accommodate an 11 year old boy called Deagn, so you can imagine how adept we – a bunch of 30ishes – felt. He was an excellent surfer, who later liked to yell “SMAAAAASH” whenever it appeared one of us might fall from our boards.

Once on the sandy shores of Smiths Beach, we did some cool stuff like:
– Lay on our tummy’s on the sand
– Pushed our chests out and up in a weird sunrise-y yoga-type move, while lying on our tummy’s on the sand
– Fake paddling (on our tummy’s) on the sand
All while a bunch of 6-8 year olds were already riding waves in the ocean.

I’ll be honest. I was not at all into the idea of a surfing weekend. While we were on ‘le world tour’ Rich and I had expressed an interest in learning to surf when we were in Costa Rica, and as soon as I saw the rough waves and ‘real’ surfers, I totally lost my nerve and started to see all the scary things in it; I’ll look like a derb; I’ll crack my head on the board; I’ll get eaten by a shark. When a friend suggested this weekend, I said no and firmly crossed my arms.

But then, I thought about it. Much like the weekend I recently spent horse riding, if I don’t like it, I can always get off and walk (except that I wasn’t actually allowed to get off and walk – instead, I was relegated to the back of the group to ride with two experienced riders who were 9 years old, and, subsequently, I will never get on another horse as long as I live). If I don’t like surfing, I can just sit on the beach and do the meat pie run.

So I gotsta tell ya, it felt pretty momentous getting out into the water and actually standing on a surfboard. And actually staying upright and actually SURFING that flipping wave all the way to the shore (which I’ve never seen a real surfer do, but hell, I felt like a pro). Yes, I was in waist-deep water. Yes, Adam the instructor was pushing the back of my board and telling me when to paddle and when to stand up. But still, I did it.

After 2 hours in the water, getting up, getting dumped, getting thrown around, getting SMAAAAAAAAASHed, our time was up. Waterlogged and bedraggled, we carted our boards back to the shop, stripped out of our uber-flattering wetsuits we had grown to love (and got back into our ‘Melbourne’ civvies), and celebrated our upright achievements with potato cakes and ginger beers at the general store.

While I don’t think it’s super likely I’ll ever ‘just rent a board and ride some waves with the dudes’, I’m pretty chuffed it’s something I did. Just. Did. Too often we get caught up in what we can do and what we think we can’t. I read a quote the other day that said something like: “You can or you can’t. Either way, you’re right”. So when adventures like this present themselves, go with it. You’ll surprise yourself.

You might even do a little gasp when you realise what a point break is.

kiedis_wasteoftime

“That would be a waste of tiiiiiiiiiiime!” says Anthony Kiedis.  To which I reply, No, Surfer Kiedis, it would not.

I realise it’s one of those topics we don’t talk about, but…

Now that I’ve (hopefully) piqued your interest with that incredibly inviting, leading, impossible-to-resist headline, I implore you to keep reading. Go on. I dare you. Because I need your Freud-y smarts!

According to a recent This American Life podcast, there are seven topics that should never see the light of conversation. Things like health, periods and money. And dreams. I totally agree. Hearing about people’s dreams is really pretty tedious. Unless – I believe – they are creative types. Then they have wackadoo dreams that you kinda wanna hear about. Especially when you meet up with them early in the morning (say, for a dog walk or a sneaky coffee and croissant), not long after they’ve woken, and that dream is still vivid and real to them.

I walked and talked with a fabulous lady-friend in the wee small hours this morn, and she’d just dreamt about being part of the Ghostbusters team. We walked past a father and son, and she had to do a double take to ensure they were safe, and she wouldn’t have to whip out her ghost-busting hose.

When I was on my way to meet her, I spied with my little eye… a worm on the footpath. I feel like I used to see worms on the footpath ALL THE TIME when I was a kid, but now, not so much. Is it because there are less worms in the world? Is it because the birds are more clued in and snapple them up before they wiggle away into the grass? Or do we just not see them with grown up eyes? No matter. This worm on the path gave me a split-second thought of “That worm… I dreamt about…” and then I lost it.

And then – as per the beauty of fragmented thought – a couple of hours later, it came back. And writing this now, I realise it’s a TOTALLY boring and not-to-be-discussed topic! Who really cares that in MY dream, I was drinking instant coffee out of a homemade ceramic mug and, as I took a sip of the scalding brew, I noticed a small air hole near the lip of the mug and in that air hole was a tiny grey grub. I couldn’t keep drinking the coffee (ew, could you?) and, to save him from the hot water of the dishwasher or the kitchen sink, I poked my fingernail into the hole to try to get him to budge. And budge he did. The tiny grey grub slipped out of the hole and into the coffee and as he fell, he grew and grew (in the time it took to fall from the hole to the coffee, he was already the size of an earthworm). And I could see him continue to grow IN the coffee (it was disgusting. He was kinda thrashing around like a carp in the shallows). I gave the cup to Rich and asked if he could tip out the coffee – and the worm – outside, which he did. But when he splashed the heinous, frothy, wormy coffee into the garden, out fell…

… an enormous, venomous door snake. Made out of floral, vintage fabric, but as poisonous as a dart frog.

#andtheniwokeup

misty water-coloured memories

Last year I read an amazing book by Stephen King called ‘On Writing’. For anyone who fancies themselves as a bit of a wordsmith, this is SUCH a good read. One of the tasks he sets is to scribble out a list – without really thinking – of your memories. Obvy not ALL of them, because that would be a totally massive mammoth type-fest, but to write down whatever memories pop into your brain. It’s a really interesting task and is a good way to flesh out the bare bones of ideas into stories.

Digging around in my incredibly well-organised desktop filing system (that’s a funny joke – HAHA), I came across my initial musings:

Technically my first day of prep, but still packs the same punch, no?

Technically my first day of prep, but still packs the same punch, no?

I remember the first day of Grade One at primary school. A girl in my class was crying beside one of the classrooms because her older sister Eve had been stung by a bee. I sat with her and told her it would be OK. Her name was Prue, and that was the day I met my first bestie.

I remember running laps around the school. I HATED any kind of sports when I was a kid – I struggled to keep up with the rest of my class. I remember being lapped by the other kids as I plodded slowly along… As I turned a corner from the basketball court around the front of the school, I ran into three older boys (I think they were in Grade 5 or Grade 6 – I would have been in Grade 2 or 3); they were the ‘tough’ guys, I’d seen them bullying other kids and I’d managed (for the most part) to avoid them. But as I rounded the corner, I accidentally made eye contact with one of them. I quickly looked away, but as I ran off, one of them yelled out “Who were you looking at??” and I called back “No one…” and he yelled “No one? You were looking at one of us. Who was it??” and I called back “I don’t know. All of you”. I remember feeling completely ashamed and terrified, because it had been a glance, in a ‘there are the bullies’ kinda scared way, and they’d made me feel like it was a ‘crush/love’ glance.

Not long after that, I remember walking home from school one day, and one of the afore-mentioned bullies came up behind me and started tapping a stick on the top of my backpack. “Makes a good drum, that” he leered, and I stuck my tongue out at him, not thinking. He pushed me up against a fence by my throat, and held me there. I can’t remember what he said.

I remember the heat on my neck under my scarf as I rode my bike to North Melbourne this morning. Today is cool, especially after the heat of the past few days, so I think I was being ambitious wearing a neckscarf on a bike ride in the sun. The silk kept the heat in, and when I arrived at the Red Cross for my volunteering shift, I felt warm and sweaty and out of breath [DISCLAIMER: this was not written today, but last year. But if I was wearing a neckscarf today and rode my bike somewhere, I think I would have written a similar post]

I remember how fast I rode my bike home the day I spotted Gus on the Lost Dogs Home website, and how frantic I felt when Rich didn’t respond to my text/email/call about our perfect dog being up for grabs. We got him though. Obvy.

I remember the slug on our back verandah the night of my mum’s funeral. And that my dad and I sat and watched as it slithered along a wooden paling, while we had a house full of people inside.

I remember my first day of work at my first ever job. It was a Saturday and I had scored the role of hair-sweep-er-up-er at the hairdressers. I agonised over what to wear, and how to do my own hair. I remember, just before I left home, spitting toothpaste into my hair as I brushed my teeth.

I remember a group of us standing beneath an air vent at work as smoke poured out of it, wondering aloud “Should we call the fire brigade?”. We did. I was told to get everyone out of the building (I was the fire marshall at my work, and for the first and only time in my fire marshalling career, I got to wear my safety helmet and blow my whistle). Three firetrucks screamed around the corner into Wellington Street, burly firefighters pouring out, running into the building with pick axes and hoses. Turns out the building wasn’t on fire. A belt in the air conditioning had snapped. That was the day I discovered my penchant for a man in uniform.

IMG_0381

This pic reminds me of the time I had a snake coiled around my neck in Morocco. You can literally see the excited fear in my eyes.

Which leads me to remember the day I met Sgt Joshua (aka Drazic from Heartbreak High, aka Callan Mulvey) from Rush – they were filming an episode right near my work, and a good friend  was the on-set nurse. I remember how hot my face got as she pushed me towards him to take a picture, and how tightly I gripped my coffee cup, and how giddy I felt. See? Men in uniform. Even a fake uniform.

I remember driving to Wye River with Imogen on a Friday evening a few years ago. I sat in the front with Gus at my feet; Rich sat in the back with Peppa the whippet. Peppa struggled on some of the curly roads, and was sick all over Rich’s lap (I still break into the giggles when I think about this: Rich saying “Umm, guys?” as we drove around a bend). I remember Rich only brought one pair of pants. Problematic. I remember the sky was clear when we left Melbourne, but darkened the closer we got to the coast. On our way through Lorne, I remember the rain starting to fall, and the gray of the sky. It was the perfect evening for red wine and stew and long talks about life.

I remember meeting a boy on the first anniversary of my Mum’s death, at a festival in Woodford. I thought I was SO cool and SO alternative and I met him in the Chai Tent (which I thought was the most incredibly bohemian place ever) and confiding in him that it was Mum’s anniversary, and him saying “Well, it’s been a year. You’d be over it by now, yeah?”. No.

I remember the taste of the white pinot noir (yes, white!) I had with lunch, with a very excellent friend, at a very excellent restaurant in Gertrude Street. The wine was good, the food was great, the company was THE BEST.

You should give it a go. Unleash the writing-remembering beast! You can keep going with it forever, or focus on certain years or ages or experiences. Let me know in the comments if you do – I’d love to read it.

lobster wars

Today I read an interesting (and, let’s be honest, kinda useless) fact about lobsters. They never die. Which is crazy to me. Obviously they run into issues with crustacean-lovin’ foodies and fishing nets and natural predators (if there are any sea creatures who can crack their uncrackable shells), but left to their own devices, the world according to Google states that lobsters will just live on and on, happily ever after for around 100 years.

Learning this fact then led me to do a couple of image searches on lobsters, which, in turn, left me wondering: is it possible that lobsters in the wild will live on forever and ever, growing bigger and bigger, until they overcome the human race in a people vs lobsters battle and take over the world? I wonder.

doglobster

This fact has nothing to do with this blog post. I have just enrolled in a Be A Better Blogger course, because (as you may have noticed) I’ve been a bit crap at this since The Adventures finished. Sometimes the daily humdrum of life doesn’t seem interesting enough to write about, and I feel like I’ve hit a bit of a wall.

I ran into an old friend on the weekend, who asked about ‘da blog’ and when I shrugged and squinted and said “weelllllllll….” she grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me, and said “WEMBOLINA!!! Just do it!! It’s like exercise. If you don’t do a bit each day, you lose momentum and you lose strength and you lose your ability. So write something every day. On a post-it or in a journal or ON YOUR BLOG but please, just DO it.”

So, in light of this lovely friend, and going to blog school, I’ve realized that I need to start thinking about THE BIG PICTURE. My big picture is this: I love writing and I love telling stories. It’s what I want to do. Like, DO do. Forevs. Until a book (or even a long-ish story) comes out. But then I get snowed under with work things, and I feel like, when I get home, I don’t have the brain capacity and I get caught up with dinners and pets and kids and thoughts like “I really should do something more productive” but, instead, fall into an episode of Parks & Rec or a book or a glass of wine. But writing (and blogging) needs to be a priority. It needs to be a job for me at the moment. I need to set aside time and do it. Because it feels SO good when I post something and I can see that you are reading it.

I think sometimes I feel overwhelmed because I feel that every post needs to be some big, long adventure or hilarious/ridiculous thing that I’ve seen or done, but really, it’s just little things. Sometimes it’s just a funny/blast-from-the-past clip from YouTube or a picture of my cat sitting in a box or a weird fact about a lobster.