And so my friends, I finished it.

It’s Good Friday. Or as I so hilariously quipped on the twitters this morning when the water was turned off in the street while I was in the shower – Just Ok Friday. Adding to the just okayness was the blossoming of the UK Man Flu which my father thoughtfully brought back from his holiday and shared firstly with my mother, then my sister and lastly, me. It was turning out to be a day of headaches, boredom, thirstiness and remembering not to flush the toilet.

For those who have put up with my continued worrying about my inability to read fiction and enjoy it (slow reading appreciation collective aside) we may worry no longer. Also, thank you for your patience. For now I feel I may say that it wasn’t me! I wasn’t the problem! It was the books!! They were rubbish. Boring. Dull. Not interesting. All of the above. A better book was I all needed.

I thought I had found it a couple of weeks ago when on the recommendation of a friend I whipped through Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett in under a week. Unheard of pace for me especially given I was reading it at night which is usually “read to fall asleep” time. But there was still a niggling concern. Sure, I’d managed to read an entire book without giving up on it. I’d felt compelled to finish it. All positive reading signs. But it was a memoir. Did that count? I love memoirs, biographies, autobiographies. They’re my go to for recreational reading. I still hadn’t read a novel by myself since last year. (All the Light We Cannot See – recommend). A new novel. And read it without falling asleep before finishing the first chapter never to return to it again.

Then came this:


It’s been sitting on my coffee table for some months after an impulsive purchase in town. And there it remained while I bought a version on my Kindle late last night. (Yes, I know. Stupid. You don’t like reading on a screen. Wendy, you already had a perfectly good copy in the next room. I know all those things. Shush.)

And I knew that this was the one. From the first pages. (Ok, just pipe down “real book” pedants. I know the Kindle doesn’t technically have pages but come along with me). I had to force myself to put it down and go to sleep. And today, being double Sunday/ Just OK Friday meant I had time to read. I tentatively started back into it this morning wondering whether I had been mistaken last night. Whether suddenly it would all go wrong and I’d (as usual) put it down and never pick it up again. Whether it would be one of the many novels on my Kindle that I have started and left glowing in the night, never to return to them. (Jasper Jones, the one about the lighthouse that is also the Worst Movie in the World, the Marion Keyes, the list goes on and on and on).

Fear not! This book had me On Board. From the Start to the Finish. It was haunting (literally and metaphorically) and I Could Not put it Down. And so my friends, I finished it and wondered whether I would ever read another novel again that swept me up so completely with such exhilaration.

(Meanwhile, Tim Winton’s The Shepherd’s Hut languishes on the same coffee table….started about 10 days ago….and not particularly inclined to pick it up again. If I wanted to read about toxic masculinity….wait….no….I don’t).



Old school rendered useful

Back in the day, before that big meteor shower took out the dinosaurs, we used to hand render logos and layouts and TV storyboards to present our magnificent (not really) ideas (occasionally original) to clients.

076 Pantone Markers

In ancient robes and rope sandals we would walk the dusty trail to the illustration studio and take up our Rotring pens (once we unclogged them) and our Pantone markers, and render the day away at giant sloping drafting tables. There would be some absurd deadline cooked up by a slick ad agency dude in a suit (who we called ‘Suits’) whilst on the phone schmoozing his lunch date (client). He would follow up with a confirmation fax. #80’s

Moving the studio has been akin to an archaeological dig. Waaaaaay back in the art cupboard I found a glimmering box of Pantone pens and ink refills, tucked away safely in the dark for 8 years. Little treasures, forgotten, and probably never to be used by me again. See, that’s how hoarding could start; hanging onto the ‘maybe’ and ‘probably’ is a slippery slope to sidling down the hallway between stacks of old life, piled high.

I’m thrilled to say I found a worthy home for the markers. A young person met recently, in their final year of high school, as happy to receive as I was to farewell. She did have to endure a couple of ‘those were the days’ stories. Five or six illustrators with a lot of chocolate on board, Prince on the cassette player, we’re calling across the studio for ‘the #472‘—a popular skin tone—speaking in a numeric language while colouring happy people eating delicious ice creams and skipping in flowering parklands on their way to purchase the hero product. Or just rendering a spanner set for the Saturday paper in cool greys.

And now the box of pens takes on a new life, no doubt some of the pens need retiring. Some kind of metaphor there, that’s best left alone.

*Gazes up at #298 sky. Product name bursts across screen*

Lightning storms between Moonlight Ridge and Moores Bridge, Southern Ranges

Lightning Storms Mlight Ridge and Moores Bridge SR Tas_E

Ink and gouache on 300gsm Arches paper leperello,  113cm x 45cm 

A love affair with the Tasmanian landscape began 25 years ago as Nearest and I turned our ’82 LandRover into the carpark at Dove Lake. The magnetic pull of high ridgetops, the precious and mysterious cushion plant and scoparia habitats, the hilariously impenetrable horizontal scrubs: besotted by all of it, we returned again and again to be IN it.

In 2016 we creaked our middle-aged joints slowly, slowly up Moonlight Ridge in the Southern Ranges. Storm clouds parted to reveal that wildfire had ravaged its delicacy since our 2010 visit, creating an alternative beauty. A beauty even more in the minutia, more intense in its wild survival, and more raw.

My work centres around the tensions and conversations between wild places and altered landscapes. This piece explores the drama of a changed place and the relationship we have with wilderness, using ink to produce happenstance, exactly as occurs in a wild Tasmanian landscape. 

So, that was the statement for a piece I created in the last few weeks, at night and in strange early pre-work hours, for prize entry. I don’t enter many prizes – not for the lack of wanting to, let me tell you. I’m just really crapolla at fitting it into the studio time. Sketching (mostly laughing and swimming) with friends yesterday, we laughed at how we make a list of the prizes we’d like to enter, and watch their dates and deadlines float by.

It felt great to know I could work at night in the new studio, that in this new space, time could pass without notice. That is the prize.

Now back to the exhibition pieces…

Of spectral moonscapes, ochre dusks and many other things

Dear Richard

It’s us. The Slow Reading Appreciation Collective. Perhaps you thought we had forgotten you, popped you on the bedside table and not picked you up again, such has been our silence over the last 6 weeks or so? We apologise if you were worried about our reading, slow, fast or some pace in-between. Never fear. Not for you the remaindered piles of unread books that sit gathering dust in our respective houses (while mine anyway….I shall not speak for fellow Slow Reader and Thought Terrainer). We have been greedily consuming your fabulous book over the past weeks. We’ve just been on holidays so we haven’t been much bothered with doing things like fulfilling a self-imposed commitment to write to you about it.

You probably don’t recall that last time we wrote we had arrived at p. 81. Kif was just completing his deal with the publishers to write Heidl’s book because money. Collectively we have now read up to p. 197. Individually we both have finished, but we shall keep reading collectively because that is when the gorgeousness of your prose comes to life and makes us laugh, gasp in horror, giggle and, frequently, sigh in dismayed recognition.

Now we know you’re a busy fellow so we won’t bore you with a detailed reading of our 100 or so pages. We’ll just look at some of our FAVOURITE parts. Some of the bits that made us “stop, collaborate and listen” (with apologies to Vanilla Ice). And by that I mean, we stopped, we chatted, we re-read just so we could hear some of these phrases again for their stunning beauty, unexpected, perfect metaphors and often times the need to unravel exactly what was happening.

Question: on p. 87 when you write “Like madmen walking backwards” are you slyly referencing Yann Martel? Only one of us has read the latest book and it will probably stay that way.

p. 98. Here’s something we marked at the time and didn’t really realise it’s significance. Should you have written in “spoiler alert” in the footnotes here Richard when Kif is musing on the colour and quality of Heidl’s eyes? “They had the depthless calm of black water in fatal rivers. Later I noticed that on some days his eyes were like those of a wild dog, the pupils preternaturally dilated. At such times, he seemed to circle his prey like a wolf. Mostly though, his eyes had the glaze of road kill. Without hope, they both terrified and mesmerised me.” Looking back I had underlined “fatal” in pencil as well as “glaze of road kill”. Having read the end that is coming back to haunt me. Powerful much Richard! Especially when we really had no idea what was coming in the end.

Wait up! Here’s the wombat reference on p. 102 when you’re talking about Ray. “His eyes momentarily had the same dying wombat look as Heidl’s”. That wombat comes back. Clever. Didn’t realise that then either. How clever you are now we see, because Kif is writing this is in present tense but also in retrospect. So it allows you to drop these hints and clues into the text without us, the readers, realising what’s happening. We are the colour of impressed.

p. 105. core vs non-core. We haw-hawed in recognition of this. #politics

p. 113 “scried”. What a lovely verb. Looking for signs/future/predictions.

We continued to enjoy your writing about writing. Here’s a bit that got the underlining pencil treatment as you describe Heidl speaking “At such times, he talked simply, in the way the best writers write simply; his words nothing, the undertow of them everything,” (p. 123). Oh, but we could all write like that.

And then again on p, 124, Heidl and “his corpse eyes”. Foreshadowing again which we manage to underline but clever you, we perhaps did not see the full implications of these evocative descriptions. Blow us down if we don’t see that again on the very next page where you liken finishing a novel to murder. whoa.

I”ll tell you what made us laugh out loud was on p. 138 where Kif put together his writing schedule. This was the laugh out loud/sigh with recognition situation that we adored throughout the book. And here’s the best description of anything I’ve ever seen perhaps (overstatement obviously but you know) “panting cursor”! That’s what it does!!!

Other words caught our eyes and our imaginations “arabesques of nonsense” (p. 140). We were stopped in a tracks by this one on p. 155 of the west of Tasmania

“dying mining towns, spectral ruins in a moonscape of desolation, wounded blues and greens and bright bronze rock glistening in the forever rain and lonely yellow headlight trails, turning north past the last of the rusting, ripple iron shanties, seven stubbies down, maybe more, gunning it up the green-walled mountain passes”.

Blimmin Heck.

I for one would love to listen to someone sing a “song cycle of demand” (p. 161) or be able to see the “ochre cataclysm of dusk” (p. 185).

What about this though on p.188 “But the truth is that if I stopped for even a moment and thought about the things I’d done I’d have to kill myself. And maybe that was Heidl’s fear too”. Sheesh. Missed the true significance first time round but it’s even more fantastic on second reading.

So we have slowly made it to p. 197. Reading. Definitely Appreciating. Collectively. And now also, we both know what’s coming, just like your narrator Kif, so when we next meet to read again together we will have the inside knowledge on how it ends, and how reliable or otherwise Kif might be in his/your depiction of himself and of Heidl.

Thanks for the deliciousness Richard.



I pumped up the bicycle tyres.

This is not a metaphor. I did it. I just pumped up the bicycle tyres. It’s more like a shiny miracle than anything else. It’s right up there with vacuuming all of the dog hair out of the back of my car.

Which is what I did this morning too. What in the ‘Sam Hill’ is going on? I haven’t even told ‘Nearest‘ about the vacuuming. He simply will not believe it!

So, yes, the next step is to actually get on the bike, but it’s dark now, and windy, and time for sleep. Today I finished the first piece for 2018, and the first piece for an upcoming show in Brisbane. It grew out of a little sunset walk, a small scribble, and a full sheet of Fabriano paper. A bit like the bike – I haven’t used Fabriano for many, many years.

072 Late Blush Pandanus

Four layers of washy watercolour, some liberal slabs of masking fluid, and some watery gouache marks that nearly killed it—and then resuscitated it—at the front end of a small series of works on paper needed for mid March. I have three other works on the go, but this one gets a name and a place on that strange and mysterious list of ‘done’, where the line between disaster and done is quite fuzzy and explicable to anyone but ourselves.

073 Late Blush Pandanus

Last Blush, Pandanus, 2018, watercolour and gouache on Fabriano 300gsm, 56cm x 76cm. The bones of the sketch are all there, and it felt essential to know where the masking was going to sit, a known structure, and then the watercolour tends to take things from there. The next studio day is six days away which feels like another country.

074 Late Blush Pandanus

Another scribble awaits, masked paper ready. No reason to not just hook in when that day rolls around… straight after a little bike ride through the pandanus. 😀


I am, like, a really stable, great showman

Slight spoilers ahead sweeties.

The line for The Greatest Showman was long and we’d been burned once before with the rare phenomenon of sold out sessions. Still, we lined up, got our choc tops and got a good seat in the small theatre. We even kindly made room by moving up our row so two people could fit in. We’re good people.

We suffered through the insufferably long advertisements, preview, advertisements, preview show during which time I dropped chocolate on my dress three times. Not that I was counting or anything. Man, that Liam Neeson film looks like Garbage. The Commuter. Jeez.

FINALLY it started. Now, I’ll just mention that everyone I have spoken to about this film has flipping raved about how much they loved it, how great it was, how great Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron are, etc etc blah blah *insert emoji face with love hearts for eyes here*. And in my humble film watching experience this is frequently a sign that I am going to be disappointed. Even when Margaret and David would give something four to five stars, expectations were immediately set right up there and nothing lived up to the hype.

The Greatest Showman was no exception. Bloody hell. Can this film be any more contrived and stagey? Why do all the songs sound exactly the same and I can’t remember one of them 3 minutes after leaving the cinema? Why on earth if they’re making a musical set in the 19th century would they not use music appropriate to the time instead of these freaking awful stomping power rock, hip hop, pop shite? I know that’s trendy. Hamilton I’m looking at you. But it was awful. That thing they wrote for the character of Swedish nightingale Jenny Lind to sing was so dreadful I wondered if it was meant to be a terrible joke. I really expected the audience in the film to burst into laughter. It could not have been less subtle. It was the opposite of subtle. It was almost crude in its beltingness.

If Hugh’s performance had been any more twinkly-eyed and twinkly-toed he would have exploded into his own constellation. Settle down man. You’re not in the Boy from Oz now. Listen carefully. Sometimes it’s okay to dial down the charm. Stop it with the charisma. Overloaded. You’re in danger of tipping over the edge into Tom Cruise-territory and we know that leads nowhere good. Zac Efron – your best performance was and always will be in Hairspray. I lurved you in that. Because you got the joke. You were in on it. Here you are a little bit of the joke. You can dance and sing and everything but that revoltingly saccharine thing you had twirl around to about stars or summink with Zendaya was embarrassing. I was quietly cringing in my seat. How did you keep a straight face? The director showed admirable restraint in not having her give you the kiss of life while you were dying of smoke on the stretcher after the big fire. It would not have been out of place here. Anyhow hey ho you survived to dance the finale. Good job. Michelle Williams had little to do except wear a lovely blonde wig and support Hugh in his never-ending quest for acceptance. She did this quite gracefully even when she had to be standing in the breeze waiting for him to come and see her at the seaside in one of the concluding scenes.

I know what you might be thinking. Wendy. Stop being such a grinch. It’s just good old fashioned entertainment. Well old-fashioned certainly. Good? Nope. Instantly forgettable? Pretty much. One-dimensional? Indeed. Absolutely cardboard-cut-outty? For sure. A waste of talented cast? Definitely.

As I sat through it musing, three thoughts came to mind.

  1. PT Barnum = Donald Trump. I am the greatest showman. I am very stable genius and really smart. Does saying it really make it so? Was PT Barnum the originator of “alternative facts”, hoodwinking and hoaxing his public? Does someone want to trace that line back? I don’t. I’m too lazy. Is this the film musical we deserve in this time? I think it might be. Depthless. Surface. Spectacle. Guy Debord was and is still relevant.
  2. Seinfeld 1992. As always, Kramer said it plainly and clearly.  People want to watch freaks. Because that’s as thoughtful as The Greatest Showman gets about its circus acts as well. What would have been interesting would have been less Hugh Jackman and more about the stories and lives of the (and I hesitate to use the word) “freaks” in Barnum’s act, perhaps actually addressing the issue of exploitation in some kind of nuanced way.
  3. In fact, there’s probably an amazing documentary or biographical film to be made about PT Barnum. This isn’t it. And maybe we can say that’s because it’s a light and fluffy musical. But musicals don’t have to be light and fluffy and I think this one is really disappointing because it chose that path.

Now I know that I’m doing that terrible thing where I’m criticising a film for not being what I wanted it to be, rather than on its own merits. And it does have some merits in a talented cast and what I imagine was a huge amount of money spent on costume, design etc etc. It’s bling from start to finish. That’s not a compliment.

Ultimately thought, I think that we, the film going public deserve better. More effort to make a film where we engage with the characters. Where they are actually engaging – where the actors are given material to work with that they can use to engage us that doesn’t entail anachronistic white teeth and really shiny hair. Yes. Even in a musical. I direct you to Strictly Ballroom and Chicago to name but two.

Come on now.


NB. The Last Jedi was still worse. Much much much worse.




tiny writing

Well that was flipping frightening. In the end it was best to do it like a band-aid a la the advice of Jerry Seinfeld “One move! Right Off!. It was that or dither about for another week, fiddle faddling with verbs, tenses, synonyms and the like.

Let’s go back a few steps. 2017 was the first year in more than I would care to imagine that my job has not involved writing of some form or other. There’s been everything from a thesis to copy for a 30 second radio ad and all forms in-between. But last year…nothing….unless you count report card comments, which I don’t. And strangely, I felt dulled by about October and I couldn’t work out why. It took some time and reflection and chattering with another thought terrainer about the entire kit and caboodle as to what the heckfire might be happening. Ding dong! No writing in life ya big doofus. (that’s me. the big doofus).

I had also arrived at an interesting point where I was feeling the need for something that I would make, create and put out into the world without fear or favour AND in the process try to not worry about other people think. If you know me well you’ll know worrying about what people think of me is one of my special powers. I have it down to a fine art. I’m an expert. I guess now if you don’t know me well you’ll know this too now. #confessions

So it seemed time, and timely (given I had 6 or so weeks of the school holidays that they give to good for nothing school teachers like myself) that I give this all some thought, throw it in a saucepan, stir it about and see what came out. What came out were all sorts of things some of which I may eventually do. I thought BIG! which was great and exciting….and then I lay on the brown lounge for a few weeks and thought about time management and changed a few things. For one, I thought I was going to make every edition Winifred Bell Tiny Writing by hand, and send individual copies out in the post. Romanticised much? Yes. Would I still like to do this? Yes. Is 2018 the year that will happen. Sadly no. Because reality.

What I did manage to do was take some inspiration from my ordinary days and my memories about summer, write two poems and three pieces of prose, find a free flip book maker, use canva to make my pages including a front and back cover and get it online. I set up a FB group. I have just now with much trepidation sent it out into the ether on the social media. That’s actually a little achievement for me. Especially the last part of sending it out into the world. Because instead of being the endless armchair critic I have publicly put my feet in the creative waters (that’s a little bit Kath and Kim eh!) and said, “me too”.

I also committed to doing it 9 more times this year. It was frightening and scary but I did it anyway.

Here it is




Soundtracks: hooked and hung

067 Art TransportI love buying art.

I wish I could buy more.

But the practical (less wall space) economiser (less wall space) in me has slowed the gatherings … though not halted 😀

As we plucked the last pieces from the walls of the little Queenslander cottage Nearest noted “It’s not much without the art on the walls”. Those 100+ year old horizontally jointed, tongue and groove walls hold stories of their own but for us the tales were attached to everything we had attached to them.

None of it valuable to anyone but us. And there again, like the bookshelves, marinated with our memory. At the new place we set to, drilling a peg-board of holes in almost-pristine (but not fresh) plasterboard.  Across a whole day, simultaneously working our way through old CD’s on the ‘low-fi’, applying a heavy hand to an already loaded brush with nostalgia.



Romantic souvenirs.

071 berwick ducksBerwick ducks from Nearest’s family kitchen fly towards Peter Nambarlambarl’s Sugar Bag Spirit; the souvenir from Oenpelli and Kakadu, when we moved from north to south in ’97. Moving.

With less wall space comes the salon-hang. Requirements:
1 patient and useful handy-human (not me),
1 x pedantic, possibly annoying, director of placement (yes me),
1 x canine for comic relief, and
4 x CD’s from the 90’s.

068 salon hang design

070 wombat hole

Peruvian kids from 1988 jostle with 2/6 Industrial Bin, linocut, 2011, by Cameron Eaton, a throwback 2003 Wombat Hole study of mine chats with a joyful lady by a 2001 painting group pal, Lavinia.

Some needed a little space of their own. When stranded with friends in Alice Springs in 2001 by the collapse of Ansett Airlines—during the same week as 9/11—what to do but sit on the cool, carpeted floor of the Papunya Tula Artists gallery and fall for this painting about women and walking tracks, by Wintjiya Napaltjarri.

069 Papunya TulaThe shopping joy, quickly fading as we boarded the bus 2 days later for a 42.5 hour ride back to home and work, then returned when the paintings arrived a week on, to become the marker of that memory.

The ease with which I now see imagery—drooling over the devices (guilty, yes) at what becomes a scrolling kaleidoscope that’s a bit awesome (but not as good as a real kaleidoscope)—has produced a laziness in me. Those images don’t hold memory, nor are they committed to memory. Sure, I get a momentary buzz / inspo / giggle (raccoons) and I won’t stop doing it, but it doesn’t have meaning when compared with sitting in front of an artwork in a gallery, or in my own lounge room.

There’s a good thing to do on this final day of 2017. Maybe sit in front of your pictures and ‘listen’ for the soundtrack that extends much further back than this year.

Here’s a plan, pop on My Friend the Chocolate Cake while you’re there. Hah, the 90’s! You’re welcome.


Soundtracks: perfect bound.

064 Bookshelf 02

I love reading fiction.

I wish I could read more.

I wish I could read more non-fiction, but I just don’t reserve the time. I save those rare and precious reading times for the suspension of my current life – to shape shift fully into the lives in the novel on the bedside table.

We recently moved. And I packed the books for the move from a bookshelf that’s grown only slightly in the 8 years since it’s last relocation. I had made a commitment to libraries rather than purchases, but still occasionally am drawn into the magnetised world of the book shop and want to buy it ALL.

So, the packing…

066 Bookshelf 04… the nostalgia, the flooding memories. Above, two novels by a Sydney writer whose wife I met 20 years ago through work. And I love her, she’s an amazing human. (He’s totes amaze too) It’s the introductions to the books that bring back the memories. That person recommended this book, my fellow blogger gifted me that book (or did she loan it!). Every single book held it’s own story on a timeline. It surprised me. The feeling.

Even Nearest’s non-fiction shelves held my memories!

063 Bookshelf 01

It was like flicking through photo albums (which I did as well… this was a looooong pack), or thumbing through the record/cassette/CD collection.




Absorbed, dismissed, revisited, kept.

The bedside table now holds First Person by Richard Flanagan. I read small snippets alone, and then out loud with fellow slow reader and co-bloggette, Wendy.

This book is a keeper. And it’s place in the shelf will mark a moment. But only for me.

Go and sit in front of your book shelves for 15 minutes.

It is moving.

065 Bookshelf 03

I’m down…

The Beck Song Reader project continued today with the second song in the album: “I’m down and this town is a nuisance”.

The direction on the sheet music was “Shuffle”. I spent some time googlerising this and looking at the different between shuffle and swing. Subtle differences but basically don’t play the quavers evenly….swingish them. See how made a verb there. What I really liked about this one was not just the cute lyrics (look em up I’m not retyping them here….but also the fact that there are two verses, two bridges and no real chorus.

I interpreted it as a slow country kind of ballad. And then I added the initial vocal and I was going to leave it at that….but then I remembered the challenge set out by Beck in the album notes. Make it your own. So I added one harmony line. And then I added another harmony line. And then, before I turned into a one-women version of the Bee Gees I stopped. The harmony is a bit rough and ready in places (understatement) but I decided to resist my classically trained impulse to seek perfection and leave in the off bits….recorded live…straight into Garage Band on my IPad Pro. Yes, I know. It’s not quite sound studio we all dream of but it does me.

As always I’m hyper-critical of my untrained, ornery singing but I remind myself that the point of this little hobby-project is not to sing like a professional. It’s to discover the music that Beck has written, play and sing it and make it real. For me. So here it is:

And as always, once I had done my thing, I searched for Beck’s version. Here’s a nice live one. A bit rockier, rockabilly, or summink. I love it.