It’s happening. I may be turning into a semi-hipster.


It's a craft thing.

It’s a craft thing.

It’s the craft thing, see.

It started with an innocent workshop at the local library.

Crochet your own granny square. I always wanted to do that. There was one space left. And so, braced as I was against an earth-shattering hangover one Saturday, I learned how to crochet (a granny square).

A year later, I have over 60 and I’m still crocheting.

Granny squares

Next, I caught myself planting succulent cuttings in shells.

Shells with succulents

For a while, there was also some baking happening in my life. But we won’t talk about that.

I got craftier.

I bound banksia pods in aged old bamboo steamers, then attached orchids.

Banksia garden art

I hung shell strands from trees. Sketched stuff. Contemplated pom pom pictures.

Then, I found myself googling “How to make a rag rug”.

I may need help.


The beeman cometh


Tim knows bees

Tim knows bees


If West End has the highest occurrence of native bee hives in the country, it’s probably due to Dr Tim Heard.

Tim’s an entomological original: one of the pioneer native bee-keepers who’s been dabbling since the 1980s. He wrote an early article about them in Nature magazine in the 1990s. He’s done time on Gardening Australia.

He’s also keeping an eye on the hives he installs around the neighbourhood. Every year or so, Tim’s “hive crawl” sees amateur bee-people* crowding each other’s verandahs and gardens while Tim demonstrates hive splitting and honey extraction.

Stormtrooper beekeeper

Stormtrooper beekeeper

Last weekend, we were fortunate to have Tim attend to our back deck hive, with a swathe of spectators in tow. (We’d amassed a dozen or so curious kids from around the neighbourhood, too.) Stingless bees don’t sting, but they do give you a little nip if they’re really testy. As soon as the hive was disturbed, the little blighters started swarming. You could tell the blokes who’d done this before. They were the ones wearing hats.

The kids hanging around soon dispersed. Many took souvenir bee pets away in their hair. My youngest found a creative way to stay bee-free, while indulging his Star Wars thing.

*I’m trying to avoid the terms “apiary” and “apiarist”. These terms are derived from “Apis”, which is the scientific term for the honeybee species. “Trigona” and “Austroplebiea” are the genera that Australian stingless bees fall under. In case you were wondering.


Robbing the hive

We started with the honey. Tim prised the top layer off the three-tiered hive. This is where the bees have constructed their honeycomb: it’s food storage for the hive.

Bees store honey "pods" in this top layer.

Bees store honeycomb in this top layer.

In our case, sadly, the bees had also added a bit too much pollen, so our honey was deemed “not ideal”.

Pricking the honeycomb

Pricking the honeycomb

The honeycomb — the wax pots holding the honey — was pricked with a sinister-looking device: it’s like a scrubbing brush whose bristles have been replaced by nails. The whole layer was then inverted over a wide container so that the honey could drain out, while we focussed on splitting the hive.

Pollen tastes ok when it’s first been smashed, but too much doesn’t make  lovely honey. It’s chewy. The honey resting around the edges of the hive is nicer. You lick that stuff up on your fingers for hours.

When the honey had drained from this first honeycomb pressing, Tim strained it again into a container. (When he’d left, I passed it through butter muslin, twice.) It’s not too sweet, tasting a little smoky, a little fruity. I’ve left it a couple more days, and have noticed pollen has risen to the top. I’ll separate it again, to get really pure honey, but this is probably overkill.

We ended up with about half a kilo of honey, which Tim said was not much.



Our hive was nearly 2 years old, and heavy, man. It was ready to split.

First, the middle layer was carefully removed. Usually, the advancing front (the top layer of the brood’s spiralling structure) would have filled up into this section, and the hive could be split across these two sections. However, our brood was still mainly in the bottom section, surrounded by pollen and honey structures. Tim had to slice a section out, and physically rest it into the new hive box. This box was then placed upside down (so the brood didn’t collapse) in the old hive’s position. We’ll turn it over in about three months, when the bees have created enough structure to support it.

The other hive sat on a chair for a day while we figured out where to put it. (We probably should have planned ahead.) The next night, we put it in the front garden. We did this after sunset, when the bees were inside.

Since the split, we’ve had what the kids call bee wars around the hive on the back deck. This is when another swarm comes and fights your swarm. I’m not sure why; I’ll email the bee man and ask.

Bee swarm

Bee wars


Check out Tim’s videos on hive architecture, splitting hives, and extracting honey.

You can also find Tim at his website.

Writing update

If you’ve been following this blog for a few years (and hello to both of you!) you may remember I finished a novella draft over a year ago. And promptly hid the bugger in a drawer, sick of the sound of my own headspace.

Well, I just gave it another edit, and still don’t like it much. Should I chuck it? Start on something more grown-up? Or send this one out to the wolves… that is, call for some kind/unkind/constructive reader feedback?

Self indulgent chunk of flash memoir

Memoir. It really should be avoided by all but those with the most interesting, important, timely, or unique stories.

Oh well, tough. I just pulled another old writing exercise out of its box. It’s none of the above. This one’s being set free today because it’s my Superbowl story. It’s also an Ekka story. Does that send you running, screaming in the other direction?

wool parades 2013

Click these lovelies to read “Ekka”

Ros had encouraged me to play with flash pieces: it’s her fault. At least flash memoir is brief.

For the reading list

A visit to the local secondhand bookstore over the holidays wasn’t enough (bagging Malouf, Lessing, Armanno, Lewycka, Modjeska, Murakami, Astley); we fell into the Lifeline Bookfest on the weekend.

Some goodies

Some goodies

I think we came home with about 100 books. The joy was in stumbling into titles that have always been on the “to-read” list: Silent Spring. Cry, The Beloved Country. Slaughterhouse 5. Rabbit, Run. Tender is the Night. My Brother Jack. Gathering some more of latest lit-obsession, Doris Lessing. And Atwood, Steinbeck, Proulx, Scott Fitzgerald, Frame, Waugh, Somerset Maugham, Irving. Replacing my lost copy of Bonjour Tristesse.

Now, for some time to read, perhaps?


It will be the year of structure.

I will make time to write, corral little chunks of hours. Things will be produced*. (*I will find an alternative to the passive voice to avoid that overexposed personal pronoun.)

I have been guilty of calling myself a writer with little to back it up. Let’s be honest.

The latest edition of Island contains an essay, Public Writers, Private Lives, that resonates. Island editor, Matthew Lamb, sniffs “there are a lot of talkers out there”. Lamb will not call himself a writer until he has three books published. Good for him. Guess I am a talker. Also, a mother, event producer, communication consultant, freelancer, critic, gardener, publicist, social media gnat, school volunteer, environmental campaigner, friend, and corporate writer/editor. But writer? Underpublished, unpaid. Fraud. How dare I use this undeserved label, “writer”?

To the library

Recently, for the sake of conversational amusement over the party season, I heard myself describing my being a writer as “going through my rejection phase”. Ha ha, snort. 2013 was a year of occasional literary rejection. Good for the spirit.

Must a writer be published to a predetermined level before earning her name? For me, a writer is one who simply must write. Hell, it’s not for the dosh. (According to this report, the average income for Australian writers is $11,000.) Writing is surrendering to the compulsion to deliver these chains of words somewhere. This screen, that notebook, that toilet wall. Even if (like this blog!!!) very few people even read it. Does the audience even count?

Does the audience count? With this in mind, I release below a piece I’ve sent off as a writing sample to two of last years rejecters. Perhaps it’s rubbish. Perhaps I come across as quite a wanker. It’s part of a series of flash writing that my mentor, Ros Petelin, suggested I play around with: stuff that I use as a writing exercise.

Decadent boredom

Decadent boredom

The night they freed Nelson Mandela

The night they freed Nelson Mandela we threw a party. The strange thing about this party was that it didn’t take place at our house on Honour Avenue in Chelmer, because that was the house of impromptu parties. Living with someone in a band meant you ended up living with most of the band. Initially JC, Jacinta, and I moved into the Honour Ave house. Jamie moved in later, after a sojourn in Aspen. (He was preppy to our grunge.) Jacinta’s boyfriend Bish lived with us on weekends, when he was down from studying in Gatton. Ian may as well have lived there. Missy, too. It was awesome.
 Most of us decamped to my friend Mez’s place the night they freed Nelson Mandela, because her parents were away, of course. We played drinking games and danced and skinnydipped. After all, we were 19. We woke in the morning to find JC asleep in a baby’s travel cot. Can’t remember who put him in there.
…want more? Here’s the full piece.

Laura Street Festival 2013

Laura Street Festival is one of the greatest. As usual, I’m not great at sticking a phone camera up and digitising the best bits of life:

The lovely little stages on verandas, in back gardens, in garages, under houses

The awesomeness of bands like Lawrence and Clare, playing to a couple handfuls of lucky us sprawled on beanbags and tarps

Sunset from the top of the hill

Gardens full of banana trees and hippies

My son’s arm-dancing


The creativity

The love


But here are a couple of pics taken self-consciously.

Teen music *not Beiber*

Last night, I met a charming young Scot, a relative of my partner.

Flying back today, he mentioned disappointment in not being able to find more old Go Betweens albums on vinyl in the record stores he visited in Aus. He runs a monthly indie night back home and is a fan of these, as well as some NZ Flying Nun stuff, etc. Which, of course, got us talking about indie 80s music, and had me promising to send a list of some bands from waaaaay back then that he should check out.

Oh, my.

My musical nous has atrophied. But to remember the bands I used to see, underage, the gigs we snuck into… What fun.

Livid festival

The greatest festival in the world

So instead of any productive work that should be happening on this computer right now*, here we go.

It’s timely; I’ve just watched the poignant “The Sunnyboy”, which may be still available on iView, so there’s a good start. (No, it’s not, and it’s geoblocked; that’s no help. Here’s a link to the promo for the doco: not the same…) So we’ll start there.

A list, youtube links, for Stephen.

The Sunnyboys. Listen to everything. Start with Happy Man. Dance with Discipline. Come back to Australia and come and see them play next year. I’ve got my ticket.

So, you’re across the Go Betweens. Which would lead to The Triffids next, perhaps?

Surely you know The Saints? But if not…

The Church. Earlier and later.

Riptides, which must progress to GANGajang, for logic. And an alternative backpacker anthem. Although it doesn’t quite seem to fit here.

And, of course, Huxton Creepers (wish I could get hold of the whole Rock Arena show this is from).


If we’re dancing, it would be remiss to not play Lime Spiders’ Slave Girl.


Hunters and Collectors… Hoodoo GurusFlowers… Paul Kelly.

The rest of this iceberg you can google, yourself: Scientists. The Stems. Died Pretty. Cosmic Psychos. Laughing Clowns. Nick Cave. Celibate Rifles. TISM. The Johnnys. Regurgitator. Ups and Downs. Beasts of Bourbon.

Yothu Yindi.

…and that’s a quick half hour playing with the mid- to late- 80s. Imagine adding the 90s. This post would never get finished.

One more. In youth’s memory.


As an aside: Why are there no women here? Because my teenage musical taste was a manifest form of latent self-loathing? Nope. There were chicks on my record player, just not Australian chicks. Those ladies arrived in the 90s.



*Besides, it’s day 7 of Mac-ownership, and I may already be agreeing with Franzen. I don’t know if these cool machines are meant for serious writing. The keys seem too glib.


Discovering Harvey Graham.

I’ve been back working with Brisbane Arcade recently, for its 90th birthday celebrations.

I love Brisbane Arcade: its bloody history, its Art Deco bone structure, and its personalities — many of whom I got to know when I was marketing manager there a decade ago. For the 90th, I’ve had the exceeding good fortune to work with the current (awesome) marketing manager and a canny publicist. The luxury of a team of three! Just like Charlie’s Angels.


Faye Rolf in Royce Facy

How gorgeous is Faye Rolph? This is one of Royce Facy’s clippings.

As well as event production, this time around, part of my work involved researching past arcade tenants, particularly fashion tenants. And it’s been a joyful little voyage of discovery. I’ve been able to reminisce with designers including Royce Facy, a local treasure. Revisit the RAQ awards (always just a little self-conscious, those televised 80s/90s galas) and the women who would have been supermodels, had they grown up in a city with greater prospect than this “big country town”. Giggle at blowsy advertising claims in old Trove searches. Try to imagine a retail environment where a store that only sold umbrellas made perfect sense. (Or an arcade where two successful dancewear stores thrived for years, facing off at opposite ends of the balcony level…)

Anthony Leigh Dower and Libby Bowley at the RAQ Awards

Anthony Leigh Dower and Libby Bowley at the RAQ Awards


The process has encouraged a contemplation of the nature of history, of what gets remembered (often that which is uploaded, or oft-copied). The creating of history through the telling. Wars that are described by the victors and all that.

Has which chosen history a Wikipedia page?

Serious modelling: Royce Facy designs in 1980

Serious modelling: Royce Facy designs in 1980


I’ve met a talented man who doesn’t have a Wikipedia page (yet).

I thought I’d met, or heard about, a fair swathe of southeast Queensland’s dressmakers and designers from the second half of last century. Surrounded by talk of them since my first after-school job, selling paper patterns in the family business, I sold fabric and haberdashery to most of Brisbane’s dressmakers over a couple of decades in the rag trade. So it was near-mortifying to only be introduced to the designer Harvey Graham so recently.

Serendipitously, as we were planning the Arcade’s 90th events, a southside vintage store had taken delivery of a pristine Harvey Graham collection from a deceased estate, and Andra our publicist had made contact. These outfits were gorgeous: late 60s and early 70s, neat. Adorable.

I googled him: nothing, save an oblique nod to his awesome taste in architecture. (The Graham House in Indooroopilly, noted by Rob Riddel as one of Brisbane’s key mid-century designs, is now a vacant block for sale.)

But then I started talking to people who’d remember.

“Your grandmother loved Harvey Graham,” said my mum. “He was her favourite of the city designers.”

My dad remembered his cool car, of course, and also his consummate elegance.

Others remembered his attention to detail: Buttonholes of perfection. Belts to make you swoon. Trim detail matched only by Helena Kaye, or his arcade neighbour, Gwen Gillam: a designer who one fashionista with a longer memory whispered “wasn’t as good as Harvey, but she was louder.”

But the internet didn’t remember him, and a tip from local fashion insider Michael Marendy led me to one grainy picture of the confirmed bachelor.


Brisbane designer Harvey Graham

Harvey Graham, alias “Sir Bernard”


Harvey Graham’s salon moved from South Brisbane to Brisbane Arcade in the 1960s, and remained there until the early 1980s.

He’s back in there right now, and there’ll be a long-overdue Harvey Graham parade next Friday.


I can’t wait. It’s nice to give back some kind of history, even if it’s just a shout into the www abyss.


You can read an article I wrote about the fashion designers of Brisbane Arcade, as part of Brisbane Arcade’s 90th , here.


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