Making Babies is a cinch

Well everybody’s doing it. Even my friend Momo has managed to go and get herself knocked up, with twins, no less! Awesome news. And then there’s Ballerina, who’s about to pop one out into a pool of water surrounded by midwives any day. And Teesh who managed it while climbing Machu Pichu and BB who just dreamed of it and it just happened. But a few years ago – well before any of these young’uns  jumped on the wagon – Jazzy Jeff and I decided that we sort of wanted a kid of our own. We decided it in much the same laconic way that we decided to get married.

Betty: Hey Jeff, what do you reckon? Wanna hook up?
Jazzy Jeff: You mean “marriage”?
Betty: Yeah.
Jazzy Jeff: Alright.
Betty: Alright then. I’ll tell my folks.
Jazzy Jeff: Ok.

I know, truly romantic. An inspiration for all of the kids out there. But here we are, 14 and a bit years later, so it couldn’t have been that bad.So anyway, there we were sitting on the couch and Jazzy might have been doing something mind-numbingly creative on the laptop while i was knitting or some such thing and I sighed: “I’m a bit bored, Jazzy Jeff. We should get another dog. Or have a kid.”

Jazzy Jeff: Yoyo and Peaches couldn’t handle another member of the pack. A kid’ll be better.
Betty: Cool.
Jazzy Jeff: Alright.

Well that was around three years ago. But who’s counting? And, let me tell you something, for some of us, no amount of temperature taking, Maybe Baby fern finding, charting or legs in the air is going to do the trick. Making babies is not the cinch I thought it would be! The fact that I am of a certain age may have something to do with it but, whatever. So around a year ago, maybe more, I headed off to Frank’s obstetrician – the guy who managed to show up after the birth – and told him I wanted him to fix me up. A bit of investigation and lots of umming and aahing later and Jazzy Jeff and I started IVF last November. Me being me, I did as little research about it as I possibly could, things like, will the medication make me fat? If I have sextuplets, can I loan them out to make extra money – a la Mary-Kate and Ashley? And other such important matters.

I’ve had one cancelled cycle, and am on my second real cycle. I had three eggs collected in January, two were fertilised by Jazzy Jeff’s manly seed but only one made it to implantation and that one didn’t make it. Over the past few months I’ve endured the pill, twice daily nasal sprays that lead to the most delightful sinus headaches, nightly injections – one that I had to give myself on the plane on my way back from China last week. It went something like this: Me standing in very hygienic economy class toilet preparing syringe. Needle goes into belly and I slowly plunge. Plane hits turbulence and loses altitude for a moment. Needle comes out mid plunge. Plane regains altitude and needle plunges in as “fasten seatbelts” sign starts to ping.

And today I had three more eggs collected (I’m a veritable battery hen) and I find out tomorrow if they’re ready to go. And then I got to thinking, if Momo can do it, maybe I can too. So I said to the embryologist: “Hey, I’ve changed my mind, stuff this one child business, whack all of them in, as many as you can, all of them.” And the cute embryologist looked at me in my blue paper slippers, hair net and possibly too much make up for surgery and said: “Legally, two is the maximum in Australia”. (There go my dreams). But really, it’s not all bad and way more fun than watching So You Think You Can Dance, Australia. Oh, and I’ve discovered that I have a thing for general anesthetics – that moment of absolute silence as you  count backwards from 10, 9, 8…

The Wife of the Wedding Celebrant To Be

Jazzy Jeff:I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart, down in my heart. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart to stay. And I’m so happy, so very happy, I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart…♫ (And so on)

Betty: Hey Jazzy Jeff, you know how you like music and stuff…

Jazzy Jeff: Yeah.

Betty: And you know how you like to sing those crazy non-Catholic hymns that I’ve never heard and stuff.

Jazzy Jeff: Yeah.

Betty: Well I was thinking, what with how you once were a Pentecostal and spoke in Tongues and stuff, that you should start your own church. But it couldn’t be all 7th Heaven with me, the little missus, in the front pew every week with her brood of pearly white children – seven of ‘em. I don’t think I could do that.

Jazzy Jeff: Have seven children?

Betty: No, show up to church every week, glowing. I mean, I’ve seen you give power-of-positive-thinking type speeches to your work colleagues and, like, not that they weren’t really good speeches, especially for being off-the-cuff and all, but man, it was a freaky other side of you I don’t want to see ever again.

Jazzy Jeff: Oh, but you’re prepared to have seven offspring?

Betty: Well if the choice is between that or sitting in the front pew and watching you deliver sermons every week, I think I’m prepared to have the seven ankle biters.

Jazzy Jeff: Or what if I just become a marriage celebrant?

Betty: And because you like to sing so much, maybe you could be, like, a singing celebrant.

Jazzy Jeff: That’s a really good idea. I’ll go online now and check it out.

Betty: Good idea. Jazzy Jeff?

Jazzy Jeff: Yeah, Betty, my child.

Betty: Would I have to come to the ceremonies?

Jazzy Jeff: Nah. You wouldn’t even know the bride and groom.

Betty: Ok. I think you’ll make a great marriage celebrant.

Jazzy Jeff:If tomorrow all the things were gone, I’d worked for all my life. And I had to start again, with just my children and my wife. I’d thank my lucky stars, to be livin’ here today. ‘Cause the flag still stands for freedom, and they can’t take that away. And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I wont forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. (not a hymn, exactly, but curiously, a favourite of Jazzy’s)

And it was so. Jazzy Jeff did study diligently. And he did pass his assessments with only a few to go. And he has already booked his first wedding. But perhaps I can pick the hymns.

Famous People I’ve Almost Known

So I was thinking about all the famous people I’ve known. No, not like when I realised that my musician friend, Sugar, was actually well known in the Melbourne electronic underground. I mean really famous people.  But then I realised that the list would be pretty small so I’ve decided to include those I’ve known by 1-degree of separation. And then I thought that maybe I’d need a few rules that would define what I mean by “people I’ve known”.  Like, what was my proximity to them at the time of said knowing? And what activity were we engaged in?


If I’ve actually met them (names exchanged – mine, not theirs) – they’re in;

If I mixed up their Rubiks Cube, in;

If we were eating at the same restaurant at the same time (but not necessarily together like the time John Singleton was with some broad at Yu-u) – not in;

If they were walking down a red carpet, not in.

  1. So, here goes:
  2. Noah Taylor – I used to work with his mother
  3. Molly Ringwald – Oh, those 15 not-so-glorious minutes I spent “interviewing” her when she made the not-so-glorious poor excuse of a film Cut. The interview was, in fact, one of the worst experiences of my professional life. I still can’t talk about it.
  4. Geoffrey Rush – Jazzy Jeff and I sat behind him and his family at the Melbourne premier of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I’m not sure if that counts but
  5. Geoffrey Rush – Sat behind him at the Kino during a media preview screening of some film or other – I mean, there were only 10 of us in the cinema.
  6. Adam Ant
    God I used to think about him so much (“I wonder what he’s doing RIGHT NOW?”) (“RIGHT NOW?”) (“No, NOW?”) (“AND NOW?”) that it felt like I was with him EVERYWHERE.
  7. Marcus Graham (remember E-Street’s Wheels and that bathtub scene?) – I was at the Malthouse cinema for the first night of Tartouffe and I was having a drink while waiting for Jazzy Jeff and I was sitting upstairs where perhaps I shouldn’t have been because then the cast and crew came out and started having dinner and there was Marcus, a few tables away. (I think I just broke rule number 2?)
  8. Lawrence Leung – See rule 2 – At the RR OB 1 year ago.
  9. Val Lehman aka Bea “Top Dog” Smith
    I met her on the weekend at Writers at the Convent! Introduced myself and got a photo. A photo! With BEA “TOP DOG” SMITH. My folks were RAPT!
  10. Chopper Reed – It was when Jazzy Jeff and I had our graveyard show on RRR a few years back at the old studio in Fitzroy. It was around 1.30am. Chopper was coming out of the toilet. I was heading towards the ladies. He was zipping up his pants. It was my birthday. He said “g’day”. I said “hi” and kept moving.
  11. I guess in all, I haven’t really known that many famous people. Jazzy Jeff has made a CD. I guess he’s famous.

And the List Goes On

I’m forever writing lists. I LOVE making lists. I make lists at work of things I need to do. I make lists on the white board on my fridge of things I need to buy and things I need to do. I have an old school bag from, like, Grade 2 when I went to St Mary’s. It’s one of those way-before-backpack do-das that looked like little suitcase made of cardboard. It was almost as big as I was. But anyway, on the inside is a list of my best friends at the time. I think Bernadette was really my best friend at the time because I was new and she had loads of freckles but we must have had a fight so she was off the list. Then there’s my favourite book from that era, The Silver Crown and I’ve written a list of my favourite TV shows inside the front and back cover (next to a bunch of Tattslotto numbers). Greatest American Hero (written as Greatest USA Hero) – the show where I first heard the word “scenario”, was on top.

So now that I’m reaching some big numbers of my own, not unlike the long chain of Tattslotto numbers mentioned above. Here’s a new list (in no particular order) that will grow and grow.

  1. Write at least one book
  2. Enter The Age short story competition every year
  3. Enter 2 other short story competitions each year
  4. Walk daily
  5. Learn to swing dance with Jeff
  6. Become financially independent
  7. Have a baby – what the hell, have 2
  8. Find my passion
  9. Learn to play the guitar
  10. Retire early
  11. Move out of the city
  12. Visit Our Lady of Fatima on Jazzy Jeff’s birthday (which happens to be the day of the Miracle)
  13. Meditate or learn to focus without thinking – whatever that’s called
  14. Organise my photos – seriously have to do this
  15. Learn not to judge people
  16. Buy a brand new car – anything, just brand new – and respect it
  17. Read all of the books on my reading list by 2010
  18. Finish writing this list

Papa Goes all Vanilla Ice on our Asses

So we walked in, Jazzy Jeff and I, to the humble Western Suburbs rents’ home to pick up the pooches. With the pooches scratching my unclad legs, I went straight for the pantry where mum keeps the bottomless jar of BBQ shapes – seriously, it’s always full, like a glass of cheap wine at a wedding. This is great as it makes me feel that I’ve never finished a packet, hence my youthful, dreamlike figure (dreamlike is true). So anyway, Jazzy Jeff’s busy drooling over mum’s stove checking out what we might be able to take with us for dinner. I turn around from the pantry and nearly choke on every one of those BBQ shapes I’ve shoved in my gob and the jar almost crashes to the floor cos there’s dad, all 70 years of him, wearing a baseball cap – BACK TO FRONT. This is a man who thinks that insomnia is best dealt with by drinking a cup of espresso, who falls from the ancient fig tree after breaking a branch with his hulking frame but decides to chop down the tree out of spite and who still thinks that all of the Hollywood actors of the 50s and 60s were Italian (the films were DUBBED, DAD!). So, given that the man doesn’t watch nearly enough commercial TV anymore thanks to 24-hours of RAI-International that beams in on the tele from the super-massive bird-shit-splattered satellite dish, where did the back to front baseball cap come from?Has Papà’s been sneaking into our place on the sly when he SAYS he’s mowing the lawn and in between snips he’s been watching MTV Cribs and he’s now down with the homies, yo?

A Night Out with the Family

How come when I sent a text to all of my pals requesting their presense at the drag races at Calder Park last Friday night I got the following responses:

  1. Who is this?
  2. Is this a joke?
  3. What’s wrong with you? (from the mother with young child)
  4. I’m there! (Bless you Momo)

But really, after driving through the Bob Jane half tyre and parking the Corolla in the what we thought was a car park hoping that none of the rev-heads would think that it would be a nice challenge to steal it (not such a challenge) and convert it into a nitrous-huffing machine (QUITE a challenge) we climbed over the Calder hill to the sounds of lawnmowers and jet engines – seriously. It was like the West had come alive. Sure there weren’t too many folks there at the nanna time of 7-ish but what a crowd it was. Momo, Jazzy Jeff and I wandered down the hill and found a place next to a middle-aged couple and their kids. Their kids! I wanted to take a photo and send it to my friends (particularly number 3, in the list above) and say, “see, it’s just a fun Friday night out with the family!” Sure, this family might have been wearing sleeves of tatts and Holden Special Vehicle windbreakers but they were a family dammit. When I have a family, there’ll be no Hi-5 concerts with pre-tweens in their crop tops and spangly hair ties, it’ll be a night out amongst the fumes, the souped-up Toranas that can manage 249kph in 9 seconds, soggy vinagered potato cakes and a coffee from the back of a van. That’s where they’ll learn what they need to know about the world – how to apply an even fake tan, how to light a fag and, most importantly, how to legally drag-race a Commodore while still on their P-plates.

A quick first post…

I like to hope for an amber light so that I can look up at the sparking wires at this inspiring intersection in Caulfield. Amber. Not Red. Definitely not Green. Despite the endless destinations possible, I’ve never seen a tram scuttle through the intersection. My friends have moved now so I come at the intersection from a new direction but it’s not the same.

Novel under the bed – An interview with The Train

Novel under the bed
Josephine Vraca
I wrote my first novel when I was twelve – 200 pages of heart-wrenching, pre-pubescent angst, if there is such angst to be had at that age. Then I read somewhere that Edgar Allen Poe would burn his writing if he got too entangled by it so, in the purest moment of my writing life, I took my scrawls out to the backyard and threw it on the barbecue, to dad’s delight. Do I have regrets about this? Sometimes, but geez it was shit writing.
The novel I’ve been writing for three years is called ‘Floating Upstream’. It is about a girl in a small village in Sicily who grows up around violence, incest, rape, food, oranges, almond picking, love and gypsies. It’s about making your way through life the best you can. It is about the lies that people tell, even when they’re not compelled to lie by circumstance. Mostly, it’s about the way in which we lie to ourselves and believe our own fabrications after a while because it’s so much easier to believe the delusions. However, there is a deaf-mute and he knows more about what’s happening in the town that anybody else because people don’t lie in front of him because they know there’s nothing he can do. He’s the town’s conscience who carries a picture of Saint Anthony of Padua. Along the way there’s love, fishing in the river, swimming for crosses on the first day of Spring, a rape, a pregnancy, some fortune-telling, lots of music and three deaths.
There is no happy ending, just a death and a realisation that life doesn’t get tied up into a neat package when all is said and done – sometimes when a life is traumatic and filled with hate, sadness and fear, you just get up the next day and catch the train for work because you can’t do much else. I want to explore the idea that people don’t always move on after trauma or that they do move without ever talking about their fears. You don’t always heal but you don’t always lose your mind because sometimes life continues as if it never happened. You just dust yourself off.
My vision of writing has changed since I first started this novel. At first I just wanted to write – no plans, just words. But more recently, I’ve been thinking more and more about the art itself. The sentence lengths, simplicity versus complexity – marrying the simplicity of Hemingway with the art of García Márquez. I like to re-read these two writers, particularly Hemingway’s short stories (‘Hills like white elephants’ is a favourite). But really, my novel is not that complex. It’s simply about people. I’m trying to develop characters that you’d love and plenty that you’d hate.

After three years I’m almost certain that I know what the story is about. I guess you could assume that, at nearly 60,000 words into it, I should have a clear picture but after years of workshopping, I’m not sure that it works that way. I don’t know that the first-time novelist is that disciplined. I was reading an interview with García Márquez that he gave to The Paris Review just before his Nobel Prize win. He talks about the art of writing. When you begin to write, you just write and you have no idea where you’re headed. When I first began in journalism, I felt much the same. I thought because I was writing about music, it was more of an emotional response. You just let the mood take you somewhere and you surprise yourself at every turn. That’s how this novel has eventuated. I write at 5.30 every morning, for one hour before I get ready for work. I might write 200 words, I might write 800 words. You might ask how I could manage any lucid thoughts at that time of day. But that’s just it. The thoughts aren’t necessarily lucid, they’re almost random, like I’m sleep walking or even channeling ideas that I can’t control. I marry that with weekend structural work where I sort out any questions I may have about plot. And I surprise myself with the clarity I can realise at times. And then sometimes, I just don’t write at all for weeks. Those are the times I dread. It’s not that I have writer’s block, I haven’t had that yet, it’s the fear that I feel. The fear that I’m writing for nothing. That it’s self-indulgent. That I’m wasting my time. But mostly, I just get on with it. Right now, I’m writing consistently and that’s an excellent place to be. But back to Márquez, he believes that eventually, the technical discipline has to come because the passion may die, the whimsy may flee, and where does that leave you? You have to make plans. But I’m leaving that for the next novel.