by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Life, the Universe, and Everything”

Is It That Time of Year Again?

Posted 22 August 2008 in by Catriona

Where the storms begin?

So I’m always being terrified by thunderbolts that come from nowhere?

And I keep getting caught in the rain, because I always forget how quickly tropical storms can come up out of nowhere?

And I forget to check BOM before I put a load of washing on, and then suddenly, out of a clear blue sky, it’s bucketing with rain?

When it can be pelting down in the front garden and still sunny in the back garden, as it is now?

When the lightning is so close that I feel the fillings jump in my mouth and I wish that my bed were higher off the ground, so I could hide under it?

Is it that time of year already?

I love that time of year.

Today's Life Lesson

Posted 21 August 2008 in by Catriona

People who walk up to where I am legally smoking, sit down next to me, and then loudly point out to each other the “No Smoking” signs several metres from where I am legally smoking irritate me intensely.

I feel that’s a valuable lesson.

Not learning it might have led to social confusion and some ill-judged friendships.

Sunset, Again

Posted 18 August 2008 in by Catriona

It’s been a long day followed by a lovely sunset, so why not combine the two in a transparent attempt to make it look as though I’m updating my blog?

Life in the Back Garden

Posted 14 August 2008 in by Catriona

I was trying to get a closer look this morning of the pair of lovely birds that our ragamuffin batch of mynahs was harassing; I have no idea what type of birds they are—and my inept Googling for Queensland birds with green tails and bright blue eye markings brought me no useful results—but they normally restrict themselves to hanging out in the palm trees. This time, they were bailed up in the bushes outside my study window, and it was unusual to see them so close.

Mind, the selfish things were more concerned with not being attacked by the mynahs, who outnumbered them four to one, than they were with holding still for me to take a photograph, so I didn’t manage to snap them in the end.

I had to settle for taking a picture of the blue-tongue, when he emerged to sun himself.

Blue-tongues freak me out a little; I’m not actually scared of them, or of any lizards, though I have a healthy Australian fear of snakes—and that’s the problem, really. Blue-tongues look far more like snakes than any self-respecting lizard should, especially when all I see is the inappropriately orange tail disappearing behind a box in the laundry, and freak out slightly.

You can’t really blame me: Australia has how many of the world’s most poisonous snakes? Almost all of them?

But when the lizard is in the garden, I’m not scared of him.

In fact, I hope his return means that we’ll soon be joined for the summer by our awesome water dragons—who make my day by throwing themselves off the roof, or climbing down the mulberry tree and then throwing themselves down the yukka as though it were a slide, or coming and lying on the verandah at my feet when it’s raining, or haring across the garden on their back legs, or occasionally wandering into the living room looking for insects.

And our bearded dragon, who’s a little less interesting, because he’s slower and closer to the ground, but who’s still nice to have around.

And our geckos, who are the great joy of my life. I don’t think people who were raised in the North can actually appreciate how strange it is to a Southerner to have these little pink lizards running freely through the house. I adore them—and am grateful that the primary insect-killing role in the house is taken by them and not, as in N.S.W., but huntsmen spiders.

We’re a lizardy household. And better that than spiders the size of teacups.

Stardust and Life Lessons

Posted 14 August 2008 in by Catriona

Nick’s gone out to a concert with two friends—a concert in which I’m not slightly interested—so I’m home alone, learning the following important life lessons while watching Stardust.

It gets a little confused, because some of the lessons have to do with me and some with the film, but I’m sure they’ll all come in useful after a while.

1. Tristan’s true love is never going to be Sienna Miller. Obviously. Although she is strangely appealing in some parts of this film.

2. I’m far too nervous to spend many evenings on my own. I’m nervous enough during the day, but I’m especially nervous during the night, because I’m a little frightened of the dark, truth be told. Too many vampire and werewolf stories as a child, I think.

I say “nervous” because it’s a neat middle ground between Nick’s preferred word “jumpy” and my default term “highly strung”—except that if I describe myself as highly strung I suspect that I sound as though I’m trying to make myself seem interesting.

3. I’m always surprised when I realise that Rupert Everett is in this film. This is, I think, the third time I’ve seen this film, and every time I forget that Rupert Everett is in it.

4. I genuinely don’t know how to operate what I will call—for want of a better word—our “home entertainment system.” By which I mean, I can’t tell the television and the DVD player remote controls apart. Before I managed to start this movie, I spent ten minutes staring alternately at the menu on the screen and then at the television remote, looking for an “enter” button.

Seriously. Ten minutes.

But I don’t feel that bad—I once watched my mother try valiantly to manipulate the television with the aid of her cordless telephone.

5. Peter O’Toole is strangely good in this, despite having such a small role and not having to cry. He’s an excellent crier, Peter O’Toole—every time he cried in Russell T. Davies’s version of Casanova, he made me want to cry.

Though now I think about it, I don’t think I ever watched the end of Casanova.

6. It’s not just the interaction between the television and the DVD player that bother me, either. I can’t operate the television alone, either. After I found the “enter” button—by double checking which remote control I was using—I then spent another few minutes trying to change the way the picture was set up, from 14.3 (or some such ratio) to Movie, so I could see everything.

Apparently, the relevant button is called “Zoom.” Does that seem plausible to anyone else?

7. Dear lord, Michelle Pfeiffer is gorgeous. If she’s had surgery, whoever’s done it is a genius. She doesn’t look exactly as she did in Ladyhawke, but she still looks amazing.

And, by a process of association controlled only by what’s on the screen, I find Nathaniel Parker strangely appealing. Tommy Linley is an annoying character, but I like Parker. Claire Danes is very sweet and pretty in this, too.

8. I’d probably be a better person if I spent more time thinking about my own life and/or real life and less time thinking about fictional worlds.

Then again, I wouldn’t be as good at my job. So it’s a trade-off.

9. I’m really glad that, despite all the fairy-tale, folklore, and nursery-rhyme elements that didn’t translate from Gaiman’s story to this, they at least kept the idea of Babylon candles. When I first heard the term, the first thing I thought was “How many miles to Babylon?” Do people still recite that nursery rhyme?

10. My parents never forbade the reading of any books. But I almost wish they’d forbade me to read Virginia Andrews. I read all of the Flowers in the Attic series and My Sweet Audrina, and I’ve regretted it for some time.

I don’ t think it would have harmed me not to read them, but I sometimes think that reading them did harm me, a little.

11. I’m very tired for some reason. I don’t think I’m at my most coherent.

12. Perhaps I should just watch the film?

More Random Photographs from the Back Garden

Posted 13 August 2008 in by Catriona

Because it’s just been that sort of day.

It seems that, despite the cold, the wistaria has decided to start blooming. It’s a small bush, and everything but this one spike is bare—I can see the budding leaves forming, but this is the only other trace of life on the entire plant.

I’m fond of wistaria; the house I grew up in (from age four to age twenty one, just before I moved up here) had an enormous wistaria clambering up over the back verandah, which seems, in retrospect, to have been always smothered in flowers. Even my mother—more an enthusiastic than a cautious pruner—never managed to kill the wistaria.

This little plant isn’t quite the same, but it’s still nice having that touch of pale purple in the garden, especially at the tail end of winter.

If There's Any Justice in the World . . .

Posted 10 August 2008 in by Catriona

Somewhere out there there’s a possum with a hacking cough and a fierce craving.

At some point during the night, an element of the local wildlife—possibly a fruitbat, I suppose, but it seems unlikely. I’m betting possum—made a mad dash for the packet of cigarettes I’d left on the sofa on the back verandah.

Not content with viciously ripping the packet apart, it also chewed the cigarettes themselves.

(Sadly, my first thought was, “Dammit, possum! I’m on a budget!”)

What I’m wondering now, though, is whether this possum was totally lacking a sense of smell?

Perhaps the packet itself looked appealing, but surely once it had torn that open, it couldn’t have found the cigarettes enticing? I know they’re dead plant matter, but do they smell appetising?

The whole thing seems distinctly odd.

I have had instances before now when I’ve emptied an ashtray, left the plastic bag on the verandah, and come back to find that an enthusiastic bush turkey has pecked holes in it and scattered the butts everywhere.

But I’ve always put that down to, firstly, the fact that the butts do look a little like grubs, I suppose, if we accept that, secondly, bush turkeys are fairly stupid.

But this possum with a fierce nicotine craving is new to me.

Things I Hate About Having A Cold

Posted 8 August 2008 in by Catriona

(Apart from having to blow your nose all the time.)

1. Inability to regulate your body temperature. I’m sitting here in direct sunlight wearing tracksuit pants, a knee-length cardigan, and truly enormous socks, and I can’t tell if I’m still freezing or I’m over-heating.

2. The wacky dreams. I think they’re a function of the symptom suppressants. Last night, I dreamt first that I had a talking mynah bird. Then I think my subconscious became bored, because my late lamented dog turned up in the dream out of nowhere, and ate the bird in a single gulp. At least that behaviour was consistent with her behaviour in life.

Then I had a dream that included, in no particular order, Stephen Fry, Oscar Wilde (no real leap there), someone whose significance to the dream’s narrative was uncertain but who was repeatedly and insistently identified as Abyssinian, some rather lovely oak-veneer bedroom furniture, and rice pudding. I think someone died, too. I’m assuming there was a story connecting all these things, but I can’t remember it.

3. The constant desire, which must be repressed, to one-up people. People keep saying, “Eeh, I’ve had an annoying day,” and it takes all my self-control not to reply, “Yeah? Well, at least you haven’t got a cold!”

Being sick makes me very selfish, apparently.

4. Forgetfulness. I’ve not noticed this specific problem previously but, for some reason, I keep forgetting today that you don’t hyphenate compound adjectives when they follow the noun, only when they precede it. So I keep having to erase things on my marking.

It seems an unusually specific symptom, but I’m blaming the cold regardless.

5. Inability to resist symptom suppressants. They really are marvellous, but I do try and take them sparingly. And then my nose starts up again, and the pressure builds in my sinuses, and I take another tablet. It’s only then that I start thinking, “Hey, that’s right. These are the things they used to make meth-amphetamines out of. Now I remember. I think I might lie down for a while.”

6. General lassitude. I’ve even run out of interesting things to add to this list, and today’s marking has been a long, slow exercise in stubbornness. (Stubbornly pushing myself through it, that is.)

Still, it could be worse. At lest I’ve finally come to acknowledge that this is a cold, not the plague, so it probably won’t be fatal.

Probably.

Curses and Blessings

Posted 7 August 2008 in by Catriona

I discovered today that I have come down with the plague.

Of course, people around me are asserting that it’s simply a cold, but I don’t believe them. (And they’re being remarkably unsympathetic: my best friend asked if she’d inherit my childhood toy when the plague killed me, while Nick’s response was, “I have a concert to go to next week! I hope I don’t catch it.”)

I suppose it really is only a cold, but I’m sick so rarely that I’m not enjoying the experience, at all. And, of course, as with all colds, it’s arrived when I have an enormous pile of marking—which needs to be turned around in three days—sitting on my desk.

I consider that a curse.

But, then, I dragged myself home from work—where I’d been intending to stay and mark through the afternoon, after my morning class, but I abandoned that idea in favour of home, comfy sofas, warm cardigans, and tea—and I found this in my letterbox:

This is a Cyberman coloured in by my elder nephew and sent to his Auntie Treena. (Or, since he’s only three and a half, sent by his mother in his name—but it’s the same thing, in the end.) That’s the sort of thing, like ducklings, that would brighten up anyone’s day.

I’m so thrilled to think I have a nephew who colours in Cybermen—I love the new series, but without children of my own, I don’t always recognise the impact the new revisioning is having on the next generation.

And I’ve always thought Cybermen would be more sinister if they had an element of the harlequinade.

Soundtrack to a Geek Life

Posted 6 August 2008 in by Catriona

I’ve been listening to Tripod—while labeling an enormous pile of assessment-criteria sheets—and it’s occurred to me that, really, when you live with a geek, and when you are a geek, there’s no other appropriate soundtrack to your life (except, perhaps, for the requisite enormous quantities of The Cure, The Smiths, New Order, VNV Nation, Rammstein, albums containing nothing but twenty different versions of the Doctor Who theme—but I’m really just diluting my point here, aren’t I?).

Specifically, I was listening to “Hot Girl in the Comic Shop” and “Gonna Make You Happy Tonight” when it occurred to me that these songs don’t make provision for the girl geek.

Now, I’m not claiming to be hot, but I’m as likely as Nick to be the one heading into the comic shop. (Though I’m not a true collector, since I largely buy trades, except for Fables. And speaking of Fables, when’s the next issue out? They’re at war, here! I need to know what’s happening. And please, please don’t kill Bigby Wolf. I’ll be terribly upset.)

And once in the comic shop, I’m as likely as Nick (who’s the true, uber-geek of the household) to drift over to the role-playing games. In fact, I have a better pedigree in table-top RPGs than Nick.

On that note, see how pretty my new Dungeons and Dragons dice are?

Nick and I have had a slight struggle over who gets to use these dice, but I maintain that the only reason we bought them was because our other two sets have exhausted their natural twenties (for me, at least) but have not yet exhausted their critical fails. Alas.

Plus, they’re pretty: even prettier than the ones I used to use for White Wolf games, which I always loved:

But, that aside, I’m also just as likely to be the one who tells Nick I just need to sit up until I’ve finished the level. It’s true: the save points are too far apart on most games. (And on Lego Indiana Jones, you can’t save until you’ve finished the level, which is likely to damage any relationship except on between two geeks.)

I don’t deny that Nick is and always will be a far greater geek than me: I may have seen every episode of Doctor Who more than once, but Nick can tell you who directed and produced each episode.

I’m just saying that, these days, girls aren’t such a rarity in comic shops.

An Unexpected Surprise

Posted 4 August 2008 in by Catriona

Every time Nick’s left the house in the past three days, he’s seen a family of ducks wandering around near the house.

Today, I came home from work and found them pottering around the back garden:

I’m only sorry the images aren’t a little clearer, but the drake became so noticeably distressed when I approached too closely—and, at his distress, the ducklings immediately disappeared under their mother’s belly—that I had to push the camera to its limits to get any photos at all.

But, really—is there ever a day so bad that it can’t be improved by ducklings?

Funniest Thing I've Read All Day

Posted 2 August 2008 in by Catriona

From this Wikipedia page:

“Marilyn Manson covered “Tainted Love” and released it as a single from the Not Another Teen Movie soundtrack.”

Ha! Edgy.

Then I kept reading, found that it has been released along with covers of “Suicide is Painless” and “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and my heart broke a little.

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