Posted in Life

On clutter …

I don’t like clutter: things scattered haphazardly on any available surface, all inviting tiny molecules of dust to settle on them, all moving of their own accord to look out of alignment and to crowd together in a state of general untidiness.

On Thursday morning last week, Tim and I arrived back in the state with a car bursting with … well, it’s not the technical term but I’m going to call it “stuff”. The man at the quarantine check in Devonport had been mightily impressed with my packing skills, saying that he’d never seen a vehicle so well-packed. If a car could be said to be stuffed full – our car was it.

Tim had to go back to work that morning and I had to collect a hire car to drive for a little over two hours to do a school visit. Our car stayed stuffed.

On Friday morning Tim headed back to work and I only had an hour’s drive to visit another school, so I spent half an hour unpacking the car.

A full thirty minutes and there was barely a dent in the stuff still packed in the car. In fact, Tim walked past it that afternoon and didn’t even notice that the car was no longer bursting.

But when I walked into the lounge room, I could tell. Stuff everywhere. Bags of unidentified belongings, pillows, doonas, blankets, sheets, photos, canvases, others’ art works we’ve gathered over the years, trinkets, clothes, old school reports, information kits of one kind or another (do you reckon it’s too late to do the bowel test I got a kit for two years ago?) … even a bag of coat hangers. All dumped in the lounge room, and the hallway, and the bathroom, and our bedroom, and the guest room and my study. Oh, and the kitchen.

And look, even in the laundry. How could one car hold so much?

It reminded me of what my house used to look like when I was the mother of four young children. Stuff everywhere. No semblance of order. No rhyme or reason why any of it was where it was – it just was. And it was mostly covered in dried weetbix or porridge …

When we lived in Queensland, the neighbour’s little boy once told his mother that he really liked my car … because it had everything you could ever want in it! A very polite way of saying it was a mess.

And that’s what the house looked like on Friday morning. And it looked exactly the same on Friday evening when I returned from the school I’d visited. Tim arrived home from work, had a spurt of energy and finished unloading the car. There was barely enough floor, couch, table, bed, desk space for it all. We cleared a space on the couch to sit, and did our best to ignore it all. It oozed untidiness from every corner.

On Saturday morning, despite the prospect of a four hour drive north, I was up at 5am putting the bathroom in order. You can only imagine the strong sense of satisfaction I felt when everything fitted in the cupboard in an orderly way!

Out of the safe (i.e. tidy) confines of the bathroom, I felt burdened by the piles and piles and piles of things. What is all this stuff? Where did it come from? Had the neighbours added to it while I wasn’t looking?  And where was it all going to go? We’d thought the house was already full, but now we had to find extra places for the litter of possessions covering every surface.

Now that I no longer have little children, I like things neat. Well-ordered. Straight. A bed that’s made makes for a much neater room than an unmade bed; a kitchen bench that’s unencumbered with every utensil known to humankind is a delight to behold; a lounge room floor that is not a trip hazard makes me a happy girl. Pencils lying on a desk look better when they’re straight. A box of tissues on the fridge looks neater when it’s straight. A pile of mail on the table … you get the idea.

And so to Sunday morning. De-clutter day. What a great day! By Sunday afternoon we had bags and bags (and bags) of things we didn’t want, ready to take to an op shop; we had bags and bags of rubbish (why did we keep that and that or … goodness, what is that?) and best of all we had beautifully organised cupboards and drawers.

And yes, just in case you’re wondering, my sock drawer has straight rows of socks. If I was home I’d take a picture – it really looks that good!

Even my mother, the queen of unclutter, would be impressed.

Just don’t open that cupboard Mum!

Posted in Learning, Life

On moving …

On August 18, 1986, as a 24 year old mother of four young children, I moved from Brisbane to Tasmania; from being surrounded by family, to a place where we had no family; from a city to a sheep farm; from the relative warmth of a Queensland winter to the depths of a Tasmanian one.

I felt sentenced, although unsure of the length of my sentence.


It turns out my sentence was 27 years, 10 months, and 22 days (or thereabouts).

On Wednesday 25th June, 2014, my sentence ended.

Despite the ‘sentence’, Tasmania ended up being a good place to live – a cold one and I have complained often and bitterly over the years about the cold – but looking back it’s easy to focus on the good parts of living in the state that’s been the butt of mainlanders’ jokes for many years.

During my 27 years and a bit years, I (in no particular order):
* ran a general store in a very small country town
* had a fifth child
* worked in community radio
* completed an undergraduate degree specialising in English and Drama teaching
* taught in a high school and a senior secondary college
* got my bus licence
* taught Drama and English and Tourism Studies
* completed Cert IV in Workplace Training and Assessment
* worked for ABC Local Radio as a producer and presenter
* began A Kick in the Arts – a weekly community radio arts program
* returned to university and completed a PhD
* became an academic and took on a range of leadership roles
* was the chair of a local theatre company for a time
* lived in the north-east, the north-west, and the north – and then the north-west and then the north and then the north-west
* divorced
* re-married 19 years later
* undertook the year-long Tasmanian Leaders Program
* travelled to the mainland whenever I could
* travelled to New Zealand twice, then Scotland and England one year, to Paris and Germany the next and then to France, Italy and Germany the one after that
* published a number of journal articles, book chapters, and conference papers
* edited a textbook
* presented papers in Christchurch, Glasgow, Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, and Launceston
* welcomed eight grandchildren into the world
* taught more students than I could ever remember
* supervised four PhD candidates to completion
* put on lots of weight
* lost even more
* met some truly wonderful people


I moved to Tasmania because of my (then) husband’s job.

Almost 28 years later, I’ve moved away from Tasmania because of my (now) husband’s job.


It’s unsettling, this moving business. Sorting out possessions stashed in dark corners of cupboards; throwing out; packing up; spending weekends in Melbourne and week days in Burnie; moving between … between living with my husband in Melbourne on weekends and living with one of my daughters and her two sons through the week. Not feeling like either place is home … one new place that isn’t really mine, and the old, familiar place that is now filled with boys’ toys and laughter and tears and hugs and bubble baths – changed, in a good way, but not really mine. Moving between having my husband cook me dinner on the weekends and cooking dinner for my daughter through the week … between gyms … between relying on public transport and having no public transport … between there and here … and here and there.

My husband and I called two different places home … it was confusing for a time. Where? Oh, that home.

A long time in transition – four months of living between. Not long, looking back … but it felt long living through it.

And now it’s done. The final move … three trips across Bass Strait in five days, each rougher than the one before. Unpacking the car, finding dark corners of cupboards to stash our things, having one home rather than two.

I don’t feel sentenced, in this new place.

I already feel more connected.

And less.



Posted in Life

Strange familiarity

I’m typing on a familiar computer, in a familiar corner of the big room upstairs, but the table is unfamiliar and therefore the act of typing is different.

While the corner of the room is familiar – it’s where my desk has been for the past four years and three months – the room itself is different.

Downstairs, in the kitchen, I open the drawer for a glass and it’s different. Not a different drawer or a different glass, but the drawer is emptier and therefore the experience of choosing a glass is different.

I step into my bedroom and the familiar bed and bedside table are there, but the rest is different. Chester is no longer where it’s been for the past four years and three months; the bookshelf full of mementos from former students and books with hard covers is gone; even Tim’s sock drawer cupboard is no longer there. Tim’s side of the wardrobe is now full of my clothes – what’s he going to wear, I wonder, for the next week/s?

Things are different within the familiarity of each room. There’s a piano in my dining room; a spider plant occupies the space where my pedestal used to stand in the lounge room; a canvas of a scene from Natone is on the wall where a scene from Scottsdale used to hang. The TV is smaller and the screen that covered the mess of cords is gone. Not so the mess of cords!

It’s disconcerting. Strange.

I open the pantry and immediately feel to comfort of the familiar; I stand there, like an old lady who’s forgotten what she went to the pantry for, just to feel the refreshment of familiarity.

But the fridge is different and the cutlery drawer is full of plastic knives and forks. I am disconcerted again.

I look in the mirror and see my familiar face, and it’s the same … but not quite. There’s a change, a small one, but a change nevertheless. I had forgotten, and for a moment am caught out. Then look away, seeking the familiar.

But at every turn, something has changed. It’s strangely familiar, but just as strangely unfamiliar.




It’s not comfortable.

Posted in Learning, Travel

Lesson #5

1984. Brisbane, Qld. An overnight train ride from Sydney to Murwillumbah, then a two hour drive to Brisbane.

A hotel room. Just one.

This was our new home until we found a house to live in.

Two weeks later. We found a house. It was empty, the carpet was green and leaves were scattered across the lounge room floor.

An empty house. No beds, no fridge, no table, no chairs. (The truck with our furniture was travelling at a snail’s pace from the south coast of NSW).

There was nothing in the house, except me and three children.

Their father went to work each morning, and that left me, a five year old, a three year old and a four month old to play hide and seek in an empty house.

One week later. It was hot and the cheese melted, so we bought a fridge.

The box added to the places we could hide in, in our daily games of hide and seek.

One week later. The truck finally arrived and the house filled up.


It was another beginning.

Our lives are full of beginnings: some are low key – we begin a new book and we have to get used to the tone, the author’s style, the language choices the author has made, the characters. If the transition to this new book and all it contains is relatively easy, we keep reading. If something jars – the number of times a character stumbles as she walks into a room, for instance, or we read that the male character cocks his head seventeen times in two pages – we put it down.

Some beginnings are more substantial: a new relationship, enrolling in a university course, moving from Kinder to Grade 1, moving interstate.


1986. Ringarooma, Tasmania. A flight from Brisbane to Launceston, then a two hour drive to Ringarooma. It was cold, the road was unlike roads we were used to. Narrow, windy, hilly, pot-holed.

Clouds clung to the hills; it was damp and grey. August. Winter. We’d thought winter in Brisbane was cold, but this was something else.

A farmhouse … a big one, a cold one. No heating except an open fire in the kitchen. There was nothing in this big, cold house, except me and four children.

Their father went to work each morning, and that left me, a seven year old, a five year old, a two year old and a five month old to play hide and seek in a big, cold, empty farmhouse.


Another beginning. This time away from family and friends, away from the warmth, away from civilisation even. We lived in a sheep farm out of town, (and it wasn’t even a big town).

How we manage the beginnings we have in our lives depends on our strength and our resilience. It depends on our expectations and how we cope with difference and change and it depends on the understanding of others.


The farmer’s wife brought scones for morning tea. She’d used bi-carb soda instead of flour, but it was a lovely gesture.