by Catriona Mills

Articles in “Life, the Universe, and Everything”

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Posted 26 November 2008 in by Catriona

I decided to put our Christmas tree up tonight, partly because I like to have it up early, or else we don’t have the advantage of it for a full month, and partly because I got a little squiffy and it seemed like a good idea at the time:

We’d never put up a tree before last year, but last Christmas I rebelled and decided I had to have a tree.

It’s a tiny little tree: according to the box, it’s something called a “Canadian Black Pine,” but I find that unlikely, since the tree also has sparkly silver and purple highlights—I’m quite certain there’s no tree in the wild, Canada or elsewhere, with that type of colouring.

But we are limited to a small tree by available space and it was this or a fluorescent pink one.

Frankly, though, the main reason I determined to put the tree up so early was because I adore my lights:

Falling in love with these lights at Tandy was a determining factor in deciding to buy a tree to display them on.

I don’t want to spoil their novelty as Christmas lights by displaying them on non-Christmas occasions, so putting them up a month before Christmas seems a fair compromise.

Some Days, The Storm Gets You

Posted 17 November 2008 in by Catriona

I’m too tired to update properly.

We spent half the morning struggling to get out to The Gap in the aftermath of yesterday’s insane storm; Nick’s mother was stuck there in a damaged house with no electricity and no phone, since she doesn’t have second sight and didn’t know to charge her mobile phone up before the suburb was stomped by what they’re calling the worst storm in twenty-five years.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

And we saw almost all of The Gap, since the suburb is essentially inaccessible once Waterworks Road is cut off—which it was, with both trees and downed powerlines. So we circled through the back streets first on one side of Waterworks Road and then on the other, until we finally found a way through.

We thought the storm was one of the most severe we’ve ever had, and all we got was heavy, heavy rain and some winds.

Apparently, the winds out at The Gap were 120-130 km per hour.

It looks, if you can visualise this, as though someone took a whippersnipper to the suburb.

Every road was littered with tree branches.

All the power was down until the next suburb. It’s still down now, more than twenty-four hours later.

Even the treeline on the hills was denuded—every piece of greenery for a seven-kilometre radius is circling down a storm drain somewhere. You can see houses that were invisible behind greenery yesterday: from my mother-in-law’s back verandah, you can see the nearby dam through the gaps where the trees used to be.

We saw trees with girths of one-and-a-half or two metres snapped off, or pulled from the ground by the roots.

We saw bits of corrugated-iron roofing twisted and wrapped around tree trunks, metal playground equipment lying in pieces, fences smashed into kindling.

I’ve never seen anything like it, not even when I was caught in the 2000 storm in Sydney, the damage from which took nine months to fully repair.

In a way, I’m glad not to have taken my camera out—it would have felt exploitative.

But I’m ever more glad I wasn’t there for the storm, that my mother-in-law’s house wasn’t more badly damaged, and that I don’t need to drive in those conditions again.

Things I Have Just Found Under My Desk

Posted 14 November 2008 in by Catriona

We have a house inspection coming up, and I’m determined that the study will be spotless for this one: the rest of the house usually is, but the study is often dusty and cluttered, since it’s the smallest room in the house and crammed full of papers and books.

And when house inspections come up right when I’m due to submit my Ph.D., or in the first week of teaching for the semester, or when I have a pile of marking towering over me, then I never have the chance to do the cleaning as thoroughly as I’d like.

But this time there’s no excuse: plus, my parents will be visiting in a fortnight, so if I give the house a thorough cleaning now, they’re less likely to run their fingers over the furniture when they arrive.

One of the spots I’ve always ignored was a pile of papers resting on an archive box (also, oddly, full of papers) sitting under my desk. It was a neat pile, but dusty and, as it turns out, full of unnecessary rubbish.

So I thought I’d clear all that out this afternoon. And, in addition to an enormous pile of papers from four or five years ago that were completely unnecessary, I found the following rather more unusual items:

1. An unopened pack of eight, bright-yellow, microwave-safe, extra-strong plastic plates. I have no idea what they were doing there. Seriously—no idea. Or how long they’d been there.

2. Two pictures of my brother: one from the newspaper back when he was still working as a chef and one from when he was a toddler, with the world’s most adorable cat sleeping on him.

The latter is such a gorgeous picture that I almost added to this post, but felt that if he ever reads the blog, he’d probably kill me.

3. The instructions for operating my stove-top kettle. That kettle is brilliant: it’s burnt orange and makes a grotesque screaming noise when it’s boiling. But we became frustrated with it—it took three times longer to boil than the electric kettle—and I think it’s now in the back of a cupboard somewhere. But the instructions are under my desk, for reasons unknown.

4. A name-tag from when I was still the Words editor for M/C Reviews—that was a while ago. I assume this was from a function at some point: I don’t recall just making up my own name-tag and wearing it around the house.

It’s possible, I suppose.

5. A picture of a sea otter cut out of the newspaper. Self-explanatory, really: who doesn’t adore sea otters?

6. Two photographs of my mother. She used to send us those wallet-sized pictures when she was still teaching and had annual photographs taken with her classes. I have no idea why they’re under my desk (though there’s at least one, and possibly two, more stuck to my fridge).

Still, at least she and my brother are equal.

7. Two Ginger Meggs cartoons to do with language—including one on gerunds that I should probably start using in lectures. If only they hadn’t gone that unpleasant yellowy colour that old newspapers always go . . .

8. Two (what is it with the pairs of things?) Lord of the Rings character cards that probably came out of chip packets. I can understand why I kept Aragorn, but I’m less certain why I kept Merry.

9. A print-out of the Geek Hierarchy, which—frighteningly—is starting to look less like a joke and more like a map of my life.

10. A receipt for the online purchase of a book called Their Chastity Was Not Too Rigid, which sounds like Victorian porn, but it actually a book about leisure activities in early colonial New South Wales.

No, honestly. It is.

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