Thursday, April 30, 2009

I am wasting my time

Patsy Fox’s blog is too good. She is meant to be drawer, not a writer and yet – read her stuff – she is hilarious. Of course she is hilarious as a real life raconteur too so I shouldn’t be surprised. But I am often described as pretty “funny in the flesh” too (fleshy and funny also) and yet, when I put pen to paper/key to board I am singularly unfunny. In a recent post Patsy discusses hilarious going ons as she tries to track down The Sartorialist while he was in Melbourne recently (THIS IS HER DRAWING OF HIM, I HAVE STOLEN IT FROM HER SITE). She then talks about the fun of simply doing ridiculous things. Maybe that is the case – I do not do enough ridiculous things.

On Saturday just gone I did catch a taxi home from Croydon North (8000 miles from home) which cost 85 freakin dollars!!!! Now that’s what I call ridiculous. Of course it’s also too embarrassing to share with others … which maybe is the problem. I am not willing enough to share my embarrassments – like the fact that, as well as the $85 price tag, I also had the driver waking me up from snoring as we arrived at my doorstep. Classy!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rose coloured glasses are a must-have fashion accessory for me. Recently a lot of things have been pulling on my memory threads, from requests to write a bio for a magazine I used to edit, to the beginning of a short story for my writing class, to time spent with a friend’s family at her 40th.
As I get older I am struck by how much I can re-write my history to be a much more pleasant place than I felt it was when I was younger. For instance, in terms of the job, I found myself thinking oh-so-fondly of the wonderful travel I did – flying in a glass fronted chopper in Vicenza or listening to Andrea Bocelli sing in an open air palazzo – and remembering some of the friends I made and have kept in touch with in the decade since. I did not think of the lifelong insomnia I developed during that period, the weekends I spent at the desk and the family losses I experienced when there.

When it comes to the short story I played with in class, I began to laugh at what a funny, eccentric and special man my Dad was when, the story in question, really only brought me embarrassment and further proof of how he was trying to ruin my life when it took place. This even led to a whimsical reminiscence of my long lost sister and a stroll through my mind's landscape to our happier times.

And the time spent at the 40th made me think about how people’s lives change dramatically, especially the lives of busy parents who go from having houseloads of blustering adolescents and argumentative teens to having sporadic connection with these offspring as adults and watching them from afar, almost as if they are strangers. I also saw dramatic, staggering effects of age on the good old human body. Obviously I drank to stop those images becoming long term memories.

A rich man died in Melbourne today, a bloke by the name of Richard Pratt. Already on the radio they are debating whether he deserves a State funeral – he gave mountains of cash away in philanthropy but recent times saw him come under a legal shadow in his business dealings – and the memories surrounding his life, the stories from colleagues and friends, are already being edited and polished to give off the finest hue.

We all have a history. We all have our own stories but do they change as time goes on and, if they do, do they become more or less accurate? In class last night we discussed genres. Many stories, upon reflection, can be written equally as well as a romance, a drama, a mystery, a work of science fiction, a poem or graphic novel. Which genre are we living in today?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Does it make you a Twit?

Well I have looked into the Twitter thing ... never like to critique something until I have experienced it first hand ... and I would have to say I think it has a short use-by date. Surely people will realise, fairly soon, that faffing around with this kind of shite all day distracts you from actually achieving anything.

I am not going to sugar coat it. I have canvassed a few busy women in different age groups. They agree the arrival of such a 'phenomenon' is troubling. Concentrated thought, real learning, achievement and even, dare I say, relaxation cannot be achieved with this constant disruption. People bang on about "turning off " the chatter in their heads. Then they turn to this kind nebulous chatter come twitter on their laptops. Madness, I say! And I don't care if it makes me unpopular or middle aged. This is one of those things where I think I will be proved right.

It’s funny how things come onto your radar at around the same time. The week or so ago when I signed up for Twitter was also when I heard a repeat of a radio interview between Margaret Throsby on ABC Classic FM (I know … elderly) and the novelist known to most as John Le Carre whose real name is David Cornwell. He worked for MI5 and MI6 in the 1950s and 1960s, before leaving the secret service to devote himself to writing after the success of The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (you may also know his book The Constant Gardener). This was one of those men whose knowledge is so sweeping, whose tastes so varied and references so learned and fascinating that you wonder just how and when they are able to be exposed to so much information – politics, music, literature, psychology – and, more astoundingly, retain it.

Will men (and women) such as this ever come again when the temptations of twitter and twat abound? I suppose I lack this kind of intelligence and education (and memory) and admire it too much. Perhaps that is why I am made nervous by the new, seemingly tedious, media mediums.

Certainly Twitter seems to be handy for marketing and everyone from Ellen to Kerri-Anne Kennerly is on to it. That should tell you something people. This is yet another selling tool. Don't be sucked in. And, if Ashton Kutcher's Twitter is anything to go by, it is also for people with no command of the English language. Seems a shame to be encouraging them when, surely, a scarlet letter branded on their arses would do the trick. Of course a 17-year-old just told me that Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal's Twitter is hysterical. Naturally I must now check it out. See how the illness permeates and pervades.

And, of course, you can Twitter me at TheMrsUnderhill but ... not for long. The minute you sign up you get emails from people wanting to be your followers. Now I have as strong an ego as the next egotistical, spotlight seeking, attention starved Baby Jane of a woman and swoon at the idea of finally locking in a posse of disciples but this is too much. They all seem to want to - surprise surprise - sell me something or get me to vote for them. Hmmmm.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mrs Underhilll Book Club meeting # 3

So I can’t say the first book club attempt, getting a group reading of Brideshead Revisited, was the biggest success every but it has promise. Ms LP and I are forging ahead. We are even considering moving away from an online discussion of the book (or adding to it) with some over wine discussion of it. Whatcha think? The book in question is Middlesex. We have two months to read it, aiming to come together to discuss remotely or face to face around 15 June. Feel free to let us know you’re on board. It really does bring a whole new layer to the reading experience.

And, to whet your appetite, consider that Middlesex is an epic tale of a hermaphrodite bound up with social history. Jeffrey Eugenides spent nine years writing it.

Read an interview from The Guardian with him at or perhaps hear him speak on this NPR podcast

Get on board the hermaphrodite train!

Write somone else's book

Have you ever heard of Fanfic? The term is short for fan fiction. I heard it recently during a radio interview with an author. Apparently fans and avid readers of certain books get so into the books, the themes, the characters and the fictional world that they cannot wait for the author to produce another book so they get just out there and do their own. Amazing huh?

I know the feeling of coming to the last few chapters or pages of a book and thinking, “I don’t want this to end” but, seriously, this is taking things to the nth degree. I think that fans start up their own fan sites for books and characters; they establish boards where they chat to each other and, in this environment, might also publish their fiction. The author I listened to sounded fairly dismissive of the movement, saying she obviously could not publish any of the writings on her official site and closed the topic down pretty quickly. Imagine if the Fanfic was better than your own? Too weird. The thing I wonder about is that, surely, what you love about an author and their books is the unique voice and imagination that individual brings to the work. But maybe their talents are sooooo good that having fans wanting to keep on and on and on with the narrative is the ultimate compliment … they just can’t get enough, literally.

I had, as usual, a little Google on the topic. JK Rowling is the progenitor of a tonne of Fanfic. Take a peep at and prepare to be awed. “Founded in February 2001, we currently hold over 50,000 stories and receive, on average, over 40 million hits per month” is what they say about themselves. The site runs novel writing contests and more. Authors create lives for the Harry Potter characters long past JK’s literary adventures.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009


You are what you do. That’s the quote I read from the book, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, by psychiatrist, Gordon Livingston, M.D. This man has had a testing life. Won’t go into it here suffice to say he has lost two kids along the way and spent his working days listening to other people’s problems. It’s a nice book, a collection of essays. He does not sugar coat things. I’ll steal a quote from the foreword to say that he is “is at once stern and reassuring, hopeful but unwilling to proffer any guarantees”. He suits me. Anyway, take a peep at Psychiatry Online and don’t just take my word for it (

Every year that passes I ponder exactly what things I truly believe – deep down and without reservation. To date there has been one: Do unto others as you would have them do to you. Now there is a second. At this rate I may truly be confident of about another two things by the time I am 60. In the words of UK comedienne, Catherine Tate, “Am I bothered?” I think not. The older I get the less I know. Full stop!

So recently what I have not been doing is blogging. Which is a shame because I often enjoy it, though not always, and it is a shame because it keeps my free-wheeling writing happening and, finally, it is a shame because two different sources ( and my fashion illustrator friend Angie Rehe) have both asked if they could link my blog to theirs. Now that is flattering to the Nth degree but a worry too. After all, the last time I blogged was in February. Hells bells, where has the time gone?

Not going to go into it here. I have my refreshed Ms Hepburn image to inspire me, a weekend at Hobart’s Henry Jones Hotel under my belt, an interview in The Age this Friday quoting me as an expert on all things crafty (with the always amusing fashion editor, Jan Breen Burns) and Easter is looming which signifies (she says with valiant ambition) a chance to catch up on the hum drum and the inspiring all at once. I AM WHAT I DO and not what I say I am going to do. I am going to learn about Twitter though I feel one more way of communicating in this world might make me drop off the perch forever (‘Perch’, get it? Bird – Twitter. Oh, will the hilarity ever stop?), I am going to tidy my office and discover the bills I should have paid eight months ago, I am going to try and tackle my BAS and I am going to look at the feedback my writing tutor gave me on my Penguin/AWW Short Story Comp entry piece. And then I am going to submit the damn thing just before the deadline.

I am what I do. I am someone who completes things. I may also be someone who goes see a flick – Last Chance Harvey or The Reader or the scary Uninvited. You don’t know!