This week

By Vita Forest

Lotsa resting this week

Lotsa resting this week

This week I have been

    • Juggling by Barbara Trapido
    • The Travelling Hornplayer by Barbara Trapido
  • MAKING little teeny tiny felt fairy and elves (see Crafting with Cats)
  • VISITING the doctor due to illness and therefore
  • MISSING all sorts of school and social events …
    • Hitting Home on the ABC
    • Wolf Hall on DVD
  • RESTING and therefore doing lots of READING and WATCHING

Crafting with cats

By Vita Forest

It's lucky we are so cute

It’s lucky we are so cute

Visitors often note how tidy my apartment is.  Part of it is aesthetic.  But part of it is necessity – I have two curious cats.  Take today, for example.  Today I tried to craft with cats.  I am attempting to make a little army of elves and fairies for my class.  It is proving difficult.


Food tents are essential

Food tents are essential


Your usual equipment but also –

a food tent

takeaway food containers


  1. If you are painting, get a small-necked jar so the cats cannot fit their heads into it to drink the dirty water.
  2. Only put a tiny amount of paint on the palette and wash up any surplus immediately – paint may be tasty.
  3. Do not leave small pieces of felt on the table.  (While washing the palette – see Step 2, Zadie pounced on a tiny mauve fairy cloak and chewed it into a mangled mess.  Put all cut-out pieces straight into a takeaway food container and secure the lid.
  4. Leave all unpainted tiny wooden dolls in their thick envelope shoved inside a bowl and with the opening folded over.  This prevents any possible fairy-napping.  (Zadie is a well-known fairy-napper.  Folk made last year had to be resettled in new accommodation once they returned from their adventure with the cats.  Now they live on top of the dry goods on a high shelf in the kitchen).

    Cat-free accomodation

    Cat-free accommodation

  5. Once painted, place wooden dolls to dry under a food tent to avoid inquisitive paws.  Note – curious cats may still attempt to push through the mesh and bite along the wire frame.
  6. IMG_3297[1]Attempt to cut patterns out of large piece of felt on the table.  Tussle with a cat while forming scallops with your scissors as she bats the edge of the material.
  7. Fight off cat claws as she tries another tactic and leaps up from below.
  8. Attempt to cut the felt by placing the material inside a plastic bag.
  9. IMG_3291[1]Attempt to distract the cats by rolling a Christmas bell across the floor.
  10. Give up and write a blog post instead.

The end of the affair

By Vita Forest

What's wrong with a happy ending?

What’s wrong with a happy ending?

The truth is hard and tough as nails, that’s why we need fairy tales.

from Munchhausen by Hollander

While convalescing at home, awaiting the results of a whooping cough swab, with my voice deepened to a sultry level, but missing the resonance required to address twenty-three small children without it cracking into inconsistent seal yelps, I turned in consolation to literature.

As you may know, I have recently finished reading the delightful Brother of the more Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido.  Before being laid low, I had handily picked up a couple more of Trapido’s books from the library.

I have finished Juggling (not as lovely as BOTMFJ) and have launched into The Travelling Hornplayer.  Some of the characters began to feel familiar, then I realised there were favourites from the aforementioned novels, now years later, bumping into each other across the end pages of those other books.  This was not necessarily a cause for alarm.

But then it was.

“No!” I wanted to scream in my cracked voice, as my literary crush from BOTMFJ engaged in a seedy affair in a grimy flat in London while his wife pottered about in The Cotswolds.  “No, Barbara Trapido, I don’t want to know this!”

Some books do not need epilogues, do not need sequels.  I want to think back affectionately to the “closure”, to the satisfaction of everything ending how it should have.

I want Georgie giving Lu the kiss of life in the bottom of a boat after he has pulled her from a sinking plane, not reading that Tim Winton has written a play reusing these characters in which Georgie is grieving her lover who has been KILLED.

I want Lucy Honeychurch and George Emerson  to live blissfully together after she throws over that cold fish Cecil, not the future mapped out in the epilogue of boredom, resentment and cheating.

I certainly don’t want to read about what happens to Darcy or anyone else after the perfect ending (particularly from someone who is not the original author…) but when it is the author – oh, they still need to be very careful.

Melina Marchetta has done it successfully (“Of course,” I hear you say, “Could you stop going on about her!”)  J. K. Rowling too.  And I didn’t mind meeting up again with Michael Ondaatje’s Caravaggio and Hana once more in The English Patient.  But I agree that A.S. Byatt didn’t need to add the epilogue to Possession and I think that Suzanne Collins could have stopped after The Hunger Games.  Don’t even get me started about Stephenie Meyer…

So I suppose I will continue reading The Travelling Hornblower but my hackles have been raised.  I do not want to fall out of love with Jonathon.

Have you ever wished an author had just stopped?


This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

    • Brother of the more famous Jack by Barbara Trapido (another “book to own” friends…)
  • MAKING individual Zen gardens with my class.
  • VISITING my parents’ place for the celebration of 3 close-together family birthdays, including mine.
  • WATCHING North by North-west on DVD with the kids as we continue our Hitchcock festival.  We think this is the best!


Waiting on the buster

By Vita Forest

Hot weather tool kit

Hot weather tool kit

Yesterday, we were told it would be bad.

“Hotter than today,” someone said as we sweated.

“In the forties, ” agreed another.

“45!” one decided (that’s Celcius people and this is Spring…)

“Do we have to go to school?” asked Max, “How hot does it have to be until we are allowed to stay home?”

No such luck there, sonny.

We got prepared.  There were serious talks in my class about how we could be ready.  They decided they would bring two water bottles each.

“Or more!” some suggested.

“Not more than you can carry,” I advised, “You can refill them here remember.”  (They all turned in unison to look at the taps.)

Another hand went up, “I am going to freeze one of mine, in the freezer!”  Eyes widened, liking that idea.  We discussed hot weather games (no soccer, no football, no chasing games.  Cards would do, we decided.  Or Scissor, Paper, Rock or Chopsticks.  Talking would be quite fine too).

Before I left school I was advised we would be doing indoor recess and indoor lunch the next day.
“Oh,” sighed the teachers and went home to gather their strength.

When I picked up Lucy she was wearing different clothes.


Waterfights at After School Care of course.  Her own ones were sopping.

At home, I gave the plants on the balconies an extra drink.  This morning, my upstair’s neighbour did the same, lacy ribbons of water dripping down from above and bouncing off the balcony rail.  Max had to return to the apartment as we were about to leave – he had left one of his drink bottles in the freezer.

How we got through the day

  • I closed all the windows in my home and returned this afternoon to happy cats and a comfortable cool temperature.
  • at school, water bottles were lined up across desks where they stayed all day, some leaving puddles as their icy contents melted.
  • in K – 2 singing, the Assistant Principal marched up and down the rows of children singing Jingle Bells, spraying them with a light mist from her special spray bottle.  Arms raised up before her to embrace the coolness.
  • Lucy took her own very special birthday spray bottle to school – battery operated and with a fan to help disperse the water!
  • The clever children in the canteen line moved the queue from its normal position in the full sun, to along the side of the hall, to catch what little shade there was, as they waited to buy their ice blocks.
  • Lucy and the After School Care kids had another water fight, some even brought extra clothes and towels in preparation…  The ground was wet with splatted water bottle throws.
  • Lucy’s mother was extra affectionate when she picked her up – very cooling to hug a dripping child.

And now we await the Southerly buster.  Apparently it will drop a good 20 degrees by tomorrow…


Caro’s Transit

What comes around, goes around

What comes around, goes around

By Vita Forest

I first read The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard a few years ago.  I had heard of it before then, but really became intrigued when the entire panel of The Book Club on the ABC raved about it.  Usually there is some dissent among those opinionated readers, but not this time.  They all thought is was brilliant.

It was quite an experience that first read, and subsequent readings haven’t diminished the power of this book.  Even knowing the ending – possibly even because I know what is going to happen.

Hazzard writes about a pair of Australian sisters, Caro and Grace Bell, who have moved to England, and follows them for a period of about thirty years.  The novel is about love – the characters fall and in and out of it, attraction holds them enthralled, circling helplessly in another’s orbit, before they are ruthlessly cast aside to spin away until they are caught up in some other gravitational pull.  This is true of everyone except Ted Tice.  He is a young scientist who meets Caro at the beginning of the book and holds her steady at the centre of his affections, even when separated by huge emotional and physical distances.  Despite the camaraderie that grows between them, his love is unrequited.  Caro of course, is attracted to the amoral, selfish and entirely charismatic Paul Ivory, an up-and-coming playwright.

The characters’ fortunes rise and fall, often in direct contrast to each other.  As if there cannot be triumph without failure, as if there cannot be love without heartbreak, as if there can be no happiness without grief.  The novel is about power and dominance, the shift of control in relationships.

To continue the planetary metaphors, crucial events are eclipsed by flashier, but ultimately more trivial occurrences, or are briefly glimpsed but remain obscured until years later when they are suddenly illuminated again.  Hazzard casually forewarns us of the fate of some of the key characters, in sentences as brief and clinical as news bulletins.  This means that readers can easily miss this crucial information.  By employing this technique, Hazzard manages to make the ending both transcendentally optimistic, or deeply tragic.  It all depends on how you read the book.

The novel is also full of sly humour and exquisite, impressionistic descriptions.  Each word is beautifully placed, even minor characters are given spark and wit.  There are some truly revolting characters, Dora, the half-sister of Caro and Grace, with her endless catastrophes and parasitic sense of entitlement, immediately comes to mind.

In a lot of ways it is a very brutal book.  Hazzard is not kind to her characters.  No-one is spared disappointments and heartaches.  I suppose that is her message.

P.S. When I finished, I did have to return to a bit of Melina Marchetta, to get back a sense of redemption and hope…

This week

By Vita Forest

The Japanese Gardens at Auburn

The Japanese Gardens at Auburn

This week I have been

    • The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta.  Again.  (It makes me ache, how I love this book…)
    • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling at school (up to the first Quidditch match…)
  • MAKING collages of Totoro at school.
  • VISITING the Japanese Gardens at Auburn with my class (very lovely).
  • WATCHING the new season of Homeland on TV.
  • MEETING two gorgeous friends from high school and confiding in each other about our latest ups and downs.  A shout out to two very inspiring women!
  • LISTENING to Piazzola on the radio while
  • STOPPING to watch the sunset.
  • THINKING about all those effected by the terrible recent events in Paris.


Literary cats provide their own special kind of assistance

By Vita Forest


Meet my cats.

There is Isaboe (black and white, freckle on her nose, likes to chew cardboard boxes and wears a mask.  She is named after the kick-ass heroine from Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles).

And there is Zadie (one month younger than Isaboe, but larger and fluffier.  White, currently shedding fur.  Everywhere.  She has a long elegant tail like a feather boa and is rather chatty – chirps and hums as she follows me around.  She is named after the novelist Zadie Smith).

Here they are when they were a little younger and could share the top spot in the cat tower.

Yin and Yang cats

Yin and Yang cats

But let me take you back to last Saturday…

I awoke at 6.30ish and thought I may as well get up (the kids were still asleep and I wanted to fit in some report writing).  While I made a I made a cup of Earl Grey tea, my phone beeped and I saw that a friend from school was also up and about.  She was bemoaning the fact that due to the good weather, she could not start on the school reports as her kids’ cricket would not be cancelled.  Another friend texted from bed, What are you doing!?  Been out dancing and partying.  She was not going to start hers anytime soon. Just about to start, I let them know.

I carried my tea to the table and spread out my piles of Maths tests, report outcomes, notes and lists of children’s names.  Then the cats came to help.

Zadie lay across the Measurement tests.  Isaboe sat expectantly on the class list.  The non-furry children slept on.  I managed to pull out a pile of tests and began grading them.  My phone beeped again.  Another friend had arrived at school with her takeaway coffee to get to work on reports.  It was 7am.  What were we thinking? another texted, she was sleeping in too.

I put down my phone and returned to the tests.  Zadie’s ears pricked up at the sound of the paper clip being removed from the paper.  She started to bat it across the table, flicking it under the sheets of report outcomes, which she then had to scatter to find the paperclip.  I found it for her and threw it across the room.  She bounded after it.

Isaboe blinked at me then curled up neatly again with her tail wrapped along the length of her body.  I sorted tests, I wrote grades for each student for outcomes in Number and Algebra, for Measurement.  Zadie leaped up on the table again and dropped the paperclip near me.

Dogs play fetch with sticks, Zadie uses paper clips.  I threw it again and texted my friends about my “helpers.”

“Go back to bed!” advised one, “The cats are trying to tell you something!”

“Bring them into school!” said another, “They can help me!”

After a few rounds of batting the paperclip along the length of the table like a hockey puck and skidding across the floor to collect it when I threw it for her, Zadie decided enough was enough and sprawled across the Maths tests I had spread in front on me.



Then I heard a door open and Max burst onto the scene.  Lucy also appeared, rubbing her eyes.  They grabbed the cats and gave them a good morning cuddle.  Papers shuffled and fell on the floor.  Cats leaped from the table, children’s voices argued over what we should have for breakfast.

At least I had made a start…

Maths tests are super comfy

Maths tests are super comfy


Happy Diwali!

By Vita Forest


Just takng a brief break from end of year report writing to wish everyone “Happy Diwali”. Here are a couple of pictures made from my previous student artworks exploring Diwali (we study different celebrations – what a lovely excuse to do some art).

Today, some of my lovely colleagues of Indian heritage treated us to a delicious celebratory morning tea.  They were all dressed up in beautiful clothes and wearing their special jewellery.  One of the Mums sent in an amazing freshly baked orange cake too…

How did you celebrate Diwali?


This week

By Vita Forest

Walking back to the city over Pyrmont Bridge

Walking back to the city over Pyrmont Bridge

This week I have been