Happiness as Anarchy #22: When the lawnmower starts first try

My lawnmower, Big Bob, and I have a tumultuous relationship. I swear he is possessed by a devil whose sole purpose is to torment me – something Bob’s been doing for 15 years. He’s not known to start easily, and my futile efforts to make him go are responsible for at least fifty percent of my yearly swear jar. I had to call in the heavies yesterday (a.k.a my dad) to work some magic after I had spent a week pulling that cord to no effect and simultaneously pulling a number of little used muscles. Turns out Bob had lost his zest for life. With a new spark plug he roared into action and we mowed half the lawn, whistling a happy tune.

This afternoon I went out with trepidation and incantations, hoping for start up success, but seriously expecting Bob’s perverse side to appear once again. However, to my delight:
Two pulls of the cord and up he roared.
The grass is mown, the devil has flown!

You can read the history of lawnmowers on the Old Lawnmower Club website. It fails to mention the Australian success story of Victa, but you can find about that at Australia’s Top 10 Inventions: The Victa Lawn Mower.

And a little Gary Larson to finish:

Happiness as Anarchy #21: Realising I Know A Few Songs

Once upon a time I found it very difficult to remember chord changes for songs. I just wrote a set list for tomorrow morning’s gig at Clunes Market – tunes I know from memory and can play on uke. When I started, there was a little nagging question floating around the back of my head: will I have enough songs to fill an hour and a half? Much to my surprise, the list has 40 songs on it! It makes me very happy to sit briefly in the realisation of how far I’ve come on my musical journey.

If you’re out and about tomorrow morning, you can find me playing at the Clunes Market from 11:45-1:15. Do stop and say hello if you see me!

Travelling Uke Amie

Photo: Nicole Cleary

Happiness as Anarchy #19: My Audience

My audience brings me joy every single time I get on stage. I don’t know if they realise how special they are and how much I love them. I do a little gig once a month at Craig’s Hotel in Ballarat, down in the cellar, and every month I go home with a smile on my face and a heart full of love. We share a space and time each month and I’m very humbled that everyone who comes gives a few hours of their time to listen to the music I make. The atmosphere is very relaxed and we often have a conversation in the middle of the set about songs and stories and experiences. And there are always a few songs where everyone joins in to sing – that’s one of my favourite moments as a performer – when we all make music together.

One very special thing about this particular audience is the way they let me experiment – with new songs, poetry, different instruments, and occasionally a new song of mine. Thank you, if you were there last night, for letting me share that new song in such a loving environment. It was hard thing for me to do, but you made it you made it possible.

Here’s a little clip from last night of a song written in 1928 – I Can’t Give You Anything But Love – by Jimmy McHugh (music) and Dorothy Fields (lyrics). I’m playing my new ukulele, Petunia.



Happiness as Anarchy #18: Cheese on Special

Cheese is probably my favourite food. It’s not really fair to say that because there are so many different cheeses – everything from stinky old washed rind to a mild creamy feta – and I love them all. Having lived in France, the range of cheese available in Australia is a bit sad, but there is joy to be found. One of those happened this evening: I finished my gig, popped into the supermarket to pick up some bread for school lunches tomorrow, and stumbled across a stack of seriously discounted King Island Camembert.

Now the joy here is not really about the price. It’s about ripeness. The cheese was cheap because the ‘best before’ date is tomorrow. What Australian supermarketeers don’t understand is that for camembert it should actually say ‘best after’. Any earlier than that date and the cheese is underripe, like a green banana. This means that all the camembert in the supermarket needs to be matured in your fridge for weeks or months after purchase. Courtesy of tonight’s late night shopping, I now have a stack of camembert in my fridge that is perfect for eating this week – soft and creamy, and if you let it warm up a little it will become gooey. Heaven!


Happiness as Anarchy #17: Faith

Faith. George Michael. 1987.
I haven’t listened to it for a decade or more, but managed to put my finger on the CD in seconds this evening. The song is as good as I remember it, which is a pleasant surprise, given my taste in music as a school girl (A-ha, Pseudo Echo, the soundtrack to La Bamba … need I go on?)
May it bring you happy memories of the late 80s, shoulder pads and all.
(Faith starts at 14 seconds)

Happiness as Anarchy #16: A Good Piano

I started playing piano when I was 8 years old and not long after my grandmother gave me her piano. That piano – an upright with walnut panels – and I are good friends. We’ve been through a lot of years of practice and joy and heartbreak together. Sadly she’s not really playable any more (it happens to the best of us when we’re over a century old) but I can’t let go of her.

Having spent most of my life dreaming of having a grand piano, a few years ago I bought one. Just like that! It was time to get a new piano and a grand piano isn’t nearly as expensive as you might think. Mine is a Yamaha G1 from the early 1990s, when construction quality was at its peak, and it’s an absolute delight to play. One of the wonderful things about having a lovely instrument is that it makes you want to play all the time. So now I will have an argument with myself about whether I go to bed or play some tunes.

Here she is:

Grand Piano 1

And here’s the piano movers bringing her in:

Grand Piano 2

Happiness as Anarchy #15: The Scent of Quinces

The quince trees in my garden both have a story. They are cuttings from my Mum’s tree, which she planted from a cutting from the old milkman who lived down the road when I was a kid. The fruit of this variety is particularly delicious and keeps its texture when cooked. The Currawongs were threatening to devour all my quinces this year, so I picked them early – a dozen or more giant yellow baubles – and left them sitting on the kitchen table to ripen. The wonderful thing about quinces is the way their scent permeates the house. Its not strong, but fruity and exotic, and a delightful waft hits me every time I walk in the front door.

Today I decided to slow-bake some of them and now the house is filled with the divine smell of quinces mixed with spices and lemon peel. I like to think it’s how a handsome 18th century spice trader might have smelled arriving back from mysterious lands and the high seas.


Happiness as Anarchy #14: Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams

There’s nothing quite like happy music to put a skip in your step. It’s terribly unfashionable but I do love Dean Martin, particularly in the car. At the moment I’m listening to an album of his greatest hits that I picked up in the op shop. No chance of getting bored because there are 25 tracks on the album, most of them happy. Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams is on there and keeps me smiling while I’m driving. Written in 1931 and first recorded by Louis Armstrong in November that year, it’s been recorded by so many great artists you could listen to it all day in different incarnations.

Happiness as Anarchy #13: My Brain Is Full

I’ve spent the last two days at the Creative State Summit at the Melbourne Museum. My brain is totally full and there’s a insane party of new ideas buzzing around at high speed in there. The speakers were by and large thought-provoking and engaging, but I’m more inspired by the people I met and the conversations I had. I will be processing and pondering, ruminating and reconstructing over the next little while, and I’m sure that will turn into new projects soon enough. On the one hand this all means more work, but it’s good work, meaningful work, exciting work, and that will make me happy for much longer than just today.

It was quite inspiring to spend a few days in the museum space, surrounded by dinosaurs and boats, fossils, trees and possum-skin cloaks.