How to make a Jelly River

This morning at breakfast

Tilly: If everyone in the world jumps on a jelly river will they go through it?

Me: Good question.

Tilly: You know that night…Kitty…this night…you know that sound that I was making?

Me: Last night, when you were sleeping?

Tilly: Yes.

Me: Uh huh.

Tilly: That was me dreaming about Kitty.

Me: I see.

Tilly: She was going down a jelly river. I thought she would fall through the jelly river, but she didn’t… I fell through a jelly river, but a pretend one…. I thought she fell through a real jelly river, but she didn’t. That’s lucky, isn’t it?

Me: Sure is.

Tilly: Can we make a jelly river one day? Not a real one or we might fall through it. Just one that is not too deep. Maybe one in a bucket. Can we do it today?

Me: I’m not sure, sweet. I’ll have to see if I can find a….recipe.

Tilly: Thanks, Papa.

Note: I was genuinely disappointed to discover no helpful results when I googled ‘how do you make a jelly river in a bucket’.






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Odd Collocations

Check this post out for strict adherence to my new posting protocol. I possibly could have cut ‘Come on, Australia’ (see text for context), but aside from that, this one is as lean as a whippet.

A collocation is a pair or set of words that habitually go together. If you want to see some examples of common collocation then just typing any word into Google, and it will instantly offer you a bunch of the most common collocations with that word. For example, were you start typing in ‘scantily’, by the time you get to the ‘i’ it will offer you ‘clad’, since this collocation is pretty much the only use we have for scantily. Collocations are not just linguistic though, the word can also be applied to any things that go together.

The reason I’m telling you all this is because today I noticed, or more correctly I twigged to the fact that I have been noticing for quite a while, that – in the streets of Melbourne, at least – carwash collocates with palm tree.

So I’m putting out a call out. I want other examples of urban streetscape collocations that you have noticed – there have to be more out there. And the more arbitrary and nonsensical they are, the better.

Come on, Australia.

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Postito (or yet another desperate attempt to re-ignite a blog)

I was having lunch with a friend the other day, and we got talking about blogging. She asked me how my blog was going, and when I said that I hadn’t posted for ages, she suggested – quite sensibly – that perhaps I should write shorter posts. I, of course, went immediately into a lame defence of my blogblock, explaining that it was the quality of my ideas that was to blame – ideas of such complexity that only a lengthy post would do – and that I regularly became overwhelmed by the prospect of trying to cobble together enough little time windows to do the ideas any kind of justice, and so had given up even trying. She waited until I had run out of steam, then politely changed the subject.

Thinking about this later, I was reminded of a similar conversation I had had years before with a girlfriend, after she asked me why I hadn’t yet written a song about her. I told her it was because I wasn’t a good enough song writer (with the kind of flat tone I like to adopt when I’m hoping the other person will interpret what I’m saying as false modesty, rather than what it really is – the truth). Other more technically proficient songwriters, I said, are able to just choose a subject and knock out a song about it, whereas I have to wait for bits of musically and lyrical flotsam to wash up on the shore of my imagination, and then cobble them together into a form that (with a little bit of hammering and sanding) resembles what other people might consider a song (as long as they don’t look at it too closely).*

Needless to say, the girlfriend in question was unconvinced and – just like my friend at lunch – asked why I didn’t just write simpler songs. So just to spite her, I did exactly that, and to rub salt into the wound (whose wound exactly it was hard to say) I just called it ‘Simple Song’.

So this is the theme song of my new chapter in blogging – a chapter where I keep things short and….well, short. Rather than letting parenting be an excusing for not doing anything, I’m going to try to make it a form of creative limitation. I may not have time to write posts such as the one with the working title ‘Ten Thousand Headless Buddhas’ that I have been trying to knock together for weeks from bits and pieces I have been storing in the old brain shed, but I don’t want silence to be my only other option.

Anyway, I have to stop now to fulfil my new brief, so let me sign off with a reassurance that this will be my last post about posting for a while (self-reflexivity is just so 90s, after all). The next one will just be a quick peck on your cheek or punch in the face as we pass each other in the street, both of us rushing on to attend to the siren song of our unending busyness.

* I write at greater length about my songwriting process in this post.

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By way of apology

I’ve been out of the blogosphere for quite a while now.

I’ve written a few half posts during the last few months, but haven’t had enough puff to get over the finishing line with any of them.

So, as was the case with my last bout of bloggers block, I am going to start with ‘sprints’ and work my way up to the ‘marathons’ of old.

And so here, for your reading enjoyment, is the laziest kind of short post, the reported conversation, or in this case virtual mini-monologue, since I play no role in the conversation at all, aside from basic parental sounding board (it occurs to me that I haven’t a clue what a sounding board actually is) and asker of clarifying questions.

Tilly: Papa?

Me: Yes, sweet.

Tilly: At Kinder, Charlie chopped the head off nature.

Me: Really?

Tilly: Yes. We were playing and then he chopped the head off nature.

Me: Was it a tree or something?

Tilly: Lisa said that it isn’t the kind of thing that we do.

Me: Yes, that’s probably true.

Tilly: It was a little nature…

Me: A little nature?

Tilly: …maybe an ant.

Me: Oh, I see.

Tilly: I never chop the head off nature, do I Papa?

Me: I can’t say I’ve ever seen you chop the head off nature, no.

Tilly: That’s good, isn’t it… My mozzie bite is really bothering me, because it’s really slumpy.

Me: What does slumpy mean?

Tilly: Papa! Don’t be silly. You know what slumpy means. You say slumpy all the time.

Me: I’m a bit of a slumpy papa, aren’t I?

Tilly: What?


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The Sweetspot

I remember a talk I once went to on stress, in which we were told that stress is not inherently bad, in fact that it can be as bad for us to have too little stress as it is to have too much. The key is to try to find the sweet spot at the top of the stress bell curve where you have the perfect amount of stress to be optimally energised and productive.

You can probably say all the same things about time as well. I think that it is definitely possible to have too much free time on your hands, and that this is as damaging to your psyche as having too little. Tragically, in our culture, we’ve set things up in such a way that too many of us exist at one end of the bell curve or the other when in comes to time. Many of us spend our twenties (when we aren’t travelling the world) renting, doing jobs with very little responsibility, in and out of relationships, with no dependents and no major assets, living a life of extended adolescence; and then at some point in our thirties (often within the space of a few years) we get married, have kids, buy our house, and reach the point in our careers where we are working longer hours than we ever have or ever will again.

It is like we have decided to live our lives the way children eat their meals. Eat all the ‘good’ things first, and postpone eating all the ‘bad’ things as long as possible. But the reality is that, just as having a little bit of everything with each forkful is the richest and most interesting way to eat, so too living with a balance of responsibilities and freedoms is a much more nourishing way to live.

A friend once used the analogy of a slinky to explain the balance required between description and action in writing fiction (and I think it applies to balance in life as well). If there is too much description and the story moves forward too slowly it is like a slinky that hangs limply between your hands. If the story moves too quickly without adequate descriptive detail, it is like pulling the slinky so taut that the wire stretches out of shape. But if you get the tension exactly right the waves of back-and-forth energy will make the slinky almost hum.

Once again, the key is finding the sweetspot, the top of the bell curve, the perfect amount of tension to be energised without being overwhelmed. That’s what I want, and I know it exists, because I’ve been there… and I want to be there more.



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The other day I ‘invented’ a new form of meditation. I call it AM (ie just like TM, except that instead of being Transcendental, it’s Accidental.)

Here’s what happened. Susie was at work, Tilly was at childcare and Kitty was asleep. So I decided that I should cook ‘Matt’s Napoli Sauce‘, as you do. Anyway, I had just begun frying the onions (having reduced the heat to low-medium), when Kitty decided to wake up halfway through a sleep cycle (and in case you are wondering, the accidental meditation did not start at this point).

I got her up, and on the way back through the lounge room opened up iTunes and put our entire iTunes library on random play. This is always an adventure; with Susie being a professional actor/voice artist and me being an amateur musician (unless it is the HR department at work that’s asking) our library doesn’t just feature music, but also involves a lot of random documentary, advertising and corporate reads of Susie’s that she’s sourced for her voice demo, as well as a whole bunch of random, poorly conceived, and poorly mixed ‘Garage Band’ tracks that I have (de)composed (until I accidentally blew up the headphone jack), and some sound effects that I have downloaded over the years for inclusion in the more ‘conceptual’ of the aforementioned tracks. When you add to this the fact that genre-wise our collection features everything from old school hip hop to Playschool favourites then you are starting to get a sense of how downright bizarre the mix can be.

Anyway, to the surreal soundtrack of ‘Fight the Power’, followed by Susie voicing a Jetstar ad, followed by ‘Yucky Mucky Nappy’ (a personal favourite) I tried to get Kitty to eat some corn thins and chunks of roasted pumpkin in her high chair, while the onion slowly ‘caramelised’ on the stove. The fact that she was teething, however, meant that she was in no mood for anything that required chewing, and so opted to skip straight to dessert (aka a bottle of formula). Now I don’t know if you have every tried to put three level scoops of formula into a bottle while holding a screaming baby and trying to stop onion from moving from brown to black, but it’s not quite as fun as it sounds, and certainly not conducive to a meditative state (though it is conducive to clumps of undissolved formula).

It was, however, right in the middle of this chaos that ‘Yucky, Mucky Nappy’ ended, and the library chose to follow it up with a track called ‘Breath Visualisations’. Let me explain.

About 5 years ago, Susie and I decided that we wanted to do a meditation class together, and after a bit of googling we came across a free four week course run by the Melbourne Sri Chinmoy Centre (yeah, I’d never heard of this particular guru either, but if you want a sense of the man, his three main interests are meditation, music and marathons – I kid you not). Now I had tried meditation before with mixed results, but had never really done proper guided meditation in a group, and was amazed by the power of the experience. In fact, we were both so inspired by the course that at the end we bought one of the Sri Chinmoy CDs so that we could continue to meditate at home, and loaded it onto our iTunes library to make sure it happened regularly… Needless to say, I probably haven’t listened to either ‘Breath Visualisations’ (19:55) or the killer second track ‘Aum Mantra’  (28:54) for at least 3 years, 6 months and 17 days.

Anyway, by the time the flute kicked in (1:45) I had settled myself into a chair in front of the stove, a now very content baby on my knee, sucking rhythmically on the bottle of formula, held at the optimal angle in my left hand, while in my right a wooden spoon did smooth figure-eights through the onion. It was at that moment, in the intersection of Kitty’s rhythmic sucking, the hypnotic swirling spoon and Sri Chinmoy’s soulful flute stylings, that I discovered AM.

My mind slowly left my body and surfed a perfect alpha wave back through time and space to the serene, candle-lit cocoon of contemplation that was Fitzroy Library’s Meeting Room 1 (except, of course, when someone shifted in their seat and the motion sensor activated fluoros came back on).

Luckily, Matt’s Napoli recipe calls for the onions to be cooked for 15 whole minutes, so by the time I reached step 4 (Add garlic. Simmer for 3 minutes.) I had pretty much reached Sahaja Samadhi (aka Inseparable Oneness with the Supreme). And the onions had pretty much reached Inseparable Oneness with the Scanpan.

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Cake Plate 2

As a brief addendum to my post on the beauty of the absurd, here is a little genre/pov mashup from Tilly. It reminds me a little of one of my favourite group of poets, The Imagist, and is also a Haiku (well it’s 17 syllables, at least).

Dear Tilly and Mama,

I hope they have a lovely birthday.


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