Still going …

For the third Wednesday in a row, there are tradies here. The time we made up in the middle there we kind of lost again between the East Coast Low (I think the builders were diverting to working on an ark) and a few of the pieces we were trying to recycle have protested violently at the idea of being recycled.

This is actually where my kids used to play soccer; not where they learned to swim. Lyrebird Park. Photo: Greg Lawrence/South Coast Register

Jamie and I took advantage of the lull over the weekend to get in there and paint the ceiling and walls in that glorious period post-tiling and pre-fittings going in. Painting bathrooms is the painting I hate most of all, because there are so many fixtures and fittings to work around, and it’s really hard to get a painting platform over a toilet or half into a shower or into a bath. So to be able to sneak in while it was essentially a tiled shell was just about perfect. And Jamie deciding that she needed a weekend at home with her family- and being OK with once again jumping on the end of a roller!– certainly made everything faster and more pleasant.


I think today will be the final day, and then we have twenty-four hours of waiting for the silicone to set. Twenty-four hours where I can clean up and repack the vanity, which will mean a good clean-out and we’ll once again have a functional bath (which is what we are currently using to store that which normally lives in the vanity cabinet). We don’t use the bath much, but having it off limits has perversely made me wish I could.

In other news, the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) variation at work has been agreed by staff, so we’re off to Fair Work to ask for our pay to be reduced over the next couple of years. Against this backdrop, we’re all trying to come up with additional efficiencies. I feel sorely disadvantaged in this respect, because there’s not much accountancy in Arts or Education programs. I know I’m mathematically capable, I know I can (and do) manage a household budget, I listen to a lot of finance podcasts where people like Dave Ramsey throw around terms like “profit and loss statement” or “retained earnings” and I’m pretty sure I understand what they are on about, but inevitably I still feel I’m missing stuff.

So far, the readings are making sense but my confidence is not shifting much. We had our first (of four) virtual workshops today. I remain mildly terrified but I’ve paid my money and done 30% of the coursework, so I guess I’m committed!

Back to more “core” business: today I read the final draft of an application the University is putting forward to get some recognition for our staff and the amazing job they did during the bushfires. This is timely in a way, because our thoughts on how to plan, based on what happened over New Year, is due at the end of this week. So in between looking at columns of numbers, I’m looking at columns of recommendations I made earlier, and trying to prioritise them.

In the background, I have two writing projects on the go. Yes, we’re still looking for submissions about The Vampire Diaries! I’m also working on a Revise & Resubmit for a paper about mental illness on television. It was written more than a year ago, and bits and pieces of it have, of course, been adapted into our latest book, but it’s now about shiny-ing up a particular bit in a particular length for a particular audience.

So there it is: a pretty typical week in the life of a pretty typical academic, in many ways: researching, writing, doing admin. With a small side of mid-pandemic bathroom renovation project and local flood warnings thrown in, just to add to the degree of difficulty!

New Leaves

This is the third week in a row that I’ve actually blogged during my dedicated blogging time. I think that might be a record.

This is just one of a number of renewals going on around here. First and foremost, I am sitting here wrapped in a blanket and cursing my lack of foresight because I have been so desperate to be able to use our completely non-functional ensuite again one day, that I inadvertently agreed to have it torn out in what is the coldest week of the Australian winter, each and every year. I know it is the coldest week of the year because where I grew up, it snowed about one day per year, and that day was always just before mid-July. So while my husband is happily reading his book in a gas-heated room, I’m in the room near the wide-open front door, watching my fingers turn blue as I type, because this is where the computer monitors are.

Because I’m apparently incapable of this “taking it easy” thing of which I hear people speak, I decided that I really “needed” to “finish” the interior painting before this all took place. Following on from painting the peeling bedroom as a coronovirus project back in late March, I’ve been slowly but surely deconstructing, painting and then reconstructing the rest of the house. (There was a forced break in there in May, when I took a tumble while trying to peel off masking tape, and smashed my leg up pretty well). So this past weekend I took a couple of extra days, inveigled my long-suffering daughter to give up her extra days, and we did another three rooms, just in time to still be putting one back together this morning when the builders arrived to tear the ensuite out.

This will leave me with the two kids’ bedrooms, the ensuite and the master to deal with post-renovation, and then we will be done. As in, I’m too old to suit up for this task again. Save pennies and pay someone next time. Done.

We also hit a bit of a milestone in my quest for backyard contentment and moves towards self-sufficiency. During the bushfire crisis earlier this year, we had to evacuate to our kids’ flat in Wollongong and bunker down for close to a fortnight. We took the cats with us, but our nine feathered babies had to be boarded out with a friend of a friend (now an actual, first-degree friend) in Corrimal. Jane and her family took beautiful care of our girls, who all came home mid-January.

Unfortunately, we had a number of horrendously hot days after that, and lost the bulk of our flock to the heat. One particularly horrendous morning we lost five girls by mid-morning. Our response was to bring the survivors into the air-conditioned loungeroom and hope for the best.

Poor girls were confused, as were our (indoor) cats. But it worked. And the three companions have been doing OK ever since, but me – notsomuch. “Three is not a flock” has become something of a mantra around here.

And so on Sunday, Jamie and I took a break from painting and headed out to adopt our newest companions; Ruth, Romana and Leela. All three are quite cuddly personalities so far, and have found themselves a spot as far away from the olders girls as they could possibly manage within the confines of our coop. All three have taken up residence inside my late Pop’s mower catcher. It’s pretty snug.

We dusted everyone for mites and gave all six pedicures (ie an oil coating on their legs, which both moisturises and repels nasties). They are all in the coop and run for today with all the activity going on around here, but once the builders go, I’ll let them free range during whatever sunlight is left.

So that’s the home front. But to circle back to the writing stuff, I do have a call for abstracts out. So if you are a fan of The Vampire Diaries, The Originals and/or Legacies, I have an opportunity for you.

You can read the Call for Abstracts here – which is the also a new project. Presenting my website, Essentially, this is a landing page out to the three blogs, and also a spot to list for sale the books Ros and I have published; together, alone, or with others. Hopefully in 2021, Critically Reading The Vampire Diaries will be listed there, too.

Fires and Floods and Scholarships … Oh My!

It turns out this blog recently had its first birthday, and I missed it. To be real, I’ve missed a lot of things in the past few weeks and even months. My last post on here was pre-my daughter’s 21st birthday and Christmas. Jamie’s 21st was on a catastrophic fire day. We had most of the party inside, as planned, but headed outside for the formalities and cake-cutting because the Southerly had come through and dropped the temperature from the 46 degrees Celsius with which we started the party, down to a figure around half that.

With the Southerly came some pretty hectic ember attack behaviour from the Currowan fire, that blew embers 11km into town and started a new fire in Worrigee. That fire, in turn, started to blow burned leaves and ash into our backyard, about another 10 km away. Which was very festive. Always a nice moment when you have to suggest that the guest of honour change out of her flammable-looking outfit.

fireball speech
Speech time, under an orange sky and with thick smoke behind us. #nofilter

With high school besties Brianna and Sky. Again, no filter. This is the colour our world was.


After that, we of course had Christmas and it was pretty calm, all things considered. Santa came past on a fire truck, which was a relief, because I really though the truck would be otherwise engaged.

A couple of days after Christmas we had a community briefing where we were told that the fire was breaching all containment lines and would inevitably jump the Shoalhaven River. A day after that, the SES doorknocked our street and showed us the projected path of the fire on a map. On both occasions, we were told that properties would not be defended. This was not the kind of thing you could put people in front of, even if there were enough appliances.

So we decamped to the kids’ place in Wollongong on December 30. I naively thought it would be for two days, and didn’t take any work clothes. We were away for almost two weeks.

In the interim, fires came within a few kilometres of our campuses at the Southern Highlands, Batemans Bay and Bega, as well as in the Shoalhaven. Some staff and students lost everything. UOW Bega became a place for students and staff to shelter. Batemans Bay campus become an overflow evacuation centre. On New Year’s Eve, our Admin Assistant Nicky Bath wound up hosting a slumber party for 300 people, most of whom were strangers and very frightened. She did such a great job that a local retirement village and the Disaster Welfare team organised for her to host their evacuated residents a few nights later.

UOW Batemans Bay: ready for anything.

Since then, we’ve had torrential rain, and even had to close a campus owing to flooding in the area. It has put the fires out. The clean up phase has begun, but rebuilding is a while off yet. Our communities are hurting. But they are resilient. Our impacted students have re-enrolled, which is remarkable.  We’re offering them what support we can, be it financial (emergency grants), emotional (through counsellors, student support advisors, campus managers and a welfare calling campaign), or practical (replacing lost uniforms or textbooks, loaning out laptops).

And to finish on a very positive note: we also have available scholarships for students who are new to UOW and intending to study at a regional campus. Destination Australian scholarships provide $15 000 per year for the duration of a new student’s degree. This is a great opportunity for people who want to study, and want to stay local. We have five available at each regional campus (Batemans Bay, Bega, Shoalhaven and Southern Highlands) for domestic students. Applications close this Friday – click on green hyperlink above for details.



‘Tis the Season

As we near the end of the year, people often cheerfully ask me if things are winding down. In truth, I am not sure I’ve ever been more wound up!

Last week we had Graduation celebrations for our students in the Southern Highlands, Batemans Bay and Bega. And because the week wasn’t busy enough, Shoalhaven hosted a two-day event for Indigenous students. And, just to add to the degree of difficulty, the massive Currowan fire between the Shoalhaven and Batemans Bay closed pretty much every road into the area, and put celebrations in jeopardy.

Image result for currowan fire image
Not the best driving conditions for graduands or staff …

The week started off in Moss Vale, which was pretty smokey, as you can see in the pictures.

with Ros

The guest speaker who gave the Occasional Address was none other than my friend and long-time collaborator, Dr Roslyn Weaver. Ros’ parents still live in Moss Vale and we all have a lovely catch-up when she makes her annual pilgrimage home each December. She’s currently using her research and writing skills while working in Vancouver. A UOW alumn and former tutor at the campus, she was a great choice to congratulate the students and inspire them that the skills and confidence acquired during their studies are very transferable. There is one graduate, however, we don’t want to go anywhere any time soon! Erin Acton is our Admin Assistant at UOW-Southern Highlands, who graduated with her BA.

with Sammi and Erin
With Regional Outreach Officer Sammi, and Erin. We did not consciously co-ordinate; we are just that sympatico. #teamregional

I then spent two days with Indigenous students from the Shoalhaven. They undertook art and dance classes on campus, and then we all went on a Bush Tucker walk at Booderee the next day. I learned so much on that one hour walk!

Graduations at Bega and Batemans Bay also went off without a hitch. We even made front page news in Bega!

For at least a week beforehand, there were many urgent communiques about whether or not the celebrations in Batemans Bay might not be able to proceed. We created Plans B & C, which we thankfully didn’t need. In true enterprising regional style, however, I later discovered that the eight graduands who live north of the Princes Highway closure had developed their own Plan B, costing out a charter boat!

What could go wrong?



Since then, I have pretty much been in recovery mode, frantically trying to finish off a whole bunch of work stuff before I start my annual leave this afternoon. We have had HSC results and ATARs released; we are waiting on information about some very cool incentives to study at regional campuses–watch this space if you are thinking about studying at UOW-Shoalhaven, UOW-Southern Highlands, UOW-Bega or UOW-Batemans Bay from next year–there are some new scholarships in the pipeline. We had two finalists in the University’s Pod Decorating competition, an Info night at Shoalhaven Campus, and there are more info sessions and drop-in days to come.

bushfire sun
Bushfire sunset over UOW-Shoalhaven Info night.

Away from work, things are also busy. In addition to the usual festive activities and ever-increasing to-do lists that abound at this time of year, our eldest is turning 21 on December 21. We are in the middle of a record-breaking heatwave and half the country is on fire, so we’ve been hastily shifting her vision of a cute outdoor grazing platter and glasses of Pimms to something which still has those elements but hopefully without our guests contracting heatstroke and salmonella. (This may also feature lots of Zooper Doopers).

Can  confirm she will be looking way more glamorous than me on Saturday … Zooper Doopers notwithstanding.

So from our regional team and my regional family, our very best wishes to you and yours for the holiday season. Stay safe, stay hydrated, and most of all: