Sunday, 16 July 2017

Home is where the heart is ... and the soul ... and the personality ... and a truckload of nude scultures.

I love houses. 
Apartments. 
Homes.
Because home is where the heart is.
And all the stuff that's unique to the residents of that particular home.

I'll admit that I might be a little obsessed with homes at the moment  because we're building one and trying to sell another. But, honestly,  I've been house-happy for a long time. 

When I was little, I didn't like dolls, but I loved doll houses. I built my own doll house when I was ten and spent every precious cent of my pocket money furnishing it with fine timber furniture. 

One of my most precious possessions is a house plan drawn by one of my Grade 2 students a number of years ago. He sat down beside me and explained that it was designed for himself and his future wife. He pointed out every detail, including his bedroom on the ground floor, the solar panels on the roof and his wife's bedroom two storeys up. And then, as though offering me the crown jewels, he said, 'You can keep it if you like.' I did like and I will keep it forever and always.

I doodle houses and draw houses and paint towns full of houses all the time. It verges on the obsessive. (Maybe I'm being soft on myself by saying 'verges'!)


I love looking at homes and often drive to a new suburb to walk the dog. Just so that I can walk past a whole new set of houses. 

When I travel to other towns for work, I spend my free daylight hours walking the streets looking at houses. 

When I'm overseas, one of my favourite ways to explore a new town or city is to walk the back-streets, away from the touristy sites, and look at houses. Houses reveal so much about a culture and climate.





And when I'm walking the streets on a house-gawk,  it's an absolute bonus if there's a naked window through which I can see the lounge room, kitchen or bedroom.  Not because I'm hoping to spy on people, but because I want to see how they arrange their personal spaces. The interiors of houses are even more telling than the exteriors. Looking at a lived-in room is like looking into a person's heart and soul. 

My favourite part of the weekend papers is the article in Sunday Life that features someone's home. My favourite magazine is Country Style
I love the articles that feature homes that are quirky, even slightly weird, but a true reflection of the owner's life and passions: the horse-lover's converted barn with saddles and harnesses hanging over the back of the couch; the ceramic artist's kitchen full of daggy pottery jugs and vases - the kind we all tossed out once the seventies were past; the antique collector's living room with moose-heads and railway clocks and dark-and-dirty  oil-paintings hanging from every inch of wall space.

Homes are wonderful. 
Because homes tell a story.
A fascinating story about the owner.

I love it when I enter a person's home for the first time and have an 'Aha!' moment.

'Aha! That's just what I expected their home to look like - stacks of books from floor to ceiling, a heart-shaped box of chocolates on the side table, an open fire filling the room with warmth and welcome.'

'Aha! They stuff their dead pets and display them in the lounge room.  I didn't expect that, but it explains a thing or two.'

'Aha! Purple floral curtains and orange shag-pile carpet. And it's all brand new. Bold. Interesting. And a little disturbing... Even more disturbing than a menagerie of stuffed animals.'

Once, we visited a couple whose home looked like a display home. Everything was completely new - even the crockery from which we ate - and there was not a single personal item on display. Not even a photo or a dog bowl. I felt like they were hiding something. Or, even worse, that they had so little personality that they had absolutely nothing to hide.


I'm wondering what our home says about us
Is the story it tells true?

Our house has just gone on the market, so there'll be a string of strangers wandering through in the coming weeks. 
What will be the first thing people notice when they come through our front door? 
Will they think it odd that I display old leather cricket balls and lawn bowls in a tray, like some people display fresh fruit? 
Will they wonder at the stacks of ancient prayer books and hymn books? 
Will they cringe at the pitchfork in the corner and wonder if I use it to discipline my children or if my husband uses it to keep me at bay?
Is it strange that I hang lanterns and gourds from the kitchen ceiling? That I have many birdcages but no birds? That I fill glass jars with doll furniture, sea urchins, bird nests and garlic flowers?
Will people think it rude that the garden is filled with sculptures of naked ladies? 
Will they laugh at the photos of my husband with a pigeon sitting on his head?

Will people see creativity or insanity in my home? Order or chaos? Good taste or bad?

Maybe they'll see all these things.
Because, after all, home is where the heart is.  
And the soul.
And the personality.
And a truckload of nude sculptures, home-made but artfully displayed amidst the trees.





A sample of the photos, just in case you were wondering...





Friday, 7 July 2017

Wabi-sabi

Wabi-sabi. 
Now there's something I can truly embrace.
No, it's not a Japanese soup or a new breed of fluffy white dog.
It's a way of life.

Wabi-sabi is a Japanese idea that says imperfection is beautiful. 
In nature. 
In household objects.
In people.
In life.
We can find loveliness and contentment in what we have, here and now, rather than aspiring for a life filled with new, sleek, perfect things.
Sounds good, doesn't it? 



I read about wabi-sabi in the weekend papers and have read a few articles online since.
I may have over-simplified it in my mind - and in my description above.
But I don't really care. 
I just love the idea of not only accepting imperfection, but recognising it as truly beautiful.

The idea, of course, is not exclusive to the Japanese.
I believe many of us practise a form of wabi-sabi every day:

  • The gardener who delights in the fallen autumn leaves littering the grass and the self-seeded jonhnny jump ups invading the gravel path.
  • The woman who won't let her husband paint the chook shed beause the peeling paint looks so pretty.
  • The man who sees beauty in his ageing wife's wrinkles and grey hairs.
  • The op-shopper who gets excited by worn wicker baskets, chipped jugs and warped wooden tennis rackets.

I got the wabi-sabi bug. I started thinking about the things in my own life that are imperfect and truly lovely. Things both big and small, inanimate and living...

Old books 
I have old prayer books and hymn books from Sweden, Norway and Australia. They belonged to our great grandparents and feel like treasure. The ones I love most have leather covers worn as smooth a silk. 
I have faded Astrid Lindgren picture books with Danish text that were read to my husband as bedtime stories when he was a little boy. 
And I have battered old editions of Seven Little Australians and We of the Never Never that fill me with awe every time I touch them. (I know. It's weird, but true!)

Our leather lounge
Bought when the children were babies, it's had everything spilt on it (and tiddled and spewed on it!). The cushions are squished out of shape. The nubuck leather is worn shiny on the seats and armrests. And there's a cluster of holes in a flap of leather at one end where our pet rat, Scampers, made a meal of it. Really made a meal of it. She didn't even ask for the salt or the tomato sauce. She just hoofed in. 
I love this lounge. It still looks fabulous in a squishy, friendly sort of way and it records some of our family history in its scars.

Freckles
Freckles is home-made and has been a part of my life for forty-six years. My mum knitted her. She's not sophisticated by today's dolly standards. She doesn't cry or blink or wee or speak. She doesn't have a boyfriend called Ken or a shoe collection to rival that of Imelda Marcos. Rather, she oozes old-fashioned charm with her embroidered freckles, wiry wool plaits and faded silk ribbons.

Freckles snuggling up to Honey Bear.
Old toys are the best toys.  
Old boots
The ones I wear in the garden. They're tough and rough and comfy and have a lovely patina created through years of contact with sand, soil and horse manure.

Old Relatives
They have grey hair and wrinkles.  They fear the cold more than they fear tsunamis, snakes and nuclear missiles. They slip into their jarmies and dressing gowns at 5 pm no matter what's happening in the evening. They have gammy hips and dodgy hearing and complicated boxes for their medication. They wear each other's glasses and wonder why the newspaper's blurry. And they're fabulous. 
Old rellies have lots of love and lots of time. Time to chat. Time to ask about your joys and successes. Time to listen to your deepest darkest problems and tell you everything will be okay and make you truly believe it. Time to go for long drives in the country. Time to have that second glass of champagne.  Time to give you goodnight hugs and kisses. 
Morning lie-in with two of my gorgeous aunties
and a book of cryptic crosswords.
Old rellies also have time to help with crossword clues
you just can't get, no matter how hard you try.
And so I say: Go forth my friends and wabi-sabi yourselves stupid. 
It's far more relaxing, enjoyable and attainable than aiming for perfection.

What are the wabi-sabi wonders in your life?


Saturday, 1 July 2017

Ramblings and meetings and greetings - tasting the country life


I'm excited.
Truly ruly excited.
We're escaping to the country. Or, given that we already live in a small regional town, I should say that we're escaping to the even-more-country.
I think I've mentioned it before.
Perhaps a hundred times.

But I'm mentioning it again because stuff is happening.
You see, up until now, everything has looked like organised piles  of dirt and blocks of concrete and stacks of timber with a fetching port-a-loo sitting to one side.
Now, however, it looks like someone is building a house.
A real, live, grown-up house.

There's a complete skeleton with walls and roof.
The builder calls them frames and trusses. But I always think of criminals when I hear the 'frame' and hernias when I hear the word 'truss'. 
I don't want to think about crime, unless Inspector Barnaby is nearby. 
And I certainly don't want to dwell on hernias. (Or dwell under hernias, as the case may be with roof trusses!)
I want to think of a sparkling new house with a view across the hills and the cows.
And now I can, thanks to the fully formed skeleton.



It's incredibly exciting to wander through the skeleton, naming rooms - bedroom, study, kitchen, servants' quarters...
It's even more exciting to see that  our plan is looking quite sensible. 
We have discovered only one design fault so far, and that's to do with the doggy door. It's a tad high. And when I say that it's a tad high, I really mean that our whippet, Olive, will need to take up pole vaulting if she wants to let herself in and out of the laundry. Or we could install an itty-bitty doggy escalator. Which could be quite fun. Although a little unusual.

We're getting to know the neighbourhood. We've tramped along country lanes, ogling dead trees - they might make good firewood one day soon! We've waded across grassy paddocks, spotting flame robins and pardalotes. And a few weeks ago we went for a hike around Mount Alexander. It's glorious - granite boulders, fern trees, towering gums, rock wallabies and stunning views across the central Victorian landscape.
'Spotto! There's our house!'

We're enjoying the seasonal changes - the golden-grey grass greening up as the weather cools down, the ewes giving birth to fresh white lambs, the cows growing their fluffy winter coats, the chilly days where the fog hugs the hilltops until noon,  the port-a-loo listing to one side as the winter rain turns the soil to mud.

We have a growing cache of friends in our new neighbourhood - salt of the earth locals and fellow paddock-changers like ourselves. And there are rumours of other fascinating folk dwelling amidst the granite rocks, who we will surely meet one day - the one-eyed water diviner, the fully sighted cheese-makers and the nudist.

But best of all is the aaaaah-moment that we experience every time we step out of the car and set foot on our soil.
'Aaaaah,' as in, 'Aaaaah, look at that view!'
'Aaaaah,' as in, 'Aaaaah, free from suburbia!'
'Aaaaah,' as in, 'Aaaaah, smell that fresh country air with a slight essence of manure.'
'Aaaaah,' as in, 'Aaaaah, the dream is becoming reality.'

On top of our hill, breathing in the fresh country air and looking
out for friendly cheese-makers and water diviners that might be
 scuttling between the he rocks.
Having a cuppa in the study.
Solid walls and ceiling still to come, but the floor
and the vision is there.



Thursday, 22 June 2017

Decorating Trends - the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I love home decorating. 
I love poring over Country Style and House and Garden magazines.
I can lose myself in Pinterest for days, searching for white kitchens, rustic dining tables and farmhouse gardens. 
A quirky little home wares store will suck me in like a vacuum cleaner sucking up a fluff bunny.

And for the last two and half years, I have wallowed in design and decorating ideas because we have been working towards building our own new home.

I love, love, love home decorating and decor daydreaming.

But there are a few trends that I just don't understand. Some that I abhor. I know it's simply a matter of taste but the decorating recesses of my mind are full to overflowing and I have to speak out! 

These are my personal ickies:

The butler’s pantry where the sink, the dishwasher and the oven all live. 
What on earth is the kitchen for??? 
Who wants to spend hours cooking and cleaning up in a dark and pokey little space when you have a lovely large, open kitchen to work in? 
Of course, if there's a real live butler hanging out in the pantry doing all the work, that changes my opinion completely...

At the other end of the crazy kitchen spectrum is the outdoor kitchen, fully-equipped with Taj-ma-barbeque and fridge and sink and dinner sets and wine glasses and napkins. 
Come on! How many kitchens can you use at once? 
And what’s wrong with a rusty, dusty barbie propped up against the back wall and keeping it simple? I've never met a person (or dog) who doesn't love a sausage and sauce sanga. 
And don't get me started on having to clean two cooktops, two fridges, two sinks ...

Orange. 
Nobody really wants to decorate their home in orange. 
Except for my mum and dad in the seventies. They splashed it around like it was going out of fashion. And, pretty soon, it was! 
If you want a touch of orange, fill the fruit bowl with mandarins ... buy a bunch of gerberas ... plant some marigolds in a window box. But don't plaster the walls with orange mosaic tiles or cover the kitchen benches in orange Laminex. (Really, Mum, don't!)
Don't even buy an orange cushion. 
I mean it.
Toss it out of your shopping basket. 
Now. 
Buy something blue or green or yellow, even. 
But not orange. 


The home theatre. 
Okay, if you’re a soiree-holding kind of person, I can see how this might be quite nice. ‘Do join us in theatre at 8pm for a delightful  evening of light classical music, pink champagne and muted laughter.’ 
But a room for just watching the tellie? 
It’s like having a room dedicated to just thinking, or just  knitting, or just reading. 
Oh, hang on. A room for just reading sounds brilliant! 
They even have a name for it.
LIBRARY!!!


Those fires that hang from the ceiling like some sort of overgrown cocoon. 
They look a little bit scary in a sci-fi sort of way. 
And they look daft. Even if you’re going for the hipster dufus look.
My husband, the Great Dane, thinks they're cool. Then again,  he tucks his T-shirt into his jeans and still thinks 'Smokey and the Bandit' is the best movie EVER!!! 
Cocoon fireplaces are just not right. And you can't tell me that someone's kid won't swing from it and burn their derriere before wrenching the whole contraption out of the ceiling. 


Rectangular free-standing baths. 
They give me the creeps. 
Too much like sarcophagi. 
As soon as I see one, I start developing a murder mystery plot where someone dies in the bath. Not terribly uplifting. 

Toilets that open onto en suites that open onto the master bedroom.
I dig the bathtub that looks straight across to the bed (unless it’s a sarcophagus tub!). But the toilet with no solid door between the user and the bedroom…
Think about it!
It’s not good.
For anybody.

So what do I love? 
White.
Floorboards.
High ceilings and exposed beams.
Big windows and French doors and natural light.
Wide verandas made for lazing and sipping coffee and reading a book and chatting with friends over a glass of wine.
Hills hoist clotheslines.
Fresh flowers.
Book shelves filled with well-thumbed books.
Gardens filled with blossom trees.
Log fires that are anchored in the wall or on the ground and don’t look like they’re about to split apart and launch an oversized cockroach or cicada into your lounge room that will then bite your head off and spit it out into a sarcophagus-shaped bathtub.

Feel free to disagree. 
Except on the orange thing!
What do you love in a home?
What gives you the ickies?



You can go here to my Pinterest page to see some of my home decorating fantasies.





Friday, 9 June 2017

The truth about Book Club


It's time someone told the truth.
Loudly.
Boldly.
And, truly,  it surprises me that it even needs to be said.
But it does. 
Because there is  a big fat myth still floating around in some sick circles.
So here goes. The truth:
BOOK CLUB IS NOT ABOUT BOOKS.*

Sure, there might be some vague discussion revolving around a book. 
There might be a passage read or, at least, a pair of reading glasses perched upon someone's nose. One likes to look the part. 
There might even be a Dymocks catalogue or a book review, torn from the newspaper, tossed elegantly onto the coffee table.
But the idea that Book Club is a gathering of people for the primary  purpose of discussing and analysing a book, is soooo wrong. 


Let me make it simple. Book Club is about the five c's: 

  • champagne
  • chocolate 
  • cake
  • cuppas
  • chitter-chatter


Of course, there is some disagreement between various book clubs as to what the 5 c's truly represent.
Some claim that the first c is not for champagne, but for chardonnay ... or even cabernet sauvignon. Others substitute  chips for chocolate, cheese for cake, cackling for chitter-chatter. (I heard that one book club tried to substitute carrot sticks for chocolate and coconut water for champagne, but they did not survive beyond their first meeting. No surprises there!)

But no matter how you interpret the five c's, books start with b so, obviously, do not feature in the list of the five most important things about Book Club.

Unfortunately, there are still a deluded few who have missed the point. 
The ones who believe that Book Club is primarily - or even exclusively - about books. 

My local library gathered all its registered book clubs together one year - just for a happy pre-Christmas fling. 
What a delightful idea! 
Significantly, it was held in a conservatory full of flowers and we were served wine, cheese, bickies and summer fruit. There was not a book in sight! 
Never the less, I still met one lost soul who obviously belonged to a dysfunctional book club, i.e. a book club whose members took themselves seriously. This poor man asked me about the roles we had in our book club. He said 'roles',  but I heard 'rolls'. I was just about to explain that we didn't normally eat rolls, but I was quite open to the idea of incorporating sausage rolls, or even spring rolls, into our gatherings, when he started muttering about author biographies, plot summaries, character analyses and a whole heap of other literary and grammatical stuff that I didn't even understand. The members of his club actually had roles to fulfil (not rolls to fill) for each and every gathering. Scary stuff!

And then there's the sad tale of my friend, a supremely talented and charming woman who works in a coveted role in the publishing industry. 
She was expelled from her book club. 
Expelled!
For not reading the books. 
She just wanted to go along and chat and eat cake. 
And they wouldn't let her!!!



Let me tell you about my book club. 
A typical gathering  begins with hugs and kisses and everyone talking over the top of each other as we arrive. 
We drink tea and champagne and we nibble chocolate, liquorice allsorts, bickies, cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes ... you get the idea. 
And as  we nibble, we talk about our families, our jobs, our holiday plans and the disturbing trend towards corset-type underwear. 
An hour or so into the gathering, someone might casually suggest that we talk about our book. Typically, ten or fifteen minutes of literary discussion will take place**, then we'll pop the kettle on, bring out a cake and start talking about  how much we like our host's new cushions, our cholesterol levels, our gardens and  which movie we're going to see next time we gather for Book Club. (See how free and easy we are in interpreting the word 'book'?)


The point is, BOOK CLUB IS NOT ABOUT BOOKS.


It's about books and friends and laughter and cake. 

If you belong to a  book club that is sinking into the Slough of Deep and Serious Literary Discussion Which Goes On and On for Far Too Long, I have created a valuable tool for you to take to your next gathering:


And because I am kind, I offer here my list of short but fabulous books. If you get your book club  reading these and introduce the flow chart , you can have your cake and eat it too.

SHORT, HIGH QUALITY BOOKS FOR BOOK CLUBS:
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, by Sun-Mi Hwang
Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne
The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
The Arrival, by Shaun Tan (No words. None at all!)

Happy book clubbing.
X


* Just as Craft Group is not about craft. 
CLICK HERE to read more.

** We did have a book discussion, recently, that went for almost half an hour. But that was mainly due to the fact that I had failed to grasp something quite significant about the theme and structure of the novel  -  My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, by Fredrik Backman - and my companions were trying to explain it to me between their gasps of laughter and their expressions of wonder at how obtuse I had been!


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

More Cheezels pleezel!


Cheezels. 
Can't live with them [stuck to each of your ten fingers]. 
Can't live without them.

Well, you probably can live without them, but why would you? 
MAN, OH MAN, THEY'RE COOL!

The other night, one of the women at our craft group arrived bearing a box of Cheezels. She was rather sheepish about her contribution to the evening's nibbles, but my heart leapt for joy. I hadn't eaten a Cheezel in years.    I could barely wait to stick one onto each of my fingers then slowly munch them off. 

Now don't roll your eyes and scoff at my poor manners. You know you would have done the same!

I poked Cheezels and nibbled and giggled like a six-year-old at a birthday party getting loopy on red cordial.
The Cheezels were delicious.
And fun. 
And incredibly uplifting. 

And I found myself thinking, 'I need more Cheezels in my life.'
Which led me to thinking about the quirky little things that bring an inordinate about of joy to my life. 
What to know what they are? 
No? 
Well, I'm gonna tell you anyway... 

Little jars of jam
The ones you get with breakfast at fancy hotels. 
Forget the chef who does eggs to order - fried, boiled, poached, made into an omelette with smoked salmon and Madagascan chives.
Forget the freshly extracted apple, peach and celery juice.
You can even forget the Belgian waffles with chocolate fudge and King Island cream
The real thrill is in the little jars of jam. They're so cute and ... LITTLE! 
They look like something that Gulliver might have brought back from Lilliput, or something you'd bring along to the Teddy Bear's Picinc.
I ADORE a little jar of jam. 
Especially if it's blackberry.

Handwritten letters
Two of my friends, Wendy and Sue, write letters in beautiful cursive writing that makes my heart sing.
One of these letters is instantly valuable because it's from a dear friend. But it's made even more special because the handwriting is so beautifully formed and has been done just for me. Even the words have been chosen just for me. It hasn't been printed off and sent to all of their friends and acquaintances. Each letter is a handmade gift created with love!


Special Soap
I love fancy soap. 
The flowery smelling stuff that comes in thick decorative paper ...
The daggy white soaps that come in an assortment of shapes - a rabbit, a rose, a sea shell, a love heart ...
The solid earthy cubes that look like they've been raked through the mud and had a bumble bee or an olive branch stamped on one side ...
They're all the duck's guts.
I don't sit the special soap aside and keep it for good - whatever that means. No way! I use it and feel rich and decadent and pampered.
Nothing says 'luxury' like a white rabbit soap disappearing down the drain in a froth  of sudsy bubbles while a Besser block of olive-green soap is waiting in the wings.


Wooden cotton reels
I cannot explain this.
A wooden cotton reel sends me into spasms of delight. I coo and gush as though I'm standing in a pet shop, staring at a fat puppy.
Likewise, triangular blue-coloured cards full of press-studs.
Is it something from my childhood? My mum did sew a lot. Then again, she used to do pottery and I don't react in the same way to clay goblets glazed in dodgy jade tones with a Pisa-like lean to them.
Who knows? Anyone else share my passion for wooden cotton reels?


And last but not least ...
Tea cosies
I'm a coffee drinker on the whole but I still like a good tea cosy. Sometimes I brew a cup's worth of peppermint tea in a pot just so I can use a cosy.
This one I can explain. My granny always drank tea and she always had a tea cosy over the pot. Even though she lived in northern NSW where the temperature barely ever dropped below twenty degrees and the tea was drunk in a jiffy. 
The best were the owl tea cosies. I still have the last one she made for me - purple and maroon with boggly eyes and a wooden bead for the beak. It's hideous and beautiful and kitsch and classy all at the same time.
When it comes to tea cosies, more is more. Forget minimalism and demure colours. Go for broke. Crochet that extra flower for the top of the cosy. Whack the purple owl over the pale blue Royal Doulton teapot. Tea cosies rule!

So there you have it - the things that bring an inordinate amount of joy to my life, the things I need more of in my life. 
You can keep your fancy-pants caviar, your diamond rings and your five star hotels (unless they serve little jars of jam at breakfast!).
I want Cheezels and tea cosies, wooden cotton reels and handwritten letters, tiny jars of jam and rabbit-shaped soap.


What are the simple pleasures missing from your life?






Thursday, 18 May 2017

Aw man! I really should know by now!


The  agonising started with the raspberry choc-chip muffins. I whipped them up between my morning porridge and my first cup of coffee for the day and thought I was going great guns. 'You, Katrina Nannestad, are a wonder to behold,' I told myself. (If I don't say it, no-one else will.) 
But ten minutes later, I looked in the oven and my heart sank like a souffle.  
The muffins in one tray had erupted like Mount Vesuvius, the batter spewing out over the tops of the papers and flowing across the pan. 
The muffins in the other tray barely managed to muster the energy (and batter) to make it to the top of the papers. They were pulled from the oven looking like they'd been at some sort of extreme health farm for the week, living off luke-warm water and a half-ration of kale. (Which, let's face it, would be better than a full ration of kale. Kale stinks.)

And that's when I started to agonise. 
How can I make it to fifty and still not know how much batter it takes to make a lovey, rounded muffin? 
It's not rocket science! 
Is it???

But it didn't end there. The muffin-agonies led me thinking, yet again, about all the things I think I should know by now.
On the domestic front, there is still the embarrassment of not knowing how to roast a chicken, how to cut pumpkin without drawing blood, how to ignite the gas heater when winter arrives and - this is a biggie - how to change a doona cover without breaking out in a cold sweat and using my entire repertoire of naughty words.

On the garden front, I still don't know when to pick the rhubarb (it always looks red!), how to whipper-snip around the trees without ring-barking them or how to use the electric hedge trimmer without cutting the extension cord in half. 

Then there's just general stuff. Facts I should know, but don't. What comes after Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars? Are worms androgynous or ambidextrous?  What's the capital of Bolivia? Is Bogota a place or one of those meat dishes that sounds like it will be disgusting but tastes like you've died and gone to heaven? And where's Santo Domingo? Is it even a place, or is it one of the Three Tenors ... or, perhaps, a Caribbean version of Father Christmas? So many things to learn and so little time. And don't tell me to Google it. I should just know!

And then there are the books and poems I still haven't read. Shouldn't a writer have read everything? It mortifies me when someone mentions their love of Charles Dickens, because the only Dickens I've read is A Tale of Two Cities. And, apparently, that's not typical Dickens! Sure, I've seen at least twenty-seven different movie versions of Great Expectations and can sing, 'Who will buy this wonderful morning?' from Oliver Twist, the musical, but it's really not the same as reading the novels. 
I've never made it past the first two pages of a James Joyce novel.
I've never even held a Virginia Woolf (and just did a double check that it was 'Woolf', not 'Wolf'!).
And flies will become extinct before I subject myself to another Tennyson poem. 
Does this make me a bad person? 
I don't know, but it keeps me agonising.


That's a lot of stuff I've just listed and it's just the tip of the iceberg. (Good grief! That's another thing I don't know! Is it ten percent or five percent that pokes out of the water???) 


So here, now, I'm going to take control. I'm going choose five things that I will know/learn/do in the next week. 
Here goes... 
1. I will learn how to use the whipper snipper in a non-destructive manner.
2. I will memorise the order of the planets in the Solar System.
3. I will discover the truth about worms.
4. I will locate Santo Domingo on a map (or an opera bill or a Christmas card).
5. I will sneak around the house singing, 'You've got to pick a pocket or two-o-o-o, boys!'

Okay, so number five is a cop out, but I will sit Great Expectations on my bedside table. Yes, the novel, not the DVD! And  I promise to embark on reading it before the year is out.

Is there stuff you don't know but are too ashamed to tell?
Go on. Confess. Here and now. 
You know it will make you feel better. 
Well, maybe it won't. 
But it will make me feel better ...