Loup Garou

So, Halloween has just passed–a time I really enjoy, but which remains somewhat controversial in Australia.

One of the things that annoys me most is the annual whinge on Facebook about how “American” it all is.

It is true that the popularisation of Halloween trick or treating has largely made its way to our Southern shores courtesy of American television and movies. It is patently not true that Americans invented Halloween itself. Nor is it accurate to say that Halloween didn’t exist in Australia until very recently. Trick or treating was not a thing; true. But All Souls’ Day (or All Hallows’ Eve) has always been a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic church, as is the following day, All Saints’ Day. Growing up, our priest was quite insistent that we were expected to attend Mass at least three times in that particular week, so it’s not the kind of thing I’d forget.

I also love to point out the Holy Day of Obligation thing to people who think that Halloween is somehow Satanic. It’s a better argument for that particular audience than my all time favourite one, which comes from Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. In that particular strain of pop culture lore, Halloween is actually the least scary day of the year, since the in-story “real” supernatural beings find the human performativity of spookiness so very cliche as to render the day “like, dead, for the undead;” a potential night off for vamps and slayers alike.

Samhain, the pagan version of what would become Halloween, is actually of Celtic origin. Turnips were carved in the shape of a face, and lit from within, to attract Jack, a will’o the wisp now better known as Jack o’ the Lantern for reasons that will soon become apparent; a disembodied soul who roamed looking for a new body each year. He did this on the day when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was thinnest (observed on October 31). Jack got fooled into going into the lanterns rather than humans or their homes. Kids wore disguises to discombobulate him further.

When folks moved to the American colonies, they switched to pumpkins which were more plentiful and a lot easier to carve.

Carving pumpkins are available via Coles Delivery, these days

So it ain’t an American idea. And I also wonder why, on this one day of the year, it’s suddenly acceptable to throw around “American” as an insult. “Oh, it’s so American” folks sneer, as they hop in their Ford to do a Maccas run, before settling in to binge-watch Netflix for the evening.

The other Facebook cohort who get under my skin are the people who ask which day they should go trick or treating. (I am, for now, going to ignore the “trickatreat” crowd–yes, people actually spell it like that–and the fact that practically nobody seems to understand that “trick or treat?” is an actual question with a couple of possible answers). Halloween is like Christmas, folks; it is not a moveable feast. If you decide to celebrate on another day because it’s more convenient for your family, you can’t reasonably expect other families to know that you made that call.

All that aside, I love the idea of the thin veil; of our loved ones being close(r) at hand. I find it a loving, comforting concept, rather than a scary one. Maybe we can blame my time in Japan where there was an altar to deceased family members, and we left offerings like mandarins in Summer when families went back to their hometowns to visit. When I explained it to my Australian Mum, she said it sounded kind of like Santa, but with relatives you missed.

And what’s not to love about that?

At this time of year, I am occasionally contacted by people looking at running a “Halloween story” and this year, I heard from Virginie Nussbaum at the Swiss newspaper, Le Temps.

You can find that article here, but it is behind a paywall. I don’t read French, but with the help of Google Translate I could get the gist of it! Here’s the cover image and the title: “The werewolf, this Other who haunts our nightmares.”

Progress Update: on Passports and Position Papers

This WordPress Wednesday (she writes, as though she were still doing this weekly) comes to you from regional Victoria, where I’m once again ensconced in the spare bedroom. Most days the soundtrack to our mornings has included the detonation of devices at the nearby Army base, which is arguably still better than the muffled loudspeaker noises which my Wollongong-based colleagues are enduring in light of the UCI event.

Personally, I think UCI sounds like a medical complaint and have been referring to it as “the stupid [expletive-deleted] bike race,” like many people I know. It may do well in terms of getting Wollongong an international profile as intended–that remains to be seen–but my goodness, it’s inconvenienced a lot of locals in the process.

Speaking of deleted expletives, I’m starting to think that the F in DFAT doesn’t stand for Foreign, after all.

The Golden Ticket

Australian passports are supposed to be processed and returned within about six weeks, but I’ve had a few in my time and I don’t recall it ever taking more than two. Enter COVID. Now, way more people than usual are applying all at once and the system is failing. Spectacularly.

I had my interview at the post office and handed in my paperwork on July 25. For those playing along at home, that is 8.5 weeks ago. It is still showing as “Under Assessment.” One wonders what could possibly take so long to be assessed, given that it’s a renewal and literally nothing has changed since last time.

Putting the rotten thing in was stressful enough in itself. The local PO guy–the PO is under new ownership–had taken the photos for us, after first telling my husband he couldn’t take his photos because he didn’t know the dimensions for a British passport. Again, we’ve had a lot of passports at our advanced ages, and it’s never been an issue. But the Spousal Unit went away, googled, and then returned to offer proof onscreen of what we already knew ie that they are the same size.

Then I rocked up for my booked interview and I was told that my original birth certificate was no good because it was foolscap and his printer wouldn’t scan it. I did point out that a great many Australians were born in the foolscap era, but to no avail. Apparently I should have somehow known that that particular post office had a printer/scanner that frankly, isn’t fit for purpose for most of us–Gen X and the Baby Boomers are all likely to have inconveniently sized paperwork. So I drove home and found the A4 version I’d paid to have reissued a few years back when I momentarily couldn’t find the original and panic-bought a replacement, and then I hightailed it back within the original booked timeframe. PO guy was most impressed that I had a differently sized version, and no wonder–most people wouldn’t.

Then he told me that he couldn’t accept my photographs. The ones he’d taken. He told me I shouldn’t have had my referee write on them the exact sentence that the passport office says to write on them–he needed an unmarked one. He kept repeating this with increased agitation, even as I kept pointing to the remaining photos, because you get SIX in a batch. Eventually, I got through to him that if he wanted an untouched photo, they were lying right in front of him. I’m not sure why I was the calm one when I’m the traveler and the one with diagnosed anxiety, and he was merely the guy doing the processing. “But they’re not cut,” he said. So I asked to borrow his scissors and hey, presto–virgin passport photo for the application.

So you can see why the delay in processing might be making nervous.

He then used those same scissors to cut through my previous, unexpired passport, meaning I’m now without one altogether. I still had eight months on the old one, which I also wasn’t able to use for more than two years because of the pandemic. A ten year passport is just not looking like good value for money right now.

The APO has confirmed by email that they have the application in the system and everything is there. So I do have that in writing. What I don’t have is evidence of any progress. At all. And I’m wondering how or when to try to escalate this, because honestly, with family overseas, I don’t like to be without a passport for any period of time. And I don’t see why I should be, given that I took steps to make sure it was renewed in plenty of time.

Meanwhile Mr-I-Never-Got-Around-to-Doing-my-Australian-Citizenship-Stuff got his British passport back in under two weeks. From the UK.

We have flights booked in eight weeks–heading for a brief beach break with my faux-niblings and -sister, under whose roof I’m currently lodged. Unfortunately, I have no confidence that things will be sorted out by then. According to the FB page for folks like me, the backlog seems to be being cleared for those who’ve submitted recently. But for those of us who submitted April-July–lining up in the nearest Passport Office within three days of your flight seems to work, sometimes. Not always. And my nearest Passport Office is quite a long way from the South Coast.

Back when I was enthusiastic about travel and believed in things like passports being processed, we booked accommodation for our big trip UpOver for the baseball and family Disney shenanigans. It’s hard to be excited, though, under the circumstances. Booking flights and sorting visas is significantly harder without a passport, so planning for that adventure is currently on hold.

One day.

Between now and the totally-booked-and-paid-for-holiday-I-can’t-get-to-without-a-passport in November, there is a mountain of work to be done, including landing a strategic framework. Landing a strategic framework also involves significant consultation around a recently redrafted position paper, itself a substantial piece of work. But I just watched my mate submit a full draft of her thesis (the reason I came down to distract the adolescents this week), and my co-editors and I sent The Vampire Diaries manuscript off last week. So sometimes these big milestones get met.

Time to party

Fingers crossed.

For now, it’s time for our leaving-night tradition (superstition?) of KFC before I make the long drive back tomorrow.

Ring of Steel

Have you been impacted by the great Australian Passport Debacle of 2022? Let me know if you have any tips on how to expedite the accursed process!

A New Normal (again)

This morning I received an email asking if I knew how to find one Dr Roslyn Weaver. Well, yes, as a matter of fact; I’d just been chatting with her over Messenger a few hours earlier. Oh yes, and I saw her a bit over a week ago, right before she went on her honeymoon and then moved to the UK (again–she moved there several years ago, and then to Canada, but now she’s back in England with her freshly minted husband, who resides there). And so we’re back to the future, still on different continents and in different time zones, but it’s somehow also very familiar.

The author of the email is trying to get in touch with Ros to send a copy of a publication that in her words, has been a long time in the making. This was also apropos because we’d been commiserating over publications that have disappeared into thin air once all the work was done. Notably we once both wrote chapters for an edited collection on Glee that has never seen the light of day and now, twelve years in, we figure the content is pretty well out of date!

But, just 24 hours before the aforementioned email, I received another one, saying that a co-edited collection on which I’ve been working has passed peer review.

My chapter within it was first written nine years ago. Then in 2019 one of the other contributors reached out to ask if the publication had ever happened, and after some sleuthing and checking that the original publisher was no longer interested in the long (un)dead project, we decided to take it on ourselves.

This was my motivational screensaver for quite a time, there.

And so, just like that, I go from not having any research projects on the go, to really needing to prioritise reading and acting on the feedback and getting it back to the publisher in as timely a manner as is humanly possible.

To add to the timeline crunch, we have another (our last!) SAL period coming up and I’ve also been asked to “reduce my leave liability,” which means effectively heading to regional Victoria in a few weeks to hang out with one of my favourite adopted siblings and my faux-niblings, only this time I won’t have to log on remotely and work while I’m there.

And I also decided to take a small step towards something we’ve been planning since April of 2021. For the first time in my life, I’ve worked somewhere long enough (and not as a casual!) to qualify for Long Service Leave. I’d pretty much ignored that milestone for a couple of years, because COVID hasn’t been conducive to travel and we had our bonus unpaid three weeks each year to use up as well as annual leave. But, luck permitting, next Easter we will head Up Over for what I am officially calling baseball leave.

Anaheim,CA/Los Angeles. Oct 29 2016, The main entrance of Angel Stadium, a major league baseball team in Anaheim,CA.

Apparently it will be a new manager at the helm after the canning of Joe Madden overnight. It was only a matter of hours between me putting in the paperwork and his shock dismissal.

All I can think is, my boys Jared Walsh, Shoei Ohtani and Raisel Iglesias had better still be there in Season 2023.

HSC Time … or is it?

All my Facebook memories at this time of year seem to have been me giving last minute advice and messages of good luck to my former tutoring students (including my own offspring … yes, when they were in Year 12 they dutifully turned up each week to the tutoring centre I’d worked in pretty much their whole lives, much to the amusement of their peers in our small group sessions).

This year, of course, the start of the HSC has been delayed. Consequentially, so has HSC Marking. We now won’t start marking until close to the time we usually finish, and it will continue into December. As a result, and because of the compressed timeline to get the results processed and through UAC in time for University offers, NESA is doing an unprecedented (there’s that word again!) second call for applicants. So if you have recent HSC teaching experience, jump on board, jump online and join us for an educational experience that is quite literally like no other. In my experience, you won’t find a better bunch of people with whom to work.

More details here

In keeping with my HSC-styled musings, this morning The Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces”–all about letting your daughter go and waving her goodbye as she begins adulthood–started playing in my Spotify list. This also seemed kind of prescient since Child the Elder is graduating this evening. It’s a postponed and online event and for a few brief hours last weekend we thought we were going to be allowed to sit on a couch in the same location to view it, before state pollies “clarified” that no, metro and regional areas wouldn’t be allowed to cross the streams for day trips just yet, after all.

So instead we’ll be sitting on our separate couches 92 kilometres apart. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we can get together and have a properly celebratory meal and take some frame-able photos for what is actually a pretty significant moment in her life.


Congratulations, Jamie. We love you, we miss you, and we’re very proud.

If you need help with getting organised for the HSC, you can contact me on https://www.kimberleymcmahoncoleman.com or send me an email via kmcmahon_coleman@hotmail.com

On Not Travelling

**Content warning: Suicidality, bushfires

Today was the worst Coronavirus day on record in Victoria. Again. The NSW Premier announced tougher border restrictions (anyone coming in from Vic now has to go into supervised hotel quarantine at their own expense), and the QLD Premier announced tougher border restrictions heading North, as well. Apparently the whole of NSW is now a “hot spot.” Which is kind of darkly humorous, because while places like Bunnings and Maccas are masking up, the State government is still taking a “meh … if you feel like it … you can” approach to face coverings.

Now, I had no intentions of taking a wee trip at all, but with one best mate in Vancouver, two in Vic, and one in Tassie, as well as elderly and frequently hospitalised in-laws in Queensland, the thought of not being able to pull some cash from the Emergency Fund and get myself to a place of usefulness should I need to, is not at all pleasant.

Apart from not physically being able to travel, I’m also “not travelling well” at the moment. This morning we had a very long meeting of all the folks who have been awarded Global Challenges funding relating the the rolling crises on the South Coast, and began to figure out how the researchers and regional campuses will work together on these projects. Now, this is generally a very good thing, and it’s very exciting to hear people who really care trying to make a positive difference to our people and communities. But lots of talk about being careful not to re-traumatise community members impacted by the bushfires can be a little re-traumatising in and of itself, if you were in fact one of the community members impacted.

This coalesced with a couple of other thing with which I sometimes struggle- and here’s where the content warning really kicks in, so if you need to protect yourself, please do a better job than I unwittingly have the last few days.

So a while back I got a revise and resubmit on a pop culture/disability paper where I got “Reviewer 2ed”–and one of their criticisms was that I argued that multi-(mental illness) diagnosis households are rare onscreen. And so they cited Please Like Me as also having one. So I dutifully over-compensated and watched the series in its entirety. And it does, for quite a small fraction of time, have two housemates who met as in-patients in a private facility. Rose is played by Debra Lawrance (known to many Australians as the second Pippa from Home and Away) and Netflix breakout star Hannah Gadsby plays her roomie, also named Hannah. And (Spoiler Alert – in case you’re like me and haven’t yet seen it, and are, like me, silly enough to watch it without first Googling it) despite the character of Rose having multiple suicide attempts as a major part of her narrative, I was blindsided when her son found her body in one of the very final episodes.

I watched it yesterday.

Suicide onscreen upsets me enormously and my family are all very aware of how much it unsettles me, and why. They are also aware that I am more sensitive at two distinct times of the year: around Australia Day, and right around now. And sometimes we forget why I’m grumpy and unsettled and then look at the calendar and realise. You see, today would have been my better-than-best friend’s 48th birthday, and he died at his own hand in late January when we were both 23.

The “better than best” is an old in-joke of ours. It started when I went to Japan on student exchange, back in 1990. You see, I’m so old that back when I went on student exchange, we had to communicate by mail. And people who’d been through the experience before us would always warn that you’d have a very special letter-writing friend, and it wouldn’t be your “best” friend. And so it was that my “best” friend wrote like twice the whole year I was away, but this very quiet guy who used to hang with our group sometimes and whom I sat next to in roll call, surprised and delighted me by writing hilarious and detailed letters at least once a fortnight. I still have them. His name was Jamie, and he’s the reason our daughter is named Jamie.

I still miss him terribly, and I worry about sharing the story. I try to be careful to only tell my bit, and not encroach on the grief of his family (who have been absolutely wonderful to both our Jamie and her brother alike). But today, as always, he is very much loved and remembered. And I’m going to try show myself some kindness and compassion over the next day or two — the way he did.

Clayton’s Lockdown

Our Prime Minister says we’re not in lockdown, and cautions against using such “alarmist” language. But we are only supposed to be leaving home to work or study (when that can’t be done from home), to buy essentials, to assist others or to get necessary healthcare. Our state Premier has listed 16 legitimate excuses to be outside your home, including the above. You can cop a fine of up to $11 000 if you’re in breach. It feels pretty locked down, I have to say.

This is Day 8 of working from home, for me. If I could actually sleep at night meaning that more than two neurons fired at any given time, I think I’d be quite productive. In my non-work time, I’ve cleaned the oven racks (!), baked, made soup, and painted a room that was badly in need of it.


In addition to dealing with whatever new crises COVID-19 throws at us, I’m watching The Originals because being aware of the full gamut of the Vampire Diaries universe may come in very handy if a book proposal on TVD–of which I will be co-editor–is accepted by our preferred publisher. Taking notes is about the right speed in these times, I think. I do have a couple of other deadlines in the next week or two that will require me to write and organise some cogent thoughts. But for now I’m trying to follow all the advice about transitioning to working from home (and in the face of a pandemic, no less), and show myself a little bit of the grace I’m extending to others in our newly-more-distributed team.

co worker
This coworker hasn’t left my desk.

relaxed coworker
She’s right at home.

Things remain oddly surreal. I sold a dozen eggs this morning – the customer, a semi-regular, works in health. So she organised to drop off the money in a zip lock bag, and asked me to leave the eggs out the front. We waved through the front windows and had a conversation via Messenger. This is our new normal.

As you can see from the images of Scout above, my laptop which comes home daily anyway, has now been joined by the computer monitors and webcam from work. We won’t be eating at the dining room table anytime soon. Last week some colleagues called me while they were having a socially distant lunch, and we all sat outside –they in their location and me in mine–and caught up on each others’ lives.

My husband has started working from home, but is rostered to go to work one day a week. That day is today. It is eerily quiet and somehow lonelier without him here.

The sky is grey and it’s threatening to rain, so the whole “go for a walk outside for your mental health and some Vitamin D” advice is unlikely to be followed anytime soon.

Big corporations like Coles and Woolies have stopped their home delivery services in order to redeploy their delivery trucks to the elderly and disabled. I typically used them because crowded shops can trigger my anxiety, even at the best of times. A local wholesaler and a local fruit & veg market have both started a home delivery service in the last couple of days. I’ve placed my order. I’m not sure the conglomerates will have as much of a market share when this is all over.

Unlike Scout who has taken up residence under my monitors, her litter-mate Tinkerbell is freaked out by the humans being home as much as they are, and is making herself scarce. (Yes, the ex-English teacher gave the cats literary names). Tink did decide, however, to join me yesterday after work, to survey the newly completed room.

TinkSo, yes there are some definite advantages to this working from home gig. I leave on time, and my commute is from the dining room to a couch or a bed to listen to a podcast and quickly decompress. I’m saving on petrol. I’ve cut my coffee intake back by two-thirds.

And I do get to have my pets in the “office,” which is a first.

Mea Culpa, and #theafseffect

Forgive me, Readers, for it is WordPress Wednesday, and it has been six weeks since my last post. SIX! Does that make me a lapsed WordPresser?

So, what’s my excuse? Well, the excuses are plentiful and varied. June was something of a blur, as Roslyn and I from Shapeshifters in Popular Culture have been working very hard on finishing off our latest book, which is all about how mental illness is represented (or misrepresented, or just ignored) on TV. And it’s very nearly done. Ros is putting the finishing touches to the chapter on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but it has otherwise all been collated into one document and I’m sorting out referencing and so on (the joys!). As soon as we’re both happy with it, it’s off to the person we very much hope will agree to write the Foreword, and then it will be winging its way through cyberspace to our wonderful publishers at McFarland. 

Mcfarland logo

So I was working on that until June 30, and then from July 2, I was in Melbourne for the tenth annual PopCAANZ conference.  I presented some of our work from the book at this year’s event; specifically, looking at the representation of clinical depression in You’re the Worst. This series is not very well known in Australia–literally no one in the audience had watched it!–but it is well worth the effort. I’ve talked my husband into watching it, and he’s really enjoying the quirky, non-traditional characters. As well as being quite unlikeable in the conventional sense, two of the four leads have diagnosed mental illness, and are living under the same roof.

inauspicious meeting
Gretchen (Aya Cash) meets Jimmy (Chris Geere) in the pilot of You’re the Worst.

Now, hold on to your hats for this “spoiler”- the show actually does a pretty realistic depiction of clinical depression, including periods where Gretchen is asymptomatic, and periods where she lies in bed. The latter is really significant; despite being the single most prevalent mental health disorder in the word, we haven’t really seen much depression in screen because people lying in bed doesn’t move narratives forward. In fact, I would argue that we didn’t really see it at all until as recently as 2015.

Ian and Gretchen
Ian Gallagher (Cameron Monaghan), Shameless (US); Gretchen Cutler (Aya Cash), You’re the Worst.

So, in the ten days since Melbourne, what have I been up to? Well, lots of meetings, and lots of driving between Wollongong, Nowra and the Southern Highlands. The pace has been pretty intense, because I’m about to head off on some much-anticipated leave, so there are a lot of loose ends that are frantically being tied (or at least, we are trying to tie them).

My daughter is currently in Buenos Aires, doing a subject for her University course. And she invited me to join her for a few days at the end of her course, so that we can go and visit my “bonus children” who live in South America.

You see, once upon a time many, many years ago, I was fortunate enough to go to Japan for a year on a high school exchange with the AFS International, on a scholarship generously provided by the Tokyo Municipal Government. It was an amazing experience, and I met some of my very best friends there (and in fact, recently caught up with one in Melbourne!). I expanded my horizons, my language abilities, my family and yes, my waistline (we used to joke that AFS stood for ‘another fat student.’) And while there are some ancient photos from that time, they are all analogue and not with me.

I remained involved in the organisation for a few years, and then when we moved to Nowra and I knew absolutely nobody bar my (working) husband and own (infant) child, I got in touch with the local branch and introduced myself. Here, I met another really special friend, Sue. Sue’s job in this volunteer organisation was to find host families for incoming students; mine was to prepare the outgoing ones. And every year she would see me start to waver and want to host a student and she would remind me that no, our little family couldn’t really afford the time or financial commitment for six months or a year. But I became her go-to as a support mum (another person outside the host-family; a kind of counsellor, who has typically also been on exchange), temporary mum (when students were moving between placements); or billet mum (if a student was coming to a regional event in the Shoalhaven). And so that’s why, if you know me, you know I have two biological children, even though Facebook shows me as having five. And that’s why three of those kids are in their thirties when I am only in my forties myself, and why I have four grandchildren (and a fifth coming next month), despite the just-turned-adult nature of my two bio-kids.

So, the upshot of all that is that on Saturday, these two “sisters” will see each other in person for the first time in 18 years.

grace and Jamie
Jamie & Grace, December 2001

Grace  is now married with a daughter of her own, who is almost exactly the same age as Jamie in this photo.

After our whistle-stop tour of Chile, we’re off to Paraguay to see my son Dany and meet his lovely wife and two kids. His daughter is very thoughtfully having her sixth birthday while we are there, so we get to go to a party!

And when we get home, there’s about a week until my other international child has her second baby. I’ve been really fortunate to be able to catch up with Ellyn (and indeed, her entire family) a few times over the years, both in the US and here. And Jamie and I  managed to get to the US to meet her little first little one, so I’m pretty determined to get over there and witness firsthand the new big sister/little brother dynamic.

ellyn bride
The AFS Effect in Action: Bride Ellyn flanked by her Australian “brother” and “mother,” and her actual parents, Marsha and Mike, whom we also love and consider family.

And as for my bio-daughter, my current golden child because she invited me to tag along on her South American adventures? Well, her love of travel might date back to being “impressed” like a chick by these well-travelled older siblings, who came into her life when she was two or three years old. She too became an exchange student via AFS when she was just 15. She had an amazing time in the beautiful Matera region in the South of Italy. You can see the ancient Sassi region, one of the oldest inhabited areas in the world, from the town centre.


Pretty special.

This past (Australian) Summer, she and her brother headed to Europe for nigh on three months. Tony and I joined them for a month over Christmas and New Year, and were  very privileged to spend Christmas with her Italian family.

family in Italy
L, Front to back: Imma (aunt), Luisa (sister), Mariangela (mum), Michele (dad), Cecilia (cousin), Carlo (brother), Pierluca (uncle).
R, Front to back: Anna (sister), Jamie, Robert, Ester (cousin), Kimberley, Tony.

All this to say– there won’t be a post next Wednesday, either. But I will have the very best of excuses!