A Bunch of Fives #3

Hello and welcome to the first Bunch of Fives for 2018. A huge thankyou to all those who enjoyed the first two. If you know anyone who might like whats here, please forward it on and tell them to subscribe (at the bottom of this page). Go on, you will be doing them a school holiday reading list favour.

From My Bookshelf:


SLOW: Live Life Simply by Brooke McAlary

Now I’ve read a few books on this subject before. Slowing down, decluttering, organising etc. And I’ve had the best intentions of trying to take this stuff on board. And ultimately failing. My dear Mum gave me this book for Christmas and I’ve been enjoying dipping in and out of it over the delicious post Christmas period. I think she sees my life as some kind of crazy, fast paced whirlwind even though I am at home most of the time or at the studio pouring candles. Even the odd casual teaching day isn’t exactly hectic but there are a few stressful, over committed days or even months so I am going to try a bit of McAlary’s advice and just...slow down a bit. Take note of the things that really matter. Shrug off the things that really don’t. I am also going to dip into McAlarys podcast Slow Home every now and again too. Let’s see if I can keep this up after school goes back....


The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds Second Edition Peter, Pat and Raoul Slater

I’ve been playing a game of cat and mouse this past week with a bird that visits my garden and sings the most beautiful songs unlike the hideous hacking sound that came from a lone Wattlebird that toyed with my sanity a few months back at an ungodly hour, every morning, for weeks on end. This fella, or lady-bird, sits high in our golden elm each morning at a very respectable time (points for manners) happily chirruping away at the world, but for the life of me I have not been able to get a visual on it no matter how much creeping about I do.

I was telling my brother about it yesterday and in all seriousness he looked at me and asked me what it sounded like. Huh? I looked back at him, guffawed and sarcastically made up some kind of ‘birdsong’ for him to decipher. I had forgotten that when we were kids my parents called him Harry Butler (after the famed Australian naturalist and conservationist) because of his interest in these creatures. He’d wander about, binoculars around his tiny neck, trying to spy on the Wedge tail Eagles who made their enormous eyries in our little pine forest, the squawking baby cockatoos that were raised year after year in the huge dead gum trees in the swamp paddock or the Rainbow Honeyeaters that carved perfect little holey homes into the sides of the sand pit (OK this, I have to admit, I knew nothing of until recently when he told me all about their habits). It wasn’t until his wife (whom, may I add, momentarily chimed in on the mockery) turned to me in all HER sincerity and told me that on occasion he actually tests out his mother in laws knowledge, and vice versa, with birdcalls back home….as in, they actually know bird sounds and can imitate them with a likeness that it is actually comprehensible to someone else’s ear! Did I mention he lives in Canada? That’s like two continents worth of bird voices. Mind. Blown. Random big brother trivia aside, I finally got around to buying the Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds because I too take an interest in knowing what’s making what sound in my backyard, so when I called my brother to tell him this bird was starting to get the better of me he said he would come and help me find it and identify it once and for all. Now, the blurb on the back of this guide claims that it is designed to “slip easily into a hip-pocket” but unless you a) are a giant or b) are George Costanza (…that Seinfeld episode with his wallet!!!) it is NOT fitting into your 501s or multi pocketed cargo pants in a hurry nor very comfortably for that matter. We will opt for the ‘pop it in your backpack’ recommendation and he can carry it ‘cause I bagsed the binoculars first.

Old Timey:


I think this little treasure belonged to my husbands sister as a child. Its the dearest wee sewing machine that still has it’s original box. I’m reluctant to let my daughter play with it until she is a bit older because it would probably be taken to the cubby house and inadvertently be sat on by a big brother. Imagine sewing up dolls clothes on this! I was allowed to use the old treadle sewing machine as a kid and once or twice I put the needle through my fingernail which put me off a little...if only I’d had one of these sweeties.


Turning 42…does that count as ‘Old Timey’ yet? Vintage surely? Anyway, that’s what happened to me a couple of days ago and I'm certainly feeling old as we head into this New Year. I have had the good fortune to be surrounded by lots of family this holiday season which got me reminiscing about my childhood and the ways in which we used to entertain ourselves at family gatherings.  Just before Christmas (as I was doing the mad last ditch effort to appear as though I maintain some kind of order to my household) I stumbled across my dearly and long departed grandparent’s deck of playing cards in my old toy box. Had I not been hosting this year, that box had a very real chance of taking up permanent residency on our verandah, and I almost certainly would never have even bothered to ever open the lid again. I'm now very glad that respect for my home won over an apathetic attitude toward it.

These cards were used to play Euchre and Cribbage frequently and with much drama at our family get-togethers when I was a child. I have wonderful memories of being at my grandparents’ home as they, along with my parents, uncles and aunts played Euchre late into the night, the smell of celery soup and roast chicken filling the air as the cousins tried to sleep amidst the heat and stifling tension. We are an extremely competitive family on my father’s side, extremely, and these cards were the source of many an extravagant and overly dramatic table thumping, or outrageously loud outburst that usually followed with the words “…now WHY would you put THAT card down!?” being screamed into someone’s very publicly shamed face. But despite the noise and robust rivalry of these nights I remember them vividly and with great fondness which is why I am going to go so far as to suggest that card nights make a comeback to the social scene. Yours to be precise. Pencil some of that old timey good clean fun back into your 2018 calendar; enjoy a night in with friends playing ‘500’ instead of a night out at the newest wine or craft beer bar. Your head and bank account can thank me for your change in lifestyle later.  

P.S. The best thing about this little piece of serendipitous history is that the score sheet is intact and the cards still mildly whiff of a mix of my grandfather’s Californian Poppy and my grandma’s Yardley English Lavender talc powder.

Music/Art/Creative Stuff:


Rosalie Gascoigne

Gascoigne was an Australian assemblage artist who first exhibited her work in 1974 at the age of 57, and died in 1999. She was a major influence for me whilst I was studying art, as I loved her excellent composition skills, and use of old road signs and broken pieces of linoleum flooring. She made beautiful assemblages in old bee boxes which always fascinated me, and led me to my own (rather terrible) assemblages work in old suitcases.  She would rescue old decaying items like boxes, chipped enamel kitchenware, wire netting, timber, feathers and seed pods, and arrange them into a new kind of order, representative of familiar Australian landscapes like mud flats, lakes and expanses of treeless grassed plains. She was a student of ikebana (Japanese floral arrangement) before becoming an artist and these origins are evident in her work, nature being her dominant theme. If you haven’t heard of her, get to know her work because she is one of Australia’s most important artists, who showed us that responding to the landscape can come at any age, and you might just love her as much as I do.


Veep HBO

Julia Louis Dreyfus is a goddess and Veep is her second coming. Her years playing Elaine Benes on Seinfeld were kick ass but her character in ‘Veep’ is literally THE boss. Dreyfus plays Selena Myer, the Vice President of the USA in a satire of the inner workings of the US government. The show explores both her political career and personal life as she and her bumbling crew of advisors- more often than not- ineffectively navigate the shark infested waters of politics in the White House. The writers of this series are en pointe; the savage and very colourful dialogue and comedic chemistry between the ensemble cast is sharp and intelligent. The series was created by Armando Iannucci of the famed BBC sitcom The Thick of It based on a fictional department in the British government and is also well worth the watch. I am old school, so I have to wait for any new series to come out on DVD and then binge watch it in 24 hours but if you have pay telly you can catch it on Foxtels showcase channel. Brilliant.



Eastbound and Down: Danny McBride stars in this HBO sitcom as a former professional baseball pitcher, Kenny Powers, who loses his job after succumbing to substance abuse and his obnoxious personality. He ends up teaching PE at his old school all the time carrying around a huge chip on his shoulder about where he would rather be, that being the major league. His character is at the same time repulsive and hilarious. His one liners are quotable gold (which my husband and I like to throw at each other like total dorks) and his outfits are classic cashed up bogan. Its full of very inappropriate behaviour and language and has not one speck of political correctness so if you like that kind of humour (who doesnt?), this show is for you. I bought my husband the box set after he stumbled across it late one night on pay TV a few years ago and couldnt stop laughing loudly enough to wake the entire household. I am aware that there is some seriously offensive stuff in this show, but this is the character of Kenny. I will leave you with this Kenny quote (this was the least offensive one I could include!) “Sure, I’ve been called a xenophobe, but the truth is, I’m not. I honestly just feel that America is the best country and the other countries aren’t as good. That used to be called patriotism”.


Cabin Porn

I hate summer. There. I said it, and I’m just going to let it hang there a while for all you Summer Lovers to contemplate and adjust your feelings toward me accordingly. I can guarantee you that I will say it a million more times before this daily hell leaves my life in March, or, with the way the world is going with climate change and all, the end of May. I had a 30 year love affair with summer (my skin is testament to that) but it is well and truly over now. At this time of year I am yearning to be beside our fire pit drinking mulled wine and watching my girls fossick for treasures -usually bones- and make cubbies in the pepper trees. That, to me, is heaven. It doesn’t have to be snowing outside (although it certainly adds to the charm) but it needs to be cool - at least 25 degrees cooler than it is at any given moment during an Australian summer. I used to love summer but I just cannot handle the heat anymore and now it just makes me angry; the blowflies (that sound drives me bonkers!), the armies of tiny bugs that invade your home in their thousands at night while you're trying to watch TV or read, the snakes, daylight till crazy o’clock which means by husband doesn’t come in till even later than usual, and did I mention the heat? So I follow Cabinporn on Instagram and wistfully pore over the images of the teensy little huts in some of the wildest outposts in the world and daydream about a life inside them. By nature I am a bit of a hermit so I adore the solitude, stillness, and tranquillity of these little wonders, the wilderness and the idea of being completely off the grid. The simple things. @cabinporn #natureismytherapy



The Bland Hotel

Ah, the local watering hole. I have had some of my favourite times at this pub...fell in love with Trev, had our engagement party there, and celebrated some awesome Quandi cricket victories late into the night. The grand old Bland Hotel has been running since 1928 and is still in full swing today. My husbands grandfather, Gus McNamara, helped fund the construction of the hotel and its brick pattern is the same as our house. Current owner Dan Marshall runs a very tight ship where the beer is always spot on, and his partner Jeremy Tancred cooks an excellent bistro meal, 6 days a week for lunch and dinner. You can even get a haircut there every Friday from the lovely Sam (@hairstyling_bysam). Keep an eye on the Bland Hotel facebook page for special dinners and events. You can even get accommodation, and they have powered sites for caravans too. Check out the old Quandi sporting team photos hanging in the bar (proof of the Quandi Ducks cricket prowess winning a number of Grand Finals in Grenfell and West Wyalong).


The Quandialla Swimming Centre

The following photo may not look like much to anyone else but to me it is a perfect snapshot of my youth. I took this a few days ago on an *ill-fated trip out to Quandi’s Bland hotel for dinner with friends (*NOT OPEN!). During summer you cannot go to Quandialla without stopping at the pool for a dip first.  I conservatively estimate that I spent every second day in this pool throughout my childhood summers either swimming lap after lap at swimming club, honing my handstand and backward somersault skills with friends or watching the older boys play cricket. Thirty five years later and not much has changed in these parts; the swimming club that I was a part of is still as strong today as it was in the 80’s the kids are still playing cricket and using garbage bins as wickets. When I was a child the bins were of the metal variety that made a loud ‘bang!’ when someone was bowled; a sound that anyone in the pool grounds recognised as ‘out’ and could vouch for was the decision being disputed by some disgruntled kid holding the bat in defiance.  These days the bins are bigger than some of the kids but the rules (over the fence = 6 and out) and the pitch remain the same although there’s less bindii and a much greener thatch of lawn nowadays. The kids in this photo are kids of the kids I used to watch playing cricket from afar when I was (you guessed it) a kid.  The building in the background is unchanged, apart from its colour scheme, and the Kiosk still smells of those tempting gelatinous delicacies as you walk in or out although you can’t just hold up twenty cents and ask for “one of those, 2 of them and one of those” anymore because by today’s standards of wealth those twenty cents would get you approximately four lollies. No, it’s a lucky dip now with the bags all pre mixed and bundled into 50 cents or a dollars’ worth. It is a wonderful spot to spend a summer day with your family and friends and on occasion you can actually have the whole place to yourself. Just make sure if you are intending on having dinner at the Bland hotel afterward that you do your research and make sure it’s open. It usually is, we just got very unlucky and went home and made ourselves eggs on toast.

Quandialla Swimming Centre Second St. Quandialla NSW (02) 6347 1304

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