Monday, March 28, 2016

I did something new

As predicted, I was bored by Saturday night, so decided to take myself off to the National Folk Festival for the day on Sunday. The festival has been around for fifty years, and heaps of people we know go every year and love it, but I've never been. I have never been sure how much the rest of the family would like it - I listen to and enjoy folk music but the others can take it or leave it. So, in the interests of scientific experimentation, I decided to send myself along on my own as a test case, to see whether we could all go next year. Offering myself (and the $120 for a day ticket) up bravely as the canary down the mine.

It was awesome. Just awesome. Fifteen different venues, all going from 10 in the morning to midnight - plus dancers and street performers and random pop up venues and people playing in the cafes. Once I figured out my tactics to get the best seats, I went from concert to concert ... with a couple of breaks for coffee / lunch / poke about the stalls selling tie-dyed crap. The photo above is of various troupes of  Morris dancers. I really love Morris dancers - the troupes all had separate performance spots but then they got together and had a big dance-off. I love that they are bouncy and loud and they laugh a lot and whack each other with sticks accidentally and laugh some more and thump about.

There were also belly dancers wearing gingham, and dancing to country songs. Unfortunately I missed the Old England dancers who do eighteenth century stuff and the Scottish country dancers. I love that too, even though they're a bit more dainty.

But of course the dancing was just a side dish to the music - and that was great. I saw the Jerry Cans, who are North Canadian and sing loud and catchy folk songs in Inuit. I saw Sheila Kay Adams, who is North Carolina and banjo and hilarious. I saw the Rambling Boys from Ireland, and the Company from Brisbane and Enda Kenny. I walked into the Nancy Kerr concert by accident just as she started on a wonderful version of "Barbara Allen", which I like to sing to the children ("oh mother mother, go make my bed" mostly).

I left the house at 9.30 in the morning saying I would probably be a few hours, and got home at 9 at night, and I could have stayed longer. Next year!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Restrained flags

So, New Zealand, the country of my birth, decided to keep its boring old flag that looks almost identical to Australia's, rather than go with a nice new flag that looks pretty cool and is uniquely NZ. Normally Kiwis aren't at all averse to change, having a strong why-the-hell-not streak, so I don't quite know what was going on there - there wasn't a big turnout of voters. However, I did finish up my restrained flag-based triangle quilt in honour of the vote.

It was very simple and easy and the quilting is basic baptist fans, and I really like this one. I will do that pattern again I think - when I want to use a limited range of fabrics and show them off. Here is a close-up of the union jack fabric in action. Waving.

And very unusually I had a matching backing fabric. This is Christmas cotton that I picked up from Spotlight for 80% off or something equally ridiculous. Most of the patterns were santas and stockings and obviously Christmas material, but I thought the stars didn't shriek yuletide in the same way, and I bought every scrap they had. Bargain!

I called this one "People and Murals are Strange" because people and murals ARE strange and there's no getting away from it. We are having a quiet Easter at home without going away or trying to achieve much, and so far so good, but I may be bored by tomorrow.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Canberra Enlighten

Every year Canberra has its Enlighten festival, where they light the buildings up all pretty. It also has the Noodle Market, which completely failed to impress me last year, although apparently they've made it better this time round - not as crowded. I'm afraid I wasn't game to try it again, but I did take the boys in after dark to wander around the buildings. It doesn't sound very exciting, but it was actually quite breathtaking. This is the front facade of Parliament House - an indigenous artwork.

It changed every now and again. These words are the names of all the electorates in Australia. Quite terrifyingly, I could name most of the current members of Parliament for each electorate. Such useless knowledge.

Old Parliament House was also lit up with various art works. This was very cheerful.

This was not cheerful at all - an artwork of photos of interned "enemy aliens" in Australia in WWI. Not exactly a finest hour, and the effect of the faces enlarged and lit on the face of the building was quite eerie.

Perhaps the cleverest was the National Library, got up like a Chinese pagoda. The detail on the illumination was amazing, and it was so carefully done to line up the different pillars and windows to transform a square block concrete building into a Chinese temple. And the panels between the pillars were all beautiful Chinese artworks. It was fabulous.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Finishing Wednesday

Goddamn I'm tired. I organised a one-day seminar event yesterday - all perfectly straightforward - but I am just exhausted now. So many things to think about and so many things that could possibly go wrong, but luckily didn't ... I will claim credit that it all went smoothly as a result of my thorough planning but I think it was a good chunk of luck. The Senate decided to have a record-breaking 30 hour straight sitting all through Thursday night which didn't help! When it came time for our seminar Friday morning everyone in the building was exhausted - all very well for the Senate to sit but it meant the building has to be kept open and everyone from the security staff to the cleaners to the roster managers and the hansard staff were all a bit strung out.... in the end the seminar went very well - even my presentation - and I was very pleased, but even after a solid twelve-hour sleep last night I am plain old tired.

Earlier in the week I managed to watch a bit of TV and sew the binding down on the scrap and circles quilt - now called "Wednesday". I didn't realise that the border print changed colour halfway round! It is such a large pattern that half seems to be blue and half yellow. But the whole thing is so scrappy I don't think it matters.

I still like the colours, and the circles, and I might do something similar again - play with scraps and circles a bit more. I am getting my husband and son to hold it up because it's too sunny to put it on the line. The weather has finally broken and we're back down to temps in the low 20s, which is very welcome. My dad has come over from NZ for a visit and he's very relieved! Even though they've had a hot summer there too, Kiwis do not respond well to the Canberra 35 degree plus days.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Double cross blocks

I was flicking back through graph books, where I make pretty colouring in patterns sometimes, and thought I would quite like to make these cross blocks. I must get out the colour pencils again, it's strangely soothing. And sometimes I make good patterns (although normally not).

I couldn't decide on a colour scheme and then I realised that the reason I liked them so much was the colours of the drawing. So why not go with that, and I did.

Hours of fun, although I really should be finishing up other quilts that I have on the go, but where is the fun in that? It is still hot, although a long weekend down the coast helped a bit (the water is freezing! I just floated around like an iceberg. It was so nice to be cool for a change). In fact we had a lovely weekend all up - good waves and everyone was very relaxed. We didn't know until the last minute whether number one son was in the baseball finals or not - it had to go to a count back! such excitement - but we were all very relieved when they missed out. And the torture of organised sport is over.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

It's just so HOT

This is crazy weather at the moment. We've had over a week of mid 30s temps, and another week to come. There was a short storm last Wednesday evening, but other than that not a cloud, let alone any rain. We hardly ever get it this hot without a break, and never in March! It's supposed to be autumn for heaven's sake - hot during the day, sure, but with just that hint that it won't last forever. Well, there is no hint, and we are absolutely convinced it will last forever. When I left work at 6pm today it was still 34 degrees, and everything was burnt to a baked-on crisp.

So our weekend was pretty quiet. I went for a run on Saturday morning in a feeble attempt to regain the fitness I lost over Christmas, and it was BOILING. Not a breath of wind, which made the lake very pretty, but no relief from the sun. I'm not sure if the photo shows, but the little sailboats are absolutely sitting there, not moving at all. The rowers were doing fine because the lake was like glass.

On Sunday morning we met up with friends to go for a walk - through the pines in an attempt to get some shade - which mostly worked. We finished up by 11 am and it was just starting to get really unpleasant! And on both afternoons we sat around floppily, although my husband and I offloaded the boys on Saturday night to a friend and went out for dinner. We meant to go to a movie, but dinner ended up taking too long, and we didn't really care, so we stayed for dessert and another beer, and it was lovely. Great food too, if anyone would like a Canberra restaurant recommendation.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Service for my friend

On Friday we went to the commemorative service for our friend, John T.D. Wood, who died a few days ago after a long illness. I don't know if you can say a service was good - because it was very sad - but it was like John. Calm, thoughtful and full of love.

John hired me for my first job in the public service twenty years ago when he was Deputy Ombudsman. I had no idea how unusual it was to get a boss who was (a) a nice person (b) given to wearing baggy linen pants and a panama hat to the office (c) happy to invite everyone to his house to listen to records till the wee hours of the morning (d) ruled by a moral sense that overrode all considerations of career and politics and compromise and (e) had a strong sense of humour and of the ridiculous.

John gave me a grounding in being a public servant in the "serve the public" sense; that there was an underlying concept of fair and right that should be applied to everything you did while you were being paid from the public purse, and that it was OK to look at things that had always existed and form your own view on whether they were good and bad. At the time I thought that was normal, but in hindsight (and after a bit more time in the mucky byways of government) it was an invaluable gift - that work was only worthwhile if it was, at some level, compatible with your principles. That just because things are done a certain way doesn't mean they have to stay that way. And while I can't say I'm at the forefront of improving the world, over the years, on many occasions, I have felt John's influence to make a choice to take a harder path, because it was the right thing to do.

John was only  my boss for a couple of years, before becoming a friend, with his wife and daughter. There were lots of stories on Friday much like mine - lives touched - which is wonderful, and very sad.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Just plain lines

I have finally got around to pinning up some quilts and doing some quilting. I always put off basting, and then I'm surprised when I do it and it doesn't take long after all, and I wonder why I didn't do it earlier. And while I pin I think about what kind of quilting I might do .... what might look good and what I can be bothered with. Not much, as it turns out, because the scrap and circles quilt is just getting diagonal lines.

And not even closely spaced diagonal lines. Matchstick quilting this is not. The flag red white and blue quilt has turned into half square triangles - quite large - in rows. I based it on this quilt which has a nice mix of scrappiness and coherence. Other than that not much is happening - I can't believe it's March already. Especially when it's still boiling hot - we're onto our second straight week of mid-30s temps without a break and no rain. Everything is very droopy including me and the kids. Bring on winter! I have had enough of this sun.