My mini break – indulging the day away

The other day I accompanied my husband on his business trip to Brisbane – the big city for us these days.  It was just an overnight trip but it provided the opportunity to get to all those shops that were no longer available to me – the Fabric Shop, Lulu Lemon, Mecca, etc.

Although the experience began a bit wobbly – we turned up to check in at the hotel only to find our booking had been made for the previous week – the hotel staff very efficiently righted wrongs and turned things around. Checkout was at 11am – not really a problem but I wanted to go to the gym in the morning and didn’t want to get up very early or rush so asked if a later check out was possible.  No problem – 1pm!  Our room was on the 18th floor with city views, large and spacious and well appointed with a comfortable king-size bed and lots of comfy pillows.  I’m a real pillow fanatic and can’t sleep if the pillow isn’t right.  These ones were perfect.

The bathroom was also nice and big and even better – had a big bath.  Ah, I thought:  gym followed by a luxurious soak.  But meantime, having unpacked it was definitely time to have a drink in the bar downstairs.  We were staying at the Marriott and although it’s a bit staid, the service is impeccable.  The bar downstairs felt like something out of a 50’s movie – all dim lights and small tables – perfect setting for a dirty martini.  Don’t know why but I was surprised at how good it was.  I suppose it’s not a drink that’s commonly called for but then again, in the service/hospitality industry, isn’t that what a good bar tender should do: mix the perfect martini?  So, another tick for this hotel’s staff.  Excellent service all round.

I had planned to sleep in the next morning but woke early (why is it that men can’t move about quietly?) and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Not wanting to get up and start my day I switched on the tv, made myself a cup of tea, got out my knitting and hopped back into bed. I spent the next hour or so knitting in bed and watching tv.  Not something I’ve ever done before.  Not something I imagine anyone has done before. It felt very indulgent.

Eventually I’d had enough knitting – and was ready for a coffee – so it was time to get to the gym.  An hour later I was back in my room and running the bath.  There’s something rather decadent about having a morning bath.  Pure luxury.  The only thing that was missing was a glass of champagne and while I did (briefly) consider calling down for one, I thought this might be a bit impractical having already submerged myself in a bath full of bubbles.

Bathed and dressed I sought out a good coffee and then sat and attended to emails and other business before packing up and calling down to request my car.  12.45pm.  A very nice start to the day.  It felt like I was on holidays.  Had I been staying longer I would have indulged in a spa session and then had a glass of wine in the bar. And then perhaps gone to see a movie.  As it was, I ran my errands and had a leisurely lunch before picking up my husband and driving back home.

I realised that it’s that easy to give yourself a treat – a day off.  Make use of all the facilities in the hotel and pamper yourself.  A real ‘go slow’ day.  It was the best mini break I’ve had in a long long time.

Remember when?

I’ve been having conversations recently about favourite old time things: movies, television series, games – childhood really – and one thing leads to another.    It’s the “remember x?” conversation.  Which led me to thinking about all the things we used to do in our childhood that kids no longer do; they’re either no longer acceptable or kids aren’t interested in them in this new technology-driven digital era.

Some of the activities we indulged in:

  • – riding bicycles without helmets around the neighbourhood;
  • – in summertime, taking off in the morning and not returning till dinner time;
  • – hanging out with kids in the neighbourhood, going from house to house;
  • – going to the local swimming pool on our own;
  • – sunbaking: slathering on baby oil to tan – it wasn’t a day out in the sun unless you came back red and burnt and then experienced the joys of peeling long strips of skin off your body;
  • – staying in the water in the pool even when there were thunderstorms;
  • – travelling in cars without seatbelts;
  • – riding in the back of station wagons and utes;
  • – climbing trees and roof tops;
  • – setting off crackers. My husband tells tales of lighting crackers and throwing them through the letter slots of people’s front doors!!;
  • – creating our own “see-saw” out of planks of wood precariously perched on a tree stump;
  • – making our own billy-carts which had steering but no brakes;
  • – playing with cap guns and air rifles.
  • – playing jacks with either plastic jacks or improvising with apricot stones;
  • – playing elastics, skipping rope, hopscotch and hoola hoops;
  • – gutterball, which consisted of bouncing a tennis ball off the side of the gutter and catching it – you kept going until you missed and made up fancier and more daring throws;
  • – marbles – anywhere there was a flat surface, usually the pavement;
  • – on long car journeys, we amused ourselves with “eye spy” and “hangman” and “noughts & crosses”;

toy-guns
and then there was a game we played (solo) with a tennis ball in the end of a stocking against a brick wall (go figure!) to the rhyme of: “hello, hello, hello sir, take me to the show sir, yes sir, no sir….” and a similar game called “Oliver Twist” (see below).

As kids my sister and I spent many hours covering the outside of our brick house with chalk, gradually extending around all 3 sides (the front was off-limits!) and up as far as we could reach, either playing ‘school’ or just drawing.  Our dad painted the corridor of the back part of the house with washable paint so we could also draw on that – kept us endlessly amused and occupied during the unheated cold winter.

chalk drawing_web
In summertime we used to get up early and lie on the couch reading books and then drag blankets and cushions outside to lie in the sun reading and looking up at the sky and making pictures out of the clouds. Nothing to do.

We played underneath trees and set up shop, bringing out tins of things from the kitchen and making our own pretend money.  Mum had a set of old fashioned scales with little brass weights which we often brought out so that we could weigh things.

Growing up in Melbourne where we caught trams a lot (mum didn’t drive and so we walked everywhere or caught the tram); one of our favourite past-times was playing “trams” whereby one of us would be the conductor (my grandmother had a belt hole-puncher which was a perfect substitute for the ticket puncher  tram conductors used) and the other one would hang on to the clothes line (a ‘hills hoist’, that iconic Australian backyard staple) as though hanging on to an overhead hand strap.  We would simply walk around in circles.  Sounds pathetic, but it took very little to live in our imagination.

There was a colonnade of plane trees in the grounds of our Primary school and in the autumn as the leaves would fall we would sweep them up to configure them into ‘houses’ – floor plans  – with the aim of playing ‘families’.  But the real joy was just in the physicality of creating the shapes. We were always on the go, playing games, sport, creating things. And when we weren’t on the go we were making things: dolls’ clothes, paper doll outfits, sewing, baking (our poor mothers!) or reading – lost in the realms of fantasy and fiction.

I don’t think we were ever bored.

Oliver Twist Ball game:

Oliver Twist, (Bounce, catch) Can you do this?(Bounce, catch)
If so, (Bounce, catch) Do so.(Bounce, catch)
Number one,(Bounce, catch) Touch your tongue. (Bounce, touch tongue, catch)
Number two,(Bounce, catch) Touch your shoe. (Bounce, touch shoe, catch)
Number three,(Bounce, catch) Touch your knee. (Bounce, touch knee, catch)
Number four,(Bounce, catch) Touch the floor. (Bounce, touch ground, catch)
Number five,(Bounce, catch) Make a hive. (Bounce, crouch with hands touching overhead, catch)
Number six,(Bounce, catch) Touch the bricks. (Bounce, touch wall, catch)
Number seven,(Bounce, catch) Go to heaven. (Bounce, jump in the air with your arms raised, catch)
Number eight,(Bounce, catch)Touch your mate. (Bounce, touch your friend, catch)
Number nine,(Bounce, catch) Touch your spine. (Bounce, touch your spine, catch)
Number ten,(Bounce, catch) Start again. (Bounce, catch the ball and start again)

Hello world!

Welcome to Not a Fashionista where I share random thoughts about all the various aspects of being a woman in the 21st century.  Hope you enjoy, and if you do, please leave a comment.

Those awkward moments….

Oops, just had one of those awkward moments at the yoga centre where I needed to have a shower in the very open communal shower space and realised I only had a small hand towel with me.
My intention was simply to wipe down my sweat with a towel and change back into my clothes to go to my acupuncture appointment. At first I had thought of just going in my yoga clothes but thought better of it – too sweaty. For some reason I hadn’t planned on a sweaty class but by the time it was over I was drenched and a wipe down would not do.
The shower cubicles at my yoga studio are located between the men and women’s changing rooms but they’re right at the end of the corridor for everyone to see. No problem if you have a towel to wrap around yourself. Problematic if you don’t. Reason being is that the cubicles are designed in such a way that there really isn’t anywhere to put stuff so that it remains dry – just one hook on the back of the door. So its not like you can take you clothes in with you.
What to do? Solution: I had worn a dress so I could take that into the cubicle, hang it on the back of the door and hang my very tiny towel on top. Sweaty yoga pants were kicked beneath the door into the communal space. Quick shower, quick dry – amazing how easy it can be to dry yourself with a little rectangle – stop my feet dry on the sweaty 9and now wet) yoga gear outside, and back to the changing rooms. Whew! Just as well I wasn’t wearing anything more complicated (like jeans that would have required somehow drying my feet and holding the jeans up high to step into so they wouldn’t get wet).
So note to self: do take a larger towel. Just in case.
Namaste.

High heels – a woman’s prerogative

Recently a male friend put forward the proposition that high heeled shoes were the equivalent of Chinese foot binding. This is not an uncommon notion generally put forward by men and militant feministas. But it’s not the same at all. Although both have an erotic aspect to them – Chinese men got off on women’s tiny little feet and there’s something very sexy about a pair of high heeled pointy toed stilettos – Chinese girls had no say in the matter. At age 4 they would have their toes broken and forced down to their soles and then tightly bound. A hideous practice to keep women subjugated (they couldn’t walk very far on those little deformed stumps) and marriageable. The smaller the feet the more marriageable the girl. Not until the early 1930s did this practise stop.

High heels on the other hand are entirely optional. Women can choose to wear them or not. They can choose to wear them all the time or some of the time or just occaisionally. I have a huge selection of shoes and boots with varying heel heights, from ballerina flats, flat sandals, loafers, brogues, to boots on low heels, chunky platform shoes, mid- size heel stilettos to high heeled pointy toed Louboutins. Nobody is making me wear these ridiculously high heeled pointy toed shoes. I wear them because I like them and I think they’re sexy.

The other myth perpetuated by men and feministas is that women wear these shoes for men. Also not true. Women wear these shoes for themselves because they feel good in them. And as for the assertion that these foot crippling shoes are designed by men for their own satisfaction,  that might well be true but at least these men have a good sense of style and design. Personally, I think there’s nothing more gorgeous than a well made pair of pointy toed stilettos. We fashionistas do have choices. Oh, and by the way, Jimmy Choo is headed up by Jimmy Choo’s niece, Sandra Choi.

 

The moment I wake up… baring all

One of the things that goes by the wayside when I’m on holidays is makeup. Despite taking a limited range of cosmetics – foundation, tinted moisturiser, blush, eye shadow, eye liner (in 3 different shades), eye brow pencil and lipsticks, I very rarely wear any. Nonetheless I still pack my set of brushes and the basics plus a few extra eye shadows in case we go out somewhere fancy and I need to look good. But mostly, we’re just tramping around or driving in a car or walking and its either too hot or just not necessary. No one sees me and it does seem like a waste of time to put it all on and then have to take it all off at the end of the day. Much easier just to moisturise, sunscreen, apply a slick of lipstick and go.

I usually always wear eye liner (pencil) and mascara, lip liner and lipstick. This time, I’ve only been putting on lipstick – not even lip liner. Have my standards dropped? Or is it that traveling and being anonymous gives you the freedom to go au naturelle. Its liberating in a way. When I was working I spent quite some minutes preening – primer, sunscreen foundation, bronzer, blush, eye primer, shadow, liner, mascara, lip liner, lipstick. And the hair. When I stopped work there seemed no real need to do all that but I nonetheless wore eyeshadow, eye liner and mascara and the lipstick (with requisite liner) and more recently as the weather warmed up tinted moisturiser with a high SPF.

So as I pack my stuff at the end of each leg of our journey and put away the various cosmetic bags I wonder why I bothered taking so much. Its the “what if” factor. What if we go out and I need to look good? The reality is, no one sees me and no one cares. Its been quite liberating to forgo these beauty rituals and just make do with the essentials: moisturiser and eye cream and lipstick. Now if only I could pack this lightly on my next journey.

Rain stopped and all’s right with the world

At last the rains have stopped and we’re enjoying a balmy evening with a warm breeze. Sitting in the Le Meridien lobby overlooking the lush gardens enjoying a post dinner drink. There’s nothing to do here. That’s the point of one of these holidays – an opportunity to just switch off, put your brain on hold and just relax. For some, that’s easy to do. For others – me – it poses a challenge. But after all the rain and feeling a bit stir crazy its a welcome respite to feel that this is what holidays are all about. I could do with another Fra Angelico on ice but maybe that’s a bit excessive. Then again, it’s holiday time. Which means indulgence. We had a wonderful massage tonight in the resort. The other day we ventured into the centre of Khao Lak and had a massage at one of the local places. Enjoyable it was not. It was one of those places where they just go through the motions and despite saying it was too strong (painful) they continued whilst chatting amongst themselves all the while. It was cheap but I’d rather spend money on a better service. On someone who knows and actually cares. I think I came away bruised. I just wanted it to stop and couldn’t wait to get out of there.

There’s nothing in Khao Lak worth seeing. We found a reasonable little restaurant(!) but it was merely ok. Beer and some local thai food. Shops that sell tourist craap and little else. The little place at the end of the street opposite the resort where we took our washing was friendly and good but it was a far cry from the food stalls in other parts of the country. The market was poor and limited. Hardly worth the excursion and we only went in search of limes. The little supermarkets didn’t really have fruit and veg. I don’t know who they cater for.

The resort is lovely. It’s huge with a number if pools and places to eat though unfortunately because it’s the wet season and few guests a number of the restaurants were closed. And because of the torrential rains even some of these were closed for a couple of days.

No matter.There’s a gym and the spa centre and a huge lobby with a well stocked bar. And the martinis are excellent. Salut!

Processes – a work in progress

i’ve begun a printmaking course. I was inspired by a series of Alan Mitelman prints on my last trip to Melbourne -he’s one of my art heros – and so I thought I would find a printmaking studio in Sydney and start on a series of etchings. I had an idea in mind that I had sketched out and knew how I wanted it to look but was unsure of the process. What eventuated was a double plate image with chine colle (a process whereby you place very fine paper directly into the plate so that it adheres to the paper you’re printing on). One plate was to be a dark drypoint – essentially a heavily cross-hatched plate which would absorb a lot of ink and produce (hopefully) a deep rich velvety colour; the other plate would be an etching of fluid lines. I etched this plate three times so that there were three levels of bite with some of the lines very fine and others much deeper etched and therefore darker.

Printmaking is a slow process. Its a discipline that doesn’t allow shortcuts. First you make marks on your plate – wether drypoint or etched into ground and then dipped into an acid bath – then you print. In order to print you have to do the following: create a registration sheet so you know where to put your plate and paper; soak the paper in water; prepare the ink, ink the plate, rub the plate back (so that the excess ink is removed and you only have ink in the etched surface), then place the registration sheet on the press bed, place the plate in the designated spot, dry the wet paper and place it over the plate and then finally, roll the plate through the press. Only at this stage can you see the results of your effort. And now begins the real work: figuring out where it needs more/less. Oh, and the printed image is the mirror image of the plate which makes for some difficulty in working out where you need to further scratch in or burnish back (particularly when the image isn’t an ‘image’ but abstract lines).

And so you begin again – soak paper, work on plate, ink up, print. And hope that the results are getting you closer to what you had in mind. I was pleased in my second session to have achieved a print that was going in the right direction and thought that week 3 would see me with 3 prints: one with a Prussian blue background and black surface lines, another one the same but with more marks on the background and the final one with chine colle (I was going to use a fine textured bamboo paper to add both colour and texture).

Sadly my printing didn’t go to plan. I couldn’t get my background dark enough (one of the problems of drypoint is that the more times you run it through the press the flatter the marks become and so the ink doesn’t absorb as well) and my first sheet of paper was too wet (adding to the difficulty of absorption) and to top that off, my registration was out.

Printing with two plates imposes another level of difficulty for the novice: you have to be very careful to place the second plate in exactly the same position as the first so that it looks as though it was just one plate. This is something I struggle with – not one of my prints have been spot on in terms of registration. I suspect that this will come with pracitse.

Printmaking can be very frustrating – it takes so long to see how the printed image looks – but its just part of the process. And its something that I really enjoy. Methodical. No shortcuts, just go through the process carefully and meticulously. So very different from the immediacy of painting.

Despite not having achieved my goal (3 prints) I came away from this session feeling OK. I had two bad prints but I knew where I was heading and I knew what I had to do next.

At the start of this course I suspected that it would take me to the end of the year before I had the print I wanted. Along the way I’d try various things – different colours, different papers, different techniques. It is a work in progress. A long steady, meditative process. Its like yoga: some days you can do a pose, other days not. There is no end point. Its just the doing. As they say: sometimes you’re the dog and sometimes you’re the tree.

What happens next when there’s nothing to do?

What happens next? That’s the question that’s been absorbing me of late.  Having been made redundant (and not planned for it) I find myself at a loss.  What do I do? I decided to give myself some time: time out; a holiday; a break. Or at least time to not think about what to do – job applications etc.  I thought this might be a time for just being.  Not to get caught up in the process of trying to find a job, to get my life back to where it once was or, alternatively, somewhere else.

And so I embraced this gift of time.  I resolved to enjoy it for all the possibilities it might bring and the pleasures of sleeping in and not having to be anywhere and not battling traffic and worrying about being late: the fact that having left 10 minutes late, the traffic would be gruelling and the journey would take that much longer with its snarls of cars stuck in the wrong lane vying with each other to cut back in, and then at the end of the journey, the search for a carpark.

Breathe.  Do yoga.  And go to they gym.  And organise for my sculpture to be bronze cast.   And make a start on my book/PhD.  And visit friends in Melbourne and elsewhere.  After all, nothing to do.  And yet…. my days  still revolve around appointments and tasks.  Even the mosts tedious and mundane of all – the household tasks (you’re home: can you organise for someone to come in and attend to the plumbing/fixing the door screens/the oven/the minutiae; could you drop off the dry-cleaning/purchase the following/etc etc et).  A million mindless tasks that end up taking my day in a direction I had not foreseen.  All of a sudden I’ve done the washing, taken care of the errands, done the shopping, prepared dinner.  Yes, I’ve gone to the gym or yoga – but probably not both – and then…. and then? Nothing.  The day’s gone. Its still early evening (or worse late afternoon) and I’m feeling spent.  This is the most depressing part of it.   I’ve not actually achieved anything – neither fantasy (this is me time) nor for anything really constructive.

How is it possible to get some structure back into your life when you no longer have any? It is my strong desire to take these days and treat them as ‘me’ days for the entirety of the day – not just an hour here or there. I’ll shop and cook etc as I have done in the past whilst working full time,juggling as we all do.  Just because I’m home doesn’t meant that I’ve become the chief cook and bottle washer.  Or have I? What does a lack of income really entail and who is this new me?

I need a holiday!

 

It’s my last day in Ubud. 7.30am and I’m still in bed. Admittedly awake since the sun came up and the roosters crowed but still lazing in bed. Can’t face early morning yoga. Can’t face yoga period. I’ve done 10 classes in 5 days. That’s 4 hours a day. 40 hours over 5 days. I’ve been stretched and twisted and challenged and wrung out. I thought yoga here would be a breeze and I’d be relaxed and comfortable. Hah! There are some serious heavy duty yogis here. I’m just a novice. The things people can do with their bodies – amazing.
I don’t aspire to ever get there but it has been good to give it a go. And I do feel stronger. But my body is sore.
There have been same amazing teachers who push and challenge. There’s no room to hide or not try. It’s like Nike (just do it).
I also did a really weird class. Yesterday morning I felt I couldn’t do hard core and thought I’d take the easy option –  Hatha yoga. Except this was Hatha with a twist: tantric. Ancient yoga that came with a warning that serious energy gets shifted and that some people find it deeply disturbing. In other words: magic. 
Well, I was there and didn’t really want to come back later (there was breakfast to factor in), so I thought I’d give it a go. Whoa! It was seriously weird. In fact it was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced.  The teacher – and her 3 acolytes – sat with their eyes closed emitting strange sounds, bodies jerking as though possessed. And that was just the beginning. I had no idea what to make of it. It was supposed to be a purification practice – a detox. It was just plain weird. And it has sworn me off trying classes I know nothing about. There are so many of them here- catering for all levels of weirdness. Ubud seems to be the place where lots of weird people come (obviously the tantric yoga practice had no effect on me – one of its goals being the dropping of judgement).

So now I’m sitting on my balcony overlooking the rice paddies, enjoying  a leisurely breakfast and planning the remainder of my day. Thus far all I can manage is a much needed massage. I feel like after all this I will need a holiday!